Friday, March 10, 2006
Commentators have also noted that Kato is one of those rare creatures who have achieved Buddha nature. -- McLir
Thursday, March 09, 2006
...Sandia’s Z machine normally works like this: 20 million amps of electricity pass through a small core of vertical tungsten wires finer than human hairs. The core is about the size of a spool of thread. The wires dissolve instantly into a cloud of charged particles called a plasma.
The plasma, caught in the grip of the very strong magnetic field accompanying the electrical current, is compressed to the thickness of a pencil lead. This happens very rapidly, at a velocity that would fly a plane from New York to San Francisco in several seconds.
At that point, the ions and electrons have nowhere further to go. Like a speeding car hitting a brick wall, they stop suddenly, releasing energy in the form of X-rays that reach temperatures of several million degrees — the temperature of solar flares.
While some of these instances were considered technical glitches, the report, from the department's inspector general, characterized others as "significant," including wiretaps that were much broader in scope than approved by a court and others that were allowed to continue for weeks or sometimes months longer than was authorized.
In one instance, the F.B.I. received the full content of 181 telephone calls as part of an intelligence investigation, instead of merely the billing and toll records as authorized, the report found. In a handful of cases, it said, the bureau conducted physical searches that had not been properly authorized.
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
Propst is the father of the cubicle. More than 30 years after he unleashed it on the world, we are still trying to get out of the box. The cubicle has been called many things in its long and terrible reign. But what it has lacked in beauty and amenity, it has made up for in crabgrass-like persistence.
The cubicle was not born evil, or even square. It began, in fact, as a beautiful vision. The year was 1968. Nixon won the presidency. The Beatles released The White Album. And home-furnishings company Herman Miller in Zeeland, Mich., launched the Action Office. It was the brainchild of Bob Propst, a Coloradan who had joined the company as director of research.
...After years of prototyping and studying how people work, and vowing to improve on the open-bullpen office that dominated much of the 20th century, Propst designed a system he thought would increase productivity (hence the name Action Office). The young designer, who also worked on projects as varied as heart pumps and tree harvesters, theorized that productivity would rise if people could see more of their work spread out in front of them, not just stacked in an in-box.
The new system included plenty of work surfaces and display shelves; partitions were a part of it, intended to provide privacy and places to pin up works in process (see photo, above left). The Action Office even included varying desk levels to enable employees to work part of the time standing up, thereby encouraging blood flow and staving off exhaustion.
But inventions seldom obey the creator's intent. "The Action Office wasn't conceived to cram a lot of people into little space," says Joe Schwartz, Herman Miller's former marketing chief, who helped launch the system in 1968. "It was driven that way by economics."
The project began by identifying a key "focus" question about the future that the scenarios would address: How will demand for U.S. energy services and the potential externalities that may result shape electricity technologies over the next 20 years?The four scenarios presented in this report are built upon two key uncertain drivers of change: the evolution of primary fuel markets, in particular natural gas that fuels the power sector, and changes in societal values on energy industry externalities, particularly carbon dioxide (CO2):
- Digging in Our Heels. A world in which we actively resist change. Society embarks on a "momentum strategy". Natural gas and other primary fuel prices are rising, driven by growth in demand and supply constraints, and direct or imputed cost of CO2 emissions is very low. This world may not be perfect, but the perceived cost of alternate strategies is deemed to be too high to receive attention.
- Supply to the Rescue. A world that relies on supply-side solutions to a broad range of energy issues. The abundant supply of low-cost natural gas in this world spurs economic growth and development, particularly in energy dependent businesses.
- Double Whammy. A world that incorporates both high gas prices and high societal concerns about environmental costs. Taken together, these factors produce a more than proportionate share in their impact on the economy. Technology advances offer a collaborative basis for meeting the challenges of this world.
- Biting the Bullet. A world in which painful actions need to be taken in the near term to forestall even more painful consequences in the future. The climate change issues of Biting the Bullet have such a large impact on society that precipitous actions are required as society attempts to deal with a series of crises.
The results of this scenario analysis will be an input into the analysis supporting the next EPRI Technology Roadmap.
