Well, maybe. We’ll see.
Having gone to the trouble to debunk Snopes on the DNC flags controversy, I wanted to put it in a more persistent location than Facebook.
Well, maybe. We’ll see.
Having gone to the trouble to debunk Snopes on the DNC flags controversy, I wanted to put it in a more persistent location than Facebook.
Onion or no, this is utterly believable:
Study: U.S. Wastes 2 Million Hours Annually Figuring Out Where Tape Roll Starts
I’m catching up on a big backlog of articles to remark upon. Some of these aren’t very timely any more, but I still want to note them.
Please be aware that principal and principle are two different words:
prin·ci·pal adjective : most important, consequential, or influential
prin·ci·ple noun : a comprehensive and fundamental law, doctrine, or assumption
That is all.
Copyright is supposed to encourage the development of creative works, and short terms of copyright doubtless do. But today copyright lasts essentially forever, and that has made decades of books disappear:
A book published in 1922 is in the public domain today. A book published in 1923 (that observed the proper copyright formalities) is still copyrighted today, and probably will be forever. And, as the chart shows, some point during the 1920s is exactly when books disappear.
This is tragic. A tool that was supposed to enrich our culture has been perverted by the content owners and their cronies to impoverish our culture instead.
We’re supposed to find these pictures horrifying, but I think they look kinda cool.
A postscript to the TSA’s reversal of a proposed sensible policy to allow small knives on planes once again. Passengers trapped on Asiana flight 214 by jammed seatbelts nearly burned to death because no one on the flight had a knife to free them. They were saved only when police officers arriving at the plane threw up knives for the crew to use.
The blog is not abandoned, I’ve just been very busy. Postings will resume soon. Thanks to those who inquired.
I’m back from my post-election vacation from blogging. Lots to catch up on.
In all the reviews of the new iPhone, I haven’t seen anyone comment on what seems like the biggest deal of all to me; the thing is much bigger:
(Photo due to CNET.)
The thing has to fit comfortably in my pocket. I’m not sure that thing will. So what if it’s thinner; it was thin enough already. Am I the only one who doesn’t want a bigger phone?
The skycrane worked! Amazing.
We can build a complicated contraption, send it to another planet, and have it work right the first time, with no testing. Humans rock!
What a nightmare:
With only $30 to her name, the Sonoma native was virtually broke and looking to start afresh in Idaho. She booked a ticket from San Francisco to the Gem State on the travel website Orbitz but, because she purchased her ticket before a new federal law went into effect requiring ticket brokers to disclose all hidden fees, Wessinger was unaware of the extra $60 U.S. Airways would charge at the airport to check her two bags.
Weissinger offered to pay the fee once she got to her destination or leave one of her bags behind; however, U.S. Airways personnel refused, citing airline policy for denying her former request and airport security regulations for denying the latter. . .
Weissinger ended up spending eight stressful days living in the terminal and sleeping in an out-of-the-way stairwell. She was treated for anxiety at the airport medical clinic. When she attempted to plead with airport authorities for help, she was threatened with arrest on vagrancy charges.
She eventually escaped when a local church gave her the $210 she needed. Afterward, US Airways was not very contrite:
When ABC 7 asked U.S. Airways about Weiddinger’s situation, the airline responded: “We have apologized to Ms. Weissinger for her experience, but unfortunately are unable to offer a refund. When you purchase a non-refundable ticket, you accept the terms and conditions. If a passenger cannot travel with their bags, they need to make other arrangements.”
I also would have liked to hear what the airport authorities had to say for themselves.
Steve Jobs is being lauded as one the greatest inventors of our time. I don’t mean to diminish his achievements when I say that (as far as I know) Jobs didn’t invent any of the products he is famous for. I mean to stick up for the role of the entrepreneur.
Jobs was unquestionably one of the greatest entrepreneurs of our times. He didn’t design the iPod, iPhone, and so forth. He built a company that designed them, built them cost-effectively, got them into the hands of consumers, and in doing all that, changed our culture. That kind of talent is much rarer than the inventor.
I also want to stick up for the Apple innovation that has been largely forgotten by other Jobs eulogists. People remember the hardware, the iMac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad, but they forget the software. I want to remember the software; in particular, the OS X operating system.
