Thursday, January 31, 2008

A librarian's nightmare...

I guess the computer is just for online shopping since obviously all of her organization takes place on the wall behind her.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Wait a minute, Mr. Postman

Recently I received a piece of mail addressed to Safety Neal S Fireside Chat.

My mail carrier trudged through temperatures below zero degrees Fahrenheit (negative eighteen Celsius) to deliver this meat space spam.

What people won't do for a pension and some health coverage...

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Masochism on Wheels

Just when I thought I was getting cold tough, I learned of the Stupor Bowl, see this Myspace page for the Minneapolis version of Stupor Bowl XI.

Here's a City Pages article about Stupor Bowl II.

If one thing defines the courier community, it isn't its disproportionate number of piercings, wraparound sunglasses, and dyed hair; nor is it the loyalty they share to an activity that might, most uncharitably, be called an extreme sport. No, couriers are defined by their common oppression, stemming from a love of urban bicycling in a society where bicycles are supposed to stick to marked and isolated trails. Stories of police brutality, selective law enforcement, and catch-and-release jail stints--often for infractions as seemingly minor as riding without a helmet--are regular fodder among messengers. It may be legal to ride on city streets, but to hear the racers tell it, the police make a habit of cracking down for reasons no more complicated than simple prejudice. Recalling a spell of severe scrutiny in his hometown of Chicago, Bobcat says, "I think just about everyone here that I came with has been in jail." |Link|

C3PO's sister

Free Markets and Free Minds

"[T]he free market is properly a piece of policy rather than an ideological end-in-itself..."

- Benjamin & Jenna Silber Storey

Reductionism of History

Recorded history is largely an account of the crimes & disasters committed by banal little men at the levers of imperial machines.

-Edward Abbey

Sans merci

Balancing National Security and Human Rights

Jaya Ramji-Nogales of Temple Law School recently published an article on reforming US immigration proceedings that takes on the difficult question (especially for the Bushies) of balancing national security issues with human rights considerations. The article abstract is:

This article addresses two of the most pressing issues facing our society today - rights violations in anti-terrorism efforts and dysfunction in the immigration system - through a case study of the use of secret evidence in immigration proceedings. Cataloguing the government's repeated presentation of unreliable and inaccurate information in support of its efforts to deport suspected terrorists, the paper outlines the individual, societal, and global harms resulting from this misuse of secret evidence. It then discusses relevant human rights law, which offers a particularly appropriate mechanism to address these harms through its careful balancing of national security interests and due process rights. The article advocates the use of human rights law as a guidebook and a yardstick to reform the administrative immigration process through statutory interpretation, regulation drafting, and institutional culture creation. |Link|
If you're interested in reading the whole thing, it's available on SSRN (or by emailing me...)

Here's a quick snippet from the article:

The case of Maher Arar is perhaps the best-known recent example of the misuse of secret evidence in immigration proceedings. In September 2002, FBI agents detained and interrogated Mr. Arar, a Canadian and Syrian citizen... Mr. Arar repeatedly denied any connection to terrorist groups and specifically asked the FBI not to send him to Syria as he feared torture there. Nevertheless, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) determined that Mr. Arar was a member of Al Qaeda and thus inadmissible and removable... Without allowing further inquiry before an immigration judge,16 the INS removed Mr. Arar to Syria, where he was imprisoned and tortured severely for almost a year.... Condoleezza Rice recently admitted that the United States government mishandled Mr. Arar’s case, and should not have transferred him to a country where he faced torture. (footnotes omitted)

Second Life Punks

I guess this qualifies as cyberpunk, just not what I had in mind when I was searching under the cyberpunk tag...

Monday, January 28, 2008


You know you're living in Minnesota when the weatherman refers to 34 degrees Fahrenheit as a "Spring like" temperature.

Unfortunately, we're in for a cold snap and the high Wednesday is expected to be 1 degree Fahrenheit, doncha know.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Good News: Call of Duty is spectacular

If you haven't played Call of Duty 4: Modern Combat yet, then you're missing out on a great first person shooter. |Gamespot's Review|

I've been playing the Xbox version, my friend Doug has the PC version which he loves. Free map and mod software has been released... it makes me want to buy the PC version as well.

It's on the ultra-violent side. The lighting and weapons look perfect. You can see your enemies by their shadows dancing around... for a gun geek like me, it's perfect.

Here's a techno-music video promo of the game.

It has an impressive physics model and firearms can shoot through all types of materials. There are also a host of power-ups that can be unlocked including one called Deep Impact that allows this light machine gun to fire through concrete.

Ireland by Night

Rocks of Gold, originally uploaded by David G Kelly.

