Saturday, January 08, 2011

A.C.L.U. (Restore the rule of law)

In retrospect, the 2008 Obama presidential campaign looks like a slick marketing campaign. "Change we can believe in" had to be dreamt up by a marketing executive after extensive polling, the iconic poster and color schemes all look like they came out of a corporate campaign. It's no wonder there has been so little change. Coming from the one-party system of the Democratic Republican party, what more could we expect? The Democratic wing of the one-party state represents straightforward corporate capitalism with a populist survival instinct, while the Republican wing of the party represents crazy cowboy capitalism. The rulers have found it sufficient to allow the public, once every 2 to 4 years, a chance to flip this binary switch to the other setting and manufacture sufficient consent around that choice. Third parties have only been able to drain off a little of the power from the binary party system. I'm glad I didn't vote for Obama or send money to him. Money, if one has it to donate, should go to Democracy Now, the ACLU, or, if possible, perhaps Wikileaks, since they are the ones to do what was once the work of a free press. Third parties in the US should unite with a program to break the one-binary-party system with Preferential Voting. In the best case, candidates of the Democratic-Republicans would also feel pressured to support Preferential Voting in order to win election, and local, state, and national offices. This would at least have a chance to break the system open to free competition by third parties.

When Obama took office, there was some hope that he would enforce the laws and defend the Constitution of the United States, arresting war criminals and torturers of the previous administration. Ideally, this could have meant reviewing any and all laws passed during the previous administration, having referendums on judges and appointees of the previous eight years, reviewing the qualifications of all federal employees added during the Bush administration (a great cost-cutting measure, and they can be replaced with non-nutjob Obama appointees). None of this was to happen, as the Obamas decided to look forward rather than backwards. Given the pile of things to do, and the choices that had to be made, that may have been the best and most positive choice. Perhaps it will even work politically for Obama in 2012. In any case, the moment when justice was possible is gone. Now they will have to deal with the crap thrown at them by a Republican congress.

This is from the ACLU website. It is full of hope for justice, but the hope that torture would be properly dealt with seems to be fading as people accept the reality of an Obama administration that has little or no more respect for civil liberties, open government, or human rights than the previous administration did.

In order to restore the rule of law and the credibility of the American justice system, there must be a thorough investigation of those who ordered and authorized the Bush administration's torture policies. Torture is a crime, and the fact that crimes were committed during the interrogations of detainees can no longer be doubted or debated. Despite the voluminous evidence that senior Bush administration officials authorized torture, the only people who have been held accountable for this maltreatment of prisoners are low-ranking soldiers. President Obama has said that no one is above the law, and Attorney General Eric Holder has said that the Department of Justice will follow the facts wherever they lead. It's time to hold them to their word.

Until the guilty parties are held accountable and justice is done, the government will just get more and more closed and corrupt. Obama, if he is not making it better, is making it worse. This political system tends gradually toward an imperial presidency.

Although he has not been intelligent, resourceful, cunning, or creative enough to find a way to close Guantanamo Bay, President Obama has sought to leave some avenues open for future action. The indefinite detention of people without charge or trial is a gross violation of human rights under the US Constitution as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Unconventional solutions are better than the status quo. If they cannot be returned to their home countries, airdrop them back into the rural Afghanistan where they were found, or Iraq, or Turkmenistan, or tag them and release them in Guam, the Antarctic Research Station, Brunei, or somewhere. Obama must be afraid of the political costs of freeing illegally held people.

WTF Breakout?

Marc Maron's WTF popped up as a number 7 of the top 10 funny things(?) of the year in Rolling Stone and is the subject of an article in The New York Times. This is in addition to the minor appearances in other places such as Jewcy and Re:Comedy. The slideshow at the NYT has a few new pictures, too. I knew WTF was getting more listeners, but I'm a little surprised to hear Brendan McDonald say 200,000. It still feels like there are 200 or 2,000 of us listening.

Post-human Cyber-remains

The New York Times has a lengthy and interesting article by Rob Walker discussing digital immortality (or whatever you want to call it). Much of the article revolves around the late Mac Tonnies and his Posthuman Blues blog. Maybe you should download the article to your computer; you never know when The New York Times will suddenly disappear completely. The article include links to tribute sites Mac-Bots and Post-Mac Blues. According to one item in the article, the possibility of a real Mac-Bot is getting closer:

Something called has a product called a MindFile, “a database of personal reflections captured in video, image, audio and documents about yourself that can be saved, searched, downloaded and shared with friends.” This information is meant to be filtered through an “interactive avatar,” modeled on you, “that becomes more intelligent as you add more information.” The site welcomes you with a sweeping, ominous tone; the company’s tag line is “Eternalize.”, from a company called Intellitar, also claims to convert the personal data you provide into an avatar — sort of like one of those chatbots that some online companies use for automated but more humanish customer service. “We want to give users the gift of immortality,” an Intellitar founder has said.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Type it with IPA symbols online

Away from home and can't find the right characters on your keyboard? Typeit let's you type Czech, Danish, Dutch, Esperanto, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Icelandic, the Intenational Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) symbols needed for English, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Symbols, Turkish, Welsh, and international currency symbols on any computer. According to the website,

Recommended IPA fonts available on various platforms:
  • Windows XP: Lucida Sans Unicode
  • Windows Vista: Lucida Sans Unicode, Arial, Times New Roman
  • Windows 7: Calibri, Cambria, Lucida Sans Unicode, Arial, Times New Roman
  • Mac OS: Lucida Grande
To those we can also add Charis, DejaVu Sans, Doulos SIL, Gentium, Linux Libertine, Monotype, and Tahoma, among others. IPA input methods differ by platform, but for Linux you can just copy useful characters into your Character Palette for a click-and-paste method of typing. If you have it installed and added to the panel, just right-click it to edit it.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Statistical Handbook of Japan

If you are interested in Japan and numerate (numerically literate?), you may want to read the newest statistical digest. This book may also be available at the government printing office bookstore in Otemachi (if it's still there) or in bookstores, but you can view it online or download each chapter separately (in English) in pdf form from the website: