Away From Home

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Clearly I'm the only one who remembers how it really went down

I was sitting in my kitchen, spittin' Teddy Grahams all over the place, when my phone rang. The conversation went a little something like this:

Friend: "Hey, we just noticed that Sunday Night Baseball is in Baltimore tomorrow night, against the White Sox, and..."
Me [interrupting]: "Yes."

So yeah, I'm bragging again, but come on. It's Sunday Night Baseball!

Friday, July 29, 2005

I need a siesta

Last night I went with one of my housemates and a couple friends of mine to see Thievery Corporation live. It was at the 9:30 club, which is up by the U Street metro, on the Green line. I know there are a lot of stereotypes about the Green line, including many perpetuated by yours truly, and I was really hoping that this area would prove me wrong.

It didn't.

Now, it wasn't all that bad. It's not like the streets featured open warfare. It was just rather dreary, a little dirty, and some shops had boards on the windows.

We walked over to the 9:30, which looked on the outside like an old schoolhouse gym. You small-town Kansans know what I'm talking about. Inside though, it's well designed. The floor space is about 50'x75', with the stage at a short end. The entire floor was open (and for good reason, as we shall shortly see). Above that is a balcony, stretching around 3 walls (not over the stage, obviously).

A little about the show. These tickets went on sale 3-4 weeks ago. I saw a mention of it in the Express, and thought it'd be fun, so I talked with some friends and got tickets the day they went on sale. So did everyone else, apparently -- the show sold out in one day. So they added a second night -- and it sold out in a day. So they added a third night -- and it sold out too.

Thievery Corporation is way more popular than I had realized, especially around here, since they're from DC.

We took up places on the balcony, along the front rail. Quite a good vantage point. The show started with the two guys (Eric and Rob) that are Thievery Corporation by themselves on stage, mixing a short intro song.

Then the rest of the musicians joined them. It was quite a lineup:

Traditional drum set
Hand drum set
Bass guitar
Acoustic/electric guitar and sitar
Saxophone
Trumpet
Flute
Vocalists

All arranged around Rob and Eric, who manned the mixing and sampling decks. All told, a total of 17 musicians appeared on stage. 17!

By the start of the show, the place was completely full. Not cramped, just full. Full enough that as I looked down from the balcony, all I saw were heads and shoulders.

The set itself was very good, no thanks to the sound man. I'm not sure if they had their own sound man or if the venue supplied him, but it was mixed pretty poorly. The bass completely dominated (bass as in guitar, not bass as in clef), drowning out most of the mids and much of the highs. Regardless, it was still a good show. Good enough that we purposely missed the last Metro, in order to stay until the end.

And I think I have most of my hearing back by now. W00!

On the "Arabic Assassin"

I'm bumping this back to the top because the debate is quite interesting, and I want to give everyone a chance to join in.

---ORIGINAL POST---

From MSNBC:


'Arabic Assassin' loses baggage screener job
TSA fires Houston rapper who sings of rape, murder, mass attacks

HOUSTON - Bassam Khalaf was paid to help keep U.S. air travel safe as a baggage screener. His alter ego, the "Arabic Assassin," rapped about flying a plane into a building.

The Transportation Security Administration could not reconcile the two and fired him last week, saying his free speech rights as an aspiring rap singer did not extend to a right to check luggage at Houston Intercontinental Airport.

"I was one of the ones screening the bags thoroughly," Khalaf said Friday. "I wouldn't let a bomb get on a plane."

He also was the self-proclaimed Arabic Assassin, who didn't do songs about love but preferred to sing about killing, raping and blowing things up.

From one of his songs: "My name is Bassam, a one-man band, I came from sand, affiliated with the Taliban."


There are two ways to look at this story. Either this man was unjustly fired for exercising his free speech rights on his own personal time, or he was rightly fired because he was unworthy of the public's trust.

I contend that he was unjustly fired. I believe in meritocracy, where the important thing is how well you do your job. It doesn't matter who you know or where you went to school. If you're good at your job, you get to keep it, and possibly even get promoted. There is no indication that Khalaf ever made a mistake as a screener. Later in the article, the TSA even admits (albeit implicitly) that he was fired solely because of what he lawfully did on his free time, and not because he was a bad employee.

Khalaf did nothing illegal. People get fired all the time because they engage in criminal activity. This is not one of those situations.

At its core, this story is about differing opinions. The TSA fired Khalaf for the indefensible reason that it disagreed with Khalaf's ideas and expression.

Doesn't this fundamentally violate the core principle of freedom of speech?

The First Amendment protects your ability to express yourself against discrimination by the federal government (and also against state governments, through the 14th amendment). In other words, the First Amendment exists to protect against situations like this. The First Amendment is supposed to guarantee that the government cannot discriminate against you just because it doesn't like something you said. We cannot let this protection be eroded.

Remember, "If it can't be abused, it isn't freedom."

What do you think?

Disclaimer

General disclaimer:

Nothing I have written or will write in this blog should be considered an official position statement, endorsement, or true opinion from me or my employer. Everything written by me in this blog may or may not be my true opinion, and may or may not be simple argumentation and debate. Do not assume that just because I say it, I believe it.

Part of being an effective lawyer is being able to advocate for your client, whatever the client's wishes may be. One of the purposes of this blog is to help prepare me for that, by providing me with an outlet on which to practice my advocacy.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Frist refuses to fund troops, supports torture

This would be completely unbelievable if it weren't true:


Simply amazing. In the face of a series of amendments by Republican Senators McCain, Warner and Graham that would have instituted new rules against torture, as well as other Republican-backed attempts to strengthen veterans benefits and delay base closures until after the Iraq War, Bill Frist has simply pulled the entire $450 billion defense bill from the Senate floor. Funding the troops now won't be reconsidered until after the summer recess.


[Emphasis mine.]

So what did Frist decide to debate instead? A bill to shield gun manufacturers from lawsuits, on the absurd reasoning that it supports the troops:


And linking the bill to the war in Iraq, Frist said that Beretta, the manufacturer of pistols to U.S. forces in Iraq, warned that it may go bankrupt if the lawsuits are not stopped.

"These frivolous suits threaten a domestic industry that is critical to our national defense," Frist said. "Given the profusion of litigation, the Department of Defense faces the very real prospect of outsourcing sidearms for our soldiers to foreign manufacturers."


I'm trying to cut down on the "Republicans are flaming idiots" posts, but this is just too much. Is Frist really saying that ensuring that Beretta can continue to make guns is more important than ensuring that the Army can buy the freaking guns in the first place?

"Be happy, Private Smith, there are guns on the market! Too bad the Army can't afford to buy any, but at least they're there! Aren't they all shiny and pretty?"

This is an appalling example of the Bush Administration and its Congressional monkeys being absolutely scared to death of debate. By pulling this bill, they refused to even talk about whether veterans have sufficient benefits, whether the military needs those bases in order to win the war, and whether torture is a good thing. That's right, folks -- they wouldn't even allow debate on whether we should have rules against torture. That tells me that not only do they support torture, but they support it completely closed-mindedly.

The Republican Party supports: torture, corporate protectionism.
The Republican Party opposes: funding soldiers and veterans, open debate.

If the people in charge of this country really consider this to be "supporting our troops," then may God be with those poor soldiers, since the Republicans obviously aren't.

Topical Boondocks

In honor of the ongoing Arabic Assassin discussion, I now present to
you today's Boondocks:

http://images.ucomics.com/comics/bo/2005/bo050728.gif

Boondocks, by the way, is one of the best comics around.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Video games are good for you!