Irish gang war explodes

Ireland has been one of the fastest growing economies in the EU in the past few years and has been considered a success story.

However, this recent article indicates that the peace brokered between Irish nationalists and the UK government has led some of former terrorists to sign on with organized crime.

Last year was one of the bloodiest in the gangland wars of Ireland's capital. At least 20 murders were connected to at least four separate feuds involving rival criminal gangs. So far, investigations into these murders have not led to any convictions.

Last weekend, during anti-gangland operations across the city, [Irish National Police] found explosive devices and improvised bombs in a house in north Dublin.

[Irish National Police] believe ex-republican paramilitaries, in particular a former IRA bomber originally from Newry but now based in Dundalk, have been selling bomb-making technology to Dublin's criminal gangs as they seek to either eliminate or intimidate rivals in the capital's underworld. |'Viper' gunned down at gym - Guardian|

On Winning Hearts and Minds

Philip Carter does a good job of deconstructing Rumsfeld's talking points on managing the information flow about the many horrors the US has committed in its flawed approach to the war on Terror.

Rumsfeld's latest proposal suffers from a fundamental flaw (as did the IO campaign he waged while SecDef) — he's trying to put lipstick on a pig and convince everyone that it's not a pig.

Global opinion surveys aren't tilting against America because they dislike our message or aren't getting the good news. They're getting the message alright. And they're seeing exactly what we're doing, often times through our own media. The people responding to the surveys done by Pew, OSI, CIA, and others, are reporting their opinions based on incontroverted facts about U.S. actions. Simply, they are responding to our deeds, not our words, and nothing we do in the realms of "strategic communications" or "information operations" is going to change that. Nor will any amount of "public diplomacy."

The United States of America must do a great deal more to win the "hearts of minds" of moderates around the world than simply re-brand itself and develop a slick messaging campaign. We must earn their support through what we do — not what we say. Deeds like the U.S. efforts to deliver aid to Banda Aceh after the tsunami, or to Pakistan after its earthquake, go a long way towards doing this. The continuing, festering occupation of Iraq does little to help this, regardless of how much good our troops and diplomats do on the street. The eyesore of Guantanamo [sub'n req'd] does a great deal to undermine whatever good we do. Ultimately, I believe we must pay a great deal more attention to our deeds — not our message — in order to earn the support of the world. Otherwise, our policies are just a pig. And no matter how much lipstick we might apply, it'll still just be a pig. |Rumsfeld: "Can We Talk" - Intel Dump|
The Bush administration is constantly moving the goal posts in Iraq and Afghanistan to try to make it seem like we're enjoying even a modicum of success there.

But if the true goal of Bush's War on Terror is make other countries (and especially Muslims) hate us less, he is failing miserably using any yardstick.

I also think the majority of the American people know this and that's why Bush and the Republican candidates are in such deep trouble.
A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll indicated that 64% of Americans now feel the war in Iraq was not worth fighting. American opinion on the war and occupation, in fact, seems remarkably unaffected by the positive spin -- all those "success" stories in the mainstream media -- of these post-surge months. The media now tells us that Iraq is going to be taking a distinct backseat to domestic economic issues, that Americans are no longer as concerned about it.

Once again, with rare exceptions, that media has had a hand in erasing the catastrophe of Iraq from the American landscape, if not the collective consciousness of the public. |Tomgram: Dahr Jamail, Missing Voices in the Iraq Debate - TomDispatch|
Unfortunately the media cannot just wish Iraq away because they're bored with it. It's the central front in the global catastrophe that is Bush's foreign policy.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Crossroads of Faith

Late Stage Circumcision Litigation

In a recent Oregon case, a man who recently converted to Judaism wants his 12-year-son to join him in the religion, which means getting circumcised. Ouch!

Unfortunately the non-custodial objects. No word on what the kid thinks yet.

Sticky issues here abound between a parent's right to raise their children, rights of divorced parents to jointly raise children, children's rights, freedom of religion, biomedical ethics...

In this 30-page opinion, the court sent the case back to the trial court to answer the question: What does the boy want? If the trial court finds that M, which is what the court calls him, agrees to be circumcised it should deny the mother’s requests. But if the trial court finds the child opposes the circumcision, the court must decide if it will affect the father’s ability to care for the child.

Seems reasonable, but not to the father and several Jewish organizations that filed an amicus brief arguing that the boy’s attitude about whether he wants the circumcision is not legally significant. They assert that a child is not the decision-maker on such questions, any more than an infant who is circumcised. Further, they argued that the First Amendment’s freedom of religion clause gives the father a constitutionally protected right to circumcise his son, arguing that American Jews must be free to practice circumcision because it is and has been one of the most fundamental and sacred parts of the Jewish tradition.

