omg, government secrets not safe!

“I do think it’s true that the large contours of national and international policy are much harder to keep secret today,” said Steven Aftergood, who runs the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists. “It would not be possible to conduct a secret war in Cambodia, as took place in the Nixon administration.”NYT 2010/12/12

Indeed. That’s kind of the point.

one of jon stewart’s better moments

In a career of many many good moments of political commentary, surely one of the highlights of Jon Stewart’s career was the Wednesday March 4 episode of The Daily Show, which was almost entirely Jon Stewart doing commentary & interview about the financial situation.

I particularly loved his comment to Joe Nocera about CNBC’s “journalism” on Wall Street:

How does a guy like Rick Santelli have the balls to get mad about this idea of giving homeowners a break, when this network, CNBC — how did they miss this entire story? They’re a financial news network , I mean, it’d be like the weather channel interviewing hurricane Katrina and saying, “You know there’s reports that you have high winds and flooding,” and Katrina’s like, “No no no I’m sunny,” and they’re like “alright,” and then they walk away. This is insane!

At around 17:30 in the video.

more linkblogging

why? because i keep seeing interesting things but don’t have enough time to get all discursive on ‘em.

in the realm of stupid, check out ASCAP’s contribution to the “let’s teach our kids the copyright corporations’ view of copyright” animated video wars: “Donny the Downloader“.

spam subject of the day: apocalyptic daze dinnerware. i like it because, (A), how cool is the idea of an “apocalyptic daze”. and (B), it’s a modifier for dinnerware! like a cool new pattern from noritake.

a natural history of copying

David Conniff on “Happy Days” in Times Select (sigh) writes about the human tendency to imitate and synchronize:

Mirroring the people around us is also a way we communicate affiliation and affinity. Two people in a friendly conversation often match each other’s body language down to the crossing of their ankles or the waggling of their feet. When it happens unconsciously, it feels good for both partners, as a way of saying, “I’m with you.” Studies suggest that we like a conversational partner more if the other person has subtly mimicked us. Mirroring gestures and movements also seems to help people work better together. They find a shared rhythm and gradually coalesce into a team, so the parts of a project get handed on seamlessly, as if by magic. One person starts a sentence and the other person finishes it. One comes up with a new product idea, and the other nudges it in a new direction.

Monkey see, monkey do. My friend and colleague Howard Besser often talks about how humans learn by copying: children, apprentices, writers, lawyers.

No wonder copyright law is in such a spasm.

Who doesn’t care about political hypocrisy

Joe Conason at Salon explains why the leaders of the religious right don’t care that Republican Christian nationalists are hypocrites, and predicts that they’ll be ba-a-ack:

The leaders of the religious right don’t care whether White House hacks love them or laugh at them, because they see themselves as the users, not the used. Winning power in the Republican Party represents the work of more than two decades for Robertson, Falwell, Dobson, their ultraright comrades and the new leaders, such as Tony Perkins and Rod Parsley, who will eventually succeed them. Their radical goal is an America under the dominion of men like themselves, and the Republican Party will continue to be the most plausible vehicle for their movement. They may lose ground this year — but they will most certainly be back with renewed determination in 2008.

portfolio diversification in your income

Firefighters who want to live in high-priced cities can work two jobs, said W. Michael Cox, chief economist for the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. “I think it’s great,” he said. “It gives you portfolio diversification in your income.”

[NYT 7/23] Words fail me. Actually, polite words fail me.

gayness

* Alas (a blog) has deemed Father’s Day “queer sex day” for very good reasons.

* Jon Stewart points out the obvious to Bill Bennett’s proffered state rationale for recognizing only male-female marriages:

Divorce doesn’t occur because 50% of marriages end in gayness.

* New York’s highest court (the confusingly named “Court of Appeals”) heard arguments in Hernandez v. Robles on Wed 5/31:

Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye said the court would have to decide the constitutional questions, ”whether we do it frontally or whether we do it in some more subversive way,” like changing language about gender.