EPRI Technology Scenarios: Interim Report (PDF: 1.3 MB)
grin lines at the White House to be photographedwith the president, but almost anybody can do that.
Being airbrushed out of a whole community in which he cut so wide a swath for the past 10 years, where he helped revolutionize lobbying, where he was very nearly ubiquitous and invincible—it’s enough to hurt someone’s feelings. On other matters related to his situation he tiptoes, as would anyone whose fate—the amount of time he will languish in prison—lies in the hands of prosecutors and the judge. But for someone who has fought his whole career to be acknowledged and respected and feared, being treated like a nonperson is simply too much to take. “For a guy who did all these evil things that have been so widely reported, it’s pretty amazing, considering
I didn’t know anyone,” Abramoff says sardonically. “You’re really no one in this town unless you haven’t met me.”
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
"There is nothing in the Constitution about 'the public's right to know'," wrote former Assistant Director of Central Intelligence Mark M. Lowenthal in his book "Intelligence: From Secrets to Policy" (CQ Press, 2000, page 143).
"The Constitution safeguards freedom of speech and of the press, but these are not the same as a right to information," Mr. Lowenthal argued.
This is not quite correct. The Constitution may be readily understood to grant a public right to know certain types of information.
Specifically, the Constitution imposes an obligation on the government to publish two categories of information: a Journal of Congress (Article I, section 5) and a statement and account of all receipts and expenditures (Article I, section 9).
And the government's obligation to publish this information is semantically identical (or nearly so) to a public right to know it.
The public only gained a broader legal right to access government information with the Freedom of Information Act, which was first enacted in 1966. Prior to that time, one could ask for information, but the government had no duty to respond. Since then, thanks to the FOIA, the public has had a legally enforceable right to compel disclosure of non-exempted information.
As for the phrase "the right to know," it was apparently coined in the 1940s by Kent Cooper, who was the executive director of the Associated Press. The New York Times credited him with originating the phrase in an editorial on January 23, 1945. (As noted by James S. Pope in the Foreword to "The People's Right to Know" by Harold L. Cross, Columbia University Press, 1953, p. xi.)
It was the kind of pro-Wal-Mart comment the giant retailer might write itself. And, in fact, it did.
Several sentences in Mr. Pickrell's Jan. 20 posting — and others from different days — are identical to those written by an employee at one of Wal-Mart's public relations firms and distributed by e-mail to bloggers.
“He spends three hours there [every] Monday through Friday,” gripes a senior counterterrorism official, noting that the former ambassador has a security detail sitting outside all that time in chase cars. Others say they’ve seen the Director of National Intelligence at the University Club, a 100-year-old mansion-like redoubt of dark oak panels and high ceilings a few blocks from the White House, only “several” times a week.
Surely Negroponte needs a comfort zone, forced as he is to spends hours in the witness chair in front of congressional committees, fielding hot potatoes on subjects over which he has no control — the NSA’s warrantless surveillance, domestic spying by secret military intelligence units, paying newspapers in Iraq to run pro-U.S. stories.
Monday, March 06, 2006
I've practiced comedy but recently, I've been interested in how comedy shapes public discourse. (Oh yeah, I'm a lot of fun at parties.)
Comedy of unity.
Comedy of division.
Some comedy can be mean and hostile, other comedy can be kind and welcoming. Below is an excellent discussion from the classic "Morning Sedition" (May 10, 2005).
Stand-up comedy vet, Marc Maron and talk-radio vet Mark Riley discuss the politics of comedy today.
Why is this important?
Comedy may be the most succinct language for describing what we should embrace and what we should reject. That's what comedy does.
Part of the genius of Lenny Bruce (and Pryor and Carlin) is in the fact that comedy can break through our manners and our hangups to join the comedian in the fight against hypocrisy and narrow-mindedness.
At its best, comedy is liberating.
In the past several years, I've seen how comedy can be used to target, marginalize, demonize and ridicule the undeserving.
(By contrast, you could do a doctoral thesis on anti-semitic jokes during the Third Reich, if you have the stomach. You could also do a thesis on how comedy changed American political dialog for the better.)
