Saturday, June 30, 2007

Safety Propositions: Sheltering in Place

In my CERT class last week we were discussing disasters common to Minnesota and especially the Twin Cities. Minnesota is unusual in that fleeing your location in a disaster is a bad idea 90% of the time.

Most of the time (in Minnesota) the best answer is to hunker down and wait it out. In case of something like a bird flu epidemic, you may want to shelter in place for up to six months... but who among us could last that long without going to the store?

Minnesota is prone to natural disasters like floods, tornados, and blizzards. We also have fires and chemical spills, but not as often.

Floods are the most common natural disaster according to some sources, so it's a good idea to store a hatchet or small ax in your attic (one of those grizzly lessons from Hurricane Katrina). I also put some plastic glow sticks in my attic along with some work gloves.

Storing enough food, water, and supplies for three days in your home is a good idea. Keep a supply of plastic bags on hand too. Plastic bags have many uses, but porta-potty is an important (if often overlooked) one.

Keeping a smaller disaster cache at work is a good idea too since you're probably just as likely to get marooned at work as at home in a sudden disaster.

Transhumanism versus Cyberpunk

Transhumanism is an emerging worldview that I find intriguing. Since I'm also a huge cyberpunk fan, I thought this post, which compares the two terms, was engaging.

[T]ranshumanism the opposing view to cyberpunk: cyberpunks are pessimists, predicting that technology will exceed our ability to comprehend it, making all of civilization depressed and lethargic. Transhumanists are optimists, foreseeing that humans will use technology to make ourselves more than human, to make sure we can keep up with the technology. I guess both will exist. Some people will embrace the changes that come with technology, and enhance themselves. Others will fear to lose their humanity, and so will refuse to adopt the changes to themselves. What they don't see is that technology will rob you of your humanity only if you deny it, choose to live opposed to it. You've got to adopt it, make it yours, give yourself to it. That's what humans do. Maybe that's what humans are. |Transhumanists.Org|

Friday, June 29, 2007

It's 3 AM, do you know where your librarian is?

We're having some turnover in my job and I'll admit to being is a bit apprehensive. Given my general nocturnal tendencies, this apprehension has been interfering with my sleep.

The director of the library where I work is leaving to become director of another local law library. Roughly two weeks ago we learned that one of the other reference librarians is taking an unexpected retirement and may leave as soon as August 1st.

The confluence of these two events means that we will be short-staffed for the foreseeable future. I'm sure it'll all work out fine, the expectation is often worse than the reality.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Working Date

WANTED by .nik.
As a workaholic who is married to another workaholic, I was intrigued by an article in the Wall Street Journal |sub'n req'd| today by Sue Shellenbarger about a new development in dating, the working date.
You've heard of working vacations. Now comes "the working date." Many single people are so busy with careers that they don't have time for a social life. So they're increasingly blending work and romance. For some, the practice has provided a path to lasting love. For others, working dates are one more way to avoid intimacy, or just a major turn-off....

Some people even regard devotion to work as a plus in choosing a date. says it sees a growing number of new clients who say they're workaholics, often including the word in the headline of their profiles, as if it were an asset. And says it sees men and women on its site using the term "hard worker" in their postings seeking dates. Both Web sites are among the largest dating sites and claim tens of millions of users....

Working daters agree that working on dates doesn't interfere with sex. "When it's time for sex, it's time for sex," says Michael French, a Santa Fe, N.M., author on relationships. But working can encumber the fine art of communicating. Making the leap from the gritty, competitive mentality of work to the "intuition, the give-and-take" of romance may be too much for some people, Mr. French says. "The values we associate with work success are very different from the values we associate with relationship success." |WSJ|
The US is such a hyper-competitive place that being a workaholic is considered a virtue by many. At the risk of sounding old-fashioned, I wonder if this phenomenon is also related to the Web 2.0 explosion.

If young people are more socialized to Second Life than First Life, then intimacy with a living, breathing human being would be disconcerting. Having a laptop on both your laps would allow you to slowly acclimate to the other person before getting busy.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Democracy and its discontents

The Onion provides an excellent example of the problems with direct democracy in their article: Congress Abandons WikiConstitution.

I especially like the bit about mandatory-assault-rifle-ownership amendments.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Cool Bookshelf

My friend Jane sent me a link to this interesting bookshelf. It is pricey, but a fun way to organize your books.

Life imitates art far more than art imitates Life.

- Oscar Wilde

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Browncoats Uniting

Last night I attended a screening of the movie Serenity to benefit Equality Now. The event takes place each year on Joss Wheedon's birthday. Joss Wheedon developed Firefly and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

The event was organized by Firefly fans known as Browncoats, the Minnesota chapter is here.

The movie Serenity continues the story developed during the television series. You can learn more at the Firefly wiki.

I'll kill a man in a fair fight... or if I think he's gonna start a fair fight, or if he bothers me, or if there's a woman, or if I'm gettin' paid... mostly only when I'm gettin' paid.

But...eating people alive? [When does] that get fun?

- Jayne Cobb


Update: Pictures of the event are available here.

School of Jesus

I graduated from UCLA's Graduate School of Education and Information Studies or GSEIS. I was talking with an alumna of the predecessor program at UCLA last night who suggested that GSEIS should be pronounced Jesus.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The New Global Economy and its Challenges

Doing some research today, I ran across an article, titled A Goldilocks World Economy?, that does a good job of encapsulating several of the new realities we are all facing in this age of globalization, outsourcing, and rapid advancements in information and communication technologies.

Unfortunately, these challenges are being systematically mismanaged by governments and economist who do not understand the differences between our current era and prior decades of limitation resource, the author concludes.

Mr. Schwenninger writes:
[T]he integration of China, India, and the former Soviet Union into the global economy... has, in effect, doubled the global labor force in the course of a decade, raising the return on capital and dampening wages and inflation....

[An]other development relates to the technological advancements... associated with the new economy, which have substantially increased U.S. and world productivity growth.

Policymakers seem to have forgotten that an economy with excess labor and rapid productivity growth tends toward underconsumption, resulting in weak demand and slower growth. Rapid productivity growth has the paradoxical effect of displacing labor and raising unemployment, weakening the bargaining power of labor and decreasing wages. Countervailing government policies are needed to ensure that the benefits of productivity gains are widely shared and that aggregate demand is maintained. But policies such as real increases in the minimum wage or generous retraining programs, or new international public spending programs to promote more consumption abroad, have not been an acceptable part of the new economy's policy framework....

The paradox of the productivity problem is exacerbated in a world economy increasingly dominated by high-savings, production-oriented economies, like many of the Asian economies. These economies tend to underconsume and overproduce, and thus they depend on export demand to drive their economic growth. The overall result is not only inadequate and uneven worldwide demand but an unhealthy dependence on the U.S. consumer market....

With too much supply chasing too little demand, firms in many sectors of the global economy have no choice but to engage in cutthroat measures. Companies are thus trying to increase profitability, not by tapping expanding world markets but by cutting costs, especially wage costs, which further reduces global aggregate demand.....

The notion of an economy of abundance and plenty is counterintuitive to the experiences and training of many of today's leading economists and policymakers who are still rooted in the supply-constrained 1970s and '80s. Yet today's economic conditions of rapid productivity growth and excess labor and capital have less in common with those decades than with the bubble years of the 1920s. Thus, both in our domestic and international policies, we may be at risk of repeating, albeit on a smaller scale, the mistake that an earlier generation in the 1920s made in not understanding the challenges associated with rapid productivity growth and an abundant supply of labor and capital. Those challenges require us to think more creatively about spreading economic prosperity not only in the United States but also in emerging economies. |Sherle R. Schwenninger. A Goldilocks World Economy? 23 World Policy Journal (Winter 2006)|
If you'd like to read the entire article, drop me an email or find the World Policy Journal in a local library using Open Worldcat.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

GPS + RFID = Killer App

I just saw this product announcement from Identec for combining GPS and RFID into a single product (it looks like a jump drive to me).

I think this is a clever product and if the price is reasonable this could become very popular.

I don’t think there are any privacy concerns unique to this product since we’re all being tracked by the GPS in our cell phones anyway.