To which Terence Kindlon, a lawyer for same-sex couples in Albany, replied, ”Subversive is one of the words I’ve liked all my life, your honor.”

[NYT 6/1 ... oral arguments webcast]

ip in every-day language

In an article about the post-Brokeback cowboy fashion revival [NYT 2006/3/9], I noticed this paragraph:

When you unravel the history of cowboys and their clothes, the 150-year tug of war over who’s a cowboy and who’s a dude, as department-store cowboys are still derisively called, gets tangled. The Wild West may be the place where branding was born, but if the last 150 years have made anything clear, it is that no one has staked a clear copyright claim on cowboy style.

I’m not sure what it says about our culture that IP concepts are simultaneously so ubiquitous and so mangled.

jon stewart lambasts piracy

on the oscars, just now, jon stewart on movie piracy (i paraphrase):

Let’s face facts. It hasn’t been the best year for Hollywood.

The box office was was a little bit down and piracy continues to be a problem. If there is anyone out there involved in illegal movie piracy, don’t do it.

Take a good look at these people. These are the people you are stealing from.

Look at them! Face what you have done!

There are women here who can barely afford enough gown to cover their breasts.

Siva has a link to the video and also a better transcript (which I copied).

update

… he also made a crack about downloading music, later in the evening, introducing a musician:

Some of you won’t know who this is, but go upstairs to where your kid is illegally downloading music, and ask them, and they’ll tell you.

I wasn’t really focusing, so I may have missed more such moments. Have copyright issues come up at the Oscars before, I wonder? I’ve only seen the awards maybe 3 times out of the last 10 years or so. Have I been missing a huge goldmine of cultural references to the p2p filesharing wars?

not exactly tempted by faith or incomplete

Then-mere Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict) wrote in “Introduction to Christianity”, his “best-regarded book”:

“Just as the believer knows himself to be constantly threatened by unbelief, which he must experience as a constant temptation, so for the unbeliever, faith remains a temptation and a threat to his apparently permanently closed world,” he wrote. “In short, there is no escape from the dilemma of being a man.”

Unless you’re a woman, I guess, which is maybe why I escaped the temptations of faith.

More recently, as now-exalted-and-infallible Pope Benedict, he wrote:

While the biblical narrative does not speak of punishment, the idea is certainly present that man is somehow incomplete, driven by nature to seek in another the part that can make him whole, the idea that only in communion with the opposite sex can he become ‘complete.’

Fish without a bicycle, that’s me.

[nyt 1/29]

strange incentives

There’s just something strange about a system that gives a market more incentive to police pictures than pacemakers.

A good candidate for quote of the year, from Wendy Seltzer. [copyfight 12/29]

data mining & online information

Today is a beautifully misty day, perfect for leisurely procrastination from holiday tasks like installing back-up hard drives for the mom-in-law. (Well, “in-law” if we were in Mass.; everywhere else in the US, “mom-in-out-law”.) So naturally I found myself doing a little backlog reading of blogs that I don’t read every day, and was fortunate to see Lauren Weinstein’s post from early November, considering the privacy implications of online digital libraries.:

Our hero Aton (actually, “hero” isn’t really the right word) visits a planet that is basically the known galaxy’s central library. It has almost literally endless stacks of books collected over centuries, still kept (for now, but probably not much longer) for historical reasons, even though nearly all of their contents have long since been available via computers from anywhere in the galaxy.

When Aton shows up, one of the few librarians is very pleased to have a visitor — they’re few and far between — and offers to help Aton with some reference work in the stacks.

The librarian immediately and correctly deduces (in an offhand remark) that since Aton wants to use the stacks, he is probably looking for illicit information, given that all attempts to access “proscribed” data though the computers is automatically logged and reported, even though such information would not be accessible. But the stacks are far too vast to be selectively expunged.

[Discussing Piers Anthony's Chthon.] Watching all the news coming down the pike about Bush Admin. domestic surveillance, Lauren’s post seems particularly relevant.

Reader, I married fafblog.

