You left him, you left Chewie!

As you would expect, I spent some time this morning watching a public access rebroadcast of New Tong Dynasty Television's coverage of a comic book convention. Good stuff.

The book, I think, was Vector Prime, which of course I haven't read. I've only read one Star Wars novel ever, when I was about twelve, which I picked up from a younger cousin during a too long summer stretch at my grandmother's house. Nevertheless, I've been told by sci-fi heads at both Borders and Blimpy Burger that the newish novels are pretty good. Vector Prime's R.A. Salvatore, at any rate, is a perfectly competent writer of pulp fantasy. Still don't plan on reading the books.


Sotomayor messaging meeting (abridged)

GOP Thinker #1:Okay boys, we've got our nominee. Let's get to work. What have we got on...what's her name again?
GOP Thinker #2: Sotomayor.
GOP Thinker #6: I believe it's actually pronounced Sotomayor.
GOP Thinker #3: God help us, where do they get these people? Can't they just give us Garcia?
GOP Thinker #6: I wouldn't lead with that.
GOP Thinker #3: Did we ask you? Are you even in this meeting?
GOP Thinker #4: Cuervo.
GOP Thinker #3: What?
GOP Thinker #4: For her name. It would be funny if it were Cuervo.
GOP Thinker #6 (softly): Jesus.
GOP Thinker #1: Boys, come on now! What have we got?
GOP Thinker #3: She's a woman. Hispanic. Affirmative action hire.
GOP Thinker #2: Everybody hates affirmative action.
GOP Thinker #6: Her resume's a little deeper than that...
GOP Thinker #2: True.
GOP Thinker #6: Ivy League. Yale Law Review. It's not going to stick. We need to find cases. Who was on that?
GOP Thinker #11: I've got the summaries from the interns. Top line is solid work, unlikely to change the balance of the court.
GOP Thinker #3: What are you two even doing in this meeting? Jesus.
GOP Thinker #1: Guys! Let's get back on task.
GOP Thinker #2: That's right, back on task!
GOP Thinker #1: So what have we got?
GOP Thinker #4: I've got a speech where she says some things about how being ethnic makes her a better judge, a few other things like that.
GOP Thinker #3: There's the name. We can do a lot with the name.
GOP Thinker #2: Great ideas all around!
GOP Thinker #6: Are you people kidding? Do you understand that backlash politics won't work forever? The country is changing.
GOP Thinker #1: Really, how did you get into this meeting?
GOP Thinker #2: Yes, that's a good question.
GOP Thinker #3: Now we're getting somewhere!

Adding: Ta-Nehisi Coates has da rill shit.


On nutsack tattoo visibility, and the improvement thereof

Gillette does not condone use of a straight razor to clear the underbrush. Rather, follow their approved technique.

The best a man can get.


Empirical results to tatoo on my nutsack

Now a new paper, published by the journal Contraception, culls evidence from several studies to argue that withdrawal is actually nearly as effective as condoms in preventing pregnancy. The paper reports that couples who practice withdrawal perfectly over the course of a year -- meaning the male partner always pulls out before ejaculation -- have only a 4 percent pregnancy rate. More "typical" couples using withdrawal (those who sometimes mess up) have a pregnancy rate of 18 percent. |Dana Goldstein|


sunday quotes vs. the black eye peas

via colihouse again
I heard “Boom Boom Pow” by the Black Eyed Peas while switching between radio stations in my car. The words “I got the that rock and roll, that future flow, that digital spit, next level visual shit” piqued my curiosity so I decided to listen to the rest. As the beat kicked in, I remembered sort of liking the Peas’ first album and dreamily wondered whether T-Pain and Kanye West have inspired an amazing new genre: cyber rap. Just as I was starting to smile at the prospect of a Funkadelic generation for the 21st century, Fergie’s brute battle screech crushed all my hopes of space-hop grandeur with just one verse: “I like that boom boom pow, them chickinz jackin’ my style, they try copy my swagger I’m on that next shit now”.
I like a little supersonic boom as much as the next guy, but until one of these Peas can be a little more specific about their zooming space shit I’m afraid I just don’t buy it. What exactly makes this song futuristic? Help me out. Until then I’ll try to avoid saying “You’re SOO two thousand and LATE” in my lexicon and look to the cosmos for answers.

