February 2007 Archives

Mmmmmm Ears

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So here's a story on thinkprogress that purports that Vice President Cheney said "'There Does Not Appear To Be A Consensus' That Global Warming Is 'Caused By Man.'"

The poster and the commenters go into great detail about how stupid or evil Cheney is, calling for his impeachment for daring to say such a thing. Except, of course, he never actually said it. This is what he actually said, according to the same story: Where there does not appear to be a consensus, where it begins to break down, is the extent to which that's part of a normal cycle versus the extent to which it’s caused by man, greenhouse gases, et cetera.

Can you spot the difference between what Cheney said, and what they say he said in the headline, what they are attacking?

Cheney said there is no consensus on the extent of anthropogenic global warming, which necessarily leaves open the possibility that there is consensus on the existence of anthropogenic global warming. And even worse for the wingnuts, Cheney was absolutely right.

Even the IPCC itself in its latest report downgraded the amount of anthropogenic global warming they had previously affirmed by 25 percent. And no one thinks that number won't change as more theories and data pile up. And many scientists -- people Al Gore listen to -- probably think the IPCC number is too low, while other think it is too high. There is no consensus on the extent to which global warming is caused by man.

But, as usual, the wingnuts don't care about what is actually said. Facts only get in the way of the hate. slashdot.org

Short Story Idea

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I want to write a short story about how Sylvester Stallone sued IMDB just so that whenever someone Googled for "rocky v imdb" they would get the lawsuit, not the movie. slashdot.org

I Love John Gruber

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Translation From Pundit-Speak to English of Selected Portions of John Gruber's "Translation From PR-Speak to English of Selected Portions of Macrovision CEO Fred Amoroso's Response to Steve Jobs's 'Thoughts on Music,'" Intended In All Good Humour

Source: "Translation From PR-Speak to English of Selected Portions of Macrovision CEO Fred Amoroso's Response to Steve Jobs's 'Thoughts on Music'".

I would like to start by thanking Steve Jobs for offering his provocative perspective on the role of digital rights management (DRM) in the electronic content marketplace and for bringing to the forefront an issue of great importance to both the industry and consumers.

Fuck you, Jobs.

I'd like to start off with a good laugh line that also immediately lets you, the intended readers, know that I'm on your side.

Macrovision has been in the content protection industry for more than 20 years, working closely with content owners of many types, including the major Hollywood studios, to help navigate the transition from physical to digital distribution.

We've been helping and encouraging the entertainment industry to annoy its paying customers for more than 20 years.

I have an amazing power to state the obvious.

We have been involved with and have supported both prevention technologies and DRM that are on literally billions of copies of music, movies, games, software and other content forms, as well as hundreds of millions of devices across the world.

Remember those squiggly lines when you tried copying a commercial VHS tape? You can thank us for that.

I am old. And that's totally not a bad thing. In this case.

While your thoughts are seemingly directed solely to the music industry, the fact is that DRM also has a broad impact across many different forms of content and across many media devices. Therefore, the discussion should not be limited to just music.

We recognize that if getting rid of DRM works for the music industry, it's going to open the eyes of executives in other fields, and it could unravel Macrovision's entire business.

I have some level of business acumen, and most of you have none -- except what you learn from me -- so you can trust what I am saying is true.

DRM increases not decreases consumer value

Up is down. Black is white.

Did I tell you that I am funny, and can grasp the obvious? Because I am, and I can.

Similarly, consumers who want to consume content on only a single device can pay less than those who want to use it across all of their entertainment areas -- vacation homes, cars, different devices and remotely. Abandoning DRM now will unnecessarily doom all consumers to a 'one size fits all' situation that will increase costs for many of them.

Abandoning DRM will prevent us from forcing our customers to keep paying us over and over again for the same movies and songs they've already paid for.

Um. Wait a second. Did that Macrovision guy just say he wants me to pay more if I listen to music in more than one PLACE?! What the f-- ... oops. I just broke character. OK, back to the translation.

Well maintained and reasonably implemented DRM will increase the electronic distribution of content, not decrease it.

I am high as a kite.

OK, even if you don't find me funny, I am, at the very least, pretty damned hip. Getting high is still hip, right?

At Macrovision we are willing to lead this industry effort.

If we could get everything under our control we could make a lot of money.