Apple products now have the reputation for running smoothly. People forget that, before 2001, Macs were crap. The old Macintosh operating system was terrible. It was unstable and its file system was incompatible with every other file system in existence. (In contrast, Windows NT was relatively stable, and, starting in 1996, it had the same point-and-click interface that the Mac was known for.)
Under Steve Jobs (history buffs: I simplify slightly), Apple fixed the problem by scrapping Mac OS entirely. They built a new operating system with a brilliant design: real Unix underneath with a Macintosh veneer on top. The main thing about it is it actually works. And I say this as someone who doesn’t actually like it.
One of my most popular posts at Internet Scofflaw is this one, on a pernicious urban legend. It was never Instalanched; it has steadily accumulated views at a rate of a few per day since I posted it in 2008. Nearly all of those hits seem to come from search engines. For example, one search string used three times so far today is “palestinians celebrate 9 11 fake”.
On 9/11, we saw horrifying videos of jubilant Palestinians celebrating the terrorist attacks. There were at least two such videos (CNN and Fox) and the Palestinian Authority successfully suppressed another video taken by the Associated Press.
As those videos cast Palestinians in a very bad light, there are many who would prefer to believe that they are fake. According to the legend, the videos were actually from 1991, and the Palestinians were celebrating Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, not 9/11. That too would be a very strange thing to celebrate, but anyway, it’s not true. Snopes has a page dedicated to debunking the story, and CNN does as well.
Given the steady stream of hits I’ve received (to a very minor blog!), there clearly must be people out there who are actively promulgating this misinformation. The rate has particularly increased as the anniversary approached, so I thought this would be a good time to bump the debunking.
Gawker.com reports that Wikipedia is dying:
Jimmy Wales, the iconoclastic founder of Wikipedia, made a troubling announcement at the seventh annual Wikipedia conference: Nobody wants to edit Wikipedia anymore.
I wonder if the reason has to do with how difficult it is to improve a Wikipedia article on any topic that is remotely controversial. I have occasionally taken it upon myself to make simple corrections to Wikipedia articles and I have usually had to fight battles to do it. It just doesn’t seem worth it.
I’ve been horrendously busy this summer, and my intermittent posting will continue for the rest of the summer. Regular posting should resume in the fall.
Megan McArdle asks if it’s okay to steal. (I’m going to go with no.) And if not, why do people think it’s okay to default on their debts?
Never underestimate the power of a person to rationalize their sin.
POSTSCRIPT: This exchange is pretty good:
Peter Twieg One common variant of this argument that I’ve run into states that because lenders price default risk into the price of the loan, in the big picture defaulting is simply a fulfilment of their prior expectations and thus not a big deal – your marginal contribution to a higher price is so tiny as to not really be blameworthy at all. Concentrated benefits, diffuse costs..
odinbearded It’s funny how close that is to another argument. You know, department stores build a certain loss ratio into their prices so they’re not actually losing anything when I take that nice tie.
When Osama Bin Laden was killed two weeks ago, a lot of reporters and commentators had trouble with the name, confusing Osama with Obama. On one level it’s understandable; the two names are just one character apart, and we say Obama’s name much more often.
But here’s my problem. Osama is the terrorist’s first name. Why did those people feel like they are on a first-name basis with Osama Bin Laden in the first place? Needless to say, this man was not our friend. If they had called him Bin Laden, they couldn’t have made the mistake.
I think the proliferation in our culture of first names for people we don’t know is unfortunate, but times do change and far be it for me to stand in the way. But can we at least eschew friendly terms with villains?
I met Glenn Reynolds at the NRA convention today. Nice guy.
(If I’d have known I would be posting a photo, I would have dressed a little nicer.)
I had a question all saved up in case I ever met a law professor, then I forgot to ask it. Sigh. Fortunately I was able to catch up him with him again later and ask.
A spree of ninja attacks, here in Pittsburgh. Seriously.
In a details omitted by the BoingBoing story for some reason, one ninja attack was deterred by a man drawing his handgun. That’s really sad, from a romantic point of view, but quite satisfying from a good-versus-evil point of view.