As a community-oriented language, comedy is extraordinarily powerful for ill or good.
The following is an excerpt of the most succinct and passionate discussion on the politics of comedy I have heard.
This transcript is edited for clarity and content. If you want to hear the full discussion and the intelligent call-ins afterwards, listen here. You can start at 9:00mins. The transcript starts at 19:00mins.
Marc: Something has gone wrong. I'm not going to tell you that something hasn't gone wrong, culturally, with comedy. Look at the success of the Blue Collar comedy tour... I'm in the business, I know these guys. I also know that Hee-Haw was very popular a few years back. I understand there's a market for this stuff. But it seems to me that it's coming out of nowhere.
All of my generation of comics and the generation, a few minutes before and a few minutes after me, kind of went the "hipster" path. There were a bunch of very intelligent, creative comics that refused to touch politics and just became sort of hipster-ish -- lower east side, Brooklyn-ish, sort of self-indulgent. I get accused of being that but that's not where I started.
I started by listening to Kinnison, by listening to Carlin, by listening to Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor. Those are my heroes. (And a few Borscht-belt guys, Rickles and Buddy Hacket). But the bottom line is something is going on in comedy. And I am concerned about it.
There is not much of a left-wing political voice in comedy and it's not because people aren't funny. I actually think it's because people are afraid.
These guys that go out on the road -- and I know it from me -- there are very few people who have the courage to go up against an audience that doesn't know them and preach the ideology of all-encompassing liberal politics through comedy.
Comedy used to be progressive.
It used to be a liberal voice. You look at the great comedy of the late 50's, 60's and 70's, all of it was coming from our side.
Mark: Well, what you've got here, Marc, is an attempt by the Right to affect the same kind of incremental change -- in comedy, on college campuses, and in these other, what they consider to be, "bastions of liberalism" -- that they've tried to do with media.
The easiest way to understand how they do this is by looking at the radio format that is euphemistically called "smooth jazz."
Smooth jazz radio has very little to do with what most people who know about jazz would consider jazz music. It has nothing to do with it.
Sade is not a jazz artist. But she's on smooth jazz radio. Why?
Because the people that created the format set out to define what jazz was, differently than what people had become familiar with. And that's exactly what these guys are doing.
These guys are going out and saying, "Wait a minute, don't talk bad about 'South Park.' Let us create our own frame around 'South Park.' Let us define what 'South Park' is for enough people. And that will be to our benefit."
It's exactly the same thing they did with radio format.
Marc: Well, it scares me because they've got a certain amount of momentum now. But it frightens me because I know when I'm on stage and facing a primarily conservative crowd that doesn't know who I am, you've got to push them. You know you're going to be pushing up against an ideological wall that's not going to give. It's very draining and it can make your throat hurt.
But you do it anyway. I think one of the greatest comics was Bill Hicks. It gave him cancer. He used to go up there and push progressive values in a very radical, satirical way. It fell on deaf ears because most people aren't smart enough to have their own opinion. Most people, the opinion they have was given to them by the simplicity of talk radio or the simplicity of another ideologue who made them understand it in a way. They don't engage.
Even when I talked to this DJ in Cincinnati, I tried to have a conversation with him about Social Security.
And the DJ was like, "Look, most people don't need it. Smart people don't need Social Security, they don't rely on it afterwards."
So you get these talking points that justify a type of contempt and narrow-mindedness in conservatives that disables their ability to even engage in empathy for other people and in the diversity of things, in the thing that's unique in all the different races in all the different issues.
...My whole issue with political correctness is there are some aspect of politically correct thinking that I find annoying. But there are other things that I thought were very helpful in terms of bringing up the confidence and presence of a diversity of people in the social landscape we live in now. I don't think, in this point in time, political correctness is threat. By attacking it more is just to program the youth of this generation to prepare themselves so that when they go into college they will shut down any sort of talk that seems progressive or liberal.
Mark: [The phrase] "Political correctness" is part of those incremental steps that people on the right are taking to solidify what they consider to be their base...
