Why the media reports on science so poorly
[Via Dave Farber's IP list.]
Electronic communications flood Congress
According to a recent report by the Congressional Management Foundation, Congress received four times more communications in 2004 than it did in 2005, with all of the increase emanating from Internet-based communications. During this decade, notwithstanding the exponential increase in communications, staffing levels at Congressional members' personal offices did not change. The number of communications received by Congress reached a phenomenal 200,388,993 in 2004....
[Not 200,388,992. Not 200,388,994. But exactly 200,388,993!]
In spite of the deluge of electronic communications, 79% of Congressional staff recognize that the Internet has made it easier for citizens to become involved in public policy, and 55% believe that the Internet has increased public understanding of the workings of the federal government. Furthermore, 48% believe that the Internet has made members of Congress more responsive to their constituents.
I admit to being a fairly prolific slacktivist. Every year I send dozens — if not over 100 — messages to government officials, mostly from sites and e-mails generated by the likes of ACLU's and Amnesty International's online action centers. Every time I send one unmodified, or even only slightly modified, I feel a little bit guilty about not writing the whole thing from scratch myself, because I know they look like mere form letters to staffs. Which is exactly what they are. But I console myself by saying that it's more effective than doing nothing.
I subscribe to a e-mail list called Politically Savvy Friends, which is irregularly published by Jon Delano, Political Analyst at Carnegie Mellon's H. John Heinz School of Public Policy. It focuses primarily on Pennsylvania politics, especially Western Pennsylvania. But it is very readable and always interesting.
On 2 June 2005 Mr Delano wrote, among other things, about the political battle in the U.S. Senate over the filibuster. As I told him when I wrote to obtain his permission to post these comments, "[Y]ou have provided what seems to me to be the only balanced and reasonable reporting I've heard, seen or read on the battle over the filibuster." I hope you agree, even though it is now a month and a half later.
Reprinted with permission.
One of my favorite weekly reads is The Straight Dope. The answer to one question this week really bowled me over:
Read the whole account here. Learning about a despicable incident like this leaves me feeling like being of Western European culture and descent is an ignominious lot, at best.
A hawk to admire
War forces us, or should force us, to ask hard questions of ourselves. As a military historian, a commentator on current events and the father of a young Army officer, these are mine.
So begins an opinion piece titled "A Hawk Questions Himself as His Son Goes to War" in last Sunday's Washington Post by Eliot Cohen. The first question he asks himself is, "If you had known then [when the Iraq war was launched in 2003] what you know now would you still have been in favor of it?" His answer is a hestitating yes, and he believes that Iraq will "become [something like] a state that makes room for the various confessions and communities that constitute it, that has reasonably open and free politics, and that chooses a path to a future that could inspire other changes in the Arab Middle East." I am not so optimistic.
Things are never as simple as most political arguments make them seem. The doubts Mr Cohen expresses lead me to assume that he is a reasonable and well-intentioned human being, and not your usual right-wing pundit.
The Bush Administration did itself a disservice by resting much of its case for war on Iraq's actual possession of weapons of mass destruction. The true arguments for war reached deeper than that.
He lists some. I certainly agree with his conclusion that we failed with our policy towards Iraq in the preceding decade — "[it] fed the outrage of the jihadis with whom we are in a war that will last a generation or more" — and towards the Middle East for much longer than that — "relying on accommodating thugs and kleptocrats to maintain order...; it was the well-educated children of our client regimes who leveled the Twin Towers, after all."
He doesn't convince me that going to war was right. He does remind me, however, that we can't go back and change the fact that we did. While I am strongly tempted to advocate the immediate removal of all our troops and support as the only reasonable form of making amends for the sins of our past, I simply cannot bring myself to do so. I fear that pulling out would lead to more death, more repression and more hatred than some other alternative. I'm not quite sure what that alternative is. The turnout for Iraq's elections last January demonstrated quite clearly that there is a huge contingent of support for a liberal, free and democratic Iraq. We must do what we can to that end.
