A grieving father won a nearly $11 million verdict Wednesday against a fundamentalist Kansas church that pickets military funerals in the belief that the war in Iraq is a punishment for the nation's tolerance of homosexuality.American citizens are free to hold noxious religious beliefs and toxic political opinions in this country... but I can't for the life of me understand why you should be free to torment grieving families who are trying to bury their dead with a modicum of dignity, and claim First Amendment protection for that.
Albert Snyder of York, Pennsylvania., sued the Westboro Baptist Church for unspecified damages after members demonstrated at the March 2006 funeral of his son, Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, who was killed in Iraq.
The jury first awarded $2.9 million in compensatory damages. It returned later in the afternoon with its decision to award $6 million in punitive damages for invasion of privacy and $2 million for causing emotional distress.
U.S. District Judge Richard Bennett noted the size of the award for compensating damages "far exceeds the net worth of the defendants," according to financial statements filed with the court.
When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
31 October 2007
29 October 2007
In the name of helping Cubans, the US administration is calling for "multibillions" of taxpayer dollars in foreign aid and subsidies for internet access, education and business development for Cubans under the condition that the Cuban government demonstrates certain changes. In the same breath, they claim lifting the embargo would only help the dictatorship. This is exactly backwards. Free trade is the best thing for people in both Cuba and the US. Government subsidies would enrich those in power in Cuba at the expense of already overtaxed Americans!Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX): Struggling for relevance in Cuba: Close, still no cigars
The irony of supposed Capitalist, free-marketeers inducing Communists to freedom with government hand-outs should not be missed. We call for a free and private press in
Cubawhile our attempts to propagandize Cubans through the government run Radio/TV Marti has wasted $600 million in American taxpayer dollars. US
Project Valour-IT, in memory of SFC William V. Ziegenfuss, helps provide voice-controlled and adaptive laptop computers to wounded Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines recovering from hand wounds and other severe injuries at major military medical centers. Operating laptops by speaking into a microphone or using other adaptive technologies, our wounded heroes are able to send and receive messages from friends and loved ones, surf the 'Net, and communicate with buddies still in the field. The experience of MAJ Charles “Chuck” Ziegenfuss, a partner in the project who suffered serious hand wounds while serving inLast year, generous enrevanche readers gave well over a thousand dollars to this very worthy cause.
, illustrates how important these laptops can be to a wounded service member's recovery. Iraq
We're blogging again in support of Team Navy.
For those of you who donated so generously last year, we thank you again for your support, and hope that we can count on you this year as well.
For those of you who weren't reading enrevanche last year, or who weren't in a position to donate, please consider Project Valour-IT in your charitable giving this year.
The fall fundraiser runs through November 11, and if you'd like to keep track of how we're doing, the widget in the upper right hand corner of the blog is keeping score.
27 October 2007
A parent [at a school-sponsored drug education program] asked why anyone would take meth, given all the downside risk and side effects. One of the policemen answered that meth releases 50 times more serotonin in the brain than an orgasm. Then they showed a before and after picture that looked a lot like this one...Why You Can't Take Me Anywhere (Scott Adams, The Dilbert Blog)
So I’m sitting there, doing the calculations in my head: Okay, that’s 4.5 years of meth use, once a day, 365 days in a year, 50 times more serotonin than an orgasm…that’s the equivalent of 80,000 orgasms.
On the downside, your teeth rot out, your skin itches until you scratch it off, you vomit, have withdrawals, possibly burn down the neighborhood, and roll around in your own filth while your life becomes a living Hell. And there is the jail thing.
Still, 80,000 orgasms…
I wanted to raise my hand while the “before and after” pictures were up and ask, “Isn’t that what anyone would look like after 80,000 orgasms?”Or maybe, "So, on balance, you’re saying it’s totally worth it? Or am I doing the math wrong?"
I apply what I call The Angry Ape Test to the candidates. Imagine each mimicking an angry ape, and ask how pretty or appealing the resulting picture is. Most swing voters perceive America as being at war and so they demand toughness. They demand An Angry Ape, if not at every moment in time, at least in principle. Most Americans don't find an angry Hillary to be a pleasant Hillary, whereas an angry, raging [Giuliani] fits his basic image...Is Hillary Electable? (Marginal Revolution)
...Mitt Romney also can't do The Angry Ape. This same hypothesis suggests McCain still has some chance, though obviously his path to the top is no longer clear, given his limited resources. He can at least do The Ape. This is the main reason why I still think Giuliani will win.
Under this theory foreign policy disasters, no matter who caused them, will help the Republican candidate. We will demand An Angrier Ape.
26 October 2007
...[A]s Washington lawmakers hash out how to deal with millions of potential foreclosures, North Carolina's predatory-lending laws are shaping the debate.These Tough Lending Laws Could Travel (BusinessWeek, November 5, 2007)
...The North Carolina Home Loan Protection Act bans penalties for borrowers who pay off their mortgages early, mandates that lenders verify income, and is expected to limit the fees brokers collect for arranging certain high-rate mortgages...
... Critics of that 1999 law argued it would crimp North Carolina's housing market. But academic studies have found no such impact. In fact, the state thrived during the boom and has fared better than most during the downturn. Foreclosure filings rose 39% in this year's first half, far less than the 56% jump nationwide, according to research firm RealtyTrac. In the second quarter, median home prices were up 8% in Charlotte, the state's largest city, and Raleigh, the capital, vs. a 1.5% average drop for the U.S. "The bottom line is that [the regulations are] working," says North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, who sponsored the 1999 law as a state senator. "North Carolina has strong banks that are tough but fair, and there's plenty of available credit."
25 October 2007
But they're not only broadcasting again over another area station, they're leveraging technology to create superb, computer-enhanced situational awareness for people in the area.
KPBS is maintaining an incredibly useful Google Maps-based data site for people in the area, and also offering regular status updates via Twitter (which can send information to a variety of platforms, including mobile phones.)
This must be a complete godsend for anyone who's trying to keep up with the latest news and understand how it might affect them.
(Here's the link to the KML file if you want to view the area in Google Earth.)
Storm worm strikes back at security pros (Network World, 24 October 2007)
The worm can figure out which users are trying to probe its command-and-control servers, and it retaliates by launching DDoS attacks against them, shutting down their Internet access for days, says Josh Korman, host-protection architect for IBM/ISS, who led a session on network threats.
“As you try to investigate [Storm], it knows, and it punishes,” he says. “It fights back.”
As a result, researchers who have managed to glean facts about the worm are reluctant to publish their findings. “They’re afraid. I’ve never seen this before,” Korman says. “They find these things but never say anything about them.”
And not without good reason, he says. Some who have managed to reverse engineer Storm in an effort to figure out how to thwart it have suffered DDoS attacks that have knocked them off the Internet for days, he says.
24 October 2007
Put Dumbledore Back in the Closet (John Cloud, Time, October 22, 2007)
Yes, it's nice that gays finally got a major character in the sci-fi/fantasy universe. Until now, we had been shut out of all the major franchises. Tolkien, a conservative Catholic, wrote a rich supply of homoeroticism into The Lord of the Rings—all those Men and Hobbits and Elves singing to each other during long, woman-less quests. The books and their film versions feature tender scenes between Frodo and Samwise. But in the end Sam marries Rose Cotton and fathers 13 children. Thirteen! You'd think he had something to prove.Other fantasy worlds have presented gay (or at least gay-seeming) characters, but usually they are, literally, inhuman. George Lucas gave us the epicene C-3PO and the little butch R2-D2, and their Felix-Oscar dialogue suggests the banter of a couple of old queens who have been keeping intergalactic house for millennia. But their implied homosexuality is quite safe. There is no real flesh that could actually entangle, just some electrical wiring...
...So along comes Rowling with Dumbledore—a human being, a wizard even, an indisputable hero and one of the most beloved figures in children's literature. Shouldn't I be happy to learn he's gay? Yes, except: Why couldn't he tell us himself?
23 October 2007
22 October 2007
Silicon Valley’s math is getting fuzzy again.There's a lovely symmetry in the choice of Yahoo as the benchmark for 2007 dotcom value vs. Facebook.
Internet companies with funny names, little revenue and few customers are commanding high prices. And investors, having seemingly forgotten the pain of the first dot-com bust, are displaying symptoms of the disorder known as irrational exuberance.