From the press release:
With read/write range in excess of 500 meters, the IDENTEC SOLUTIONS GPS Tag can be activated at any time with a reader thereby providing increased ease of access and reduced infrastructure.

The intelligence of the tag lies within the tag itself. Self-tracking, the GPS Tag utilizes satellites in combination with RFID to chart its route and movement. Once within range of an IDENTEC SOLUTIONS reader, the GPS Tag will provide crucial information on the assets movements.

Use of this technology is well suited to any type of asset or personnel tracking application and in particular for container and port transit. The receiver will be able to ascertain the exact route and journey of any asset or person. Not only will this system provide for increased control, but will allow for greater security and scrutiny. |Link|

In Second Life, habits are the hardest things to break

You can take the boy out of meatspace, but you can't take the meatspace out of the boy.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Video Game Law Course

A colleague just sent me the course description for Video Game Law at John Marshall Law School. Sounds like an interesting class.

[Video Game Law covers] the no longer nascent subject of computer and video game law. We will begin with the history of the industry and then move to some of the most important legal topics facing it. Along with other intellectual property concerns, we will cover the application of copyright law to games, both in terms of the underlying code and the audio-visual elements experienced by players. We will also discuss the scientific research on the effects of computer and video games, a topic which naturally leads to legislative efforts to regulate the content and distribution of games. We will discuss the First Amendment implications of doing so. Some of the other topics to be covered are the right of publicity as it relates to games and product liability for the effects of games. With one small exception, the regulation of gambling will not be covered.
I would, however, re-write the first sentence to remove the phrase no longer nascent.

Do you ever feel like you're NOT living in a police state?

Check out greencycles for a story of a man tasered at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, essentially for not following the police officer's inane orders, but ultimately for having the temerity to ride his bicycle at the airport.

Comment number 274 on the blog makes a sardonic point about the entire situation:

I could tell so many stories like yours..., about "the concrete stair case" which generations have been thrown down, into the basement for "processing"... then being told to clean up your own blood while officers jeer at you. I am not making this stuff up. It happens all the time... just not so much to articulate, educated but naive guys with a bit of entitlement clouding their vision and an amusing blog.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

UK bans Manhunt video game

The UK has banned Rockstar's new video game, Manhunt 2. I never played the original Manhunt... it didn't even sound interesting, I need a bit more plot than what was advertised for Manhunt to become interested in a game.

However, I did play Carmaggedon II for a while, which I enjoyed thoroughly, and I just learned that Carmaggedon was banned in the UK, France, Austria and Brazil. In Carmaggedon II you had to run pedestrians over in order to add time to your counter, given enough time, you could win the race. Killing people wasn't even your goal, it was solely instrumental to your goal, which is pretty depraved, come to think of it.

The American Library Associations has historically been opposed to censorship and this is embodied explicitly in their librarian code of ethics.

There are times where censorship seems reasonable to me, such as information on producing pipe bombs, silencers, or home-made napalm.

But video games and comic books generally seem less dangerous to me and more like escapism.

I am interested in how far the government should go to regulate what we see, hear, and play and how one draws the line in a principled fashion.

The Stoics warned that emotion can act as false reason and on issues like this, I think that warning is especially valid.

For instance, the uproar over Janet Jackson's nipple shield being exposed during the Superbowl was totally wacky.

In the midst of all of this testosterone-laden violence (that is openly worshipped by our society) citizens go crazy over a momentary breast display.

I think one of the significant problems with American society is the lack of venues for people to learn about healthy attitudes towards sex and violence. I don't think those venues exist because as a society we don't have any consensus on what's healthy and what's not.

The Virginia Tech shooter focused our national attention on the lack of adequate mental health resources in this country. Counseling seems like a good thing, but we have trouble even determining the baseline of what's appropriate and what is not.

Given our morbid fascination with violence and our prurient interest in sexuality, who is to decide what is beyond the pale?

Aren't these decisions inherently subjective and almost impossible to objectively justify?

Does that mean we should abandon the policy and develop a libertarian outlook?

I don't think so. I think the rating system that is in use now for video games is generally a good idea.

It (in theory) keeps adult materials out of the hands of children and gives guidance to parents.

