January 31, 2005

Guantonamo Prisoner's Rights

Steven Taylor gets it right with regard to US District Judge Green's ruling that the Guantonamo Bay prisoners have constitutional protections:

While I am amenable to the argument that non-citizens may not have the same rights under the Constitution as citizens (depending on the exact circumstances), I do adhere to the notion that there are fundamental hunan rights, many of which are, in fact, detailed in the US Constitution. As a result I cannot abide by the concept that we have the right to indefinitely detain human beings who �might� be a threat. Either they are a threat or they are not, and there needs to be a legitimate process by which to determine that fact.

The issue to me is that there has to be some standard applied to these detainees, and since it seems we have been unable to construct a viable one, I am not sure the proper course isn�t the Constitution.

The key is that as human beings we all have certain fundamental rights. That some of them are detailed in the US Constitution does not restrict their application to only US citizens.

Posted by Steve on January 31, 2005 | Comments (1)

January 29, 2005

Pheromones in Action

Will guys or gals be buying the most of this stuff?

Via Crumb Trail.

Posted by Steve on January 29, 2005

January 28, 2005

Friday Ark

Cats, Dogs, Spiders and ? every Friday.

Note 1/28/05: The Modulator staff will be traveling Friday through Sunday. Expect Friday updates to be slow and comments and trackbacks received after 18:30 GMT 1/28 will not be posted until sometime after 2:00 GMT 1/29.

I'll post links to sites that have Friday (plus or minus a few days) photos of their chosen animals as I see them (no photoshops and no humans).

Leave a comment or trackback to this post or email me and I'll add yours to the list.

Do remember The Carnival of the Cats every Sunday and hosted this week at Watermark.

Archive editions of the Friday Ark.


DogsBirdsOther VertebratesInvertebratesDidn't Make It

Posted by Steve on January 28, 2005 | Comments (8)

January 27, 2005

More Reading Recommendations

This time for folks working in the middle east and the US administration.

Posted by Steve on January 27, 2005

January 26, 2005

Balance Your Reading

When you've completed your daily classical liberalism reading assignment head over to Jasmine Cola for Tangled Bank #20, the current edition of the compendium of great science weblog articles.

Posted by Steve on January 26, 2005

Liberal Reading

That would be classical liberal reading!

As economics and law seem to play a large role in many blogospheric conversations I suggest that everyone commit to reading one article per day from the Inaugral Issue of The NYU Journal of Law & Libery:

The NYU Journal of Law & Liberty is dedicated to providing a forum for the critical discussion of classical liberal legal scholarship. It aims to explore issues, such as the nature of rules & order, legal philosophy, theories of rights & liberty, constitutional law, jurisprudence, legal history, and historical & contemporary legislation.

The Inaugural Issue of the Journal examines the lifework and thought of F.A. Hayek, perhaps the 20th century�s greatest proponent of classical liberalism.

Here is the Inaugural Issue table of contents.

Via Division of Labour.

Posted by Steve on January 26, 2005

January 25, 2005

Newspaper RSS Feeds

Bluedog Limited points out Media Drop's list of newspapers with RSS feeds.

Hey, yah!, more stuff to add to the reading list.

Posted by Steve on January 25, 2005

A Modest Proposal to Solve the Social Security Problem

There is a guy named Aubrey de Grey who makes some fairly strong arguments that significant human life extension is achievable between 25 and 100 years from now and that it is funding that will make the difference between the low and high end of the range.

So, on the off chance that he is right, let's make sure he gets adequate funding to achieve the short end of the range. It will take just a fraction of the trillions of dollars involved in Social Security over the next 50-60 years, heck, even a small fraction of this years deficit would likely be enough.

If he is successful then we can convert those future retirees back into into productive participants in the economy and they can support themselves and in the process provide us the option of eliminating the social security system and other retirement plans. There should be significant reductions in age related health care costs as well.

Not everyone thinks de Grey is playing in a full deck or that his goals are admirable. In this Technology Review article popular author and former surgeon Sherwin Nuland sums up a lengthy interview with de Grey by suggesting:

If we are to be destroyed, I am now convinced that it will not be a netural or malevolent force that will do us in, but one that is benevolent in the extreme... If we are ever immolated, it will be by the efforts of well-meaning scientists ...
It is a good thing that his grand design will almost certainly not succeed. Were it otherwise he would surely destroy us in attempting to preserve us.
I do recommend the article if you are not familiar with de Grey and his work.

