Thursday, May 31, 2007

Maricopa County Trustee's Sale Notices for May 2007

May's total was 2009. The graph needs little comment this month, I think.

M.C. N/TR Descriptive Stats
Standard Deviation323.391527

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

How conservative opposition to gay marriage has undermined straight marriage

Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars reports on how gay parents have relied on the development of new methods to ensure their ability to adopt and serve as guardians of children. Second-parent adoption and visitation rights to adopted children by non-custodial parents (the two examples Ed provides) are also available to unmarried straights. The result is that unmarried couples who previously married solely to obtain such legal protections don't need to do so.

Origin of the term "enhanced interrogation techniques"

Andrew Sullivan reports on the origin of the term "enhanced interrogation techniques," as well as justification for their use that directly parallels those of the Bush administration.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Answers in Genesis Creationism Museum

P.Z. Myers at Pharyngula has put together a carnival of blog responses to the Answers in Genesis Creationism Museum, which includes a photographic tour of the museum. The museum's content is as bad as you might expect.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Contrasting Christian responses to Clark Adams' death

When I wrote my tribute to Clark Adams, I included this paragraph:
Suicide always provokes questions about the cause. Given Clark's activism in support of atheism, I won't be surprised to see opportunistic speculation on the part of some advocates of religion that Clark's atheism was why he killed himself, but there's no evidence to support that.
Patrick Trotter has now commented on Clark's death, exemplifying exactly what I was referring to, under the heading "When One has no Hope...":
This is what happens when someone has no hope or faith. Nothing to Believe in...Nothing or No one to turn to. It's a shame that a life this young was wasted. It's also a shame that he spent his whole life, dedicated to waging war against God.

I hope he found peace and salvation before he went.....but with his resume, I doubt it.
Patrick, who I'm sure never met Clark, is making a number of erroneous assumptions--that Clark believed in nothing, that Clark had no support, that his life was "wasted," and that he was "waging war against God." He's made no attempt to find out anything about Clark, what his life was like, what he thought, what he did, or the effects he's had on other people. Patrick Trotter here demonstrates the offensiveness of a religious bigot who has no interest in understanding, and who can't resist making the suggestion that Clark is now burning in hell for his disbelief, an argumentum ad baculum to try to keep his fellow believers in line.

Clark believed in many things--he was a fan of science, of magic, of comedy, of music, of a good argument and a good joke. He was a funny man who had many friends. He lived a productive life that had positive impact on everyone around him. And he didn't believe God existed--he no more waged war on God than on Santa Claus. He opposed religion and didn't care for religious ritual (even in secular form)--his statement that has been most repeatedly quoted is "If atheism is a religion, then health is a disease."

A contrasting Christian commentary on Clark's death comes from Anne Jackson, who ponders the extent to which Christian stigmatization of atheists helps reinforce their negative impressions of Christianity:
Aside from the extreme “turn or burn” preachers in our day, we “modern, contemporary” Christians probably do an equal part of stigmatizing those of different (or no) faiths. The “unchurched”…the “lost souls we must save!!”…I have far too often encountered the almost immediate and disapproving looks and attitude that so many of us habitually carry around when discussing someone who is a “wayward child” or “bless his heart, he’s just so lost.”

I am ashamed that I have not made it a bigger priority in my own life to be more sensitive and less prideful in my faith. And as the title of this post says, I pray for mercy and forgiveness because we know not what we do.

The only thing is…we should.

We should know. And we should love.

Anne shows herself to be a more thoughtful and open-minded person than Patrick--somebody that an atheist could possibly even productively interact with, to gain mutual understanding.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Foul smell at elementary school turns out to be dead body in air duct

It's not often that an event right in my neighborhood makes the front page of CNN's website, but it did today when a foul smell at Sierra Vista Elementary School in Phoenix turned out to be a dead body in the cafeteria air conditioning ductwork. Classes were dismissed for the day.

Apparently the guy was trying to break into the school and became trapped and died (presumably of thirst).

I've submitted this one to Fortean Times, which regularly prints accounts of stupid criminals and strange deaths.

The Arizona Republic covered the story earlier today.

What kind of atheist are you?

You scored as Scientific Atheist, These guys rule. I'm not one of them myself, although I play one online. They know the rules of debate, the Laws of Thermodynamics, and can explain evolution in fifty words or less. More concerned with how things ARE than how they should be, these are the people who will bring us into the future.

Scientific Atheist


Apathetic Atheist


Militant Atheist


Spiritual Atheist




Angry Atheist




What kind of atheist are you?
created with

Ron Paul is Bill Maher's "New Hero"

Bill Maher criticizes the Republican presidential debate and does an excellent job of re-contextualizing Ron Paul's position on Iraq and doesn't let the idiotic politician he's speaking with continue to misunderstand:
He wasn't saying that we were "asking for it." What he was saying was, "We should listen to our enemies and maybe the reason they're mad at us is because we've been meddling in the middle East." We were in Saudi Arabia. That's what Bin Laden was mad at us for. Now we're in Iraq and we're screwing up that country. Maybe if we listened to them instead of saying, "We're always the good people" we would actually make ourselves safer.
It's nice to see this position finally getting some serious consideration. Better late than never, I suppose--but dammit if the libertarians haven't been saying this crap all along!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Bogus voter fraud complaints from a bogus voter fraud think tank has an interesting article about how the American Center for Voting Rights, which was front-and-center in convicted felon ex-Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH)'s congressional committee hearings on alleged voter fraud, has disappeared.

The Republicans were attempting to crack down on alleged voter fraud in locations that had high Democratic voter turnout, despite the fact that no prosecutable cases of such fraud have turned up. The American Center for Voting Rights was an apparent think tank (which formed right before the hearings started) which offered sound bites and alleged research documenting the putative problem.

Several of the fired U.S. Attorneys were individuals who had refused to go after weak voter fraud cases against Democratic candidates in locations where the Republicans and ACVR were also trying to make it more difficult to vote and reduce Democratic voter turnout.

Check out the article.

National Police Week rampage

Last week was National Police Week in Washington, D.C., which prompted D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier to attempt to prevent problems (as reported in the Washington Post):
D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier put out fliers yesterday warning officers in town for National Police Week that they must obey city laws covering disorderly conduct, public drunkenness and other "unacceptable behavior."

Lanier ordered the fliers distributed around downtown in hopes of curbing complaints about officers drinking in public, playing loud music and causing other trouble.

This did not, however, prevent some abuses from occurring:

I am actually the citizen, who filmed 48 hours of misconduct out my window during police week.