It was the only thing to do, after such postings as:

There’s No “War” in “Warrant”1 (12/17):

So George Bush secretly authorized the NSA to spy on Americans without warrants or judicial oversight. Oh, it violates your civil liberties, oh, it illegally breaks the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, oh, that tape of you and your boyfriend having phone sex has been playing in the NSA break room for a month and a half. Well boo hoo hoo! Do you hear that sound, America? It is the world’s tiniest violin playing just for your civil liberties. You can hear it in excellent quality sound because it has been bugged by the NSA. …

“Oh but Giblets the president’s executive order is illegal” you say. That’s the kind of namby-pamby whining that would have the U.S. follow “international opinion” and “the Geneva conventions” and “U.S. law.”

Fafblog followed up on the no-FISA-needed Executive Order with The King of Freedom (12/23):

…How soon we forget the lessons of September 11th! Faced with a threat unlike any before, America can no longer afford its cumbersome system of unwieldy checks and balances. Instead it must nimbly respond to terror with a single, streamlined, omnipotent executive branch. Instead of waiting for critical domestic spying programs to pass through Congress, where bickering Senators can selfishly subject them to public scrutiny, an efficient White House can put them into practice so quickly the country doesn’t discover them for another four years.

All the usual suspects have begun ringing all the usual alarm bells, calling the president’s new powers unconstitutional or even dictatorial. This, of course, is absurd. There remain numerous checks on the president’s powers, such as God, who may override the president’s veto with a two-thirds vote, and the president himself, who may bring himself to justice should he find himself to have violated his oath of office. Nor have Congress and the courts been rendered powerless, as all three branches of government have vital roles to play: the executive branch to be the president, the legislative branch to support the president, and the judicial branch to tell the president he is constitutional….

Fafblog’s coverage of the war on terror is also must-read-blogging: (World Without a PATRIOT Act, 12/17):

So I’m browsin through my local library checkin out the latest developments in shelving technology when Osama bin Laden jumps outta the card catalogue an hijacks the reference section!

“Oh no!” says me. “Stop him before he misfiles that almanac!”
“Mwa-hahaha, you’re too late!” says the terrorist mastermind escapin into the periodicals. “Now nothing can stop me from researching the history of your hometown’s spicy marmalade festival!”
“He’s in the microfiche,” says the crusty ol librarian. “We’ll never catch im now!”

Oh John Ashcroft, where are you when we need you most!

And see The Central Front in the War on Facts (12/8):

The usual antiwar suspects have been up in arms for well over a week over the military’s planting of covert propaganda in Iraqi newspapers, caterwauling about the undermining of a fundamental tenet of Iraqi democracy. As always, their concerns are wildly misplaced. First, shouldn’t a pretend democracy have a pretend free press? Second, most of these pieces weren’t factually inaccurate, but mere “spin” – such as the article that spun an Iraqi general’s death under torture as death under not-torture. Third, propaganda is merely a weapon. America’s leaders would be foolhardy indeed to refuse a weapon in their arsenal, especially against an adverary as deadly as the truth.

While it may not be the ideal of journalism in a free society, is this planted, pro-military propaganda so different from the anti-military truthaganda published every day in the New York Times? While military propaganda shows a bias towards distortion, obfuscation, and outright lies in the service of the war effort, the baleful face of the Mainstream Media shows a clear bias towards reporting reality – and reality has always been America’s greatest enemy in Iraq.

And the ongoing coverage of the torture?-we-don’t-torture-but-we-need-to-be-able-to-torture-(even-though-we-don’t-torture) story was as good as it gets; most recently with Let a Thousand Bad Apples Bloom (12/17) (“Rest assured, from this day forth, the detainees tortured in American military prisons will only be tortured by accident or happenstance, or by dozens of rogue soldiers acting in simultaneously and of their own accord.”)

And on domestic issues, Fafblog also nailed it with Nature’s Harmonious Money Cycle” (12/8):

So you can’t afford to heat your house and somebody went and cut your Medicaid and food stamps. “Oh no!” you say burnin a spare child for warmth. “Whatever will I do.”