But, beware! Nuland is successful at two things in this article: first, the less than subtle hatchet job that Nuland does on de Grey, partially exemplified in the above quote, is rather unbecoming a respected surgeon and renowned author. Nuland makes it clear early on that he wants to die and he wants it to be sooner, 80-120, rather than later and that he is very uncomfortable even contemplating the change that would be wrought by extending life spans beyond this normal length. So you have to wade through the digs, slams, and slightings to get to the meat.

It is, though, worth the effort because, second, he does introduce us to a fascinating guy with grand ideas, the kind that can both energize and change a world. I plan on spending quite a bit more time reading the material at de Grey's site and the linked articles.

Posted by Steve on January 25, 2005 | Comments (1)

January 24, 2005

What Browser Will You be Using Six Months From Now?

Business Week Online is polling the masses.

Right now, with 661 votes in, Firefox leads IE 50.2% to 28.3%.

Go cast your vote!

Posted by Steve on January 24, 2005

January 22, 2005

Boing Boing History

I know that you want to know the most posts put up on Boing Boing in one day, right?

You can find out here.

And, you can get an archive file of the first five years of Boing Boing for free. Way less than the $287.99 for the first four seasons of The Sopranos.

Posted by Steve on January 22, 2005 | Comments (1)

January 21, 2005

powell Leaving FCC

The grass may not be greener on the other side but I am happy to see powell leave this part of the American Taliban. His tenure also brought us such wonderful government intrusions as the V-chip which some folks may want in their equipment and the rest of us will now get to subsidize.

It is the FCC and it is the federal government and the bushies1 will be appointing a replacement so we should not have high expectations of any contribution to freedom, liberty, or our economic well being.

1Yes, I'd say the same thing about the dems.

Posted by Steve on January 21, 2005

Friday Ark

Cats, Dogs, Spiders and ? every Friday.

I'll post links to sites that have Friday (or shortly thereafter) photos of their chosen animals as I see them (no photoshops and no humans).

Leave a comment or trackback to this post or email me and I'll add yours to the list.

Do remember The Carnival of the Cats every Sunday and hosted this week at Music and Cats.

Archive editions of the Friday Ark.


DogsBirdsOther VertebratesInvertebratesDidn't Make It

Posted by Steve on January 21, 2005 | Comments (10)

January 20, 2005


I had an unfortunate accident last night. On the way home from work, I was, as usual, scanning through the radio stations trying to avoid commercials and find scraps of good listening material.

Just a few minutes from home the station scan found O'reilly saying come back after the break to hear my interview with a scientist about intelligent design. It hooked me. Damn.

PZ Meyers accurately describes the person I was listening to:

I have never, in my entire 12 year career as a college instructor, ever had a student as stupid, as dense, as arrogant, as oblivious, as Bill O�Reilly. I have never had a conversation with a lay person about science that was as grossly wrong as this eructation of ignorance out of the mouth of Bill O�Reilly. And this man is a highly paid commentator on a nationally broadcast and popular program?

I am really impressed with Dr Michael Grant, though. He actually managed to sit through that and make civil and competent responses. I would have been shocked into silence, or would have simply left the room as soon as he said, �there are four seasons. That�s science.�

Read the rest.

Posted by Steve on January 20, 2005 | Comments (1)

In Our Times it Means Something Still

As bush proclaims that liberty and freedom still mean something in our times the camera pans to security folks forcing demonstrators to take down a sign....

Seems a pretty clear message....

Posted by Steve on January 20, 2005

For the Intelligent Design Folks

You are not here by accident, but by a higher design.

There is some pretty good advice in the instructional pages...

Via Unusual Churches.

Posted by Steve on January 20, 2005

JibJab Second Term

The latest JibJab video will not have the legs of the first one. It is cute, but not roll on the floor laughable.

Via Hoosier Review.

Posted by Steve on January 20, 2005

January 19, 2005

Naughty Duck

Well, just go look for yourself....