Consider Facebook, the popular but financially unproven social network, which is reportedly being valued by investors at up to $15 billion. That is nearly half the value of Yahoo, a company with 38 times the number of employees and, based on estimates of Facebook’s income, 32 times the revenue.
Google, which recently surged past $600 a share, is now worth more than I.B.M., a company with eight times the revenue.
More broadly, Internet start-ups are drawing investment based on their ability to build an audience, not bring in revenue — the very alchemy that many say led to the inflation and bursting of the dot-com bubble.
Silicon Valley Start-Ups Awash in Dollars, Again (The New York Times)
20 October 2007
...The Administration has proven that it cannot be given the benefit of the doubt on questions of civil liberties, expansion of executive powers, or the conversion of its open-ended, ill-defined, decades-long state of "war" into an excuse for permanent, abusive, often secret changes in the balance of rights and powers that is America's greatest constitutional achievement.Mukasey: No (James Fallows, 19 October 2007)
On crucial points, Mukasey's second-day testimony amounted to a request that he and the Administration be trusted to do the right thing. Nothing against him personally, but the time for trust has passed. Unless Mukasey explicitly repudiates the most abusive parts of his predecessor's (and his President's) record, the Senate would be negligent and reckless to approve him.
...[A]s is now becoming famous, Mukasey said this, when asked by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse whether waterboarding was constitutional:
“I don’t know what is involved in the technique,” Mr. Mukasey replied. “If waterboarding is torture, torture is not constitutional.”
Either way you slice it, this answer alone is grounds for rejecting Mukasey. If he really doesn't "know what is involved" in the technique, he is unacceptably lazy or ill-informed. Any citizen can learn about this technique with a few minutes on the computer.* Any nominee for Attorney General in 2007 who has not taken the time to inform himself fits the pattern of ignorant incuriosity we can no longer afford at the highest levels.So, if Mukasey was telling the truth in this answer, he is too lazy for the job. If he was lying, he's too dishonest.
The story goes that rugby was born in 1823 at Rugby School when William Webb Ellis disregarded the rules of football, took the ball in his arms and ran with it. It has evolved a long way since, into a very technical sport, but you only need to know the basics to enjoy a match.As rugby fever sweeps Europe, the BBC sends diminutive reporter Sarah Campbell (no relation) to interview New Zealand All Blacks star Craig Dowd and get the lowdown on the game.
All you need to know about rugby (BBC News)
Related (all BBC links):
- Rugby World Cup
- Rules of the game in full
- Jonny Wilkinson's kicking masterclass
- Rugby Union - Get involved
18 October 2007
At this very moment, in a building somewhere in Silicon Valley, I guarantee you that a team of engineers from Google and Apple are designing a set of devices that, hooked up as terminals to Google's "supercomputer," will define how we use computers in the future. You can see various threads of this system today - in Apple's iPhone and iPod Touch, its dot-mac service, its iLife and iWork applications as well as in Google's Apps suite and advertising system, not to mention its vast data-center network. What this team is doing right now is weaving all those threads together into what will be, for most of us, the fabric of cloud computing. (This is so big, you need at least two metaphors to describe it.)Rough Type: Nicholas Carr's Blog - Google, Apple and the Future of Personal Computing
17 October 2007
US lawmakers accused Yahoo of giving false information to Congress and asked that chief executive Jerry Yang appear before a committee to explain the internet search company’s role in the imprisonment of a Chinese dissident.
Tom Lantos, the Democratic chairman of the House foreign affairs committee, said a congressional probe had established that Yahoo provided “false information” to Congress during a hearing last year in which the group said it knew nothing about the nature of an investigation into an activist when it gave Chinese authorities information about his e-mail account and contents of his e-mails. Shi Tao, the activist, was arrested and sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment after Yahoo divulged the identifying material.
Financial Times: Yahoo accused over Chinese dissident
14 October 2007
My people, my people.
Yesterday was a Perfect Day in New York City.
The weather was more than right - 60 degrees, bright and sunny.
I had been down with something worse than a cold but not quite as bad as the flu for more than a week, had worked straight through it (me at the office on Wednesday: "No, I'm not having a heart attack, thanks for your concern, I'm sweating like this because my fever just broke") and had finally turned the corner on Friday and started to feel better.
