Saturday, January 29, 2005

Community Crimes

In a likely to be unpublished letter to the editor of the Western Montana Missoulian, Orcinus argues the necessity for hate crimes legislation. Definitely something to refer friends to if the subject arises.

Take, for instance, the case of an elderly woman smothered in her sleep. If the perpetrator is her nephew eager to collect on his inheritance, then he is likely to face first-degree murder charges and a possible death penalty. If it is a begrieved husband carrying out the wishes of a dying Alzheimer's victim, then prosecutorial discretion comes into play. Which do you think is more worthy of a harsh sentence?

The principle responsible for the difference here is mens rea, or the state of mind of the accused. Mens rea involves both intent and motive. Harsher sentences traditionally have been assigned to crimes committed with intentions and motivations considered more harmful to society at large.

Now That Was A Real 'Culture War'

Overshadowed, perhaps, by reports of the Vice President turning up at the Auschwitz ceremonies dressed as if he were shoveling his driveway, this report on one of our delegates to the Ukraine's presidential inauguration went largely unremarked.

An official U.S. delegation sent to Ukraine’'s presidential inauguration last weekend included a Ukrainian-American [Kurapos] who has accused Jews of manipulating the Holocaust for their gain and playing an ‘inordinate role’ in the rise of Soviet communism.

Perhaps this column, in which Mr. Kuropas writes, "“Big money drives the Holocaust industry. To survive, the Holocaust industry is always searching for its next mark. Ukraine’s turn is just around the corner.”", is what garnered him his place on the delegation.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Bubble Fusion

The journal Physical Review E is set to report on the verification of a story originally published in Science in 2002 about a novel plasma containment method called Acoustic Cavitation.

The research team used a standing ultrasonic wave to help form and then implode the cavitation bubbles of deuterated acetone vapor. The oscillating sound waves caused the bubbles to expand and then violently collapse, creating strong compression shock waves around and inside the bubbles. Moving at about the speed of sound, the internal shock waves impacted at the center of the bubbles causing very high compression and accompanying temperatures of about 100 million Kelvin.

A Few Bad Apples, part 5

Or, "There's Room In The Basket For One More, Apparently.". The whimsically surnamed Michael Froomkin provides commentary upon as well as a link to the full text (.PDF) of the 'torture memo' currently insufficiently haunting Attorney General apparent Alberto Gonzales. Mr. Froomkin has been far, far ahead of the media curve on this issue - the post in question is dated June 14, 2004 - and his commentary is a must read.

Ultimately, the best legal commentary on this memo may belong to Professor Jay Leno:

According to the “New York Times”, last year White House lawyers concluded that President Bush could legally order interrogators to torture and even kill people in the interest of national security - so if that’s legal, what the hell are we charging Saddam Hussein with?

The Appearance of Impropriety, part 4

It seems Armstrong Williams was correct about not being the only one on the payroll. Shills numbers two and three have fallen out of their trees in short order.
A bit more about Shill Two here. Scroll down a bit to find the story.

A Few Bad Apples, part 4

Government documents on torture, FOIA'd out of obscurity by the ACLU. For those curious about what goes on during a 'detainee interview'. The Washington Post has picked up the story, now.

The ACLU filed a lawsuit in Oct. 7, 2003 under the Freedom of Information Act demanding the release of information about detainees held by the United States.

Below are more than 600 documents the government did not want the general public to read -- including an FBI memo (.PDF) stating that Defense Department interrogators impersonated FBI agents and used "torture techniques" against a detainee at Guantanamo.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The March of Freedom, part 1

Immediately after the invasion of Iraq, Iran was bandied about as a possible next stop on the freedom train. With plans now being laid to deal with this next imminent threat, and the armed forces's full strength committed to Iraq for the next two years, the only way to muster sufficient troop strength will be through a draft.
"Bush has asserted a right “to intervene in
the internal affairs of every nation on earth
and that is, quite simply, a recipe for endless war.
And war is the death of republics.”
- Pat Buchanan

Turning The Corner, part 5

According to a report by the Human Rights Watch, torture is still routine in occupied Iraq.
But one minor peon has been sent to the stockade, so everything must be improving.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Bush By The Numbers

Bush's first term, reflected in a few meaningful statistics.