Aligning with the mother was a Seattle-based group called Doctors Opposing Circumcision. Said the executive director of the group: “Parents are free to practice their religion and to have religious beliefs, but they are not free to change the physical body of their child at will.” |Oregon Supremes Wants Kid to Settle Circumcision Dispute - WSJ Law Blog|

I'll have to think on this one a bit. What should our public policy be on these issues?

Of course, public policy is often code for religious and political values...

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Vertical Envelopment

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Last chopper out of Baghdad

Intel Dump indicates that the US isn't engaging in succession planning for Iraq.

Kirk Johnson, a former USAID official in Iraq... [explained that] there is no reasonable argument for not helping [our Iraqi allies & confederates to emigrate from Iraq] — no security, human rights, logistical or other argument that has merit. It's simple politics — both the lack of political will to help, and to move the U.S. Government's bureaucracy to actually do something.

This grows out of the unwillingness to admit failure, because an organized effort to help Iraqis emigrate from Iraq would be tantamount (in the Government's eyes) to an admission of failure. Johnson, Packer, and others are absolutely correct to point out the dishonor in that position, and the national shame we will bring upon ourselves if we leave these men and women behind.

But it's more than honor or liberalism that's at stake here. It's about our interests too. If we leave these Iraqis behind, we will have a much tougher (if not impossible) time recruiting friends and allies in that part of the world, or any part of the world. Our actions today will set the stage for our ability to work with allies and friends in the future. ||Betrayed - Intel Dump| (emphasis added)
When did contingency planning become a four letter word at the Pentagon?

The US military is the best fighting force in the world, but it's not designed as an occupation force and we simply cannot sustain this level of commitment for another five or ten years.

We have to accept that we will pull out eventually and we should start accepting more Iraqi refugees, in my opinion. The best way for us to be successful in intelligence operations in Arab speaking countries is to develop a loyal cadre of Americans who speak Arabic and know the culture.

If dumbass Bush was really planning for a century long war, he'd be relocating Iraqis to the US by the boatload and planning for the next war, because this one is FUBAR.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Snowy Owl

Bizarre stories of survival

Charming little story about Canadian survival. It's pretty cold here in Minnesota, I can only imagine what it's like in Calgary this time of year.

A man has been rescued after spending 96 hours trapped under his quad bike in a remote Canadian district with nothing to eat or drink but rotting animal carcases and morning frost. Ken Hildebrand, a paramedic, even considered amputating and eating his own right leg to survive.

Hildebrand's ordeal began when he was checking animal traps in an area 80 miles southwest of Calgary and his quad bike hit a rock, throwing him off and settling on his legs. He made several attempts to get out from under the vehicle but did not have enough leverage to move it.

After four nights of constant harassment by wolves and coyotes, which he kept at bay by blowing a whistle, he began to accept that he might not be found before the cold, malnourishment or animals claimed his life.

Because of his medical training, Hildebrand knew that people start losing heat quickly from their upper body. He took a beaver carcass and used it to keep his body warm, with another as a makeshift windbreak and pillow. He tied orange surveyors' tape around his wrist and threw it at different angles to make an X shape so if anyone flew over the area, they would see him.

"It was time to get ready for survival mode," Hildebrand said. "I ate a lot of dirt to get a little moisture." |Man survives four days in wilderness trapped by quad bike - Guardian|
I find it amazing that a mere whistle can keep coyotes and wolves away. Who knew?

Japanese Internment Camp by Library of Congress

The Library of Congress has joined Flickr. This photo from a Japanese internment camp caught my eye, but they currently have over 3,000 photos uploaded.

Thanks to Janelle for the link.


Why I love researching the Common Law

[T]he feoffor might by the terms of his feoffment...make the feoffee his own feudal dependant [sic], retaining for himself his previous relationship with the [this] case the feoffee does hold of his feoffor, who remains a significant link in the feudal chain, and we have a situtation known as subinfeudation.

W.R. Vance, Rights of Reverter and the Statute of Quia Emptores, 5 Yale Law Journal 593, 599-601 (1927)

Friday, January 18, 2008

There are no Rhodes Scholars in Foxholes

I just saw that Lt. Colonel John Nagl is resigning from the Army to join a think tank.

He appeared on the Daily Show a couple of months ago to talk about the field manual he wrote on counter-insurgency, in case you missed it, go here.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Shake it like a white boy!

Over the borderline

Over the borderline, originally uploaded by ms4jah.

Why I support Amnesty for Immigrants

The United States is a country of immigrants. The only ones with a real claim to being native are the First Nations like the Blackfeet, Ojibwe, and Hopi. The rest of us are all carpet baggers, whether from Europe or Central America most recently.