See, video games aren't bad after all:


Another key question: Of all the games that kids play, which ones require the most mental exertion? Parents can play this at home: Try a few rounds of Monopoly or Go Fish with your kids, and see who wins. I suspect most families will find that it's a relatively even match. Then sit down and try to play "Halo 2" with the kids. You'll be lucky if you survive 10 minutes.

The great secret of today's video games that has been lost in the moral panic over "Grand Theft Auto" is how difficult the games have become. That difficulty is not merely a question of hand-eye coordination; most of today's games force kids to learn complex rule systems, master challenging new interfaces, follow dozens of shifting
variables in real time and prioritize between multiple objectives.

In short, precisely the sorts of skills that they're going to need in the digital workplace of tomorrow.

Consider this one fascinating trend among teenagers: They're spending less time watching professional sports and more time simulating those sports on Xbox or PlayStation. Now, which activity challenges the mind more — sitting around rooting for the Packers, or managing an entire football franchise through a season of "Madden 2005": calling plays, setting lineups, trading players and negotiating contracts? Which challenges the mind more — zoning out to the lives of fictional characters on a televised soap opera, or actively managing the lives of dozens of virtual characters in a game such as "The Sims"?


There's much more to the article; make sure to read the whole thing.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

States I've been to

States I've now been to:



Click for full size.

Blog of the Discovery launch

Everyone has a blog these days -- even NASA Mission Control. Check it out for a play-by-play of preparing for this morning's launch:

http://www.nasa.gov/returntoflight/launch/launch-vlcc.html

Monday, July 25, 2005

New York Postmortem

At long last, here it is -- the much-anticipated Trip to NYC writeup! No apologies for length. Deal with it.

When it comes to getting to New York, there are essentially three choices: airplane ($$$), train ($$$), or bus ($). A round-trip bus ticket is $35, so obviously I chose that. One of my housemates has taken this bus several times and recommended it, so I was feeling pretty good about it. I showed up at the bus office, which turned out to be a standard Chinatown hole-in-the-wall. A bunch of people were milling about, with no real sense of structure, or even an obvious place to present my ticket. I asked another passenger about how the whole thing works, and she was able to explain it a little better, so I was somewhat reassured. The bus turned out to be a standard tour bus; no real surprises there. The trip itself was pretty smooth, too -- after we got out of DC. First imagine driving in DC at 5:00 pm. Then imagine doing it in a bus. It took 45 minutes just to get out of town.

We passed through Delaware, and it was all I could do not to call someone and say "Hi. I'm in Delaware." *hopes someone gets that joke*

About 4.5 hours later, I got my first view of the New York skyline, and gasped. It was dark by then, so everything was lit up. I'm not sure why or how, but somehow, it felt like I was coming home. The bus stopped at Penn Station, right in the middle of Midtown, on 7th Ave. People were everywhere, neon video screens hung from every building, and it was great. Looking up 7th Ave, I could see Times Square, about 7 blocks away. I met up with the others, and we headed for the hotel.

The hotel was in Newark. Fortunately it was by the airport, so the chances of getting shot were significantly diminished. A bit of geography: New York and Newark are right across the river from one another. It's all the same metropolitan area; in fact, both of New York's NFL teams play in New Jersey. I pictured this as being similar to DC and Arlington, which are separate cities, but part of the same metro area, and easy to get to.

Ha.

Yes, there are trains that go between the two. But while the New York subway is dependable, NJ Transit isn't. I can't begin to calculate the amount of time that we spent waiting on NJ trains over the weekend. Plus it's expensive -- when you figure in the cost of commuting, it would have cost about the same amount overall to just stay at a hotel in Manhattan. Learn from this.

Saturday we did tourist things, like go on a sightseeing tour and see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. I'm skimming over that, because Saturday evening was way more exciting -- we saw an actual Broadway show, The Producers.

So was it really all that different than the traveling shows that came to KSU, such as Cats and The Sound of Music? Yes. Everything about this musical was top-notch. The acting was entirely believable (I now believe that much if not most of America's acting talent is located on Broadway, not in Hollywood), and the production values were simply unbelievable. Dozens of set changes, all done in the span of a couple seconds; sets which were worthy of a TV show, and which were all fully functional, including lighted signs. The whole thing was incredible.

The show got finished around 11:00, and we found ourselves in Times Square, with no plans. Let me say that again: We were in Times Square, on a Saturday night, with absolutely no plans. Is there a better place in America to be than in Times Square on a Saturday night? If so, I haven't seen it. The group split up here, with Robbie and I staying there, and the rest going off to the Empire State Building. We walked around, stopping in at various places. Eventually we found ourselves watching the end of the Yankees game in a pro-Yankee bar. The Yanks were losing, so I was happy, but in the interest of not having my legs broken, I kept my mouth shut. Still, it was entertaining.

On Sunday was the Mets game, which represented the only frustrating part of the trip. Because we stayed in Newark, I wasn't going to have time to go back to the hotel before catching the bus back to DC, so I had to carry my garment bag with me (I pack light). Surely the Mets are reasonable people who care about making the fans happy, right?

Surely I am a fool.

To make a long story short, here's what happened:

Gate supervisor: "You can't bring that in here."
Me: *explaining situation*
Gate supervisor: "Go to the group sales office, they'll take care of you there."
. . . (*everyone else goes inside*)
Group sales: "You can't bring that in here."
Me: "The gate supervisor told me that you would take care of it."
Group sales: "We don't do that, have the supervisor come talk to me."
Me: *goes and fetches the supervisor, upsetting him noticeably*
Group sales: "We don't watch people's bags. Ever."
Me: *explaining situation*
Group sales: "Go talk to the front office."
. . .
Front office: "You can't bring that in here."
Me: *explaining situation*
Front office: "We can't watch it for you. It might be a bomb."
Me: "So search it."
Front office: "No, we are zero tolerance. Go get a refund."
. . .
Group sales: "Who said you could get a refund?"
Me: "The front office next door."
Group sales: *looks at me hard, then does it*

So, I didn't get to go in, although everyone else did. Diane offered to change places with me, but by that time I had already gotten the refund (so there were no more unused tickets), and frankly, I didn't want to patronize the Mets at that point anyway. Not a single person I encountered genuinely cared about my situation. For that matter, not a single person even pretended like they cared about making the fans happy. I now officially hate the Mets.

Instead, I went back downtown, and went shopping on Fifth Avenue. Best shopping in the country. I got some new shoes, so I felt somewhat better. Well, my feet didn't -- carrying a 25 pound garment bag for 19 blocks gets pretty tiring (guess I didn't pack light after all). After the game, we all met back up for another hour or so, before I caught the bus home.

All in all, it was a good trip. I want to go back. Soon.

