Archive for January, 2006 Podcast 11

Sunday, January 29th, 2006

Lying in bed this morning, Linda asked me what the latest podcast was about. “Nothing,” I answered, honestly. But anyway: Podcast 11.

Seriously, there’s not much there. I’ve become my worst nightmare: Humming Dave-Winer-esque as I go through my pointless rambling, mocking my audience for their inability to bypass my breathtaking inanity.

Technically, I do talk about a few things:

  • My commute, giving non-surfer surf reports on the break at Rincon, and being trapped in a never-ending car commercial.
  • Bush and alternatives to Bush, the KCRW radio show “Left, Right, and Center,” and the difference between Hillary and Gore as candidates in 2008.
  • James A. Baker (mistakenly misidentified by me in the podcast as the old Bush-family fixer James A. Baker, III, though this is actually a different guy, it turns out), who gave misleading testimony to Congress about proposed FISA changes in 2002.
  • The Industry Outsider podcast (rss feed), and my pathetic audio crush on Lauren Morrill (or at least her voice).
  • Donnie Darko
  • Rumble Fish

Knock yourselves out.

Gallery of Demonic Tots and Deeply Disturbing Cuisine

Sunday, January 29th, 2006

From the deeply disturbed net.kooks at Gallery of demonic tots and deeply disturbing cuisine.

Spies, Lies and Wiretaps

Sunday, January 29th, 2006

Awesome unsigned editorial from the NYT: Spies, lies and wiretaps. They’re going to yank it behind the for-pay barrier at some point, and I think it’s too important to let go. If their lawyers want me to take it down they can send me a letter. In the meantime, here’s the whole thing below the fold.


Waterfall 2006

Sunday, January 29th, 2006

This is fairly off-topic, even for me, but in light of my switch lately to being part of a more-offical corporate software development effort, I found this parody funny: Waterfall 2006 – International Conference on Sequential Development.

If you’re not up on agile development methodologies you’ll probably miss the humor. But for me, it was pretty good.

Hansen: NASA’s Trying to Shut Me Up

Sunday, January 29th, 2006

Interesting piece from the NYT about James E. Hansen, the top climate scientist at NASA, who’s crying foul about agency higher-ups trying to keep him from spreading the word about what the data show about global warming: Climate expert says NASA tried to silence him.

Meyerson: Bush the Incompetent

Sunday, January 29th, 2006

If you know anything about, you know I could not pass up a headline like this. From WaPo op-ed columnist Harold Meyerson: Bush the Incompetent.

It’s the president’s prescription drug plan (Medicare Part D), though, that is his most mind-boggling failure. As was not the case in Iraq or with Katrina, it hasn’t had to overcome the opposition of man or nature. Pharmacists are not resisting the program; seniors are not planting car bombs to impede it (not yet, anyway). But in what must be an unforeseen development, people are trying to get their medications covered under the program. Apparently, this is a contingency for which the administration was not prepared, as it has been singularly unable to get its own program up and running.

Al Gore’s MLK-Day Speech

Saturday, January 28th, 2006

I finally got around to reading the speech Al Gore gave on Martin Luther King Day: America’s constitution is in grave danger.

Wow. Yeah, I don’t care at this point. Maybe the political right is relishing an Al Gore candidacy in 2008. Maybe Karl Rove thinks this issue of national security and defense of the Constitution is a winner for his side, that people are afraid enough of Osama bin Laden to retain the same team that let 9/11 happen, the same team that has demonstrated abject incompetence in dealing with al Qaeda in the years since, just because of some vague attitude that Republicans are “tougher” on terror than Democrats. And maybe the Democratic opinion leaders will again do what they did in the 2004 election, shying away from direct confrontation with Bush’s war policy, offering up someone like Hillary (who says that Bush’s war on Iraq was more or less the right thing to do), rather than someone like Gore (who has consistently told the opposite truth).

But for now, I just don’t care. Al Gore is the man. We’re pretty much guaranteed to get a dramatically better president in 2008 than the one we have now (assuming Bush doesn’t manage to make himself President for Life), but if the one we get is Al Gore, I’ll have actual hope for the future of the country for the first time in a while.

Random Administration Bullshit on Warrantless Domestic Eavesdropping

Saturday, January 28th, 2006

There have been some interesting developments lately as Bush engages in some trademark flailing over the issue of warrantless eavesdropping. Of particular interest to me was this post from blogger Glenn Greenwald (which came to my attention via a story in the LA Times): The Administration’s new FISA defense is factually false.

It describes how in 2002, in response to a proposal from Senator Michael DeWine (R-OH) that the standard for obtaining a FISA warrant be relaxed, with the “probable cause” requirement being replaced by a “reasonable suspicion” standard, at least for foreign targets, the Bush folks argued against the change, saying it was both unnecessary and (possibly) unconstitutional.

