I noticed several librarians already had trading cards and I wanted one myself so I did some searching and discovered fd's Flickr Toys and used the trading card maker to generate this.
Saturday, March 31, 2007
I noticed several librarians already had trading cards and I wanted one myself so I did some searching and discovered fd's Flickr Toys and used the trading card maker to generate this.
Tyson made an irreverent comment that begins with this line: "It is ok to wish people dead. It's why I am pro choice, pro gun, pro death penalty, pro vengeance, pro vigilante justice, pro death and all that." |Link|
His mention of vengeance and vigilante discussion came back to me today when I read Chris McGreal's Guardian article about the vicious political intimidation going on in Zimbabwe.
The whipping and beating came first, but it is the branding of Leonard Dendera that has left the most visible scar. As his attackers intended.Robert Robert Mugabe makes Karl Rove and Tony Snow seem like sweethearts. I don't like the terms good and evil... too much baggage and religious overtones.
The round white mark is seared on to the black skin just above Mr Dendera's right eye so that, according to the men wielding the iron bars and fan belts, the 25-year-old opposition activist abducted from a Harare street in broad daylight will be immediately recognisable to Robert Mugabe's hit squads when they come across him again.
Mr Dendera couldn't resist - given the broken bones and lacerated flesh - as something hot was burned on to his forehead before he was left virtually naked in the bush with a warning to keep out of politics. "They said it was so they would always know who I was when they saw me on the street," he said from a Harare hospital bed. "It was a threat. I must stop opposing Robert Mugabe and if they saw me doing anything next time they would kill me."
Mr Dendera is one of hundreds of opposition activists snatched from their homes or the street in recent days. Some are bundled into the back of pick-up trucks, driven miles out of town and, after the assaults, left naked. Others disappear for days, sometimes kept in torture centres at army barracks. Mr Dendera is not alone in being branded. |Guardian|
But I'll use the term despicable and say that the world would be a better place without Mr. Mugabe and his reign of incompetence and terror. His "reforms" have resulted in widespread famine and homelessness.
I'm not sure that I would agree with the Mr. McGreal's characterization of the violence against democratic protesters as vigilante violence. (See Wikipedia for a discussion of the term vigilante and its shades of meaning.)
I think that this is action undertaken by state actors in violation of the law. If they were wearing uniforms it would be under color of authority... but here they are trying to disguise their official status and pretend they are vigilantes, much like what appears to be going on in Darfur with the Janjaweed |See Wikipedia or Slate for more.|
But I digress...
I'm still thinking about antipathy and responsibility. Certainly I am in a position to have some small effect on my own government. I don't want to see any members of the Bush administration dead, but I would like to see them imprisoned for long stretches of time.
I'm glad that I live in a society where I don't need to worry about having to fight for my life to defend these beliefs... but I do worry about a not-so-secret cabal using gag orders and National Security Letters to destabilize our society and remove these freedoms.
But what about countries around the world who I think have despicable leaders? Saddam Hussein was a bad man, but was it worth destroying an entire nation to get rid of him?
Even if the US committed forces to Zimbabwe, I doubt we could do any better there than we did in Iraq.
So is it morally any worse for me to wish Mugabe dead rather than deposed? I don't think so.
But I'm not sure I'm willing to sign onto the Tyson pro-death position just yet. But I'll give it some thought.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that a son of a mine worker can become the head of the mine, that the child of farmers can become the President of a great nation.
- Nelson Mandela
Radar Online is asking aloud the question that several of us have been thinking. Why are people still listening to the morons who sold us the Iraq War as a cake walk? Shouldn't their feet be held to the fire? At the very least...
A few years ago, David Brooks, New York Times columnist and media pundit extraordinaire, penned a love letter to the idea of meritocracy. It is "a way of life that emphasizes ... perpetual improvement, and permanent exertion," he effused, and is essential to America's dynamism and character. Fellow glorifiers of meritocracy have noted that our society is superior to nepotistic backwaters like Krygystan or France because we assign the most important jobs based on excellence. This makes us less prone to stagnancy or, worse yet, hideous national clusterfucks like fighting unwinnable wars for reasons nobody understands.I concur. Let's get some rope.
