Thursday, December 30, 2004

The Slings and Arrows of Outrageous Fortune

My friend Doug sent me this article by law professor Cass Sunstein on risk analysis.

The truth is that, when it comes to risk, people often think poorly. Research shows that much of the time we fixate on bad outcomes without stopping to assess the probability that we will actually be harmed.

Sure, we want to be "safe" and "protected," but safety and protection are inevitably matters of degree. Often, we neglect the size of the risk altogether.

Consider the astonishing finding, from University of Pennsylvania economist Howard Kunreuther and his colleagues, that many people will pay the same amount for insurance against risks of 1 in 100,000, 1 in 1 million and 1 in 10 million. We don't have much experience in thinking about low probabilities like these, and so we pay no attention to differences that really should matter.

When our emotions are engaged, our judgment gets even more muddled. We focus on what looks like the worst case, giving no thought to the likelihood that it will occur. Vivid, dramatic images of harm -- hazardous waste sites, nuclear accidents, terrorist attacks -- can lead us to excessive fear of highly improbable risks. Social scientists find that when people discuss such risks, their concern usually rises, even if the discussion consists mostly of trustworthy assurances that the likelihood of harm is tiny.

But when we lack vivid images -- as in the case, say, of obesity or sun exposure -- we often treat the risk as if it were zero. The result is that we badly overestimate some risks and underestimate others.

Studies by psychologist Paul Slovic prove the point. Because grisly accidents are more dramatic than deaths from disease, most people think that accidents kill more people than disease. But the opposite is true. (emphasis added) |Link|


Risk analysis is an important topic and I think this article points out how we often get our risk analysis wrong as a society. Because we live in a democracy, popular fears and misconceptions are often codified into law.

Canadian sociologist David Lyon in his book Surveillance After September 11 puts risk management into a larger societal context:
Contemporary societies produce risks on a large scale, just because they intervene so decisively in natural and social life, using a range of technologies to do so. Managing risk is now central to government activity. Since the Cold War era in the 1950s and 1960s, the dominant view was that security against the risk of foreign aggression (of Soviet power against the USA) could be guaranteed by technical and military means. Security technologies have proliferated , and with them two central beliefs: one, the idea that "maximum security" is a desirable goal; and, two, that it can be pursued using these increasingly available [security and surveillance] techniques that are on the market. (Lyons 2003, p. 46]


I think Lyons has a provocative thesis that we are a risk management society, but the question is how successful these efforts will be and what we are willing to trade for security (or the illusion of security) in terms of capital, liberty, privacy, and human dignity.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Waves of Water: Tsunami and Flash Flood

According to FEMA, floods are the most common natural disaster. I couldn't find the statistic again, but I think it is plausible. The Tsunami in the Indian Ocean this week and the flash floods in Los Angeles today certainly have flooding on my mind.

As the climate changes, we can expect more flooding on low-lying areas. As a librarian, water is a library's worst enemy. The computer systems are as vulnerable as the books to moisture. Even humidity can destroy a collection as books mold and microfilms fade. Floods can be external, or they can be the result of a water pipe breach. A fire will also cause the fire department

The best book I've read of preparing for disasters in libraries (so far) is An Ounce of Prevention: Integrated Disaster Planning for Archives, Libraries and Record Centers, Second Edition by Johanna Willheiser and Jude Scott (Scarecrow Press 2002).

It was funded by the Canadian Archives Foundation and is quite good. It addresses an entire management philosophy for setting up a disaster planning team and a separate disaster response team. Preparing for a possible disaster at some distant point in the future is a distinctly different task from responding to an emergency right now. The skill of pre-planning is largely strategic and the task of disaster response is largely tactical.

Here's a page of links for library and archive disaster response.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

GTA killed my PS2

I've had my Playstation2 (PS2) for about 2 years and it has served me well. But over the past couple of days I've been playing a lot of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (GTA:SA) and my PS2 has started failing to read the disc. I popped in another disc and it couldn't read it either, so I think it's my machine and not the disc.

Of course, GTA gets a lot of bad press for being sexist, violent, and criminal. Which is all true. But it's also a lot of fun. But so are the movies the Godfather, Scarface, and Pulp Fiction, which have inspired the GTA series.

I don't think children should be watching those movies or playing GTA.

I admit to having bad thoughts. I sometimes want to beat people down for being morons. When I see people making U-turns on busy, four lane roads while talking on their cell phones...I imagine pulling them out of the their cars and beating them with a baseball bat, like I would do in GTA.

But I have excellent impulse control. Should people with poor impulse control play GTA? Probably not. But then, should they also be allowed to watch the King of New York or Scarface? Certainly we shouldn't let them near chainsaws....

I've been studying a lot of criminology and I think that the causes of crime are complex and that blaming video games is a really simplistic solution.

Our entire culture is violent and the Brit's who write the GTA stuff are actually making total fun of Americans. And laughing all the way to the bank.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Qwantz: the Dinosaur Comic Strip

My friend Jim Hamilton recently turned me onto the comic strip Qwantz.

I like this one about nihilism.

The simple style and acerbic commentary remind me of Get Your War On.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

GPS to be switched off during major crisis

The Bushies have made public their intention to turn off the GPS system in case of a major terrorist attack. Ok, so just when Americans might need GPS the most, they won't have it. Do they plan to shut down the cell phone system too? Terrorists use cell phones to detonate bombs after all. How about the Internet? Terrorists might be using it too.

I suppose it would be irresponsible of the people at Homeland Security to not even consider shutting down parts of our information infrastructure in the case of a terrorist attack, but I think switching off GPS is a dumb idea in most scenarios.

In Tom Clancy's novel Rainbox Six, there was an Information Technology (IT) guy on the team and he used a program (or command code of some sort) to shut down cell phones, but he had to drive to the local tower to do it, and he only shut the cell phone system down locally.

Oh well, like I needed a reason to own a compass (or three). GPS is a nice toy...until the batteries run out and then you're back to the compass and maps.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Sprint to the finish

I just turned in my last paper this morning. I am elated, but also one tired puppy. I'm not a procrastinator, but library science school is so much work. When you have weekly assignments in every single class it is all but impossible to work ahead.

But I did enough to get by (I think) and I learned a few things in the process...which is supposed to be the standard for satisfaction, I guess...

You'd think I'd been in school long enough that I'd have developed a philosophy of pedagogy by now...

Monday, December 13, 2004

Gratuities

Over the past week, I've had two people try to tip me after I helped them at the law library. It's very flattering, but it seems odd to me. I wonder if it is a cultural dynamic of Los Angeles. Perhaps these people tip the valet who parks their car $2, and therefore think nothing of slipping a $5 to librarian with a nice attitude.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Finals Week Approaches

I haven't been blogging much this week since this my last week of classes. All 3 of my final papers were due next Monday, but I got a 48 hours extension on one, so at least I have a little breathing room now.

I'll be back in my typical blogging form later next week.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Organzing your Personal Library in Six Easy Steps

Kendall Grant Clark has an interesting article at XML.com on using freely available Library of Congress Information to index your books, CDs and other materials.

Since he's not a librarian, I'm impressed with his ambition and vision.

This is what we librarians call copy cataloging, where you use pre-existing call numbers to label your materials.

Worth a read if you have the problem of not being able to find the book you are looking for when you want it.

Of course, the reason I ran across the article is because he mentions the role of RFID in cataloging a library:

If I were writing this article in, say, 10 years, I'd be talking about RFID tags instead of barcodes. I think it's likely that in 10 years books will include active RFID tags, which will largely obviate the need to label them in order to manage your collection. Ubiquitous RFID tags in books seems more likely to me than the pure digital lifestyle scenario about the future of books, namely, that we'll all be reading books on some electronic paper device in 10 years, having foregone a 500 year old tradition of relishing the tactile pleasures of books as physical objects.



