Friday, August 18, 2006

Post Script

Posted by codemorse

From Unclaimed Territory:

For the last four years, the Bush administration has deliberately violated multiple laws because it has adopted radical theories which vest law-breaking powers in the President. It also happens to be well on its way to obtaining the power to criminally prosecute journalists for articles they publish about the administration's conduct. And while all of that has been happening, the Washington Post Editorial Board has said virtually nothing about any of it, sitting idly by while the President vests himself with what George Will calls "monarchical" powers that (at least) rival terrorism as a threat to our country, and while Attorney General Alberto Gonzales casually speculates about putting Jim Risen and New York Times editors (and perhaps even the Post's own Dana Priest) into a federal prison, just as his most prominent supporters have been urging.

But at long last, the Post Editorial Board has finally found something to be outraged about -- the fact that the judicial opinion issued by Judge Anna Diggs Taylor yesterday isn't scholarly and "complex" enough for the intellectual tastes of Fred Hiatt. What really matters, says the Post in its unbelievably petty editorial, is not the profound constitutional crisis we face by virtue of a President who believes he has the power to act outside of the law and has been exercising that power aggressively and enthusiastically in numerous ways over five years. No, that is merely a fascinating intellectual puzzle, something for super-smart experts to resolve with great civility and high-minded, complex discussions as they ponder what the Post calls the "complicated, difficult issues" raised by the administration's lawlessness.

To the Post, what really matters here is how impressed law professors are with the complexity and nuance in Judge Taylor's written decision. Condescendingly scoffing at the judicial quality of her opinion is of infinitely greater importance than objecting to the growing extremism and lawlessness to which our country has been subjected.

....One of the many ironies here is that while the Post editors parade their hunger for a complex, scholarly discussion, they actually have no idea what they are talking about with regard to several of the most critical issues before the court. The Post tells us, for instance, that the administration (oh-so-surprisingly) does not agree with the court's conclusions, "nor is its dispute frivolous," and to prove that, points to "a broad congressional authorization to use force against al-Qaeda" which "the administration argues permits the wiretapping notwithstanding existing federal surveillance." But particularly in the aftermath of Hamdan -- which decisively rejected the administration's view of the AUMF -- the AUMF claim is not even a serious argument. The fact that the Post thinks it is (along with the fact that the Post never even once mentions Hamdan) demonstrates that they are hardly in a position to decree which judicial opinions are "neither careful nor scholarly."

....In the scheme of the profound issues our country faces, obsessing about the inartfulness of this judicial opinion is not unlike those who use a laughably grave tone to write articles about fights between Daily Kos diarists or the latest blogger "scandal" while ignoring our national media's grotesque failure to scrutinize meaningfully our government's conduct and claims -- particularly on matters of war and peace or threats to constitutional liberties.

Website of the Week - woot.com

That's right, every Friday I'll be presenting you with a site that I find helpful, wacky, or somewhere in between.

Today's site is woot.com If you're broke like me or just constantly looking for a good deal then this is where you need to go. Every day they feature one item. That item is for sale for that day only in unknown quantities. For instance today they have a SanDisk 256 meg MP3 player for $12.99 + $5 S/H. These items might be refurbished or overstocked or they might have fallen from the sky.

You might have seen this word woot (or w00t) in your time on the net. What does it mean? Possible derivations from Wikipedia:


  1. Co-opted in the 1990's in dance clubs from 1970's disco chant: (beat) (beat) "Woop(t), Woop," a la a klaxon or siren.
  2. As a vocal expression, perhaps a portmanteau of "woo" and "hoot".
  3. As a type of onomatopoeia, reflecting the rising sound of a siren or klaxon.
  4. From MUD video games, meaning "wow, loot!", "woohoo, loot", or "wonderful loot". Also spelled wewt.
  5. Acronym for "Win Over Other Team", or in the original Quake servers as "We Owned the Other Team" or "We Own Other Teams" [citation needed].
  6. In the hacking/cracking scene, the administrative account on Unix-like systems is usually named "root". One of the aims in cracking a system of this type is gaining "root" access, and hence full control of the system. Under this derivation "w00t" is a leetspeak corruption of the word "root", used as a general exclamation of victory.
  7. Acronym for "Waste of Our Time," that confused sarcasm for excitement.
  8. Woot is the name of a mask/helmet used by the Kuba people of the congo to repesent the first ancestor. Used in initiation ceremonies for boys, funerals, or rituals concerning the sacred king. Made of fiber, cowries, beads and wood.