At Radar we are devoted re-readers of the Brooks oeuvre and were struck by this particular column. It raised interesting questions. Noticing our nation is stuck in an unwinnable war (or two), we wondered if America hasn't stumbled off the meritocratic path. More specifically, since political pundits like Brooks play such a central role in our national decision-making process, maybe something is amiss in the world of punditry.|Radar Online|
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Following World War I and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the British decided to unite the three Ottoman provinces of Baghdad, Mosul, and Basra into one nation-state called Iraq (a name borrowed from the medieval history of the region), despite the significant religious, linguistic, ethnic, and tribal divisions running through Iraqi society. Britain took over in 1918 and restored power to the tribal sheiks, thereby helping to preserve and reinforce Iraq’s tribal structure. At the same time, the British colonial state gradually appropriated former tribal functions like control of land, water distribution, and law enforcement. Nomadic tribes settled in village communities based on extended families or sub-clans. These communities often retained their tribal names, but they were linked to the agricultural market, rather than to the subsistence economy. |CRS|
I guess you take your victories where you find them...but this is really pathetic.
The Bush administration yesterday claimed a victory in its campaign to demonstrate the legitimacy of its widely condemned system of military tribunals after securing the first guilty plea from a Guantánamo Bay inmate. But human rights organisations dismissed the proceedings as unfair. The prospect of a conviction - even on a single minor charge - against an Australian, David Hicks, 31, a Muslim convert, was hailed by Pentagon officials as a milestone. |Guardian|(emphasis added)As if I should expect more from the torturer-in-chief.
Monday, March 26, 2007
Military experts say they suspect that the deployment to Fort Irwin of injured soldiers was an effort to pump up manpower statistics used to show the readiness of Army units. With the military increasingly strained after four years of war, Army readiness has become a critical part of the debate over Iraq. Some congressional Democrats have considered plans to limit the White House's ability to deploy more troops unless the Pentagon can certify that units headed into the fray are fully equipped and fully manned.It's days like this that I'm grateful my father talked me out of joining the military.
Salon recently uncovered another troubling development in the Army's efforts to shore up troop levels, reporting earlier this month that soldiers from the 3rd Brigade had serious health problems that the soldiers claimed were summarily downgraded by military doctors at Fort Benning in February, apparently so that the Army could send them to Iraq. Some of those soldiers were among the group sent to Fort Irwin to train in January....
A military official knowledgeable about the training in California in January and the medical processing of the injured soldiers at Fort Benning in February told Salon that commanders were taking desperate actions to meet an accelerated deployment schedule dictated by President Bush's so-called surge plan for securing Baghdad. "None of this would have happened if we had just slowed down a little bit," the military official said. "A lot of people were under a lot of pressure at that time." |Salon|
This strikes me as another highly questionable use of a taser. When are we going to start treating tasers as potentially lethal weapons?
The deputy warned the student and then shot him with the taser.
Authorities credited the taser with keeping the situation from escalating.
"You get to a 17 year old pretty good sized kid. It can get physical," said Guerette.
But friends and fellow students think the taser was unnecessary.
"They could have handled that. He's not someone who could have overpowered them," said Jaboris Parker, Naples High School Student.
The student's father says his son never posed a physical threat to deputies, pointing out that he is only 5'7" and 150 pounds.
But deputies say the word student and his size get thrown out when a potentially violent situation is brewing.
"Anytime you stand up and you pose a threat and you challenge an officer, go ahead take me. Do what you have to do," said Guerette. |NBC2|
I think that last quote sums up the situation in this country, anytime you refuse to comply with police commands, you will be tasered without a moment's hesitation regardless of the threat you pose.
This news article indicates that no Houston police officer has ever been reprimanded for using a taser.
The idea of containing Iran is not new; in one form or another, it has been the de facto policy of the United States since the inception of the Islamic Republic, and it has enjoyed broad bipartisan support in Washington.