… and righteously chastised us all about dangerous support for the HPV vaccine (God Bless the Plague, 11/17):

God created death and disease to provide a divine disincentive against soul-sullying sin. Can America afford to innoculate its children, insure its poor, and make peace with its neighbors if it means not living in fear of an insane, invisible overseer in the sky who barks at his creation in a series of mad, contradictory myths? Absolutely not. God bless the plague!

In conclusion, I highly recommend daily conjugal visits with fafblog (the worlds only source for fafblog).

not fundamentalist hijackers after all

My friend badgerbag was hanging out & making pastry with various kids, including her own, when one of the kids started acting up. There followed this exchange:

Oh and at some point Moomin went, “Besides, Sophie… Jesus says you should be kind and love other people.” WHAAAAAT? I freaked out! What what what? I mean, okay, sure, but… attempted elaborate casualness not fooling anyone as I froze and hissed “oh how INteresting – who told you that?” It turns out that fundamentalist xtians have NOT hijacked my child’s mind but instead Rook had given a stab at explaining what xmas was about. Whew. (But wait, wait, I’m not ready to deal with this level of discussion….)

Chortle.

best commentary on right-wing frothing about Paul Mirecki

Love this quote on the right-wing frothing about Prof. Mirecki’s email [from The Panda's Thumb]:

[T]hey hate “Hate Crime” legislation, driven to rabid frothing at the mere mention of “politically correct” language. They are such fierce opponents (they say) of limits to free speech intended particularly to block racist speech; the term “PC” in the mouths of the far right is an epithet. …

However, … we see that a minor slight of the American religious right by an obscure professor has provoked an event of international outrage.

If you don’t already know about the Paul Mirecki Incident, this is the short summary: Mirecki, a University of Kansas professor of Religious Studies, designed a course on “intelligent design as mythology” in response to the brouhaha about intelligent design “theory” in Kansas primary schools. He then sent an email to a closed list, discussing the course, and including this opinionated line:

The fundies want it all taught in a science class, but this will be a nice slap in their big fat face by teaching it as a religious studies class under the category “mythology.”

and signing the email “Doing my part to piss of [sic] the religious right, Evil Dr. P.”

The religious right were indeed pissed off: Dr. Mirecki was physically assaulted shortly after this incident, and political and religious readers freaked out. (I previously quoted a Kansas State Senator whose response to the Incident was: “We have to set a standard that it’s not culturally acceptable to mock Christianity in America.”)

update 12/21: PZ Myers didn’t like the general commentary (or lack thereof) on Panda’s Thumb and points instead to evolve thought (more and more) and orcinus. Some quite pointed commentary on PT’s failure to strongly defend someone who wasn’t wholly politically correct on the topic of religion:

The Panda’s Thumb is a great resource for science and focused critiques of creationism, and everyone should keep reading it, but we should also be clear on what it is not. It is not ever going to address the root causes of creationism in our country: the virulent, pathological brands of fundamentalism that are growing in our midst. That would be…rude.

radical militant librarians

One internal F.B.I. message, sent in October 2003, criticized the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review at the Justice Department, which reviews and approves terrorist warrants, as regularly blocking requests from the F.B.I. to use a section of the antiterrorism law that gave the bureau broader authority to demand records from institutions like banks, Internet providers and libraries.

“While radical militant librarians kick us around, true terrorists benefit from OIPR’s failure to let us use the tools given to us,” read the e-mail message, which was sent by an unidentified F.B.I. official. “This should be an OIPR priority!!!”