But I am very suspicious of moves to ban content from adults. If I want to indulge in some mindless violence or sordid sexuality in the privacy of my own home, I think the government should stay out of it for the most part.

I think that a public policy threat from a video game would have to be incredibly compelling to justify keeping content from adults.

Another reason why I don't miss practicing criminal law

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I’ll kill all of you if you find me guilty of any one charge, and that goes for your family, too,” [Richard Glawson] hissed in court last month, according to prosecutors.|Boston Herald|

Getting by with a little help

New York has started an experimental program to try to help people develop better habits through modest cash rewards.

The theory behind cash rewards is that poor people are trapped in a cycle of repeated setbacks that keep them from climbing out of poverty. A person who doesn't keep up with his vaccinations and doctor's visits, for example, may get sick more often and struggle to stay employed. Bloomberg, a billionaire Republican, said he believes paying people in such circumstances to make good decisions could help break those patterns. The program "gives New Yorkers in poverty a financial incentive to look ahead and make decisions that will improve their prospects for the future," he said in a statement.

But some critics have raised questions about cash reward programs, saying they promote the misguided idea that poor people could be successful if they just made better choices. "It just reinforces the impression that if everybody would just work hard enough and change their personal behavior we could solve poverty in this country, and that's not reflected in the facts," said Margy Waller, co-founder of Inclusion, a research and policy group in Washington. |Go to school, get $25: Cash for poor NYers with good behavior -|
It sounds ridiculous to me, but I could be wrong. The article doesn't indicate if there's been any rigorous research into the project or if all of the data on past successes is entirely anecdotal.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Security Concerns: Deep Integration of Desktop and Web

I saw this post on Webware about Google Desktop being vulnerable and suggesting switching to Yahoo Desktop Search.

It looks like this "man in the middle" vulnerability also applies to lots of toolbars in Firefox and the entire Google Pack Suite.

Christopher Soghoian, a graduate student at Indiana University's School of
Informatics, discovered that an attacker can silently slip malicious software onto computers via an upgrade mechanism flaw in the latest versions of highly popular Firefox extensions, including Google Toolbar, Google Browser Sync, Yahoo Toolbar, Extension, Facebook Toolbar, AOL Toolbar, Toolbar, LinkedIn Browser Toolbar, Netcraft Anti-Phishing Toolbar and PhishTank SiteChecker. |Vulnerability found in Firefox Extension, Google toolbar - Desktop Linux|
The general point about deep integration between web applications and desktop applications being dangerous strikes me as especially true given all the news about Adobe AIR, which will lead to more of this type of deep integration.

US takes sides in Palestinian Civil War

I'm dubious of the US-Israeli strategy of giving money to Fatah in an attempt to quash Hamas. This strikes me as the diplomatic version of cutting off their allowance to encourage better behavior.

President Bush on Monday pledged help and support to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, as the United States prepared to lift economic and diplomatic sanctions against his new-look government....

The administration hopes that a resumption of aid would bolster Abbas and improve chances that he can negotiate toward peace with Israel.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack noted that the new emergency government in the West bank is made up of moderates who have previously pledged or demonstrated their commitment to nonviolence and peace with Israel. |US poised to lift Palestinian embargo - Kansas City Star|
I suspect Fatah cozying up to the West will get them labeled as traitors by Hamas. Hamas will get funding from governments opposed to the US and Israel and will gain favor due to their hardline position.

The Palestinians will become even more radicalized and the Israeli-Palestinian crisis will deepen rather than alleviate. Of course, I shouldn't lay all of this at Bush's door. The situation is horrible and he inherited the Israeli-Palestinian clusterfuck. But his reckless actions in Iraq have surely fanned the conflagration.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Safety Propositions: Community Emergency Response Team

One of the initiatives that the federal government initiated in the wake of natural disasters like 9/11 and Katrina is the Community Emergency Response Team or CERT.

I'm attending an introductory CERT class over the next couple of months through the Ramsey County Sheriff's department. Last week we learned about the National Incident Management System (NIMS).

Until this week I'd never heard of Presidential Homeland Security Directives (PHSD).
NIMS is mandated for all agencies wishing to receive DHS funding through directive five.