The games/cracking scene usage of the word w00t seem of later origin than the vocal expression. The oldest references on Usenet to w00t date from 1996, woot can be found as early as 1994 ("Woot! I got 'da Land!").



In this case it is a shout of joy that means you just got a great deal. They also have a pretty cool community and a weekly Photoshop contest that can get hilarious and win you some cash.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Glass Houses, Unnecessary Stones

Posted by codemorse

Tramm Hudson, Republican candidate for congress, made the remark recently that blacks aren't good swimmers. This sent liberal commentator Oliver Willis into a tizzy (note the name of the author in the above link).

And at first blush, sure. I can see how, being black, Willis would take offense at what appears to be a broad over-generalization.

Except that blacks apparently aren't good swimmers. There are studies to show that young black males are five to twelve times more likely to drown than young white males.

This doesn't mean that blacks can't swim. It means that, as a whole, they're currently less adapt at it. Which, to me, suggests that young black children aren't being taught to swim, not that they're physically incapable of doing so.

All of this is to say that just because something potentially-controversial comes out of a white Republican's mouth does not mean that it's racist. If you watch the actual video of Hudson, you'll see that he's speaking in the context of his own experience and his personal viewing of black soldiers attempting to river-cross for the military. He's both calm and seemingly aware of the possible "racist" interpretation of his remarks. So he clarifies them.

Hardly the stuff of a racist diatribe.

Instead of making wrongful assumptions about a man's character, perhaps Willis should concentrate his energies elsewhere? He's passionate, smart, and often thought-provoking. But much of the time he engages in the same half-assed reportage that he faults his opponents for.

Yowza!

Posted by codemorse

From CNN:

A federal judge on Thursday ruled that the U.S. government's domestic eavesdropping program is unconstitutional and ordered it ended immediately.

The Justice Department said it would appeal the ruling, saying the program was "a critical tool that ensures we have in place an early warning system to detect and prevent a terrorist attack."

....The defendants "are permanently enjoined from directly or indirectly utilizing the Terrorist Surveillance Program (TSP) in any way, including, but not limited to, conducting warrantless wiretaps of telephone and Internet communications, in contravention of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and Title III," she wrote.

She further declared that the program "violates the separation of powers doctrine, the Administrative Procedures Act, the First and Fourth amendments to the United States Constitution, the FISA and Title III."

She went on to say that "the president of the United States ... has undisputedly violated the Fourth in failing to procure judicial orders."


And from Oliver Willis, we have "Free Republic"'s reaction to this news:

Oh, boo. No one gives a damn about a random judge's opinion on which country should win the WoT.
Closest big city to Dearborn, where the ACLU has been working closely with the Muslim population.
Why Detroit? Perhaps, because it's also known as Detroitistan.
Arab capital of the USA?

And my personal favorite:

OMG

ROTFL! LOL!

I understand and appreciate the concern of people at sites like Free Republic. Most of them are like you and me, and are frankly just frightened of being blowed up. But reading through the comments on FR and other supposedly-conservative sites is like a lesson in hate. Not "Bush Hate," which continues to be the stupidest complaint I've heard in just-about-forever, but violent, racist hate of a boiling degree.

Hating Muslims is the new Hating Jews. We're not supposed to hate Jews or blacks or women any more, but thanks to the radical extremists, it's open season on Islam!

Hate an Arab today! Justify the mangling of the Constitution so that the thought of being destroyed by a terrorist (which is less than the chance of being killed in an elevator accident) trumps all concern about the liberties of your neighbors!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Software Wednesday - GimpShop

posted by Scott Roche

Wednesdays will be the day for software, freeware, anything but malware that can make your life easier and more fulfilling.