I keep thinking Fergie is singing, "I got that fuchsia flow," which would be, you know, different.


How bad is the economy?

An actual real employment wanted ad published today in the Ann Arbor Business Review:
Mature Telemarketer / Interviewer SEEKS Hourly Job. Refs. avail. XXX-XXX-XXXX Leave msg.

In other news, AABR reports that Ann Arbor is slated to receive $300,000 in stimulus money to fight urban blight.


Called "Daisy," The RNC's new 30-second Web ad uses footage of the now-infamous 1964 Lyndon Johnson commercial by the same name that showed a young girl picking off the pedals of a flower as a nuclear explosion is heard in the background.

That ad, which only ran once but was widely criticized as being extreme, ends with the image of a mushroom crowd and Johnson declaring, "We must either love each other, or we must die."

The New RNC ad splices the image of the girl with Obama's earlier declaration suggesting that closing Guantanamo Bay is "easy." This time the girl asks "To close it? To close it not?" as she picks off flower pedals.|CNN|

I don't see any way to read this except as an attempt to double-down on fear mongering. Maybe I'm biased. Anyhow, I tried to imagine what was going on in the room where they conceived the ad, but all I came up with was this:

GOP Thinker #1: We need a web ad for this Gitmo thing...
GOP Thinker #2: Got to drive home the message that the world will end if any of these guys are moved anywhere. Cuba, man, it's isolated. You can't even get a cigar out of there.
GOP Thinker #3: Man, all you have to do to get a cuban cigar is go to Canada.
GOP Thinker #2: Really?
GOP Thinker #3: Oh yeah. I've got a friend who crosses over from time to time and always brings a few back. Want me to get you a box?
GOP Thinker #2: Wow, that'd be...
GOP Thinker #1: Guys! On task, ok? We need fear, and the cigar angle isn't going to work.
GOP Thinker #2: Save the cigar angle for when Clinton runs!
GOP Thinker #3: Ha, ha, ha
GOP Thinker #1: Guys! Ah hell. Let's just recycle the daisy ad.
GOP Thinker #2: Chappaquiddick!

Bonus Content: Probably you'd like to watch the ad, so here it is.


For later

Surely someone, someday will have occasion to link to this. I'm looking at you, Mr. 3544.

New science turns people into lions

Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair

Howard Schnellenberger coached the Oklahoma Sooners for just over a season in 1995, putting up a 5-6-1 record. Upon his hiring he predicted, "They'll write books and make movies about my time here." Instead, this:

Prince finished 17-20 in three seasons at KSU. It was the the second-shortest coaching tenure in Big 12 history behind the two seasons Dave Roberts coached at Baylor. |ESPN|


I'll take door number three, Greg

Greg Mankiw writes:
According to new research from Justin Wolfers and Betsey Stevenson:
The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness
By many objective measures the lives of women in the United States have improved over the past 35 years, yet we show that measures of subjective well-being indicate that women's happiness has declined both absolutely and relative to men. The paradox of women's declining relative well-being is found across various datasets, measures of subjective well-being, and is pervasive across demographic groups and industrialized countries. Relative declines in female happiness have eroded a gender gap in happiness in which women in the 1970s typically reported higher subjective well-being than did men. These declines have continued and a new gender gap is emerging -- one with higher subjective well-being for men.

I am not at all sure how to interpret this finding. It sounds like either the women's movement was a mistake or subjective happiness is not the right objective.

Dr. Mankiw should have stopped at "I am not at all sure how to interpret this finding..."

Obviously the women's movement is not yet complete. Women are under intense social and financial pressures that men just don't have to deal with, and many of those are the result of continuing, pervasive sexism. So I think it's pretty ballsy * to claim that--because it hasn't achieved its goals yet--the movement is a mistake.

lame update: i forgot to quote mankiw! fixed now.
* Get it?