DHS has posted the first eighteen PHSD directives [sic] on their website, but I just read on the Law Librarian Blog about directive twenty.

Safari browser now available on Windows

Apple has opened up its Safari browser to Windows machines, you can download it here.

Irony Challenged Librarians

Michael Gorman, former President of the American Library Association, has posted a diatribe against Web 2.0 in two posts at the Brittanica blog.

The Chronicle of Higher Education picked this up as news, and one commenter made a hilarious point about Mr. Gorman:

Uh, is this guy irony-challenged? He’s distributing his screed against Web 2.0 ON A BLOG! | Link |
Perhaps he is trying to generate controversy, if so he should expect the ridicule.

I think Gorman is confusing America's tradition of anti-intellectualism with the democratic mores of Web 2.0.

Who (in their right mind) would blame Web 2.0 for the religious right's disbelief in evolution and the neoconservative's hostility to climate science?

On the other hand, I like the idea of the digital Maoists joining forces with the electronic Hezbollah.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Dance of Death, Mexican Narcoterrorism and its Response

The Guardian's Jo Tuckman has an interesting post on the strategy taken by Mexico's new president to battle drug-trafficking (or narco-terrorism, if you prefer). The strategy is to involve the military more in policing, but as the analysis below indicates, this strategy is not without risks.

Most analysts link the spiral of narco violence to the greater importance attached to territorial control since Mexico became a market, as well as a transit point, for illegal drugs. Some also say a near obsession with catching kingpins in the past triggered bloody internal power struggles within trafficking organisations, and encouraged provocative territorial grabs by rivals in areas previously dominated by the imprisoned leaders....

Leading drug analyst Luís Astorga associates the current chaos with the collapse of the one-party system that governed Mexico until 2000, which had both provided an orderly framework for corruption and been powerful enough to set limits on the violence.

[Mexico's new] President Calderón is right, he says, to try to fill the authority vacuum left by the new democracy, but to rely so heavily on the army to do this is potentially disastrous. Mexicans largely trust the military - seen as a clean alternative to the deeply corrupt civilian police forces. "We could have the Zetas* phenomenon multiplied," Astorga says, referring to the notoriously well-trained and ruthless hitmen of the Gulf Cartel formed from military deserters in the late 1990s. "That would take the violence associated with drug trafficking to a whole other level."

Human rights activists, meanwhile, see massive army involvement as a recipe for abuse. Earlier this month two women and three children died when soldiers opened fire on a car passing a mountain checkpoint. In another incident in May soldiers allegedly raped five young women.

"Calderón is playing with fire," says political analyst Jorge Zepeda. "It took an enormous effort to remove the generals from power in the 1940s; there are huge dangers with giving them such a key role again." | Battles and beheadings as vicious [Mexican] drugs war spirals out of control - Guardian |

Los Zetas are an example of how dangerous it is to involve the Mexican military in anti-narcotics operations. In 1991, a battalion of Mexican paratroopers known as the Special Air Mobile Force Group were being used to interdict drug-smuggling. One day the entire battalion deserted en masse, taking their equipment with them. The Gulf Cartel was able to outbid the Mexican government and gain the loyalty of these soldiers, they had become mercenaries.

Los Zetas are now expanding into the southwestern US and are a growing concern for law enforcement, according to FBI testimony before Congress.

Paramilitary groups such as the Zetas, Los Negros, Los Numeros, and others who work for Mexican drug cartels as enforcers are a serious threat to public safety on both sides of the entire U.S./Mexico border. They are well financed and well equipped. Their willingness to shoot and kill law enforcement officers on both sides of the border makes these paramilitary groups among the most dangerous criminal enterprises in North America. | Testimony before U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Judiciary |
I can only wonder how the recent proliferation of security companies (or mercenaries as we call them when they aren't on the Pentagon's payroll) in Iraq will affect geopolitics in the years to come.

Monday, June 11, 2007

The US is like the guy at the party who gives everyone cocaine, and still nobody likes him

The US military has embarked on a new and risky strategy in Iraq by arming Sunni insurgents in the hope that they will tackle the extremist al-Qaida in Iraq.