Today I want to introduce you to GimpShop. Do you want a full featured image editor? Do you want to pay zero dollars for it? Well give this a shot. The eight meg download gives you a pretty powerful package.

GimpShop is based on GIMP or The GNU Image Manipulation Program or just GIMP is a free software bitmap image editor. It also has some support for vector graphics. The project was started in 1995 by Spencer Kimball and Peter Mattis and is now maintained by a group of volunteers; it is licensed under the GNU General Public License. - source Wikipedia

Scott Moschella hacked the original GIMP program so it more closely resembled Photoshop. GimpShop is missing some features that Photoshop has, but hey whaddaya want it's free and you don't have to fly the skull-n-bones over your computer.

If you want a version that's portable and doesn't require an install go here. Happy doodling!

I See Your True Colors, Shining Through.

Posted by codemorse

From Raw Story:

First Lady Laura Bush yesterday campaigned at a fundraiser for Illinois State Senator Peter Roskam, a controversial conservative running against a double-amputee Iraq war veteran....

While touting Roskam's mixed record on the environment, Mrs. Bush chose to omit the controversial conservative's voting history on gun control, abortion and other social issues....

Mrs. Bush did not mention Mr. Roskam’s stand on a variety of social issues. Roskam supports a ban on abortion and, unlike President George W. Bush, does not support exceptions for rape or incest....

Roskam's record on gun control is also often cited as controversial. He is on record as opposing the 1994 assault weapons ban, and has pushed for fewer restrictions on concealed weapons....

Roskam’s opponent in the race is Major Tammy Duckworth of the Illinois National Guard. An Iraq war veteran, Duckworth was piloting a Black Hawk helicopter when it was attacked and shot down with a rocket propelled grenade. Duckworth lost both of her legs in the accident.

Roskam had attacked Duckworth for her position on the military's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy. Duckworth had stated that she would support a repeal of the policy if military leaders indicated that they would support the move.



Support our troops - campaign against a double amputee war hero today!

Alex Trebek Is Spinning In His Premature Coffin

From ABC:
Three-quarters of Americans can correctly identify two of Snow White's seven dwarfs while only a quarter can name two Supreme Court justices, according to a poll on pop culture....

It shows that 57 per cent of Americans can identify JK Rowling's fictional boy wizard as Harry Potter, while only 50 per cent can name the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair.

Just over 60 per cent of respondents are able to name Bart as Homer's son on the television show The Simpsons, while only 20.5 per cent were able to name one of the ancient Greek poet Homer's epic poems, The Iliad and The Odyssey.

Asked what planet Superman was from, 60 per cent named the fictional planet Krypton, while only 37 per cent knew that Mercury was the planet closest to the sun.

Respondents are far more familiar with the Three Stooges - Larry, Curly and Moe - than the three branches of the US Government - judicial, executive and legislative.

Seventy-four per cent identified the former, while 42 per cent identified the latter.

Twice as many people (23 per cent) were able to identify the most recent winner of the television talent show American Idol, Taylor Hicks, as were able to name the Supreme Court Justice confirmed in January 2006, Samuel Alito (11 per cent).

Hooray.

We may not be winning the war on global extremism just yet, but it's clear that we're winning the war on intelligence, on pop culture factoid at a time.

Why bother educating yourself when you can simply sit back and let television's soothing cathode rays wash over you?

Swiftboaters For Bullshit

Posted by codemorse

From Taylor Marsh:

Okay, so we've got the Swiftboaters for Truth going after Murtha in Pennsylvania. Now we've got the Swiftboaters for Freedom -- give me a break -- going after Ned Lamont....

... The paid message was placed by the Virginia-based Vets for Freedom Action Fund, established last month under Section 527 of the federal tax code as a nonpartisan organization "to communicate with the public on veterans' issues and the war in Iraq."

The group has high-level Republican connections. It has used a public relations firm that includes Taylor Gross, a former White House official, and receives volunteer advice from GOP strategist Dan Senor.

But its executive director, Iraq war veteran Wade Zirkle, said its members are both Democrat and Republican and its main issue is whether someone is "simply pro-mission or anti-mission," referring to the U.S. mission in Iraq.