War on Terror, Unix-style

The War On Terror, represented in Unix commands:


$ cd /middle_east
$ ls
Afghanistan Iraq Libya Saudi_Arabia UAE
Algeria Israel Morrocco Sudan Yemen
Bahrain Jordan Oman Syria
Egypt Kuwait Palestine Tunisia
Iran Lebanon Qatar Turkey
$ cd Afghanistan
$ ls
bin Taliban
$ rm Taliban
rm: Taliban is a directory
$ cd Taliban
$ ls
soldiers
$ rm soldiers
$ cd ..
$ rmdir Taliban
rmdir: directory "Taliban": Directory not empty
$ cd Taliban
$ ls -a
. .. .insurgents
$ chown -R USA .*
chown: .insurgents: Not owner
$ cd ..
$ su
Password: *******
# mv Taliban /tmp
# exit
$ ls
bin
$ cd bin
$ ls
laden
$ cd ..
$ rm -r bin/laden
bin/laden: No such file or directory
$ find / -name laden
$
$ su
Password: *******
# mv bin /tmp
# exit
$ pwd
/middle_east/Afghanistan
$ cd /opt/UN
$ ln -s /Bad_Guys/Al_Qaeda /middle_east/Iraq/.
ln: cannot create /middle_east/Iraq/Al_Qaeda: Permission denied
$ su
Password:*******
# ln -s /Bad_Guys/Al_Qaeda /middle_east/Iraq/.
# cd /middle_east/Iraq/Al_Qaeda
Al_Qaeda: does not exist
# rm /middle_east/Iraq/Al_Qaeda
# mkfile 100g /middle_east/Iraq/Al_Qaeda
mkfile: No space left on device
# rm /middle_east/Iraq/Al_Qaeda
# cd /opt/Coalition/Willing
# mkfile 1b /middle_east/Iraq/Al_Qaeda
# chown -R USA:Proof /middle_east/Iraq/Al_Qaeda
#exit
$ cd /middle_east/Iraq
$ ls
saddam
$ ls
saddam
$ ls
saddam
$ ls -a
. .. saddam
$ find / -name [Ww][Mm][Dd]
/Korea/North/wMd
$ wall Propaganda.txt
Broadcast Message from USA (pts/1) on USS_Abraham_Lincoln Th May 1st
Mission Accomplished!
$ rm saddam
saddam: No such file or directory
$ find / -name saddam
/var/opt/dictators/spiderhole/saddam
$ wall NewsWorthy.txt
Broadcast Message from USA (pts/1) on Time.Magazine Sat Dec 13
We Got Him!
$ mv /var/opt/dictators/spiderhole/saddam /opt/jail
$ cd /opt/USA
$ cp -Rp Democracy /middle_east/Iraq
$ cd /middle_east/Iraq/Democracy
$ ./install
Install Error: Install failed. See install_log for details.
$ more install_log
Installed failed!
Prerequisite packages missing
Conflicting package Wahhabism found in /midde_east/Saudi_Arabia
Packages Church and State must be installed separately
File System /PeakOil nearing capacity
Please read the install guide to properly plan your installation.
$


UPDATE: I present also if World War II were an online computer game!

I'm back!

I made it back safely from New York, but due to it being 1:00 am, I will delay writing the postmortem until tomorrow. I know you're all waiting with bated breath.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Sarah

So, tonight I talked to my roommate, Sarah. I found out that she's a twin, a lifegaurd, and also undecided in a major. She's from Great Bend, a big school, to me anyway. But, she seems nice so that's good.

ahhh Cards

Okay so lately I've been playing alot of cards because well...they are really fun. Tonight, I played of Rummy and Phase 10. Both are quite excellent games. I just re-learned Rummy recently. I don't know about you all but I've been playing for years and well if you don't play you should definately learn how.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Goin to New York

Tomorrow after work I'm going to... New York City! *cue appalled cowboys* A group of very good friends of mine are going, and wanted me to meet them there -- how could I say no?

Besides the normal touristy stuff, we're going to see The Producers on Saturday night, and a Mets game on Sunday afternoon.

I'm particularly eager to see The Producers, in part because I've never seen an actual Broadway show before, and in part because I want to see whether Broadway is really all that different than the traveling shows I got to see at K-State. I saw some very good shows, too -- for example, Cats, The Sound of Music, and Othello all came through during my senior year. Is Broadway really all that superior? I'm interested to know.

I'm also looking forward to it because we've set up an entire evening around it. We have reservations at Hurley's, a (hopefully) good steak and seafood restaurant before the show, and then when it gets out, we'll find ourselves on Broadway, only a few blocks from Times Square. Not a bad place to spend a Saturday night, I hear.

I've actually never been to New York at all before. I'm sad that I only get two days there; I'll barely be able to scratch the surface of everything there is to do.

That just means I'll have to go back!

Education as a barrier to progress

There's a big problem with the educational system in this country.

But before I address that premise, I need to set the stage. Globalization exists. It's a fact. Companies are outsourcing menial, thoughtless tasks to other countries and setting up offices and factories wherever they can get the cheapest labor.

In fact, this is nothing new. There was a time when American textile mills produced clothing. These days, I challenge you to count the number of items of clothing you own that were "Made in USA." You can count them on one hand, can't you? Do you even have any at all?

When it comes right down to it, it doesn't matter one bit who stands there and feeds the loom. There are no qualifications for that job. No thinking is required. So from the corporate perspective, one worker is just as good as another -- so the person willing to do it for the least amount of pay will get the work.

But now that all of this menial manufacturing work is now done in China, Thailand, or some other Eastern-hemisphere country, what has happened to America? Has America been ruined by the loss of an industry that was so established in society, that so many towns depended on for survival?

Of course not. The majority of people who would otherwise have accepted a job producing cheap T-shirts emblazoned with "I'm with stupid -->" logos are now employed elsewhere; many in better, more creative jobs.

This is the trend. As globalization increases, more and more of these "thoughtless" tasks are going to be outsourced. It's the natural evolution of the free market.

What's left for America? The jobs that will be left, the jobs that will not be outsourced, are the jobs requiring creativity and high expertise. It is no longer good enough to simply be able to produce something; you have to have creativity in order to bring something unique to the table. Similarly, having a higher level of expertise than overseas workers will ensure that your job stays here, because you can do the job better than an Asian worker can.

Here's where education fits in. The educational system has not fundamentally changed in decades, if not centuries. The current mainstream methods of teaching students were established when America had both menial and advanced jobs. Once the menial jobs are all offshored (and we're well on the way to that already), the level of intelligence required for the average job will necessarily be higher. In simpler terms, once all of the low-intelligence jobs are gone, only high-intelligence jobs will be left.

The educational system, so far, has not adapted to this. High school now is, for all intents and purposes, the same as high school 50 years ago. Of course some of the specific topics have changed -- every high school graduate knows that the Berlin Wall fell, while 50 years ago the Berlin Wall didn't even exist yet.

However, and this is my central point, the intelligence level of today's average high school graduate is not higher than the intelligence level of the class of 1955.

When only high-intelligence jobs are left, will America have smart enough people to fill them? Or will it be held back by its lack of education?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Do-Not-Call lists under attack?

EPIC warns that state do-not-call lists are under attack:


They're back. Or they might be, those pesky telemarketing calls, after nearly two years of peaceful, interruption-free dinners. That's the warning a consumer protection group is about to issue.

Legal wrangling threatens to disrupt that dinnertime quiet, according to the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which plans to present its concerns to the Federal Communications Commission later this month. Telemarketing groups are quietly mounting a campaign that would open the door to a floodgate of new calls, EPIC says, pointing to a series of requests filed with the FCC, essentially asking the agency to invalidate state laws regulating the practice.

Telemarketers deny they are trying to pry open the door to a wave of new calls. Industry representatives contend they simply want a single, national rule to follow.

. . .

A favorable ruling would open the door for a fresh round of telemarketing calls, EPIC says.

"The phone is going to start ringing off the hook," said EPIC's Chris Hoofnagle. "What we're talking about here is an exception that allows telemarketers to call people who are on the Do Not Call list."

