Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Bill Gates is usually pretty dry, but his appearance on the Daily Show is quite compelling, I think:
Bill Gates is usually pretty dry, but his appearance on the Daily Show is quite compelling, I think:
I know, I know, you’re sick of hearing about how computers are free. But seriously:
This is a 1TB drive. It’s $400.
I’m pretty sure that I started seeing “TB” in common use, in advertisements for storage, in just the past month or two. How long until measuring hard drives in GB seems quaint, as it would seem ridiculous now for me to say, for example, that my laptop came with a 40,000MB hard drive?
Methinks a certain public servant could take a page from Teddy:
The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole.
Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile.
To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.
Here is a video of a meeting that certain soldiers were required to attend if they declared their intent to not re-enlist:
I couldn’t find a transcript of the presenters’ pitch anywhere, so I transcribed most of their spiel:
[Presenter #1] How many of you have an iron-clad, all-bills-paid, already-accepted-to-a-college-of-choice, place-to-live, everything-paid-off plan for when you get out? Think about that.
[Presenter #2] OK, we know the military is not a refuge for individuals who can’t make it in society. We know that. We know that you all have the capabilities to survive out there and do very well. But we know that some of you out there are immature and haven’t grown up yet, and need more responsibility. Some of you soldiers are real young. I didn’t really start to think about what I wanted to do with my life until at least 26, 27. Some of you are what — 23 years old. Not really know [sic] what you want to do with your life.
[Presenter #1] You can’t go home and live with momma. She’s not going to put up with you anymore. You are not the same person. Your friends back on the block are still doing the dumb, stupid stuff they were doing three years ago when you left.
It’s true — if you go out there in the real world and spend all your money on beer and someone’s going to be evicting you and you’re going to be sitting on the street homeless with a cardboard box sitting around calling up Seargent [inaudible] saying “Can I come back in the Army?”
A few things stick out for me:
Not to mention that leaving the Army is a sure way to end up in a cardboard box.
Good to know.
We have created a monster and it is us.
Software developers write programs and give the work away for free. Now no one really expects to pay much for programming.
The microstocks make some nice photos available for next to nothing.
WalMart sells shirts and pants for so little that I actually know someone who doesn’t launder her kids clothes but throws them away every 2-3 weeks and buys more. (I am not kidding.)
We expect to have lots of websites at our disposal 24/7 that give us free advice on camera gear and other aspects of photography. But doing that takes time and effort. Do the ads provide enough income?
Trouble is, nobody wants to work for free, do they? Something has to give, it seems to me. You have to spend years acquiring expertise to do what you do. Sharing some of it makes sense. Giving it all away for nothing will cease to make [sense] at some point.
People used to subscribe to magazines but I get the impression that they are reluctant to subscribe to websites? Why is that? These are weird times.
Weird times, indeed.
Perhaps you think this is obvious. But, on the off chance that some of you are not yet attuned to it, be aware: why do you suppose the phrase “giving aid and comfort to our enemies”, or just “giving comfort to our enemies”, comes up so often? After all, talking of “providing comfort” to someone is an old-fashioned sort of phrase. A couple of random examples:
Bush in an address last January to veterans:
We also have an opportunity this year to show the Iraqi people what responsible debate in a democracy looks like. In a free society, there is only one check on political speech — and that’s the judgment of the people. So I ask all Americans to hold their elected leaders to account, and demand a debate that brings credit to our democracy — not comfort to our adversaries.
Republican Representative Tom Davis of Virginia, attacking anti-war comments made by Democratic Senator Tom Daschle:
[Daschle's] divisive comments have the effect of giving aid and comfort to our enemies by allowing them to exploit divisions in our country.
So, why the recurring use of the phrase “giving comfort to our enemies”? Well, as it turns out, that language is used in the US constitution to define the federal crime of treason:
Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.
Choosing to use the phrase “aid and comfort” when attacking your opponents is something like a dog whistle: it is a way of accusing them of treason without using the words “traitor” or “treasonous”. People who are suitably attuned will understand that you are choosing to use the language of treason.