POSTSCRIPT: Apropos to nothing at all, I laughed out loud at this comment:
Ever since the EPA banned the good ninja spray…
I’m sure there will be a spike of alarmism with the detection of tiny amounts of radiation in North American rainwater. I hope this helps us remember that “measurable” is an entirely different thing from “even remotely dangerous”. The rainwater story doesn’t mention any numbers, but I’m sure they are very much smaller than the banana-equivalent dose.
I launched Internet Scofflaw three years ago today. In honor of the occasion, I’ve collected some of my favorite posts:
Regina Benjamin, the Surgeon General, says that taking iodine tablets because the radiation leak in Japan is a reasonable precaution, which it absolutely is not. In addition to feeding the general hysteria, iodine tablets can make you very sick, so one should not take them without a likelihood of exposure, which there isn’t.
Later HHS put out a statement in which they “clarified” that Benjamin meant the exact opposite of what she said. NPR also noted that the “clarifying” statement was false, in that it attributed some helpful statements to Benjamin that she did not in fact say.
Why do we have a surgeon general anyway? The position’s sole purpose today is as a spokesman. If she is going to put out misinformation, let’s just dissolve the position.
At least, a voice of reason on the question of when seasons start. I always say that the autumnal equinox is the middle of autumn, not the beginning.
I stopped in at Office Depot today to buy some tape. I went to the aisle labeled Staplers/Tape, but they didn’t have tape. Staplers galore, but no tape. So I asked a clerk for help, and he pointed me to literally the opposite corner of the store.
I pointed out to the clerk that the Staplers/Tape sign seemed to be in error. He told me (paraphrasing): “Sorry about that. We got that sign from Corporate and they haven’t told us to take it down yet.”
If local stores don’t have the authority to correct obvious errors that confuse customers, Office Depot is doing something very wrong.
Probably no blogging this week.
Fox News reports:
The fire alarm system on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig was partially disabled prior to the catastrophic explosion that caused the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a rig worker testified Friday.
The rig’s chief electronics technician told a federal panel that the Horizon’s general alarm system was deliberately set in “inhibited” mode so that sirens would not wake the sleeping crew in the middle of the night.
“They did not want people woken up at 3 a.m. from false alarms,” Michael Williams told the six-member panel. As a result, the alarm failed to trigger during the emergency, and workers were forced to sound the alarm through the loudspeaker system on board.
But Transocean, the rig’s owner, issued a statement Friday afternoon saying it is common for alarms on rigs and vessels to to be “zone based.”
“It was not a safety oversight or done as a matter of convenience,” the company said. “The Deepwater Horizon had hundreds of individual fire and gas alarms, all of which were tested, in good condition, not bypassed and monitored from the bridge. The general alarm is controlled by a person on the bridge and sounded from there, only when conditions require.”
A dispute is brewing between the American accounting standards board (the FASB) and the international board (the IASB) over whether all assets should be marked to market. The American board (by a 3-2 vote) says yes; the international board wants to maintain the status quo, which says that historical cost is fine for assets that are held to maturity.
The FASB’s position frankly doesn’t make any sense. For an asset that is held to maturity, exposing the day-to-day volatility of its market value is misleading, not revealing. Moreover, many assets simply aren’t liquid enough to be marked to market anyway. Given that it can’t be done universally, or even close to universally, why be so dogmatic about mark-to-market?
This is what I assumed all along:
The U.S. Department of Transportation has analyzed dozens of data recorders from Toyota Motor Corp. vehicles involved in accidents blamed on sudden acceleration and found that the throttles were wide open and the brakes weren’t engaged at the time of the crash, people familiar with the findings said.
The early results suggest that some drivers who said their Toyotas and Lexuses surged out of control were mistakenly flooring the accelerator when they intended to jam on the brakes.
I’m back. I have quite a backlog of blogging to dig through.
Light blogging for the next three weeks. Check back mid-July.
The New York Times has a very good article on how the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe came to be. There’s lots of blame to go around. They paint BP as the main culprit, citing numerous instances in which BP failed to abide by its own best practices. Government regulators went along with everything, and also failed to respond in a timely fashion after the disaster. Halliburton complained that what BP was doing was unsafe, but apparently didn’t refuse.
