Just discovered the webcomic XKCD. Got a chuckle out of these:
So just how are we doing on the land of the free these days? Let's see:
First, The Boston Globe reported on Bush the Second's assertions that he can ignore more than 750 laws, laws he himself signed, including military rules, affirmative-action law provisions, requirements to report to Congress about immigration services problems, nuclear regulatory whistle-blower protections, and laws against political interference in research.
The Globe notes that W is the first president in modern history to never veto a bill, thus making him immune from veto-overrides; instead, he signs them and then quietly files "signing statements" in the federal register, in which he lays out his "legal interpretation" of the bill. These often assert that the president has the right to ignore numerous sections of the bills -- including provisions negotiated with Congress in order to get the bills passed in the first place.
I've been predicting for some time now that the RIAA and MPAA are dragging us toward a "War On Copying" similar to the "War on (Some) Drugs" we've been fighting with so much success the past few decades. Well, if the Wo(S)D uses drug-sniffing dogs, why not copy-sniffing dogs for the Woc? Yes, the MPAA is training police dogs to sniff out DVDs.
As part of a project promoted by the Motion Picture Association of America, Inc. (MPAA), FACT instigated the training of two black Labradors named Lucky and Flo by one of the world's leading experts in the field whose other clients include police, fire and rescue service. The dogs were trained over an eight month period to identify DVDs that may be located in boxes, envelopes or other packaging, as well as discs concealed amongst other goods which could be sold illegally in the UK. These DVDs are often smuggled by criminal networks involved in large scale piracy operations from around the world.
Never mind, of course, that DVDs can contain other sorts of data beside copied movies...
A few interesting bits regarding language that came before my eyes recently:
First a new study reveals that the "Putty-nosed monkey" (Cercopithecus nictitans) monkeys can combine simple primitive calls into more meaningful sequences. The evolution of grammar?
Second, studies of prairie dogs show that they have "the most sophisticated communication system that anyone has shown in animals", including a capability to create new terms for things they've never seen before.
Finally, this article discusses the theories of Steven Mithen, professor of early prehistory at the University of Reading, that early hominids ancestors had a musical culture that strongly influenced the development of language.
Now, I know there are some polls out there saying this man has a 32% approval rating. But guys like us, we don't pay attention to the polls. We know that polls are just a collection of statistics that reflect what people are thinking in "reality." And reality has a well-known liberal bias.
Discussion over at Slashdot about nuclear power, touched off by this piece in the Washington Post. (See also this response the Daily Kos: "Patrick Moore is a paid consultant for the mining, logging, biotech and energy industries, and putting him out as "ex-Greenpeace" is a lot like calling Scooter Libby an "ex-Hill staffer.")
Some excerpts from my posts on the topic:
Is fission less dangerous to the environment than coal? Perhaps. If it were a choice between only between building more coal plants and building fission ones, it's possible that fission might win out. (Though I think it would have to depend of the specifics of the technologies and implementations involved.)
But that's the wrong question.
At best, fission is still a stop-gap: supplies of fissionables are limited, on the order of a century or two at most, perhaps much less. So is it not more reasonable to divert resources to solving the problem right - with fusion reseach, renewables (i.e., using that big fusion reactor in the sky, including ideas like orbital photovoltaics) and better energy efficiency - than to build fission reactors and [push] the problem onto our great-grandchildren? (Or rather, for us non-breeders, our friends' great-grandchildren?)
[The Moore editorial] mentions the Iran situation only to gloss over it, but there are massive security concerns with fission technology.
Also [the Moore editorial] is inaccurate in talking about nuclear waste; the problem is not the U and Pu in spent fuel, which can be processed and reused, but thorium, radium, radon, and radioactive lead isotopes.
Is some of the opposition to fission irrational? Yes. But so is some of its support, based on an almost romantic notion of "man harnassing the mighty power of the atom!"
Americans don't elect Senators to the Presidency (Letter to the Editor, Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Regarding Hillary Clinton and the race for the White House ["If Clinton runs in '08, can she win?", April 9]: no, Clinton can't win.
The reason has nothing to do with her being a woman, or her position on the issues, or her relation to Bill Clinton.
Americans simply don't elect Senators to the Presidency.
April 12th is the 45th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's space flight. In 1961 he made a single orbit in a flight lasting 108 minutes, becoming the first human being in space.
I'm celebrating with a beer at a bar in Fell's Point, but all over the world more organized celebrations are taking place. (Even on Antarctica!)
Looking up at the full moon in the clear spring sky, I think of how at liftoff, Yuri shouted, "Poyekhali!" - "Let's go!" Here's hoping we, as a species, do.
Hello friends! As many of you know, for the past few months I've been training to test for my fourth degree black belt in karate.
I'm happy to say that last weekend, in an all-night test at the headquarters of the World Seido Karate Organization in New York, I completed that process and was promoted to yondan.
I want to thank all of you for your support over the years. Sometimes it all connects up in unexpected ways...a lesson on poetry pays off on the dojo floor; or some simple remark by a friend gives you the confidence you need to stick with it.
So thanks. (And I might actually have some free time now to get out and see some of you I haven't seen in a while! :-) )
(now, "Sensei Tom" to his students :-) )
A beautiful political moment: March 1st in Annapolis, a hearing on a proposed constitutional ban on equal protection for gay and lesbian couples was taking place. Professor Jamie Raskin, from the law school of American University, testified againt this piece of crap.
Apparenly right-wing dingbat Senator Nancy Jacobs stood up and shouted: "Mr. Raskin, my Bible says marriage is only between a man and a woman. What do you have to say about that?" To which Raskin replied: "Senator, when you took your oath of office, you placed your hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution. You did not place your hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible."