Somebody say what what

Unlike Ross Douthat, I don't think you can blame progressives for suspecting that the conservative movement may not be above nefarious scheming. That said, this is a pretty good line:
Here's a tip for liberals: If your candidate is going to stage enormous rallies in front of tens of thousands of chanting Germans (with monuments to Prussian military might in the background) in the middle of his Presidential campaign, it isn't the GOP's fault if the footage comes out looking a little like Hitler at Nuremberg. |Douthat|

Thursday vp auguration blogging

First of all, and speaking as a Michigander, if the GOP wants a chance at my vote then they'd better pick my man Mitt. That's all there is to it.

As for the Democrats, I'm starting to root for Biden. He's not perfect, and isn't much likely to deliver Virginia, but he and Clinton are the only plausible candidates who give me the impression that they could step into the vice presidency and do something with the job. Biden is good for talking to constituent groups, and, more importantly, will be a forceful advocate for a sane approach to national security.

He's probably not the best possible choice on the politics, but choosing him would have a couple of tactical benefits. First, a Biden choice would help Obama defend himself against the charge that he lacks experience. Say what you will about Biden, he's been in Washington for a long time and knows how to operate there. Second, Biden is very effective at responding to GOP attacks. The McCain campaign has been throwing a lot of mud and they're going to keep doing it. Obama has been taking the high road and is going to keep doing that. Fair enough, but the Obama campaign needs somebody to crawl down in there to call out the McCain campaign when they lie, and Biden would be exceedingly good in that role.


All the buzz that's fit to feed

First of all, I'm sorry.

On the other hand, The Bellman's buzzfeed feed did tell me about this, which might actually interest you folks:
An ingenious CSS hack and some spicy Javascript is however enough to use a trial and error method to find out if a user has been to specific websites.
Others came up with a script that is using this method to estimate if the visitor is male or female. The Javascript makes use of the Quantcast Top 10K websites and the male:female ratio that they provide plus a neat algorithm to compute the percentages for male and female likeliness.

The widget figured me to be 94% likely to be male. How about you?


The annotated Victor Davis Hanson

Ecobonics[1]: The Rise of the Geoprophets [Victor Davis Hanson]

It is scary[2] when Speaker Pelosi claims “I’m trying to save the planet; I’m trying to save the planet,”[3] or Al Gore barks[4] about his utopian[5] plan to shut down all generators of electricity except wind and solar within 10 years — or else: “The future of human civilization is at stake."[6] Or Obama claims that at the "moment" of his nomination over Hillary (?) "The rise of the oceans began to slow."[7] Call this ecobonics, geo-narcissism[8], or hokey science — or a variant strain of Bush Derangement Syndrome[9] — but it is creepy nonetheless.
|Hanson, Victor Davis. The Corner. 29 July 2008|

1 -- VDH will of course assert that if there is anything beyond his poetic ear at work here, it is merely a casual invocation of that old chestnut, political correctness. That's in there, but so is a casual invocation of widespread stereotypes of black speech. Was VDH, in writing this, trying to darken up the green movement, or is it that he finds the casual invocation of widespread stereotypes of black speech to be just the sort of harmless frivolity from which blog posts -- especially blog posts mentioning Obama -- are built? It is a difficult question.

2 -- You can't say everything in a blog post, of course, but absent any kind of explanation this is just a naked appeal to fear. What is VDH afraid of? He can't quite bring himself to say, but it lurks there, menacing. In some ways, it's a lot like San Francisco.

3 -- Perhaps VDH is so married to ignorance that he denies the looming environmental crisis, or perhaps he hasn't noticed that Nancy Pelosi is one of the most powerful people in the world. In any case, he thinks it hubris for the Speaker of the House of the United States of America to express confidence in our ability to address a grave global problem. That seems wrongheaded.

4 -- It seems to me that "the stentorian Al Gore barks" would have provided the kind of flourish VDH needs to get the rock all the way up this hill. Lacking that, the image of Al Gore barking is merely surreal.

5 -- I don't think VDH knows what the word 'utopian' means.

6 -- Perhaps denialism should have pride of place in 3 above.