Your son is an infantry officer, shipping out soon for Iraq. How do you feel about that?
This is Mr Cohen's last question for himself and his answer reveals bitterness and anger about the conduct of this war, a bitterness and anger that I fully share.
A variety of emotions wash over me as I reflect on our Iraq war: Disbelief at the length of time it took to call an insurgency by its name. Alarm at our continuing failure to promote at wartime speed the colonels and generals who have a talent for fighting it, while also failing to sweep aside those who do not. Incredulity at seeing decorations pinned on the chests and promotions on the shoulders of senior leaders -- both civilians and military -- who had the helm when things went badly wrong. Disdain for the general who thinks Job One is simply whacking the bad guys and who, ever conscious of public relations, cannot admit that American soldiers have tortured prisoners or, in panic, killed innocent civilians. Contempt for the ghoulish glee of some who think they were right in opposing the war, and for the blithe disregard of the bungles by some who think they were right in favoring it. A desire — barely controlled — to slap the highly educated fool who, having no soldier friends or family, once explained to me that mistakes happen in all wars, and that the casualties are not really all that high and that I really shouldn't get exercised about them.
I cannot argue with the substance of his conclusion. I do not share in his expectation of the outcome. I wish I had enough faith left that I did.
There is a lot of talk these days about shaky public support for the war. That is not really the issue. Nor should cheerleading, as opposed to truth-telling, be our leaders' chief concern. If we fail in Iraq — and I don't think we will — it won't be because the American people lack heart, but because leaders and institutions have failed. Rather than fretting about support at home, let them show themselves dedicated to waging and winning a strange kind of war and describing it as it is, candidly and in detail. Then the American people will give them all the support they need. The scholar in me is not surprised when our leaders blunder, although the pundit in me is dismayed when they do. What the father in me expects from our leaders is, simply, the truth — an end to happy talk and denials of error, and a seriousness equal to that of the men and women our country sends into the fight.
Sadly, the truth is the main thing that's been missing in the governance of this great nation since before I became old enough to vote. My mother says it began when Eisenhower lied during the U-2 incident of 1960. It was certainly in full swing by the time of the War on Vietnam and the Nixon presidency.
I'm not much into posting personal gripes, but it's taken till just a few minutes ago to get that last entry posted. That's 13 days! Apparently Blogger doesn't report publishing errors due to incorrect permissions any more. I put in a request for support within the first couple of days, after checking Blogger status and looking through known issues, but only got an automated response saying they can't answer every e-mail they get. Time to start thinking about using different posting software!
Freedom of speech vs. the FEC
The U.S. Federal Election Commission (FEC) has been court-ordered to extend some campaign finance and spending limits to Internet-based political activity. SiliconValley.com has a story, "Bloggers use mainstream methods to fight government regulation," about some fears this has generated among bloggers and what they are doing about it (via Michael Geist's Internet Law News):
Personally, I'm ambivalent. On the one hand, moneys play far too important a role in U.S. elections. The overwhelming amounts required to be competitive, for all practical purposes, rule out anyone like me from being able to run (not that I'd want to even if I had the money) without becoming beholden to so-called special interests1. But on the other hand, the idea of restricting the freedom to make political speech, which is a large part of what is done with all this money, is extremely abhorrent to me.
This is one of the reasons why I'm becoming more and more attracted to some kind of parliamentary system (PDF, via Steven Aftergood's Secrecy News). The feature of such a system that tends to reduce the influence of money is that the party (or coalition) in power can call elections anytime during the term of office (e.g. five years in the U.K.) and that those elections are generally held within 30 days of calling for them. Compared to current practice in the U.S., this would effectively limit the time of actual campaigning from about one year to about one month. How much influence can money have in one month? Probably still too much, but certainly less than it has now.
1special interest, n.: a group with money and political influence that has views contrary to one's own.