I'm a fan

of WolframAlpha if only because I can plunk in all sorts of questions to see what its limits are. Some disappointment thus far: I asked what the distance from Earth to Saturn would be on a certain date and it could not calculate my answer. Nor "how many sonnets did Shakespeare write?" Nor "Year of Shakespeare's death minus 2009."

On the other hand, just guess what it spit out when asked what the answer to life, the universe, and everything was.

Check out this piece in the Times too. WolframAlpha is not mentioned but provides the same kind of mathematical information mentioned.


Probably this isn't really that funny, but it's got puppets so I'm posting it.


Future shock

C-SPAN advertised the show as either 'the future of the Republican Party' or 'Conservatism and the future of the Republican Party', but I would have gone with 'Richard Viguerie is batshit insane' and been done with it. You must watch the videos. Here's a short one about the place of conservatism in the world.

The thing that really sticks out is that he's chairman of a website. Which reminds me, can I be Deputy Assistant Secretary of War for thebellman.org? Does this humble blog of record even have a process for awarding offices?

Here's a longer clip about media bias, marketing, the guv'mint plantation and other stuff:

Insightful stuff, I think you'll agree. There are a few more vids youtubeward.


Let's do it!

"I think that the House has an absolute obligation to open an inquiry, and I hope there will be a resolution to investigate her. And I think this is a big deal. I don't think the speaker of the House can lie to the country on national security matters," the [Gingrich] said in an interview with ABC Radio. |CNN|

The up-is-downism, the sheer chutzpah, the very idea of investigating Pelosi for allegedly lying about the content of secret briefings given during a period when the Bush administration was publicly lying the country into a war, well, you've got to admire it.

But since a thorough investigation will get more torture documents into the public record, I say go for it. And good luck arguing against those other investigations once the Dems prove willing to investigate their own leadership.

Adding: As long as I'm torture briefing blogging this morning, this is exactly right:
It can’t possibly be the operating assumption of the US government that members of congress and their senior staff are traitors. And if there’s something that genuinely needs to be kept secret for national security purposes, then you have to assume that honest and patriotic members of congress aren’t going to leak damaging information. But it’s clear that in the case of this waterboarding business, there was no real security need for all this operational secrecy. Instead, the Bush administration wanted to keep it secret because it was illegal and if people found out that it was happening they were likely to blow the whistle on the illegal torturing that was happening. But helping powerful people cover-up illegal activity is precisely what classification isn’t supposed to accomplish. |Yglesias|



From the freedom fighters over at The Union News. In native form it's an animated gif, but I couldn't download the file so I took two snapshots. Here's the first:

And the second:


Computer, what is the nature of the universe?

WolframAlpha launches tonight. It will turn your computer into the magic "smarter-than-you" box you've been waiting for all these years. Well, maybe not tonight, but it really represents a new way of making computers work for you. A "computational knowledge engine", it won't just look up an answer, but will compute answers and correlating data.

Check out the demo here.


At the University of Mississippi's Potency Monitoring Project, where thousands of samples of seized marijuana are tested every year, project director Mahmoud ElSohly said some samples have THC levels exceeding 30 percent.

Average THC concentrations will continue to climb before leveling off at 15 percent or 16 percent in five to 10 years, ElSohly predicted.

The stronger marijuana is of particular concern because high concentrations of THC have the opposite effect of low concentrations, officials say. |CNN|

Is the Potency Monitoring Project hiring? I've got some methodological innovations that I'd like to field test.

More seriously, I'd like to know the basis of ElSohly's hypothesis about future patterns of potency growth. My bullshit theory is that he thinks that border brick weed, now testing at an all time high of 7.3%, will never approach the 30% THC concentration found in the dankest buds.

But what the hell does that third paragraph mean about "the opposite effect"? Is the point that ditch weed doesn't get you high? Because I figured that out the hard way years ago, and it doesn't make me think that high potency is any kind of problem.

How's that working out for you?

Remember how the Reagan administration became a laughingstock for allegedly trying to classify ketchup as a vegetable?