Via Bitch has Word.

Posted by Steve on January 19, 2005

Don't Grow Up to Be a Superheroine

Here are a few reasons why.

Via Jim Henley.

Update: Fixed typo.

Posted by Steve on January 19, 2005 | Comments (1)

Beautiful Aurora Pictures

Scott found some fantastic pictures of auroras.

Click through.

Posted by Steve on January 19, 2005 | Comments (1)

January 18, 2005

Browser Battles

I'm tempted to come up with some special laudatory descriptor for Jen's readers compared to my readers: 26% of her vistors are using Firefox and another 19% are using variants of Mozilla or Netscape; slightly over 90% (down from near 95% a few months ago) of my visitors are still using an Internet Explorer variant.

Instead let me just say congratulations to those who have seen the light.

Update (1/19): Information Week has some related articles.

Posted by Steve on January 18, 2005

Shopping at Wal-Mart

I don't and the reason has nothing to do with the wages Wal-Mart pays its employees:

Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, Arkansas, last June redesigned its wage structure to boost salaries for some workers amid criticism by labor unions and other opponents of the retailer's expansion that Wal-Mart pays workers less than local prevailing wages....
Unions including the United Food & Commercial Workers have said Wal-Mart pays its workers less than those at other supermarkets and doesn't provide adequate health-care benefits.
The few times I have been in a Wal-Mart I found the stores unattractive, unfriendly, not particularly well priced, and nothing about the shopping experience incented me to make this chain a destination when I go shopping. I do admit to having many convenient, friendly, well stocked, clean, reasonably priced alternatives to the nearest Wal-Mart.

Working as a retail clerk at Wal-Mart is like working at McDonalds and a 1000 other low rent jobs: it is a starter job, a stop gap job, a second family income job. I've had to start at the bottom more than once with low wage, no or low benifit jobs to pay the rent. You do it, you do a good job, and you move on as quickly as you can to jobs that better satisfy your particular needs. As long as Wal-Mart has a ready supply of qualified folks who want the jobs, however briefly, at the offered wage there is no reason for them to change their practices and, really, no reason for others to complain. Oh, and, if I were a woman I damned well wouldn't plan to spend very long working at a business known to discriminate against women...in fact, why even apply for a job there?

Via this week's Carnival of the Capitalists and Mad Anthony.

Posted by Steve on January 18, 2005 | Comments (1)

January 15, 2005

1216 Days of Failure

Craig Cheslog reminds us:

Oh, and by the way, Mr. President, it has been 1,216 days since you said you wanted to catch Osama bin Laden "dead or alive." Some of us still think that a worthwhile goal.

Posted by Steve on January 15, 2005

Rebelling Against the Future

Not everyone rebels. It is just the vast majority of people who find learning painful.

Marvin Minsky, Closer to Truth # 210: How Does Technology Transform Society?

Closer to Truth is

a new cross-media genre presenting to broad public audiences "Knowledge Affairs" in which the fundamental questions of our times are explored by creative and thoughtful scientists, scholars and artists.
If you have a broadband connection watch Closer to Truth programs online. If not find them periodically on the Research Channel on your local cabel/satellite system.

1Show 210: How Does Technology Transform Society?

It's unstoppable and unavoidable, and it's blowing to bits communication, business and life as we know it. Technology is making prettier television pictures, smart houses and smart cars, changing every aspect of business and government, shrinking the world and giving access to anything to almost anyone. Today's panelists discuss how technology is forever changing life as we know it and how change and continuing growth are just as unstoppable as social change is inevitable. Joining host Robert Kuhn are geopolitical economist Francis Fukuyama; artificial intelligence expert Marvin Minsky; technological innovator George Kozmetsky; scientist and sci-fi novelist Gregory Benford; and biophysicist Gregory Stock. [more]

Posted by Steve on January 15, 2005

January 14, 2005

Presurfer Extras

If you are not finding enough diversion at The Presurfer be sure to check out his other two sites:

The Generator Blog

This blog is not about those machines used to change mechanical energy into electrical energy. It's about software that creates software. Software to play around and have fun with.
Unusual Churches
Unusual Churches is about believing in a universal force that helps to guide us in our everyday lives. Many people choose to seek it in many different ways. How we choose to find it is up to the individual. Unusual Churches is also about the weird, wacky and funny churches one can find on the internet.
There are definitely some pretty diverse approaches to spiritual matters noted at Unusual Churches.