[seen on Riba Rambles]

a few choice ID-related quotes

Eric Rothschild, representing the Kitzmiller plaintiffs, in Plaintiffs’ Response to Defendants’ Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law:

Defendants spend 898 paragraphs of proposed factual findings and 52 proposed legal conclusions avoiding the mountain of inconvenient evidence demonstrating that the Dover Area School Board’s change to the biology curriculum was done for religious reasons, and that intelligent design is inherently religious. At bottom, their defense depends on three unsustainable contentions: (1) It doesn’t matter that intelligent design’s designers describe their movement as a religious one. (2) It doesn’t matter what the Board members said about creationism or religion generally because intelligent design is not religious. And therefore (3) this Court should not base its decision in this case on the types of evidence that were dispositive in Edwards and McLean. But defendants’ position cannot be squared with either the evidence or the Supreme Court’s and the Third Circuit’s settled Establishment Clause jurisprudence. For the record is clear that intelligent design is a religious view; that defendants latched onto it because they wanted to impart that religious view to Dover’s ninth-graders; and that defendants succeeded in their goal. No reasonable observer could draw any other conclusions.

and — this is too good, I have to include it:

On the hotly contested issue whether board members who eventually voted for the change to the biology curriculum were discussing creationism at the June 2004 board meetings, defendants again suggest facts that can co-exist only in parallel universes. Defendants admit that William Buckingham discussed creationism at the June board meetings (Defs.’ FF 244, 267), but then insist that “one of the inaccuracies in the press reporting on board meetings was that the reporters were referring to ID as creationism.” Defs.’ FF 248. While arguments can exist in the alternative, facts cannot. Either the Board was promoting creationism at the June meetings (and the reporters described events correctly) or it was not. The evidence – and defendants’ admissions in paragraphs 244 and 267 – make clear which account is correct.

(Emphasis added. The referenced Defendants’ Factual Findings and other post-trial docs available online, courtesy NCSE.)

William Dembski, quoted by Panda’s Thumb (12/5):

As for your example, I’m not going to take the bait. You’re asking me to play a game: “Provide as much detail in terms of possible causal mechanisms for your ID position as I do for my Darwinian position.” ID is not a mechanistic theory, and it’s not ID’s task to match your pathetic level of detail in telling mechanistic stories. If ID is correct and an intelligence is responsible and indispensable for certain structures, then it makes no sense to try to ape your method of connecting the dots. True, there may be dots to be connected. But …

Paul Mirecki, quoted in God, Science, and the Kooky Kansans Who Love Them Both! (12/5):

You’ll often hear fundamentalists say, ‘Science is a religion, Darwin is the high priest, and you have to have faith to believe in evolution.’ This is just nonsense. I don’t believe in evolution. I accept the findings of scientists. There’s a big difference between the two.

Kansas State Sen. Karin Brownlee, R-Olathe, quoted in Lawrence Journal-World (11/24):

We have to set a standard that it’s not culturally acceptable to mock Christianity in America.

david leheny on dan brown

I don’t know how to sum up Dan Brown’s contributions to American literature any better than to say that the first “word” of praise on his website is “Unputdownable.”

Plus Harry Reid, David Brooks, and William Safire. Read the whole thing.

what global warming skeptics miss

Skeptics who use the uncertainties to justify delaying such actions forget that uncertainty cuts both ways, and things could be far worse than forecast.

Succinctly put. This in an NYT article about ‘the big thaw’: the shrinking Arctic ice coverage. Andrew C. Revkin, No Escape: Thaw Gains Momentum, NYT 2005/10/25

morning tea reading
  • The Rude Pundit tears it up on comparisons between the Clinton Whitewater-MonicaGate scandal, and the Bush-Cheney Fraudulently-Induced-Then-Bungled-Iraq-War-PlameGate scandal. [link from sideshow]

  • debate over intelligent design: the abstract factory points out that intelligent design advocates, like pretty much every other human being, work within a science-based framework when it really matters to them personally. [link from sideshow]

  • Fafblog: damn you grover norquist, for accepting money from the gays:

    Yes, as all right-thinking Gibletsians know, gays are not merely plotting to destroy the family. They are plotting to corrupt the global economy with mass monetary queerosity! Even now they are introducing creeping fruitism into our proudly heterosexual stock market and pansying up our once-butch interest rate! They even handle the same money we do, getting microscopic particles of gay all over our precious national currency! Did Abraham Lincoln just wink at Giblets from the five dollar bill? Get away from me, Honest Abe! Giblets doesn’t need your mincey forfathery leering and your log cabin jokes!