I can just imagine Steve Jobs reading my words and nodding and laughing. Maybe he reads Daring Fireball. Even if not, I bet Phil Schiller does, and he probably forwards stuff like this to Steve. But it wouldn't surprise me if Steve reads the site. I mean, who else writes good stuff like this? Sure CARS does, but they also write a bunch of crap, too, and Steve's way too busy to wade through CARS to find the good stuff, you know? Hm. I wonder if he bought a DF membership under an assumed name.

We offer to assist Apple in the issues and problems with DRM that you state in your letter. Should you desire, we would also assume responsibility for FairPlay as a part of our evolving DRM offering and enable it to interoperate across other DRMs, thus increasing consumer choice and driving commonality across devices.

I realize Apple is never going to work with Macrovision, so I have decided to insult you and your company by insinuating that your 'Thoughts on Music' open letter was an expression of frustration at technical hurdles Apple just can't figure out on its own.

Seriously, Mr. Jobs, I totally think you're awesome, and I hope that you understand when you read this that I am just, well, in tune with you. If you'll pardon the pun. Unless you like puns. And I think you do, because I really, really, get you. And I know you don't really want to hire me, and I wouldn't want to, because that is not how blogging should work, but I dunno, maybe we can work something out. How about t-shirts for your employees?

As an industry, we should not let that happen.

As a company whose only purpose is to provide copy protection, we can't let that happen.

Thank you, Macrovision, for giving this story more legs. I am sick of writing about that assclown Enderle.


I Don't Get It

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There's a Kia ad campaign that says William Henry Harrison was an "unheard-of President," and Kia is having unheard-of savings, so they are honoring Harrison.

I don't think "unheard-of" means what they think it means. slashdot.org

"I Hate Gay People"

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Tim Hardaway, a former NBA star I've always liked and respected, said some pretty hateful things upon learning of another former NBA player who came out of the closet.

Hardaway said he would have a problem with having a gay teammate, and said, "I hate gay people."

That's sad, but what's more sad to me than the sentiment expressed is the extremism I see in society. And I don't mean that it is extreme to think homosexuality is a sin. That's not extreme, that's normal. It's also normal to think homosexuality is not a sin.

But what bothers me is most is the response to this, which has mostly taken the form of some people saying Hardaway is right, and everyone else saying he is flatly wrong. The debate makes it seem like you have to either hate homosexuality, or think there's nothing wrong homosexuality, and that there's no room for anything in between.

Whatever happened to disagreeing with someone's lifestyle, but still treating that person just like every other human being deserving of respect? It's the same sort of nonsense we see in the political realm. You want universal health care, so you're a communist. I do not want universal health care, so I am a racist baby-hater.

I'm not defending Hardaway at all. His comments disappointed me, but not because he thinks homosexuality is wrong, but because he is apparently incapable of expressing that view in a way consistent with the perpetuation of a pluralistic society like America's.

United we stand, divided we fall, and we are getting more and more divided every year. When America falls, it won't be because of fascism or communism, it will be because we have so few real problems in our lives that we spend too much time worrying about our differences with our neighbors and pretending that they really matter.

I am not blameless in this myself, but my many opinionated liberal friends can attest that I do not dislike people because of their lifestyle or beliefs, generally speaking (I suppose I may find Osama Bin Laden impossible to befriend, but I've never met him or anyone who shares his views that I should be killed, as far as I know).

I don't want everyone to be like me, or agree with me. If the GOP dominance of the last 12 years has taught us anything, it's that we need pluralism. We need people who disagree with the religious right, and we need people who disagree with the Republicans. Hell, we probably even need communists like Marxist Hacker 42, just to remind us how crazy their views really are.

I remember how depressed I was when Le Pen won the first round of elections in France a few years back, and some of my French friends said they were sickened at the thought that some of their neighbors voted for him, especially considering that the reason Le Pen won is because people were trying to stave off an increasingly pluralistic society (as he primarily represented anti-immigration views), and yet to be sickened by it was to decry pluralism too.

Le Pen's victory and the reaction to it just shows that intolerance of differences is not unique to any particular portion of the political spectrum. Every side is guilty of it. But we're going to have an extremely difficult time surviving if we don't turn the tide on this.

I dunno. Maybe there is no solution. Maybe we're all just screwed. Or maybe Sunday School and The Beatles were right and the only solution is Love, in which case, maybe we're still all screwed. slashdot.org

Another Reason to Homeschool

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I know this is old news, I just never got around to it before.