Marc: Lenny Bruce was a champion of fighting racial inequality, fighting racism in language, he pushed the envelope of satire of what went over the acceptable censorship levels at the time. He said what he thought was right about religion, about race, about sex, about drugs, about any number of things. This guy really pushed it out there.
Now, what I've found in my comic peers after 9/11, there was a group of guys who really thought every Muslim should be thrown out of America.
I never even entertained that idea.
But the idea that "these guys were Muslim, let's get them all out and sort through it later," was a real political idea for some of these guys. And they were able to rally around this idea and decided that this was an ideology. This was a new American ideology, "We don't have to have patience or tolerance or acceptance of races -- certainly not Muslims -- in this country after what they did." And that started to filter out to all races.
Then you had this comic language of basically saying, "The reason there are racial stereotypes is because some of them fit. So let's play that out. Let's all be proud of racial stereotyping and make that an assault on political correctness."
For instance, in comparison to Lenny Bruce trying to break through racism, this is who Brian Anderson says is Lenny Bruce's true heir:
[sound clip] "I live in Astoria Queens. [applause] There's the other six white people who live there. Thank you. The FBI says they're having trouble penetrating these terrorist cells. Bullsh*t, I've been buying fruit from the Taliban for four years."
Marc: Not only is that a hackey premise, the terrorist deli owner, but it's just an intolerance that people find relief in now because this is the way the pendulum is swinging. "It is OK to be racist." That is what this kind of comedy is saying.
Mark: But he's lying. Who represents Astoria? Are there any elected officials of color who represent Astoria? Of course not. The bottom line is Astoria has been known for years (and I'm surprised this guy doesn't know it) as a Greek neighborhood.
Marc: It's just a general sense that "diversity is bad because we don't know who these people are -- we are the true Americans -- that Americans don't need to tolerate or stay on a level playing field with any immigrants -- and that this is the way America stays strong."
And it's not.
America stays strong by embracing diversity, by embracing tolerance, by making democracy work for people who come to this country and want to embrace it. Not by pushing them all aside a creating this "dominant race" theory. I just don't believe that's the way this country was built.
Mark: Of course it isn't. But what's happening now is that media, some media, is trying to blunt that message. ...Being inclusive bothers some people because they feel like they still have some turf -- whether it be racial, ethnic, religious or whatever -- to defend.
What you have now is an energized base that is out not just to defend what they see as their religious turf, but to expand their religious turf to include everybody -- even people who disagree with their religious frame.
Marc: I think you're right. But I also think on the other side of this is also to keep a steady simmer, culturally, with this type of comedy. A steady simmer of dividing and conquering ourselves. They don't want common ground. They'd rather have an acceptable friction.
There are kids and grown-ups out there who are comfortable with having racial anger. And they want to be validated. The want to make it cute, "We can do this 'cause we're on the same page here."
But I still think it's a dividing tactic.
It doesn't help people accept one another, it doesn't help people garner respect for people that are different. All it does is accept a sort of dividing factor.
Mark: That dividing factor, Marc, has been around since the founding of the country. There was a time when Harlem was divided up not just by race but by ethnicity. There were certain blocks in Harlem that you could not walk across because they were Irish or because they were Italian, or because they were whatever. This was part of the history of the country. And these guys want to bring back that time because they don't want to acknowledge that the breaking down of those barriers represents any form of progress whatsoever.
Marc: But it must represent progress.
Mark: Of course it does!
Marc: What do you think? Do you have any input on this cultural level of debate about comedy, about diversity, about the new wave we are facing in terms of culture -- against progressive values that's clearly starting to dominate the airwaves on all levels?
For fuller discussion (particularly on the re-framing of "South Park,") and intelligent call-ins, click here and scroll to 9:00mins.
State Department Iraq coordinator James Jeffrey told reporters he was asking Congress for $100 million for prisons but no other big building projects were in the pipeline for the department's 2006 supplemental and 2007 budget requests for Iraq, which total just over $4 billion.
In a new report published today, the human rights group criticised the US-led multinational force for interning some 14,000 people.
Around 3,800 people have been held for over a year, while another 200 have been detained for more than two years, the report - Beyond Abu Ghraib: detention and torture in Iraq - said.