The only chance Social Security and Medicaid (especially Medicaid) have of remaining solvent in the future is if we expand the rolls of younger citizens, and that means immigration!

Immigrants should be allowed to work in the US as guest workers and pay into Social Security, and if they achieve citizenship, they should be able to draw Social Security and retire to Phoenix like everyone else.

They should also be given driver's licenses as guest workers and expected to buy car insurance like everyone else. (Although since I'm on a rant, how about building a real public transportation system in this country... preferably run on renewable energy.)

The plans to send immigrants back to their states of origin to restart the citizenship process are ridiculous and formulated to appeal to the xenophobic voting bloc in this country.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Big Lebowski in 5 Seconds


Monday, January 14, 2008

Ad Hominem Attack

Untroubled by Doubt

I'm not sure what to make of this quite yet, so I'll just post it here while I ponder the implications.

Republicans are significantly more likely than Democrats or independents to rate their mental health as excellent, according to data from the last four November Gallup Health and Healthcare polls. Fifty-eight percent of Republicans report having excellent mental health, compared to 43% of independents and 38% of Democrats....

One could be quick to assume that these differences are based on the underlying demographic and socioeconomic patterns related to party identification in America today. A recent Gallup report... reviewed these mental health data more generally, and found that men, those with higher incomes, those with higher education levels, and whites are more likely than others to report excellent mental health. Some of these patterns describe characteristics of Republicans, of course.

But an analysis of the relationship between party identification and self-reported excellent mental health within various categories of age, gender, church attendance, income, education, and other variables shows that the basic pattern persists regardless of these characteristics. In other words, party identification appears to have an independent effect on [perceived] mental health even when each of these is controlled for.
|Republicans Report Much Better Mental Health Than Others - Gallup|

Impressive Shooting Display

A friend sent me this video of an exhibition shooter running Beretta's Xtrema2 semi-auto shotgun through its paces.

The ability of this gentleman to fire the Xtrema2 accurately with one hand is significant testimony to its recoil reduction technology.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Life's Little Warning Signs

Zero is not a size [in women's clothing], it's a warning sign.

- Carson Kressley
You can find more Carson quotes here.

Friday, January 11, 2008

For every action...

"We [in the Gaza Strip] are cursed," said Iyad Sarraj, a Gaza psychiatrist and a human rights activist. "Our leaders are either Israeli collaborators, asses, or mentally unstable."

Sarraj warns that what he describes as the siege of Gaza will blow up in the face of Israel in another intifada, or uprising. "From the first intifada, which was only stone throwing, to the second intifada, which brought suicide bombing, the third intifada will be much, much worse, and I suspect that it will be chemical weapons and chemical warfare." | Reporter offers Bush a Gaza, West Bank misery tour - CNN|

The good shepherd

, originally uploaded by prakashodedra.

Time enough for despair

So I left the TV sound off and I sat down at my mood organ and I experimented. And I finally found a setting for despair…So I put it on my schedule for twice a month; I think that's a reasonable amount of time to feel hopeless about everything...

- Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick

Brain Doping and the Myth of Academia as a Meritocracy

The other day I discussed brain doping issues and following the discussion, I found some commentary by a PhD student in neuroscience on the issue.

Interest in potions and drugs which increase awareness and "brain power" has been around for thousands of years. Many natural compounds from ginseng to coffee to cocaine have been touted as a dubious panacea for a muddled mind. However in the pharmaceutical age, we are now in possession of agents which actually do enhance cognition through changes in neurotransmitter release....

People have been engaging in "cognitive doping" for ages. Today the legal drug of choice for cognitive enhancement is caffeine, although nicotine may also have the effect of focusing people. Both of these drugs have side effects which are dose- and delivery-dependent and are quite addictive. However their demand and daily use are staggering.

There is a booming industry in herbal enhancers like St. John's wort or ginseng, which have evidence to back up some of their claims, although side effects and drug interactions are still an issue.

And it is difficult to argue that taking a cognitive enhancer is cheating in the academic sense, since a pill will never inform you as to the correct answer on a multiple-choice test or give you the answer to any essay question. It will only improve the focus and grasp on information which you already know. |Cognitive Enhancers in Academic Doping - Retrospectacle|
Retrospectacle has her own interesting discussion, but also sends one to Adventures in Ethics and Science for more.

Reading through the commentary I again find myself feeling that all the discussion of "cheating" is rather naive and makes unfounded assumptions about academia being a true meritocracy and confuses the desire for a level playing field with the reality.

I think the commenter Spaulding makes some good points:
Is it unethical for a student, a teacher, or any other professional to use a calculator? A computer? Reading glasses? Insulin? Notes? A supportive family?

