Monday, March 31, 2008

Cold

White Out

It's been snowing all day here in Saint Paul and it just keeps coming down. They're predicting 5-8 inches of snow for the metro area. Not bad for the last day of March.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Old Skool

Lawyers and Suicide

I attended a fascinating presentation the other day on how to intervene with a suicidal person. The focus was on attorneys because attorneys (similar to doctors) have high rates of suicide. Substance abuse rates are also higher for these professions than society at large and the blame (at least partially) can be laid at the feet of too much stress.

The presenter claimed that untreated "overstress" is the leading cause of depression and untreated depression is the leading cause of suicide.

But even if someone is suicidal, if you talk to them frankly and break through their isolation, you've an excellent chance of preventing them from committing suicide.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Basra Blues

I love acronyms that contain profanity, so I am quite amused by a recent Intel Dump post titled: From SNAFU to FUBAR in Basra discussing the challenge for the US of handling Al Maliki's attack on Sadrists in Basra.

On the same topic, Global Guerrillas has a post discussing how the US is following an open source counter-insurgency model in Iraq, but the Basra offensive threatens to destroy the entire policy.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Second Life Sunrise

Email Addiction? Get real, grandpa!

In law, we have this fiction of the "reasonable man" who always drives the speed limit and never loses his temper.

Similarly, the field of psychiatry has this notion of "normal" that they use as a yardstick for determining mental illness, but this is a fiction as well. There is no "normal" person, we all have neuroses and baggage from our upbringing. Bonnie Burstow does a great job of explaining this in her Critique of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and the DSM.

So, when Sarah sent me this article which claims that excessive emails and text are a mental illness, I think these psychologists have forgotten that "normal" is a psychiatric fiction.

Being online all the time is just information-seeking behavior, even if it's a bit obsessive. Information is entertainment, socialization, professional development, and the basis of work these days.

The idea of normal constructed by some elderly psychiatrist is going to make any inhabitant of Second Life seem troubled and in need of intervention.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Tats

Who da Man?

Anyone who has seen me in all my pasty glory, knows that I am the whitest of white people. Stuff White People Like makes me think that I may be the whitest person alive.

I love coffee, I'm a lawyer with two graduate degrees, I believe that marijuana should be legalized, I regularly watch the Daily Show and the Wire, but most important -- I dig high performance clothing.

Yes, I am definitely white.

Fo shizzle.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Lost in Cyberspace


Disinterest, originally uploaded by amirjina.

Surveillance Arms Race

I've been discussing with Jason of the Bellman whether privacy will exist in the future. If I understand him correctly, Jason claims that we are approaching a 100% surveillance world and that privacy is dead.

Danah Boyd makes an interesting observation about privacy and teens on her blog.

There's an arms race going on: parental surveillance vs. technology to assert privacy. We aren't seeing the radical OMG technology ruins everything stage. We're seeing the next in line of a long progression. And it's just the beginning.

The arms race is heating up. As parents implement keyboard tracking, kids go to texting. How long until parents demand that companies send them transcripts of everything? What will come next? We are in the midst of the privacy wars and it's not so clean as "where's my privacy" vs. "kids these days are so public."

The very nature of publicity and privacy are getting disrupted. As kids work to be invisible to people who hold direct power over them (parents, teachers, etc.), they happily expose themselves to audiences of peers. And they expose themselves to corporations.

They know that the company can see everything they send through their servers/service, but who cares? Until these companies show clear allegiance with their parents, they're happy to assume that the companies are on their side and can do them no harm. |how youth find privacy in interstitial spaces - Apophenia|
Some of the commenters refer to this as layered privacy, which is an interesting term of art.

More snow

It's been snowing on and off for almost 48 hours. We only have 5-6 inches of snow on the ground at the moment. But this weekend the temperatures are expected to hover around 40 degrees Fahrenheit, so all that snow is going to turn into water. Best to pack some dry socks.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Homestead during Snow

March Snowstorm

We had a snowstorm today that dumped over four inches of new snow on Saint Paul. Almost all of the winter's snow had melted, but the entire place is now covered with the cleanest snow imaginable.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Tetris Bookshelf

Bookshelf Blog

Sarah sent me a link to the Bookshelf blog with the title librarian porn.

She's too clever by half.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

I'm with Stupid

The US should take responsibility for the mistakes of the neocons and accept more Iraqi immigrants, as Canada is doing.

Canada is to double the number of Iraqi refugees it permits to enter the country next year, according to immigration officials....

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that since the Iraq conflict began in 2003 more than two million Iraqis have fled violence in the country, mostly to Syria, Jordan and Egypt.

