Thursday, November 29, 2007

don't be evil

Google is almost certainly a net positive in my life. And their history shows a number of ways in which they try to live up to their ambitious motto.

But this is pretty damned disturbing:

Egyptian anti-torture blogger says YouTube shut his account.

Wael Abbas is an award-winning blogger in Egypt whose work documenting human rights violations through online video has been blogged here on BB before.

Wael claims that his YouTube account, with which he has posted more than a hundred videos of alleged police abuse, has been terminated over complains the clips contain "inappropriate material."

Abbas said YouTube sent him an e-mail saying they had suspended his account. "They didn't ask me to remove it. They said 'Your account isn't working,' " he said. When asked about Abbas, a YouTube spokesperson said, "We take these matters very seriously, but we don't comment on individual videos."

YouTube regulations state that "graphic or gratuitous violence" is not allowed and violations of the Terms of Use could result in the ending of an account and deleting all of the videos in it.

Documentation of actual police brutality is "gratuitous?" Then I assume YouTube will be pulling these down immediately.

Update, 12/2: Google feels the heat, undoes a portion of its evil.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Guess which way they vote

Two University of Central Florida professors show just how poorly Hollywood writers and directors understand science in an article published in the German journal “Praxis der Naturwissenschaften Physik.” Common sense may indicate that people should know the stunts in movies are just make believe, but the professors say that’s not necessarily true.

Some people really do believe a bus traveling 70 mph can clear a 50-foot gap in a freeway, as depicted in the movie Speed. And, if that were realistic, a ramp would be needed to adjust the direction of motion to even try to make the leap, said UCF professor Costas J. Efthimiou, who co-authored the article.

“Students come here, and they don’t have any basic understanding of science,” he said. “Sure, people say everyone knows the movies are not real, but my experience is many of the students believe what they see on the screen.”

And that’s not just a UCF problem. Efthimiou said students across the United States seem to have the same challenge with science. It starts young.

The Science and Engineering Indicators 2006 report seems to support his observations. The report shows that the average science scores among 12th graders in the U.S. dropped from the previous year. The scores remained stagnant in the fourth and eighth grades. Worse, only about one-third of all students tested were proficient, meaning they had a solid understanding of what they should know.

If youngsters aren’t getting the basics at the elementary level, it becomes very difficult for them to continue to study the subjects in college and virtually impossible for them to make significant contributions to the scientific community, Efthimiou said.

Efthimiou began teaching a basic physics course at UCF in 2000. He described the experience as “horrible.” The students feared the subject matter and complained his class was too hard. Instead of continuing with the standard fare, he approached former UCF physics chair R.A. Llewellyn. Together, they came up with the movie approach now known as “Physics in Film.” They launched the course in the summer of 2002, and today it is among the most popular on campus.

This strikes me as yet another manifestation of the same phenomenon I have been on about (off and on) for months. My guess is that the good professors didn't ask about politics, but I would bet hard money that the folks who believed in Hollywood physics (a) thought Iraq was going just peachy, (b) tended to watch Fixed Noise and/or listen to Rush Limbaugh and (c) favored Preznit Bush in numbers well above the national level.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Deep Thoughts

As we once again give thanks amid so much death, destruction, corruption and evil done in our names, I reflect upon many things. There are so many ironies, hypocrisies and contradictions at work in the Great Millennial War on A Tactic, but here is one that I have not seen much discussed:

The Neocons continually trip over each other in their mad rush to give up their (read our) freedoms in order to preserve order and protect us from occasional acts of random violence, yet insist it is all made worthwhile by our efforts to give the blessings of those very freedoms (at gunpoint, to be sure) to the Iraqis who arguably had just the sort of ordered, freedom-free society they covet -- before we took it away from them.

The reason the neoconservative mission seems so contradictory at the surface is that, if you dig down to root causes, it is even more contradictory at root.

Happy Thanksgiving, all.

Monday, November 19, 2007

String of Pearls

Much is properly being made of the way CNN forced the sexist, condescending "diamonds or pearls" question for Hillary at last week's recent Democratic debate.

Maria Luisa, the UNLV student who asked Hillary Clinton whether she preferred "diamonds or pearls" at last night's debate wrote on her MySpace page this morning that CNN forced her to ask the frilly question instead of a pre-approved query about the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository.
I am sympathetic to those who decry profound unseriousness and sexism the question betrays. But in this case I don't think it makes sense argue that there is a double standard based on the assertion that CNN would not so belittle the Republicans.

The reason the question won't be repeated for the Republican frontrunner is obvious. We already know the answer:

Diamonds are a Guilani's best friend...

Friday, November 16, 2007


Blue Meme veterans will perhaps remember the vitriol I heaped on wingut philosopher king Victor Davis Hanson. There are others out there with perhaps more impressive records of wrongheadedness, but not any with his veneer of academic sobriety.

Well, Mr. "They Hate us for Who We Are" is in the news, facing the consequences of his absurdity. And what happens to VDH for his epic, tragic, wrongness?

Recall how George "Slam Dunk" Tenet, Paul "What, me worry?" Bremer, and General Tommy "Tommy" Franks were punished for creating the mess that VDH has so consistently been wrong about:

So you can probably guess that extraordinary rendition, however appropriate, is not in Vic's immediate future:

The National Humanities Medal is designed to honor those who “deepen” and “broaden” the humanities in America:

The National Humanities Medal, inaugurated in 1997, honors individuals or groups whose work has deepened the nation’s understanding of the humanities, broadened our citizens’ engagement with the humanities, or helped preserve and expand Americans’ access to important resources in the humanities.