But I think he meant to say passive RFID tags in the above passage. The problem with active RFID tags is that their battery will eventually run out and then your cataloging system would stop working.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Free disaster management courses through EMI

My advisor introduced me to the Emergency Management Institute (EMI). Selected courses are free and open to the public. FYI.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Election Reflections: The Power Elite in America

Note: This is cross-posted at my personal blog page over at the Bellman.

I've been reading through the book A World of Ideas: A Dictionary of Important Theories, Concepts, Beliefs, and Thinkers by Chris Rohmann.

Rohmann's entry on elitism is provocative, so I thought I'd share it with you.

Given our last election with two scions of wealthy families both using ideological wedge issues like gay marriage, abortion, taxes, the environment, the economy, social security, and fear of terrorism to motivate their constituents to vote for them, I think elitism is worth discussing.


elite theory
Theory holding that domination of social and political systems by powerful minorities is inevitable. The belief that only a select few, specially endowed or belonging to a particular group or CLASS, are fit to govern society is called elitism. The word "elite" has the same root as "elect" and implies both senses of that term -- those designated by ballot or appointment, or elevated from the multitude by God, chance, history, or natural gifts.

Elite theory, developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by the Italian sociologists Gaetano Mosca and Vilfredo Pareto, arose largely as a response to the MARXIST faith in popular rule.

They argued that all political and social systems, including DEMOCRACIES, are controlled by elites, be they aristocrats or clergy, generals or politicians, bureaucrats or captains of industry.

Elites perpetuate themselves through force, manipulation and legitimating IDEOLOGIES shared by the populace (which, in a democracy, include the promise that anyone may aspire to join the elite).

Revolution, usually resulting from stagnation among the ruling elite, merely raises another elite in its place. In Pareto's view, a regular circulation of elites -- typically alternation between CONSERVATIVE "lions" preserving the status quo and resourceful "foxes" responding to changing conditions -- is necessary to renew executive vigor and renew the public trust.

According to the iron rule of oligarchy, a corollary theory formulated by German political scientist Robert Michels, control of any political organization will unavoidably devolve to a small group because of factors such as the need for efficient action, the leaders' love of power, and apathy of their followers.

Classical elite theory became a justification for FASCISM, with which Pareto and Michels ultimately sympahized.

Modern ellite theorists often take a more PLURALISTIC approach, seeing modern democracies as characterized not by centralized power but by competition among political, economic, and institutional elites representing a variety of interests. However, sociologist C. Wright Mills contended that the upper echelons of political, military, and industrial leadership in the United States constitute an interlocking power elite who protect and promote their common interests.*


Now, elitism can be merely descriptive or prescriptive.

But what do you think of Rohmann's sketch of elitism? Is that descriptive of our current political culture in this country? Does elistism necessarily collapse into fascism? Could elitism be beneficial for creating vigor in the executive branch (or class)?

Should we try to destroy the power elite? Should we install another elite in its place? Is a truly egalitarian system of government possible? What would it look like?

Should we labor endlessly for some democratic old-money blue-blood in the hope that he will be better than the republican-backed figurehead at killing brown people and guaranteeing a good-paying job for every dumbass in America?

Or should we resign ourselves to the dominance of the elites (regardless of political label) and go back to watching TV, drinking whiskey, smoking dope , playing video games, driving our SUVs to the mall to buy more crap for the holidays and otherwise being good little consumers of government propaganda?

The last election reminds of a song by They Might be Giants:

I built a little empire out of some crazy garbage
Called the blood of the exploited working class
But they've overcome their shyness
Now they're calling me Your Highness
And a world screams, "Kiss me, Son of God"

I destroyed a bond of friendship and respect
Between the only people left who'd even look me in the eye
Now I laugh and make a fortune
Off the same ones that I tortured
And a world screams, "Kiss me, Son of God"


* (Terms in all caps are further defined within the book)

Robotics Update: Swarmbots


Using insect life as a pattern, European scientists are working on Swarmbots.


Marco Dorigo, director of the artificial intelligence research lab at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, leads a "swarm-bots" project funded by the EU. As he says, ants are simple creatures that can perform complicated tasks without centralised control. Dorigo and his colleagues are using ant algorithms to help control 20 mini-robots. Working together, these robots can cooperate to complete tasks such as transporting an object too heavy for an individual.

"Applications such as space exploration are envisageable, but the main goal of this project is of a basic research flavour. We want to learn how to design and control swarms of small and relatively simple robots," he says.

The swarm-bots communicate by coloured lights, sounds, or by pulling or pushing each other. Russell says using chemicals, as insects do, might have some advantages. "Biology shows us that in all the large groupings of insects, chemical communication is very important for organisation." |Link|

Monday, November 29, 2004

RFID Update: RFID ushering in the age of sensors

Distributed sensor networks are the wave of the future. And RFID will probably help build the infrastructure for them. Read Mark Roberti's article at RFID Journal.

Selected quote:

Sensor networks consist of wireless sensors that detect heat, light, movement and many other environmental factors. Also known as motes, the sensors gather data and transmit it from one node in a network to another and another until it reaches a node connected to a computer that can store and analyze the data....

Mulder believes that sensor technology will transform the way companies manage their assets. He gave examples of BP using sensors on railcars and motors on an oil tanker (see BP Eyes New Opportunities for more on the oil company's use of wireless sensors). Intel put sensors on some pumps within one of its own semiconductor plants and put sensors on grapevines in a California vineyard. Data was gathered and analyzed to try to improve maintenance and, in the case of the vineyard, ensure that the vines received the right amount of sunlight, water and other things necessary to the vines’ health and growth.

"It's all about productivity and efficiency," Mulder said. "Sensor networks have a transformational power that could boost world GDP by 10 percent or more."


I think distributed sensor networks have great potential for helping us manage the impacts of climate change as well as responding to industrial accidents and forest fires.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Surveillance and Privacy: The Legacy of Northern Ireland

The British government' s long occupation of Northern Ireland led them to experiment with a variety of electronic surveillance methods for tracking crime and terrorism. The British have now applied that expertise to their own domestic law enforcement practices.

Towards that vein, the BBC's Tom Geoghegan is reporting on a new product that takes 3-D pictures of faces for identity confirmation.

Interestingly, the US Department of Homeland Security last year appointed a privacy officer to do privacy impact analyses mandated by the E-Commerce Act of 2002. Her name is Nuala O'Connor Kelly, and as you might have guessed, she is from Northern Ireland.

She took the job partly because of her childhood experiences with Irish snipers, she told the USA Today.

She recalled getting caught in a sniper attack in Belfast when she was 7 or 8 years old, playing in her aunt's front yard. On Sept. 11, she says, she felt the same "fear that someone is trying to kill me, andit's not because of anything I've ever done to them." That, she says, "is something I don't want my child toever have to go through." |Link|
Snipers can be awfully pesky, as the Beltway Sniper taught our nation's Capitol.

Wired Magazine has an interview with her from 2003 available here.
                         

Friday, November 26, 2004

Social Network Theory and Bloggers

In my Information-Seeking Behavior class we've been discussing Social Network Theory quite a bit. I decided to look it up on the web, and found this page applying Social Network Theory to bloggers.

This (rather long page) has more background on Social Network Theory.


New Facade and Inner Workings for the Bellman

My friend the Bellman (with the invaluable assistance of the Monkey) have re-tooled the Bellman. Have a look.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Biodiesel: Boon or Boondoggle

George Monbiot has a piece in the Guardian on the potential negative impacts of growing enough biodiesel to replace petroleum use.

He suggests that the cultivation of land for crops to produce biodiesel will lead to massive starvation around the globe and increase deforestation.

Selected quote:

Road transport in the UK consumes 37.6m tonnes of petroleum products a year. The most productive oil crop that can be grown in this country is rape. The average yield is 3-3.5 tonnes per hectare. One tonne of rapeseed produces 415kg of biodiesel. So every hectare of arable land could provide 1.45 tonnes of transport fuel.