Justice undraped at Dept. of Justice
I have something good to say about U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez: he's allowed the Spirit of Justice and her companion, the Majesty of Justice, to come out from behind the curtains that former Attorney General John Ashcroft hid them behind. Here is the BBC story.
Hunting via Internet?!
I don't like guns, although I did do some target-shooting when I was in the Boy Scouts. I've never understood the appeal of hunting. Especially since as a teenager, I casually threw a rock at a bunny rabbit near Ted Trevarrow's house and — much to my amazement — hit it. It fell over, dead.
But really, hunting live captive animals over the Internet? It seems particularly bizarre, yet as reported by the St. Paul Pioneer Press (login using 'email@example.com/123456'), Wisconsin is apparently not by any means the first state to ban the practice (via Michael Geist's Internet Law News):
Silly me! I thought hunting was all about killing defenseless animals!
Federal Agency Collected Extensive Personal Data About Airline
A great example of how government cannot be trusted (quoted directly from Dave Farber's IP list, slightly edited).
Sailing to Mars
After 9/11, the U.S. government removed a large number of unclassified documents from public access. Here is one, An Encomium1 on Solar Sailing, written in 1973 about how one might sail to Mars in a spacecraft that requires no fuel. Access to this paper is "restricted to selected government agencies," according to the Los Alamos National Laboratory Research Library (at least so says Steven Aftergood in the recent issue of Secrecy News in which I found this). It's an interesting read in its own right, made more so by the fact that the Feds don't want you or me reading it, apparently (though I'll be darned if I can figure out why).
1 en•co•mi•um, n.: 1. Warm, glowing praise. 2. A formal expression of praise; a tribute.
Speaking of digital photography...
Early morning June 5, 2005 looking NE toward Lehigh Gap in Blue Mountain, N of Allentown, PA (AutoStitched from two separate photos)
Click on image to see full-size.
Digital photography copyright laws
The full article, with several examples, is actually much more interesting than this little quote.
An accounting of a "strategy for success?" At this point I'd be happy with an accounting of the criteria for success! How will we know when we've "won?" It seems to me that when any nation goes to war and asks its young people to be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, that they and all its people deserve to know what the objective is. They deserve to be able to make their own accounting of whether the government has met its stated objective and should bring the troops home.
And I ask the same about the so-called War on Terror. When will it be over? How will we know? This time there may be no troops to bring home, but there will certainly have been — there already has been — real damage done to our civil liberties that the government can no longer be justified in continuing, not even by this Administration. Either that, or we will see just how unjustified these sacrifices were all along and what liars we've put in office.
BTW, what if the criterion for success in the so-called War on Terror was simply no major terrorist attacks on the U.S. for four years?
I was unable to find anything else by googling (both the web and news) on this story, but if it's true — and there's no reason to think it's not — I'd sure like to know more. Some people will be put off by the strident tone of this particular telling, but I'm hoping it will get picked up by others.
Adults prohibited unless accompanied by children
Adults must be accompanied by children in certain sections of Evansville's public libraries.
I must say I was surprised by the number of hits I got when I googled for the phrase "Adults must be accompanied by children."
PATRIOT Act renewal
Several provisions in the PATRIOT Act are due to expire at the end of this year. Congress is considering extending these provisions and even adding some more. NPR recently had a good story on why that's Bad News©. To quote Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, "If the First Amendment means anything, it means that a State has no business telling a man, sitting alone in his own house, what books he may read or what films he may watch. Our whole constitutional heritage rebels at the thought of giving government the power to control men's minds" [via TrueMajority action alerts].
I generally find SPAM to be unamusing in the extreme. Nevertheless, there have been two or three things that have caught my attention recently. One is the admonition I get regularly these days:
The fact is that I do have an HTML-capable e-mail client; I've just got it configured to show me message bodies in plain-text, thus allowing me to see none of the advertising this spammer wants me read. Why on earth would he encourage me like this to stick with plain-text viewing? LOL!
Another is the first piece of SPAM I've ever saved. I did so because of the sender: the widow of the late Yassir Arafat.
