Blacknell.net

Politics, technology, and society. And the seasonal incursion of pro cycling.

Month: November 2006 (Page 1 of 4)

The N-word

Read this. (Personally, I've shied away from using it, thinking it mostly unhelpful. Ms. McWhorter gives me good reason to reconsider.) Update: Lest you be tempted to skip it, take note of this paragraph:
We have become such "good Americans" that we no longer have the moral imagination to picture what it might be like to be in a bureaucratic category that voids our human rights, be it "enemy combatant" or "illegal immigrant." Thus, in the week before the election, hardly a ripple answered the latest decree from the Bush administration: Detainees held in CIA prisons were forbidden from telling their lawyers what methods of interrogation were used on them, presumably so they wouldn't give away any of the top-secret torture methods that we don't use. Cautiously, I look back on that as the crystallizing moment of Bushworld: tautological as a Gilbert and Sullivan libretto, absurd as a Marx Brothers movie, and scary as a Kafka novel.
I well and truly hope she is wrong on that - if America "no longer ha[s] the moral imagination to picture what it might be like to be in a bureaucratic category that voids our human rights", then my America is no more. And while I admit that, at various points in the past few years, I have been near sure that that is true, I am not yet ready to accept it.

Turkey & the EU

The European Commission has now suggested suspending accession talks with Turkey, in response to Turkey's continued refusal to open its ports to (Greek) Cyprus. I think suspension of talks would be a big mistake, but at the same time, I wholeheartedly agree with this:
"It is Turkey that must adapt to the EU," Denmark's Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen said. "It's not the other way around."
It would take many pages to explain my own conflicted thoughts on what the EU is, and ought to be. For example, it think it should still only comprise the 15 countries it did in 1995, and have stayed at that point until it was clearer on its own purpose and future. But we are where we are, with the EU essentially offering membership, and Turkey clearly wanting it. If Turkey wants it, it is up to Turkey to meet the standards and requirements of the EU. To its credit, it has done quite a bit, and I truly hope that Turkey can gain membership. But the EU needs to be firm in its stance (while remaining continuously engaged), and not be swayed by the pressures of public perception. And after Turkey becomes a member? The EU enlargement needs to stop. There is far too much internal work to be done to spend any more time on expansion.

Three strikes for Apple

I may have spent my last dollar on Apple hardware. Which is a shame, really, as I've really come to like OS X. But the hardware failures are getting ridiculous. Putting aside the three iPods I've gone through in as many years, I will soon be getting the screen on my Powerbook replaced for the THIRD time. I bought my Powerbook new in 2004, and ended up with one of the (many) screens exhibiting white spots. Finding that I couldn't live with it, I sent it in for a screen replacement, which Apple gave me with no fuss. Unfortunately, the screen they gave me was only able to fully illuminate itself on one half of the screen. Since this was only really a pain when it was dark, and I wasn't especially interested in being without my laptop for a week, I did learn to live with it. Last week, however, it had to go in for service for *another* hardware issue (RAM failure). So I asked them to replace the screen. They agreed, with just the slightest bit of prodding. I was very happy to get it back yesterday (and also for the almost-complete* backup that I'd done just before it went into self destruct mode). And then I decided to spend a little time photo-editing on it today, which required a closer look at the screen. At least ten pixels or subpixels stuck in the on position. I don't even want to bother looking for the dead pixels. It seems that Apple's pixel policy is intentionally obfuscated, but I expect that this is such an obvious case that they won't give me much trouble in getting it replaced. But that really isn't enough to make up for the fact that Apple has yet to give me a fully working screen, despite the original $2200 purchase price and three attempts. When I first decided to take a crack at OS X, I was prepared to pay a premium for both the hardware and software. I wasn't, however, prepared to pay a premium for substandard hardware. Ah well, at least I've gotten (several times) my money's worth out of the (overpriced, I first thought) AppleCare program . . . *everything but an incomplete draft of a work of fiction. probably for the best.