The New York Times reports:
The American Academy of Pediatrics has reversed its decision last month regarding the practice of female circumcision by immigrants from some African, Middle Eastern and Asian cultures. The academy had suggested in a policy statement that doctors be given permission to perform a ceremonial pinprick or nick on girls if it would keep their families from sending them overseas for the full circumcision.
Background on what the academy had been saying here.
(Via Hot Air.)
Delta Airlines loses a dog, lies about it, and finally offers a $200 refund (the charge to transport a dog). To add insult to injury, they offer the $200 refund in the form of a travel voucher.
Apparently not a joke:
DO NATURE FILMS DENY ANIMALS THEIR RIGHT TO PRIVACY?
Imagine if a film crew, without your permission, stormed into your home and filmed you in your most private moments. Makers of wildlife documentaries do just that to non-human animals, and are denying these animals their right to privacy, according to new research published in the current issue of Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies.
(Via the Corner.)
Internet Scofflaw turns two today.
The Economist explains why blockbusters are an entirely different phenomenon from merely popular books or movies, and why blockbusters don’t have to be good:
Although you might expect people who seek out obscure products to derive more pleasure from their discoveries than those who simply trudge off to see the occasional blockbuster, the opposite is true. Tom Tan and Serguei Netessine of Wharton Business School have analysed reviews on Netflix, a popular American outfit that dispatches DVDs by post and asks subscribers to rate the films they have rented. They find that blockbusters get better ratings from the people who have watched them than more obscure ones do. Even the critically loathed “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” is awarded four stars out of five. Ms Elberse of Harvard Business School has found the same of ratings on Quickflix, the Australian equivalent of Netflix.
Perhaps the best explanation of why this might be so was offered in 1963. In “Formal Theories of Mass Behaviour”, William McPhee noted that a disproportionate share of the audience for a hit was made up of people who consumed few products of that type. (Many other studies have since reached the same conclusion.) A lot of the people who read a bestselling novel, for example, do not read much other fiction. By contrast, the audience for an obscure novel is largely composed of people who read a lot. That means the least popular books are judged by people who have the highest standards, while the most popular are judged by people who literally do not know any better. An American who read just one book this year was disproportionately likely to have read “The Lost Symbol”, by Dan Brown. He almost certainly liked it.
This explains why bestselling books, or blockbuster films, occasionally seem to grow not just more quickly than products which are merely very popular, but also in a wholly different way. As a media product moves from the pool of frequent consumers into the ocean of occasional consumers, the prevailing attitude to it—what Hollywood folk call word of mouth—can become less critical. The hit is carried along by a wave of ill-informed goodwill.
Food handouts were shut off Tuesday to thousands of people at a tent city here when the main U.S. aid agency said the Army should not be distributing the packages.
It was not known whether the action reflected a high-level policy decision at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) or confusion in a city where dozens of entities are involved in aid efforts.
“We are not supposed to get rations unless approved by AID,” Maj. Larry Jordan said.
Jordan said that approval was revoked; water was not included in the USAID decision, so the troops continued to hand out bottles of water. The State Department and USAID did not respond to requests for comment.
There needs to be an investigation of what jackass gave this order. I want to see that guy forced to say into the cameras that he’d rather see people starve than be fed by the military.
The Economist has a terrific article on why America is so great. (I can hardly believe they printed it.)
I’ve aware that the blog is displaying with the wrong theme on the iPhone. I’m working on the problem.
UPDATE: It’s a new “feature”. I’ve disabled it now.
UPDATE: The real problem is that too many web developers don’t seem to get the point to the iPhone. The idea is it’s supposed to be just like browsing on a computer. We don’t want you to give us a special theme for the iPhone, it defeats the purpose! They are tolerable when you can still get to the real page, but far too many web sites don’t even make that possible.
Since too many web developers don’t get the iPhone, I wish Apple would deal with the problem. They could do it easily by including an option in the iPhone’s browser to withhold the browser identity.
It seems that some people do use the RSS feed, so I’ll leave it on.
Does anyone read Internet Scofflaw via the RSS feed? If so, let me know. I’ve been thinking of disabling it.