What we know now, of course, is that they were already secretly violating those FISA provisions, and had gone even farther, conducting unauthorized wiretaps of domestic communications. In Bush’s recent attempts to justify those actions, he’s been making the opposite argument: that the dramatically expanded executive power he’s exercising via the program is both necessary and legal.

But check out what James A. Baker, counsel for the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review (and no relation to perennial Bush-family fixer James A. Baker III, apparently; thank you, Wikipedia) said in the Administration’s official testimony on the proposed DeWine legislation back in 2002:

The Department of Justice has been studying Sen. DeWine’s proposed legislation. Because the proposed change raises both significant legal and practical issues, the Administration at this time is not prepared to support it.

The Department’s Office of Legal Counsel is analyzing relevant Supreme Court precedent to determine whether a “reasonable suspicion” standard for electronic surveillance and physical searches would, in the FISA context, pass constitutional muster. The issue is not clear cut, and the review process must be thorough because of what is at stake, namely, our ability to conduct investigations that are vital to protecting national security. If we err in our analysis and courts were ultimately to find a “reasonable suspicion” standard unconstitutional, we could potentially put at risk ongoing investigations and prosecutions.

The practical concern involves an assessment of whether the current “probable cause” standard has hamstrung our ability to use FISA surveillance to protect our nation. We have been aggressive in seeking FISA warrants and, thanks to Congress’s passage of the USA PATRIOT Act, we have been able to use our expanded FISA tools more effectively to combat terrorist activities. It may not be the case that the probable cause standard has caused any difficulties in our ability to seek the FISA warrants we require, and we will need to engage in a significant review to determine the effect a change in the standard would have on our ongoing operations. If the current standard has not posed an obstacle, then there may be little to gain from the lower standard and, as I previously stated, perhaps much to lose.

I assure [you] that we are moving expeditiously to answer these questions, which, of course, require input from agencies other than the Department of Justice that could be affected by the legislation.

In context, knowing that the administration had already begun violating the FISA requirements at that time, and that Baker, as the administration lawyer responsible for dealing with FISA, was almost certainly aware of that, his statements make for some entertaining ex-post-facto legal parsing.

Bottom-line lesson: When the Bush administration goes out of its way to retain legal wriggle room while not-quite asserting something to be true, it’s a safe bet that they’re actually being intentionally misleading.

Some good followup is available in these items from the Washington Post: White House dismissed ’02 surveillance proposal and Varied rationales muddle issue of NSA eavesdropping.

Stuff on Their Cats

Saturday, January 21st, 2006

I really hope this isn’t some kind of sexual obsession for the people involved. Anyway, courtesy of Jason and Janus/Onan: Stuff on my cat and Wesley Buckaroo. Podcast 10

Saturday, January 21st, 2006

More Bush-bashing (now with perspective!), some discussion of movies (including the Hollywood Saloon podcast, Man on Fire, and the Golden Globes), and extended rambling about The Grail Bird, Tim Gallagher’s book on the recent ivory-billed woodpecker rediscovery: Podcast 10.

US Iraq War Dead for December, 2005

Sunday, January 15th, 2006

Here are the updated graphs of US war deaths in Iraq for December, with 68 US fatalities during the month. As always, I’m comparing the military casualties to those from the Vietnam war at a similar point in each war’s political lifetime (which many have charged is inherently misleading; see newly expanded disclaimer below).

The data come from the advanced search tool at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund site, and from Lunaville’s page on Iraq coalition casualties. The figures are for the number of US dead per month, without regard to whether the deaths were combat-related.

The first graph shows the first 34 months of each war. (Click on any image for a larger version.)

Next, the chart that gives the US death toll for the entire Vietnam war:

Disclaimer: Every so often someone comes along and says I’m guilty of intellectual dishonesty by comparing apples to oranges in these graphs. For the record, here’s what I am not arguing with these graphs:

  • I’m not saying that Iraq is somehow deadlier per soldier-on-the-ground than Vietnam. For both wars, the number of fatalities in any given month tracks pretty closely with the number of troops deployed (along with the intensity of the combat operations being conducted). There are more troops in Iraq today than were in Vietnam during the “corresponding” parts of the graphs. Similarly, for later years in Vietnam, when the monthly death toll exceeded the current Iraq numbers, there were many more troops in place.
  • I am not saying that Iraq is somehow “worse” than Vietnam, and have not chosen the starting dates for the respective graphs out of a desire to make a dishonest argument to that effect. I include the first graph mainly because I wanted a zoomed-in view of the Iraq data. And I include the second graph, which shows the entire span of the Vietnam war, because I want to be clear about what the data show about overall death tolls — where any rational assessment would have to conclude that, at least so far, Iraq has been far less significant (at least in terms of US combat fatalities) than Vietnam.