The US high command this month gave permission to its officers on the ground to negotiate arms deals with local leaders. Arms, ammunition, body armour and other equipment, as well as cash, pick-up trucks and fuel, have already been handed over in return for promises to turn on al-Qaida and not attack US troops.

|Ewen MacAskill, US arms Sunni dissidents in risky bid to contain al-Qaida fighters in Iraq - Guardian |

Does anyone else remember when we armed the Taliban to help oust the Soviets?

The military-industrial complex has a logic all its own...

I wonder if anyone at the Pentagon has ever read Zepezauer's book, Boomerang! How Our Covert Wars Have Created Enemies Across the Middle East and Brought Terror to America |Amazon| Worldcat|

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Solving a murder with 3 billion suspects

Sarah and I just watched Death of a President and I really liked it. It's a cross between a documentary and a murder mystery.

Read more at Thoughts on Film.

Lip Dubbing on the Subway

Earlier I blogged about how much I enjoy Crazy by Gnarls Barkley.

Lip Dubbing: Crazy from Jakob Lodwick on Vimeo

Friday Fiction

I'm sitting at the computer typing, when the dog bumps up against my legs. I look down, and she's sniffing the floor around my feet intently.

"What are you doing down there?"

"I'm looking for steak!" she says, wagging her tail hopefully.

"I'm pretty certain that there's no steak down there," I say. "I've never eaten steak at the computer, and I've certainly never dropped any on the floor."

"You did in some universe," she says, still sniffing.

I sigh. "I'm going to move the quantum physics books to a higher shelf, so you can't reach them."

"It won't matter. I've got Wikipedia."

| Read more... Many Worlds, Many Treats - Uncertain Principles |

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Meditations in a Time of War

For Memorial Day over at the Bellman we had a running skirmish on the nobility of dying in a war. Although it was never explicitly evoked, the discussion reminded me of Horace's dictum: Dulce et decorum est, pro patria mori (It is sweet and becoming to die for one's country.)

I learned this little bit of Latin in high school from reading Wilfred Owen's poem, Dulce Et Decorum Est:

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.

GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!-- An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.--
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
Dying is never pretty and a noble death is a high standard. My point over at the Bellman was that it is logically possible to die nobly in battle, not that it is likely.

Similarly, it is possible to fight a just war and give one's life in a noble pursuit, but I had to reach pretty far back in the mists of time, all the way to Spartacus, to find an example I felt was pretty unambiguous of someone fighting the good fight and dying a noble death.

In practice, wars tend to be stupid, pointless affairs where the ostensible reason for the war is never the only reason, or even the most compelling reason.

And even assuming the justification for a given war is noble, it doesn't mean that soldier's lives won't be wasted, thrown away by some foolish command decision or political interference with military objectives.

But at the same time, I think it's dangerous to ignore the realities of the world we live in as a matter of principle. Despite our civilization, culture, technology, and vaunted educational system... the United States is certainly the most violent industrialized nation on Earth.

I'm reading a book on the Ethics of War right now and I thought the introduction to the second chapter makes an excellent point about the categorical errors pacifists make:

One of the great strengths of the pacifist tradition is its keen awareness of a common propensity or cultural bias in favour of war, upon which the war-maker is continually able to draw and with which the peacemaker has to contend. It is to this phenomenon, which first precipitates war and then dictates its ruthless prosecution, that the term militarism is applied [in the text].

The weakness of the pacificst understanding lies in its tendency to regard any defence of war and any resort to arms as manifestations of militarism. This association of all things military with militarism suppresses real and important distinctions and undermines any attempt to subject war to moral limitation.
One cannot be afraid to use force in the face of crime, extortion or tyranny. Violence should always be the absolute last resort, but when you've exhausted all your other options... sometimes you've got to kick some ass or even kill people.

I think another common liberal fallacy is that the use of violence is reserved solely for the State. The use of violence in self-defense is a time-honored tradition in the common law and arguably a fundamental human right.

Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils.

- General John Stark

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

New Widgets

I've added a couple of new widgets to my blog posts...