. . .

But Bill Raney, a telecommunications lawyer who defends companies against Do Not Call lawsuits, said laws in places like Indiana and Florida are not preventing such calls in the 45 states where they are not banned. And consumers are not complaining about them, said Raney, who represents The Sports Authority, which has asked the FCC to
pre-empt Florida's law prohibiting computer-dialed calls.

"There is no evidence that (a favorable FCC ruling) will lead to large increases in telemarketing calls," he said.

Raney said telemarketing firms need a uniform standard to follow. Implementing rules from 50 different states is costly and unfair, he said. His law firm, Copilevitz & Canter, also represents the ad-hoc alliance which has appealed to the FCC for pre-emption. In that petition, the group describes complicated and varied state laws. In Louisiana, for example, telemarketing calls are illegal on Acadian Day and Huey P. Long day.

"A patchwork quilt is not a good idea," Raney said. "The FCC needs to say to the states, 'This is the standard with regard to national telemarketing calls.' "


Before I take a stance, I want to know -- what do you think? Should there be one single, unified standard? Or should states be free to develop their own rules?

Roberts on the issues

Some stands that Supreme Court nominee John Roberts has taken:


Some of John Roberts' stands on issues that come before the Supreme Court:

ABORTION: As a lawyer in the administration of President Bush's father, he helped write a Supreme Court brief that said, "We continue to believe that Roe (v. Wade) was wrongly decided and should be overruled."

RELIGION: Roberts unsuccessfully urged the Supreme Court to rule that public schools could sponsor prayer at graduation ceremonies. "We do not believe ... that graduation ceremonies pose a risk of coercion," said the brief Roberts helped to write on behalf of the first Bush administration.

ENVIRONMENT: As a judge, he was sympathetic to arguments that wildlife regulations were unconstitutional as applied to a California construction project. The government feared the project would hurt arroyo toads.

CRIMINAL MATTERS: His votes on the bench have been mixed. He ruled in favor of a man who challenged his sentence for fraud, then said police did not violate the constitutional rights of a 12-year-old girl who was arrested, handcuffed and detained for eating a single french fry inside a train station in Washington.

POLICE SEARCHES: Joined an appeals court ruling in 2004 that upheld police trunk searches, even if officers do not say they are looking for evidence of a crime.

MILITARY TRIBUNALS: Roberts was part of a unanimous decision last week that allowed the Pentagon to proceed with plans to use military tribunals to try terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay.


Again, I don't read too much into the provided stances on abortion and religion, because those positions were taken when Roberts was advocating for a client (when working for the Dept of Justice, the administration (and, by extension, the citizenry) is your client). His judicial votes are interesting, however.

Who is John Roberts Jr.?

As you better already know, Bush nominated John Roberts Jr. to fill Justice O'Connor's seat on the Supreme Court. (And if you didn't already know that, well, slap yourself with a trout. I'm too lazy to do it.)

The choice caught me by surprise. All the talk about nominating either a woman or a minority, and he picks a white male? Didn't see that one coming.

Looking into it a bit deeper, it became clear why Bush chose him. First, he comes from the Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, so he has judicial experience, but he's only been on the court for two years, so he doesn't have a long paper trail. In fact, he has an extremely spartan paper trail altogether. All that has been found so far is a brief he co-signed when he worked for the Department of Justice, stating that Roe v. Wade should be overturned. However, all briefs put out by DoJ mirror the administration's position (by necessity), and he worked under Reagan and Bush I. No surprise that each of those administrations opposed Roe. You can hardly say that Roberts' opinion is clear from this brief; in fact, I contend that it says absolutely nothing about his opinion, because they had to reach that conclusion.

Second, he is a fantastic lawyer. One of the highest honors that a person can receive right after law school is the opportunity to clerk on the Supreme Court. Roberts clerked for Justice Rehnquist, twice. One of the highest honors that a lawyer can receive is the opportunity to argue a case before the Supreme Court. Roberts argued 39 cases, and won 33 of them. Before his appointment to the DC Circuit, he was regarded by many as the top lawyer in Washington.

That said, it's also being contended (though without convincing evidence, as far as I've seen) that Roberts is a solid conservative. In fact, I've heard him described as "Ashcroft with a smile." Considering that Ashcroft was, well, a fruitcake, it'll be very interesting to hear Roberts' confirmation testimony.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

U.S. deporting honor students

The U.S. is now deporting honor students:


The federal officer standing over Yuliana Huicochea fired off a question that no one had asked the high school honor student before: What was her immigration status?

Huicochea knew that her parents had brought her to the United States when she was 4 years old. She experienced an all-American childhood in Phoenix, excelling in public schools, eating at IHOP, watching "Law and Order" and dreaming of becoming an attorney.

But in June 2002, when Huicochea was 17, she and some classmates had gone to a national science competition in Buffalo, N.Y. As a treat, their teachers took them to Niagara Falls on the Canadian border — where immigration officials caught up with them.

After nine hours of detention, Huicochea found out the answer to the agent's question. She and three of her classmates, who had come to the U.S. between ages 2 and 7, were illegal immigrants. The federal government sent them back to Phoenix for deportation hearings, which have dragged on for three years.

On Thursday, the four face what is expected to be their final hearing. Their lawyers will make a last-ditch effort to allow them to stay in what the young people consider their home country. If that does not succeed, Huicochea and her former classmates will have to sever their connections with friends and family and return to Mexico, a place they barely remember.

Even as deportation loomed, the four have tried to go on with their lives. One tore through Arizona State University in three years to make sure that he got his degree. Another has married and now has an 18-month-old son. A third wants a career in the U.S. military. Huicochea has been taking community college courses; she recently moved to the desert town where her father lives to spend as much time with him as possible.

Although the four for legal reasons will not publicly name their home country, the U.S. government has identified it as Mexico.

Huicochea, now 20, dreads that destination. She's heard of the crime and violence south of the border, and wonders how a single woman could survive there.

"It's terrifying that they might put you in a place where you have nowhere you can go," Huicochea said. "Why do I have to pay for decisions that I didn't make?"


The fact that this story exists proves that the current immigration is utterly failing. It needs to be fixed. Now.

And the most absurd part of the story:


The four talk warily about their parents, who have not been targeted by immigration officials. In high-immigration areas like Phoenix, federal officials typically spend most of their time pursuing convicted criminals and try not to break up families.


Anyone who thinks that it's logical to target the kids and not the parents is a fool. The kids didn't choose to come here; the parents did. Besides, if there was ever a situation where people deserved to fall through the cracks, it's these kids. They aren't criminals, they excelled in school. They are role models for other high schoolers, and the government wants to throw them out.

Society gets more absurd every day.

I heart baseball

Tonight I'm going to the Nats game, with a friend of mine. I haven't been to a game since my family was here -- I think I'm going through withdrawal.

Oh, and one of the directors at work just asked if I wanted to go to tomorrow's game with him. (My answer? Of course I do!)

It's great living in a big-league city. Is it a bad thing that I'm losing track of the number of games I've been to?

UPDATE: Nats win, 4-0!