Posted by Steve on January 14, 2005

Friday Ark

Cats, Dogs, Spiders and ? every Friday.

I'll post links to sites that have Friday (or shortly thereafter) photos of their chosen animals as I see them (no photoshops and no humans).

Leave a comment or trackback to this post or email me and I'll add yours to the list.

Do remember The Carnival of the Cats every Sunday and hosted this week at IBeJo.

Archive editions of the Friday Ark.



January 13, 2005

Acceptable Search?

I have no objection to private use of GPS technology to track company vehicles, for geocaching, tracking your teenager's driving, backtracking your hiking trail, etc., as long as everyone know whats happening. Unmonitored use by law enforcement employees is not acceptable:

When Robert Moran drove back to his law offices in Rome, N.Y., after a plane trip to Arizona in July 2003, he had no idea that a silent stowaway was aboard his vehicle: a secret GPS bug implanted without a court order by state police.

Police suspected the lawyer of ties to a local Hells Angels Motorcycle Club that was selling methamphetamine, and they feared undercover officers would not be able to infiltrate the notoriously tight-knit group, which has hazing rituals that involve criminal activities. So investigators stuck a GPS, or Global Positioning System, bug on Moran's car, watched his movements, and arrested him on drug charges a month later.

A federal judge in New York ruled last week that police did not need court authorization when tracking Moran from afar. "Law enforcement personnel could have conducted a visual surveillance of the vehicle as it traveled on the public highways," U.S. District Judge David Hurd wrote. "Moran had no expectation of privacy in the whereabouts of his vehicle on a public roadway."

Well, I say BS to Judge Hurd.

Why shouldn't I or Moran have an expectation of privacy? Especially from public employees. And even more importantly as we move through public spaces which we must do to carry on the basic activities of being human.

Given the rapidly changing tools available to capture information about individuals or groups it is time to expand our view of what is considered acceptable search and surveillance practices. If law enforcement folks are not in hot pursuit of someone who just committed a legitimate1 crime then they should be required to have probable cause approved by an independent judiciary before they are allowed to investigate, let alone surveil, any individual or group for any reason. This should apply whether that individual or group is acting in traditionally private spaces or in what are considered public spaces.

1For the purpose of this post I ignore the question of whether methamphetamine sales is a legitimate crime.

Via Declan McCullagh.

Posted by Steve on January 13, 2005

January 11, 2005

Mi�ville's Iron Curtain

China Miville readers will want to head over to Crooked Timber for the discussion.

PZ Meyers reports that:

It�s much more than the usual Q&A�the critics take some time to expand on ideas and express themselves at length, while Mi�ville also replies in a single lengthy discussion. It just seems to be an appropriate use of the medium.
Be prepared with your thinking caps.

Posted by Steve on January 11, 2005

Grand Rounds

isemmelweis finds the health care industry to be the lone victem of special interest corporate-government collusion:

In all other economic sectors free people drive production, and good things happen quickly. In response to the Atkins craze, sodas and even beer cut out the carbs to meet the wants of a fit society. But in healthcare, rather than serve ordinary citizens, producers court the people in power: big insurers, government officials, and academics.
So who�s navigating this ship? While it may be enormous fun for managers, officials, and scholars to control how sick people get medicine, it would be much better if free people chose for themselves.
Yes, it should be much better but isemmelweis is mistaken to think that this problem is restricted to health care, e.g., consider communications and the FCC, agriculture, and education to name just a few areas. We would live in a much healthier world, physically and economically, if this phenomenon did not permeate both the American and the world economy.

There is a lot of interesting reading from the medical blogosphere at Chronicles of a Medical Madhouse which is hosting Grand Rounds XV.

Posted by Steve on January 11, 2005

January 10, 2005

Barely Time for a Drink

Guy Andrew Hall notes that despite the closed sign the bar is open.

You may want a double after reading some bits of history on the Salvadoran death squads.