The role of technology is to provide a tool to exceed our physical or mental limitations. Dependency is a disadvantage of technology, as technology users do not develop the mental habits or physical muscles and calluses that would be appropriate to a non-technological lifestyle.

This is part of the reason that Socrates opposed the use of written language. It's a pretty old conversation, and it's pretty tired when you note the standard pattern:

civilization embracing a technology in the past = a good tradeoff

civilization embracing a technology in the future, or the young 'uns embracing it now = oh noes!

Sure, if these enhancers are significantly detrimental to long-term health, that knowledge should be promoted. Beyond that, it's just another tool in a long line of similar aids. |Link|

And another good point:

[The] differential availability of enhancements is at best a digression.

If the goal is to level the academic playing field, then socialized, federally funded education organised via blind meritocracy is the way to go. Also, students should receive all meals in their dorm's cafeterias. Preferably, parental involvement should end with weaning at the very latest.

Then we can talk about how unfair it is that only some of the students will have an extra hundred bucks to spend on some pills.

Seriously, every new technology launches with an income gap. That's not a non-issue, but it's not an argument against a particular technology, nor against technology in general. "If the poor can't have it, no-one will" is not a good mantra for a civilization. |Link|

The world is not fair and never will be. I don't say this as a defeatist, but as a way of focusing on the reality of the situation and trying to determine what is the best public policy and how the law should comport with that public policy.

I think good public policy should treat people as rational actors (until they prove otherwise at least) and allow them to make informed decisions about what drugs/chemicals to take and the possible consequences and benefits.

In general, I think a free society allows consented adults to do whatever they damn well please.

But when the potential advantages are academics coming up with better innovations and technologies for society, then, I say subsidize the smart drugs and hand them out like candy canes at Christmas.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Jack Black as a Mii

If you haven't played with the Nintendo Wii... well, you're missing out on a great deal of fun. (But be sure to STRETCH your muscles before picking up the controller).

For the Wii, you create avatars called Mii's. This is a Mii created by Brandon Erickson. It looks strikingly like Jack Black.

Thanks to Janelle for the link.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Transhumanism, the card game

Earth Orbit Colonized, originally uploaded by Jay Dugger.

Learn to make your own cards.

Smart Drugs hit the Boardroom

The LA Times' Karen Kaplan and Denise Gellene wrote a piece on the use of smart drugs recently.

Smart drugs can be compared to steroids, but without any known deleterious effects.

"If there were drugs for investment bankers, journalists, teachers and scientists that made them more successful, they would use them too," said Charles E. Yesalis, a doping researcher and emeritus professor at Pennsylvania State University. "Why does anyone think this would be limited to an athlete?"

The growth of the brain drugs bears a striking resemblance to the post-World War I evolution of plastic surgery -- developed to rehabilitate badly disfigured soldiers but later embraced by healthy people who wanted larger breasts and fewer wrinkles. |Id.|

The article suggests that the use of smart drugs is rapidly spreading through society and is totally legal (at the moment... of course if we get another Republican in the White House...)
Despite the potential side effects [of smart drugs], academics, classical musicians, corporate executives, students and even professional poker players have embraced the drugs to clarify their minds, improve their concentration or control their emotions.

"There isn't any question about it -- they made me a much better player," said Paul Phillips, 35, who credited the attention deficit drug Adderall and the narcolepsy pill Provigil with helping him earn more than $2.3 million as a poker player.

The medicine cabinet of so-called cognitive enhancers also includes Ritalin, commonly given to schoolchildren for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and beta blockers, such as the heart drug Inderal. Researchers have been investigating the drug Aricept, which is normally used to slow the decline of Alzheimer's patients.

The drugs haven't been tested extensively in healthy people, but their physiological effects in the brain are well understood.

They are all just precursors to the blockbuster drug that labs are racing to develop.

"Whatever company comes out with the first memory pill is going to put Viagra to shame," said University of Pennsylvania bioethicist Paul Root Wolpe.

Unlike the anabolic steroids, human growth hormone and blood-oxygen boosters that plague athletic competitions, the brain drugs haven't provoked similar outrage. People who take them say the drugs aren't giving them an unfair advantage but merely allow them to make the most of their hard-earned skills.

In the real world, there are no rules to prevent overachievers from using legally prescribed drugs to operate at peak mental performance. What patient wouldn't want their surgeon to be completely focused during a life-or-death procedure?....

The use of cognitive-enhancing drugs has been well documented among high school and college students. A 2005 survey of more than 10,000 college students found 4% to 7% of them tried ADHD drugs at least once to remain focused on exams or pull all-nighters. At some colleges, more than one-quarter of students surveyed said they had sampled the pills. |Id.|

Monday, January 07, 2008


♥♥♥, originally uploaded by laredecouverte.