Jonah Goldberg comments:
I am delighted by the Roman Polanski controversy. Don’t get me wrong: I am horrified and disgusted by what the acclaimed director did — and admitted to — but there is an upside.
Just to recap, Polanski drugged a child put in his care for the purposes of a photo shoot. He tried to bully her into sex. She said no. He raped her anyway. He pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse but fled the country before sentencing, allegedly for fear the judge wouldn’t keep his end of the plea bargain. He spent the subsequent three decades living the life of a revered celebrity in Europe. He never returned to America because there was a warrant for his arrest. In a bit of ironic justice, he was apprehended en route to Zurich to receive a lifetime-achievement award. That ceremony will apparently go on without him.
So what do I like about the controversy? Well, for starters, that there is one at all. I think it is fascinating beyond words that this is open to “debate.”
He goes on to look at the shape of the controversy and concludes:
And that’s the main reason I am grateful for this controversy. It is a dye marker, “lighting up” a whole archipelago of morally wretched people. With their time, their money, and their craft, these very people routinely lecture America about what is right and wrong. It’s good to know that at the most fundamental level, they have no idea what they’re talking about.
No posting for a couple days.
Samoa is switching its traffic from the right side of the road to the left.
Too busy for blogging for the next several days.
The Washington Post reports:
More than two dozen states, including Maryland, as well as the District, have not stocked enough of the emergency supplies of antiviral medications considered necessary to treat victims of swine flu should the outbreak become a full-blown crisis, according to federal records. . .
The Strategic National Stockpile, created during the Clinton administration a decade ago to provide a federally coordinated response to disasters, maintains a massive collection of antibiotics, vaccines, gas masks and other supplies in a dozen secret locations. The program was expanded in 2004 to include drugs needed in a pandemic and is designed to link with stockpiles kept by state governments, pharmaceutical companies and federal agencies.
But the District, Maryland and 26 other states are 10 million dosages short of the levels that the federal government has determined they should have in their stockpiles for a pandemic. The drugs — in this case, Tamiflu and Relenza — would be used to treat the illness, not to prevent it.
(Via the Corner.)
Unfortunately, the article does not give the list, beyond saying that Maryland and DC are on it and Virginia is not, and they don’t link to the full list either. That’s quite an omission for a national paper.
I wish that WordPress either (a) spell-checked your post title, or (b) didn’t use the title in the permalink. The way it works now, even if you fix a typo in a title, it lives on forever in the permalink.
No blogging until Monday.
No posting for a few days.
The London Times reports:
It is normally a moment of cheery reassurance when an airline pilot greets passengers during preparations for take-off. But Alexander Cheplevsky sparked panic on flight Aeroflot 315 when he began to speak.
His slurred and garbled comments ahead of a Dec. 29 flight from Moscow to New York convinced passengers that he was drunk. When he apparently switched from Russian into unintelligible English, fear turned to revolt.
Flight attendants initially ignored passengers’ complaints and threatened to expel them from the Boeing 767 jet unless they stopped “making trouble”. As the rebellion spread, Aeroflot representatives boarded the aircraft to try to calm down the 300 passengers.
One sought to reassure them by announcing that it was “not such a big deal” if the pilot was drunk because the aircraft practically flew itself.
Orin Kerr over at the Volokh Consipiracy has some thoughts on how a blog can develop a good comment culture. He says that moderation is key:
If a blogger doesn’t moderate comment threads at all on a widely read blog, people who want to be shocking, mean, or just irrelevant realize they can do their thing and reach a decent-sized audience. They eventually push out the more thoughtful people: You end up with a mess, or, as Brian Leiter would put it, a “cess pool.” In contrast, if bloggers moderate their threads reasonably well, deleting irrelevant or abusive comments — and in some cases, participating in the comment threads themselves to carry on the debate — then you end up with a shift in culture over time.
Internet Scofflaw gets an average of one comment a week, so developing a “culture” of comments, good or bad, isn’t really an issue. Most of its comments correlate with the occasional Instalanche. But I want reading (and more importantly, writing) this blog to be a positive experience, so my comment policy is to delete comments that are uncivil. Repeat offenders will be banned.