An additional 2.5 million have been displaced internally due to the violence, the organisation says. |Canada doubles Iraqi refugee quota - Al Jazeera|

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Spring time

Monday, March 17, 2008

White Power Today

An interesting post on the Wright-Obama tempest.

There are several ironies at work in conservative criticism of Wright. The first is that I have never heard so many conservatives express concern for black children in my entire life. Unmoved by decrepit, segregated schools, their parents working two or three jobs without guarantee of health care, and dismissive of their abuse at the hand of law enforcement officials, they are suddenly terrified that the Obama children will grow up hating white people....

I do believe that knowing what it is like to be dehumanized would be an asset to a president, who must make decisions that affect billions of people. That kind of experience is invaluable to a leader, but John McCain, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama all know what that is like in some form, so the conversation leads us nowhere, unless we want to talk about the lessons they have learned from those experiences....

Ultimately, I think that we need to be honest about how directly white entitlement has affected America, from slavery to westward expansion to Jim Crow, and how it affects us now, especially in foreign policy: where, when and how we choose to intervene in the affairs of other countries. |Can America Handle a Little Truth? - 10 Zen Monkeys|

Sunday, March 16, 2008

International Women's Day

Up with Women!

Sarah presented at the University of Minnesota's International Women's Day today and I went with her. We had a great day together and saw some interesting talks and booths.

I discovered the National Association of Court Monitoring Programs and Peace Coffee.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Holocaust Resources

In response to my last post, I was doing a bit of poking around the Internet.

A British academic has a nice page on Genocide and Mass Killings including the Holocaust, the Rape of Nanking, even the atomic bombs dropped by the US.

Here's some information on why what the Third Reich did was murder, not euthanasia.

During the Third Reich a minority of medical practitioners and public health officials in positions of authority, following an authorization decreed by Adolf Hitler in August 1939,directly implemented a policy of extermination respecting segments of the population who were diagnosed as suffering from severe mental and/or physical dysfunction. A much larger percentage of these groups were complicit directly or indirectly in the programme. Scholars habitually refer to this as the 'Euthanasia' programme, the term appearing with some regularity in the titles of academic treatises on this thrust of Nazi demographic policy. Two examples are Michael Burleigh's Death and Deliverance, subtitled 'Euthanasia' in Germany 1900-1945 (Cambridge University Press, 1994), and Dick de Mildt's more recent In the Name of the People... which carries the sub-subtitle The 'Euthanasia' and `Aktion Reinhard' Trial Cases (Martinus Nijhoff, 1996)

Although both Burleigh and Mildt necessarily refer to killings and extermination, the consistent use of the term 'euthanasia' in this context is somewhat misleading. The Chambers Dictionary includes in its definitions "the act or practice of putting painlessly to death, esp in cases of incurable suffering." The Shorter Oxford Dictionary refers to "a quiet and easy death," and the "action of inducing" the same. However, the "incurable suffering" that the underlying ideology that rationalised the killings referred to was not that of the patient-victims, but that of the policy originators, their willing bureaucratic assistants, and those who directly handled the victims, whether transporting them, channeling them into gas chambers, injecting them with morphine-scopolamine, or managing their slow and agonising starvation; an efficient synergy of those Lifton referred to as the "killing professionals" and the "professional killers". Their demise was not painless, quiet or easy. Many were not suffering from any mental or physical dysfunction aside from the physical consequences arising from having fallen into Nazi hands, as was the case with respect to those Poles and Russians who were exterminated in some of the same institutions used for eliminating those with mental or physical handicap. The dying rituals and procedures applied under the auspices of this "programme" were invariably identical to those that obtained in the extermination camps. The underlying objective was the same-the eradication of unwanted segments of the populace. In both instances no term other than murder is congruent with the circumstances. |"Life Unworthy of Life" and other Medical Killing Programmes|


Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial society in Jerusalem also has a basic bibliography available.

Undue Influence: MTV weighs into political fray

MTV is producing provocative ads as part of its Think program.

This first one claims a Holocaust of Palestinians and also makes one think about authoritarianism within the US.


This one is also quite explicit in its viewpoint against the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
I'd really like a citation to the Red Cross claim that statistics of the Holocaust were a "fabrication". Statistical methodology can always be critiqued, but to call it a complete fabrication... I think that would require intent and is damned strong, I'd like to see something to verify that claim.

I found this on the Red Cross website.