And, finally, who is this guy John who keeps giving my e-mail address to everyone who claims to be calling to offer me too-good-to-be-true mortgage rates?
I'm the Guy They Called Deep Throat
My wife, Roslyn Taylor, is the editor of a new collection of articles (including several by her) entitled Healing Words: A Sampler of Wholeness Theology.
[Ten] articulate authors, many leaders in their fields, have contributed their thought-provoking perspectives to a book that will give you insights into how Swedenborgian Christianity contributes to the developing field of wholeness theology. You will read about living wholeness in three dimensions, spiritual practice, the paradoxical nature of being human, a revolutionary way for husbands and wives to relate, myth as a way to understand spiritual life, and much more.
I can't say much more as haven't yet finished reading it, though it is one of three books I've started.
It's been two years since my first post. Posts have become, obviously, few and far between. This is primarily due to everything at work being in the process of being re-planned over the last few weeks. Mostly a lot of good things seem to be happening and I am optimistic. I have also been asked to have a bigger hand in planning and implement what we are doing. I've basically become one of three project leaders — the first management responsibility I've been willing to take in over 15 years — and all of us will likely wind up with some overseas programmers working on our teams. The three of us are working well together, I think, and my new boss and I seem to be thinking along the same lines most of the time. I believe we have a narrow window of opportunity that provides a good chance of having a real impact on the part of the market we're aiming at.
Wish us luck!
I don't care much for seeing a long list of pet peeves in someone's blog. Or even a short list. But as you can see I'm not above posting one that really bugs me. And one regularly recurring and particularly annoying one is the way that the announcer saying that a particular radio show has been distributed by Public Radio International pronounces it, "Public Radio Innernational." At least one other person out here in blogland agrees.
New speculative market: book futures
In the software development business, we call such products vaporware, an extremely disparaging term [via the Plain English Campaign newsletter]:
It seems that some internet sites will stop at nothing when it comes to the hard sell. A recent programme on BBC Radio 4 revealed that the Amazon website had been found selling books that hadn't even been published. Although the site claimed that books would be available 'within 4-6 weeks', at prices they had somehow conjured from thin air, in some cases the books hadn't even been written! One author was delighted to see his second novel available for purchase at £18.99, especially since he still had the unfinished manuscript at home.
You don't have to be the government to chill free expression
I completely agree with the sentiments expressed by Dale McFeatters in today's Capitol Hill Blue:
Does the 6th Amendment still apply?
[NB: I actually wrote this Thursday afternoon but Blogger wouldn't let me post it. I'm very fortunate to have thought to make a copy before trying to post it at the time! Furthermore, I was unable to publish it until even later!!]
A Federal appeals court gave hope to the Bush administration today that it does not. In case you don't remember, here's what this Amendment to the US Constitution says:
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence [emphasis added].
The question is whether Salim Ahmed Hamdan, who was a driver for Osama bin Laden and who is being detained at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, has a right to be present when government prosecutors present classified evidence against him. His trial came to a halt last year when Judge James Robertson ruled that the procedures used by the military commission that is trying him were unlawful. The government today called Robertson's ruling "an extraordinary intrusion into the executive's power".
Hamdan's attorneys assert that "[t]he right to be present at all stages in criminal proceedings is fundamental, guaranteed by military law, common law, constitutional law and international law." I don't know about military law, common law or international law, but the Constitution, as amended, seems quite clear to me. I also emphasized the part about the location of the trial being determined by law. As best I can recall, Gitmo was chosen by executive fiat, not by law. Elsewhere the Constitution makes clear how the location should be determined:
... such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress may by Law have directed [emphasis added].
[via Capitol Hill Blue.]
I was interested to read "Dubya's secret tax hike" for two reasons. One was the title:
By President Bush's definition, allowing a tax cut to lapse is effectively a tax increase. Thus, by the president's definition, his administration, through inaction, is hitting the taxpayers with a large and fast-expanding tax increase.