This week, the Obama administration warned that Cheerios are a drug. |The Fever Swamp|

To review the ketchup incident, what happened was that the Reagan administration, seeking to save money on free lunches for poor children, attempted to classify ketchup (and, it should be noted, pickle relish) as a vegetable. They were rightly criticized on the grounds that the point of the free lunch program was to ensure that those children had at least one nutritious meal a day. And, yes, they were ridiculed.

As for Cheerios:
In a warning letter, the FDA cited the claim that “you can lower your cholesterol by 4 per cent in six weeks” by eating Cheerios regularly.

It objected to Cheerios’ assertion that “eating two 1½ cup servings daily of Cheerios cereal reduced bad cholesterol when eaten as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol”.

The claims – a central plank of Cheerios marketing for more than two years – go beyond the tightly defined health benefit claim for foods with soluble fibres, such as Cheerios, approved by the FDA for use in food marketing.

Dr Steven Sundloff, head of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety, said the action was “not to impugn Cheerios”, which he called “a product that can be part of a healthy diet”.

But he said: “The packaging clearly carries a drug claim.”|Financial Times|

To get the reading comprehension business out of the way, the Obama administration is claiming that Cheerios are NOT a drug.

But let's not be fooled into thinking that the folks over at The National Review[1] weren't able to figure that out. The point here wasn't to expose hypocrisy. They're following Alinsky's playbook, rule number five. In case you don't have the playbook memorized, that's the one about ridicule being your most powerful weapon.

Got doubt?: The very next entry over at the Swamp reads, verbatim and in full, "Naturally, the Internet has taken to the frying pan." Reading that, you might think that some fevered yet enterprising fellow traveler has almost instantaneously whipped up a this-is-your-brain-on-cheerios parody. But, no, the link is to a web video of somebody cooking Cheerios in a completely apolitical fashion.

1 -- Have I, by referring to the NRO's daily blog as 'the fever swamp' contributed to the sense that they are imbecile's who shouldn't be expected to know their assholes from their eyeballs? Possibly.


I'm listening to some old Jerry Lee Lewis records and wondering when, and maybe more importantly why, did rock stop swinging?


This might explain my uncanny skill at piloting spacecraft

Cornell's Daryl Bem studies precognition:
In conventional psychological tests, subjects recall words they’ve had a chance to study better than words they’ve seen only briefly. Bem reversed the usual order of events and found that his subjects were significantly more likely to recall words they would study later than words they wouldn’t study at all. Extroverts show the most precognition.

This is the avant-garde

What’s more, certain independent games are entering a phase – familiar to historians of jazz, comics and indeed 20th-century literature – of vigorous experimentation with techniques of narrative. (An evening with the frightening and baffling The Path, rather like an Angela Carter story siphoned through The Sims, will show you what I mean.) And with book sales falling, it may not be long before prose writers jump ship for a medium that offers some of the most exciting possibilities of the new century.
Our experience of stories is, by and large, a lateral one, in which the writer commands every aspect of the world the reader inhabits as well as the process by which it reveals itself. Fine; it’s worked for centuries. But it’s hard to shake the feeling that gaming – which increasingly promises a narrative space for the player to make his own way, never having the same experience twice – is where at least some of the great writers of tomorrow will make their names. At which point, as with comics, everyone will get a terrible headache over trying to think of a new name for the medium. |Telegraph.UK - Tim Martin|

I can't quite decide what to think of Martin's essay. On the one hand, it resonates with my view that video games are one of the signal cultural artifacts of our era, an emerging medium with the same kind of potential that photography had in the nineteenth century and cinema in the twentieth. On the other hand, I think that the works of those who locate themselves on the avant-garde are more often than not self-indulgent crap, so I sure hope video game designers don't start believing their press clippings.


and thus i cannot sleep

A correlation has been observed between the US GDP and the number of sunspots as well as between the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the number of sunspots. The data cover 80 years of history. The observed correlations permit forecasts for the GDP and for the stock market in America with a future horizon of 10 years. Both being above their long-term trend they are forecasted to go over a peak around Jun-2008.©2007 Elsevier Inc. | via |

The Sun is the dimmest it has been for nearly a century.