7 -- VDH got the talking points! The narrative being pushed here is that Obama is a messianic narcissist and that this comes through in his rhetoric. Of course, if you actually look at the texts in question then you see that this is a blatant misreading. Obama has a consistent rhetorical style the very most consistent aspect of which is his reflexive use of constructions which invite listeners to consider themselves to be united together with him in some sort of movement. While the vision Obama articulates is open to rational criticism, in misrepresenting it VDH again chooses sophistry.

8 -- In the light of 'geo-narcissim', 'ecobonics' now seems astonishingly clever.

9 -- VDH is just a hack checking the boxes at this point.


Prophylactics may no longer be possible!

If I were a betting man, I'd bet that this blog is about to eat itself. That's right, we may have fallen within the horizon of yet another blogular existence failure. Or maybe not.

Maybe you noticed the BuzzFeed[1] widget in the right hand column. Maybe you didn't. Anyway, it's there and it's been there for a few hours. Supposedly it will bring buzz our way through our participation in a wider buzz spreading project. Think of it as a no-cost pyramid scheme for buzz.

Anyway, the first bit-o-buzz that the widget spit out had the headine "underage gymnasts". Shortly after, the site went down. Now, there's just a message saying that the site is undergoing routine maintenance and an invitation to visit one of their hand picked list of ten or so buzz worthy sites.

I chose Erotic Falconry:
And a movement it has become! With nearly 60 proud enthusiasts with real email addresses, we’re taking the sexual fringe community by storm. You can bet that’s got the fellas at Nambla plenty nervous. Even celebrities like Robert Loggia, Carrie Strug, Liam Neeson and Ted Pennington are showing their talon marks!

Still with me? EYES ON THE TEXT! As I said above, I worry that we may be approaching a blogular catastrophe of more or less the usual proportions. The danger is porn-bots. Most likely Chinese porn-bots, but that's just speculation. I fear, in a word, that the entire BuzzFeed enterprise is a sinister porn-bot front and that the widget there is a virtual trojan horse. All may be lost.

1 - May the record show that it was Jason's idea. Or, possibly, fault.

Don't write angry

I make my share of typos, but also I don't say things like:
Why would you change a sentnece [sic] aso [sic!] that it meant something i [sic] didn't mean? I don't know, but you risk doing it every time you change something. And the way you avoid this kind of fuck up is by not changing a word of my copy without asking me, okay? it's [sic!] easy. Not. A. Word. Ever.

In a more flattering attempt to practice what he preaches, he writes
Can't you hear? Can't you hear that it is wrong? It's not fucking rocket science. It's fucking pre-GCSE scansion. I have written 350 restaurant reviews for The Times and i [sic] have never ended on an unstressed syllable. Fuck. fuck, fuck, fuck.

But seriously, by his own logic it should end with a fifth fuck.

via the Corner, but I can't find the link.

100 days to election day!

Just sayin'. Maybe it's time for some prognostication.

It's all about the soft skills

Chances are that if you read this blog then you've either already seen this or don't care to, but I'm posting it anyway.

Addendum: By the way, the icon really doesn't look much like an 'E'.

If you read the internet on your phone

This is really helpful.
Mobile Safari on the iPhone does an amazing job displaying web pages. However, I find that in the context of viewing some web pages on the go, that this view isn't necessarily the best way to read some pages. For example, even though the iPhone interface is awesome, I don't really want to waste time zooming and messing with a page to read the actual content. I'd rather just load up a page, read my content, and move on. (Of course, the best solution would be if web designers designed alternate "iPhone-optimized" views that would look great on the iPhone, but only a few mainstream sites do this as of the time of this post.)

I discovered back in my Treo days that Google has a page that translates web pages to "mobile-friendly" versions. I find that loading pages using this URL reduces page load time, and makes them easier to read on the iPhone. So, I created a bookmarklet that allows you to take the current page in Mobile Safari and run it through the Google page to display a mobile optimized version of the site.


Bellman culture watch, "Drive monkey, DRIVE!" edition

I'm not saying that it's a good movie, but I bet you'd enjoy Grandma's Boy. Also, the FX network seems committed to showing it over and over and over again so all you need to do to see it is steal cable.


Will students voluntarily give up their privacy?

Tucked away in a 1,200-page bill now in Congress is a small paragraph that could lead distance-education institutions to require spy cameras in their students' homes.