Judicial groupthink

Groupthink happens everywhere, even in the judicial system:


Here at the University of Chicago, we have something called the Chicago Judges Project, by which we tabulate and analyze thousands of votes of judges on federal courts of appeals. One of our key findings thus far is this: In many controversial areas (eg, affirmative action, campaign finance, sex discrimination, disability discrimination, environmental regulation, and more), Republican appointees show especially conservative voting patterns when they're sitting on 3-judge panels that consist only of Republican appointees. So too for Democratic appointees: They're far more liberal, in their voting patterns, when sitting with two fellow Democratic appointees, than when sitting on a panel with at least one Republican appointee. In other words, Republican appointees look more conservative when they sit only with fellow Republican appointees, and Democratic appointees look more liberal when they sit only with fellow Democratic appointees.

This is real-world evidence, we think, of group polarization: the process by which like-minded people, engaged in deliberation with one another, typically end up thinking a more extreme version of what they thought before they started to talk. (So, for example, French people who distrust the US distrust the US even more after talking with one another.) Group polarization reflects a form of information aggregation, or at least opinion aggregation, that sometimes leads in unfortunate directions. It's a big contrast to the price system, Wikipedia, and open source software.



Regardless of whether or not this is a good thing (and I challenge any of you to cogently argue that it is), what do you think can be done about it (if anything)?

Having studied groupthink in my political science classes at KSU (thanks Dr. Pickering!), I'm not sure that we can stop the phenomenon, even on appeals courts. It's just too ingrained into human nature.

On the positive side, the system contains a check on the appeals courts: the Supreme Court. With its 9 members, there's much less of a chance that the Supreme Court will issue an extreme opinion, since there's almost always somebody willing to dissent. In fact, in order to get a unanimous Court, the opinion often has to be narrowed in scope (see, e.g., MGM v. Grokster).

That said, the depressing fact is that the Supreme Court only hears around 80 cases a year, out of the thousands of appealable cases. This means that the overwhelming majority of appeals court decisions are not reviewed, including the ones affected by groupthink.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Package deals?

Is this a recruiting violation?


It looks however you want it to look. That's the beautiful thing about Kansas coach Bill Self's recent hiring of Ronnie Chalmers, the father of a McDonald's All-American recruit who signed with Kansas.

If you want to see serendipity and good timing, a round peg slipping perfectly into a round hole, you'll see that.

After 6-foot-1 point guard Mario Chalmers signed with Kansas in November, Ronnie Chalmers says, he and his wife decided to relocate from Alaska to be with their son. That meant moving to Kansas and finding a new job. Mr. Chalmers was a longtime basketball man who had coached his son at Bartlett High in Anchorage, winning two state titles, and Self had an opening for a director of operations. He hired Mr. Chalmers. If you want, you can see that it makes perfect sense.

But if you want to see skullduggery and bad motives, an insincere hire slipped past much of college basketball, you'll see that instead.

Mr. Chalmers had coached just five years at Bartlett, and before that coached clubs in the Air Force -- not exactly the resume of a Kansas staff hire. His hiring was announced June 28, with the eyes of basketball on the 2005 NBA Draft. If Kansas was trying to sneak this past people, it worked. More than a week later, several college coaches at the Nike Camp were surprised to hear about Chalmers' new job. Upon hearing of the hire, one coach -- whose school was a finalist for Mario -- rolled his eyes.


Is this unique to KU? Nope -- K-State does it too:


That was June 28. Three days later, the state's other Big 12 school, Kansas State, announced a new hire of its own: KSU coach Jim Wooldridge had replaced Mike Miller, who had left for Eastern Illinois, with legendary Detroit high school coach Ben Kelso.

Kelso came from Detroit's Central High -- just like Kansas State's top-rated recruit, 6-6 Deilvez Yearby. Yearby had chosen Kansas State in May over Southern California, interesting in that USC also had a staff opening, and new USC coach Tim Floyd already has shown a proclivity for apparent package deals this spring by hiring the junior college coach of two USC recruits.


I wonder how ethical this all is.

Name that tune!

This mountain I must climb
Feels like a world upon my shoulders

DHS raises costs of driver's licenses

The Department of Homeland Security's proposed security measures will raise the cost of getting a driver's license:


In the name of homeland security, motorists are going to see costs skyrocket for driver's licenses and motor vehicle offices forced to operate like local branches of the FBI, the nation's governors warn.

The new federal law squeezed this spring into an $82 billion spending bill had Republican and Democrat governors fuming at their summer meeting here, and vowing to bring their complaints to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff at a Monday meeting.

"It's outrageous to pass this off on the states," said Republican Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, incoming chairman of the National Governors Association. "You're essentially asking the front-line clerks at the DMV to become an INS agent and a law enforcement agent."


This, to me, echoes the Brady Bill. The Brady Bill imposed a waiting-period and background checks for people who wish to purchase guns. However, the national background check system was not in place yet, and wouldn't be for several years, so the Bill said that until the national system is functional, states have to do the checks for them.

The Supreme Court struck that down as unconstitutional. It violates "dual sovereignty" -- the notion that power lies in both the federal and state governments. If the federal government can require states to enforce its laws, then we no longer have a limited federal government.

This is why we have the FBI and federal prosecutors, even though we already have state police and county prosecutors.

Further, if the federal government could enlist states to enforce its laws, it would be unaccountable for its actions. Think about it -- imagine that you're in line at the DMV (a state agency), and the DMV clerk tells you that you can't have a driver's license because your background check hasn't gone through yet. The federal government is requiring them to do the background checks, but who are you going to be upset with? Most people will blame the DMV, holding the state accountable for the federal law.

I think the Homeland Security driver's license mandates are unconstitutional, just like the temporary provisions of the Brady Bill.

New phone

So this weekend was kind of a rough one for me. I'm not going to talk about it publicly.

This morning I needed to get out of the house, so I walked over to the mall. While I was there, I stopped by the T-Mobile booth to look at their cell phones, since I had been thinking about replacing mine anyway. It turns out that if you have T-Mobile for over a year, they'll upgrade your phone for you at little or no cost. So I have a new phone now! I just hope it gets better reception than my other one did.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Apple pie

Okay so last night I got a birthday present from Emily and Heather, my loving sisters. and guess what I got...that's right "Dirty Dancing." Now I don't know about you guys but I love that movie. It's just great fun. I'm not really sure it's my very very very favorite but I'd say it's up there. What is your favorite movie? Discuss.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Today was supposed to be the best day of my life.

This moment, right now, was supposed to be the best moment of my life.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Roy Williams broke NCAA rules

More shocking news for the formerly clean-cut KU basketball program:


Roy Williams violated NCAA rules as basketball coach at Kansas by approving payments to graduating players and others who had used up their eligibility, the school said Friday.

After conducting an internal review, the school said Williams — now preparing for his third season at national champion North Carolina — approved payments made by three representatives of the university's "athletics interests."

The school said Dana Anderson, Joan Edwards and Bernard Morgan gave cash and clothing to graduating student athletes and other players who had exhausted their eligibility.


First Giddens gets thrown off the team for picking a fight, and now this? KU basketball used to be such a good program, too.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Rehnquist Not Retiring

This just in:


Chief Justice William Rehnquist announces he has no plans to step down, will serve as long as his health permits.


Good for him.

Science vs Morality

Something to think about:


The insertion of human stem cells into monkey brains runs a "real risk" of altering the animals' abilities in ways that might make them morally more like us, scientists said today.

A panel of 22 experts -- including primatologists, stem cell researchers, lawyers and philosophers -- debated the possible consequences of the technique for more than a year.

While the group agrees it is "unlikely that grafting human stem cells into the brains of non-human primates would alter the animals' abilities in morally relevant ways," the members "also felt strongly that the risk of doing so is real and too ethically important to ignore."