Above, Bush is making the veiled suggestion that at least some of those who criticize him domestically are traitors to their country. Tom Davis is making the still veiled, but more specific, charge that Tom Daschle is a traitor. Bush and Davis (presumably) chose their language carefully to suggest a charge that they were not willing to make overtly.
This is a pretty weasely use of language, if you ask me. Be on the lookout for it.
The harder I work, the luckier I get.
– Thomas Jefferson
Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just get to work.
– Chuck Close
There is a really interesting post by Richard Rothstein, and an accompanying discussion, over at Art & Perception about his experience, as an amateur photographer, of being harassed by authority figures in NYC. Here are some excerpts:
[T]o members of the New York City Police Department, several doormen and a couple of security guards, I looked like [...] a terrorist threat. Clearly, a lone man photographing details of buildings from various angles and wanting to enter lobbies of city landmarks to photograph cherubs, statuary and mosaics is now assumed to be a threat to the safety and security of our fair city.
I’m a photographer. I’m an artist. But such explanations no longer fly. I was denied entry to the lobby of the landmark and fantabulous Woolworth Building. I was asked for photo ID in front of a Soho luxury condo. Two of New York’s finest approached me in front of a Prince Street church and asked me to please “move on.” I explained who I was and what I was doing. The response was a second “please move on.” Two security guards asked me why I was photographing crowds shopping the stalls on Canal Street. Why is it any of their business, I asked? “Please move on.”
Photographing the details of Manhattan used to be a very enriching hobby, now it’s a awkward negotiation through a maze of uniforms.
The general rule in the United States is that anyone may take photographs of whatever they want when they are in a public place or places where they have permission to take photographs. Absent a specific legal prohibition such as a statute or ordinance, you are legally entitled to take photographs. Examples of places that are traditionally considered public are streets, sidewalks, and public parks.
I think one may be bound to obey an order by a bona fide police officer to vacate an area, but as I understand it, citizens are under no obligation to identify themselves to, or follow the orders of, a private security officer if the citizen is on public property.
In his post, Richard Rothstein offers a talismanic disclaimer:
I was tempted to post my photograph so that you could determine for yourself just how much I resemble a threat to democracy and freedom–but that’s probably not wise. Suffice it to say that I am a 58-year-old very white, bald, Jewish, Gay New Yorker with a very neatly trimmed silver beard. I was wearing an $1,500 Italian dark green leather and fleece coat, a black cashmere scarf and a matching black pull on cashmere cap. I looked like your typical over-paid and perfectly stylish self-indulgent New Yorker on his way to or from a chic brunch. Today’s weapon of choice was my Canon Digital Elph with optical zoom.
This is a common but dangerous way of thinking. The disclaimer offered here is “How could anyone think I am a threat”. The implication is that it’s perfectly clear what kinds of people are dangerous, and that although it’s OK to harass them, that we should be left alone. The outrage is “how dare they bother me; can’t they see I’m not one of them?”
The problem with this line of thinking is that suspicion is not proof, and suspicion is not grounds for lesser rights. There are thousands of people imprisoned around the world by our military, based only on suspicion. Many of them are certainly innocent, something easily extrapolated from the fact that scores have been set free after belated realizations that they posed no threat and were guilty of no crime. Suspicion is no justification for the fact that they were treated unjustly. In fact, proper application of due process would have revealed their innocence.
In the discussion thread, Paul Butzi, a photographer living here in Washington state, takes Richard to task:
You cite your description. Apparently you feel that middle-aged, white, bald, jewish wealthy folks should be exempt from scrutiny. I’m sorry, but as a society, the United States seems to be pretty strongly resistant to the entire idea of racial/ethnic/social status profiling. Why, exactly, do you think that racial/ethnic profiling is a great idea, given the widespread dislike of it especially amongst the urban population in the US?
Paul is being combative here, but I basically agree with his objection.