It sounds Orwellian, but the paragraph — part of legislation renewing the Higher Education Act — is all but assured of becoming law by the fall. No one in Congress objects to it.

The paragraph is actually about clamping down on cheating. It says that an institution that offers an online program must prove that an enrolled student is the same person who does the work.

Already, the language is spurring some colleges to try technologies that authenticate online test takers by reading their fingerprints, watching them via Web cameras, or recording their keystrokes. Some colleges claim there are advantages for students: The devices allow them to take tests anytime, anywhere. Many students must now travel to distant locations so a proctor can watch them take exams on paper.

But some college officials are wary of the technologies, noting that they are run by third-party vendors that may not safeguard students' privacy. Among the information the vendors collect are students' fingerprints, and possibly even images from inside their homes. | via |

Will these students voluntarily give up their privacy, for the gain of being able to take relatively inexpensive classes at a distance? I think some probably will.


much that was previously mysterious is finally made clear

I've been a fan of D.R. Tucker's work since he took over Right Angle. It's like reading William F. Buckley as edited by The Onion as related by a 12-year old. I often am amazed that he can display such density in such density.

But now, Tucker may have revealed his secret sauce:
It’s only been a week or so since Tony Snow’s passing, and I can still hear him speaking to me.

Bonus quote from this column:
The average conservative is more intelligent than the average liberal, but the average liberal can explain his beliefs more skillfully than the average conservative.



Why isn't anybody in these parts posting about Peak Oil?

Relatedly, I read somewhere -- maybe Harper's -- that an underground colony of a single celled eukaryote had been determined to have more biomass than exists on the surface of the planet. Don't know if that's true, but it seems consistent with this:
The recent discovery of unusual microbes that thrive at these depths today has greatly expanded our notion of earth's biodiversity and has forced us to re-draw the evolutionary tree of life. Many scientists now believe that the total amount of biomass underground exceeds that of the surface.
If I recall correctly, one of the anti-Peak Oil crazy sciences theories postulated that oil is, contrary to appearances, a renewable resource. The precise crazy science mechanism for oil formation escapes me, but didn't it require that huge reservoirs of as yet undiscovered biomass exist deep underground? If it did, then I say this is a coupe for crazy science!

Also, the Peak Oil guys totally have a feather in their cap right now. I meant to mention that earlier in the post.

There you go

I think I just witnessed Brett Favre's agent coming to terms with the Packers on live TV. Favre comes back, is acknowledged to be the best QB, and there is an "open competition" with Aaron Rodgers for the job.

But who cares about the deal. The point is that they seem to have negotiated it on live TV while staring into cameras in separate studios. That's a new phenomenon, right?

Maybe it was a put on. Maybe the deal was really made over the weekend and this was just a clever way of announcing it. But whatever. It still seems noteworthy that they'd elect to perform the farce.

Addendum: Or not. I swear I saw the conversation, but there's no news of it anywhere. Odd.


War: who is it good for?

Maybe you've heard that Maliki supports withdrawal.[1]

Let's talk about the politics. While Josh Marshall went farther than most when he wrote that "Maliki has cut McCain off at the knees", certainly the conventional wisdom is that this is a blow to McCain. I'm not so sure. While it's true that McCain's brand is war, I don't think it necessarily follows that peace hurts the brand. As much as Maliki has helped Obama this week, the overall effect could be to take Iraq off the table. Unless McCain is an idiot, he'll pivot to Maliki's position and argue that withdrawal is a victory brought about by the surge and double down on his "I know how to win wars" narrative. Maybe that will work and maybe it won't, but it smells better if you think that the war in Iraq will end regardless of how the election turns out.

1 -- The definitive response to conservative unrealism on this point comes from Yglesias who points out that we have "an on-the-record interview in which Maliki's remarks were not at all ambiguous and during which time he repeatedly returned to the subject of thinking that Obama's proposals are the right framework within which to proceed. Against that there's a non-denial denial, in another person's name, issued by CENTCOM. Considering that Maliki in effect lives and works inside a CENTCOM controlled military installation...this is pretty weak tea." Alternately, there's Pajamas Media.


Bellman culture watch

Item: Mongol and Hellboy II are both excellent eye candy with annoying plots.