The Click Comments buttons are an interesting concept, but add a lot of visual clutter, but I'll give them a try and see how I feel in a week. If you want to add them to your blog, go here. The form on the front page isn't working at this moment, but if you click the link at the bottom of the page, it will take you to a form that works.

UPDATE: I deleted the Click Comment buttons because they take FOREVER to load. Nice idea, poor execution.

SECOND UPDATE: On July 1, 2007 I received an email from Click Comments indicating that they added a few brand new servers. The comments are coming faster and they are happy with the result.

They have also extended ClickComments supports to the following platforms:

I've added a small link below for Sphere, but the tags don't show up on all of the posts. I'll have to troubleshoot that issue, but when it does appear, it's below the AddThis tag. I'm adding Sphere through Feedburner, so a couple of layers of technology to troubleshoot.

Sphere is an automated search function that searches for news and blog posts related to the post to which it is attached. It's totally hit or miss, but I thought it was an interesting instance of embedding automated research tools into websites and as the code behind Sphere gets better, so should the results. Sphere has a waiting list, but you can sign up for the widget on their homepage if you're interested.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

I hope he's wrong: Jenkins on Bush's Russian Policy

Simon Jenkins has a provocative essay on the neoconservative's treatment of Russia amid the recent rise in tensions over Dubya's Son of Star Wars programs in Europe.

Will history tell us we were fools? We worried about the wrong war and made the wrong enemies. In the first decade of the 21st century the leaders of America and Britain allowed themselves to be distracted by a few Islamist bombers and took easy refuge in the politics of fear. They concocted a "war on terror" and went off to fight little nations that offered quick wins.

Meanwhile these leaders neglected the great strategic challenge of the aftermath of cold war: the fate of Russia and its mighty arsenals, its soul tormented by military and political collapse, its pride undimmed. They danced on Moscow's grave and hurled abuse at its shortcomings. They drove its leaders to assert a new energy-based hegemony and find new allies to the south and east. The result was a new arms race and, after a Kremlin coup, a new war. Is that the path we are treading?

| This Russian risk could yet dwarf our blunder on Iraq - Guardian |
The ironic thing is that missile defense is a fool's errand. *gasp*

Safety Propositions: Why I Don't Carry a Gun

My home state of Kansas recently passed a concealed carry law. Minnesota, where I currently live became a shall-issue state shortly before I arrived.

Of course, Sarah would divorce me if she ever caught me carrying a gun... so that pretty much nixes the idea for me.

But even if Sarah was indifferent to carrying a gun, I still wouldn't carry one.

It's not so much a safety issue for me, it's a simple cost-benefit analysis. Guns and ammo are heavy. Very heavy. Even something as light as a derringer is going to wear a hole in your pocket. And if you carry a real gun and even one clip of extra ammo, you're talking about some significant weight.

I carry pepper spray, a folding knife and a cell phone pretty consistently. Those three items make me feel prepared for most situations and weigh much less than a gun. They're also far less likely to scare the neighbors or get me shot by the police.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Tulsa introduces RFID chipped bikes

The City of Tulsa, Oklahoma is introducing a system that allows patrons to rent bikes for free from automated kiosks and then tracks the bikes through RFID tags. This strikes me as a cunning use of technology, but I wonder why Tulsa is the first city to introduce this.

I spent a summer in Tulsa on an internship several years ago and Tulsa struck me as a town without pedestrians. The River Walk had a fair number, but the rest of town seemed to be populated soley by cars, no one on the sidewalks and no one on bikes. And I was there in the summer!

Friday, June 01, 2007

The fashion in Baghdad this Spring

Stephen Biddle, a senior fellow at the Washington thinktank the Council on Foreign Relations, found Baghdad surreal. "Everyone was carrying weapons, even in the international zone. It was a weird combination of Club Med and Mad Max. There's a big pool with tables around it. So people are in swimsuits but carrying submachine guns." |Fear and Luxury Lure Foreign Legions - Guardian|

Sneaky Dutch Bastards

A few days ago I blogged about a new reality TV show in the Netherlands called De Grote Donorshow (The Big Donor Show). Turns out it was a publicity stunt.

I guess we all get to play the fool from time to time.