I was just curious how the “death profile” of the two wars compared, and how those deaths played out in terms of their political impact inside the US. For that reason, I chose as the starting point for each graph the first fatality that a US president acknowledged (belatedly, in the case of the Vietnam graph, since US involvement in the war “began” under Kennedy, but the acknowledgement was made only later by Johnson) as being the result of the war in question.

As ever, you are free to draw your own conclusions. And for that matter, you’re free to draw your own graphs, if you have a way of presenting the information that you believe would be more honest. In that case, feel free to post a comment with a URL to your own version. Thanks.

Who Wants To Potty, Because It’s Time To Die!

Tuesday, January 10th, 2006

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Elmo, one of the most popular Sesame Street characters in the past decade, is at the center of yet another marketing nightmare. Last fall, the Elmo Knows Your Name doll made some news when people realized you could program Elmo to say anything you want. But this week, Elmo reached a new low: A woman in Dallas bought a copy of Potty Time With Elmo, a talking book with buttons that play audio clips of Elmo giving encouraging advice to toddlers. But one of the buttons in her copy of the book makes Elmo laugh, and then say “Who wants to die?” like some sort of 1960s BatMan villan.

There are at least two seperate videos of the woman and her copy of the book available…

Some people online have speculated that the word “die” is the where the recording cuts out of something else (lie “try to go potty”) but other sources indicate the phrase played when the same button is clicked on other copies of the book is “Uh-oh! Who has to go?” — So I don’t see how it can be a glitch, someone did this on purpose. News reports all agree that the company that makes the book has recieved “several complaints” so presumably this isn’t the only copy with this behavior.

As you would expect, dozens of ebay auctions have poped up for RARE Potty Time With Elmo Book ” Who Wants To Die ” NEW.

(Thanks to the Colbert Report for bringing this to my attention)

Quiggin: The Global Warming Debate Is Over

Sunday, January 8th, 2006

Interesting write-up from John Quiggan at Crooked Timber: The end of the global warming debate. I especially liked this part:

Finally, the evidence has mounted up that, with a handful of exceptions, “sceptics” are not, as they claim, fearless seekers after scientific truth, but ideological partisans and paid advocates, presenting dishonest arguments for a predetermined party-line conclusion. Even three years ago, sites like Tech Central Station, and writers like Ross McKitrick were taken seriously by many. Now, anyone with access to Google can discover that they have no credibility. Chris Mooney’s Republican War on Science which I plan to review soon, gives chapter and verse and the whole network of thinktanks, politicians and tame scientists who have popularised GW contrarianism, Intelligent Design and so on.

There’s a process to doing good science, and it’s very much not the same thing as selling your a priori opinions as Truth. As with the evolution debate that took place in the 1800s, the scientific community has looked at the evidence and reached a consensus. Those who want to continue arguing that particular issue aren’t doing science.

Jonathon Schwarz, Honest Man

Sunday, January 8th, 2006

Hey, Diogenes. I’ve got someone for you: Jonathon Schwarz of A Tiny Revolution: I am so God damn honest.

Specifically, Schwarz is honest about how a particular claim about how Bob Woodward was right and the Pentagon was wrong about something that Woodward said Don Rumsfeld did, and the Pentagon said Rumsfeld didn’t, say to Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia during the run-up to the Iraq war, is in fact inaccurate. That is, Woodward (and the NYT) was wrong, and the Pentagon (at least in this particular case) was right. And Schwarz takes pains to point out how the conventional wisdom on this is thoroughly wrong, and easily disproven by consulting the actual facts.

That’s why Schwarz deserves a proud place in the blogroll: He’s honest even when it hurts. Podcast 9

Saturday, January 7th, 2006

Here you go: Podcast 9. Featuring:

  • Bush’s illegal eavesdropping.
  • Moments of clarity.
  • High-end podcast special effects: An actual train. Heh.
  • Movie reviews (Chronicles of Narnia, King Kong, and a little Love, Actually).
  • Almost (but not quite) watching my daughter die. (Update: Please understand that I’m talking about her hospitalization several years ago, not anything that happened recently. Apologies for freaking out my non-podcast-enabled sister M’Liz.)

I actually recorded it a week or so ago, but didn’t have time to delete the “uhms” and stuff until now.

‘Truthiness’ Is Word of the Year

Saturday, January 7th, 2006

Bigtime apologies for the dearth of postings lately. Too much job+commute, not enough time.

Anyway, here’s an item that broke through my bubble: From ‘Truthiness’ is word of the year.

Word of the year! See? I’m not alone in my obsession with high-profile truth and falsity. at the chewy center of the cultural zeitgeist.