The second reason was the tax referred to: the Alternative Minimum Tax. When I was self-employed as a software consultant and depreciating the minimum capital investments I had made — primarily a computer — I had to file Form 6251 (using the 8-page instructions). I never had to pay extra because of it, but I had to fill out the form anyway. It was extremely time-consuming and vexing.
The reason for my interest in AMT is explained by the rest of the Capitol Hill Blue story, excerpts of which follow:
Congress passed the AMT in a fit of political pique in 1969 to recover at least some taxes from 155 rich people who paid no taxes in 1966. The tax was never indexed, so as inflation and incomes grew, the AMT snared more and more people....
RIP, Fred Korematsu
He died last Wednesday at the age of 86. A true American patriot, Korematsu took his battle against the interment of Japanese-Americans during World War II to the Supreme Court, where he lost in a decision that was finally overturned in 1983.
He was arrested, convicted of violating the order [to report for transportation to remote camps] and sent to an internment camp in Utah. The Supreme Court upheld Mr. Korematsu's conviction in December 1944, agreeing with the government that it was justified by the need to combat sabotage and espionage.... Current legal scholars almost universally regard the ruling as one of the worst in the court's history....
Patriotism is supporting your country all the time and the government when it deserves it. — Mark Twain
First global circumnavigation
I knew, but neglected to post at the time, that Monday, 28 March, was the 416th anniversary of the first documented trip around the world by any human being. I remember learning in elementary school that Ferdinand Magellan was this human being. In fact, the Catholic Encyclopedia still says of him:
To be fair, the article ends by saying,
Magellan himself did not reach his goal, the Spice Islands; yet he had accomplished the most difficult part of his task. He had been the first to undertake the circumnavigation of the world, had carried out his project completely, and had thus achieved the most difficult nautical feat of all the centuries.
Even here there's enough to argue with.
He was... the first to lead an expedition for the purpose of circumnavigating the globe. Though Magellan himself died in the Philippines and never returned to Eurpose, 18 members of the crew and one ship of the fleet returned to Spain in 1522, having circumnavigated the globe.
But those 18 were not the first to circumnavigate the world. Magellan beat them to it; he died in Cebu (in the Philippines), well north and slightly west of the Spice Islands (in Indonesia), which he had visited from the West prior to his circumnavigational expedition. This East-West relationship can be clearly seen with this interactive map, if you know where Cebu and the Spice (or Banda) Islands are.
Magellan had masterminded and led the first true circumnavigation of the globe3...
I, however, like to think that a man best known as Enrique of Malacca (or "Henry the Black") was the first. His real name was Trapobana and he travelled with Magellan from the East to Spain and accompanied him on the circumnavigation expedition as a slave of and interpreter for Magellan's (although I'm not sure slave is the appropriate term for their relationship). I read a long but intriguing account of Trapobana that I highly recommend. It is anything but negative toward Magellan himself, though some of his crew don't come off so well. It is, not surprisingly, highly sympathetic toward Trapobana himself, as it was written in support of the thesis that this Malayan was the first to actually make it all the way around the world.
And, as I said, I like to think it's true.
Weapons of Mass Deception, redux
Steven Aftergood is the greatest. I can't recommend his Secrecy News highly enough. Two days ago, I posted his proposed questions for the WMD Commission. Today their report came out and Mr Aftergood reported on it. I must say that I have not read the report, but Mr Aftergood's comments sure have the ring of truth and fairness:
The Silberman-Robb Commission on WMD Intelligence released its massive report today, which featured blunt criticism of U.S. intelligence agencies and of nearly every aspect of the intelligence production cycle. A copy is posted here:
And that, my friends, is by far the most important fact, IMHO. And that fact's consequences have done nothing if not decrease the security of the United State and all its citizens, not to mention that of the so-called Western World and its inhabitants.