WordPress does not seem to be displaying material dated January 10 or later. I appreciate your patience; there are more posts to be seen when the problem is fixed.
UPDATE: Well damn, backdating doesn’t work, so you can’t see this post either. Or, if you can, the problem is probably fixed.
UPDATE: Although this post now appears, the problem isn’t fixed yet.
UPDATE: Problem seems to be fixed now.
No posting for a few days.
No posting until Monday.
No posting until Monday. Lots to comment on when I get back.
More creepy totalitarian wisdom from the local Chinese restaurant:
The will of the people is the best law.
I’m back. Did I miss anything?
No blogging for a couple of days. Back this weekend.
A 2006 analysis by Education Week found that Oklahoma and Georgia were among the 10 states that had made the least progress on NAEP. Oklahoma, in fact, lost ground after it embraced universal preschool: In 1992 its fourth and eighth graders tested one point above the national average in math. Now they are several points below. Ditto for reading. Georgia’s universal preschool program has made virtually no difference to its fourth-grade reading scores. And a study of Tennessee’s preschool program released just this week by the nonpartisan Strategic Research Group found no statistical difference in the performance of preschool versus nonpreschool kids on any subject after the first grade.
What about Head Start, the 40-year-old, federal preschool program for low-income kids? Studies by the Department of Health and Human Services have repeatedly found that although Head Start kids post initial gains on IQ and other cognitive measures, in later years they become indistinguishable from non-Head Start kids. . .
If anything, preschool may do lasting damage to many children. A 2005 analysis by researchers at Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley, found that kindergartners with 15 or more hours of preschool every week were less motivated and more aggressive in class. Likewise, Canada’s C.D. Howe Institute found a higher incidence of anxiety, hyperactivity and poor social skills among kids in Quebec after universal preschool.
The only preschool programs that seem to do more good than harm are very intense interventions targeted toward severely disadvantaged kids. . .
There’s a political angle too: Barack Obama seems to be making some insupportable claims about pre-school benefits.
I saw this story earlier, but it wasn’t funny until Jonah Goldberg added his title.
I’ve managed to get by so far without a comment policy. I haven’t gotten many, and nearly all of those have been non-objectionable. As a safety measure, I’ve left moderation on, just in case things changed. It turns out I was wise to do so.
Coincident with yesterday’s Instalanche has been a rash of anonymous (and mostly nasty) comments. This is a leisure time activity for me, so I’ve taken a few steps to ensure blogging remains fun. First, I deleted all the comments for which it was obvious the comment form was not filled in honestly. (This turned out to be all of them.) Second, I’ve changed the discussion settings so that commenters must be logged into a WordPress.com account. My hope is that this requirement will serve to repel the casual troll.
Anyone whose comment was deleted in the last two days can create an account and resubmit their comments, and I’ll consider approving them. Honestly, though, I don’t expect to see many of those people back.
I’ve also decided to institute the following comment policy:
As nearly any blogger will tell you, I’m the one paying for this (although, thanks to WordPress.com, I’m not paying very much), so I make the rules. The main rule is blogging needs to be fun for me. If you don’t like it, you can get your own blog. WordPress.com will be happy to set you up for free.
A car thief found a crude car bomb, and drove it out of a residential area before notifying police:
A bomb-laden van found on a Brooklyn street by a car thief was wired to detonate by remote control, and had likely been sitting there for more than five months, sources said yesterday. . .
Sources said the homemade bombs inside the Econoline – made of Styrofoam cups, 10-ounce water bottles, cans of WD-40 and five-gallon jugs filled with gasoline – were rigged to go off via a remote car-door opener.
A thief who broke into the vehicle as it was parked on 53rd Street near Second Avenue saw the explosives, then drove the van from the mostly residential block to a remote location near the waterfront.
The thief, who has an arrest record, then phoned a cop he knew from a previous run-in with the law. . . The car thief was not expected to be charged.
Over a week after the cyclone, the Burmese junta has finally allowed the US to begin delivering relief. The junta is still blocking most foreign experts, the AP reports.
It’s the one-month anniversary of my first post at Internet Scofflaw. I wanted to take this occasion to thank WordPress for a their blogging service. It works great, and is quite inexpensive. Thanks guys!