Texas is requiring 11-year-old girls in public schools to get a vaccine that only lasts three years as far as we know, that prevents a disease you can only get through sexual contact, that costs $360 per person to administer.

If I were a Texas parent, I'd be pissed off as both a parent and a taxpayer. I have absolutely no reservations in saying that this is merely the result of a FUD campaign to make money for the pharmaceutical companies. This action is simply not warranted by the facts, scientific and otherwise.

Most girls do not become sexually active until they are age 14 or later, at which point the science says this vaccination may no longer be effective anyway -- Merck and the governments involved don't readily let you in on that little secret, and in fact Merck lies on its website about it by falsely claiming girls will be protected later if they take it now -- and further, we don't know what the side effects may be for giving a repeat treatment later. So if you are going to require it, considering the cost, why not wait until a much more significant number of the girls would actually be at risk? Giving it to these girls this early could be harmful, because it may prevent them getting the vaccine later when they actually need it.

I shudder for these ignorant parents who trust their government and go along with the vaccination when their daughters are in sixth grade, only to find out they contracted the cancer this vaccine was supposed to prevent later, when they were seniors in high school.

It should come as no surprise that the main body suggesting this as a mandatory requirement is Merck, the company that makes the drug. If they actually provided it only to people who were at risk, their profits would pale in comparison to if it were made mandatory, especially in huge states like Texas. And yeah,

Governor Rick Perry, who created the requirement, said the cervical cancer vaccine is no different from the one that protects children against polio. I think he means apart from the fact that polio is spread through casual contact and human papillomavirus is only spread by a penis being inserted into a vagina.

You cannot get this virus through casual contact. You can't get it from someone else forgetting to wash their hands. You can only get it because you chose to have sex, or because someone forced sex upon you.

In the former case, if you are responsible enough to have sex, then you're responsibile enough to take precautions (including taking the vaccine voluntarily, if you so choose). In the latter case, why not just require all girls to wear chastity belts? That would prevent even MORE diseases! Hell, we don't need doctors, just locksmiths!

There's no way in hell I would let the government force this on any children of mine. The governments of this country keep giving me more and more reasons to homeschool.

Now Playing: Borne - The Guide
So Atrios and ThinkProgress and others are up in arms because CNN is reporting that there is intelligence tying weapons used against U.S. troops to Iran's supreme leader.

The critics say, correctly, that the White House clearly states that there's no actual proof that he was involved. Then they complain that these two statements, the ones by CNN and the ones by the White House, are contradictory. They say "the White House explicitly denies it." But, they are entirely wrong on that point.

"Intelligence tying" does not mean "proof." It just means there's specific evidence linking the weapons to the Ayatollah. And in fact, there is such evidence. But it is not proof.

I understand the concern of these antiwar web sites. They want to avoid what happened with the intelligence failures four years ago. I share their concern (and I didn't accept as a matter of fact that Hussein had WMD in the first place anyway). However, CNN said nothing incorrect or inconsistent.

Perhaps CNN should have been more clear, and stated explicitly that there is no proof of a relationship, merely some (apparently) solid evidence of a possible link. But not being explicit is not the same as being wrong.

This misunderstanding of the difference between "evidence" and "proof" is part of how we got into the mess of Iraq WMD four years ago. People saw evidence -- some of it very interesting, but none of it closely resembling proof -- and took it to mean, well, of course Iraq has WMD. But the case was highly circumstantial.

Now, this case is quite a bit different. First of all, if the evidence is accurately interpreted, it is much stronger than any of the evidence of Iraqi WMD four years ago. However, on the other hand, four years ago, we were told Iraq attacking U.S. troops (which had gone on for years) was not enough to justify war, so why would Iran attacking U.S. troops be sufficient? On the other hand, Iraq had not killed any U.S. troops with their attacks, while Iran's apparent involvement has resulted in many U.S. troop deaths.

I am not in favor of war with Iran. I may favor certain covert acts to disable their nuclear program, if warranted (and how could I know whether it is warranted?). But I dislike the idea of war in general, and while I believed (and still believe) the invasion of Iraq was the right thing to do (but not because of WMD, but because of the significant general threat posed by Hussein's regime [which is a topic that's been done to death, and I won't revisit]), I do not see the same problems or the same solution as existing in the situation next door. I still see Iran as being a threat better dealt with through diplomatic means, and waiting out the internal revolutionary forces.