Saturday, Carrie and I spent a leisurely couple of hours in the park with the dogs, and bought lavishly at the greenmarket (New York State apples! Artisanal cheeses and breads! Sweet potatoes, leeks, onions and garlic! Carrots that actually tasted like carrots, with dirt on them and everything!)
After lunch, we went our separate ways, she to get her bicycle repaired and ready for the winter, and I to shop for a replacement for a pocketknife I'd lost somewhere a month ago.
My wanderings took several hours of brisk walking downtown in the gorgeous early fall weather, and involved culinary stops along the way for items as varied as Dean and DeLuca coffee and dirty-water streetcart hot dogs.
I was feelin' it. It was amazing.
And the lovely coda to the day: at four o'clock, as I was heading back to the house, I called Carrie on her cell phone to see what her ETA was... and we found that we were less than six blocks apart on Fifth Avenue.
We walked home together.
I Am an Op-Ed Columnist (And So Can You!) - Stephen Colbert, The New York Times, 14 October 2007
I’d like to thank Maureen Dowd for permitting/begging me to write her column today. As I type this, she’s watching from an overstuffed divan, petting her prize Abyssinian and sipping a Dirty Cosmotinijito. Which reminds me: Before I get started, I have to take care of one other bit of business:
Bad things are happening in countries you shouldn’t have to think about. It’s all George Bush’s fault, the vice president is Satan, and God is gay.
There. Now I’ve written Frank Rich’s column too.
13 October 2007
12 October 2007
Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Hey, the guys at the Financial Times are awake:
Mr Gore has given the hour-long lecture which gave rise to the film to thousands of audiences around the world, from students to heads of state. His performances are occasionally free but more often he charges up to £50,000 a time.
Mr Gore is also a prominent investor in environmental technology, chiefly through Generation Investment Management, a fund management company he helped to set up in 2004 with David Blood, former chief executive of Goldman Sachs Asset Management.
The choice of Mr Gore will give rise to concerns - for US conservatives at least - about the perceived politicisation of the prize, previously awarded to Jimmy Carter and Mohamed ElBaradei. It raises questions about the broadening of the prize’s criteria beyond the traditional understanding of peacemaking.
The prize also added to speculation that Mr Gore would be persuaded to have another attempt at the US presidency.
The richest Americans' share of national income has hit a postwar record, surpassing the highs reached in the 1990s bull market, and underlining the divergence of economic fortunes blamed for fueling anxiety among American workers.Income Inequality Gap Widens (Wall Street Journal, October 12, 2007; subscription required)
The wealthiest 1% of Americans earned 21.2% of all income in 2005, according to new data from the Internal Revenue Service. That is up sharply from 19% in 2004, and surpasses the previous high of 20.8% set in 2000, at the peak of the previous bull market in stocks.
The bottom 50% earned 12.8% of all income, down from 13.4% in 2004 and a bit less than their 13% share in 2000.
The IRS data go back only to 1986, but academic research suggests the rich last had this high a share of total income in the 1920s.
"Long-term problems [in the U.S. economy] include inadequate investment in economic infrastructure, rapidly rising medical and pension costs of an aging population, sizable trade and budget deficits, and stagnation of family income in the lower economic groups." (Source: CIA World Factbook, "United States - Economy")
10 October 2007
For years, the private terror-hunters at the SITE Institute have been infiltrating jihadist chat rooms, and spying on the extremists congregating online. Now, the [group's] digital cover has been blown -- and Al-Qaeda online communications channels have gone dark -- thanks to a ham-handed move by the Bush administration, it seems. "Techniques that took years to develop are now ineffective and worthless," SITE's Rita Katz told the Washington Post.Al-Qaeda "Intranet" Goes Dark After Leak (Updated) - Danger Room, Wired Blog Network
As we've noted before, today's jihadists don't just use the Internet, occasionally. "They don't exist without the Web," says Naval Postgraduate School professor John Arquilla. Everything from recruiting to training to propaganda is handled online. According to the New York Sun, the video disclosure effectively shut down the window into those activities.
