Tuesday, December 21

Tuesday, December 7

Glenn Greenwald is just killin’ it re: WikiLeaks.(as Will Wilkinson put it so well).
Public calls for assassination, prosecution of new sources, VP leaning on private citizens, distorted facts, US to Host World Press Freedom Day in 2011, it's a topsy-turvy world full of change I am too sad I can believe is happening... or is this the brave new world of Obushma we all new was here forever?

Wednesday, December 1

Love of Wikileaks, for restoring our distrust in our most important institutions...
The recent WikiLeaks release, for example, shows the low regard U.S. secretaries of state hold for international treaties that bar spying at the United Nations. Both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her predecessor, Condoleezza Rice, systematically and serially violated those treaties to gain an incremental upper hand. And they did it in writing! That Clinton now decries Julian Assange's truth-telling an "attack" on America but excuses her cavalier approach to treaty violation tells you all you need to know about U.S. diplomacy.

Meanwhile, Assange is wanted by Interpol...

Update/edit - nice summation on the media's response in general from Glenn Greenwald:

The WikiLeaks disclosure has revealed not only numerous government secrets, but also the driving mentality of major factions in our political and media class. Simply put, there are few countries in the world with citizenries and especially media outlets more devoted to serving, protecting and venerating government authorities than the U.S. Indeed, I don't quite recall any entity producing as much bipartisan contempt across the American political spectrum as WikiLeaks has: as usual, for authoritarian minds, those who expose secrets are far more hated than those in power who commit heinous acts using secrecy as their principal weapon...

Monday, November 22

Thursday, November 18

Things to think about as the most traveled holidays in the USA approach... Internet as bulwark of freedom...
First person encounter with the TSA - funny and scary narrative from Penn Gillette - jeez I am actually linking to a Drudge Report site - is this story anywhere else I can link to it?
Anyway stories like that seem to becoming more common since the rise of the nudie scanners and crotch grabbing.

Monday, November 15

Human dignity must be associated with the idea of the scamp and not with that of an obedient, disciplined and regimented soldier. ... The world, I believe, is far too serious, and being far too serious, it has a need of a wise and merry philosophy.
--Lin Yutang, The Importance of Living

Tuesday, November 9

A $335,000 purchase in the massively multi-player online role-playing game (MMORPG) 'Entropia Universe' has broken the record for largest-ever virtual property transaction.

Monday, November 8

The medically necessary preparations to host one are the best arguments against marathons being considered anything like a "healthy activity."

Tuesday, November 2

Secret deliberations, sealed court briefs. It's not a terrorism trial, it's the much older war without end we're still fighting.

Thursday, October 28

Admit it. You freaked out, or despaired, after one of the last two presidential elections, didn't you?
Maybe you joined a tea party in '09.
Maybe you thought about moving to Canada in '04.
You might be very worried, stressed out even, about the election next week.
Don't be.
Seriously, ask yourself how much has it mattered, these last two elections? Has your opinion of where this country is going swung wildly up or down? Does this match reality, or just your team affiliation?
Relax. That election day is less important than the candidates want us to believe is a good thing.

Wednesday, October 27

You see a barefoot young man join the fight. He pins the teacher against a wall and stands over him. The teacher raises his hands to shield his head, but it does not work. The barefoot man's right fist is tireless. He clocks the teacher six times before the camera turns away. Later you see the teacher's face covered in blood.
You see an older man fighting too. He is thick at the middle, balding, wearing khakis. He punches a woman while the barefoot man holds her arm. He assists in the thrashing of the teacher. You see his right hand whooshing through the air, connecting with flesh, and you look for his left hand but it is gone.
In its place is a metal hook.

Wednesday, October 13

Summary of common economic misconceptions among economics students. Examples:
When asked about profits as a percentage of sales the median student guessed 30% (actual rate, closer to 4%).
When asked about the inflation rate over the last year (survey was in 2009) the median student guessed 11%. Actual rate: much closer to 0%. Note, how important such misconceptions could be to policy.
When asked by how much has income per person in the United States changed since 1950 (after adjusting for inflation) the median student said an increase of 25%. Actual rate an increase of about 248%, thus the median student was off by a factor of 10.
Link to study and some comments here. Is there a study of politicians knowledge? as a group they didn't do so well on this test.