Date: Thu, 31 Mar 2005 16:22:43 -0500
For the last few days, I've heard more about Macintosh computers than I've heard in many years. It's a resurrected or reborn meme. It all started Sunday, when my daughter mentioned that she had gotten a Powerbook. "Why didn't you tell me they were so much easier to use?" she asked chidingly. (Here's a picture of her minutes before — or was it after? — our brief discussion. Can you tell I've acquired a new digital camera? LOL!)
Then Tuesday, a colleague at work and I were discussing the relative merits of PCs and Macs, the only one we knew of favoring the former being cost. He mentioned in passing that OS X was nothing more than FreeBSD, which I had not known (I can't believe I'm admitting this publicly).
In another conversation that same day, this same colleague suggested that I might enjoying reading some of Paul Graham, of whom I don't remember knowing anything previously. That night he sent me a link to Graham's web site. The next morning I pointed my web browser there, and the first thing I read was his latest essay: Return of the Mac. It was quite an intriguing read. Why am I going to all this trouble to replace various versions of Windows with various versions of Linux on my PCs, when Apple has already put FreeBSD on the Mac? Good question!
Then, the Mac exposure came late in the day, when I read Michael Geist's Internet Law News, which had two items about Macs. The first announced the halt of a virus writing competition for the Mac:
Plans to hold a $25,000 competition to write a virus designed to infect the Apple OS X have been scrapped after the company behind the scheme backed down over "legal problems" and complaints from Mac customers. Apple accessories company DVForge announced the competition after security company Symantec claimed OS X was likely to come under increasing attack as Apple's market share in the computer market grew [linked to the original article].
The second told of the Gartner Group warning about the Mac becoming a target for spyware and viruses:
Just a week after Symantec caused an uproar in the Mac community by warning that the OS X operating system was quickly becoming a target for hackers and viruses, Gartner has warned businesses reliant on the Mac to guard against "spyware infestations." Martin Reynolds, vice president of the research firm's Dataquest organization, said last week that although the number of Apple Computer systems used in businesses is relatively small, just one vulnerability exploit could cause trouble [again, linked to the original article].
I don't know what it all adds up to. Hell, I don't even know if I'm done hearing about Macs again for a while or if this is just a momentarily pause in a new blitz of information.
Alma Mater As Agent of Big Brother
The title of this article from the Washington Post is "Alma Mater As Big Brother" but I think the title above is more accurate, where Big Brother is the Usual Suspect (US). It's yet another good example of the inevitable mission creep whenever such information is gathered by government [via Dave Farber's IP list].
A proposal by the Education Department would force every college and university in America to report all their students' Social Security numbers and other information about each individual — including credits earned, degree plan, race and ethnicity, and grants and loans received — to a national databank. The government will record every student, regardless of whether he or she receives federal aid, in the databank.
I was wrong
I recently worked closely with a fine woman who advised me never to be afraid to say, "I don't know," "I need help" or "I was wrong." It was good advice, applicable far beyond our common arena.
In January, shortly before the Iraqi elections, under the title "Making Florida 2000 and Ohio 2004 look really good", I made this post, mocking the possibility of these elections being anything but a farce. This admission of having been wrong is almost exactly two months overdue.
Today is sunny and the temperature is predicted to go up to 62ºF. It finally feels like spring has arrived. A mere three weekends ago it snowed. I wasn't sure it was going to be the last snow of the winter, but now it appears to be so. I took a bunch of photos the next morning. This one's my favorite; click on the thumbnail to see a larger version. As you can see, the sun was warm enough to melt the little bit of snow that fell while the air was cold enough to prevent it from melting.
Weapons of Mass Deception
Impudent questions? I don't think so. On the whole, they are questions that deserve answers. The only one that doesn't, perhaps, is the last.
Violation of public trust
This story, from The Guardian, is an egregious example of such violations from the UK. Not because the "attorney general still believed invasion [of Iraq] was illegal less than two weeks before the troops went in." That's an opinion that changed, for whatever reason, good or ill. But because the British government deleted this allegation from a document being released under a Freedom of Information Act request.