There are no sunspots, very few solar flares - and our nearest star is the quietest it has been for a very long time.
Last year, it was expected that it would have been hotting up after a quiet spell. But instead it hit a 50-year year low in solar wind pressure, a 55-year low in radio emissions, and a 100-year low in sunspot activity.

According to Prof Louise Hara of University College London, it is unclear why this is happening or when the Sun is likely to become more active again.

“There’s no sign of us coming out of it yet,” she told BBC News. | via |


Stephen King insults some of his readers, but he has a point.

via D. Fireball,
“The question is, how much time and energy do I want to spend chasing these guys,” Stephen King wrote in an e-mail message. “And to what end? My sense is that most of them live in basements floored with carpeting remnants, living on Funions and discount beer.”

On the one hand, it's easy for Stephen King to say this. He might not miss a few hundred dollars here and there in revenue lost to book piracy.*

But on the other hand, he's totally right. Be it music, movies, books, or recipes, there are some bootleggers who would otherwise never be exposed to that intellectual property, because they would never, ever, evereverever, pay full market value for it.

On the gripping hand, the real victims of piracy are second-hand stores and libraries, and both are institutions for which I have many positive feelings... which are rapidly turning into just "nostalgia." (Been nice knowing you, Dusty Bookshelf and Manhattan Public Library!)

* Book piracy, brought to you by the letter RRRRRRRR!

And then, hoping to catch a young lady's eye, I applied copious amounts of mayonnaise to my nose

This is pretty old by internet standards, but here it is anyway. Writing about an incident in Afghanistan last week, Charli Carpenter wrote:
Afghan civilians blame US airstrikes for 100+ civilian dead; the United States is investigating the possibility that the Taliban executed the civilians with grenades in order to blame US forces.

Either scenario is pretty plausible; but either way the PR fiasco falls in the lap of the international forces, so the bottom line is the US needs to rethink its counterinsurgency strategy. |LGM|

Emphasis added.

I've seen this repeated over and over again, and I have trouble buying it. We're supposed to believe that the Taliban are executing civilians, dozens or hundreds at a time, in order to win a propaganda victory. What kind of person would do that? I don't mean, who could be so evil? I mean who could handle the cognitive dissonance necessary to execute one's own people in order to liberate them?

Don't get me wrong, I'm as familiar as the next American with the evil third world insurgent types who populate our movies and television shows, and I'm sure that those characters would do such a thing, but...really? And this is such an every day thing that we can say, for any given set of air strike attributed fatalities, that it is pretty plausible that it was a mass execution perpetrated for propaganda purposes.

It just doesn't make any sense. Even if we leave aside the unfathomable psychology of these fantastical Talibani, it's hard to see what strategy such tactics could possibly serve. For one thing, the Taliban couldn't maintain its own integrity as a fighting force if they were routinely killing innocent civilians who were on their side (and probably in their extended family). For another, given that the United States is relying heavily on air strikes, those air strikes will produce civilian casualties, so the Taliban doesn't need to add anything to the mix to get their propaganda pictures. Why, then, would they? Blood lust?

Two final points. First, I think that the Taliban grenade story is being admitted as being pretty plausible mostly out of an attempt to be fair. That account of the events was floated by the US military, and nobody wants to call them a bunch of liars. But, second, they are liars. If you want to find a propaganda campaign here, it's the one the US is running. The point of that campaign, obviously enough, is to paint our adversaries as being so removed from normal human motivation that they are barely people at all. Seems to be working.


Deep thought

It takes someone as shallow as Matt Taibbi to make Terry Eagleton look deep.

Adding: I was going to just do a short post about the fact that Taibbi doesn't seem to know the difference between atheism and agnosticism, but having read his post on the topic, it's clear that this is but one of many, many, many, many distinctions that Taibbi can't be bothered to understand.