To run our cars and buses and lorries on biodiesel, in other words, would require 25.9m hectares. There are 5.7m in the UK. Even the EU's more modest target of 20% by 2020 would consume almost all our cropland.

If the same thing is to happen all over Europe, the impact on global food supply will be catastrophic: big enough to tip the global balance from net surplus to net deficit. If, as some environmentalists demand, it is to happen worldwide, then most of the arable surface of the planet will be deployed to produce food for cars, not people.

This prospect sounds, at first, ridiculous. Surely if there were unmet demand for food, the market would ensure that crops were used to feed people rather than vehicles? There is no basis for this assumption. The market responds to money, not need. People who own cars have more money than people at risk of starvation. In a contest between their demand for fuel and poor people's demand for food, the car-owners win every time. Something very much like this is happening already. Though 800 million people are permanently malnourished, the global increase in crop production is being used to feed animals: the number of livestock on earth has quintupled since 1950. The reason is that those who buy meat and dairy products have more purchasing power than those who buy only subsistence crops.

Green fuel is not just a humanitarian disaster; it is also an environmental disaster. Those who worry about the scale and intensity of today's agriculture should consider what farming will look like when it is run by the oil industry. Moreover, if we try to develop a market for rapeseed biodiesel in Europe, it will immediately develop into a market for palm oil and soya oil. Oilpalm can produce four times as much biodiesel per hectare as rape, and it is grown in places where labour is cheap. Planting it is already one of the world's major causes of tropical forest destruction. Soya has a lower oil yield than rape, but the oil is a by-product of the manufacture of animal feed. A new market for it will stimulate an industry that has already destroyed most of Brazil's cerrado (one of the world's most biodiverse environments) and much of its rainforest.

Oil is finite, and we will soon pass the peak of oil production (if we haven't already). Monbiot discusses voluntary simplicity in another article, but I cannot see even a tiny fraction of Americans choosing a less consumerist lifestyle.

Personally, I think the end of the oil age with rapid climate change brought on by global warming and overpopulation which will ultimately doom human civilization.

Modernists assume that we can use new technology solve the problems created by older technologies. Postmodernists think this faith in technology is irrational. There is no reason to believe that we can fix problems faster than we create them. Indeed, I think there is mounting evidence of just the opposite....

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Police Practice Update: tasers being used on children in Miami

The Guardian reports on two recents uses of tasers against children. The second use sounds remotely reasonable, using the taser to disable a child who is injuring himself with a piece of broken glass and may be suicidal. The first use discussed was on a fleeing 12-year-old and is beyond the pale.

Tip for the future, if someone you love is despondent and suicidal, don't call the cops. Cops tend the think with their guns and are more than happy to oblige those who wish to commit suicide by cop.

And to be fair to cops, the literature indicates that a peson within 21 feet of a cop with a knife drawn will be able to critically injure the officer 80-90% of the time regardless of what the officer does. Handguns actually have little stopping power regardless of caliber and while the knife-wielding assailant may ultimately die, that won't prevent injury to the cop.

Friday, November 19, 2004

My wife the author

My wife's first two books just came out in hardcover and paperback. They're published by Altamira Press.

The first book is Introduction to Tribal Legal Studies.

Her second book, Tribal Criminal Law and Procedure also just came out in print, it's in the same series.

Read more about them both at the Tribal Law and Policy Institute.

I'm very proud of Sarah and all the great work she does.

Safety Neal's other hobbies include editorial assistance

I'm on the student advisory board of InterActions: UCLA Journal of Education and Information Studies , a progressive education and information science journal. FYI.

* * * * *
InterActions: UCLA Journal of Education and Information Studies is a peer-reviewed electronic journal that is committed to the promotion of scholarly work that examines areas of education and information studies via interdisciplinary and critical perspectives. The journal seeks to link diverse theoretical and practical projects, as well as provide a space to record the voices of emerging scholars (graduate students and postdoctoral fellows), activists, and practitioners.

As education and information institutions continue to face challenging times, we seek to promote submissions that engage alternative, liberatory possibilities informed by creative theories, methodologies, practices, and visions. In particular, we encourage submissions that:

· Utilize an interdisciplinary framework: Draw upon traditional fields of study (such as policy, sociology, information-seeking and retrieval, pedagogy, evaluation, psychological development, etc.) or provide insight from diverse disciplines (e.g., legal theory, ethnic studies, women’s studies, technology studies, etc.).

· Incorporate critical frameworks and address issues of social inequities:
These frameworks may include, but are not restricted to, feminism, critical race theory, Marxism, post-colonialism, critical pedagogy, queer studies, disability studies, etc. Whether or not submissions utilize these specific lenses, they should demonstrate innovation and commitment to advancing current analyses and discourses in progressive directions.

· Extend conventional areas of study through critical and interdisciplinary frameworks: These areas include, but are not limited to: bilingual education, affirmative action, special education, standards and testing, teacher education, school violence, higher education, social research methodology, information retrieval, access, systems and institutions, etc.

Deadlines: Currently, we are accepting papers for Volume 2, Issue 1. The deadline is January 6, 2005.

Submission Guidelines: All articles undergo a double-blind peer-review. Please visit the website for detailed submission guidelines. Manuscripts that do not abide by the submission guidelines will be returned to the author. Please contact interactions@gseis.ucla.edu for more details.

Please send an electronic version of your submission in Word or Rich Text (rtf) format to: interactions@gseis.ucla.edu. Send FIVE paper copies of your submission to: InterActions: UCLA Journal of Education and Information Studies
UCLA - Graduate School of Education & Information Studies
8328 Math & Sciences Building - Box 951520
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1520

City of Mosques lies in ruins

I saw this at the NY Times from Nov. 18th, written by Robert F. Worth and Edward Wong:


Almost all of [Fallujah] has been pulverized, and the biggest question facing American and Iraqi officials is how residents will react to seeing the vast swaths of destruction. Residents of the city were generally supportive of the mujahedeen and did not want the Americans to enter. American commanders say rebuilding efforts will win over the Fallujans, but reconstruction efforts by the Americans in other urban battle zones in Iraq, like Najaf, have stumbled badly.

Falluja is known as the City of Mosques, but the landscape is
now dotted by broken minarets, many destroyed by airstrikes.

Falah al-Naqib, the Iraqi interior minister, said at a news conference in Baghdad that families who fled would receive food rations and 150,000 dinars, or about $110, on their return.| Link |




Make that Fallujah was known as the City of Mosques.

Arkangel is an active-duty service-member who also seems to think we are fucking up badly in Fallujah, see his post Hearts and Minds.

Iraq seems more like a quagmire to me every single day.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Augmented Reality: allowing the blind to navigate the world using RFID

Augmented reality is the process of using the virtual world to provide information on the tangible world. I usually use the example of a heads up display where one would see additional information for items, like the names and addresses of buildings just by looking at the building.

Over at Surpriv, I saw this really cool NSF grant summary for a system using RFID and XML to provide an augmented reality system for blind people.


Even in an ideal academic setting in which a University has unlimited resources to reduce the challenges in the classroom, blind students will miss out on the numerous educational opportunities outside the classroom.

This project proposes a navigation and location determination system using an RFID tag grid.

The retail industry has developed a low cost tagging system to electronically monitor products from manufacturing, warehouse and to the consumer. The design requirements to satisfy the needs of the retail industry are low cost per unit, reliable, powerless and the ability to transmit a wide range of data. By leveraging advances in RFID technology it is feasible to develop a system that utilizes RFID tags as a location based information grid.

Each RFID tag is permanently installed under carpet, wood floors, behind trim in hallways, along sidewalks and as part of any pedestrian path. Each RFID tag is programmed upon installation with its X,Y coordinates and information describing the surroundings. This allows for a localized information system with no dependency on a centralized database or wireless infrastructure for communications. For under $1 per tag it is possible to store 250 bytes of information that can be read as the user approaches the tag. Using proposed compression and flexible XML based protocols, an RFID grid in a room can store a complete inventory and location of the room objects and information about neighboring rooms.