"It is a dangerous precedent for the world that the US and UK think it completely defensible to hold thousands of people without charge or trial," Amnesty spokesman Neil Durkin said.
The detainee situation in Iraq was comparable to Guantánamo Bay, he added, but on a much larger scale, and the detentions appeared to be "arbitrary and indefinite".
Brian Sharwood, a telecom analyst with the Seaboard Group in Toronto, said it makes sense for a utility to recoup the cost of supporting smart meters by also selling wireless broadband services. "In a way that's the excuse to do all of this," he said. "You're going to run it past a lot of people anyway."
He said Canada's largest municipal electrical utility, which last year purchased Toronto's street light system for $60 million, will likely install the necessary wireless transmitters and receivers atop every fourth or fifth lamp post as a way to blanket the city with coverage -- what the industry describes as "wireless mesh networking."
...On Monday, she had joined a delegation of women from Iraq at the rally at the United Nations, urging the United Nations to help prevent civil war in Iraq.
About 20 protesters went to the U.S. mission to the United Nations to deliver a petition with 60,000 signatures seeking an end to the war. Nobody from the mission received them so Sheehan and three other American women sat down in front of the building, refused to leave, and were arrested.
"More education has been the right answer for the past few decades," said Princeton University economist and former Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Alan S. Blinder, "but I'm not so convinced that it's the right course" for coping with the upheavals of globalization.
Sunday, March 05, 2006
STILL TODAY the vast majority of servicemen and women in the U.S. military, and likely in the armed forces of other countries which are developing or have obtained depleted uranium munitions, are unaware of the use and dangers of depleted uranium munitions, or of the protective clothing and procedures which can minimize or prevent serious short-term exposures.
...Mr Justice Walker sitting in London said that Mr David had not shown that he was exposed to depleted uranium at the time he was employed by the firm.
Mr David, who left work through ill health in July 1995, claimed that medical tests had revealed mutations to his DNA and damage to his chromosomes which could only have been caused by ionising radiation.
The former component fitter on fighter planes and bombers said he now suffered from respiratory problems, kidney defects, bowel conditions and painful joints.
In recent weeks, dozens of employees at the CIA, the National Security Agency and other intelligence agencies have been interviewed by agents from the FBI's Washington field office, who are investigating possible leaks that led to reports about secret CIA prisons and the NSA's warrantless domestic surveillance program, according to law enforcement and intelligence officials familiar with the two cases.
..."There's a tone of gleeful relish in the way they talk about dragging reporters before grand juries, their appetite for withholding information, and the hints that reporters who look too hard into the public's business risk being branded traitors," said New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller, in a statement responding to questions from The Washington Post. "I don't know how far action will follow rhetoric, but some days it sounds like the administration is declaring war at home on the values it professes to be promoting abroad."
"We thought about it for about 15 seconds, maybe," lead singer Hutch Harris said.
They said no.
Washington D.C.'s Trans Am were offered $180,000 by Hummer for the song "Total Information Awareness."
"We figured it was almost like giving music to the Army, or Exxon," guitarist Philip Manley said.
They said no.
The post-punk band LiLiPUT, who broke up more than 20 years ago, could have pocketed $50,000 for "Heidi's Head" after making close to nothing during their five-year existence. But they, too, said no.
"At least I can sleep without nightmares," Marlene Marder reasoned.
...In the nation's capital, which has had a serious problem with drug gangs murdering government witnesses, the secrecy has reached another level — the use of secret dockets. For hundreds of such defendants over the past few years in this city, should someone acquire the actual case number for them and enter it in the U.S. District Court's computerized record system, the computer will falsely reply, "no such case" — rather than acknowledging that it is a sealed case.
Woah.. these "transcripts" that the Pentagon released yesterday are a doozy (from here). They're about 60 different files (all PDF of course), mixed and match, much of it referring to "Detainees" that are never named, with the PDF being done so you can't copy text from them (crooked), over a thousand pages' worth.
Also, there's no list of names or nationalities in one neat package. Good luck in finding anything of the sort!
Nonetheless, I decided to peek through them so you could get a taste of what is in there.