In the case of Alzheimer's research, for example, grafting human stem cells into a monkey brain would be designed to reinstate lost memory function, but "we cannot be certain that this will be the only functional result," the report concludes.

There was "considerable controversy" within the group, which disagreed on whether such experiements, some already underway, should proceed.


Should this research be allowed, in the name of science and the pursuit of knowledge? Or should we place limits on how much we allow ourselves to know, in the name of morality?

Borf captured!

Only a few of you will know what I'm talking about, but I'm going to post it anyway.

Borf got arrested yesterday:


The mysterious, ubiquitous and eminently destructive graffiti artist known as Borf was arrested yesterday after waging a months-long campaign that may have been intended to enlighten Washington, but mostly just confused us.

The man primarily responsible for Borf is, it turns out, an 18-year-old art student from Great Falls named John Tsombikos, according to D.C. police inspector Diane Groomes. He was arrested along with two other young men in the wee hours of yesterday morning after officers received a tip that graffiti artists were spray-painting at Seventh and V streets NW.


It turns out that he gave an interview to the Washington Post a few months ago. Click the link for the full story.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Name That Tune!

The boy could sing, knew how to move, everything.
Always wanting more, he'd leave you longing for.

"this post consists of nothing but milk and honey"

ok so yesterday I found out that I have been to over half the states now. yes I have been in 26 states. I think that's quite a lot considering I just turned 18 on Saturday. So, this weekend is the annual Solomon Festival. This consists a Friday night of a parade, some sort of entertainment on stage at the park, and a midnight swim. Then on Saturday, there is a pancake breakfast and various events set up in the park. Then that night is the street dance. This year I can go since I am now 18. Also, the band this year is Northcutt, whose lead singer is a relative of mine. So anyway, I think I'll go and see them perform.

Yeah, I know, there haven't been many personal posts lately. Don't feel too sad about that, though. The personal posts would have been just me whining anyway. And think about it -- it wouldn't be much fun for you if every time you pulled up the page, there was some depressing rant featured at the top.

I will talk about this, though: I finally got new sheets for my new bed. They're not cotton, either. They're made of modal, which is a fabric made from the beechwood tree. It's inexplicably soft, more absorbent than cotton, and stays cooler throughout the night. I recommend them. Go get some.

Could we have 3 retirements?

Interesting note from Professor Bainbridge:


I got an email today from a reliable source opining that Justice John Paul Stevens will retire this summer if, but only if, CJ Rehnquist steps down. The theory is that Stevens will be willing to let Bush fill his slot only if there are so many spots available that Bush will feel free and/or pressure to nominate at least one moderate. If true, my guess is that the three slots would go to: Alberto Gonzales, probably as Chief, since he's Bush's closest judicial friend and Bush seems so eager to appoint the first Hispanic; Edith Jones (or possibly Janice Rogers Brown) so that a woman replaces O'Connor; and Michael McConnell to make both business and social conservatives happy. Let's see Tradesports figure out a contract for that one!


Strangely enough, 3 appointments might actually run more smoothly than 1.

DHS does something right!

Good news out of the Department of Homeland Security:


Proclaiming the Homeland Security Department "open to change," Secretary Michael Chertoff on Wednesday announced plans to centralize his agency's terror analysis, put a higher priority on bioterrorism and step up detection systems in mass transit.

In welcome news to Washington-area commuters, the department also will lift a rule that forbade passengers from leaving their seats for 30 minutes before flying into or out of Reagan National Airport, Chertoff said in revealing the details of a sweeping overhaul of the 2-year-old agency founded in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.


Woo yay! That was always an irritating rule, even if it did make some sense. However, it doesn't seem like the rule accomplished anything more than a locked cockpit door would.

I for one am glad to see the rule go.

Warning labels on soft drinks

From Reuters:


A U.S. consumer group on Wednesday called for cigarette-style warnings on soft drinks to alert consumers that too much of the sugary beverages can make them fat and cause other health problems.

People who overindulge in soft drinks are also more likely to develop diabetes and have decaying teeth, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) said in a petition to the Food and Drug Administration.


I personally think this is absurd. If warning labels get stuck on soft drinks, where does it end? Water? Bread? If the CSPI's standard is really that "overindulging" or having "too much" pop causes health problems, then they should be seeking warning labels for every food and drink, even water.

Sounds to me like a think tank with too much time on its hands.

What do you think?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Cell phones + Cars = Danger, Will Robinson

A new study has found that people who use cell phones while driving are 4 times as likely to get into accidents involving a serious injury than people who are not using cell phones. While this may seem obvious, think about that stat -- that means that if you're driving down the road and come across an accident, there's an 80% chance that a cell phone was involved.

That's a pretty astounding number.

Many cities, including DC, have thought that forcing drivers to use hands-free devices will make things safer. In DC, it's illegal to use a cell phone without a hands-free device while driving.

This policy makes no sense.

Using a cell phone while driving isn't dangerous because you have to hold the phone. It's dangerous because it's distracting, and hands-free devices don't fix that.

In fact, the study was conducted in a city with such a law. According to one of the authors of the study:


"There was no safety benefit whatsoever from using a hands-free phone," said Anne McCartt, one of the authors of the study, which was published in the British Medical Journal and paid for by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

. . .

"Our findings indicate that laws that still allow drivers to use hands-free devices will not eliminate the crash risk of phone use," said McCartt. "In fact, to the extent that drivers perceive that hand-free phone use is safer, in some sense, these laws could have a detrimental effect if drivers increase their use of hands-free phone use."


(Full story here)

WH Press Corps does something right

Finally, the White House Press Corps starts asking the tough questions.

Read that; it's worth it, if only for the humor value of Scott McClellan getting bashed like a pinata.

Monday, July 11, 2005

The compassion of Fox News

For anyone who actually watches Fox News:

Clemens got passed over?

From Camden Chat:


Just saw on Cold Pizza that Mark Buehrle and Chris Carpenter will start the All-Star game. With Halladay out, Buehrle is the right choice. Carpenter on the other hand...

Chris Carpenter is really very good. He is tremendous in fact. In most years his numbers would warrant an All-Star start. But Roger Clemens is 7-3 with a 1.48 ERA. His road ERA is 0.20. 0.20. Read that again: 0.20. You wanna know who has scored off of Clemens on the road this year? Here's the entire list: Preston Wilson. He hit a solo home run off of him at Coors Field. So my God, it only kind of exists in the plane of reality.

I am not trying to slag Carpenter. But Clemens is unreal. And oh yeah, he's 42 freaking years old. His mid-life crisis consists of completely dominating major league hitters.

I hate to care about who starts the All-Star game because it doesn't really mean anything in the long run, but how it's possible to pick Carpenter over Clemens is mind-boggling.


Anyone care to explain to me how Clemens gets passed over with that stat? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

O'Connor for Chief?

An interesting thought regarding the Supreme Court:


O'Connor announced plans to leave the high court two weeks ago and speculation is swirling about the future of the 80-year-old Rehnquist, who has thyroid cancer.

Sen. Arlen Specter (news, bio, voting record), R-Pa., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said senators had discussed with O'Connor a scenario under which she might consider changing her mind if Rehnquist retired and Bush offered to make her chief justice.

"The response that I heard was that she said she was flattered, that she didn't say no," Specter, who was not among that group, said Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation." "I think it would be quite a capping to her career if she served for a time, maybe a year or so."