The visiting officers did not have any problem drinking in public, howling, screaming, yelling and playing bagpipes until 2, 3 and 4 am below our window. They were taking open conatiners of beer into the Irish Channel. They were urinating on the church steps across the street and left behind half empties for the homeless, when they staggered back to the hotels.

I also have video, which has not been released, of DC MPD sitting in their cars, standing by their cars, while these guys started a bagpipe parade at 12:45 AM on Tuesday morning. For them, I have close ups of the car numbers and the officer's faces as much as my camera would allow.

I called a total of 9 times, which I documented with times and which officer answered the phone and sent an email to the Mayor, the City Council Members, Chief Lanier and NBC 4.

Chief Lanier showed up at my door 4 hours later and has thus far, at least tried to show some interest in making positive changes.

In fact, I have been asked to meet with Commander Burke, Commander Groomes, representatives from DCRA (permits), ABRA (Alcohol Regulations) and EMA this week to further address the problem.

I had the video posted on My account was hacked after I received threats from a self identified "DC police Officer" warning me about the size of the "Brotherhood and airing dirty laundry."

I have started trying to get the video back up and should have it put together again by tomorrow.

I ask that if you have specific complaints about National Police Week, you please forward them to me. I have set up an anonymous e-mail to collect those complaints. As of today, I have 57 pages of comments, complaints and threats.

I have not had much support and in fact do fear for my safety. I signed my name to the complaint to the Chief, and am not 100% certain that information will stay confidential.

Any input, help, support or even a few kind words at this point, would be appreciated.

You can look up the videos on by searching Inthepubliceye. The e-mail account is a gmail account using the same name.

Here's one of the videos, which shows a number of laws being violated--drinking alcohol/having open containers on the public street, operating a Segway on the street while drinking alcohol, leaving empty bottles on church steps, and so forth.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Clark Adams, RIP

I received the unfortunate news this morning that Clark Adams has died, and that he took his own life.

Clark was a long-time board member of the Internet Infidels (and for many years its public relations director) and a frequent speaker and attendee at atheist, freethought, humanist, and skeptical events. He was a jovial, funny man whose talks about atheism in popular culture were always crowd-pleasers. He was not particular about what label to put on his nonbelief, and was supportive of all groups that promoted rationality and critical thinking, including the "brights"--though he did not care for what he called "religion without the god stuff."

In a recent posting in which he gave his opinion of last month's celebration of 30 years of Humanist chaplaincy at Harvard University, he described himself as a "conference junkie," noting that he attended "upwards of a half dozen atheist, humanist, skeptic and freethought conventions a year." He frequently spoke to freethought and atheist groups on college campuses, and was an active promoter of student freethought groups like the Secular Student Alliance and the Campus Freethought Alliance. He was one of the founders of the Secular Coalition of America and regularly helped organize the annual July gathering at Lake Hypatia, which is where I first met him. The frequency of his speaking schedule can be seen in an April 2006 posting on the Internet Infidels Discussion Boards, which showed him giving six talks in April, June, and July, which included talks on "How to Prevent Your Freethought Group From Looking Like a Funeral" and "Godless Role Models."

Suicide always provokes questions about the cause. Given Clark's activism in support of atheism, I won't be surprised to see opportunistic speculation on the part of some advocates of religion that Clark's atheism was why he killed himself, but there's no evidence to support that.

He attended a performance by his favorite comedian, Doug Stanhope, on Sunday evening, and was found by a friend and his ex-wife in his apartment after the friend did not receive her expected daily call from him. She announced Clark's death on the Internet Infidels Discussion Boards, where his friends have left their condolences.

Clark has left a mark on the world in the lives of people he's met at these conferences, and communicated with online. He's left an extensive record of postings, which he usually closed with "THOUGHTfully Yours, Clark," which includes the story of his deconversion to atheism in the south.

If anyone has a video record of any of his presentations, it would be great to see them made available online.

Clark will be missed.

UPDATE: Cathe Jones has put up a tribute to Clark, with some links to some of his writings. She has put up a more extensive blog entry now, as well.

UPDATE: Friends are also leaving tributes on Clark's MySpace page, and there are blog tributes from Friendly Atheist and Mark Vuletic.

UPDATE (May 24, 2007): The American Humanist Association has issued a tribute to Clark.

UPDATE (May 25, 2007): Information about a memorial service for Clark will be posted at the Las Vegas Freethought Society website. His ashes will likely be scattered at Lake Hypatia at the June 30-July 2 event he was scheduled to emcee.

UPDATE (May 27, 2007): Raul Martinez has put up a story about an amusing experience with Clark a few months ago.

UPDATE (May 31, 2007): There will be a memorial service for Clark from 2-4 p.m. on Sunday, June 3 at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Las Vegas, 3616 E. Lake Mead Blvd. There will also be a memorial service at the Lake Hypatia event mentioned above, at 12 noon on Monday, July 2.

UPDATE (June 7, 2007): Eric Pepke has put up a tribute to Clark.

UPDATE (May 25, 2008): Clark's MySpace account has been deleted, but this story in the Las Vegas Weekly reports what happened after Doug Stanhope heard about Clark's death:

A few days later, he receives word that longtime fan Clark Adams killed himself the night after the Tommy Rocker’s performance. Not that it pushes him over the edge; more apparently, it provided a high note upon which to take his leave. In Adams’ MySpace “Heroes” box, he’d included Doug Stanhope under the heading, “People I Admire that I’ve Had the Honor of Meeting.”

There’s a bit on 2002’s Die Laughing: “Life is like animal porn. It’s not for everybody. ... Life is like a movie, if you’ve sat through more than half of it and it’s sucked every second so far, chances are it’s not gonna get great right at the very end and make it all worthwhile. No one should blame you for walking out early.”

And there’s a new entry in Adams’ Comments box from one Doug Stanhope:
I don’t believe in Heaven but I have a strong faith that there is MySpace in the afterlife and we will all be checking our comments.

May your eternity be free of Macy’s gift-card spam.
Run amok, dear sir.

life is like animal porn ...
Even if he’s not the best man for the job of deregulating their lives, Stanhope clearly empathizes with those regular people he speaks for, if not always with. He may be solely in it for him, baby, but whether he’s flitting from Vegas to Bisbee or Edinburgh to the Oval Office, he’s pushing the physical and mental and comedic boundaries for all those Joe Schmoes out there who can’t. No drunken goof about it.
At a show in Indianapolis, Stanhope started to talk about Clark Adams (at 4:26), but got distracted and didn't come back to it (at least in the first three of twelve parts on YouTube).