The bottom line is that I believed Iraq was an existing, persistent, and pervasive force for holding back progress in the region, which posed a direct and long-term threat to the United States, through the perpetuation of social, political, and economic forces in the region that promoted terrorism.

In Iran, I see little of that. They do not threaten their neighbors (Israel excluded), nor contribute as significantly to the social or economic forces that promote terrorism. They do promote terrorism, but not in such a way that significantly keeps the region from progress, as Iraq did. And they are unlike Afghanistan, where the terrorists were, for years, directly attacking the U.S. I think Iran is less of a threat now, and less of long-term threat, one we can probably afford to wait out.

Of course, all that's excluding the possibility of an actual nuclear weapon, which is an entirely different kind of threat. slashdot.org

Washington: Not a Deist

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As per my last podcast, I say that George Washington was not a deist. This may confuse some people who went to public school, and learned that he was.

In fact, he was not. The claim that Washington a Deist rests primarily on two pieces of evidence, neither of which is convincing in light of the counter-evidence. Firstly, that he used Deist vocabulary, like "Creator" and "Being," to refer to God. Second, that a friend of his said, after his death, that he was a Deist.

However, a Deist necessarily believes that the Creator does not take an active role in our lives. The Being doesn't intervene in our affairs, doesn't guide us, doesn't protect us, doesn't do anything to or for us, other than creating us and sending us on our way. This is at direct odds with Washington's claims that "Providence" led the United States through the Revolution. In his prayers he asked for God to "interpose" on behalf of our country. He publicly gave thanks for the ways in which America had "experienced" God's hand. Washington cannot be a Deist, because he disagrees with the primary tenet of Deism.

I am not trying to say Washington was a fundamentalist Christian who wanted Christ at the right hand of the President. I'm just saying he was not a Deist.

I also noted in there that James Madison was not a Deist. For this, there is a lot less evidence, which is sorta my point: he actually comes off a lot more as an agnostic or atheist than a Deist. I've not seen one declaration of belief by him that leads me to believe he is a Deist; it seems the primary evidence in this regard is simply that he had some critical things to say about Christianity and was a strong advocate for separation of church and state, and so people label him as Deist by default. That's not how history is done.

I also mentioned John Adams was not a Deist. Of this, there is no doubt. Of course, that doesn't stop a bunch of loons from actually claiming Adams was a Deist, but there's not a jot of truth in it. Like Madison, Adams too had many criticisms of the church, and was a strong proponent of religious liberty. But this is not unlike Martin Luther, and is not evidence of Deism. You could certainly claim Adams was not a conventional Christian (he was a Unitarian, and did not believe in the divinity of Christ), but he was, like Washington, no Deist.

My favorite misquote of Adams is the one that says Adams claimed Christianity is "the most bloody religion that ever existed." In fact, he never did. What he said (in a letter to F. A. Van der Kemp on 27 December 1816) was, "As I understand the Christian religion, it was, and is, a revelation. But how has it happened that millions of fables, tales, legends, have been blended with both Jewish and Christian revelation that have made them the most bloody religion that ever existed." He was speaking directly of the -- in his eyes -- false religion that has sprung up around true Christianity, not true Christianity itself, which he defended twent years earlier as "above all the Religions that ever prevailed or existed in ancient or modern Times, the Religion of Wisdom, Virtue, Equity, and humanity, let the Blackguard Paine say what he will; it is Resignation to God, it is Goodness itself to Man." slashdot.org
A new episode of the superpodcast Ask Pudge is now online for your listening pleasure. Feel free to Ask new questions of Pudge here, for future episodes.


-s: Not Just For File Sizes!

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So apparently a lot of people do not know about -s. Not the file test for size, but the command-line switch. From the docs:

-s enables rudimentary switch parsing for switches on the command line after the program name but before any filename arguments (or before an argument of --). This means you can have switches with two leading dashes (--help). Any switch found there is removed from @ARGV and sets the corresponding variable in the Perl program. The following program prints "1" if the program is invoked with a -xyz switch, and "abc" if it is invoked with -xyz=abc.

        #!/usr/bin/perl -s
        if ($xyz) { print "$xyz\n" }

Do note that --help creates the variable ${-help}, which is not compliant with "strict refs".