Don't tell me it's going to be alright

Juan Cole makes the sobering observation that Iraqi politicians are betting their lives on the outcome of the US elections.

Radio Sawa reports in Arabic that Iraqi members of parliament dismiss the pledge of US presidential candidate Barack Obama to end the Iraq War and withdraw US troops from the country. They say it is just campaign talk and that if Obama were elected he would swiftly become more realistic.

(It is my firm impression that the Iraqi political class has unrealistic expectations of the US public. The likelihod is that most US troops will be out by summer 2010 no matter who wins, and if Iraqi politicians want to avoid being taken out and shot in the aftermath, they had better cut some deals locally soon. |Bombings Roil Diyala - Informed Comment|(emphasis added)
The US cannot stay in Iraq forever and when we leave things are going to become nasty very quickly, I think.

Fairy Tales

IMG_4591, originally uploaded by Chris Tengi.

Habeas Corpus gets put on a diet

Over at the Bellman, Dave3544 asked if the right of habeas corpus had been deleted from federal law, which is a good question and something that isn't entirely clear. For instance, this Keith Olbermann videocast on the death of habeas corpus certainly gives that impression.

But the reality is a bit more complex. Here's how I comprehend the current legal landscape.

The Military Commissions Act or MCA (Public Law 109-366) |PDF| at section 7 denies any alien (or non-citizen) the right of habeus corpus.

As I understand it, under the MCA, the right of habeas corpus is technically still available to an American citizen who is deemed an enemy combatant, but they will now be tried before a military tribunal, (composed of career military only) and not before a federal judge or jury, but that may be reviewable by a federal court.

Here's an interesting twist from Balkanization:

One last point: Section 7(a) of the MCA strips habeas and federal court jurisdiction with respect to aliens. It does not strip jurisdiction with respect to citizens.

However, what if the DoD determines that a U.S. citizen is an alien in a Combatant Status Review Tribunal, claims that its determination is conclusive under section 948a(1)(ii) and ships the person off to Guantanamo?...

[S]ection 948a(1)(ii) is probably unconstitutional to the extent that it suggests that DoD determinations are conclusive.

The citizen should still have the right to prove that he is a citizen in a habeas proceeding, and a court must determine that question in order to determine whether it has jurisdiction.

To the extent that the MCA would prevent such a determination, it is unconstitutional.|Balkinization|(emphasis added)
Let me know if you think my analysis is incorrect, if there's some supervening federal statute I'm missing.

Personally, I think the MCA is a horrible piece of legislation and should be totally re-worked. I'm not opposed to military tribunals per se, but I think we need some due process safeguards and that we should uphold our treaty obligations under the Geneva Conventions as they are written, not how the Bushies wish they were written.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Taser Tragedy yields Video Game Satire

"Megaman helps a lost and confused Polish immigrant at Vancouver International Airport; [Royal Canadian Mounted Police] style." - YouTube Description

If you aren't familiar with Dziekanski's death, you can see a news report and witness interiew below as well.

Poe poe kitty

Funny Pictures
moar funny pictures

Carbon Dioxide Recycling

This plan to recycle carbon dioxide into usabale products strikes me as a better version of artificial carbon sequestration than the plans to bury carbon dioxide underground and hope we can keep it there forever.

Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico have found a way of using sunlight to recycle carbon dioxide and produce fuels like methanol or gasoline.

The Sunlight to Petrol, or S2P, project essentially reverses the combustion process, recovering the building blocks of hydrocarbons. They can then be used to synthesize liquid fuels like methanol or gasoline. Researchers said the technology already works and could help reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, although large-scale implementation could be a decade or more away.

"This is about closing the cycle," said Ellen Stechel, manager of Sandia's Fuels and Energy Transitions department. "Right now our fossil fuels are emitting CO2. This would help us manage and reduce our emissions and put us on the path to a carbon-neutral energy system."

The idea of recycling carbon dioxide is not new, but has generally been considered too difficult and expensive to be worth the effort. But with oil prices exceeding $100 per barrel and concerns about global warming mounting, researchers are increasingly motivated to investigate carbon recycling. Los Alamos Renewable Energy, for example, has developed a method of using CO2 to generate electricity and fuel. |Scientists Use Sunlight to Make Fuel From CO2 - Wired|

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Extreme Individualism

For someone commuting by car an hour a day, drivers on cellphones could add about 20 hours a year to travel time... |Reuters|
Like I needed another reason to shoot people talking on a cellphone while driving.

Safety Neal invades Hell

WWWD: What would Washington Do (about Iraq)?