The ad surfaced on a day when White House spokesman Tony Snow would not commit himself on whether Republican President Bush would support Alan Schlesinger, Connecticut's Republican nominee, in the three-way race with Democrat Lamont and independent candidate Lieberman.....



Non-partisan, my ass.

Of all the under-handed tactics from the last presidential election, the Swiftboat veterans "for truth" irked me most.

The idea that Kerry's war record would be as ruthlessly and unpatriotically attacked as it was disgusted me. That the same people who hide behind a "support our troops" mentality could turn around and tar Kerry's service to his country was boggling. That the opposing candidate had sat out the war entirely because of Daddy's connections, while Kerry had volunteered for active duty, was something I thought could not be "massaged" or manipulated.

I was wrong. All you need to do is brazenly slander someone and let the whiney liberals worry about the "truth" in the Swiftboat veterans name.

And now we're doing it all again.

Joy.

Come Fly With Murray

Posted by codemorse

From Craig Murray:

I have been reading very carefully through all the Sunday newspapers to try and analyse the truth from all the scores of pages claiming to detail the so-called bomb plot. Unlike the great herd of so-called security experts doing the media analysis, I have the advantage of having had the very highest security clearances myself, having done a huge amount of professional intelligence analysis, and having been inside the spin machine. So this, I believe, is the true story.

None of the alleged terrorists had made a bomb. None had bought a plane ticket. Many did not even have passports, which given the efficiency of the UK Passport Agency would mean they couldn't be a plane bomber for quite some time.

In the absence of bombs and airline tickets, and in many cases passports, it could be pretty difficult to convince a jury beyond reasonable doubt that individuals intended to go through with suicide bombings, whatever rash stuff they may have bragged in internet chat rooms. What is more, many of those arrested had been under surveillance for over a year - like thousands of other British Muslims. And not just Muslims. Like me. Nothing from that surveillance had indicated the need for early arrests.

Then an interrogation in Pakistan revealed the details of this amazing plot to blow up multiple planes - which, rather extraordinarily, had not turned up in a year of surveillance. Of course, the interrogators of the Pakistani dictator have their ways of making people sing like canaries. As I witnessed in Uzbekistan, you can get the most extraordinary information this way. Trouble is it always tends to give the interrogators all they might want, and more, in a desperate effort to stop or avert torture. What it doesn't give is the truth.


It's obvious that, first and foremost, this guy doesn't like Bush, Blair, or the war. But that's not what's important abot this article, and to write it off for that reason would also allow ignorance of the facts that Murray gives us.

Every story thus far has lead me to believe that we were hours away from devastating attack. I went so far as to openly ask if Bush would have been prepared, had Pakistani and British police not stepped in.

But this article indicates that, while there may indeed have been a serious and deadly plot underway, it was in no way imminent. That flies directly in the face of most of the reports we've gotten, which have entirely eliminated that fact, or even implied the opposite.

Which is to say that theories about this event being used for blatant political purposes were spot on, if this information is correct. Then again, this guy could be a nut. But the facts don't lie, right? So what are the facts of that day? Were they readying to bomb planes in the near future?

Either way, people working to plot a terrorist act do not get a pass because they haven't done it yet. Arrest them if you've got the evidence to do so. But Bush does not get a pass for using this event to scare my father, either.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Disarming The Radicals

Posted by codemorse

From The Huffington Post:

I've been seeing signs, and I thnk we're going to see a strong, nationwide Republican effort to blame Democrats for the partisanship in politics. The Republicans have been saying "Dems are rabid Bush-hater partisans" as a ploy to win votes and I think this is going to become a drumbeat.

....Don't forget the power of Bush's "I'm a uniter not a divider" messaging -- never mind that it was the Republicans who had impeached Clinton. The broad public just
doesn't pay enough attention to differentiate WHO is doing it, all they know is politicians call each other names and aren't getting anything done and they don't like it. Leading up to the 2000 election the Republicans screeched until everyone was holding their ears. Bush came along and promised to do something about it, and got votes for promising that.