Upon entry into a room the RFID tags at the door provide a summary of the room's content and the location of each object. This information is then read into the student's cell phone or PDA and when the student needs to find the electrical outlet, telephone, desk, vending machine, etc., the system - knowing its current location based on the RFID tag coordinates - can give the path to the object through voice prompts.

Now that is a really nice example of thinking outside the box.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Random RFID update: Do you know where your child is?

NY Times (reg'n req'd) has 2 articles on RFID today.
School kids are being tracked with RFID
and RFID is being used to track pill bottles for Oxycotin and Viagra.

Susan in the comments to my last post inserted a link Zombiewire, which is an interesting anti-RFID website.

RFID brought to you by Association for Automatic Identification and Mobility
The Association for Automatic Identification and Mobility has quite a few RFID links available. They also have a press release on Verichip, the new implantable RFID.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

The Death Penalty Standard...Beyond a Shadow of a Doubt

One of my classmates at law school, the inimitable Sean Rogers, suggested that perhaps we should use a different standard for the death penalty, the standard of beyond a shadow of a doubt. The criminal conviction would lie upon the beyond a reasonable doubt standard. But to execute a person, a jury would need to believe beyond a shadow of a doubt in his or her guilt.

Sean suggested the case where we have a bank robber on camera shooting hostages in a bank. Seems pretty clear cut.

But in the cases of merely circumstantial evidence....perhaps a jury would convict, but wouldn't feel the were certain beyond a shadow of a doubt, and thus spare the life of the defendant while sending him or her to prison for life.

I think it's a provocative thesis.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Neal's Safety Tip of the Month: Own a Flashlight

Of course, it's no good owning a flashlight if:

a. The batteries are dead
b. You can't find it when you need it.

Several months ago I bought a couple of Russian Dynamo flashlights. I keep one in the house and one in the car. I got mine from NitroPak, but Sahalie is also selling them.

I've been using this dynamo flashlight while I walk the dog. It isn't a third as powerful as the D-Cell maglites I own. But I 've found it to be sturdy and it works well enough for me to scoop the dog's poop at night. (Too much information?)

These little dynamo lights can also be used to improve your grip strength, but you can strain your wrist if you overdo it, as I discovered. :-(

I keep both battery-powered flashlights and hand-crank flashlights on hand as well as glow sticks. And then I also have my half-dozen bike-lights that I use when I bike at night....

So I probably have all the lights any person could ever need. But can you ever have too many flashlights?

It's good to be able to see in the dark. It stands to reason that emergency's will occur at night half of the time....and the dark puts you at a severe disadvantage psychologically as well as tactically during a crisis.

I suggest that you buy a good flashlight, if you don't have at least one already.

Do you have a favorite flashlight? If so, let me know why you like it so much in the comments section.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Moving to Canada redux

My wife sent me Ten Reasons Not to Move to Canada, and they are all good reasons. But I still think Canada sounds nice. I should go visit and get to know our neighbor to the North better. DiGRA's conference is in Vancouver this year.

Justine over at Bellman also posted this article on liberal migration from the BBC.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Consume, review, consume

I bike a lot and I am amazed at the huge number of items for sale to bikers. Looking for product reviews, I ran across Gear Review.com. If you're looking to buy an altimeter watch, some climbing gear, or a new fork for your mountain bike, check it out.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Random RFID update: RFID as an Anti-Theft Device

The British government has been funding anti-theft intiatives using RFID. The case studies are a sign of things to come.

Monday, November 08, 2004

The Falling Dollar

The Guardian has information on the falling dollar presented in the FAQ format.

George Bush is spending our children's inheritance right and left.

Our grandchildren will have to learn Chinese to better serve their masters.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

The Networked City

Wired has an article by Steven Johnson on how NY City has added geo-referencing to its 311 service.

Selected quote:

[T]he government learns as much as the callers do. That's the radical idea at the heart of the service: Every question or problem carries its own kind of data. Menchini's system tracks all that information; just as the heralded CompStat system mapped problem crime areas with new precision, 311 automatically records the location of each incoming service request in a huge database that feeds info throughout New York City's government. Think of 311 as a kind of massively distributed extension of the city's perceptual systems, harnessing millions of ordinary eyes on the street to detect emerging problems or report unmet needs - like those worries about unrefrigerated insulin. (Bloomberg himself is notorious for calling in to report potholes.)

Already, 311 data is changing the government's priorities. In the first year of operation, noise was the number one complaint; the Bloomberg administration subsequently launched a major quality-of-life initiative combating city noise. Today, geomapping software displays streets with chronic pothole troubles and blocks battling graffiti - all integrated into custom dashboards on city officials' laptops. (emphasis added)


That's a nifty idea. Although I still have absolutely no desire to ever come within 100 miles of New York City.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Life Lessons from Video Games

I saw this over at Ludology.

post US Election day post
Friday, November 05 2004

damn Wario! I can't believe he got a bonus life.

here's the only theory you'll ever need: you learn the game by having the monsters beat the crap out of you.

does anybody ha[ve] an extra quarter?

A Democrat's Guide to Canada

Tom Regan has written a Democrat's Guide to Canada. Pretty cool, eh?

Dual Citizenship

I've previously discussed that I consider myself a citizen of the world as well as a citizen of the United States. I attempt to evaluate many public policy issues from an international perspective and do my best to read the international media to gather a wide variety of viewpoints on issues.

Take the international land mine treaty ban, for instance. The current US administration opposes it and the Clinton administration opposed it on the basis that we need land mines in Korea. From a strictly US standpoint, maybe the treaty is a bad idea. But from a global viewpoint, the treaty is a fantastic idea.

While there are many great things about the US, an internationalist viewpoint is often lacking from our political discourse.

To take up a related issue, many people on the left often jokingly refer to moving to Canada or New Zealand due to political developments within the US. However, I have recently seen this response derided and mocked as "running away" from problems in the United States.

I am an American and I will continue to try to improve this country. Even if I obtained citizenship in another country, I would still retain my US citizenship. And as long as I live, I will retain my interest in the political process. The phrase running away assumes there is someplace to run to. Unfortunately the US military-industrial-infotainment complex is well nigh unavoidable these days...except maybe in the mountains along with Afghan-Pakistan border.

Actually, I think this idea that you have to physically reside in the US to play a role in the US political process is another example of American exceptionalism. The US would benefit if more of our citizens spent time abroad and gained dual citizenship.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

The Indian Space Program

Randeep Ramesh has an artilce on India's space program. Ramesh also discusses the Chinese space program and its plans for a manned mission to the Moon.

Selected quote:

In India, the space programme has become a symbol of technical prowess and self-sufficiency. Used to infuse the nation with pride at matching first-world powers in scientific fields, Isro has been feted by all the political par ties as proof that India can transcend poverty. Notably the country's president, APJ Abdul Kalam, started his career as an Isro engineer, although he made his name developing ballistic missiles.

Warming relations between Washington and Delhi are likely to accelerate Isro's development. In September, the Bush administration announced it would remove Isro from a US export restriction list, which regulates sales of dual-use technologies- those that can be used both for civil and military purposes.

Analysts say this decision should result in a three-fold increase in hi-tech imports from the US and speed up collaboration with Boeing to build communication satellites.

The commercial imperative is plain for all to see. Nair points out that Isro pays scientists $600 (£340) a month. "That is a respectable salary in Bangalore and one that gives you a reasonable standard of living. It is not the same for western countries."


Billions of people live on $1 per day and a rocket scientist in India makes $600 per month. Now I really feel like a fat-cat American.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Chief Justice Scalia

I am disappointed with the election, to say the least. Distraught might be a better word.

The most frightening aspect of it is going to the Supreme Court nominations. The words Chief Justice Scalia fill me with so much dread.

We can forget about the right to privacy, the right to reproductive freedom and the right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures. The Republicans now control all three branches of government. But Bush will be able to fill the Court with right wing ideologues and that will be his true legacy.