Ahwatukee Pet Idol

The Ahwatukee Foothills News is sponsoring an "Ahwatukee Pet Idol" contest, all proceeds of which will go to the animal rescue group that Kat and I volunteer for, Arizona R.E.S.C.U.E.

Our dog Otto is a contestant and could use your vote...

UPDATE (June 23, 2007): Otto has made it through the first two rounds of cuts and is one of the 25 finalists in the last round of voting.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Bill Maher's eulogy for Jerry Falwell

(Via Dispatches from the Culture Wars.)

Saturday, May 19, 2007

John McCain's f-bomb habit

Someone should tell John McCain that pandering to the religious right and dropping f-bombs don't really go together.

Michelle Malkin slanders Rep. Ron Paul on Fox News

As reported at the Reason blog:

GIBSON: According to a recent Rasmussen Report poll, 35 percent of Democrats think President Bush knew about the 9/11 attacks beforehand. The so-called 9/11 Truth Movement has already infected people like Rosie O'Donnell and one in three Democrats, and many other people, Americans evidently, including Congressman Ron Paul. With me now is FOX News contributor and syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin.

So, Michelle, this stuns me. It wouldn't have stunned me had it come up in the Democratic debate, but it's a jaw-dropper to see it in the Republican debate.

MICHELLE MALKIN: It is and it doesn't belong here. And I'm glad that this moment provided great TV for FOX News — it was a very instructive exchange — but Ron Paul really has no business being on stage as a legitimate representative of Republicans, because the 9/11 truth virus is something that infects only a very small proportion of people that would identify themselves as conservative or Republican. And as you say, John, this is far more prevalent, this strain of 9/11 truth virus, on the left, and in much of the mainstream of the Democratic Party as that Rasmussen poll showed.
You know, I try not to spend too much time in these cesspools, but it is worth taking a visit to places like, you know, these WTC7 sites and Students and Scholars for Truth, and I note that Ron Paul has basically allied himself with these people. He appears with Students for Truth on campus and he's appeared on radio shows like 9/11 conspiracy nut Alex Jones.
If Ron Paul has ever said anything in support of the "9/11 truth" nutcases, I've not heard of it and would condemn it. He certainly didn't in the debates--rather, he said, correctly, that "blowback" is a significant cause of terrorist attacks against the U.S. and U.S. interests. That doesn't mean that Americans have "invited" attacks, nor that Bush planned 9/11. The fact that conservatives are completely misrepresenting Ron Paul in order to discredit him and avoid addressing his arguments shows their moral and intellectual bankruptcy.

Malkin's claim that Ron Paul has "allied himself" with 9/11 conspiracy theorists and "appears with Students for Truth on campus" is a fabrication--the factoid behind the latter is that a student member of a 9/11 conspiracy group (Justin Martell "Students Scholars for 9/11 Truth") was in the audience at a Ron Paul campus appearance, and asked Paul's opinion about 9/11 (there's video at the Reason blog).

Ron Paul has appeared on Alex Jones' show (to criticize Bush, advocate the gold standard, and oppose plans for a North American Union), and I think that does show a sign of poor judgment on his part--he does have some wacky and wrong-headed ideas.

Malkin has, for once, admitted her mistake:
Last week, on John Gibson's Fox News Channel show, "The Big Story," I was asked to comment on 9/11 conspiracy theorists and Ron Paul. Here's the video. In the segment, I referred to "Students and Scholars for Truth." The accurate name of the group I was referring to is "Student Scholars for 9/11 Truth." (There's a separate group called "Scholars for 9/11 Truth," which I've blogged about previously.) I also stated that Paul appeared on campus with Student Scholars for 9/11 Truth. This is incorrect. The incident I was referring to was an exchange that took place at a campaign house party, not during an on-campus joint appearance, as I mistakenly stated. I regret the errors and am forwarding this post to The Big Story producers so that they can air these corrections if they wish to do so.
Correcting mistakes doesn't seem to be her usual practice, but it should be encouraged when it happens...

Friday, May 18, 2007

Bush's body language

An excellent John Hodgman appearance on The Daily Show.

Here's the context of the final Bush quotation:
I like the idea of people running for office. There's a positive effect when you run for office. Maybe some will run for office and say, vote for me, I look forward to blowing up America. I don't know, I don't know if that will be their platform or not. But it's -- I don't think so. I think people who generally run for office say, vote for me, I'm looking forward to fixing your potholes, or making sure you got bread on the table. And so -- but Hezbollah is on the terrorist list for a reason, and remain on the terrorist list for a reason. Our position has not changed on Hezbollah.

Underground Paris

It looks like underground Paris is even more interesting than underground London:
The Paris underground, often referred to as the catacombs, has been luring curious visitors for centuries. The City of Lights is built atop a vast realm of darkness: enormous gypsum and limestone quarries that were mined beginning in the 12th century for the construction of Notre Dame, the Louvre, and other edifices. Burrowed haphazardly beneath the surface city, these quarries became increasingly unstable over time. When a street collapsed in 1774, Parisian authorities investigated the galleries and reinforced weak areas. As they did, the investigators marked the tunnel walls with the names of the corresponding ground-level streets. These two-century-old signs are still used for navigation.

The freshly mapped underworld would soon have many uses. From 1785 until the 1880s, the quarries received bones from Paris's overflowing cemeteries—the public Les Catacombes museum, housed deep inside a blocked-off section of the quarries, alone contains the bones of some six million citizens. During World War II, the passages were occupied not only by the French resistance but also by Germans, who left their traces in a military installation called the Bunker Allemand. Since then, artists, performers, graffitists, and others have added to the catacombs' multilayered history. "Regardless of where your research takes you, there are always new things to discover about subterranean Paris," says Ingmar Arnold, a Berlin-based underground historian. "Wherever you walk, you can never be sure you're not passing across something mysterious—behind every corner there could be a great secret."

One of these secrets was unexpectedly revealed in September 2004 when the Paris police discovered an illegal cinema beneath the Palais de Chaillot. Patrolling officers had stumbled across the hidden amphitheater, fully equipped for movie screenings. For an illegal setup, it was remarkably sophisticated: Next to a screen and projector sat a bar and restaurant outfitted with several telephones and Internet access. The complex was protected by a closed-circuit-TV security system that set off a recording of barking dogs whenever an intruder passed by.
We crawled through a narrow corridor that dripped with mold and entered the heart of this ossuary. There, a central room, filled with stacks of bones, opened onto small tunnels on every side. The entire area was saturated by an ocean of broken skeletons. It was impossible to move without crawling over piles of bones several feet deep—they crackled beneath our weight. In one eerie chamber, a sculpture made of femurs rose from the scattered heaps. Only John and I climbed into that central room; turning off our lights, we crouched on bones in utter darkness, each paying respect in our own way.
The article refers to Carolyn Archer's book Paris Underground, which contains photographs of some of the underground locations. The underground movie theater is described in a 2004 article in The Guardian.

Bogus separation of church and state case in Arizona

Anthony Sciubba, a student at Higley High School, was featured in a profile in the school yearbook. That profile edited out some of the statement he submitted--specifically removing a statement where he gave credit to God for his accomplishments. He was told in advance that his bio would contain no references to God.

The school and yearbook editors have failed to understand that voluntary, student-initiated speech attributed to no one but the student does not violate the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution. There was no establishment clause violation prevented by this censorship; the school was wrong to prohibit it.

More detail and mostly uninformed commentary on this issue may be found at the Arizona Republic's website. One commenter appealed to an Illinois federal court case in defense of the school--De La Rosa v. Rock Island School District, where a student's cover artwork included the phrase "God Bless America." The difference is that in that case, the expression was on the cover of the yearbook, implying that the school endorsed the expression.

Ed Brayton points out that a similar case in Michigan was resolved in favor of the student with the help of the ACLU.

Falwell or Hitler?

Who is responsible for each quote below, Jerry Falwell or Adolf Hitler?
1. My feelings as a Christian point me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter.

2. This 'turn the other cheek' business is all well and good but it's not what Jesus fought and died for.

3. Secular schools can never be tolerated because such a school has no religious instruction and a general moral instruction without a religious foundation is built on air; consequently, all character training and religion must be derived from faith.... We need believing people.

4. I hope I live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we won't have any public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them. What a happy day that will be!

5. Universal education is the most corroding and disintegrating poison that liberalism has ever invented for its own destruction.

6. We were convinced that the people needs and requires this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out.

7. We want to fill our culture again with the Christian spirit … We want to burn out all the recent immoral developments in literature, in the theater, and in the press. . .we want to burn out the poison of immorality which has entered into our whole life and culture as a result of liberal excess.

8. This the national government will regard its first and foremost duty to restore the unity of spirit and purpose of our people. It will preserve and defend the foundations upon which the power of our nation rests. It will take Christianity, as the basis of our collective morality, and the family as the nucleus of our people and state, under its firm protection....May God Almighty take our work into his grace, give true form to our will, bless our insight, and endow us with the trust of our people.

9. Remain strong in your faith, as you were in former years. In this faith, in its close-knit unity our people to-day goes straight forward on its way and no power on earth will avail to stop it.

10. We're fighting against humanism, we're fighting against liberalism ... we are fighting against all the systems of Satan that are destroying our nation today.
Answers may be found here.

(Hat tip to James Redekop on the SKEPTIC mailing list.)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Staggeringly large numbers

General Motors sold off 51% of its interest in the General Motors Acceptance Corporation last year, its financial arm. Yet that remaining 49% interest in GMAC proved to be a big problem for GM's first quarter 2007 financial results. It seems GMAC got into the mortgage business, and had a first-quarter loss of $305 million, causing GM's overall results to go from $602 million in profit in the first quarter of 2006 to $62 million in the first quarter of 2007. GM's 49% stake in GMAC caused it $115 million in loss--and Toyota passed GM for the first time to become the #1 auto manufacturer in the world.

I can't really imagine a $305 million loss. But even more staggering is that this is only about six hundredths of one percent (.061%) of the U.S. government's spending on the war and occupation in Iraq, which is about to exceed $500 billion. (Thanks to Einzige for suggesting the comparison.)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Ron Paul in last night's GOP debate

My buyer's remorse about contributing to his campaign has been greatly reduced, if not eliminated.

MR. GOLER: Congressman Paul, I believe you are the only man on the stage who opposes the war in Iraq, who would bring the troops home as quickly as -- almost immediately, sir. Are you out of step with your party? Is your party out of step with the rest of the world? If either of those is the case, why are you seeking its nomination?

REP. PAUL: Well, I think the party has lost its way, because the conservative wing of the Republican Party always advocated a noninterventionist foreign policy.

Senator Robert Taft didn't even want to be in NATO. George Bush won the election in the year 2000 campaigning on a humble foreign policy -- no nation-building, no policing of the world. Republicans were elected to end the Korean War. The Republicans were elected to end the Vietnam War. There's a strong tradition of being anti-war in the Republican party. It is the constitutional position. It is the advice of the Founders to follow a non-interventionist foreign policy, stay out of entangling alliances, be friends with countries, negotiate and talk with them and trade with them.

Just think of the tremendous improvement -- relationships with Vietnam. We lost 60,000 men. We came home in defeat. Now we go over there and invest in Vietnam. So there's a lot of merit to the advice of the Founders and following the Constitution.

And my argument is that we shouldn't go to war so carelessly. (Bell rings.) When we do, the wars don't end.

MR. GOLER: Congressman, you don't think that changed with the 9/11 attacks, sir?

REP. PAUL: What changed?

MR. GOLER: The non-interventionist policies.

REP. PAUL: No. Non-intervention was a major contributing factor. Have you ever read the reasons they attacked us? They attack us because we've been over there; we've been bombing Iraq for 10 years. We've been in the Middle East -- I think Reagan was right.

We don't understand the irrationality of Middle Eastern politics. So right now we're building an embassy in Iraq that's bigger than the Vatican. We're building 14 permanent bases. What would we say here if China was doing this in our country or in the Gulf of Mexico? We would be objecting. We need to look at what we do from the perspective of what would happen if somebody else did it to us. (Applause.)

MR. GOLER: Are you suggesting we invited the 9/11 attack, sir?

REP. PAUL: I'm suggesting that we listen to the people who attacked us and the reason they did it, and they are delighted that we're over there because Osama bin Laden has said, "I am glad you're over on our sand because we can target you so much easier." They have already now since that time -- (bell rings) -- have killed 3,400 of our men, and I don't think it was necessary.

MR. GIULIANI: Wendell, may I comment on that? That's really an extraordinary statement. That's an extraordinary statement, as someone who lived through the attack of September 11, that we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq. I don't think I've heard that before, and I've heard some pretty absurd explanations for September 11th. (Applause, cheers.)