Value of the Dollar
1/19/01: 1 Dollar = 1.06 Euros
1/19/05: 1 Dollar = 0.77 Euros

2000 budget surplus $236.4 billion
2004 budget deficit $412.6 billion
That's a shift of $649 billion and doesn't include the cost of the Iraq war.

Cost of the war in Iraq
$150.8 billion

American Casualties in Iraq
Deaths: 1,369
Wounded: 10,252

The Debt
End of 2000: $5.7 trillion
Today: $7.6 trillion
That's a 4 year increase of 33%.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

The Culture Wars, part 7

Overshadowing the dismissal of 26 translators - 20 Arabic and 6 Farsi speakers - from the military since 1998 for homosexuality, James Dobson and his group, Focus on the Family have been raising a media stink about the pervasive homosexual influence of SpongeBob SquarePants. It seems he and several other cartoon characters appear in a video released after 9/11 intended to tout multiculturalism - and what could be more gay?
From Media Matters:

Dobson based his assertion on a "pledge of tolerance" available on the website of the We Are Family Foundation, one of the groups that produced the video. The pledge originated at, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Before reading the pledge aloud on Hannity & Colmes, Dobson claimed that "the purpose [of the video] is to drive them [children] toward a pledge of tolerance" that "elementary schoolchildren are going to be asked to sign." In fact, according to the foundation's founder and website, neither the video nor the accompanying teacher's guide make reference to the pledge or to homosexuality.

The last week or so has seen a great deal of vicious infighting - as well as an ineffective spam campaign against MSNBC's Keith Olbermann - that has led to Dr. Dobson's frantically backpedaling in his monthly newsletter.
Dr. Dobson, meanwhile, has formed a fundie version of the Super Friends and written to Karl Rove threatening to sink the President's Social Security schemes if their views are not further pandered to. The President, of course, having gotten what he wanted out of Dr. Dobson and his friends, has broken with the GOP's platform to support civil unions, which is likely what brought this whole mess about in the first place.
Wide-eyed zealots are one thing, but this sort of nonsense from public policy makers is another thing entirely. Overshadowed by the Dobson v. Spongebob flap, pressure from the new education secretary has prompted PBS to refrain from distributing an episode of its children's program, 'Postcards From Buster', which contains a lesbian couple.
The Plaid Adder wraps all of this up in her inimitable style.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Condi Rice

Jonathan Weiler provides excerpts from the recent exchange between Sen. Barbara Boxer and Condi Rice. The full transcript is here.
Commentary and perspective courtesy of Bill Gallagher.

A Clear Mandate, part 1

Recent (.PDF) polls indicate that the American public disagrees sharply with the administration's policies. As Paul Waldman points out, "You have to hand it to them that they managed to win re-election with a public that thinks he's basically a screw-up."
The global view is even more sharply critical, as the mainstream media has been pointing out.
See also: The separate Realities (.PDF) of Bush and Kerry voters.

eXeem Lite

eXlite is a version of the eXeem P2P client based on libtorrent, that does not contain spyware.
Latest file version : eXeem Lite Beta Test 0.18

Surreality, part 1

The full text of Bush's second inaugural address.
Running commentaries here, here, here, and most importantly here.
More general commentary here, here, here, here, and here.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Direction For The Democrats, part 2

Senator Ted Kennedy presents A Democratic Blueprint for America's Future.
A good first step would be to stop hiring campaign advisors who lose races.

Turning The Corner, part 4

The Projected Winner in Iraq: Failure
The voter turnout won't be sufficient to legitimise the election.
Iraq's proposed elections later this month are a lose-lose proposition.
Most Sunni and Kurdish political parties have either formally withdrawn or are threatening to because the insurgency has now targeted the entire electoral process.