And, to answer Taibbi's question about Eagleton's use of the phrase a priori, he used it there because it was fundamental to his argument. To miss this, and then go on to write, "As for the actual argument..." is to reveal yourself to be an ignorant fool.

Lazy Sunday

Item: I was planning my day around the Rockets-Lakers game, but my afternoon cleared up when the news about Yao's broken foot came across the wires, so I'll be checking out the new Trek film. I hear A.O. Scott gave it a good review, which puts it in the same class as A.I..

Item: In other Trek related news, I saw Nemesis for the first time a few days ago and was surprised to find it less crappy than I expected. Still crappy in the same old after school special way that the Next Generation and spinoffs seem fated to be, but less crappy than I expected. In that way, it was a lot like Quantum of Silence.

Item: At approximately 5:17 a.m. this morning I learned of the Lee Majors Rechargeable Bionic Hearing Aid. One google search later I discovered this, which is a much better link to follow.

Item: Speaking of late night commercials, I have a question about the Extenze infomercial script. The male stars always say something like, "I don't really need a bigger cock, but performing better, that could be fun." What the hell does "performing better" mean? My best guess is at odds with Extenze's other promise of increased pleasure.

Item: Ok, here's a link to the Lazy Sunday video.

Bonus Usability Complaint Item: Big thanks to NBC for suing every external service that posted the video online and not having a search function for their own site. GENIUS!! Luckily, Wikipedia exists and had a link to the SNL vid.

Breaking copyright infringement item: After 50,246 views (mostly, it appears from the 500 comments, by idiots) the Samurai v. Viking video that I posted on YouTube a few weeks ago has been disabled. I expect SpikeTV to realize an immediate profit from the action.


"Judging by the pollution content of the atmosphere, I believe we have arrived at the late twentieth century."

Leonard Nimoy: I’ve met [Obama] twice. The first time was a couple years ago, very early on when he had just announced his candidacy. He was in Los Angeles, speaking at a luncheon we were invited to. There was a very small crowd — minuscule compared to the crowd that he gathered later — at a private home in Los Angeles. And we were standing on the back patio, waiting for him. And he came through the house, saw me and immediately put his hand up in the Vulcan gesture. He said, “They told me you were here.” We had a wonderful brief conversation, and I said, “It would be logical if you would become president.”

| quote via the Times via Ben Smith. title quote via Spock in "The Voyage home." picture via Bad Drawings of Spock. |



Manny Ramirez has tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs and will be suspended 50 games starting today, The Times has learned. |LA Times|

First of all, every writer who condemns Manny (and A-Rod, and McGwire, and Palmeiro, and Clemens, and so on) had better start marking down Jim Rice and Andre Dawson on their Hall of Fame ballots.

Second, I still don't understand why drugs are bad but performance enhancing eye surgery is fine and dandy:

Lastly, when oh when will the prohibition end? The wonders of juicing are no secret:


Gilding the lily

When last we visited Secular Right, John Derbyshire was arguing that gay marriage needed to remain illegal for the benefit of America's "cognitively-challenged underclass." Heterosexual marriage, Derbyshire explained, served as an "anchoring institution for them to aspire to."

Now here comes blogmate Heather MacDonald to make what I'm sure is an entirely unrelated point:
One overpowering cause of black social failure is the breakdown of marriage in the black community. Nationally, the black illegitimacy rate is 71%; in some inner city areas, it is closer to 90%. When boys grow up without any expectation that they will have to marry the mother of their children, they fail to learn the most basic lesson of personal responsibility. A community without the marriage norm is teetering on the edge of civilizational collapse, if it has not already fallen into the abyss. Fatherless black boys, who themselves experience no pressure to become marriageable mates as they grow up, end up joining gangs, dropping out of school, and embracing a “street” lifestyle in the absence of any male authority in the home.

If the black illegitimacy rate were not nearly three times the rate of whites’, I would have few qualms about gay marriage. Or if someone can guarantee that widespread gay marriage would not further erode the expectation among blacks that marriage is the proper context for raising children, I would also not worry. But no one can make that guarantee. |Heather MacDonald|


The answer begins with a shark infested moat

"If they can seize buildings, what's to stop them from getting a nuclear weapon?" -- Shepard Smith, reporting this story tonight on FOX News Report with Shepard Smith.