Yet to endorse it in good conscience today, one must answer important questions:
Can a state that projects its influence through indirect means, such as supporting terrorism, financing proxies, and associating with foreign Shiite parties, truly be contained?
Will other states in the region be willing to help the United States isolate Iran? |Foreign Affairs|
Sunday, March 25, 2007
The US is scrambling to head off a "disastrous" Turkish military intervention in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq that threatens to derail the Baghdad security surge and open up a third front in the battle to save Iraq from disintegration....Hot damn, this whole Iraq situation is about to get a lot more interesting. Horrible for everyone involved, but very interesting.
Turkish sources said "hot pursuit" special forces operations in...northern Iraq, were already under way... The last big Turkish operation occurred 10 years ago, when 40,000 [Turkish] troops pushed deep into Iraq. But intervention in the coming weeks would be the first since the US took control of Iraq in 2003 and would risk direct confrontation between Turkish troops and Iraqi Kurdish forces and their US allies.
Several other factors are adding to the tension between the Nato partners:
The firm Turkish belief that the US is playing a double game in northern Iraq. Officials say the CIA is covertly funding and arming the PKK's sister organisation, the Iran-based Kurdistan Free Life party, to destabilise the Iranian government.
US acquiescence in plans to hold a referendum in oil-rich Kirkuk in northern Iraq. Turkey suspects Iraqi Kurds are seeking control of Kirkuk as a prelude to the creation of an independent Kurdistan.
Plans by the US Congress to vote on a resolution blaming Turkey for genocide against the Armenians in 1915. Faruk Logoglu, a former ambassador to Washington, said that if the resolution passed, relations "could take generations to recover".
Record levels of Turkish anti-Americanism dating back to 2003, when Turkey refused to let US combat forces cross the Iraq border....
"If [the Kurds] are killing [Turkish] soldiers ... and if public pressure on the government increases, of course we will have to intervene," said Ali Riza Alaboyun, an MP for Mr Erdogan's Justice and Development party. "It is the legal right of any country to protect its people and its borders."
US support for Iranian Kurds opposed to the Tehran government is adding to the agitation. "The US is trying to undermine the Iran regime, using the Kurds like it is using the MEK [the anti-Tehran People's Mujahideen]," said Dr Logoglu. "Once you begin to differentiate between 'good' and 'bad' terrorist organisations, then you lose the war on terror." But he warned that military intervention might be ineffective and could be "disastrous" in destabilising the region. A recent national security council assessment also suggested that senior Turkish commanders were cautious about the prospects of success....
General Joseph Ralston, the US special envoy dealing with the PKK issue, was less upbeat, admitting that "the potential for Turkish cross-border action" was growing. "We have reached a critical point in which the pressure of continued [PKK] attacks has placed immense public pressure upon the government of Turkey to take some military action. As the snows melt in the mountain passes, we will see if the PKK renews its attacks and how the Turkish government responds ... I hope the Turks will continue to stand by us."
But a Milliyet journalist, Kadri Gursel, said: "The US attitude has really pissed off the government and the army. The US really doesn't understand how exhausted and fed up they are." |Guardian|(emphasis added)
To make things more interesting, it turns out the U.S. is supporting another group inside Iraq that the U.S. State Department has labeled as a terrorist organization since the 1970's when they were killing US personnel in Iran and supported the embassy takeover. The MEK is lobbying to get the State Department to change this fact, since it's embarrassing to everyone.
American soldiers chauffeur top leaders of the group, known as the Mujaheddin-e Khalq, or MEK, to and from their compound, where they have hosted dozens of visitors in an energetic campaign to persuade the State Department to stop designating the [MEK] as a terrorist organization. |WaPo|
The U.S. finds the MEK a useful ally against Iran, so the war on terror is really only a war on terrorist groups we don't like.
What I find interesting is that we claim we won't even TALK to the Iranians because they once took over our embassy there. You have to draw the line somewhere on evil, right?