Meanwhile, the 'War on Terror' continues to foster global insecurity.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Quantum Astronomy

Four articles about quantum mechanics: The Double Slit Experiment, The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, Knowability and Unknowability, and the double-slit experiment on a cosmic scale

Turning The Corner, part 3

The Washington Post and the LA Times touch on a recent publication (.PDF) of the National Intelligence Council. The report is an overview of global trends that will influence the shape of the world through 2020: globalization, rising powers, and terror. The section of the report concerned with terrorism is here.

Iraq and other possible conflicts in the future could provide recruitment, training grounds, technical skills and language proficiency for a new class of terrorists who are “professionalized” and for whom political violence becomes an end in itself.

Quantum Darwinism

Natural selection and the quantum world.
If, as quantum mechanics says, observing the world tends to change it, how is it that we can agree on anything at all? Why doesn't each person leave a slightly different version of the world for the next person to find?

Because, say the researchers, certain special states of a system are promoted above others by a quantum form of natural selection, which they call quantum darwinism. Information about these states proliferates and gets imprinted on the environment. So observers coming along and looking at the environment in order to get a picture of the world tend to see the same 'preferred' states.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Fulfilling All Obligations, part 1

Bush in the National Guard: A primer.
Here is a good summary of the controversy, and the administration's shifting justifications. Here are details and an ongoing discussion for the curious.

The Appearance of Impropriety, part 3

The scandal sheet: a handy reference to 34 scandals from the administration's first four years.
And for fewer details but more outrage, this card lists 64 scandals.

Whispers in the Dark

"This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love.

"A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death."

-Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Stupid Gmail Tricks

GmailFS - Gmail Filesystem.
GmailFS provides a mountable Linux filesystem which uses your Gmail account as its storage medium.
GMail Drive is its Windows equivalent.
Peer2Mail uses any web-mail service to securely share and store files.
If GMail invites are scarce, Walla offers free 1GB service.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

A Polite Society, part 1

The National Academy of Sciences (.PDF) has released a 328-page report on gun violence in America. The high-level view is that gun control laws are not the only constraint on gun violence. The prevailing spin is that no direct one-to-one correlation was found between a particular gun law and a decrease in violent crime.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics site is another useful source of information. (look for the really tiny 'next' link)

Thursday, January 13, 2005

The Culture Wars, part 6

Is Heaven Populated Chiefly by the Souls of Embryos?

...embryologists estimate that the rate of natural loss for embryos that have developed for seven days or more is 60 percent...
As far as I know, bioconservatives like Robert George do not advocate the rescue of naturally conceived unimplanted embryos. But why not? In right-to-life terms, normal unimplanted embryos are the moral equivalents of a 30-year-old mother of three children.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Imperial Hubris

Michael Scheuer examines why Iraqi insurgents are willing to die to do us harm. John Steinberg echoes many of the same sentiments.
Mr. Scheuer has had a great deal to say about Osama and this administration.
Mr. Bush, Mr. Clinton, Mr. Bush before Mr. Clinton -- they all identified Islamic militancy as being based on the hatred of Western democracy and freedom, and that’s clearly not the case. They surely don’t like our way of life, but very few people are willing to die to keep us from having primary elections or because we have freedom of the press.

So Why're We Here, Again?

CIA officials charged with finding illicit weapons in Iraq have given up and left the country. With the 'connections to Al-Qaeda' demonstrated to be fictional, the crutches have all been kicked out from under our rationale for war. Nonetheless, we'll be stuck there for a decade or longer - and in fact this was always part of the plan.

And the goal of the occupation? Garner says exactly bupkus about the lives of Iraqis or burgeoning democracy or any of that bullshit, which isn't surprising, since his job doesn't much involve talking directly to the American people and the attendant necessary lying. Instead, our former Grand Praetor just bluntly goes on about where the permanent U.S. bases should be, comparing Iraq to the U.S. colonial military presence in the Philippines in the first half of the last century...
*extra - Matt Taibbi discusses why this wasn't a bigger story.

The Aquatic Ape

A speculative evolutionary wrinkle - The Aquatic Ape hypothesis.