Privacy in a world bereft of privacy, part 5: Burn!

Last year, when law professor Joel Reidenberg wanted to show his Fordham University class how readily private information is available on the Internet, he assigned a group project. It was collecting personal information from the Web about himself.

This year, after U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia made public comments that seemingly may have questioned the need for more protection of private information, Reidenberg assigned the same project. Except this time Scalia was the subject, the prof explains to the ABA Journal in a telephone interview.

His class turned in a 15-page dossier that included not only Scalia's home address, home phone number and home value, but his food and movie preferences, his wife's personal e-mail address and photos of his grandchildren,
reports Above the Law.

And, as Scalia himself made clear in a statement to Above the Law, he isn't happy about the invasion of his privacy:

"Professor Reidenberg's exercise is an example of perfectly legal, abominably poor judgment. Since he was not teaching a course in judgment, I presume he felt no responsibility to display any," the justice says, among other comments.

A Supreme Court spokeswoman confirmed to the ABA Journal in an e-mail that the Scalia blast to ATL "is accurately attributed to Justice Scalia."

In response, Reidenberg tells the ABA Journal that the information gathered by his class about Scalia was all "publicly available, for free," and wasn't posted on the Internet by the class or otherwise further publicized. He views the dossier-gathering about a public figure as a legitimate classroom exercise intended to spark discussion about privacy law, and says he and the class didn't intend to offend Scalia.

The availability of such information on the Web makes it possible for the government to conduct surveillance that otherwise would be much more difficult or even impossible to pursue through court orders and other official mechanisms, Reidenberg contends. And aggregation of various bits of information also can lead to more troubling use of the compiled information, he says.

"When there are so few privacy protections for secondary use of personal information, that information can be used in many troubling ways," he writes in an e-mail to the ABA Journal. "A class assignment that illustrates this point is not one of them. Indeed, the very fact that Justice Scalia found it objectionable and felt compelled to comment underscores the value and legitimacy of the exercise." | ABA Journal via BB via Egg |

I contend that in the long term, Scalia's reaction about "judgment" will be closer to how we actually handle privacy issues. It will become a matter of law when information is abused, but what constitutes "abuse" will be narrowly restricted. The rest will come down to good manners.

In the mean time, this kind of exercise is spot on.

The Court II

Anita Hill.



Longer Ben Nelson

You may have seen the widely quoted quote from Sen. Ben Nelson (D):
Nelson’s problem, he told CQ, is that the public plan would be too attractive and would hurt the private insurance plans. “At the end of the day, the public plan wins the game,” Nelson said. Including a public option in a health plan, he said, was a “deal breaker.”

So, the immediate reaction from liberal pundits and bloggers is that Ben Nelson is clearly the insurance companies' bitch. If harm to their private plans is a 'deal breaker,' it means that their profits are his key motivation.

I think it's slightly more complicated than that. Nelson is most likely right: A public plan (positing that it is well funded and well constructed) is likely to outperform what the insurance companies can provide with their strict adherence to the bottom line and their relative size.

But what Nelson is really doing here is puncturing a convenient fiction that the left brings to the debate: That by introducing a public plan but preserving consumer choice, the magic of market forces and competition will keep both the public plan and private plans lean and cost effective. The reality that Nelson points out is that if we actually do the public plan right, it will simply replace the ubiquitous private plans, effectively socializing health care (and, importantly to Ben Nelson--whose"(D)" stands for "Douchenozzle"--harming the profits of the insurance industry).

Nelson is just honestly pointing out that we face a more clear cut choice than "third-way" dems like to admit: We should either muddle on with private industry failing to provide adequate health care insurance, or we should just go ahead and socialize it all.

Nelson is on the wrong side of that debate, but at least he calls it like he sees it.


The Court

Bernardine Dohrn has a law degree.
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