And I would ask the congressman to withdraw that comment and tell us that he didn't really mean that. (Applause.)

MR. GOLER: Congressman?

REP. PAUL: I believe very sincerely that the CIA is correct when they teach and talk about blowback. When we went into Iran in 1953 and installed the shah, yes, there was blowback. A reaction to that was the taking of our hostages and that persists. And if we ignore that, we ignore that at our own risk. If we think that we can do what we want around the world and not incite hatred, then we have a problem.

They don't come here to attack us because we're rich and we're free. They come and they attack us because we're over there. I mean, what would we think if we were -- if other foreign countries were doing that to us?

Notice that Giuliani misrepresented Paul's statement by quoting Goler's phrase about "inviting" the attacks of 9/11, and is lying when he says he's never heard the idea that the U.S. was attacked by al-Qaeda because of U.S. actions in the Middle East, such as having troops in Islam's holy cities. Paul later clarified on The Situation Room that he's not defending a position any different from that in the 9/11 Commission Report, that U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East is a significant factor in why the terrorists have attacked us. That's not blaming the American public or saying that they "invited" the attacks--leave that argument to Dinesh D'Souza and George W. Bush, who say they attacked us because they "hate our freedom," therefore let's do everything we can to take away that freedom.

(Transcript from Sheldon Richman's blog. More sophisticated analysis of Paul's position may be found from Tim Lee and Brian Moore at Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Blog, Jeff's Thoughts blog, and Andrew Sullivan--who also points out that Ron Paul and John McCain were the only two GOP candidates to condemn torture.)

Rove and Abramoff's former assistant seeking immunity to testify

Susan Ralston, who was personal assistant to Jack Abramoff before she was special assistant to the president reporting to Karl Rove, is seeking immunity in order to testify before Rep. Henry Waxman's Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

With any luck, this will be sufficient to tie Rove to the Abramoff scandal and result in criminal charges against him.

Creationism, racism, and eugenics

The Panda's Thumb has dug up some writings by creationist zoologist William J. Tinkle (b. 1892, d. 1981), who was a co-founder and secretary of the Creation Research Society, which show his support for eugenics (references are to works cited in the PT article):
It is an excellent plan to keep defective people in institutions for here they are not permitted to marry and bear children.[8, p. 131]

[Scientists who are working at the task of improving the human race] would like to increase the birth rate of families having good heredity, while those people having poor heredity should not marry at all.[8, p. 131]

A careful reading of eugenic literature reveals that it may inculcate less respect for human life. In this way it runs counter to democracy, which stresses the worth and rights of the individual. The Bible teaches that life comes from God and that it is wrong to take that which one can not give. Unfortunately there are other programs also which destroy the idea of the sacredness of life. We refer to murder on the screen, war, and the teaching that man originated from, and still is, an animal. [emphasis PT's]

We mention these unfortunate results [i.e. Nazism and “misapplied” sterilization] as dangers only; not as objections to attempting to improve our race by application of known genetics principles. [11, p.143]

The fact that Tinkle, a creationist, advocated eugenics is another data point showing that eugenics cannot be blamed on evolution--people will find whatever excuses are available to endorse bigotry and racism.

Richard Trott, Tom McIver, and I have made the same point with other data in the Creationism and Racism FAQs at the Talk Origins website.

Hitchens on Falwell

I agree with most of what Hitchens says, though not the part about Falwell being a conscious fraud. Though Falwell has clearly lied from time to time, I'm not personally aware of evidence to support the claim that he was a thoroughly fraudulent charlatan.

(Via Pharyngula and Dispatches from the Culture Wars.)

BTW, a must-read is Jerry Falwell's cat-killing story about his father.

UPDATE (May 18. 2007): More examples of Falwell lying may be found at Dispatches from the Culture Wars.

Attorney General blows off Congressional subpoena

The Senate Judiciary committee subpoenaed Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to appear before them yesterday at 2 p.m. EDT with copies of all of Karl Rove's emails regarding the U.S. Attorney scandal.

He didn't show up.

Here's the letter from chairman Patrick Leahy and ranking member Arlen Specter to Gonzales, which includes this paragraph:
You ignored the subpoena, did not come forward today, did not produce the documents and did not even offer an explanation for your noncompliance. Your action today is in defiance of the Committee’s subpoena without explanation of any legal basis for doing so.
Hasn't the Bush administration already made it abundantly clear that it does not consider itself bound by the rule of law?

UPDATE: The Department of Justice has responded to the subpoena by producing a single Karl Rove email sent on February 28, 2007.

Ashcroft refused to reauthorize warrantless wiretapping program

There's now much discussion in the blogosphere about former Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey's testimony before Congress. Comey related that in 2004, the warrantless wiretapping program had come up for reauthorization--the previous authorization was due to expire the following day. Comey, filling in for Attorney General John Ashcroft, who was in the hospital for emergency gall bladder surgery, refused to sign Bush's order for reauthorization. Bush secretly sent his White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales and Chief of Staff Andrew Card to Ashcroft's hospital bedside to get his signature, but an aide to Ashcroft tipped off Comey. Comey rushed to the hospital, and obtained from FBI Director Robert Mueller a directive to Ashcroft's security staff to not remove Comey even if Gonzales and Card insisted upon it.

At the hospital, Ashcroft also refused to sign the reauthorization directive. Comey related that the entire senior staff of the Department of Justice, including himself and FBI Director Mueller, were prepared to resign over the issue. Had that happened--in an election year, no less--perhaps the outcome of that election would have been different.

Bush consulted directly with Comey and Mueller, and gave them assurances that the program would be modified to comply with Department of Justice recommendations, and Comey signed the reauthorization several weeks later. It's not clear whether it continued to operate without authorization for that period of weeks.

A Talking Points Memo reader comments:

When the warrantless wiretap surveillance program came up for review in March of 2004, it had been running for two and a half years. We still don't know precisely what form the program took in that period, although some details have been leaked. But we now know, courtesy of Comey, that the program was so odious, so thoroughly at odds with any conception of constitutional liberties, that not a single senior official in the Bush administration's own Department of Justice was willing to sign off on it. In fact, Comey reveals, the entire top echelon of the Justice Department was prepared to resign rather than see the program reauthorized, even if its approval wasn't required. They just didn't want to be part of an administration that was running such a program.