The theory of an aquatic or semi-aquatic heritage for our species has a lot of explanatory power. Hair loses its insulating power in the water and becomes a liability for the swimmer or diver. A subcutaneous fat layer develops in place of hair for heat retention, and helps to fill in and streamline the body's hydrodynamics. The conscious breath control of the diving mammal is a first prerequisite for speech. As if that wasn't enough, we share several other features with the aquatic mammals. These include the glandular modifications which allow us to weep salty tears. The infantile peachfuzz body hair we're all born with displays a hydrodynamic waterflow pattern. And upright walking would easily phase in as a response to a lifetime of wading out to the deep. In other words, it looks like we learned to swim before we could walk.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Special Relativity

Here (.PDF) is a high-level, philosophical introduction to special relativity, based on simple geometry, and here is a more thorough treatment of the subject.
As a bonus: general relativity(.PDF).


Following Alexander's conquests in Asia and India, the religion of the ancient Greeks co-existed with nascent Buddhism for 800 years or more, influencing the growing religion generally and Mahayana in particular. Alexander thus had a significant role in shaping the cultures of China, Tibet, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and Taiwan.
Another reason we don't call him 'Alexander the Pretty Good'.

Back to Basics

The basic arguments for and against the existence of God. See in particular the problem of evil.

The Abu Ghraib Pep Squad

Apparently, our detainees were just practicing their cheerleading routines..

Guess these guys didn't make the squad.
Gimme an 'O'!Gimme an 'I'!Gimme an 'L'!

Some online privacy tools

Test Your Firewall!
Browserspy: "Privacy to the Ultimate Test"

Monday, January 10, 2005

A "Gentleman's War", part 2

As the Pentagon moves towards the Salvador option, let's take a moment and recall just what our involvement in El Salvador led to.
...the Pentagon is intensively debating an option that dates back to a still-secret strategy in the Reagan administration’s battle against the leftist guerrilla insurgency in El Salvador in the early 1980s. Then, faced with a losing war against Salvadoran rebels, the U.S. government funded or supported "nationalist" forces that allegedly included so-called death squads directed to hunt down and kill rebel leaders and sympathizers...
Following that model, one Pentagon proposal would send Special Forces teams to advise, support and possibly train Iraqi squads, most likely hand-picked Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and Shiite militiamen, to target Sunni insurgents and their sympathizers, even across the border into Syria...

As Kos said: "Man, when they put Negroponte in charge of Iraq, I never thought he'd be able to use his experience this well."
The Rude Pundit has a predictably more entertaining take on it all. Kevin Drum, meanwhile, defangs some of the more nitpicky criticism Newsweek's aroused.

The Appearance of Impropriety, part 2

And of course, the latest scandal: taxpayer money is being used to bribe commentators to support the administration's agenda. In exchange for promoting No Child Left Behind, Armstrong Williams received $240,000 of "your money". Despite his "poor judgement", or perhaps because said judgement got his column axed, he's determined to keep the money. Needless to say, the whole thing is an odious liberal plot, nevermind the fact that in 2001, Armstrong publicly opposed the very policies he favored once the administration started paying him.

"...the act of bribing journalists to bias their news in favor of government policies undermines the integrity of our democracy."

Election 2004 Irregularities - Ohio, part 3

Once again, the Secretary of State in the crucial state is also the head of that state's Bush campaign. Kenneth Blackwell recently sent out a fundraising letter to supporters in which he boasted of delivering the state to Bush and illegally solicited corporate contributions.

Blackwell also noted that he was “truly pleased” to announce President Bush the victor in Ohio even before all the votes had been counted. He adds that he declared the victor on his own personal belief.

“In the late hours of Election Night I was truly pleased to announce President Bush had won a critical and clinching victory here in Ohio, on the belief that it was statistically improbable for Senator Kerry to recover,” the Secretary penned.

Election 2004 Irregularities, part 2

Shattering the Myth: An Initial Snapshot of Voter Disenfranchisement in the 2004 Elections(.PDF)targets 17 states and describes incidents of wide-scale voter registration problems, voter suppression and intimidation, and a slew of system errors.