But the MEK also had a role in the embassy takeover, and we not only talk to them, we defend them. See the Council on Foreign Relations' MEK page.
Politics makes strange bedfellows and I think this shows how hypocritical the whole "war on terror" is. The U.S. acts in its own interest (as all countries do), what I object to is the way we dissemble. I contend that an honest foreign policy that engages with countries like Iran and North Korea is the better strategy.
We may not like them any better than they like us, but we have to talk to them to reach compromise positions on situations like Iraq. We should also own up to the importance of militias in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. The problem with the current Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al Malaki, is that he has no militia, no army. His only military support is the U.S. Army, and when they leave, he's finished. Neocon delusions of of democracy blossoming in Iraq and Bush's retardation has seriously derailed the entire effort.
The invasion of Iraq seems to have lit the fuse on a regional conflagration, much like Vietnam did. I don't think there's a best way out of Iraq anymore, all of our options are bad, and they seem to get worse by the day.
Friday, March 23, 2007
This is the most homoerotic version of the argument from design that I've ever seen.
Notice the cameo by Kirk Cameron, who doesn't say anything. Maybe he's too hot and bothered thinking about the way the banana bends towards the mouth...
Thursday, March 22, 2007
I usually carry pepper spray and I think it's an excellent tool in the arsenal should I ever be attacked by dogs, people, or even bears.
But if the wind is against you, pepper spray isn't very helpful. Similarly, in very crowded situations (like a fight in a crowded subway car...it's happened to me before) the pepper spray isn't a good idea because you'd end up spraying everyone in the car.
Also, if attack seems imminent, but hasn't occured yet, then I'm not justified in spraying someone. Spraying someone without good cause is definitely aggravated battery (unwanted touching with a weapon essentially).*
One defensive strategy that I've considered (but never implemented) is to spray my left palm. That way, I keep the spray down and to a minimum, but all I have to do is get my left hand near their nose and my odds of being victorious increase.
I may just want to defuse the situation, but I may also feel the need to prevail...to put the other person down for the count for my own safety or the safety of others.
Spraying my hand will ultimately be painful and if I'm not careful, I'll get it in my mouth or eyes and be a crying mess. But I've sprayed myself before (once intentionally and once accidentally) and pepper spray isn't bad unless you get it near your face.
*If I felt threatened by an animal, I would just spray it... I'm unlikely to be charged with battery on an animal you perceive as threatening.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Bush yesterday called the Democratic demands for sworn testimony from his advisers [including Karl Rove] "a partisan fishing expedition aimed at honorable public servants." |Bloomberg|
In what alternate universe is Karl Rove an honorable man?
Bush must be terrified of having Rove testify under oath, Rove knows where all the bodies are buried, he doesn't just know all the dirty tricks in the Republican playbook, he conceived most of them.
Bush has got to be sweating bullets on this one. What a bunch of bastards.
But the intended consequence of decreasing malaria is a good one. The mosquitoes will be delighted with global warming and the inevitable increase in wetlands associated with rising sea levels, which will make malaria even more virulent.
I do wonder how the gene that makes these transgenic mosquitoes glow in the dark will affect predation rates by dragonflies on the transgenic mosquitoes. For this scheme to work at all, the transgenic mosquitoes must outbreed regular mosquitoes.
I also wonder who signs off on something like this. Does the UN make the ultimate decision on this? By consensus or by a simple plurality? This genie will be impossible to put back in the bottle once set free.
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Telling a woman that her kisses taste better than a baked potato would not normally win a man many plaudits. But the revelation that Finland's prime minister, Matti Vanhanen, said just that to his girlfriend appears to have won him far more support than disdain - which is just as well for a man who faces a general election tomorrow. |More - Guardian|
I've never been to Finland, but I know a lot of Finns now that I live in Minnesota. I think Finland would be cool places to visit... in more ways than one.