This wasn't an emergency program; more than two years had elapsed, ample time to correct any initial deficiencies. It wasn’t a last minute crisis; Ashcroft and Comey had both been saying, for weeks, that they would withhold
approval. But at the eleventh hour, the President made one final push, dispatching his most senior aides to try to secure approval for a continuation of the program, unaltered.


I think it’s safe to assume that whatever they were fighting over, it was a matter of substance. When John Ashcroft is prepared to resign, and risk bringing down a Republican administration in the process, he’s not doing it for kicks. Similarly, when the President sends his aides to coerce a signature out of a desperately ill man, and only backs down when the senior leadership of a cabinet department threatens to depart en masse, he’s not just being stubborn.

It’s time that the Democrats in Congress blew the lid off of the NSA’s surveillance program. Whatever form it took for those years was blatantly illegal; so egregious that by 2004, not even the administration’s most partisan members could stomach it any longer. We have a right to know what went on then. We publicize the rules under which the government can obtain physical search warrants, and don’t consider revealing those rules to endanger security; there’s no reason we can’t do the same for electronic searches. The late-night drama makes for an interesting news story, but it’s really beside the point. The punchline here is that the President of the United States engaged in a prolonged and willful effort to violate the law, until senior members of his own administration forced him to stop. That’s the Congressional investigation that we ought to be having.

Jacob Sullum at Reason observes that Tony Snow's response to Comey's testimony (quoted in the New York Times) amounts to "the administration's position is that the program was always legal, became a little more legal after the changes demanded by Ashcroft, and is even more legal now."

UPDATE (May 17, 2007): The DOJ says Gonzales has no desire to modify or retract his statement in Congressional testimony that the warrantless wiretap program raised no controversy within the Bush administration, even though that is clearly contradicted by the above account.

FURTHER UPDATE (May 17): TPM Muckraker has gotten to the bottom of why this came to a head on March 10, 2004. The program had to be reauthorized by the Attorney General every 45 days, which Ashcroft had been signing off on. In June 2003, John Yoo left his position as Deputy Director of the Office of Legal Counsel. On October 3, 2003, Jack L. Goldsmith was confirmed by the Senate as the Assistant Attorney General for the OLC, and on December 11, 2003, James Comey was confirmed as Deputy Attorney General. Comey was authorized to have access to information about the warrantless wiretap program, and he put Goldsmith to work reviewing "what [Goldsmith] considered shaky legal reasoning in several crucial opinions, including some drafted by Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo," to quote The New York Times. Comey brought his evidence to Ashcroft a week before the reauthorization date, and they both agreed that it could not continue as it had been. Now that the been reviewed by lawyers in the DOJ for the first time, it was found to be severely problematic, and neither was willing to reauthorize it.

Bush reauthorized it on March 11, 2004 without Attorney General approval, which led to threatened resignations from Ashcroft, Comey, Mueller, and others, at which point parts of the program were suspended and a DOJ audit of the program commenced.

As TPM Muckraker summarizes:

The warantless wiretap surveillance program stank. For two and a half years, Ashcroft signed off on the program every forty-five days without any real knowledge of what it entailed. In his defense, the advisors who were supposed to review such things on his behalf were denied access; to his everlasting shame, he did not press hard enough to have that corrected.

When Comey came on board, he insisted on being granted access, and had Goldsmith review the program. What they found was so repugnant to any notion of constitutional liberties that even Ashcroft, once briefed, was willing to resign rather than sign off again.

So what were they fighting over? Who knows. But there’s certainly evidence to suggest that the underlying issue was was whether constitutional or statutory protections of civil liberties ought to be binding on the president in a time of war. The entire fight, in other words, was driven by the expansive notion of executive power embraced by Cheney and Addington. And here's the kicker - it certainly sounds as if the program was fairly easily adjusted to comply with the law. It wasn't illegal because it had to be; it was illegal because the White House believed itself above the law.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Kearny board of education member hasn't had enough controversy

Kearny board of education member Paul Castelli has apparently decided that the town hasn't had enough controversy over history teacher David Paskiewicz's misuse of the classroom as an evangelizing pulpit, and has gone public with a denunciation of the board's conciliatory statement from last week. The Observer reports:
“Matthew LaClair is absolutely not a hero,” Castelli said, referring to a statement the Board made last week that praised Matthew for standing up for his rights. “His parents are opportunists and it’s a combination of both Matthew and his parents. Though I leave it up to the people to decide for themselves, it’s pretty obvious that he (Matt’s father, Paul) did just as much speaking as his son did.”

In addition to seeing Matt as far from a hero, Castelli also said he was not convinced the Anti-Defamation League’s curriculum was what was needed. The ADL will soon be instructing students and teachers on the parameters involved in the separation of church and state.

“I would have been more comfortable if there had been more specifics as to what they would be teaching the students and teachers,” Castelli said. “It was really unclear what they were actually going to do.”

He also says the Board was never given a clear resolution to a Board-directed investigation into suspected harassment against Matthew.

Matthew claimed to have been harassed numerous times by classmates, including a death threat on his Myspace Web page — an incident that was investigated by the Kearny Police Department.

Finally, Castelli says that despite suspected closure in the matter with the agreement, he still feels the Board is susceptible to being named in a lawsuit, should someone (he didn’t mention anyone or entity specifically) decide to sue the LaClairs.
Who, and on what grounds, would someone sue the LaClairs? They've done nothing wrong--all they've done is insist that the board of education do the right thing about improper classroom behavior by a teacher whose initial defense was to deny what he had been recorded doing.

Castelli is also quoted at the Observer saying that he doesn't feel sorry for Matthew LaClair for receiving taunts and threats from classmates, stating (incorrectly) that "Throughout the ordeal, he was asked to identify the kids who had done these things to him, and not once did he identify anyone. How could anyone be expected to take action if they didn’t know whom they were taking action against? It wasn’t possible. And it wasn’t possible to feel sorry for someone unless they were willing to give up the information we needed to ensure a proper investigation took place." As the Observer points out, "Matthew has said it was impossible to identify possible threat makers because often, taunts would be hurled from within a large group of kids. Additionally, Matthew did identify, for police, the student who made the Myspace death threat against him several months ago."