I use this a lot. A good 20 or so of the scripts I keep in my private bin directory have it, and I use it fairly often for one-offs too. Here's an example, from my bbeditp script:

#!/usr/bin/perl -s
our $g;
my $prog = $g ? 'gluedoc' : 'perldoc';
my $doc = shift;
open STDOUT, "|bbedit --view-top --clean -t $doc";
system $prog, '-t', $doc;

If I call bbeditp Finder, it looks for a perl module named "Finder", and opens it as an text window in BBEdit. If I call bbeditp -g Finder, it looks for a glue doc file for the application "Finder". use.perl.org


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MONDAY, Feb. 5 (HealthDay News) -- President Bush's proposed $2.9 trillion federal budget, unveiled Monday, calls for health care spending cuts, including a major five-year reduction in Medicare expenditures to slow the program's annual growth rate from 6.5 percent to 5.6 percent.

It's not often you see a sentence in an article refute itself. No, there is no reduction in Medicare expenditures. There is a reduction of planned expenditures. But the actual expenditures are actually increasing.

Yes, you've heard this before. Some may think my bringing it up is tiresome. I say the media continuing to get it wrong is tiresome. NewsHour got it right tonight: Judy Woodruff called it "$91 billion worth of cuts in spending growth" and, whenever she mentioned the cuts, said they were cuts "from the growth." Frankly, I find the formulation about odd: I usually say cuts from projected spending, as a what exactly a "cut from growth" is, is not immediately clear; though it has the benefit of being more succinct.

Anyway, I love this budget because Senator Kent Conrad was criticizing it, so I know it must be good.

Well, OK, I'm being facetious. Conrad is right, actually: we need to balance the budget. Unfortunately, Conrad wants to do it by increasing taxes, which would be a cure worse than the disease. The fact is -- at least, as far as I am concerned, it's a fact, and I doubt anyone reading this will disagree with me -- the Republicans and the Democrats are screwing us by not cutting a lot of unnecessary spending out of the budget. Nothing new here. slashdot.org

Watada Defense

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So, this Watada guy refused to go with his unit to Iraq, and he is being court-martialed. There's really no question of the facts in the case, and he will be convicted.

His defense is that the war is illegal, and therefore his order was illegal. He wants to present that defense in his court martial, but the judge won't let him. His lawyer and his supporters are going nuts, saying that his rights are being taken away. He is -- it will come as little surprise to people who have read the Constituion -- wrong.

You see, there is a reason why the President is Commander-in-Chief of the military: it's because we do not want a military that is not subject to the civilian authority. But in order for the court martial to even consider Watada's chosen defense would be to elevate the military to a position of authority over the civilian government, which dictated the war policy to the military. Watada is asking the court martial to violate the Constitution.

And this Constitutional violation would bring about the exact opposite of what most of Watada's supporters want: it would create a de facto police state, where the military gets the final say, rather than leaving the war policy in the hands of the people's elected representatives, where it belongs.

I don't know if Watada's lawyers are stupid, or if they are merely exploiting the ignorance and nativite of his supporters, for political gain. Either way does not speak highly of them. slashdot.org
A new episode of the superpodcast Ask Pudge is now online for your listening pleasure. Feel free to Ask new questions of Pudge here, for future episodes.

  • Mark Fisher via email: I have a two-part question: First, do you ever regret leaving Peterson's for Slashdot? Second, if you hadn't gotten the job at Slashdot, what path do you think your career would have taken?

  • sungo via irc: pudge: I hate you. What can the average person do to get over the strong desire to rip out your intestines and wear them as a hat?


Alan Keyes Arrested

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I couldn't find the video of Alan Keyes being arrested on YouTube, so I added it. Update I should have been clear: this is from 1996. It's not recent. :-) slashdot.org

Alan Keyes Arrested

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In Atlanta in 1996, GOP Presidential candidate Alan Keyes was invited to a televised candidate debate in Atlanta, but when he did not place in the top several candidates in the New Hampshire primary voting, the invitation was rescinded, and he was arrested when trying to gain entry.

Thought Of The Day

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If the Eiffel Tower going dark means Parisians care deeply about global warming, then Kim Jong Il is the most caring man EVAR. slashdot.org
<pudge/*> (pronounced "PudgeGlob") is thousands of posts over many years by Pudge.

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

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