Friday, March 16, 2007
"The [Pakistani] government have gone mad, crazy," said Senator Enver Baig of the Pakistan People's party. "When the chief justice is being treated like a criminal, what's happening to [Pakistan]?"As an attorney, I find it interesting that the government is targeting lawyers and the Chief Justice.
The crisis is ballooning out of the government's control and clumsy efforts to curb the fallout have hurt Gen Musharraf's fragile democratic credentials. Scores of opposition activists have been rounded up in recent days. A source in Lahore said the police had been given a list of lawyers for arrest. Yesterday in Islamabad Qazi Hussain Ahmed, leader of the Jamaat Islami religious party, was arrested. In Lahore a former president of Pakistan, Rafiq Tarar, was bundled into a police vehicle and driven away.
On Thursday the government media regulator ordered Geo television to take a popular chatshow, which intended to discuss the controversy, off air. "This raises serious questions about how much freedom is allowed when the subject is too close to home," said Imran Aslam, president of Geo.
The controversy is taking Gen Musharraf, famous for his boastful self-confidence, into unknown territory.
Newspaper columnists have drawn parallels with another general turned leader, Julius Caesar, and the ides of March. |Guardian|
Do you ever wonder what you would do if the government came for you? If you asked to see the arrest warrant would they just pepper spray you?
General Musharraf has been one of this administration's biggest allies in the War on Terror, looks like Bush is about to lose another ally.
I recently was re-certified on CPR and the Red Cross has changed their suggestions for CPR to give fewer breaths and more compressions, they now suggest 30 compressions and 2 breaths.
A new study in the Lancet suggests that giving breaths is generally not helpful and rescuers should just give chest compressions.
They also argue that people might be more likely to help strangers if they didn't feel they'd have to lock lips with a total stranger to render aid. I have a friend who's an MD and his class of medical students were told not to give CPR without a breath mask... from a societal standpoint it's silly to risk highly trained MD's to save any one patient. Use a mask or don't do the rescue breathing...
I used to carry one of the disposable CPR masks with me on my keychain for a year or two...but I eventually took it off and stuck it in one of my bug-out bags where it languishes to this day...
So maybe we should delete the P from CPR.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Some critics contend that this law is too narrowly focused and that the government should target distracted driving regardless of the specific mechanism of distraction.
I think this problem is yet another symptom of the costs of our society's addiction to oil and the exaltation of car culture.
The lack of a viable public transportation system is a tragedy. People spend so much time in their cars commuting that they get bored, they begin to break the most basic of traffic laws. They try to make the time productive by calling friends or sending text messages while driving. From a safety perspective, this is not a good idea. I understand the urge to outlaw the behavior, but we are just treating the symptom of the symptom with yet another unenforceable law.
The real problem is the huge amount of time that so many Americans spend commuting by car. Urban sprawl and car culture lead to foreseeable problems.
Monday, March 12, 2007
The lack of real profiles gives it an organic air and it's a good way to waste an afternoon. People create profiles through tags and quips rather than prose, which is an interesting use of tagging.
I also think I'm more likely to meet someone I'd like on Consumating that on MySpace.
Saturday, March 10, 2007
"From a user stand point - you just bring [your] Macbook within a feet of your Airport Express and the network is set up.
You don’t even have to have [the] Macbook on at the time. RFID info to the tag can be read/written without [any] additional power source.
Then you turn your laptop on and it’s already on the network." |Unwired|
The FBI attorney general's report on the misuse of the Patriot Act is big news. Google News shows over 1200 articles on the topic today.
It is not surprising to me that FBI agents would be overzealous in their information-seeking behavior, being nosy is a pre-requisite for becoming a law enforcement agent in my mind.
The broader context, of course, is the collection and sharing of information by all law enforcement agencies and a recent Congressional Research Service report by Richard Best, Jr. dated February 13th, 2007 discusses the role of Congress in encouraging, and reviewing, the information collection and dissemination processes of law enforcement.