Tuesday, October 5

Follow-Up: Federal Prosecutors Rarely Sanctioned for Misconduct

Follow up post...
And more still prosecutor misconduct revealed.
"This latest study again confirms what we’ve seen in similar reviews: prosecutors are almost never sanctioned for misconduct, even egregious violations that lead to wrongful convictions."

Wednesday, September 29

You may have heard about a recent study showing some pretty low levels of religious knowledge among Americans (here's one reporting of it with some links).
It's entertaining and, pardon the pun, a little enlightening to see that "Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons perform better than other groups on the survey even after controlling for differing levels of education."
Are the religious just being rationally ignorant?
Perhaps people don't really believe their religions as much as believe in them.

Tuesday, September 28

Egregious Misconduct at the Department of Justice

USA Today has done some serious work on the under-reported phenomenon of federal prosecutor misconduct.
Radley Balko adds to the picture here.

Monday, September 27

“And it’s frustrating because he does know a lot. I know I’m right, but he is more articulate.”
Admitting your debating opponent is intelligent and more knowledgeable than yourself but refusing to change your opinions is the kind of small mindedness we should laugh about when it comes to things like sports, right? So we should mock that atitude when it's about "important things" I'd think.
Oh wait. Hmm. Yeah, ok, let’s close our ears and keep rooting for our chosen laundry… red teams – blue teams…
Quick roundup of signs you care more about showing loyalty than truth: #16 for example

Thursday, September 23

The California Beer & Beverage Distributors is spending money in the state to oppose a marijuana legalization proposition on the ballot in November, according to records filed with the California Secretary of State. The beer sellers are the first competitors of marijuana to officially enter the debate; backers of the initiative are closely watching liquor and wine dealers and the pharmaceutical industry to see if they enter the debate in the remaining weeks...

Public Safety First is largely funded by a different industry whose interests are threatened by the legalization of marijuana: law enforcement. Police forces are entitled to keep property seized as part of drug raids and the revenue stream that comes from waging the drug war has become a significant source of support for local law enforcement. Federal and state funding of the drug war is also a significant supplement to local forces' budgets.

Friday, September 17

Um yeah, England. Advertising Standards Authority in action.
Babysitting the babysitters.
Aa performance license for a shelf stocker. 
Licenses for pub dominoes...

Thursday, September 16

Backing off, apologizing, still not good enough for fanatics, finds out Draw Mohamed Day creator. Looks like she's going into hiding over proposing a day of expression which thousands participated in.
FBI Agent David Gomez:
“We understand the absolute seriousness of a threat from an Al Qaeda-inspired magazine and are attempting to do everything in our power to assist the individuals on that list to effectively protect themselves and change their behavior to make themselves less of a target,” Gomez said.
Man. Shouldn't they be doing everything they can so she doesn't have to change her behavior to avoid murderous wackos?

Wednesday, September 8

Quoth the IOZ:
I love this story. I love every single word of it.
Yep, me too.

Tuesday, September 7

There’s the 32 percent of Democrats who blame “the Jews” for the financial crisis. There’s the 25 percent of African-Americans who believe the AIDS virus was created in a government lab. There’s support for state secession, which may have been higher among liberals in the Bush era than among Republicans in the age of Obama. And there’s the theory that the Bush White House knew about 9/11 in advance, which a third of Democrats endorsed as recently as 2007.
So are we a nation of potential James Lees, teetering on the brink of paranoid violence?

Tuesday, August 31

It doesn't seem all that long ago that representatives of the newspaper industry would have recoiled from working with Congress to deny legal protection to anyone who leaked confidential or classified documents. Today, however, they seem happy to be doing so.

Thursday, August 19

Freedom of Information Act requests getting the political filter from DHS last year. Via Wikileaks.

Tuesday, August 17

Are you affluent, environmentally and socially conscious, North American, college-educated and white? Then 'Stuff White People Like' just might be for you.

Monday, August 16

"From this day on, the official language of San Marcos will be Swedish. Silence! In addition to that, all citizens will be required to change their underwear every half-hour. Underwear will be worn on the outside so we can check. Furthermore, all children under 16 years old are now... 16 years old!"

The "good" news from this study is that being genuinely nice and helpful is more correlated with advancement and gaining authority. The bad news is that the old cliche of power corrupting rings true even for those people who were nice in the beginning.

Friday, August 6

WikiLeaks To Be Carved Out Of Media-Shield Bill. Also pending: offending a Congressperson or military officer, disgracing national honor, to be removed from 1st amendment protections.