Item: Bud Light's new advertising slogan, "Endless refreshment from start to finish", describes a state of affairs which is not conceptually possible.

Item: "Real Vice Cops Uncut" is not the title of of a porn movie.


It's gonna take more than that

Married To The Sea

Notes on McCain at the NAACP Convention

Because I can't leave the house until my laundry is dry.
  • Obama is an "accomplished fellow". Classy.

  • A bit of a slip, talking about the advancement of African Americans when we all know that the NAACP is, in fact, committed to the advancement of 'colored people'.[1]

  • Deafening applause for vouchers. Oh wait, that was an awkward silence.

  • $500 million for virtual schools. That's a lot of scratch. Now, I know I'm just a shill for the teachers unions, but this sounds to me like a massive subsidy for the home schooling movement.

  • No new taxes!!!! Huzzah! Thank God McCain is willing to talk straight about the economy.

  • This is a tough crowd for McCain, and I don't really understand why he's here.

  • Oh wait, here's something fun. McCain is talking about how excited he was to hear about the Civil Rights movement while being held as a P.O.W. in Vietnam. Apparently, he was every bit as inspired as those counter-cultural hippies that you're always hearing about. Though he took his inspiration in a slightly different direction, obviously.

  • He's pulling a Carcetti!!!! "Whether or not I win your suport, I need your council." Maybe that'll be enough to bring Odell Watkins on board.

1 -- I kid because I love. But come on. It's not as if 'en double eh see pee' is such a beautiful and poetic acronym that the organization dare not change its name.


This post marks the beginning of the annual Ann Arbor Art Fair. Hold on, it only lasts 100 hours.

Addendum: To be fair, it's not all crap. For example, I particularly liked this artist's booth last year, and will make a point of stopping by again. If, unlike me, you've got $1200 lying around waiting to be spent on art, I recommend this piece.


Privacy in a world bereft of privacy, part 3

Regarding DR's bad dream:

I've been saying that future societies will need to find ways to deal with the complete lack of privacy, and it's time that I start outlining how that might work. I'll start by describing how this kind of event would go down in a well-adjusted version of the future:

1. Idiot thinks it's a good idea to distribute this flyer.

2. The veracity of the claims would be verifiable with a very acceptable level of certainty, through a variety of near-instant methods.

3. If any of the claims (e.g., he molested a child) turn out to be false, idiot pamphleteer is ostracized by polite society, and she might be subject to legal recourse by the object of the flyer, depending on the intent and the demonstrable harm of the flyer.

4. The social security number would be useless. Now, if she'd gotten ahold of one of his 9803-digit private keys and printed that, she would definitely be going to jail.

[7/15/08: Very slightly updated for word choice and grammar.]

Tell me is it just a dream

Here's what I know about AG:
  • Full name
  • Social Security Number
  • What he looks like
  • Home address
  • That he tested positive for cocaine in mid June, while testing negative for marijuana, amphetamines, opiates, and PCP.
  • The specimen ID for said test.
  • That whoever decided to distribute flyers with all of this information also saw fit to add the editorial comment, "Watch out for this man he deals drugs to kids and I've heard he molested one."

Also, because this is the internet age I know that AG isn't listed on the national sex offender registry, but does have a court date coming up (though not on any sort of criminal sexual conduct charge).


The coolest application on the iPhone is Shazam

The concept behind Shazam is simple: whenever you hear a song playing and can't identify it--on the car radio, at a friend's house, at a bar--you activate the Shazam application on your mobile phone. It "listens" to the song for about 30 seconds, then sends a text message to your phone identifying the artist and title. However, closing the loop with an actual purchase was hard--you had to tag the song, then consult a Web site to see your tagged item, then go to another service (such as iTunes) to buy it.

The version of Shazam for the iPhone 2.0 fixes this problem: once you've tagged a song in Shazam, you can launch iTunes directly from that tagged song and buy the song immediately. | CNET |

It was accurately tagging some pretty obscure music playing on KOOP today, even over significant car noise. The interface is good. It's all over the network, so there are no longer any text messages involved. And you can just keep tagging things and review it all later when you aren't driving.


The saddest thing about today...

...is that Tony Snow never fulfilled his lifelong dream of leading his Jethro Tull tribute band to the top of the charts. Or anywhere, really.