A fundamental issue that faces both Congress and the U.S. public remains the need to balance the advantages to be gained by sharing information from all sources with the possibility that the availability of data accumulations could be used to undermine lawful political or religious activities. An unstable balance between these two separate goals... [after 9/11 the]need to encourage the sharing of information and the connection of dots is now unquestioned, but there are lingering concerns about the risks that widespread information sharing may jeopardize civil liberties. Congress will undoubtedly seek to determine whether the new statutes, regulations, and procedures that have been adopted will prove both effective and sensitive to individual rights. |CRS|(emphasis added)
While the W3C's proposal makes a lot of sense and is how any rational person would approach the project, the failure of such simple initiatives as Dublin Core metadata makes me think that tagging and folksonomy is the best we're going to have to work with and if artificial intelligence clients can build a "crosswalk" to relate many of these folksonomies topics, then maybe we'll end up with something useful in the end.
Posted by Safety Neal at 07:51
Thursday, March 08, 2007
Just to prove that you don't need a taser to be accused of using excessive force, there's new video from the UK's BBC of a young woman being restrained by several police officers while another punches her repeatedly.
On the video, the police defend the actions as necessary, but it seems difficult to justify the blows when the woman seems pretty much immobilized.
This case becomes explosive because of race, gender and the presence of a camera.
Harriet Wistrich, a solicitor who has dealt with many cases of complaints of violence against the police. "It does happen. I have a number of female clients who have been assaulted by the police. It does seem to involve women from ethnic minorities."|Guardian|
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
The Gartner Group just released a report claiming that identity theft is up sharply since 2003, both in volume and in the amount of loss.
Gartner's survey of 5,000 online U.S. adults in August 2006 showed that the rate of identity theft has jumped by 50% since 2003 when the Federal Trade Commission reported that 9.9 million Americans had been victimized. The average loss was $3,257 in 2006, up from $1,408 in 2005.
Unauthorized charges to credit cards rose nearly fourfold from an average of $734 in 2005 to $2,550 in 2006, Gartner reports. These numbers go along with a trend cited by various U.S. credit card issuers that reported large increases in counterfeit card fraud last year. Similarly, there were large increases in checking account transfer fraud and "other" non-categorized types of fraud, such as scams exploiting eBay, PayPal and phone companies. |Info Week|
However, this contrasts sharply with another recent report by the Javelin Group claiming that identity theft is diminishing.
C'e la vie...
Posted by Safety Neal at 13:16
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
While I think that the development of safer technologies for subduing individuals is a good thing in that it will hopefully result in fewer fatalities from coercive governmental control, it is unfortunate that society needs so much coercive control.
Which is easy for me to say from my safe little vantage point in the law library. The recent Danish riots graphically illustrate the virulence of European anarchism.
Okay, confession time, when I was in high school, I considered myself an anarchist. I reasoned that society seems to be totally unable to control people's destructive and violent tendencies...our society is rife with murder, child abuse, rape, domestic violence, drug abuse, and many other ills. So what are we getting for our money? What damned good is government, I asked (repeatedly)? People would shake their head at my intransigence, but no one ever offered me a coherent answer.
Now, I think that things might be much worse but for government and coercive societal controls. The endemic violence in places like Somalia doesn't seem any more appealing than the mindless destruction in Denmark.
So as we lower the bar for governmental use of force through the development of these less than lethal technologies, will government be ever more ready to use them? Will this allow us to reduce the sorts of crimes I've listed above?
Somehow, I doubt it. I think many of our ills stem from ingrained social attitudes, poor ethical instruction, and high levels of superstition (which are of course all interrelated).
I don't think Ann Coulter is stupid. I also don't think she believes most of the things she says. She says those outrageous things because she's a media whore....if people would just stop paying attention, she'd go away.
But just like terrorists, who are only doing it for the publicity, we can rest assured that our fine media outlets will continue to give the media mongers exactly what they want.
Monday, March 05, 2007
I decided to upgrade to Blogger's new template editor so that I could use the bookmarking widget from Addthis. I like the democratic nature of Addthis, allowing you to bookmark with a long list of bookmarking software.
It also forces me to do some hyperlink weeding....