The global war between Islam and the West has been given a big xenophobic thumbs up. Time to take up our White Man's Burden and kill some more darkies. On the bright side, all the military spending will probably result in some nice surveillance technology to spin off to the police so they can monitor the population more closely.

I recently watched the movie the Professional again with Jean Reno and Natalie Portman. Natalie Portman plays Mathilda and Jean Reno plays Leon.

There's a scene where Mathilda is nursing a bloody nose because her father has slapped her around (again). Leon comes up and gives her a handkerchief. Mathilda asks Leon if it's always like this, or just when you're a kid.

Leon pauses, and then tells her that life is always like this.

Life is full of heartache and stupidity and there is no getting around it.

Cops and Computers

There's an interesting article available from the Police Foundation in PDF that suggests geocoding NCIC and NBIRS data.

NCIC is the database system used to check for outstanding warrants and NBIRS is what the FBI uses to compile its annual crime statistics.

Geocoding is associating an event with a location through a geographic system, like latitude and longitude . A map datum is a way of gridding the world. Latitutde and longitude is the best known map datum, but there are over 200 of them. UTM is the only other one I'm really familiar with.

I think geocoding NCIC and NBIRS is a good idea. A geocode is a useful bit of metadata.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

The Undiscovered Country

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is now out. Unfortunately, it was released right in the middle of my course of classes. I've decided to wait until Christmas break to dive into San Andreas. In the meantime, you can read Gamespot's Review here.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

The Crusade on the Holy Land

I decided to check out what was up with the wingnuts over at World Net Daily. It's usually good for a chuckle, but I especially liked their book review of Beyond Iraq. Over at Amazon, there's an interesting little theological debate going on in the comments section for Beyond Iraq.

I found an interview with the author of Beyond Iraq , Michael D. Evans, and here's a taste of his viewpoint.

The church is the only moral compass for the nation. It is a measuring stick for the behavior and attitudes of a nation...a light on a hill. Not only is it a moral compass, but the church possesses the most precious gift of all - hope - the true cure for the empty souls of tens of millions of children of Islamic fundamentalists attempt to recruit as human bombs.

God has called the church to be a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation. It is not a request; it is a command and a challenge, and a promise, as well. The church has a Great Commission.

Had the church fulfilled the "Judea and Samaria" portion of the command, 9/11 would never have happened. Born-again, Bible-believing Arabs don't blow up innocent people, Christians or Jews. This is the breeding ground from which has grown the H-bomb (human bomb.) Any attempt to root out global terrorism without plowing the soil in which it grows will only serve to spread the seed of terrorism even more quickly.


Mr. Evans thinks the real problem is Islam and we just need to extinguish that religion. What's more, he finds so much in his Bible readings to encourage his little delusions.

I'm concerned that if Bush is re-elected that fuckwits equivalent to Mr. Evans are going to continue to guide our foreign policy.

In my last post I referred to Jonathan Dimbleby's article outlining some rational steps to improve the world.

But what hope is there when we have morons like Evans calling for a new series of Crusades? Religious morons like Mr. Evans are a greater threat to the US than Osama Bin Laden.

World Poverty, Global Warming, and the War on Terrorism

If you're having a lousy day, go ahead and read Jonathan Dimbleby's piece in the Guardian on what he claims are the intersecting issues of world poverty, global warming, and the war on terrorism.

If you're having a great day, well, go have another beer and forget about our problems for one more day. Because we are well and truly fucked.

Friday, October 29, 2004

The Criminal Justice Military-Industrial Complex (Article Evaluation)

I just finished reading an article titled The Militarization of Policing in the Information Age by Kevin D. Haggerty and Richard V. Ericson, published in the Journal of Political and Military Sociology in Winter, 1999 (Volume 27, pages 233-255, no link to article available).

The authors provide a fascinating analysis of the directed technology transfer of military technologies to the police. The authors are both Canadian academics and assess developments in Canada, Great Britian, and the US.

While several US cities have embraced [surveillance] efforts, the UK has been the leader among western nations in their attempts to surveil the city. It has reached the point that a city dweller in Britain can now expect to be caught on film every five minutes. Such efforts have a clear military lineage. For example, the British leadership in this area can be traced in part to the several decades of experimentation with electronic counterinsurgency and antiterrorist city planning conducted in Belfast by the British Army. (citations omitted)

The end of the Cold War caused many defense contractors to seek civilian markets for their products and thus qualify their product line as "dual use", thus creating an additional Defense Department funding justification, opening up civilian and police technology funding sources, as well as creating a vast secondary market.

This has given the police many new surveillance and data mining tools to play with. The social implications of these new forms of police surveillance are of great interest to me. The authors write in their conclusion:
The introduction of such communication technologies into policing is no t the harbinger of a totally controlled society. What we appear to be witnessing is the emergence of a society where both surveillance and the public knowledge of such surveillance is increasingly the norm. It is this reflexive public appreciation of surveillance which can introduce a dynamic interplay between the watchers and the watched. Even as the optics of these new technologies become more refined, people search out spaces (both physical and informational) beyond official scrutiny and attempt to creatively turn the gaze back upon the official watchers. (citations omitted)

If you have the time, I suggest reading the whole article. It's available from your local library through the magic of InterLibrary Loan (ILL).

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Random RFID Update: RFID to merge with cell phones

Nokia has a prototype phone that is RFID-enabled.

Selected quote:

RFID's addition to Nokia phones is inevitable, according to some industry veterans. During the past few years, cell phones have been tricked out with any number of different wireless antennas--global positioning systems, Wi-Fi, infrared, Bluetooth and soon ultra wideband--in order to increase the phone's usefulness.


Chipping people with RFID is one of my favorite topics, largely because of my not-so-secret desire to become a cyborg. Of course, who needs to chip people if they allow themselves to be tracked by their GPS and RFID enabled cell phones?

Lament for a Small Planet: Overpopulation

There are too damned many people in the world. Jonathan Watts reports that the Chinese population is expected to peak at 1.46 billion around the year 2035.

Then in 2050, India's population is expected to peak at 1.6 billion.

How are we going to feed all these people? WWF is reporting that we are already running an ecological debt.

The Living Planet Report 2004 shows that humans currently consume 20 per cent more natural resources than the earth can produce, and that populations of terrestrial, freshwater and marine species fell on average by 40 per cent between 1970 and 2000.

"We are spending nature's capital faster than it can regenerate," said Dr Claude Martin, Director General of WWF International. "We are running up an ecological debt which we won't be able to pay off unless governments restore the balance between our consumption of natural resources and the earth's ability to renew them." |Link|


I hope the human race continues long after I'm gone. But I have to wonder if we're going to last much past 2050. And I'll count myself lucky if I stick around until 2050.

Ian Sample suggests 12 fragiles pieces of our environment that are most likely to suffer catastrophic climate change in the near future.

Of course, the world will keep spinning....with or without us pernicious, self-important monkeys.

Hopefully China will use its excess population to colonize Mars. That would at least be interesting....

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Risk Compensation

Wikipedia has an interesting entry on risk compensation and risk homeostatis. I was exposed to the idea in high school during policy debate where we called it danger homeostatis and ran it as a disadvantage.

I really hope the bioengineers and geneticists are successful in creating better, smarter humans because I am so unimpressed with the majority of the human race.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Lessons for a Small Planet: The Foolishness of the Copenhagen Consensus

If you have been following the Copenhagen Consensus project supported by the Economist magazine and Bjorn Lomberg, Tom Burke does an excellent job of demolishing the assumptions behind the Copehagen Consensus.

Selected quote:

Cost-benefit analysis can help you choose different routes to a goal you have agreed, but it cannot help you choose goals. For that we have politics. People disagree about priorities and they do so on a huge variety of legitimate grounds. When they do so, they are not arguing about value for money, but about the kind of world they want to live in.