Knows who your Loopt friends are, too


Notes on Dynagroove

To solve these old an obstinate problems in disc recording, highly ingenious computers -- "electronic brains" -- have been introduced to audio for the first time. These remarkable new electronic devices and processes grew out of an intense research program which produced notable advances in virtually every step in the recording science.

Source: Atkins, Chet. Back cover of Progressive Pickin'. RCA, 1964.

Let's all join hands together


Wingnut funtime

Because I was out of icepicks I watched Hardball last night. Tom DeLay was on to argue that:

(1) George Bush has done terrible damage to the GOP brand, so much so that a Democrat is likely to win the White House.

(2) Iran's missile tests show that Iran is determined to continue its nuclear program.

(3) If we don't go to war with Iran, then Iran will eventually acquire nuclear weapons.

(4) We cannot allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.

(5) Thus, we must go to war with Iran.

(6) But we can't trust a Democratic President to start a new war.

(7) Hence, we need to get the war started before November.

When pressed, the only specific hostile act DeLay was willing to explicitly endorse was a blockade. I'd say that's scary enough.


If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you

Here in Michigan, when someone wants to tell you where in the state something is what they do is raise their right hand as if taking an oath and then point at their palm. You see, if you look at a map of Michigan it sort of looks like the flat of the hand. Except, that is, for the upper peninsula, which is properly referred to as the you pee, and which can be represented by making the Boy Scout sign with your left hand and then holding that (again, palm out) over the right hand, slightly tilted, on the pinkie side, but isn't.

Which I mention by way of giving context to of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation's current ad campaign. Here's Gov. Granholm introducing the theme:
“CEOs are choosing Michigan for their business growth because they think Michigan is a great place to do business,” Granholm said. “We want those CEOs sharing that story with the world so that when other businesses are looking for a place to grow and create jobs, they look at Michigan first. MEDC’s advertising focuses on companies and CEOs who capitalized on Michigan’s business resources to give them a global competitive edge.”

The initiative will highlight Michigan’s key business-attraction tools including its competitive business environment, its world-renowned universities, its highly skilled workforce, its status as the world’s research and design hub, and its new, $2 billion 21st Century Jobs Fund. Together, these tools give Michigan businesses “The Upper Hand.”

That tag line -- 'giving Michigan business the upper hand' gets repeated, by Jeff Daniels no less, at the end of each of the TV ads.

To a Michigander, the practice of pointing at the hand gives this slogan an overt meaning which is at once banal, immediate, and difficult to resist. But come on. This is a dog-whistle for the investor class, a signal that the state will take the side of capital in disputes with labor. The invisible hand, as they say, helps those who help themselves.

Which isn't to say that I'm not sympathetic, on a whole lot of levels, with the goals and (explicit) arguments of the campaign. Jobs are good, good jobs are better, arguments that link jobs to investments in university funding are best of all.

And maybe I'm just an optimist because I haven't lived here through the last thirty years of economic stagnation and contraction, but it seems to me that the fundamentals look good for growth in the state. The MEDC campaign is right that Michigan has a very skilled workforce. What the ads don't mention, but which everyone knows perfectly well, is that a whole lot of the people who make up that workforce are unemployed or underemployed. Another thing they don't mention is the weakness of the dollar, but that can only help.


Wouldn't want to rush things

In a post entitled The System Works, TNR's Josh Patashnik writes:
You could make a similar observation about the institutional design of Congress and the 2006 election. There was a huge wave of discontent with the ruling party. The body designed to be most in tune with popular opinion (the House of Representatives) flipped to the opposition by a wide margin. The body designed to be slightly more insulated from momentary shifts in public sentiment (the Senate) flipped just barely, and perhaps thanks only to one ill-chosen word from George Allen. As dissatisfaction with the GOP has persisted, the party's prospects have become even bleaker, and now it stands a pretty good chance of losing the presidency too. (And if it doesn't, it will be because the two parties responded to the situation rationally in the manner Matt describes.)

All in all, it's a fairly elegant, and yet not impetuous, means of transferring power as public opinion changes. It makes you appreciate the wisdom of the system the Framers devised--something to keep in mind next time someone tells you the U.S. would be better off with parliamentary-style government.