The government yesterday tried to suppress evidence that the attorney general believed war against Iraq was illegal less than two weeks before British troops joined the US-led invasion of the country.
Cold fusion poised for a comeback?
If this list doesn't fire your imagination or if you don't immediately click on the link to read the article, you're nothing like me. I was familiar with only 3½ of these, not counting cold fusion, which I thought was ancient debunked history.
Federal court orders Bush Administration to charge Padilla with a crime or let him go
[via Capitol Hill Blue]
Corporate security? Or IQ test?
Image downloaded from Jeremy Wilson's site, to whom it presumably belongs [via Bruce Schneier's February CRYPTO-GRAM, where it's captioned: "A great photo that illustrates the "weakest link" principle"].
The War on Terror, according to the Bush Administration
A final couple of posts via More Junkmail from Bob (elided material comprises web links only):
Effects of Indian Ocean earthquake on the Earth
Homeland Security, according to the Bush Administration
Still another post from More Junkmail from Bob:
I've only got one photo link here; there are five more in Bob's Junkmail.
I haven't been able to login to Blogger to post entries since 10 February. I'm certainly not the most regular of posters, but when I want to post, I want to post NOW! Grrrrr!
The problem I've been having is perfectly described by one of the symptoms listed for Login Difficulties? on the Blogger Help page: Continual prompting to login. But none of the suggestions there, including those under Last Resorts, seemed to help. I was getting the same thing on different computers, with different operating systems, with different browsers.
Until today, when I discovered an entry from yesterday on the Blogger Status page:
As a result of new code pushed last week, a couple of bugs have been introduced which affect a small number of users.
How long a username qualifies as "long"? Mine in 9 characters. I don't consider that long. I'm still having the same trouble today using Firefox, but I am able to log in using Internet Explorer (Boooooo!). That's why I'm able to post this entry. The next thing I'll do is enable posting by e-mail.
In making this post, I learned that Blogger's spell check tool does not recognize 'Blogger' as a legitimate word. How strange is that?
Blogging Ethics survey
I was randomly selected to be asked (via e-mail) to take this survey. As advertised, it did require about 20 minutes. Before taking it, I checked out a couple of references to it on other's blogs, just to be sure I wasn't being somehow scammed. It sure doesn't seem like a scam; the questions are mildly interesting and I'll be interested to see the results. Anyone who wants to can take it, I think.
And a quick fix, which I implemented yesterday [via Dave Farber's IP list]:
$2.95 gets you anyone's criminal record
Open to anyone to investiage anyone, apparently. The verbiage says its for New York residents only, but they don't seem to be checking (dislaimer: I didn't try it). Look here [via Dave Farber's IP list].
Earth Observatory has some interesting data that seem, to me, to indicate rather strongly that things are heating up here on Earth. This image represents a portion of that data. The graph on the referenced page is the clincher. Of course the important question is, Why are temperatures rising? There's good evidence for a 100,000-year cycle of higher and lower temperatures (the latter being known as Ice Ages).
Here (from geocraft.com, as is the image below) is a graph of temperatures in the lower atmosphere over the last 400,000 years, as inferred from ice core samples from Antarctica. These are from a web page (to which the images link) that looks at the correlation of temperature and CO
OK, so the theory of greenhouse gases leading to higher global temperatures is just that — a theory, an unproven theory. The EPA's global warming site makes this point. But considering what the consequences might be if the theory is even partly correct, shouldn't we be doing much more than we are to reduce those gases?
Prescription drug sales over the Internet
Michael Geist himself has written an interesting article [Email 'firstname.lastname@example.org' and password 'mugsgame' will log you in] in the Toronto Star on the discussion over whether citizens of the U.S. should be able to order drugs from Canada over the internet.
Mr Geist then proceeds to discuss each of these claims, and concludes
Once again it seems the Bush Administration's dedication to the ideal of free markets is contravened by the apparent need of big business interests to set artificial constraints based on fallacious arguments in order to ensure the higher profits that come from diminished competition.