It is a vanity of economists to believe that all choices can be boiled down to calculations of monetary value. In the real world, outcomes are not so easily managed. A stable climate is something we might now call a system condition for civilisation. That is, it is something without which civilisation is impossible - though it is not, of course, itself a guarantee that there will be civilisation.

The messy world we live in is one in which an unstable climate will guarantee poverty for untold millions. But it is equally one in which, if we fail to solve the problem of poverty much more quickly and cleverly than we are doing at present, we will continue to destabilise the climate. The Lomborg argument that we can delay one until we have solved the other is a cruelly false prospect.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Higher oil prices rekindle interest in Green Energy

The Christian Science Monitor has an article on Ron Scherer discussing the growth of renewable energy sources globally. And guess what, Europe and Canada are way ahead of the ol' US of A.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

CIA sitting on report critical of Bush Administration

According to the LA Times' Robert Scheer, CIA Director Goss is quashing a report ordered 2 years ago about intelligence failures leading up to 9/11.

Quagmire Watch: US Bombing Mosques

Bombing mosques does not strike me as a sign of progress.

The International Institute for Strategic Studies has issued a report called the Military Balance which finds fault with the Bush administration's rationale that it is bringing terrorist together in Iraq to decimate them

The report dismissed claims by US officials that the influx of jihadists into Iraq brought more terrorists into a smaller "killing zone". The al-Qaida movement was unlikely to concentrate forces in any one country, the institute said, adding that the 1,000 foreign fighters estimated to be in Iraq were a "minute fraction of its potential strength".

The institute's director, John Chipman, said yesterday: "The outcome of the US-led international effort to bring stability to the country is far from certain as the most powerful military power in the world struggles with a multi-faceted insurgency."

He said it could take five years before Iraq's own security forces were able to guarantee stability themselves. |link|

Boycott Sinclair Media's Advertisers

Note: I posted this piece over at the Bellman, this is a cross-posting.

Zwichenzug has already alerted Bellmaniacs to the partisan actions of Sinclair Media in showing Stolen Honor: Wounds that Never Heal right before the election. There's more analysis at Common Dreams.

Sinclair Media has fired its Washington Bureau Chief for speaking out against this open campaigning, according to Julian Borger.

Luckily, someone has created an easy way to fight back! You can sign the petition or email their advertisers en masse or selectively.

I suggest putting the words "boycott" and "Sinclair media" in the subject line.

Vote Early, Vote Often

People really are fired about about this election. A Democrat in Ohio has been accused of giving away crack cocaine for voter registrations and a Republican-affiliated firm has allegedly been destroying Democratic voter registrations in Oregon and Nevada. NPR has a similar (audio) story from Las Vegas.

Voting fraud is as old as voting, of course. Both parties are concerned with voter fraud since the margin of victory in the last presidential election was razor thin, and in the view of many, ultimately hijacked by the Republicans.

Both campaigns are tooling up for the post-election legal turmoil. NPR's All Things Considered has an audio report here.

(I've been listening to NPR more since my new cell phone picks up FM radio.)

Privacy Update: Federal and State Intelligence Coordination goes ahead

The Associated Press has an article about the Terrorist Threat Information Information Center (TTIC). If you remember the Total Information Awareness Project that was killed by Congress, well, this is one of its replacements.

Of course, we knew that this administration had not sworn off data mining. I think data mining in and of itself is harmless if done for a legitimate reason. It is the risk of abuse of the system that is disturbing.

And then there's the Multi-State Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange.

The Bush Administration's Continued Abrogation of the Constitution

CNN has picked up Jesselyn Radack's FindLaw article on Jose Padilla and Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marr.

Jose Padilla was the "dirty bomber" picked up in Chicago and has been held for several years without anyc charges being filed in clear contravention of the US Constitution and the Geneva Accords.

Rotten.com has a quick biography of Jose Padilla. Padilla is certainly not a model citizen, and it strikes me that there are several similarities to Aukai Collins' story in My Jihad.

But that doesn't affect how upset I am by the Bush administration's war on civil rights. If these men have committed crimes, charge them with crimes, but to just pretend they don't have Constitutional rights is immoral, and in my view, illegal.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Bush-Cheney 1984

Slashdot has an update on the state of American liberty.

Teachers ejected from Bush rally for weaing PROTECT OUR CIVIL LIBERTIES T-shirts.

An Associated Press news item about pepper balls being fired into a crowd of peaceful Anti-Bush protesters.

That whiff of fascism keeps getting stronger.

Among the comments at Slashdot, Engineer-Poet said it well when he wrote:

I remember speeches by pols where protest signs held up in the auditorium were taken in stride. Hell, I attended a speech by President Ford which was punctuated by cries of "What about Nixon?" from somewhere off to my right. (This was before I was able to vote, natch.)

I have never, ever seen anything like the reflexive hostility of this administration to normal political opposition. This Bush should expect it; he got into office on a hugely controversial court decision and with fewer votes than his opponent, and has proceeded to embark on an extreme right-wing program targetting access to and even information about birth control, gutting of pollution regulations and the doctoring of scientific information on government websites to conform to a partisan agenda.

Nothing can excuse this. Nothing. And then we read about the arrest and harassment of people whose only act is to register their discontent with the acts of the President, over and over and over.

I have few beefs with the President over the most controversial of his actions, over in a hot, tired and dusty land far away... but the rest of this stuff threatens the very soul of America if it is allowed to continue. So the only thing I can do is to vote the rascal out, as a lesson to him and any who would follow him:

Thou shalt not abridge the freedom of speech, or of the press, or tell falsehoods about the conclusions which our taxpayer-financed research has given us, or let anyone contaminate my air and water for the bonuses of the corporate executive class. Not In My Name.

(And that goes for anyone pandering to the postmodern PC idiotarians on the other side too; throw sops to them, and you've declared yourself my enemy.) |link| (emphasis added)



Thanks to Spammy T for the referral.

How big a threat is terrorism?

The Observer's William Pfaff has an Op-Ed piece discussing how Islamic fundamentalist's goals are a pipe dream.

But he also lays out some ugly truths for Americans:

Osama bin Laden himself has gone from being the patron or financier of the Taliban movement to a fugitive existence in Waziristan. His followers may blow up Americans in the Green Zone of Baghdad. They can reinforce an Iraqi nationalism that will eventually force the US and its allies out of that country, to their humiliation.

But as Gilles Kepel, the French authority on Islamic society, has already said, the Islamist movement is moribund in moral terms, although its military and political energy is not yet exhausted. There is no way in which it seriously threatens the Western industrial nations, other than through sporadic acts of terrorism. And that is the sort of thing Britain endured for many years from the IRA, Italy and Germany during the 1970s and 1980s from their Red Brigades, and Spain from Basque separatists. It is unpleasant, but it is not serious. (This is the lesson the American people refuse to understand.) (emphasis added)


I think he is correct that no matter when we leave Iraq, it will not be as victors. It will go down with Vietnam and Afghanistan in the annals of foolish imperialism and failed states.

But America does need to put terrorism in perspective. September 11th didn't change the world, it merely awakened America to some unfortunate truths about the world.

Academics flee Iraq

The AP's Omar Sinen penneed this cheerful piece about the breakdown of law and order in Iraq.

Selected quote:

``Assassins are targeting Iraqi university professors in a coordinated, liquidation process to force well-known scholars to leave the country and thus hinder the country's reconstruction,'' said Issam al-Rawi, a geologist at Baghdad University and head of the Association of University Lecturers.

Mohammed Abdullah, Baghdad University's slain dean, was shot in the forehead at his clinic by a person pretending to be ill. The former Baathist had been held in high regard as a doctor.

``Why did they kill him? He was loved by all the people around him,'' said his brother, Alaa Abdullah.

Speculation about who's behind the attacks is wide ranging, with some even blaming the United States and Israel, while others say neighboring countries like Kuwait and Iran desire a weak Iraq, sapped of its brain power.

Americans are frequently blamed for violence clearly carried out by insurgents and others on the theory that the current lawlessness has resulted only because the United States invaded and occupied the country.