I recently stumbled across Intel Dump, Phillip Carter's blog. Mr. Carter is a former JAG officer who served in Iraq with the 101st Airborne, or Screaming Eagles and brought to my attention a recent article about Iraq and how George Washington might react.

History professor Joseph Ellis writes in [the December 23rd, 2007 edition of the] Washington Post about "what George Washington would do" with respect to the mess in Mesopotamia. It's a fascinating question, because Washington served both an insurgent (as commander of the Continental Army during the American Revolution) and a counterinsurgent (as an officer fighting Native Americans and the French during the Seven Years War). In fact, he probably ranks as one of history's most successful insurgents ever. After noting that it's impossible to divine the dead president's policy preferences for Iraq because of the passage of time, Ellis goes on to accurately (in my opinion) assess the state of the matter today:
[The question] is not "What would George Washington do about Iraq?" Rather, it is "How are your own views of Iraq affected by your study of Washington's experience leading a rebellion against a British military occupation?" The answer on this score is pretty clear. Washington eventually realized — and it took him three years to have this epiphany — that the only way he could lose the Revolutionary War was to try to win it. The British army and navy could win all the major battles, and with a few exceptions they did; but they faced the intractable problem of trying to establish control over a vast continent whose population resented and resisted military occupation. As the old counterinsurgency mantra goes, Washington won by not losing, and the British lost by not winning. Our dilemma in Iraq is analogous to the British dilemma in North America — and is likely to yield the same outcome.
This is popularly [known] as the "counterinsurgent's dilemma," perhaps best written about by David Galula in his classic Counterinsurgency Warfare — Theory and Practice. Setting aside those insurgencies which ripen into open warfare, like Mao's famous three-phase model, the goal of the insurgent is not to "win" in any conventional sense. Rather, the goal is to "win" by not losing. Either the insurgent bleeds the counterinsurgent to the point where his will to fight is gone, or the insurgent wins politically by earning the support of the people and alienating the people from the counterinsurgent.|George Washington and the Counterinsurgent's Dilemma - Intel Dump|
I haven't read Counterinsurgency Warfare — Theory and Practice myself, but it sounds fascinating. If I get drafted in 2008, maybe I'll pick it up.

P.S. I love the blockquotes tag.

Deserted winter house

a deserted winter house, originally uploaded by Mc Morr.

Iowa's Opportunity

Professor Lawrence Lessig is best known for his work on internet governance, public policy and privacy law, but he's recently changed his powerful gaze upon the problem of corruption, so it is fitting that he singles out the problem of reforming the endemic corruption of our political system as the defining issue of this election.

It now looks like there's a very good chance that Iowa will do the American democracy more good tomorrow than any election has done in the last generation....a majority of the Democracts will be voting for a candidate that places fixing the corruption that is Washington at the very top of his agenda.

Both Edwards and Obama have made this their core message (Populist hero Edwards more than new generation Obama), and if the majority of Democrats in Iowa ratifying that message gets understood, we may see this election go a long way towards fixing the problem that I think is the single most important problem facing government today... The grotesqueness of the last 7 years perhaps leads the GOP to ignore the issue. The allegiance of the establishment Democratic candidate (HR Clinton) leaves an open field for the "less experienced" Obama and Edwards.

But in that charge ("less experience") lies all the promise of these two reform candidates.

If you were asking how best to reform a corrupt Police Department, would anyone think that someone experienced inside the department was likely to be an effective reformer? I'm not saying it's not possible: Someone living inside that corruption could finally boil over with revulsion at the system that they are living within. Precisely that revulsion is what many of us were looking for Clinton to demonstrate. But we got none of that. Instead, we got a full throated defense of lobbyists....

Edwards and Obama are different from Clinton in this respect at least. Both are single term Senators -- in it enough to be revolted by the system, both aching to force change upon it. I concede it may be hard for some to choose between them. I think it is a moment of celebration that the Dems have two with this ethic at their core. And while I would not criticize anyone who caucused for Senator Edwards, as I've already indicated, my pull for Obama comes not just from knowing him a bit personally, but also from the aching desire that we let, to borrow from JFK, the torch pass to a new generation. Imagine what America looks like from the outside when this mixed race American (a redundancy, to be sure), who opposed this horrible blunder of a war from the start, is sworn in as President. And imagine what America looks from the inside, when all those under 50 see a man who doesn't actually remember Woodstock defining for a generation those things worth remembering. |The great good that Iowa can do - Lessig Blog|
I totally agree with his sentiment. I would personally vote for Obama. I like Edwards and I think he's probably more electable in our racist society.

And I don't like anyone on the Republican side. Ick.


Better by far you should forget and smile than you should remember and be sad.