Monday, May 14, 2007

Spying on the Homefront

Tomorrow night on PBS's Frontline is "Spying on the Homefront":
FRONTLINE addresses an issue of major consequence for all Americans: Is the Bush administration's domestic war on terrorism jeopardizing our civil liberties? Reporter Hedrick Smith presents new material on how the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program works and examines clashing viewpoints on whether the president has violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and infringed on constitutional protections. In another dramatic story, the program shows how the FBI vacuumed up records on 250,000 ordinary Americans who chose Las Vegas as the destination for their Christmas-New Year's holiday, and the subsequent revelation that the FBI has misused National Security Letters to gather information. Probing such projects as Total Information Awareness, and its little known successors, Smith discloses that even former government intelligence officials now worry that the combination of new security threats, advances in communications technologies, and radical interpretations of presidential authority may be threatening the privacy of Americans.
(Via the Electronic Frontier Foundation.)

CALEA compliance day

Today's the day that providers of VoIP and broadband Internet in the United States must comply with CALEA, mandating that they supply a way for law enforcement to eavesdrop on any communications carried over those mechanisms. I suspect many VoIP providers are in compliance but that fewer broadband Internet providers are, since the draft standard for CALEA for data over broadband Internet only came out in March. (And if you'd like to read the standard, it will cost you $164 for the PDF or $185 for a paper copy.)

Bob Hagen at the Global Crossing blog points out some free tools that can be used to protect your privacy.

Christian radio station's part in Catalina Island fire

The fire which raged across 4,200 acres of Catalina Island began near a radio tower for Christian talk radio station KBRT-AM. Three contractors working for the station were cutting steel antenna cable with a gas-powered circular saw, which ignited dry brush and quickly grew out of control.

Radio talk show host Tom Leykis, an atheist, observed on his show that this fire was started by men working for a Christian radio station, which he considered ironic. His first caller suggested that the contractors might have been atheists--as if that would have been a sufficient cause for a supernatural explanation of the fire.

The correct inference is that the laws of nature don't care about your religious beliefs--lightning rods protect whorehouses as well as churches (or better, when churches choose not to use them because it's interfering with God's will).

Friday, May 11, 2007

ARMLS Marketwatch Report, Q1 '07

The Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service just released their ARMLS Economic and Market Watch Report for the first quarter of 2007.

The report says that the current market in Maricopa County (MC) for residential real estate is neither a buyer's nor a seller's market - it's right in the middle. As I have argued elsewhere, to call the current Phoenix market anything other than a seller's market is absurd. If you buy right now you lose, in my humble opinion.

In spite of the fact that MC housing inventory grew from 43,164 homes (at the end of Q4 '06) to 52,055 on March 31st, and that the number of homes sold fell by 910, the report has the audacity to claim that "[c]ombined with historically low mortgage rates, home sales should continue at a steady pace", and that Q2's average sales price will be higher than Q1's $350,400 (I'm not a big fan of using the average price as a gauge of anything. Its value is too easily influenced by outliers on the high end).

In the section on "Trends", Ken Fears says the following:

...there were 26,135 sub-prime loans issued in 2005 [sic - I think that should be 2004] for the Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale metro area, which represent 15.4% of the total population of loans for this area. In 2005, the percentage of sub-prime loans in the Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale area rose to 31.5% for a total of 69,997 sub-prime loans issued. This figure was higher than the nation as a whole where 28% of loans in 2005 were sub-prime compared to 14% in 2004.

So what does this mean for local Realtors®? There is no doubt that the rules for making sub-prime loans have been to [sic] lax. Furthermore, defaults will rise as mortgage rates rise and employment begins to falter with the waning economy. However, banks learned an important lesson in the last two mortgage banking crisis [sic]. It is much better to help the holders of sub-prime loans to meet their monthly payment than it is for the bank to write off the loan as a loss; a small bite to profits is better than a total loss. So banks will be much more inclined to re-work loan agreements. In addition, sub-prime loans make up a small percentage of the total number and dollar volume of existing mortgages. These factors help to mitigate the notion that there is a large overhang of defaults about to splash on the market, bringing down home prices and sales and the overall economy with it.

David Lereah's "Commentary" had this to say:

On balance, I expect about 10 to 25 percent of subprime households to be unable to secure a mortgage loan because of today’s stricter lending standards. However, many of these households will probably, over time, purchase a home when they have attained the financial capacity to do so (e.g., saving for a down payment, growing their income). So the long-term health of the housing market will probably stay in tact. In the near-term, I would expect home sales to fall by 100,000 to 250,000 annually during the next two years due to tighter underwriting practices, slowing the nation’s housing recovery.

As for the over 8 million adjustable-rate loans (25 percent of which were sub-prime) originated during the past three years, First American Corelogic estimates that about 1.1 million of them totaling about $326 billion are likely to end up in fore-closure. A bit over $300 billion of subprime adjustable mortgage loans are due to re-set by October 1st of this year. Most lenders will attempt to work out problem loans by refinancing borrowers into other mortgages. A disproportionate share of these foreclosures will occur in high cost regions, like California. Certainly, a rise in foreclosures results in an upward blip in housing inventories, depressing home values. But the good news is that these foreclosures will occur in relatively healthy local markets that boast decent levels of economic activity and job creation, improving the prospects of selling the foreclosed properties in a reasonable amount of time. Foreclosures will create temporary inventory problems, but inventories will be eventually worked out.
"Inventories will eventually be worked out," which will be "depressing home values" - but, nonetheless, Q2 in MC will see a "steady pace" in home sales and a higher average sale price? Hmmmmm...

Dr. Lawrence Yun, in his "Forecast" section, says that in the last year Phoenix jobs grew by 89,000 and that this may increase the number of potential homebuyers. Yun acknowledges that Phoenix has seen a fall in home sales, but he says that rental rates have, as a result, been "climbing fast." He asserts that, "very soon, the squeezed renters will begin to search for a home purchase."

Rents in the area are definitely rising, as you would expect, but they'll have to rise a long way to catch up with area home prices!

Forecasting the impact of the subprime fallout, Yun presents this analysis:

Consider, the subprime loans comprised about 13% of the overall mortgage market, and 20% of mortgage originations since 2005(though there are divergent figures depending upon the source). The recent overall rise in default rates is primarily associated with the subprime loans rather than with the predominant prime loans. The delinquency rate on prime loans was only 2.8% by comparison with the foreclosure rate running at 0.5%. Both delinquencies and foreclosures for prime loans have been steady with very little movement. Therefore, a 14.3% delinquency on 13% of the loan market means subprime problems are impacting close to 2% of all loans. Factor in the fact that one-third of all homeowners own their home free-and-clear, the subprime problems are associated with about 1.4% of all homes. History says that less than half of these homes with delinquent mortgage payments ever move into actual foreclosure. So roughly speaking, 0.7% of all homes will at most run into eventual foreclosure from recent meltdown in the subprime sector.
Something tells me that Yun's numbers are overly rosy. Using his 1.4% figure only gives us an average of 1459 Trustee's Sale Notices per month in Maricopa County. Since we're already seeing numbers higher than that, and there's no indication that things are going to be slowing down, Yun appears to be missing a piece of the puzzle. To be fair, Yun's numbers refer strictly to subprime loans - so one could argue that the additional numbers seen in the real world are delinquencies in alt-A and prime mortgages. In any case, the next few months should prove very interesting.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Kearny Board of Education and LaClairs settle case

The LaClair family and the Kearny Board of Education have settled their dispute regarding David Paszkiewicz's proselytization in U.S. history class, as reported in the New York Times:

The Kearny Board of Education in New Jersey and the parents of Matthew LaClair, a 17-year-old junior at Kearny High School, settled their dispute on Tuesday night about a teacher who proselytized in class.