So here's what I think might be about to happen: the Republicans continue to call everyone names. The public is sick of it. Then this fall they come to the public saying "vote for us because you don't like name-calling and we'll do something about it." That message has a huge appeal to an uninformed (or, more accurately, misinformed) public.

This would not surprise me in the slightest. I don't think that this particular strategy would/will result from such conscious planning, however.

Rather, I think this is a more simply-stated case of those who love to dish it out not being able to take it.

It's all well and good to ride the "Clinton as philanderer and symbol of Democratic politics" thing 'til it runs out of gas. But when the reverse begins to occur, and people (whether Dem or "centrist" or independent) begin to do the same to Bush and Co.?

They can't handle it. And I mean that without any implication of taunting or teasing. I mean it without a desire to provoke fights. It's just the truth. The exact same people responsible for spearheading personal attacks on Democratic politicians for years are now crying foul over people's dislike of Bush. And they seem to really mean it.

So, instead of turning around and yelling at them even louder, why don't we start pointing out that this is simply the result of their evident desire to bring the personal into the political, and then sincerely suggest that we both agree to cut it out?

Or would that be like Israel and Palestine attempting mutual disarmament?

It might very well be. At this point, too many people on both sides have too many cases of wounded-pride syndrome to put their grievances aside for the good of the country. Most people, at the end of the day, would rather have a good, exhilerating fight that lasts 20 minutes and reconfirms their beliefs, then would spend a day hammering out agreements and compromises.

This is understandable. This is also regrettable.

The Golden Casting

Posted by codemorse

As the film version of "The Golden Compass" becomes concrete reality, some impressive talent is lining up to act in it.

First, we got news that Nicole Kidman was signed for the role of Ms. Coulter, and most recently, that Eva Green had accepted the role of the witch, Serena.

But IMDB (which is known as much for its wild rumors as it's confirmed facts) dangles this unconfirmed, abso-fucking-lutely brilliant piece of casting in our collective faces, and I cannot resist publishing it here:

Ian McShane .... Iorek Byrnison (rumored)

Goddamn, that's good (rumored) casting.

Those cocksuckers who can't appreciate the Shakespearean dialogue and Altman-esque sprawl of HBO's "Deadwood" should be drawn and fuckin' quartered for their folly. McShane is the shaggy, fearsome, oddly-sympathetic beast at the heart of HBO's stellar show, and the prospect of him voicing Iorek, who's like Al Swearengen but furrier (being a Polar Bear and all)?

Delicious.

Digital Photo Sharing...

posted by Scott Roche

Charlie White at CoolnessRoundup interviewed Alex Goldfayn about his new book Going Digital. Based on what I heard on the podcast, if you have a relative who has a digital camera, but isn't very technical you need to buy it. It doesn't so much tell you how to take a better picture (though there's some of that), but rather it goes into what you do with them once you have them.

I have untold megabytes, probably gigs of pictures on my hard drive and I think it's time I started using some of the cool things he talked about. Things like the Ceiva digital picture frame. What sets this apart from other digital picture frames is its ability to download pictures from Ceiva's server at night. Every day you could view thirty new digital pictures with no PC necessary. I'm seriously thinking Christmas present for my Mom.

He also talks about websites like Shutterfly. They will take your pictures and turn them into professional quality photobooks for a reasonable price. Flipclips will do something similar with your home video. They make it into an old fashioned flip book.

Most of his suggestions seemed to be of the DIY variety though. New computers typically come with the hardware and software necessary to do a host of interesting things. If you use a Mac, its iLife software suite lets you create DVDs of still pictures and videos set to music. If you aren't playing with all the cool kids and still have a PC Roxio makes a software that will do the same thing. And of course there are always websites like Flickr that will let you upload, store, and share your pictures for free.

Bottom line, if you spent three hundred bucks on a nice camera and all that time taking them, get them out of your computer and into the hands of your friends and loved ones.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Monkey Business

If I called you "Macaca," would you have any idea what I was talking about?



From the Washington Post:

"This fellow here over here with the yellow shirt, Macaca, or whatever his name is. He's with my opponent. He's following us around everywhere. And it's just great. We're going to places all over Virginia, and he's having it on film and its great to have you here and you show it to your opponent because he's never been there and probably will never come."