– Christina Rossetti


Oil hits $100 per barrel

I actually think this new level of oil pricing is probably a good thing. It will make renewable energy more cost effective and hopefully spur us to mend our carbon producing ways.

However, if it leads to more coal power plants, then runaway global warming seems a certainty.

The Wall Street Journal explains that oil futures have become far more volatile due to changes in how oil is traded, which makes it hard to use past prices as a benchmark against current volatility.

While finding oil in the ground has been getting harder, it became a lot easier to buy oil on paper. The New York Mercantile Exchange started round-the-clock electronic trading of its main crude benchmark in September 2006 and improved access to previously restricted energy trading markets. Financial institutions created new vehicles for making bets on the price of oil without having to manage futures holdings.

All of this has helped attract a flood of new money that has transformed oil trading. The oil markets were once dominated by physical traders—firms that needed to take delivery of the crude oil to run through refineries or trade with partners. Most of the new market entrants have no interest in ever taking delivery of a barrel of oil.

The new money came from hedge funds seeking profits in sharp oil-price moves, pension funds seeking diversification and a hedge against inflation, and Wall Street commodity desks helping financial investors make sophisticated bets and risking their own capital.

The number of oil-futures bets outstanding on Nymex has quintupled since 2001. Because oil has been rising at the same time, the dollars at stake in the main oil-futures benchmark, not including options, rose from roughly $7 billion in 2001 to more than $145 billion, calculates Ben Dell, energy analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co.

As this surge of money chased a slowly growing number of barrels, prices sprinted upwards. And there is little to indicate that the conditions created by these financial commodity traders will push prices down anytime soon. |The Road to $100 Oil – and Beyond -- WSJ|


March 28, 2006 - 17:14: Arrest, originally uploaded by Hugo*.

Pakistan and Bush's Strategic Myopia

The always informative Barnett Rubin makes several compelling points about the Bush administration exacerbation of the political crisis in Pakistan with its ham-handed attempts to orchestrate events in the Middle East.

[R]ecent events demonstrate even more clearly is that the Bush administration's policy of relying on a personal relationship with a megalomaniac manipulator like Musharraf to fight al-Qaida has strengthened that organization immeasurably and perhaps fatally damaged the U.S.'s ability to form the coalition it needs to isolate and destroy that organization.

Many, probably most or nearly all, Pakistanis don't see the "War on Terror" as struggle of "moderates" against "extremists." They see it as a slogan to legitimate the military's authoritarian control . Through the classic psychological mechanism of reducing cognitive dissonance, it is only a short jump from believing that the threat of al-Qaida is being manipulated to strengthen authoritarian rule, to believing that the threat of al-Qaida is a hoax perpetrated to strengthen authoritarian rule....

The current situation in Pakistan is a case in point. The Bush administration has decided that in the "Muslim world" a battle is going on between pro-American "moderates" and anti-American "extremists." According to them, the "Muslim world" has a two-party system organized around how Muslims feel about America. In Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf is a "pro-American moderate." Benazir Bhutto is a "pro-American moderate." Therefore it is only logical (and in U.S. interests!) for the U.S. to realign Pakistan politics so that the "moderates" work together against the "extremists."

This ignores a few problems. It is not just a random problem that the "pro-American moderate" institution headed by General Musharraf executed Benazir's father and held her for years in solitary confinement. Despite Musharraf's propagation of the PR slogan, "enlightened moderation," the institution that he headed, and which put him in power, supported the Taliban unstintingly for many years and failed to deliver any results against al-Qaida when it would really have counted....

The military allies with the U.S. because that is the only way to get the weapons and money for their national security project and to prevent the U.S. from aligning with India. It has nothing to do with "moderation." The "pro-American moderate" Pakistan military has used the "anti-American extremist" jihadis for its national security project.

|Pakistan's Power Puzzle - Informed Comment: Global Affairs|(emphasis added)
So, Barnett's analysis seems to be that Dubya has been suckered. Again.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Palm Trees

121. Beverly Hills, originally uploaded by JENNI-HUNLLEF.

Good omens for a new year: LA murder rate plummets to historic low

While I don't live in LA anymore, I was cheered to see that murders are down to their lowest since 1970!

[Los Angeles] is on track to end 2007 with the lowest homicide count since 1970, when L.A. had 1 million fewer residents. Public officials, police and academics give differing reasons for the drop in violence, but it's a phenomenon to be celebrated regardless of its cause....

New strategies from Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton have undoubtedly played a part in the reduction in street killings. They aren't a cure for the social ills that breed gangs -- poverty, drugs, discrimination, a breakdown in the nuclear family, disrespect for authority, media glorification of gangster culture -- and aren't sufficient in themselves to eliminate the problem. But they're part of the solution. Keep them coming. |LA Times|