08 October 2007
CSI: Mississippi (Radley Balko, Reason magazine, November 2007)
In a remarkable capital murder case earlier this year, the Mississippi Supreme Court, by an 8-to-1 vote, tossed out the expert testimony of Steven Hayne. The defendant was Tyler Edmonds, a 13-year-old boy accused of killing his sister’s husband. Hayne, Mississippi’s quasi-official state medical examiner, had testified that the victim’s bullet wounds supported the prosecution’s theory that Edmonds and his sister had shot the man together, each putting a hand on the weapon and pulling the trigger at the same time.
“I would favor that a second party be involved in that positioning of the weapon,” Hayne told the jury. “It would be consistent with two people involved. I can’t exclude one, but I think that would be less likely.”
Testifying that you can tell from an autopsy how many hands were on the gun that fired a bullet is like saying you can tell the color of a killer’s eyes from a series of stab wounds. It’s absurd. The Mississippi Supreme Court said Hayne’s testimony was “scientifically unfounded” and should not have been admitted. Based on this and other errors, it ordered a new trial for Edmonds.
But it wasn’t the doctor’s dubious claim that made the case unusual. It’s the fact that the court explicitly renounced his testimony. It was the first time that had happened to Hayne in hundreds of cases dating back nearly 20 years.
By any sane standard, the decision was long overdue. Hayne’s career in court is an egregious example of what happens when the criminal justice system fails to adequately oversee expert testimony. He may be unusually careless, but he is not unique—not in Mississippi, and not in the United States.
07 October 2007
We must accept that climate change is real and that we've helped cause it. There is no hoax. But neither is there a looming apocalypse.
To some people, cutting carbon emissions has become the answer, regardless of the question. Cutting emissions is said to be our "generational mission." But don't we want to implement the most efficient policies first?
Combating the real climate challenges facing the planet -- malaria, more heat deaths, declining polar bear populations -- often requires simpler, less glamorous policies than carbon cuts. We also need to remember that the 21st century will hold many other challenges, for which we need low-cost, durable solutions.
06 October 2007
In November, you’ll be able to buy a new laptop that’s spillproof, rainproof, dustproof and drop-proof. It’s fanless, it’s silent and it weighs 3.2 pounds. One battery charge will power six hours of heavy activity, or 24 hours of reading. The laptop has a built-in video camera, microphone, memory-card slot, graphics tablet, game-pad controllers and a screen that rotates into a tablet configuration.Laptop With A Mission Widens Its Audience (New York Times, October 4, 2007)
And this laptop will cost $200.
The computer, if you hadn’t already guessed, is the fabled “$100 laptop” that’s been igniting hype and controversy for three years. It’s an effort by One Laptop Per Child (laptop.org) to develop a very low-cost, high-potential, extremely rugged computer for the two billion educationally underserved children in poor countries.
If you'd like to donate one of these laptops to a child in the developing world, XOgiving.org is set up to help you.
(Psst... if you'd like to buy one for a child you know, a "Give One Get One" program starts up on November 12; at a cost of $400, one laptop is donated to the cause and one is shipped to you.)
Any organization that developed biomedical technology for instant healing and flawless body part replacement -- technology 20 years ahead of its time -- would be able to license it and generate hundreds of billions of dollars of income very quickly. Instead, they keep it secret and derive no real value from it. Why?pmarca: 12 Questions for the producers of the new Bionic Woman
Related: Bionic Woman episodes at Amazon.com
You Should Sell Treasuries (Andy Xie, Caijing Magazine, October 2, 2007)
In a closed economy, inflation is a zero-sum game in wealth redistribution. Investors in fixed income lose and borrowers win. As the US owes so much to foreigners, inflation, at least the unexpected part, adds value to the US economy. It does give the Fed incentives to tolerate more inflation. Why then it just lets it all out and inflates away all the foreign debts? The problem is that foreigners may see what’s coming and sell everything right away. It would trigger the US bond market to collapse, which would wreck havoc on the US economy. Hence, inflation benefits the US only if foreigners can be fooled before it happens. The Fed is still paying lip service to inflation for that purpose.
You probably know what I am getting at. If you hold US bonds, sell. The Fed wants to rob you to help the bankrupting US homeowners. My hunch is that the US inflation would rise to above 4% next year and higher afterwards. Foreigners own 40% of the US treasuries, mostly central banks. They should sell now to demonstrate they wouldn’t accept the broad daylight robbery by the Fed. The selling would cause the treasury yield to skyrocket, which would offset the stimulus from the rate cut by the Fed. The Fed may have to change policy to appease foreigners when it sees the rebellion.