Social protests often involve rallying cries like “As long as any one of us is not free, none of us is free”. A specific way to understand this idea is to realize that if it’s OK for authority figures to unaccountably hassle people based solely on, say, their appearance, then they are free to hassle any one of us. We may choose, collectively, to allow the authorities to hassle anyone they wish in the name of security, but it’s seductively wrong-headed to try to escape the matter by wishing for the authorities to hassle only those people, and to leave us alone. Richard invokes his appearance hoping to get a free pass. In a perverse way, this way of thinking leads to a world in which he can be hassled with impunity.
A couple more comments:
The photos are, for me, an escape from the political and social turmoil in which we live and struggle. So the intrusion of politics/uniforms on my time with the city felt like a violation and an invasion of my personal privacy and personal space.
– Richard (the author)
I’ve had similar experiences. I used to get harassed by security guards at airports a lot. It took me some time to figure out how I was triggering them. Finally, I saw that I was carrying into civilian life the attitude and mien from my time working for the military. I had to learn to imitate the downcast, submissive, poor eye contact, fearful attitude of the general population.
After that, no more searches.
One security guard actually told me that “they” send through people to test security, and I looked and acted like a cop.
What delicious irony.
Again, it’s worth reading through all the comments.
As always, if you are a photographer, I think the best approach is to politely but firmly stick up for your increasingly-encroached right to take pictures in public areas. There’s no sense in being unnecessarily confrontational, but I think it’s important not to take harassment lying down.
Remember: nobody has the right to confiscate your equipment except a police officer in the course of an arrest, and any intimidation, threat of physical force or the use of physical force by a private citizen is likely a criminal offense and/or actionable via lawsuit.
Yesterday was Blog for Choice day. It was also maiken-was-sick day.
So, one day late, brief note on the topic: after reading a bunch of pro-choice posts around the blogosphere, I propose an official terminology change.
I think the term “pro-life”, when used by the “pro-choice” crowd, should be replaced by “forced-birther”. As in, “oh, he’s just a forced-birther”, or “that’s a bunch of forced-birther nonsense”. Because really, “pro-life” means “in favor of forced childbirth” for women who want to terminate their pregnancy.
And if you think about it that way, who the hell thinks they should have the right to force random women to go through with a traumatic and potentially dangerous experience because of their own arbitrary moral code?
I know it’s clichéd to be amazed all the time at how technology becomes ever-cheaper, but seriously, it’s astounding.
I’ve been thinking for a while that I need to build twin file-server machines and locate one offsite as a proper, comprehensive backup solution. For maximum control, these would be full-blown computers. Cost always seemed prohibitive, though.
Well, as it turns out, computers are now free. Check out this bare-bones machine with an Intel-compatible CPU for…
wait for it…
I’ll take five.
In all fairness, you have to supply memory and hard drives. But 128MB of memory is basically free, too. That means that the cost of a full-blown file server with a lot of storage is dominated by the cost of… the hard drives. That’s fantastic.
While I’m on the subject of photography, I just discovered Michael Kenna.
Google took in $6 Billion in revenue in FY2005.
Suppose 200M people in the US use the Internet (I know, I know. Just suppose). That means Google got an average of $30 of revenue from each Internet user in FY05, or $2.50 a month. From everyone. On average.
Now, suppose that Google gets the great majority of their revenue from ads. I believe this is the case. I found this random survey of AdSense ad costs. I have reason to believe it’s fairly accurate. Let’s be generous and imagine that the average AdSense click-through nets Google $0.20 of revenue.
That means that the average internet user clicked through 150 Google ads in FY05. On average. With generous assumptions. Presumably the real average could easily be close to 200.
Is this consistent with anyone’s experience of using the Internet? Do you ever click through Google ads? I am not aware of ever having consciously clicked through a Google ad. Ever. Maybe I’m just some kind of weirdo?
Maybe there’s a subset of Internet users who click through Google ads a lot for some reason, and account for a disproportionate amount of Google’s revenue?
Bonus question: are all the kids growing up with the Internet today paying any attention to ads? That is, are Google’s ad revenues likely to go up or down as an Internet-savvy generation moves into the prime purchasing years of their lives?
This story has gotten a lot of play, but let me boil it down for you:
And now, the punch line: Attorney General Mike Cox admitted in November 2005 to an adulterous relationship.