The Center will search the world over for information leading to the fates of loved ones missing since the Holocaust and World War II. Nearly every inquiry that is processed by the Center is forwarded to the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Arolsen, Germany which is the largest repository of original Nazi documents in the world. It contains an index of over 17 million names of victims and survivors—both Jewish and non-Jewish—of the Holocaust and World War II. The ITS is administered by the International Committee of the Red Cross. Before a request is sent to the ITS it is translated into German by a member of the Center's translation team. Many of these volunteers are Holocaust survivors themselves.
Hitler killed many groups besides Jews like gays, Catholics, Roma, Poles, Russians...

Trying to count the number of dead in a war, much less a pogrom, has to be as much art as science... which isn't to say it's pointless, just to say that it's an inexact science. The number might be wrong, but a complete fabrication? Those are fighting words to academics, luckily the academics being insulted are likely all dead or in retirement homes.

While these ads are powerful, they strike me as the visual equivalents of verbal "sound bites". Images provoke a visceral response unlike the more detached reaction from reading. This is also a problem with all TV news.

I've been reading up a bit on 527 organizations, named for section 527 of the Internal Revenue Code dealing with political campaigns, but these new organisms created by McCain-Feingold, such as the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and Move-On played a significant role in the last election, and both of them were fined for their actions by the FEC in 2006.

The wheels of bureaucracy turn slowly.

These ads remind me of the issue advocacy that 527's are designed to engage in, like the Sierra Club advocating for the environment, without tying their view to either candidate necessarily.

MTV is certainly entitled to its viewpoint.

Black Magic Man

Tax law is like black magic, arcane but powerful.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Welcome to the 1970's

Escalators injuring the Elderly

I just saw this article on the doubling of injury rates of older people by escalators over roughly 15 years of study.

Maybe I've watched too many broadcasts of Logan's Run, but if you're too old and decrepit to avoid injury on an escalator, maybe it's time to drink the hemlock.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Playing with Fire


Starttomelt, originally uploaded by myrtepeert.

Safety Propositions Simple Home Safety Items

Four must have items in the home from the Safety Blog.

Actually, I need to buy a CO detector myself, and I also need to do some radon testing because of its prevalence in my area.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Last line of defense


In case of zombies..., originally uploaded by Drunken Monkey.

The Right to Arm Bears

The Supreme Court will soon hear arguments challenging the District of Columbia's ban on pistols. Professor Laurence Tribe recently opined that the court should take a moderate view on the issue.

It is true that some liberal scholars like [myself, Prof. Laurence H. Tribe], having studied the text and history [of the Second Amendment] closely, have concluded, against our political instincts, that the Second Amendment protects more than a collective right to own and use guns in the service of state militias and national guard units. Opponents of the District's flat ban on handgun possession have cited my words to the court and in newspaper editorials in their support.

But nothing I have discovered or written supports an absolute right to possess the weapons of one's choice. The lower court's decision in this case -- the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals found the District's ban on concealable handguns in a densely populated area to be unconstitutional -- went overboard. Under any plausible standard of review, a legislature's choice to limit the citizenry to rifles, shotguns and other weapons less likely to augment urban violence need not, and should not, be viewed as an unconstitutional abridgment of the right of the people to keep or bear arms. |Sanity and the Second Amendment - WSJ|

Of course this leaves aside the question of whether a total ban on pistols is a good idea or has any impact given the differing laws in Virginia and Maryland.

I understand the frustration of citizens who live in the District and can carry pistols while on duty but cannot use them for home defense.

And those citizens should vote with their feet and move to Virginia or Maryland. Or Texas!

Via the Law Librarian Blog.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Old Man Winter


Baum mit Raureif, originally uploaded by ernst_raser.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Dark Oaths

Reading up on the current clusterfrag in Iraq, I ran across the counter-insuregency blog Abu Muqawama, whose main author apparently feels almost as strongly as I do about the treason of Douglas Feith.

If there is a more miserable character in Washington than Doug Feith, we don't want to know about him or her.

If this guy -- after playing a central role in the fiasco that was the Iraq War -- had just quietly retired to some horse farm in Maryland, Abu Muqawama would be a lot less angry and might even pity the guy.

Sometimes even really smart, well-intentioned people blunder into huge mistakes. But the way Feith feels the need to constantly prove that he was right -- about everything -- and how it was always someone else who was undermining his failsafe schemes ...

[W]ell, pathetic is the most charitable word that comes to mind. |From the Dept. of People Who Need to Go Away - Abu Muqawama|

Chocolate Fix

The Narcotics-Industrial Economy

The Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Antonio Maria Costa, recently wrote an editorial for the Guardian decrying the irresponsibility of entertainers such as Amy Winehouse who glorify drug abuse, making the point that drug trafficking is compromising the rule of law in West Africa now, as it had previously done to most of South and Central America.