He's right, it would be quite a capping to her career. She would be the first female Chief in history, and she deserves it. Earlier this term, she became the first female to ever preside over the Supreme Court (Rehnquist was still out, and Stevens missed the session due to a delayed flight).

That said, I'm not sure that an interim appointment is such a good idea. Consider this: Think about how difficult it will be to confirm any appointee right now. Now think about how much more difficult it will be to confirm anyone in two years, when Bush has little power (due to lame-duck status), 1/3 of the Senators are either campaigning for re-election or are also lame ducks, and everyone is focused on the Presidential campaign.

If a Justice retires in two years, it will be nigh-impossible to get a replacement confirmed before the next Congress and President take over. Everyone will realize this, and therefore one of the biggest campaign issues will be "Who do you support for the Court?" No Justice or supporter of Supreme Court integrity and tradition wants that.

White House commits federal crime

Through all of their denials, it appears that the White House really did expose Valerie Plame:


For two years, a federal prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, has been investigating the leak of Plame's identity as an undercover CIA agent. The leak was first reported by columnist Robert Novak on July 14, 2003. Novak apparently made some arrangement with the prosecutor, but Fitzgerald continued to press other reporters for their sources, possibly to show a pattern (to prove intent) or to make a perjury case. (It is illegal to knowingly identify an undercover CIA officer.) Rove's words on the Plame case have always been carefully chosen. "I didn't know her name. I didn't leak her name," Rove told CNN last year when asked if he had anything to do with the Plame leak. Rove has never publicly acknowledged talking to any reporter about former ambassador Joseph Wilson and his wife. But last week, his lawyer, Robert Luskin, confirmed to NEWSWEEK that Rove did—and that Rove was the secret source who, at the request of both Cooper's lawyer and the prosecutor, gave Cooper permission to testify.

The controversy arose when Wilson wrote an op-ed column in The New York Times saying that he had been sent by the CIA in February 2002 to investigate charges that Iraq was trying to buy uranium from the African country of Niger. Wilson said he had found no evidence to support the claim. Wilson's column was an early attack on the evidence used by the Bush administration to justify going to war in Iraq. The White House wished to discredit Wilson and his attacks. The question for the prosecutor is whether someone in the administration, in an effort to undermine Wilson's credibility, intentionally revealed the covert identity of his wife.


[Emphasis added.]

Remember kids, exposing an undercover agent is a federal crime.

Journal failure

Remember the journal competition I did during Spring Break? (If you don't, well, just pretend that you do and move on.) The four journals made their selections last week, and called the winners over the weekend. Getting selected for a journal is fairly prestigious, and many law firms specifically look to hire people who are on a journal.

I didn't get a call.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

HAPPY BIRTHDAY ERIN!

Today is Erin's 18th birthday!

Everyone give her presents!

Back in the 21st Century

I have Internet at home again! I know you were all so worried...

UPDATE: It appears that I spoke too soon. In the last 24 hours, my internet has now been functional for a total of 20 minutes. Hopefully this time it's up for good, but I make no promises.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Why do terrorists hate missing white women?

I can't believe I'm actually linking The Huffington Post:


Why Do Terrorists Hate Missing White Women?
by Marty Kaplan

The blanket coverage of London terrorism is a terrible blow to Nancy Grace, Arubans, meteorologists, shark specialists, sexual predator experts, Tom Cruise, creationists, anti-sodomites and all other culture warriors and whackball fear-mongers who until now have owned the media. Just when watching the news was finally beginning to feel the way it did in the summer of 2001 -- terrifying, and yet inconsequential -- the media have forced us to go cold-turkey on crapola. One can only hope that this subsides soon. There will be much to say about Jennifer Garner's pregnancy. Journalistic integrity demands that it once again be given the attention it deserves.


As always, satire remains one of the highest forms of comedy, especially when it's insightful.

Where did the money go?

A fantastic story in the Guardian:


So, Mr Bremer, where did all the money go?

At the end of the Iraq war, vast sums of money were made available to the US-led provisional authorities, headed by Paul Bremer, to spend on rebuilding the country. By the time Bremer left the post eight months later, $8.8bn of that money had disappeared.


Are you kidding me? Almost NINE BILLION?

This is either staggering incompetence or unimaginable corruption. Either way, the blood is on the hands of the United States.

I'm Back!

Well it's been awhile, but I am back. We left Washington DC yesterday at 8:30 ish and arrived back home this morning at 11. It was quite a trip. Very eventful. I especially enjoyed the Orioles game (we won 4 to 0). Another highlight was the amazing fireworks we saw downtown DC. We also did things like go to the Ford theater, Gettysburg, and lots of monuments. Oh yeah and we helped them move. It was all quite fun.

Just remember....

Only liars and thieves eat grumblecakes;
Those people go to prison.

Amateur photographers

Interesting story about the rising role of amateur photographers:


Among the more striking photos appearing online after Thursday's coordinated London explosions was one of a double-decker bus, its front intact but its sides and top ripped open. The image, on the BBC's Web site, came not from a staff photographer but from an amateur who happened on the scene with a digital camera.

With inexpensive cameras everywhere, including increasingly in cell phones, we're seeing more searing images than ever of human drama. The chances of getting poignant amateur video, meanwhile, are improving radically.

Following Thursday's morning rush hour blasts on the bus and at three subway stations, amateurs snapped shots before professional journalists could get to the scene.

The BBC posted one reader-contributed image showing subway passengers being led through tunnels and another of smoke filling another photographer's subway car.

It also posted camera phone video including an 18-second clip of a passenger evacuating the subway. The image was dark and jerky but gave a sense of crisis.

"What you're doing is gathering material you never could have possibly got unless your reporter happened by chance to be caught up in this," said Vicky Taylor, interactivity editor for BBC News' Web sites.


This is a Very Good Thing.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Living on $1 a day

Next time you complain about not having enough money, think of this family:


At 8 a.m., after seeing her husband off to work and her children off to school, Selina Bonefesi puts on her entrepreneur's hat. Bonefesi has a small business making fritters -- fried cakes made of wheat, salt, sugar, and yeast.

She'll spend the morning mixing, waiting for the dough to rise, and frying, cranking out as many as 300 of the tasty treats and selling them from her home to passersby. By the end of the week, between her household chores and running her business, she'll have logged more hours than a Fortune 500 CEO.

But she'll only earn about $1 a day.


Sadly, this is not unusual in the world.

Government secrecy is out of control

Secrecy in the federal government is completely out of control:

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/03/politics/03secrecy.html

<blockquote>
Driven in part by fears of terrorism, government secrecy has reached a
historic high by several measures, with federal departments
classifying documents at the rate of 125 a minute as they create new
categories of semi-secrets bearing vague labels like "sensitive
security information."

A record 15.6 million documents were classified last year, nearly
double the number in 2001, according to the federal Information
Security Oversight Office. Meanwhile, the declassification process,
which made millions of historical documents available annually in the
1990's, has slowed to a relative crawl, from a high of 204 million
pages in 1997 to just 28 million pages last year.

The increasing secrecy - and its rising cost to taxpayers, estimated
by the office at $7.2 billion last year - is drawing protests from a
growing array of politicians and activists, including Republican
members of Congress, leaders of the independent commission that
studied the Sept. 11 attacks and even the top federal official who
oversees classification.