Thursday, August 5

"Many years ago, on this very spot, there was a beautiful city of fine houses and inviting spaces, and no one who lived here was ever in a hurry. The streets were full of wonderful things to see and people would often stop to look at them."

"Didn't they have any place to go?" asked Milo.

"To be sure," continued Alec; "but, as you know, the most important reason for going from one place to another is to see what's in between, and they took great pleasure in doing just that. Then one day someone discovered that if you walked as fast as possible and looked at nothing but your shoes you would arrive at your destination much more quickly. Soon everyone was doing it. They all rushed down the avenues and hurried along the boulevards seeing nothing of the wonders and beauties of their city as they went."

Milo remembered the many times he'd done the very same thing; and, as hard as he tried, there were even things on his own street that he couldn't remember.

"No one paid any attention to how things looked, and as they moved faster and faster everything grew uglier and dirtier, and as everything drew uglier and dirtier they moved faster and faster, and at last a very strange thing began to happen. Because nobody cared, the city slowly began to disappear. Day by day the buildings grew fainter and fainter, and the streets faded away, until at last it was entirely invisible. There was nothing to see at all."

"What did they do?" the Humbug inquired, suddenly taking an interest in things.

"Nothing at all," continued Alec. "They went right on living here just as they'd always done, in the houses they could no longer see and on the streets which had vanished, because nobody had noticed a thing. And that's the way they have lived to this very day."

From The Phantom Tollbooth.

Tuesday, July 13

I am far from comfortable in my understanding of the notion of a
'soul'. I'm not sure I'm convinced such a thing exists. Consciousness
apparently exists, but then again, what exactly constitutes
consciousness? If a human is conscious, is an ape? Is a dog? Is a
lobster? I can appreciate the desire to define 'soul' for practical
purposes, but I still get a bit stuck. Perhaps soul and consciousness
can be viewed as different aspects of the same thing--something called
'being'. Within complex organisms (humans), 'being' is a highly
intricate concept. Within simple organisms, this same 'being' still
exists, but at a much more rudimentary level.

Wednesday, June 30

Please excuse our silence--we had a few technical issues.

Thursday, April 29

Monday, April 26

Sharpen your pencils! May 20 is Draw Mohammed Day! In support of South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and artists/cartoonists everywhere! (via multiple sources).

Friday, April 23

One year into its promise of greater government transparency, the Obama administration is more often citing exceptions to the nation's open records law to withhold federal records even as the number of requests for information declines, according to a review by The Associated Press of agency audits about the Freedom of Information Act...

Major agencies cited the exemption at least 70,779 times during the 2009 budget year, up from 47,395 times during President George W. Bush's final full budget year, according to annual reports filed by federal agencies. Obama was president for nine months in the 2009 period...

The administration has stalled even over records about its own efforts to be more transparent. The AP is still waiting – after nearly three months – for records it requested about the White House's "Open Government Directive," rules it issued in December directing every agency to take immediate, specific steps to open their operations up to the public.

Blah blah...

Friday, April 9

Tea Party Jesus: Putting the words of conservative Christians into the mouth of Christ. (via Reddit)

Monday, March 22

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'

They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'

He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'

Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.
--Matthew 25:31-46. America, be proud of yourself today.
Just to help everyone keep their head on straight about health care reform: Some facts, and a bit of information about public opinion.

Thursday, March 18

Many social, educational and economic policies are the modern equivalent of Dr Spock’s advice that babies should sleep face down: well-meaning, authoritative – and wrong. No doubt it would be awkward to see the wisdom of experts punctured and the pet policies of politicians discredited on a regular basis. But if politicians really cared about those they represent, they would insist on more randomised trials and more systematic reviews of what works. Honest policy mistakes, quickly reversed, should embarrass nobody. As voters, we should demand more such mistakes.
Tim Harford (The Undercover Economist) on the lack of proper experimental attitudes in what are, essentially, government experiments.

Thursday, March 11

"The campaign finance amendment is the liberal equivalent of the flag-burning amendment once pushed by conservatives, which barely missed getting through Congress.

Both amendments responded to a Supreme Court decision that offended some people on a visceral level. Both were solutions to a problem that had yet to materialize in any significant way.

Both also represent an attempt to narrow the scope of a fundamental liberty. They would create a large, unsightly exception to the First Amendment."

