"I came here to drink milk and kick ass. And I've just finished my milk." - Moss, The IT Crowd

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Thought for the Day

“The problem is that some of the people are sold by money and they go against their own people. I am sure people are watching and I may be, like, dead or something, but I shouldn’t lie at this point, because there are a lot of lives at stake.”
 - 14-year-old schoolgirl speaking to NYT reporter in Tripoli

Friday, March 11, 2011

On the Lighter Side

After all the sad and terrifying news coming out of Japan, I think it's time for some cheerier content this Friday. I hope some of these links will bring a smile to your face, at least for a little while:

The Muppets Alignment Chart (Funnier if you enjoy RPGs.)

Maru, the box-loving Scottish Fold cat who lives in Japan, is OK. (Hint: watch the videos.)

A movie review from Cracked.com that made me laugh until I cried. (I swear this movie actually exists.)

A TV movie review from Go Fug Yourself that made me laugh until I cried. (I'm a sucker for any post that manages to work in a mention of the Piggly Wiggly grocery store chain.)

Actual legal case names. (If you can read these without laughing, you're made of sterner stuff than I am.)

Thought for the Day

"Drinking keeps me warm and approachable."
 - Arthur Wells, Better Off Ted

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Martyrs of Chihuahua

The Texas Observer has an article which does a much better job than anything else I've seen of explaining why Marisol Valles (who is 21 years old and has a small child) felt she had to step down as the police chief of Praxedis G. Guerrero for her safety and the safety of her family. Read what is happening to these women in Chihuahua as they try to overcome corruption and reclaim their country. Their bravery is inspiring, but what is happening to them is heartbreaking.

Do Zombie Banks Eat Brains?

Naked Capitalism has an excellent article on the term sheet proposed by the states' attorneys general and federal regulators for settlement with the national mortgage lenders over allegations of loan servicing abuses, illegal foreclosures, etc. Naked Capitalism's contention is that the motivation for the push to get this deal finalized, without taking time for further in-depth investigation of fraudulent practices, is that a more thorough examination of the lenders' liabilities for fraudulent actions would demonstrate that their actual financial position is far more precarious than it has been portrayed by Timothy Geithner and company.

Radicalization

I've been avoiding writing about the Congressional hearings on "extent of radicalization" in the U.S. Muslim community because the whole thing makes me so mad I want to spit, and it's difficult for me to write about it with a semblance of rationality. But I'm going to do my best.

Do I think there are some Muslims in the U.S. who have developed radical views, who may be egged on by religious or social leaders who advocate or condone violence? Sure. I also think that there are some white supremacists, Christian fundamentalists, Tea Partiers, and conspiracy theorists (from both the far left and far right wings) who are susceptible to being egged on by religious and social leaders who advocate or condone violence.

You know what I DON'T think? That everyone who plasters a Confederate flag on their car, wears a cross around their neck, advocates abolishing the income tax, or believes that 9/11 was an inside job is a threat to my or my country's safety and well-being. And I don't think that people are automatically suspect as any kind of threat to me or my country because they choose to practice Islam, either.

Thought for the Day

"Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress."
- Frederick Douglass

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Bad Astronomy's top 14 astronomy pictures of 2010

Make yourself feel better with a little beauty.

I'm serious. You really need to see these.

Take down that takedown notice right now, you whippersnappers!

This is so meta that I can hardly stand it: apparently 20th Century Fox sent a DMCA takedown request to Google... to tell Google to remove links to the pages at ChillingEffects.org which show the original takedown notice that lists the links to the content Fox wanted taken down.

I need to go lie down now.

Read the story at Techdirt.

I do not think that "respect for civil rights and civil liberties" means what you think it means

When a federal agency (in this case, the Department of Homeland Security) conducts an internal investigation to determine whether the civil rights of U.S. citizens were violated by improper surveillance, how can such an investigation possibly be meaningful if no detailed accounting of its findings is ever produced? If a tree falls in the forest but everyone who could hear it has been kept outside the forest's perimeter, did it make a sound?

In this case, DHS's Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (OCRCL) responded to a complaint by the ACLU by conducting an investigation of whether the DHS acted improperly by engaging in domestic intelligence collection on non-violent protest groups which espoused policies critical of the U.S. government (particularly with regards to the Iraq war).

Promises, Promises

More and more, I regret voting for Barack Obama and making a campaign contribution to him in the last Democratic presidential primary. During his presidential campaign, Obama talked up a meaningful commitment to civil liberties, human rights, and transparency in government. His campaign stance as a defender of of these core principles has been utterly belied by his actions since taking office. The main changes I've seen under Obama have been (1) the passage of healthcare reform, which was turned into a giant giveaway for the insurance companies; and (2) the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" - laudable, but hardly the same as actively pursuing equal rights for LGBT individuals in all walks of life. [Edited to add: I had my civil liberties hat on and forgot all about bailing out the crooks on Wall Street! Yup, he did some of that too. Although I guess that doesn't really constitute a change.] Attempting to enumerate Obama's broken promises here would take so long as to undermine my goal of posting some original content each day, so I'm going to confine myself to one broken promise today: Obama's failure to shut down the United States' disgraceful extralegal prison in Guantanamo.

Thought for the Day

"The prize, however, must surely go to the unknown soul who started 'A Company for carrying on an undertaking of great advantage, but nobody to know what it is.'"
- Burton G. Malkiel

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The real cost of developing new drugs...

...and why it's lower than you might think.

The Make-Believe Billion

The study that Slate bases this article around seems credible and well-researched. It was published in BioSocieties, a peer-reviewed publication of the London School of Economics.

A whole new meaning for "Drive-By Truckers"

GPS chaos: How a $30 box can jam your life

Good article from the New Scientist about how GPS is woven into many critical aspects of daily life, and the havoc that can result when GPS signals are jammed or spoofed.

Forget about bomb scares shutting down airports: apparently one trucker with a portable jammer is all it takes to disrupt air traffic control.

Thanks to @pleenok for the link.

You cannot wage democracy

You cannot wage democracy. You cannot rain it down from above as some kind of payload carried by missiles and bombs. When a country's people want democracy, they must bring it about from within. The heavy lifting must be done by the citizens who will ultimately vote within and administer the democracy itself.

Instituting democratic reforms in an authoritarian system generally involves the removal of leaders who believe that they will be stripped of their wealth, power, privileges, and/or continued physical existence if they step down. Naturally, these leaders tend not to go gently into the night, and casualties among would-be reformers are to be expected. The more objectionable the despotic regime, the more atrocities are to be expected as it fights against its demise.

The fact that deaths, torture, and atrocities are the common currency of dying dictatorships does not make them in any sense morally acceptable.