The settlement will include training for teachers and students about the separation of church and state and a public statement by the board praising Matthew for bringing the matter to its attention.


As part of the settlement, in which neither side admits wrongdoing, the New Jersey regional office of the Anti-Defamation League will start training teachers and students in September about keeping church and state separate in public schools, and about “the distinction between the scientific theory of evolution and the religious doctrine of creationism.”

Another part of the deal says the board will make a public statement commending Matthew for his “courage and integrity,” and the LaClairs will issue a statement commending the board.

The settlement does not address the status of Mr. Paszkiewicz, 39, who has remained a history teacher at the high school. Mr. Paszkiewicz, who is also a Baptist youth pastor, had his classes switched in the middle of the school year so as not to have Matthew as a student.

The board endorsed the settlement in a 6-1 vote last night.

EFF sues Uri Geller for misusing DMCA

The Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a lawsuit yesterday against Uri Geller and his company Explorogist Ltd. for filing a DMCA takedown notice against a YouTube video posted by the Rational Response Squad. The video depicted an excerpt from the Nova program "Secrets of the Psychics" which featured James Randi showing how some of Geller's feats could have been done with magic tricks. The video includes about three seconds of footage owned by Geller, which clearly falls under fair use guidelines.

To quote from the EFF's press release: "We've seen a rash of people abusing the DMCA lately, attempting to take down legitimate criticism and commentary online," said EFF Staff Attorney Jason Schultz. "To allow thin-skinned public figures like Uri Geller to abuse this system forces critics to remain silent and creates unfair hurdles for free speech to thrive online."

The filings in the case may be found at the EFF's website. Here's the video, and a bonus video.

UPDATE (August 6, 2008): This lawsuit has been settled. There was a monetary settlement and Geller's company has agreed to license the footage for noncommercial use under a Creative Commons license.

Monday, May 07, 2007

This integer is mine, you may not use it

70 D0 87 F2 02 2E 37 96 EB 84 B3 1B B5 92 10 E7

This 128-bit integer was used to encrypt a copyrighted haiku, and all rights to decrypt that haiku with this integer have been given to me. You may not use this 128-bit integer for any purpose; if you distribute it or publish it you are in violation of the DMCA's restrictions on circumvention.

(Actually, I've probably blown it by publishing this number--but there are others which are mine and which you also may not obtain or distribute. And that goes for you, too, AACS LA.)

You can get your own 128-bit integer and read the haiku for yourself at Ed Felten's Freedom to Tinker blog.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Cinco de Mayo: Celebration of kicking a French bill collector's ass

Long or Short Capital gives some historical detail on Cinco de Mayo that's generally lacking from most descriptions (with a little bit of exaggeration and humor). It's not a celebration of Mexican independence, but of a successful victory by Mexican forces led by General Ignacio Zaragozea Seguin against French occupation forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862.

The Mexican government owed money to the English, the Spanish, and the French, and was late on debt payments. All three creditors sent armed representatives to Mexico. The English and Spanish were successfully negotiated with, but the French decided to obtain repayment by taking possession of Mexico, and sent a large military force. General Zaragoza led a force of Mexicans and Indians and were victorious.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Banning the distribution of AACS keys is futile

AACS keys are used to encrypt the content of HD-DVDs (this is an oversimplification; see Ed Felten's Freedom-to-Tinker blog for more detail). A particular "processing key" for AACS has recently been distributed on the Internet, with the AACS Licensing Authority issuing cease and desist orders to try to stop it. This has led to new and creative ways of distributing this 128-bit number, just as occurred with the DeCSS code for decrypting DVDs. When a cease-and-desist order went to digg, digg's users proceeded to give diggs to many different sites, at one point leading to the entire front page of digg being full of nothing but links to pages with the AACS key.

A couple of the more interesting methods include making the number into a song and displaying it with satellite photos of buildings that resemble hex digits. One individual appears to have had it tattooed on his chest.

This is exactly what we saw with DeCSS, which is memorialized in Dave Touretzky's Gallery of CSS Descramblers.

This case is even more absurd, in that AACS LA is claiming ownership of a number--and a relatively short one--not because it encodes any content or algorithm, but because it's one of potentially millions of keys assigned for use with its system.

UPDATE (May 11, 2007): As this t-shirt makes clear, trying to protect against the distribution of a 128-bit number is futile when knowledge of the number can be easily distributed without using the number itself. I'd love to see AACS LA try to make a case against the marketing and sale of this shirt.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Bush's Iraq funding veto

Bush has vetoed the second bill of his presidency, the bill to continue funding the war on Iraq and specify a timetable for withdrawal. Kathryn Jean Lopez at National Review points out that he signed the bill with a pen given to him by the father of a Marine killed in Iraq in 2005:
Bush signed the veto with a pen given to him by Robert Derga, the father of Marine Corps Reserve Cpl. Dustin Derga, who was killed in Iraq on May 8, 2005. The elder Derga spoke with Bush two weeks ago at a meeting the president had with military families at the White House.
David Weigel at Reason magazine asks why Bush didn't go all out:
At first you think "that's a little bit much, four years to the day after he appropriated different military imagery and it blew up in his face." And then you think - just a pen? Why not do it up proper? Drive up the road to Dover AFB, lean over a flag-draped coffin, and sign the bill with the Pen of Martyrs as 24 white doves are released into the air. Get Col. Bud Day to give color commentary. Set the whole tableau to the ringing tones of Dennis Madalone.
And Weigel also offers this interesting addendum:
Then there's this:
Derga asked Bush to promise to use the pen in his veto. On Tuesday, Derga contacted the White House to remind Bush to use the pen, and so he did.
He had to be reminded?