A yes, "fairly elegant, and yet not impetuous."*

While we were busy being elegant and restrained in our transfer of power, we only:

* allowed Al-Queda to attack
* launched two wars
* dismantled constitutional protections
* turned the Supreme Court sharply right

But hey, thanks TNR, I will keep our stately dignity in mind the next time someone suggests any variant on our system whatsoever.

* Grammar Snark Says: .... as if elegance usually goes hand in hand with impetuousness. And yet not in this case!

Did you know

Probably you did. Anyhow, Split Lip is touring. Maybe I'll try to make the September show in Chicago. Also:
5/26/08 3:48 pm
Just wanted to give you all a head’s up…
We just spent the last week in the studio and are finally done recording the new record…

(image via)

Why I'm voting for John McCain, or It looks like a nail to me

America must invest its Iraq victory dividend in energy security! Quite frankly, nothing could be more vital and you are burying your head in the sand if you think otherwise.


What what

...awesome Michigan storms...

|Polyglot Conspiracy|

No such thing.

An awesome storm:

Kristol on McCain's campaign

McCain is frustrated. He thinks he can beat Obama (politicians are pretty confident in their own abilities). But he isn’t convinced his campaign can beat Obama’s campaign. He knows that his three-month general election head start was largely frittered away. He understands that his campaign has failed to develop an overarching message. Above all, McCain is painfully aware that he is being diminished by his own campaign. | NYT |

What is this supposed to mean, exactly?

If by "his own campaign" Kristol means McCain's decision to flip flop on a number of long-held positions to more convincingly pander to folks like Kristol, then yes, I would say McCain been diminished by his own campaign. But is this distinction between the man and his campaign supposed to imply that McCain is not at the helm? That he has some bad advisors?

Stay tuned for next week, when Kristol laments McCain's tacking towards the center.


Dumb Game 4th of July Hedgehog Launch!

This game is really, really fun. My advice is to start by upgrading your goggles. In other news, in searching for this game, I learned about "Hedgehog Space."
For any cardinal number K, the K-hedgehog space is formed by taking the disjoint union of K real unit intervals identified at the origin. Each unit interval is referred to as one of the hedgehog's spines. A K-hedgehog space is sometimes called a hedgehog space of spininess K.

Breaking Chess News

15 Year old Marc Arnold -- from the NYC no less -- beat GM Vadim Milov in the opening round of the World Open yesterday. Milov was the top seed, and was ranked 28th in the world in the most recent FIDE rankings.


Not so conservative behind closed doors

According to a 1973 Supreme Court decision, one of the yardsticks used to determine if material can be considered obscene is whether said material violates “contemporary community standards”. Which is why, in his defense of an adult website operator, lawyer Lawrence Walters is using google search information from the area the trial is taking place in.
In the trial of a pornographic Web site operator, the defense plans to show that residents of Pensacola are more likely to use Google to search for terms like “orgy” than for “apple pie” or “watermelon.” The publicly accessible data is vague in that it does not specify how many people are searching for the terms, just their relative popularity over time. But the defense lawyer, Lawrence Walters, is arguing that the evidence is sufficient to demonstrate that interest in the sexual subjects exceeds that of more mainstream topics — and that by extension, the sexual material distributed by his client is not outside the norm.
| Grinding |

My main motivation for posting this is that it is wonderful. But I would also like to loop this back in to our recent discussions (here and here) about how society adjusts to a lack of privacy. It seems to me that privacy advocates are unwilling to acknowledge the disadvantages of privacy. Today's example: public policy that based on rank hypocrisy by social conservatives.

(I hope to do some more thoughtful posts about privacy soon, in which we might connect the dots between some of these instabloggy posts.)

Just the place for a snark

First, the government suggests that several of the assertions
in the intelligence documents are reliable because they are made
in at least three different documents. We are not persuaded.
Lewis Carroll notwithstanding, the fact that the government has
“said it thrice” does not make an allegation true. See LEWIS
CARROLL, THE HUNTING OF THE SNARK 3 (1876) (“I have said
it thrice: What I tell you three times is true.”).

Source: Page 28, Parhat v. Gates, US Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, 20 June 2008. (PDF)


Via Ash.

Addendum: Check out the image used in the NY Times-ish coverage of the case. Also, note that the image is covered by a creative commons license. Huzzah!
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