Music industry sues 83-year-old dead woman
Red vs blue? Or pragmatism vs utopianism?
I found this article from the Boston Globe much more interesting than any of the red state vs blue state analyses I've read recently. The pragmatist is John Kenneth Galbraith and the utopian is Milton Friedman. I'm not much of a student of economics, but I already knew something of both these gentlemen. I learned more about each from the article but its value is more in the thoughts it provoked about today's political climate [via Dave Farber's IP list].
Republicans nowadays count themselves the party of ideas. "Ideas matter," Ronald Reagan proclaimed a quarter-century ago — words that have since become a GOP shibboleth. But with his recent Inaugural and State of the Union addresses, President Bush reminded us that today's conservatives don't love just any kind of ideas, even conservative ones. Big ideas are better than small, and bold ideas — ideas meant to profoundly reshape world history in the name of high principle — are always preferable to cautious ones. Abandoning a once fiercely defended reputation for caution in the face of change, it seems today's proudly swaggering conservatives have adopted the revolutionary role that for 200 years they existed to defeat.
Unbelievably clueless over-reaction
Who owns National Weather Service data?
A prior question should perhaps be, "Who pays for National Weather Service data?" The answer is, not surprisingly, "U.S. taxpayers." A lot of NWS data is available on their Internet site. These are popular desinations for Internet users.
During the three months last fall when four hurricanes struck the South, weather service sites received nine billion hits — breaking a government record of six billion hits on NASA sites in the three months after the Mars rover landing last spring.
Last fall the government invited public comment on the NWS policy of making such information freely available. Support was "overwhelming." Shortly after the election, the NWS announced "it would officially embrace an open-information policy."
But some are not happy.
[T]he Commercial Weather Services Association, the industry's trade group, has complained that such sites violate an agreement from the pre-Internet era. By their argument, the taxpayers should continue to pay for all the weather balloons and monitoring stations — but should not be allowed to get the results directly from government sites.
This would be outrageous. I'm sorry to read that Senator Rick Santorum, who represents me — as well as others &mdash in Washington agrees with the trade group's position and will introduce legislation to allow commericial for-profit organizations to "continue providing meteorological infrastructure, forecasts and warnings, rather than providing services already effectively provided by the private sector. In other words, taking down those Web sites...."
This isolated item is discussed in the broader context of the Bush administration's impact on technology (taking a basically positive view, I might add) in an article from the New York Times entitled "Bush Didn't Invent the Internet, but Is He Good for Tech?" [via Dave Farber's IP list]
Taking advertisers at their word
Making Florida 2000 and Ohio 2004 look really good
Picture this: it's a week and a half till the election. Almost all the candidates are anonymous, there have been no debates and there is virtual no information about candidates' positions. Furthermore, you won't know where to go to vote until the last minute and you can't see a sample ballot. You can't drive to the polling place, assuming you find out where it is, because most vehicles are banned from the streets.
What a farce this is going to be!
Because 2005 is 21 years too late
That's the motto of the Students for an Orwellian Society. Their home page links to news stories under three categories
It would be très amusant if it weren't so frighteningly reality-based [via Dave Farber's IP list].
On a related note, Michael Geist has a column (email@example.com, password=thestar) in today's Toronto Star arguing that the World Trade Organization's intellectual property provisions are unfair to developing countries [via Geist's Internet Law News]. It contains the very interesting—at least to me—assertion that developed nations resisted legalizing pharmaceutical patents until their pharmaceutical industries were mature.
The one-sided nature of global intellectual property law is best illustrated by the legal protections granted to pharmaceutical products. Developed countries that are now home to pharmaceutical giants persistently resisted providing patents for pharmaceutical products until their industries were well developed ? France introduced pharmaceutical patents in 1960, Germany in 1968, Japan in 1976, Switzerland in 1977, and Italy and Sweden in 1978.