The acceleration of secrecy began after the 2001 attacks, as officials
sought to curtail access to information that might tip off Al Qaeda
about America's vulnerabilities. Such worries have not faded; just
this week the Department of Health and Human Services sought
unsuccessfully to prevent publication of a scientific paper about the
threat of a poisoned milk supply on the ground that it was "a road map
for terrorists."

But across the political spectrum there is concern that the hoarding
of information could backfire. Thomas H. Kean, chairman of the Sept.
11 commission and a former Republican governor of New Jersey, said the
failure to prevent the 2001 attacks was rooted not in leaks of
sensitive information but in the barriers to sharing information
between agencies and with the public.

"You'd just be amazed at the kind of information that's classified -
everyday information, things we all know from the newspaper," Mr. Kean
said. "We're better off with openness. The best ally we have in
protecting ourselves against terrorism is an informed public."

Mr. Kean said he could not legally disclose examples he discovered of
unnecessary classification. But others cite cases of what they call
secrecy running amok: the Central Intelligence Agency's court fight
this year to withhold its budgets from the 1950's and 60's; the
Defense Intelligence Agency's deletion of the fact that the Chilean
dictator Augusto Pinochet was interested in "fencing, boxing and
horseback riding"; and the Justice Department's insistence on blacking
out a four-line quotation of a published Supreme Court decision.
</blockquote>

The best way to protect America is not to cover up the problems, it's
to FIX THEM.

Openness is a necessary ingredient of our intended form of government:
"By the people, of the people, for the people." Of course there is
some information that needs to be secret, such as military battle
plans. But hiding the fact that a foreign leader is interested in
particular sports is just absurd and arbitrary.

In any other country of the world, a government that gets to determine
what information the public is allowed to know is called
"authoritarian," "undemocratic," or "communist." Here in America,
it's called "the Bush administration."

Suffrage for DC!

From the Christian Science Monitor:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/csm/20050706/cm_csm/evote;_ylt=AgJnLEujHBnKBnPudA1idA4HcggF;_ylu=X3oDMTBiMW04NW9mBHNlYwMlJVRPUCUl

<blockquote>
Put aside the image of Washington as the country's power center.
Instead, think about the people who actually live there.

Unlike US citizens in the 50 states, they have no vote in Congress.

This isn't exactly a hot-button issue for the 99.98 percent of the US
population outside the District of Columbia. But for Washington
(population 554,000), it's increasingly so. And as a matter of
democratic principle, it should be at least of some concern to the
rest of the US.

Last week saw the latest example of democratic principles trampled. In
a move opposed to the city's gun-safety law, the House voted to allow
residents to have in their homes shotguns, rifles, and select handguns
that are loaded and unlocked.

This directly contradicts the wishes of the mayor, city council, and
residents. But of course, Washingtonians have no say, because they
have no vote (although they do have one nonvoting representative).
</blockquote>

If you love democracy, you should support D.C. Suffrage.

Nominee ideologies

Are the ideological views of a Supreme Court nominee fair game?

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8476553/

<blockquote>
The White House and Senate Democrats headed toward a collision
yesterday over the role ideology should play in the selection of the
next Supreme Court justice, outlining a key conflict that could define
the nomination battle over a successor to Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

Karl Rove, President Bush's chief political architect, said precedents
from the most recent Supreme Court vacancies suggest that
opposition-party senators have a responsibility to back a president's
choice if they believe a nominee is qualified, even if they disagree
with the person's views. He also maintained that a strongly held
ideological stance would not amount to "extraordinary circumstances"
justifying a Democratic filibuster under a recent bipartisan Senate
deal.

But several Senate Democrats who co-authored that deal countered that
ideology is a legitimate line of inquiry and potentially a reason to
block a nomination. "In my mind, extraordinary circumstances would
include not only extraordinary personal behavior but also
extraordinary ideological positions," said Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman
(D-Conn.), a moderate the White House has been hoping to enlist to
give bipartisan backing to the nominee.
</blockquote>

What do you think? Should the ideology of a nominee have an effect on
their confirmation?

A problem with gravity?

A fantastic story from MSNBC:

http://msnbc.msn.com/id/6273955/

<blockquote>
Imagine the weight of a nagging suspicion that what held your world
together, a constant and consistent presence you had come to
understand and rely on, wasn't what it seemed. That's how scientists
feel when they ponder gravity these days.

For more than three centuries, the basics of gravity were pretty well
understood.

Newton described the force as depending on an object's mass. Though it
extends infinitely, gravity weakens with distance (specifically, by
the inverse square of the distance). Einstein built on these givens in
developing his theory of relativity.

Then more than a decade ago a researcher noticed something funny about
two Pioneer spacecraft that were streaming toward the edge of the
solar system. They weren't where they should have been.

Something was holding the probes back, according to calculations of
their paths, speed and how the gravity of all the objects in the solar
system — and even a tiny push provided by sunlight — ought to act on
them.

Now scientists have proposed a new mission to figure out what's up with gravity.
</blockquote>

Here's hoping it gets funded. It is immeasurably important that we as
a society continue to explore science and understand how the universe
works.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

M. Diddy -- Straight Outta da Hamptons, Yo

From the greatest-nicknames-ever department:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8473999/

<blockquote>
Martha Stewart says in a new interview that her nickname in prison was
M. Diddy, that house arrest is "hideous" and that her prosecution was
about bringing her down "to scare other people."
</blockquote>

NASA causes "moral sufferings"

Fresh off their smashing success with Deep Impact, NASA is being sued:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20050705/ap_on_fe_st/russia_comet_case

<blockquote>
MOSCOW - NASA's mission that sent a space probe smashing into a comet
raised more than cosmic dust — it also brought a lawsuit from a
Russian astrologer.

Marina Bai has sued the U.S. space agency, claiming the Deep Impact
probe that punched a crater into the comet Tempel 1 late Sunday "ruins
the natural balance of forces in the universe," the newspaper Izvestia
reported Tuesday. A Moscow court has postponed hearings on the case
until late July, the paper said.

Scientists say the crash did not significantly alter the comet's orbit
around the sun and said the experiment does not pose any danger to
Earth.

The probe's comet crash sent up a cloud of debris that scientists hope
to examine to learn how the solar system was formed.

Bai is seeking damages totaling $300 million — the approximate
equivalent of the mission's cost — for her "moral sufferings,"
Izvestia said, citing her lawyer Alexander Molokhov. She earlier told
the paper that the experiment would "deform her horoscope."

NASA representatives in Russia could not be reached for comment on the case.
</blockquote>

Who knew that people identified so much with giant iceballs?

Friday, July 01, 2005

My week

Well this week has been most awful, from getting ready to move, to my
afore-blogged UPS troubles (which only got resolved about a half hour
ago), to my getting thoroughly worked last night (which I'm still not
capable of rationally discussing).

In just a few hours, I'll be receiving a gaggle of visitors. That
should improve things.

O'Connor retires

And so it begins:

<blockquote>
Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman appointed to the Supreme
Court and a key swing vote on issues such as abortion and the death
penalty, said Friday she is retiring.

O'Connor, 75, said she will leave before the start of the court's next
term in October, or when the Senate confirms her successor. There was
no immediate word from the White House on who might be nominated to
replace O'Connor.

It's been 11 years since the last opening on the court, one of the
longest uninterrupted stretches in history. O'Connor's decision gives
Bush his first opportunity to appoint a justice.
</blockquote>

This is going to be an awful fight; a war of attrition. Any bets on
whether or not her replacement is confirmed before the start of the
next term?