Friday, July 29, 2005


The first comment on is priceless.

Apropos of nothing, but priceless.

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Thursday, July 21, 2005

Water, water everywhere!

Last night I glanced out of my apartment during a heavy thunderstorm, and saw droplets flying horizontally past the window.

Curious, I peered more closely and saw all the apartment community's sprinklers shooting away, deepening the standing water in the grass behind my home.

I know they want the grass to be nice and green, but this was absurd.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Are we at war with Eurasia or Eastasia today?

A US citizen is arrested in Chicago and held prisoner for years. He is never charged with any crime, and so his case never goes before a jury. It sounds like something out of 1984, but it is a real case currently before a federal appellate court.

Jose Padilla was arrested at a Chicago airport in May 2002, on suspicion of planning to detonate a "dirty bomb," a conventional bomb laced with radioactive material. President Bush declared Padilla an "enemy combatant," a designation created by Bush that allows the military to hold someone indefinitely without charges. Since then, for three years, Padilla has been held in the Navy brig in Charleston, SC.

A South Carolina judge ruled that the government must charge Padilla with a crime or release him, a decision appealed by the Bush Administration to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The question they must decide is whether Padilla, an American seized on U.S. soil, should have been designated an enemy combatant. "I may be the first lawyer to stand here and say I'm asking for my client to be indicted by a federal grand jury," Padilla's lawyer, Andrew Patel, told a three-judge panel of the court.

The US Constitution says:
Amendment V:
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment VI:
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
Perhaps, having achieved the Presidency in a manner which was questionable at best, Bush now intends to do away with the Constitution. Since his election, half the amendments which constitute the Bill of Rights have been severely weakened (#1, 4, 5, 6, 10), with others (#2) already crippled by previous administrations. He has certainly ignored or weakened other amendments as well (#12, 14). Is his plan eventual nullification of amendment 22? With solid Republican majorities in both houses of Congress, and possibly as many as 3 appointments to an already-agreeable Supreme Court, are we headed for a new King George?

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Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The Bush standard

For months, President Bush has said he would fire anyone found to have leaked information leading to the unmasking of CIA officer Valerie Plame, a pledge which he reaffirmed as recently as June 10. Now that Bush's Deputy Chief of Staff, Karl Rove, and Vice President Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, have been implicated by Matthew Cooper, a reporter for Time Magazine, Bush is quickly backing away from his promise, saying yesterday, "If someone committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration."

Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) said the standard for holding a high White House position "should not simply be that you didn't break the law," and the nation seems to agree with him. An ABC News poll released yesterday found that only one-quarter of Americans believe the White House is fully cooperating with the investigation

For Bush, who campaigned as a straight shooter with promises to "uphold the honor and dignity of the White House," this shifting stance on who he will hold accountable reveals how sensitive a special prosecutor's investigation of the CIA leak is becoming for Bush.

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Thursday, July 14, 2005

Porn in the USA

A couple weeks ago, I commented on a law requiring pornographers to obtain (and maintain indefinitely) detailed records on all "performers".

"ABitDifferent" left a very insightful comment on the matter, and I would like to highlight several points he made.

1. The law goes well beyond businesses that people would normally think of as pornography creators and distributors. Search engine sites like Google and Altavista which cache images, adult offline sex toy (and even lingerie) stores which have images of women in sexually explicit poses on the packages, video stores which sell or rent adult movies, book stores which sell any book or magaize with a sexually explicit image on the cover, and any adult calendar seller, would all be subject to this law. These are just some examples, there are many others who will also fall under this.

2. Online pornographers are particularly incensed by this because of the way in which the industry works. Typically large adult paid websites advertise through "sponsorship" programs; free websites get a few images to show off the material and recieve a commission on sales. The problem is that most of the paid websites are based in the United Kingdom, which has a law prohibiting pornography producers from giving out documentation regarding their models' personal information (to prevent stalking and harrassment). This is the very documentation that the US sites will now be required to get. The predicted effect is that this will largely shut down legal US pornography websites, but not affect UK pornography.

This strikes me as yet another example of American Puritanism at work. We can't get rid of pornography online (the internet is international, after all), and the Constitution ensures that it can't be censored (although Congress is still working on getting rid of that nasty First Amendment!), but we'll be sure to take the high moral ground by making it difficult for Americans to produce (or make any money off of) porn! Oh well, I guess we'll be getting that much more "Hot Asian teen sex!" spam.

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GM discount is brilliant (but Chrysler, not so much!)

Here's why:

As has been widely reported, the top-line impact of GM's "employee discount for everyone" ad campaign has been a 41% increase in sales for June. Some people have theorized that, like other recent campaigns to boost sales, this would come at the expense of profits.

An employee discount is typically 3% to 4% below invoice. However, in offering the employee discount to everyone, GM rescinded its previous $3,000 to $4,000 cash-back incentives, so the end price may be the same or even higher.

In other words, they are making as much or more money per car, and selling many more cars. Brilliant!

Chrysler has gone GM one better by offering the employee discount to everyone, in addition to $3,000 to $4,000 cash-back incentives. The figures aren't in on how this is affecting sales volume (although Chrysler, as well as most other automakers, lost sales in June when only GM was offering the employee discount), but this double discounting can't be good for the bottom line.

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Thursday, July 07, 2005

Thought for the day

"What is the difference between unethical and ethical advertising? Unethical advertising uses falsehoods to deceive the public; ethical advertising uses truth to deceive the public."

Vilhjalmur Stefansson, "Discovery", 1964

Found on Seth's Blog

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