Reuters: U.S. withdraws demand for return of secret memo

Reuters reports that the federal government has given up its attempt to use a grand jury subpoena to suppress information obtained the ACLU:

"The issue was not the content of the document but the government's unprecedented effort to suppress it," said ACLU Legal Director Steven Shapiro. "Now that the document has been declassified, it should be plain for all to see that it should never have been classified to begin with, and that the grand jury subpoena was overreaching and inappropriate."

Zelda's Inferno exercises, December 10

This week's Zelda's Inferno exercises:

1) take a assertion from a previous work and negate it. Take that as the starting point of a new piece.

it's not that the stars are afraid of the sun
and run out of the sky when it comes up
(the sun after all is one of them, part of the Fraternal Order of Hydrogen Fusers, member of the union)

more political interference in American science

LiveScience reports on new rules from the Bushies for scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey, putting controls on research that might go against the party line:

“I feel as though we've got someone looking over our shoulder at every damn thing we do. And to me that's a very scary thing. I worry that it borders on censorship,'' said Jim Estes, an internationally recognized marine biologist who works for the geological unit. “The explanation was that this was intended to ensure the highest possible quality research,'' said Estes, a researcher at the agency for more than 30 years. “But to me it feels like they're doing this to keep us under their thumbs. It seems like they're afraid of science. Our findings could be embarrassing to the administration.''

ethical versus sentimental value

Another Slashdot post (quoted material is another poster to whom I'm replying):


Say there's going to be a huge tragedy and someone's family
is going to die. If you could chose whether your family dies or someone
other family dies, which would you choose?

There is a large difference between "If between my father and some
stranger, I can only save one, so I save my father", and "To save my
father, I'm going to kill a stranger." Everyone understands if I throw
the single life ring to my dad instead of some random guy (though I'd
try hard to save both); everyone also undertands that it would be
monsterous if I killed the stranger to get the new heart that my dad
(hypothetically) needed.

My father's life is more precious to me, sentimentally, than
that of a stranger, so if all else is equal and no one's rights are
being violated his claims have priority to me. But his life is not,
ethically, more precious than that of a stranger; I cannot make a good
argument that his life is more precious than J. Random Stranger, so I'm
going to kill J. Random Stranger to harvest that heart. We all
understand that to be a violation of J. Random Stranger's rights.

pray on your own time, please

Something I posted on Slashdot today (quoted material is another poster to whom I'm replying):


The anti-christian community utilizes the same methods in trying to enforce where/when people can pray or trying to change decorations on a holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus.

You are absolutely free to pray anywhere and anyway you like - on your own time. (In theory. If you're Muslim, well, sorry.)

You are free to put up decorations commemorating any deities,
heroes, mythological beats, prophets, or demigods you choose - on your own property.

Requiring that people do their jobs in a professional manner
(e.g., teachers and military officers should not be spending their work time trying to convert others to their beliefs), and requiring that governments neither promote nor restrict religion, is not
"anti-Christian", it's pro-professionalism and pro-liberty.

(Oh, and let's be honest and admit that Xmas is a pagan celebration wrapped in a thin Xian veneer, ok?)

--

Garrison Keillor: The ghosts of Christmas that never was - and probably never will be

Beautiful piece by Garrison Keillor here:

R.W. waited for hours for the other two spirits and then went to sleep. When he awoke, it was Christmas. A fat, lumpy stocking was plopped in a chair. A note said, "Bob." It had licorice in it, and a rubber ball, a puzzle, a book and a big Christmas orange.

It was a proper, large navel orange with thick skin, fresh, fragrant, and the smell brought back all the jolly Christmases Past when they played whist and laughed, and the bubble lights twinkled, and the radio played carols. Grief and misery tend to be amorphous and make everything taste bitter, but small things, such as a well-turned sentence, the chorus of a song, a cup of peppermint tea, Jane Austen, an orange, have some power to break the spell.

a tale of social engineering

Very interesting tale of social engineering at DarkReading.com:

I entered the bank lobby and was immediately greeted by a woman in a small glass-paneled workspace. I mentioned we called earlier, dropped the contact's name, and indicated I was here to service the copier/printer. Without hesitation I was escorted to the machine and left unattended. To make it appear as if I were working on the device, I opened every panel on the machine, pulled all the trays out, and placed my laptop on the glass surface of the copier/printer.

I was approached by a few people who needed to make copies, I apologized for the inconvenience and said the machine might be down for 30-40 minutes. I then disconnected the network cable from the copier/printer and attached my laptop. As soon as my laptop booted up, DHCP provided a network address and I was on the internal network. I started a few of our utilities and started sniffing the traffic on the network.

Mother Jones: John Kenneth Galbraith and the economics of the corporation

MotherJones.com features commentary by James K. Galbraith on his father John Kenneth Galbraith's book The New Industrial State, in which he considers the large company not just as a seeker after profits but as an organization:

Corporations exist to control markets, and often to replace them. Business leaders reduce uncertainty not through clairvoyance (or "perfect foresight," as the economics textbooks call it), nor by confident exploitation of probability ("portfolio diversification"). They do it by forming organizations large enough to forge the future for themselves. In politics these are countries and parties; in economics, big corporations.

Mother Jones: 12 climate tipping points, and the tipping point in human perception to stop them

A heavy article at MotherJones.com investigates a dozen "tipping points" for global warming, any of which could cause sudden and catastrophic climate change - and asks about the thirteenth tipping point, for our perception of it all:

IN 2004, JOHN SCHELLNHUBER, distinguished science adviser at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in the United Kingdom, identified 12 global-warming tipping points, any one of which, if triggered, will likely initiate sudden, catastrophic changes across the planet. Odds are you've never heard of most of these tipping points, even though your entire genetic legacy—your children, your grandchildren, and beyond—may survive or not depending on their status.

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