Monday, March 8

Imagine if the George W. Bush administration, in its waning days, had introduced something called the Patriot II Act. To prevent terrorists and foreign agents from influencing American governments and political parties, the act would require political campaigns and other groups to report the names, addresses, and employers of their supporters to the federal government, which would enter the information into a database. The act would also give businesses access to this database, enabling them to make hiring decisions, credit determinations, and other choices based on political activity.

Thursday, March 4

Under his administration, candidate Barack Obama explained in 2007, America would abandon the "false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we provide." There would be "no more National Security Letters to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime" because "that is not who we are, and it is not what is necessary to defeat the terrorists."


Thursday, February 25

Administration proposes price controls on major component of economy… now I’m too young to remember the 70s but shouldn’t someone in the administration remember what happened the last time price controls were imposed on such a large portion of our economy? Shortages. Bad times.
How Nixonian of our POTUS.

And if you want to see more recent evidence of the wrongheadedness of this approach, try Chavez’s attempts at price controls in Venezuela.

Of course the government will only strike down “unreasonable” price hikes. No room for arbitrary power plays in that regulation. How many lawyers does it take to define unreasonable? How many you got? Maybe it’s a targeted stimulus to the legal profession…

Wednesday, February 24

Hypothetical: You and your family are spending the day in a national park. After a few miles of hiking, you decide it’s time for a lunch break. You eat, finish, and throw away your trash. Your son, however, isn’t so careful – he leaves behind a few leftover items from his meal. As you leave your picnic area, a park ranger asks if you or your family has left trash in the area. You tell him that you’ve cleaned up after yourself. You have just committed an arguable federal felony: False Statements to a Federal Official. Any false statement made to a government official – even when it is made in conversation and not under oath nor in writing – can leave a citizen vulnerable to a “false statement” charge.

Real Life Example.

Monday, February 8

"Imagine that as a young and desperately poor Mexican man, you had made the dangerous and illegal journey to California to work in the fields with other migrants. There, you performed stoop labor, picking lettuce and bell peppers and table grapes; what made such an existence bearable was the dream of a better life. You met a woman and had a child with her, and because that child was born in the U.S., he was made a citizen of this great country. He will lead a life entirely different from yours; he will be educated. Now that child is about to begin middle school in the American city whose name is synonymous with higher learning, as it is the home of one of the greatest universities in the world: Berkeley. On the first day of sixth grade, the boy walks though the imposing double doors of his new school, stows his backpack, and then heads out to the field, where he stoops under a hot sun and begins to pick lettuce."

Friday, February 5

"For the second budget in a row, President Obama has proposed to reduce the tax deductions on donations by the wealthy, making it about 10 percent more costly for them to give to charity -- and gaining the federal government about $300 billion in revenue over 10 years."

Tuesday, January 26

Over the past decade, federal "choice architects"—i.e., doctors and other experts acting for the government and making use of research on comparative effectiveness—have repeatedly identified "best practices," only to have them shown to be ineffective or even deleterious.

For example, Medicare specified that it was a "best practice" to tightly control blood sugar levels in critically ill patients in intensive care. That measure of quality was not only shown to be wrong but resulted in a higher likelihood of death when compared to measures allowing a more flexible treatment and higher blood sugar.

Getting into the nuts and bolts of health care reform at The New York Review of Books with someone who has experience with "best practice" development.

Monday, January 25

Following up on my last post… Glenn Greenwald has further analysis…

Meanwhile anti-corporate hysteria has invaded the ALCU.

Friday, January 22

“Lobbyists Get Potent Weapon in Campaign Finance Ruling” reads one of the headlines in today’s alarmist edition of the NY Times. Get a grip! Then get some analysis. The court simply said people can organize, pool their funds, and pay money to express their opinion in political matters.
Law prof argues that restrictions on “corporate” speech REDUCE political equality here.
And hey if “corporations” can have limitations slapped on their speech, why not media corporations?
Here might be the most efficient summation of the case: "Political documentary, banned, government."
Also, some members of Congress and the president have already began to express their intention to reinstate laws limiting what people (other than them) can say – in effect, solidifying their advantages of incumbency. Think about it - elected officials can pretty much summon press coverage whenever they want. Of course they want to limit ways their opponents can compete with them.
What part of “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech,” do these people not understand?

Tuesday, January 19

"This marriage of incompetence and craven opportunism is so much in the familiar spirit of the age that one must conclude that the age itself remains unchanged."
Will Wilkinson inveighs against trans-administrational abuse of crisitunitites.