In his presentation of the award, Bush complimented Hanson on his “scholarship” and “wisdom”:

Victor Davis Hanson for his scholarship on civilizations past and present. He has cultivated the fields of history and brought forth an abundant harvest of wisdom for our times.

The Stanford Daily helpfully notes that previous recipients of the same award from the First Man of Letters have included fellow Hoover Institutionalized Thomas Sowell.

Monday, November 12, 2007


Democrats: Colleges must police copyright, or else

New federal legislation says universities must agree to provide not just deterrents but also "alternatives" to peer-to-peer piracy, such as paying monthly subscription fees to the music industry for their students, on penalty of losing all financial aid for their students.

The U.S. House of Representatives bill, which was introduced late Friday by top Democratic politicians, could give the movie and music industries a new revenue stream by pressuring schools into signing up for monthly subscription services such as Ruckus and Napster. Ruckus is advertising-supported, and Napster charges a monthly fee per student.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) applauded the proposal, which is embedded in a 747-page spending and financial aid bill. "We very much support the language in the bill, which requires universities to provide evidence that they have a plan for implementing a technology to address illegal file sharing," said Angela Martinez, a spokeswoman for the MPAA.

According to the bill, if universities did not agree to test "technology-based deterrents to prevent such illegal activity," all of their students--even ones who don't own a computer--would lose federal financial aid.

The prospect of losing a combined total of nearly $100 billion a year in federal financial aid, coupled with the possibility of overzealous copyright-bots limiting the sharing of legitimate content, has alarmed university officials.

When did shame become an extinct species?

Friday, November 09, 2007

A cure for Neoconism?

Fear may be linked to the sense of smell, and can be switched off simply by shutting down certain receptors in the brain, Japanese scientists have found.

In an experiment with mice, the researchers identified and removed certain receptors on the olfactory bulb of their brains -- and the result was a batch of fearless rodents.

To prove their point, the scientists showed pictures of a brown mouse within an inch of a cat, sniffing up its ear, kissing it and playing with its predator's collar.

In the second phase of the experiment, which remains highly classified, the same treatment was temporarily applied to former NY mayor Rudolf Giuliani. The researchers reported that for the 48 hours immediately subsequent to the treatment, the frequency with which Giuliani said "9/11" decreased from an average of twelve times per hour to only once per day.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Why I still read Sully

I don't always agree with everything I read on the pages of the folks listed on the blogroll, but despite the fact that they self-identify as progressive, centrist or even conservative, I don't often take exception -- except with Sully. Andrew Sullivan can be maddeningly inconsistent, even incoherent. And although he eventually got it mostly right about Iraq and W.P.E, he made an ass of himself before he surrendered to reality.

So why do I still read him?

I was wrong because a) one critical element of the case for war was simply not there (whether lied about or misrepresented or incompetently judged or so riddled with "evidence" from the tortured or the criminal that the info was FUBAR); b) the president did mismanage the war so grotesquely that it clearly made the US less safe, empowered Iran, gave al Qaeda a new lease on life, opened the borders of Iraq to al Qaeda, permitted the ransacking and looting of much of Iraq, and led to tens of thousands of deaths of innocent civilians; c) I fatally misread the history of Iraq and did not fully appreciate the depth of the sectarian divides, the absence of any national identity that could effectively supersede tribal loyalties, and the trauma that Saddam's regime had imposed; d) I did not realize that the Bush administration would effectively suspend the Geneva Conventions in the war thus leading to the atrocities across the theater that did a great deal to undermine the moral basis for a just war.

Even if, in a decade or so, we see something approaching a normal society in Iraq (which would be the first time in centuries), I will still have been fantastically wrong. Just because in the very long run, it is possible that a decision made was retrospectively the right one, that was not the basis on which I supported the war and lambasted its opponents. I'm not going to pull that excuse. And the costs of the enterprise - both human and financial - continue to bear no rational relationship to the benefits we haven't even begun to see. To have embroiled ourselves in a large, open-ended, $3 trillion occupation of a country that is clearly no longer a country, and to trap the bulk of the military in that theater while threats proliferate globally, and to have no viable exit strategy ever: this is a colossal, historic error. And all this holds even if it turns out in the very long run to have made Iraq a more normal society than it was under Saddam.

I have a clear conscience on it. I didn't intend evil. I thought in advance it was a just war. I believed the evidence procured, I now know, from torture, that Saddam had contacts with al Qaeda.

That's why.

He missed (and probably won't ever acknowledge) the most important reason he was wrong -- that even if all of his assumptions had been right, preemptive war against Iraq would still have been immoral. But how many other bloggers are so willing to publicly fess up? (Granted, when Sully goes looking for mistakes to admit, he faces an embarrassment of riches, but still...)

Update: On the other hand....

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


Dubya's approval in the latest Gallup is steady at Rambis. But the strong disapproval has hit a new all-time record -- Whoeverthehellisholdingrambis:

Bush reached an unwelcome record. By 64%-31%, Americans disapprove of the job he is doing. For the first time in the history of the Gallup Poll, 50% say they "strongly disapprove" of the president. Richard Nixon had reached the previous high, 48%, just before an impeachment inquiry was launched in 1974.

I remember when that mattered.

Friday, November 02, 2007


Crowing about my prediction that DiFi would bless Mukasey would be like bragging about predicting that the sun rose this morning, so I won't.

Greenwald sums up the situation pretty well -- stopping Mukasey at this late date would be like coming out now against child labor.

Or not.

see web stats