Posted by Steve on January 10, 2005

Blocking Fox

Television news is some of the worst of the poor material generally available around the dial. Is is usually devoid of adequate context, sophomoric in analysis, and biased. This is pretty much guaranteed by the limited time available to present any particular story or subject.

So, while the Foxblocker is entertaining when viewed from a partisan stance I'd carry Jazz's suggestion "that you may want to get one if you have children" just a bit farther.

If possible, do not allow your children to watch any television news. If you can't stop it entirely then make sure you are with them and that you discuss each story in detail. Treat it pretty much like any other X-rated material.

One caveat to the above: when there are major events that are given continous extended coverage most of the news channels seem to do a pretty decent job (the networks tend to go back to regularly scheduled programming too soon). It is best, even during extended coverage, to switch networks regularly. Spend 5-15 minute at each stop. You can learn from both the differences in commentary and camera shots and this can provide plenty of fodder for family discussions.

Posted by Steve on January 10, 2005

January 8, 2005

Clean Your Monitor Screens

I've been looking for something like this to clean my monitor screen for a long time.

Via The Presurfer.

Posted by Steve on January 8, 2005 | Comments (1)

January 7, 2005

The Library Top 1000

Compiled from 52,000 member libraries (all but 9,134 are North American) the Online Computer Library Center presents its list of the top 1000 library holdings:

we made a master list of all the items held by libraries around the globe. We tweaked it to bring together different printings and editions and translations, and then we counted the number of libraries that own each title. We ranked the titles in descending order by the number of items held by libraries. Then we provided some additional categories to create sublists of fiction, drama, children's works, and so forth.
Reflecting the North American dominance Census leads the Bible 403,252 to 271,534 in the top two positions.

Posted by Steve on January 7, 2005

Friday Ark

Cats, Dogs, Spiders and ? every Friday.

I'll post links to sites that have Friday (or shortly thereafter) photos of their chosen animals as I see them (no photoshops and no humans).

Leave a comment or trackback to this post or email me and I'll add yours to the list.

Do remember The Carnival of the Cats every Sunday and hosted this week at Leslie's Omnibus.

Archive editions of the Friday Ark.


DogsBirdsOther VertebratesInvertebrates
Didn't Make It

Posted by Steve on January 7, 2005 | Comments (8)

January 6, 2005


Texas could use a dose of arnold:

Mr. Schwarzenegger proposed turning over the drawing of the state's political map to a panel of retired judges, taking it out of the hands of lawmakers who for decades have used the redistricting process in a cozy bipartisan deal to choose their voters and cement their incumbency. He threatened to take the issue directly to the voters if the Legislature does not act on the plan in a special session he called for.

Mr. Schwarzenegger, a Republican, noted that of the 153 seats in the California Congressional delegation and Legislature that were on the ballot in November, not one changed party hands.

"What kind of a democracy is that?" he asked in his address....

Well, the answer to the ending question seems to be as varied as the number of politicos who play the democracy card. Nevertheless, the proposal is certainly an improvement over redistricting practices in most if not all states.

Via Daniel Drezner.

Update (1/7): Kevin Drum is dead set against this unless Texas (see first sentence above)does it first. While he makes a strong point the dems may need to accept a brief setback to get this ball rolling. And, without a proposal in hand, it is not clear just how many seats the dems might lose in California. Perhaps strong candidates would be able to hold the line.

Posted by Steve on January 6, 2005 | Comments (2)

January 5, 2005


Just where would someone get a PHD that would generate this set of conflicting qualifications?

Geology:Ph.D. required. Teaching Introductory Geology, Paleontology, and History of Life. Compatibility with a young-earth creationist position required.
Since the course content would be empty perhaps they should just use the same folks that teach this class:
THEO 250 - Fundamental Theological Issues (3 hours)
A study of the major theological questions that arise in the defense of biblical inerrancy, scriptural separation, creationism, and dispensationalism. It also deals with such contemporary issues as the charismatic movement, feminism, situation ethics, and other vital concerns to the fundamentalist in today�s world. (Prerequisites: THEO 201 and THEO 202)
Via Pharyngula.

Posted by Steve on January 5, 2005

January 4, 2005

Why not Plastic Dollar Bills?