Like Iraqis from all walks of life, academics are also taken hostage by ransom-seeking criminal gangs.


I'm not a pacifist. Sometimes force is the only appropriate response in my opinion. But I've studied war enough to realize that wars have many unintended consequences.

That is why I feel the best policy is that war should be employed only when absolutely unavoidable.

I am not persuaded that Bush did everything he could to prevent the invasion of Iraq. I am persuaded by Richard Clarke's account in Against All Enemies that Bush came into office intending to invade Iraq.

Friday, October 15, 2004

World rallies against Bush

The Guardian is matching up citizens of the world to write undecided voters in Clark County, Ohio.

Troops investigated in Iraq for refusing a "suicide mission"

Henderson over at the Bellman posted this item . I hadn't been to the Anti-War Blog before. Here is another news item on it from the Air Force Times.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Things you have to believe to be a Republican today

This showed up in my inbox today. I don't know who wrote it, but the author is far more succinct than I will ever be.

Things you have to believe to be a Republican today:

Saddam was a good guy when Reagan armed him, a bad guy when Bush's daddy
made war on him, a good guy when Cheney did business with him and a bad guy
when Bush needed a "we can't find Bin Laden" diversion.

Trade with Cuba is wrong because the country is communist, but trade with
China and Vietnam is vital to a spirit of international harmony.

A woman can't be trusted with decisions about her own body, but
multinational corporations can make decisions affecting all mankind without
regulation.

Jesus loves you, and shares your hatred of homosexuals and Hillary Clinton.

The best way to improve military morale is to praise the troops in speeches
while slashing veterans' benefits and combat pay.

If condoms are kept out of schools, adolescents won't have sex.

Providing health care to all Iraqis is sound policy.
Providing health care to all Americans is socialism.

HMOs and insurance companies have the best interests of the public at heart.

Global warming and tobacco's link to cancer are junk science, but
creationism should be taught in schools.

A president lying about an extramarital affair is an impeachable offense. A
president lying to enlist support for a war in which thousands die is solid
defense policy.

Government should limit itself to the powers named in the Constitution,
which include banning gay marriages and censoring the Internet.

The public has a right to know about Hillary's cattle trades, but George
Bush's cocaine conviction is none of our business.

[I knew about the DUI...I thought the man just had a cocaine habit, not a conviction...]

Being a drug addict is a moral failing and a crime, unless you're a
conservative radio host. Then it's an illness, and you need our prayers for
your recovery.

You support states' rights, which means Attorney General John Ashcroft can
tell states what local voter initiatives they have the right to adopt.

What Bill Clinton did in the 1960s is of vital national interest, but what
Bush did in the '80s is irrelevant.

Feel free to pass this on. If you don't send it to at least 10 other people,
we're likely to be stuck with Bush for 4 more years.

[I don't usually encourage chain mail...but this is a national emergency...]

Friends don't let friends vote Republican.

Mindjack

I've added a new blog on the right, check out Mindjack if you like cyberpunk. Also check out this article by Kevin Maney picked up by Yahoo on a direct neural interface for a paraplegic.

In related news, William Gibson is blogging again. And he's almost as pissed as I am.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Two Americas

The Sandrat sent me the following letter as an email. I cannot vouch for its authenticity, but I did find this news item about the Women in Black.

The letter speaks for itself. I edited the letter slightly for apparent typo's.

There has been over the last two years a group of women I am involved with called "Women in Black". periodically they have stood silently in a group in down town Lawrence Kansas. We wear all black with veils holding signs that states the current death toll of both Iraqis and American service people in the Iraq war. Or other appropriate verbage.

A month ago myself and a group of women (some of us part of Women in Black), started a sign blogging group. We wanted to reach people outside of our insular circle of left leaning liberals friends and community. We painted signs denouncing Bush and Bush administration policies and posted them in high traffic areas. We tried to post them at times and places of high traffic.

In our college town we thought "Game days" were the perfect time.Football is big in our college town. So on Game Days, along the side of the hi-way, or at major intersections we put big banners that say things like "Bush Lie 1000's Die", or "Re-Defeat Bush" etc etc.

Then we decided to take it a step farther. I am not a sport person. I have never been to a football game in my life. It's true. I just am totally uninterested. Because of this I have never experienced the "tailgating" phenomena. Tailgating is a pre football game activity where hours before a game fans bring barbecues, RV's Tents and Drink,cook and party, up until the game. It's huge. Here in Lawrence the stadium is in the middle of campus with a large parking lot around it. 1000's of people are there pumping up and partying for the soon to be football game. Yesterday's game was a big deal because it was between Kansas University and Kansas State. A big rivalry.

We, wearing black and veils and carrying our "Bush lies 1000's Die" and "1157 US dead 15,000+ Iraqi Dead"! and other signs. slowly walked through the crowd. It was the most frightening experience of my Life!! Screaming angry people yelling obscenities at us "Cu**'s Bi***'s Whores, Suck my D***, F*** you, Go to Iraq, traitors, whore's!" for 30-40 minutes ( I don't know how long it felt like hours) we walked through the most hostile environment I have ever been in. (And I realize that's not saying much. I live in a pretty safe world.) But this is my town. These people hated us. One group even had a microphone where people took turns calling us "C***'s!" and asking us to perform oral sex for them. At one point I feared for my life. I thought Jesus, in this mob if one person instigates throwing a stone at us were dead.... Was this what it was like to be a Jew in Warsaw in the 30's? These people were scary......And these are Bush's people.

We were silent, we walked silently ! through. A couple of macho guysstood in front of us trying not to let us by and harass us. We walked around. I walk with a cane (because of MS). One guy was holding his flip flop and waving it in the air yelling "flip flop, flip flop" (mind you we had no Kerry signs with us). He stood holding his flip flop and stepped in front of me to block my path. I was looking down just trying to move forward. I looked down at his bare foot blocking my way and it was all I could do to not slam down the end of my cane right through the bridge of his foot...... but I didn't....... I am no saint. I was scared but these people were also pissing me off. After that I started to just chant in my head, "I am strong, I am strong".

There were lot's of "Get a job!" "get a life!". It was Saturday and they were at a football game. Go figure. We didn't react verbally. When people were yelling these obscenities particularly over the microphone it was best to just let them hear themselves echoing down the street. I had to wonder did those silent and watching have doubts about the crowd they were with. Watching these big bulky men yelling at these 8 little women walking silently through a jeering crowd.

Of the thousands of hostile jeers I had 3 positive comments. One women walked along the side of me and said, "you're so brave, thanks for doing this." I appreciated that but boy I didn't feel brave. Another guy, a black guy, took his hat off as we walked passed. He said thank you ladies for doing this. As he said that another man ran up to us swearing and telling us to "get the f*** out of here" The black guy held him back and said something like, "I'm a Vet you don't know about war man, these people are trying to help us." He continued to talk to this guy as we walked on.! He was my hero. Another guy yelled "way to go keep up the good work." Other than that, I feared for us. We got through it. Our friend was waiting for us in a van, we got in and drove away. It took several hours and to drinks for my heart to stop racing. The good news is I might have lost a pound or two through the whole event.

One of the things that impressed me most was the hostility toward us as women. The sexual threats the references to our anatomy. Most comments were very misogynistic. There are some very unhealthy men out there. Not that there wasn't some women out there yelling out at us. Percentage wise it was 98% men 2% women. That's just a guess but most women just watched..... I did have one elderly blue haired lady give me the finger. (That's a little disturbing).

After it all looking back on the day I can't help but think if this is "George Bushes America", "George Bush's people". They can have it.
I'm going to keep working on my own America.

That was my saturday.

I love you all!!

~retta


There really are two Americas. After reading this, I have to wonder how long the Union can hold.

Furious George

Mark Moulitsas of Daily Kos has an Op-Ed piece in the Guardian on Bush's incredibly angry (and out of touch) performance at the second presidential debate.