If foreigners don’t act and lay there like lambs, they deserve to be slaughtered.
05 October 2007
- Dashboard Confessional, The Shade of Poison Trees
Emo power-pop from singer-songwriter-guitarist Chris Carrabba.
- Gilles Peterson (compiler), Gilles Peterson Digs America Vol 2
How meta: Chap, the best music curator of my acquaintance, turned me on to Gilles, a DJ and music curator par excellence. An eclectic collection of R&B, dance and funk.
- Konono No. 1, Live at Couleur Cafe
Bash-you-over-the-head big-city African party music from Kinshasa's best 12-piece band. Should be played loud. If you've never heard an amplified thumb piano (ikembe), you don't know what you're missing; Congotronics, an earlier album, is the one to start with.
04 October 2007
I think there's something a leetle bit amiss this morning, though...
The web interface informed me, when I logged in:
Last access on Sunday, July 27, 2767 at 9:01:13 AM
Would the person who accessed my e-mail account from the year 2767 kindly get back to me ASAP with some investment advice. Thanks.
At about this time (it's not quite 6 AM as I write this), Carrie and I were waking up and getting ready to walk, in the grey drizzle, over to Dizzy Izzy's (long gone, of course... which Citysearch doesn't seem to know yet) in the then-unfashionable Meatpacking District, for bagels and coffee.
A little later that morning, our friends and family, who had arrived in NYC from all over the world, would wake up in their Manhattan hotel rooms; we would all gather downtown, Carrie and I would sign the ketubah, the cantor would sing the ancient Hebrew words of the marriage ceremony, we'd be married and then there would be brunch. :-)
But the early morning, so far, still belonged just to the two of us.
I'm still not sure why we did this, but as we drank our coffee, we took a walk in the rain, holding hands, down by the Hudson River.
And as the sun came up, there was, briefly but unmistakably, a rainbow.
(For the record, the "pot of gold" would have been in Jersey City... and the way real-estate values are going now, I can't believe we didn't take that as a sign from God.)
Happy ninth anniversary, dear one. The time we've been together has been the best in my life.
03 October 2007
02 October 2007
If you're going to be a high achiever, you're going to be in lots of situations where you're going to be quickly making decisions in the presence of incomplete or incorrect information, under intense time pressure, and often under intense political pressure. You're going to screw up -- frequently -- and the screwups will have serious consequences, and you'll feel incredibly stupid every time. It can't faze you -- you have to be able to just get right back up and keep on going.The Pmarca Guide to Career Planning, part 2: Skills and education (Marc Andreesen)
That may be the most valuable skill you can ever learn. Make sure you start learning it early.
For years, aficionados who liked their peanuts fried in small batches by septuagenarian hobbyists who gather in church rec rooms had but one option: the peanuts prepared by the First Methodist Church Men’s Club in Mount Olive, North Carolina. As you may have read in these pages, Danny Meyer’s business partner Richard Coraine discovered these extra-crunchy, super-salty specimens—which are to other peanuts what Belgian frites are to Munchos—on a reconnaissance trip prior to opening Blue Smoke in 2002. Hopelessly smitten, he’s been buying as many cases as the First Methodist peanut men can produce ever since...
Battle of the North Carolina Church Club Peanuts (New York magazine, October 8, 2007 issue)
New York City just got a little bit hipper.
01 October 2007
I got two of them today.
-- Dow closes at record high after surging almost 200 points.
-- A court has ordered pop singer Britney Spears to give up custody of her children effective Wednesday at noon, according to court papers.
Man eats 21 pounds of grits for title (AP via Yahoo! News)
Pat Bertoletti, a mohawk-sporting chef from Chicago, gulped down 21 pounds of buttery, goopy grits in 10 minutes to win $4,000 in the first World Grits Eating Championship at Louisiana Downs on Saturday.
The grits were presented in 2-pound trays, each about 8 inches by 6 inches and 1 1/2 inches deep, said Ryan Nerz, a spokesman for Major League Eating.
If I don't love you baby,
grits ain't groceries,
eggs ain't poultry,
and Mona Lisa was a man.
-- Little Milton