The very first commenter (Billy Beaver) summed up my thoughts well:

If the commerce in these [narcotics] is causing trouble for the countries that grow or process them, or where they are transshipped, then we have the stupid 'war against drugs' to blame.

This futile, unending and unavailing effort on the part of the nanny states, ostensibly to protect us from our own inability to avoid nasty habits, keep drug prices unnecessarily high and thus invite criminal participation.

The vast numbers of police, armed forces personnel, judges and other assorted and otherwise useless civil servants feed the anti-drugs propaganda machine because they too have no wish to see their well-paid, cushy jobs disappear. (emphasis added)
I think the point that the war on drugs is an industry with entrenched special interest groups of its own is often lost in the midst of all the moralizing and sob stories that crop up in dealing with public policy towards recreational drugs.

It's as much an industry for the police as it is for the drug traffickers. And law enforcement constantly uses the drug war as a cudgel in public policy disputes to encroach on civil liberties.

Maybe I'm just cynical...

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Of all the Marbles in the Sky

Venom: Vehicle Less than Lethal Munition

Most less than lethal devices are designed for people (e.g. pepper spray & tasers)

The Venom launcher is a less than lethal area denial system designed to be mounted to buildings & vehicles. It resulted from efforts to address the bombing of the USS Cole according to Defense Review.

The Active Denial System has been demonstrated as a vehicle mounted system, but it could work for building defense as well.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

One Nation Under Medical Supervision

Dubious Honors: Britian leads EU in Crackheads

Opium and heroin from Afghanistan have been getting all the press, but the cocaine cartels have not been resting on their laurels.

According to the 127-page annual report from the UN's International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), governments need to make greater efforts to freeze traffickers' assets, improve access to drug treatment programmes and expand the range of non-custodial sentences available for convicted users.

The main findings were:

The emergence of new smuggling routes, in particular cocaine from South America being stockpiled and repackaged in west Africa before entering Europe.

Increased cultivation of coca bushes - from which cocaine is derived - in Peru and Bolivia as crop eradication programmes reduce production in Colombia.

A 17% increase in illicit opium poppy cultivation during 2007 in Afghanistan. The country now accounts for 93% of the global market in opiates.

Britain appears to have the worst crack cocaine problem in Europe. |Drug cartels running rampant, says UN - Guardian|

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

On the fluidity of Time

Never trust that the time on a remote server is the same as local time.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Birthdays

Tomorrow is my birthday and Sarah made me a video to celebrate.

Remembrance

Overheard

Walking home to her Upper East Side apartment, [on September 11, 2001] , overwhelmed and confused, [Susan Jacoby] stopped at a bar.

As she sipped her bloody mary, she quietly listened to two men, neatly dressed in suits. For a second she thought they were going to compare that day’s horrifying attack to the Japanese bombing in 1941 that blew America into World War II:

“This is just like Pearl Harbor,” one of the men said.

The other asked, “What is Pearl Harbor?”

“That was when the Vietnamese dropped bombs in a harbor, and it started the Vietnam War,” the first man replied.

|Dumb and Dumber: Are Americans Hostile to Knowledge? - New York Times|

Togetherness

The OnStar of Helmets

I'm a helmet geek, I own at least five of them, but they're all low tech helmets compared the Wireless Impact Guardian.

[A]n engineering student...has designed a safety helmet that could help save the lives of thousands of outdoor sports enthusiasts involved in accidents each year. His Wireless Impact Guardian, or WIG, which signals for help even when the wearer is unconscious, is a giant leap forward in helmet safety.

“The WIG will be activated when it is buckled on,” says Spencer. “If you fall and hit your head, the helmet will detect that and beep for a minute or so. If you don’t turn it off, WIG sends for help, either directly to 911 or to a third-party service that relays the emergency call to 911. Included with the message will be a GPS location giving your geographical coordinates so the emergency team knows precisely where you are.”

Nicknamed “The OnStar of Helmets,” Spencer’s WIG would be a boon for motorcyclists, bicyclists, ATV enthusiasts and others, especially those venturing into remote areas. There were 113,900 ATV injuries requiring emergency room treatment in 2002 and 76,000 motorcycle-related injuries in 2004. In many instances, victims had to wait a long time for emergency response crews to find them. |Student Designs Safety Helmet That Signals For Help In Case Of Accident - Science Daily|

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Diversions: Threadless T-Shirt Designs

Threadless strikes me as a competitor to CafePress, but more interactive. They desparately need a search feature, though.

They are strictly T-shirts at the moment, whereas CafePress allows you to create a range of products featuring your designs.