(No) Transparency at the High Court

If I want to hear Supreme Court case as it is argued, I have the luxury of being able to pop across town and grab a seat to listen (if I get there early enough). The vast majority of you? For the most part - tough luck. Well, if you add a reminder on your calendar - say, well into the next year, you might be able to snag a recording somewhere. But you're interested in hearing the process of deciding the most important legal issues of the day? You'll just have to cross your fingers and hope that the Chief Justice deigns it to be appropriate to permit a time-delayed broadcast. As Dahlia Lithwick puts it:
It's the modern-day equivalent of the feudal lord opening up the castle to his serfs for one drunken night at Christmas: It's condescending, it's irrational, and it reinforces the worst stereotypes about a secretive, elitist high court.
The next open castle will be on Monday, for two affirmative action cases. But don't you, as a citizen, wonder what it is that the Court thinks makes you unworthy of hearing most of what are otherwise completely open proceedings? I think that Lithwick gets it exactly right - it's a secretive elitist high court. And sadly (for this particular purpose), there's nothing that can be done about it. The Court is the sole authority on its own operations, and has chosen to remain as closed as possible to the general public, even 20 years after the Senate opened its chambers to television cameras. All we can hope is that the new Chief Justice is given reason to seriously reconsider the Court's position before he gets too comfortable with the insulated nature of the place. I'm generally a strong defender of the judiciary, but in this case, I think they deserve all of the criticism and pressure we can muster.

Sunday Reading

Meet the real weapon of mass destruction:
The AK-47 has become the world's most prolific and effective combat weapon, a device so cheap and simple that it can be bought in many countries for less than the cost of a live chicken. Depicted on the flag and currency of several countries, waved by guerrillas and rebels everywhere, the AK is responsible for about a quarter-million deaths every year.
I have no idea as to what can be done about it. It is very much a genie that was let out of a bottle. ~ So, the National Science Teachers Association isn't interested in 50,000 free copies of An Inconvenient Truth. Well, I thought that a shame, but did give some credibility to their response, which said that "In their e-mail rejection, they expressed concern that other "special interests" might ask to distribute materials, too; they said they didn't want to offer "political" endorsement of the film". Ah, okay. And then I read further:
But there was one more curious argument in the e-mail: Accepting the DVDs, they wrote, would place "unnecessary risk upon the [NSTA] capital campaign, especially certain targeted supporters." One of those supporters, it turns out, is the Exxon Mobil Corp. That's the same Exxon Mobil that for more than a decade has done everything possible to muddle public understanding of global warming and stifle any serious effort to solve it.
Fantastic job, guys. ~ Looking for good holiday gifts? Check out Make. I'm a subscriber, and a huge fan. ~ And in the "Hmm, there must be more" news, the UK seems to be declining to extend its 50 year copyright term to 95 years. It's a shocking bit of good sense. We'll see whether that remains in place. The real test will come in 2012, when the first Beatles recordings bump up against the 50 year term.

Reason #2934 to get out of Iraq

Yes, Mr. Bush, they hate us for our freedom. That's exactly it. Apparently, this video has been up since September. In the context of all of the death and killing in Iraq, it's not a huge deal. But daily scenes like this? Is why at least a few of those kids will likely soon be fine with, if not actively contributing to, more US troop deaths. More background at this UK news site (you didn't think the US press would report this, did you?)

My LBS and the CIC

My local bike shop is Revolution Cycles.  Good shop, good people.  A recent WTOP story, however, reminds me of my one great disappointment with them.  Apparently, Mr. Bush and I have our bikes serviced at the same store - I most recently saw his Trek there after he ran into someone and broke the guy's leg in Scotland.  They've also got what I thought was an extra that he gave them (with Presidential seals and everything).  I tried to get them to sell it to me, but no dice.  I would have paid a pretty penny for it.  And then I would have used it for fundraiser rides. "Sponsor George W. Bush's bike in the NOW/Equality Virginia/Sierra Club Ride! He won't be there, but his machine will - just like real life!"  But the WTOP story tells  me that I wouldn't have been able to swing it:
Misiera said he has turned down offers from collectors of up to $21,000 for his store's spare presidential bike.
"We could probably get $25,000 for it on eBay," he said. "But of course we can't sell it. It has the seal of the President of the United States."
Ah well. 

Who will survive today?


The US Holocaust Museum is bearing public witness to what is happening in Darfur. Every night, through this Sunday, images from one genocide are projected on the walls of a building dedicated to another. If you're in the area, you should stop by and see it. Runs from 5:30 until midnight.

What do you do?

Another no-knock warrant gets an innocent killed. 92 years old.  Dead from a gunshot. (This happened a few blocks away from my old apartment in Vine City.  Anyone kicking down pretty much any door in that neighborhood has a high probability of getting shot.)

Meta

Looking at stats and referrals for your own site is mostly an exercise in self-aggrandizement - fun for you, but no one else really cares (e.g., I'm thrilled to see that I am now the #2 google authority for "russian hookers in delhi", but I don't actually have anything useful to offer on the subject).  But I'm really struck at how many hits I'm getting for various search that seem to be getting at the same question - why wasn't Dexter King at the King Memorial groundbreaking?

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