According to this Slate article 23 countries currently use plastic instead of paper currency:

Notes circulating in tropical climates wear even more quickly. I lived in India for several years and had more than one rupee bill literally disintegrate in my hands.

This explains why Mexico and 22 other nations have switched from paper to plastic money for at least some denominations. Plastic bills last longer and are more difficult to counterfeit than paper bills. They are less likely to trip up ATMs, and they carry fewer germs. Plastic bills look and feel like "real" money, though they are a bit slicker to the touch.

On a bill for bill basis plastic money costs more but its longer life makes it cost effective. I'd be fine with plastic bills.

Rob, at Say Anything, seconds James Joyner's suggestion that we go all the way by eliminating cash:

It strikes me, though, that a better solution would be to simply switch to the "plastic" currency we have all become accustomed to: credit and debit cards. A purely electronic system would seem to have all of the advantages of polymer bills with none of the disadvantages.
I don't doubt that some year down the road this might happen. For now, though, I say no.

Over a year ago I switched back to cash for all my face to face purchases and am a happier person: transactions happen more quickly (except at the gas stations), the banks don't get a cut of every purchase, and an unknown number of databases to not get another entry linked to my name.

Fix these things and I might change my mind.

Posted by Steve on January 4, 2005

Tsunami Relief Donations

Are you still waiting to make your first donation to assist the tsunami relief effort?

Amazon makes it very easy!

US contributions via Amazon now total $13,963,311 (16:51 GMT) from 172199 individual donations.

Posted by Steve on January 4, 2005

January 3, 2005

December's Top Referrers

On the right side bar is the updated roll of Modulator's 20 top referrers for the month of December. Number 20 produced 15 referrals compared to 21 for number 20 in November.

December churn: 6 blogs dropped and 6 new ones added compared to 7 and 7 in October.

Overall traffic was down about 4.4% from November and up 464% from December 03 (no I do not expect the year to year growth to continue at that rate). I am also seeing an increasing number of visits from folks who have bookmarked Modulator and I thank all of you for visiting!

Top Referrer: The Sideshow! Thanks, Avedon.

Top search phrase/word: live strong bracelets

Most popular post: Live Strong

Statistics are culled from AWStats running on Modulator's server at Hosting Matters.

Again, thank you one and all!

Also, I'd like to acknowledge referrals from some of the blogosphere's 'service' sites: Technorati, weblogs.com, blogrolling.com, MovableType, Blogdex, Bloglines, blogoshpere.us, Sitemeter, NZ Bear's Ecosystem, Bloogz and Daypop.

All of the blog rolls are ordered by most recently updated so be sure to ping weblogs.com or blogrolling.com to push to the top of the rolls. These are certainly the sites I tend to look at first and visitors will see you at the top of the roll as well.

For a brief discussion of Modulator's blog rolls look here.

Posted by Steve on January 3, 2005

1666 or 1670 feet?

Whichever it is, this building is tall!

101 stories with a 650-ton sway damper at the 88th floor.

Via locussolus.

Posted by Steve on January 3, 2005

This is what the US is fighting for???

The Bush administration is drawing up a long-term plan for al-Qa'eda suspects at Guantanamo Bay, including building a prison where they could be held for the rest of their lives without ever appearing in a court of law.
This makes me more than nauseous so I'll let Zombyboy speak for me:
The plan by the Bush administration to jail al-Qa'eda suspects for life without ever submitting them to a court is wrong. Wrong wrong wrong.

I have no doubt that these are Bad People who have done Bad Things and harbor nothing but Ill Intent toward the people of the West. I understand that the last thing we want is to have these people back in the world plotting the next attack against the citizens of--well, anywhere from New York to London, Paris, or Rome, for instance. I even realize that the people who are drawing up this plan believe that the actions they take will help protect the rest of the world.

While the plan may be protected legally inasmuch as the terrorists are not protected by the Geneva Convention, the plan isn't a moral one

Read the rest.

Posted by Steve on January 3, 2005

Vitamin D: Get Yours!

Are you getting enough vitamin D?

Probably not....

Via Marginal Revolution where the discussion was: Are we spending our health care dollars effectively?

Posted by Steve on January 3, 2005