Thanks to a few sites, allow me to educate you on the meaning of "Macaca/Macaque."

ma·caque (n.):

Any of several short-tailed monkeys of the genus Macaca of southeast Asia, Japan, Gibraltar, and northern Africa.

ma·ca·co -ca (spanish) (adj.): ugly, misshapen. Puerto Rico: foolish, silly. Mexico: bogeyman.

This phrase is apparently very popular in Tunisia (where Allen's mother is from, according to the linked sites), Belgium, and French. It's the equivlalent of calling a black person a porch monkey.

Several people have commented that the use of "Macaca/Macaque" by Allen is not racist, because the word "could mean anything." I'm not sure that I follow this logic.

Are they saying that Allen could have simply made up a name on the spot, and that this name could be unintentionally similar to a slur? If that's the case, and Allen was simply making up an "ethnic" sounding name, how is that not racist again?

Sunday Sermonizing

Posted by codemorse

Join me over at Sunday Sermonizing for "Yield Up Your Answers," where we'll talk about the joy of engaging God with your mind as well as your spirit.

We'll also discuss the pop song I'd most like to see God dancing to.

No, I have not been doing Peyote again.

Snakes And Snails And Puppy-Dog Tails? Sugar And Spice And Everything Nice?

Posted by codemorse

What are conservatives made of?

From UC Berkeley News:

....some of the common psychological factors linked to political conservatism include:

Fear and aggression, Dogmatism and intolerance of ambiguity, Uncertainty avoidance, Need for cognitive closure, Terror management.

"From our perspective, these psychological factors are capable of contributing to the adoption of conservative ideological contents, either independently or in combination," the researchers wrote in an article, "Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition," recently published in the American Psychological Association's Psychological Bulletin.

....The psychologists sought patterns among 88 samples, involving 22,818 participants, taken from journal articles, books and conference papers. The material originating from 12 countries included speeches and interviews given by politicians, opinions and verdicts rendered by judges, as well as experimental, field and survey studies.

Ten meta-analytic calculations performed on the material - which included various types of literature and approaches from different countries and groups - yielded consistent, common threads, Glaser said.

The researchers said that conservative ideologies, like virtually all belief systems, develop in part because they satisfy some psychological needs, but that "does not mean that conservatism is pathological or that conservative beliefs are necessarily false, irrational, or unprincipled." They also stressed that their findings are not judgmental.

"In many cases, including mass politics, 'liberal' traits may be liabilities, and being intolerant of ambiguity, high on the need for closure, or low in cognitive complexity might be associated with such generally valued characteristics as personal commitment and unwavering loyalty," the researchers wrote.

....Although they concluded that conservatives are less "integratively complex" than others are, Glaser said, "it doesn't mean that they're simple-minded."

Conservatives don't feel the need to jump through complex, intellectual hoops in order to understand or justify some of their positions, he said. "They are more comfortable seeing and stating things in black and white in ways that would make liberals squirm," Glaser said.


I found this study courtesy of DailyKos, and I'd be fascinated to read any others that deal with "liberalism" in the same manner. Of course, DKos takes this study and uses to discuss the "defeat" of conservatives, but they're missing the point, in my humble opinion. As the study notes, conservative traits are often very useful. They push us dithering liberals into making decisions, they bring needed attention to the unfortunate truth that some people aren't going to be stopped/disarmed with hugs and flowers.

What's useful to me about this study? It helps me understand the conservative mindset a little more. If our country is going to throw aside our current games of Xtreme Partisanship, we need to recognize the strengths, weaknesses, and differences in thinking that our differing sides/views bring to the table.

We need to respect the opinions of others, and learn to deal with them even when we disagree.

As David Foster Wallace writes:

"A Democratic spirit is one that combines rigor and humility, i.e. passionate conviction plus a sedulous respect for the convictions of others. As any American knows, this is a difficult spirit to cultivate and maintain, particularly when it comes to issues you feel strongly about. Equally tough is a DS's criterion of 100 percent intellectual integrity -you have to be willing to look honestly at yourself and at your motives for believing what you believe, and to do it more or less continually."