One notable incident: the firm Sproul & Associates registered thousands of voters in the lead-up to the election, representing themselves as a non-partisan group while refusing to register Democrats. Those who they did register had their registrations torn up as soon as their backs were turned. This sort of non-partisanship garnered Nathan Sproul an invite to the Bush family Christmas party after the election.

A "Gentleman's War", part 1

A look at some of the fine "military contractors" we're relying so heavily upon to spread peace and freedom across Iraq.

More than fifty private security companies are in Iraq today, with an estimated 20,000 hired guns working for them. Spicer's group is supposed to coordinate them all. And there's one more catch: Spicer appears to have no previous experience handling such a large security operation, nor any ties to Iraq.

How the Army was so inept in awarding Aegis a contract is anybody's guess. The Army invalidated four other competing proposals, including one from a much larger and more experienced firm, DynCorp International LLC, which has drawn its share of controversy, including when it fired a whistleblower who revealed that DynCorp employees in Bosnia were running a sex ring using 12-year-old prostitutes.

Media Follies, part 4

In another New Year's retrospective, here's Project Censored's annual list of "25 news stories of social significance that have been overlooked, under-reported or self-censored by the country’s major national news media."

The Culture Wars, part 5

The Radical Right's Latest Courtroom Drama
"...If these charges stand, Christians across America will soon be hunted down like dogs as they are in many parts of the world today as the most persecuted religious group on the planet."

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Deconstructing Infinity

An Analysis of Zeno's Paradox.

...The mathematician can conclude that Zeno's paradox comes about because of a confusion of infinities: that, simply, an infinite sum does not imply an infinite result.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Social Security, part 3

More about the fake "crisis" today. Plenty of reputable folks agree that Social Security is not in crisis, aside from that posed by the administration.
Furthermore, Social Security as it stands can outperform the market.
However, there is a positive side to the plan, for a select group of people - the fees paid to brokers and money managers could run into the billions.

According to the Social Security trustees report, the standard basis for analyzing Social Security, the program can pay all benefits through the year 2042, with no changes whatsoever.

The Rule of Law, part 2

Long-term imprisonment, including lifelong detentions, are being considered for 'detainees' that the administration does not want to charge, set free, or turn over to any court.

Leading Senators of both parties have already stepped forward to condemn the plan.

Meanwhile, a Republican judge is mounting a challenge to the government's policies.

"I don't know any organized bar group that has taken the position that the government is right. I think most lawyers probably think the government has gone crazy."

Turning the Corner, part 2

BBC NEWS | Iraq 2004: What went wrong
In 2004, Iraq went badly wrong - except for supporters of the insurgency, in which case it went grimly well.

Deadly year in Iraq has grown worse as military struggles to adjust tactics.
By key measures of the level of insurgent violence against American forces in Iraq -- numbers of dead, wounded and insurgent attacks -- the situation has grown worse since summer.

Falloujans Get an Unsettling Look at Their City
Refugees eager to return change their minds after seeing the ruin

Sunday, January 02, 2005

A Few Bad Apples, part 3

"The torture pictures were for blackmail"
In a talk given September 19, 2004, Seymoure Hersh predicts the Bush "victory" and warns what a second administration will entail. (video link)

Also, here is his earlier column about Abu Ghraib.

An Immediate and Growing Threat

Republicans claim Iraq and Osama weren't worth it (During Clinton's Term)

"Osama bin Laden’s camp in Afghanistan consisted of shacks and tents, hardly a fit target for a missile that costs nearly a million dollars per copy"
If we "succeed", what have we gained? If we don't begin a war, what have we lost?
"Chm.JCS Shelton also said even though it was bomber 7:30pm and 10pm to limit "collateral damage" READ: CIVILIAN CASUALITIES! there would be a "number" of them! These are innocents for Clinton's reign of terror! CLinton is a terrorist!!!"

Election 2004 Irregularities - Ohio, part 2

More about the votor suppression video! (.MOV) *temporary link*