Kicking the Oil Habit within 50 years

The New Scientist has a special feature on scientific issues at issue in the presidential election.

Of special interst to me is the article In 50 years, we could cure our oil addiction by David L. Chandler.

Selected quote:

[T]he perception that the world cannot do without oil is misguided. True, many of the alternatives, such as wind power, biofuels or a hydrogen economy, appear too impractical or distant to allow an immediate divorce from oil. But a raft of studies, researched and funded not just by advocates of alternative energy but also those with vested interests in the status quo, suggest otherwise.

The potential pay-offs are huge. No more massive subsidies for oil exploration and extraction. No more reliance on troubled regions such as the Middle East, which has 65% of the world’s oil reserves. Huge cuts in pollution and a curtailing of climate change. In short, the strategy is a no-brainer. The only losers would be the oil business – one of the world’s richest and most powerful industries. That industry, of course, nurtured President Bush, whose administration’s policies are widely seen to favour fossil fuels. |Link|


Thanks to Daily Kos for the link.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Bullet Control

Many of you have heard Chris Rock's stand-up rountine on bullet control. I was curiously if anyone had seriously made the proposal. Brendan Healey wrote this article for the John Marshall Law Review on bullet control and it turns out that Senator John Kerry has proposed bullet control previously.

While I am a responsible gun owner and I value my right to keep and bear arms, I agree that reasonable restrictions are necessary to regulate inherently dangerous items such as firearms.

In his book Targeting Guns, Gary Kleck has posited several principles that he believes effective weapons regulation should share. According to Kleck, future regulations should have the following attributes:

1. The controls should regulate long guns at least as strictly as handguns. Their political advantages notwithstanding, controls that restrict only handguns probably do more harm than good . . . .

2. The controls should be popular enough to be politically achievable and to not provoke massive disobedience and evasion . . . .

3. They must be obeyed by a nonnegligible fraction of the violence-prone population, not just by relatively nonviolent, noncriminal people.

4. They should not depend on the hopeless task of producing overall gun scarcity in a nation that already has over 230 million guns . . . .

5. They should avoid the jurisdictional "leakage" problem, whereby strict local controls on gun acquisition are evaded by going to less strict areas . . . .

6. They should address the private transfers of firearms that account for the overwhelming majority of gun acquisitions by violence-prone people . . . .

7. They should not be extremely expensive relative to their benefits.|Link|
(formatting added)



I highlighted number three above because that is the key issue for me. Most gun laws are ignored by criminals. The laws create a society of unarmed victims for violent criminals.

I support a one-week waiting period to buy a gun and mandatory education for new gun owners. I would even support psychological testing to determine if a person was mentally stable enough to own a gun, such as the tests we give to aspiring police officers. The use of force is a serious matter.

But if a person passes all of these tests, then he or she should be allowed to carry a concealed weapon. Of course, it's already the case that citizens can carry concealed weapons in 35 states without the psychological tests.

Dubya owns a lumberyard after all

If you watched the debate Friday night, there were some odd moments. Bush's invocation of the 1857 Dred Scott decision was perhaps the oddest moment. Ok, so Bush wouldn't appoint judges who support Dred Scott.

Another odd moment was when Bush denied owning a lumberyard. Richard Kahn over at Blogleft did the sleuthing on this one. Bush does own a lumberyard.

Kerry knows more about Bush than Bush knows about himself.

Data mining for votes

The Guardian has this item about data mining tools being used by the Republicans and Democrats to determine swing voters likely to be persuaded to their side.

Shiny as a new tattoo

My tattoo is healing nicely and you can see some images here. Yes, it's a real tattoo and not paint. Tattoos don't have to be black.

My tattoo is a replica of hedera ivy. I enjoy gardening and I really like hedera ivy. I'd been thinking about an ivy tattoo for almost ten years, so I decided it was finally time to act. This was my first tattoo and I wanted a photo-realistic one. It took about 3 hours to do, which we broke up into two sessions.

I'm very pleased with my tattoo, and I was fortunate to find such a talented artist to do my work. The artist is Dan Sartor aka Reverend Dark and you can find his tattoo work here and his artwork here.

In cyberspace, no one can hear you scream

The Christian Science Monitor has an article by Gregory Lamb talking about the dramatic growth of computer viruses and the growing partnership of spammers and virus writers.

Viruses can now enter computers as programs attached to e-mails sent by spammers. Once embedded in a machine, the viruses return the favor. By secretly taking control of computers, the viruses can create networks of "bots," programs that turn computers into "zombies." These computers are then employed by spammers to send out floods of anonymous spam messages.

These spams often include "phishing" scams - e-mails that appear to be from a bank or credit-card company but are really trying to steal account passwords or other financial information. Phishing has victimized some 1.8 million consumers and cost banks and credit-card issuers nearly $1.2 billion in the past year, estimates Symantec, a maker of computer-security software in Cupertino, Calif.

In the first half of 2003, the average number of bot networks monitored per day by Symantec was 2,000. By the first half of 2004, the number mushroomed to 30,000. Each bot network can contain thousands of infected computers.|Link|

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Compassionate Colonialism

I was over at Democracy Means You when I saw this political cartoon by Sarah Moser called Compassionate Colonialism. I love the image of Bush with the big sword.

Of course, now even Paul Bremer is admitting that the lack of troops in Iraq made the occupation a loser from the very beginning.

What a bunch of incompetents.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Torture is the Unofficial Policy of the Bush Administration

Ever since Abu Ghriab I have suspected that torture was the unofficial policy of the Bush administration. Seymour Hersh's article on Abu Ghraib and his article the Gray Zone are powerful indictments of this administration's handling of the war on terror, the war in Iraq, and the use of torture as a policy tool.

The roots of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal lie not in the criminal inclinations of a few Army reservists but in a decision, approved last year by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, to expand a highly secret operation, which had been focussed on the hunt for Al Qaeda, to the interrogation of prisoners in Iraq. Rumsfeld’s decision embittered the American intelligence community, damaged the effectiveness of élite combat units, and hurt America’s prospects in the war on terror. |Link|


Zwichenzug has posted over at the Bellman an article about how the Republicans are now trying to change the law to allow the extradition of foreign nationals to countries that will torture them (even if they didn't originate there), under the euphemism extraordinary rendition. Upon doing some research, I learned that Rep. Edward Markey along with my representative, Henry Waxman, have sponsored House Resolution (HR) 4674 to ban extraordinary rendition. Check it out on Thomas. Or go read Zwichenzug's original post.

I tend to blame Bush for destroying international law and not respecting human rights, but it is really the current leadership of the GOP who should be blamed, and Bush is merely one of their tools.

I was pissed off about the entire invasion of Iraq. But I have been incredibly pissed since Abu Ghraib. This administration has made the torture of foreign nationals its unofficial policy. This policy has done irreparable harm to international law and has poisoned world public opinion against the US.

The real kicker is that torture is totally unreliable, and the torture at Guantanamo Bay probably hasn't led to a single useful piece of information.

The Guardian is also reporting that US claims of genocide in Sudan's Darfur region are greatly exaggerated. I think this is a clever ruse to make people think that this administration gives a damn about genocide, to divert attention from the debacle in Iraq, and to lay the groundwork for bombing yet another Muslim country.

I agree with Arkangel when he wrote: I don't just want to beat the GOP -- I want to end them. I don't care how many decades it takes -- I want to end them.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Florida Electoral Fraud 2.0

Jimmy Carter gives an excellent overview of why the 2004 election in Florida is likely to be stolen by the Republicans.

While Carter doesn't mention Diebold by name, those diabolical partisans for Bush are working hard to inject more volatility and fraud into the voting process. Learn more at Black Box Voting and Verified Voting. Black Box Voting has a downloadable book in PDF on their site that does an excellent job of laying out a history of vote fraud and how vulnerable computerized balloting systems are to fraud, especially those without a paper audit trail.

Thanks to Spammy T (an implacable defender of the republic's virtues) for some of the above links.