Some enterprising reporter called up Mr. Cox’s office:
Cox’s spokesman, Rusty Hills, bristled at the suggestion that Cox or anyone else in his circumstances could face prosecution.
“To even ask about this borders on the nutty,” Hills told me in a phone interview Saturday. “Nobody connects the attorney general with this — N-O-B-O-D-Y — and anybody who thinks otherwise is hallucinogenic.”
Hills said Sunday that Cox did not want to comment.
The thing is, nobody has been convicted of adultery in Michigan since 1971.
I always thought that impeachment proceedings against the President had to originate in the House, but this article in OpEdNews suggests otherwise:
There is a decent chance that within the next month or two the New Mexico State Legislature will ask the U.S. House of Representatives to begin impeachment proceedings against President Bush and Vice President Cheney. And there is the definite possibility that a Congress Member from New Mexico will take up the matter when it gets to Washington. The Jefferson Manual, rules used by the U.S. House, allows for impeachment to be begun in this manner. It only takes one state legislature. No governor is needed. One Congress Member, from the same state or any other, is needed to essentially acknowledge receipt of the state’s petition. Then impeachment begins.
I had never heard of the Jefferson Manual, so I looked it up. Indeed, it does appear to be incorporated into the House of Representatives’ rules:
The House of Representatives formally incorporated Jefferson’s Manual into its rules in 1837, stipulating that the manual “should govern the House in all cases to which they are applicable and in which they are not inconsistent with the standing rules and order of the House and the joint rules of the Senate and the House of Representatives.”
Wikipedia even has a paragraph on the push to use it to bootstrap impeachment:
Jefferson’s Manual is currently being used in the movement to impeach George W. Bush. Although the impeachment process is usually thought of as a bill introduced by a representative, the Manual actually outlines several different methods:
In the House there are various methods of setting an impeachment in motion: by charges made on the floor on the responsibility of a Member or Delegate; by charges preferred by a memorial, which is usually referred to a committee for examination; by a resolution dropped in the hopper by a Member and referred to a committee; by a message from the President; by charges transmitted from the legislature of a State or territory or from a grand jury; or from facts developed and reported by an investigating committee of the House.
Several states have therefore introduced bills which, if passed, could begin the impeachment process.
This is very interesting, if true. Having a state legislature kick off the impeachment process could provide political cover for federal Representatives.
Why not just issue invitations to Bush and Cheney to go hunting together? Whoever survives, we impeach.
I think the worst part is these two lines towards the end:
Don’t want a girl who’ll sit there and talk too much /
Just want a doll with a lotta lotta places to touch
OK, that second line is almost certainly not what the lyrics actually are. But I’m damned if I can make out what Dean Martin is saying at 2:52.
All from a CBS interview with Bush (bolds mine):
PELLEY: Do you think you owe the Iraqi people an apology for not doing a better job?
BUSH: That we didn’t do a better job or they didn’t do a better job?
PELLEY: Well, that the United States did not do a better job in providing security after the invasion.
BUSH: Not at all. I am proud of the efforts we did. We liberated that country from a tyrant. I think the Iraqi people owe the American people a huge debt of gratitude, and I believe most Iraqis express that. I mean, the people understand that we’ve endured great sacrifice to help them. That’s the problem here in America. They wonder whether or not there is a gratitude level that’s significant enough in Iraq.
PELLEY: Americans wonder whether . . .
BUSH: Yeah, they wonder whether or not the Iraqis are willing to do hard work necessary to get this democratic experience to survive. That’s what they want.
The nerve of those ungrateful Iraqis!
PELLEY: The Democrat leadership says, “We wanna support the troops who are on the ground. We just wanna redline the extra 20,000.”
BUSH: Yeah. I will resist that. That would mean that they’re not willing to support a plan that I believe will work and solve the situation.
That would, um, be the point — they’re not willing to support a plan just because you believe in it.
PELLEY: Do you believe as commander-in-chief you have the authority to put the troops in there no matter what the Congress wants to do?
BUSH: In this situation, I do, yeah. Now, I fully understand they could try to stop me from doing it. But I made my decision, and we’re going forward.