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Enemy Action

I found this article, Three Times is Enemy Action, a very thought provoking perspective on the current financial crisis that has been building for years with little action by the government to stop it.

In fact, our government caused this mess by removing check and balances on the finance industry. Free from government limitations, executives played Russian roulette with their companies, earning tens of millions of dollars in compensation while driving their companies into the ground. Of course, they didn’t care too much about long term gains because their paycheck was tied to short term progress. And the more they could cook the books the better.

This behavior is well known in evolutionary biology.

Although some economists and Libertarians often use evolution as a model for why an unregulated economy is optimal, they rarely consider evolutionary consequences. In other words, they take the big lessons of evolutionary biology, but skip the details.

Evolving systems are susceptible to cheaters and parasites. Maximum short term gains can lead to long term deficits. They also lack stability, often showing drastic cyclic behavior.

Long story short, the evolutionary implication for economies is that unregulation makes markets unstable, allowing parasites and cheaters to grow unchecked until the market crashes and the country loses everything. Eventually, innovation and competition will bring the economy out of the crash, but that could take decades and simply not worth prince we have to pay during the crash.

Our Founding Fathers were enlightened enough to realize that a powerful government needed checks and balances to protect the People. We need to be enlightened enough to realize that powerful companies also need checks and balances to protect the People. Get out and vote this year, and give the do-nothing incumbents a hard time.

Beijing, Minnesota

With the Republican convention occurring this week, it appears that the Bush administration has hired the Chinese to advise them on “security”. In order to protect the commander and chief’s fragile ego from the criticisms of a bunch of hippies, the FBI has begun to direct raids against private home in which protesters are staying. This is what the totalitarian communists were doing to protesters during the Olympics. This is not what the leader of the free would should be doing.

Protesters here in Minneapolis have been targeted by a series of highly intimidating, sweeping police raids across the city, involving teams of 25-30 officers in riot gear, with semi-automatic weapons drawn, entering homes of those suspected of planning protests, handcuffing and forcing them to lay on the floor, while law enforcement officers searched the homes, seizing computers, journals, and political pamphlets. Last night, members of the St. Paul police department and the Ramsey County sheriff’s department handcuffed, photographed and detained dozens of people meeting at a public venue to plan a demonstration, charging them with no crime other than “fire code violations,” and early this morning, the Sheriff’s department sent teams of officers into at least four Minneapolis area homes where suspected protesters were staying.

As the police attacks on protesters in Minnesota continue – see this video of the police swarming a bus transporting members of Earth Justice, seizing the bus and leaving the group members stranded on the side of the highway – it appears increasingly clear that it is the Federal Government that is directing this intimidation campaign. Minnesota Public Radio reported yesterday that “the searches were led by the Ramsey County Sheriff’s office. Deputies coordinated searches with the Minneapolis and St. Paul police departments and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

This should not happen in a free country where the Founding Fathers found the right to protest essential enough to write it in to the First Amendment. Our leaders should follow their example. Not the example of China.

The FBI is trying a new tactic to capture pedophiles. They are posting links to illegal media on internet message boards, and then arresting anyone who visits those websites; cnet has the story.

As expected, the FBI’s new tactics follow the Bush administration’s policy of being incompetent and attacking our freedoms at the same time. How so?

First let me describe the trap. An agent went to a message board where suspected trafficking in illegal media was occurring. The agent then made a disgusting post describing a video and then posted links to said video on the board. These links then went to some files on the FBI’s machines, which contained random noise. However, the FBI recorded everyone who visited their machines and got search and/or arrest warrants for any visitors from the US.

Sounds like great police work, right? Wrong.

The FBI neglected to record important information in their servers that is necessary to prove intent to download illegal media: how visitors got to their site. Without this information the FBI is unable to prove that a suspect visited their honeypot via the agent’s disgusting board post. Instead someone could have received an email that read “hey look at this FBI honeypot” and then followed the link from there. (I understand that would be rather odd at this juncture, but it’ll happen if this program expands.)

An insidious possibility is that a malicious user, who knows about the honeypot links, could create redirect links to the honeypot and bait people to click them, via say a tiny url posted in the comments of a blog. When the person clicked such a link, there would be no way for them to tell that the link went to the FBI’s fake illegal media.

A more insidious possibility is that someone could use various web technologies, like image, script, or css tags to make someone’s browser access the link without them clicking on it, and they’d have no idea that their computer visited the FBI’s honey pot until the 7am raid.

This doesn’t even begin to address the problem of connecting an IP to an individual. One simply can’t prove, without good evidence, that the person who owns the internet account was the one using it at the time the download occurred. Not only could someone else have access to their computer, but if they have a wireless network, someone could have hacked into their home network and piggybacked their network.

However, the FBI, juries, and courts don’t care or appreciate all these issues. Instead, they believe that anyone and everyone who accessed their website was there to download illegal media and that the person whose name is on the internet bill was the one who did it. This is unsound logic, and contains inherent reasonable doubt about the guilt of the accused. There are major implications for our freedoms if the government can send people links to “illegal” material and then throw anyone in jail whose IP address accessed those site. Spam would then become Big Brother’s biggest asset.

Having said all that, I will point out that this FBI tactic can be effective if used sparingly and smartly. (I know—I know.) For starters, the FBI needs to keep detailed records of the activity on their honey pots, including from where they were accessed. That way they will have evidence that someone clicked the link as the FBI intended: from an illegal media site. Furthermore, the FBI needs to use their honeypots as probable cause to get search warrants and wiretaps, which can reveal hard evidence of trafficking in illegal media. That way they don’t have to prosecute people for crimes that can’t be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. I hope that they are already working towards this. Perhaps the only reason the person in the article above was charged with an attempt to download illegal material is that the FBI didn’t find anything against him at his house. Maybe, but it is doubtful.

Red-light Cameras Increase Crashes, Florida Researchers Find

Rather than improving motorist safety, red-light cameras significantly increase crashes and are a ticket to higher auto insurance premiums, researchers at the University of South Florida College of Public Health conclude. The effective remedy to red-light running uses engineering solutions to improve intersection safety, which is particularly important to Florida’s elderly drivers, the researchers recommend.

How Big will this Check Be?

Woman Left For Four Nights In Washington County [Ar.] Courthouse Cell

A [new] bailiff forgot to remove a defendant from a courthouse holding cell last week, forcing the woman to spend four nights in a locked room without food, water or a toilet, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office said.

Armed Robberies on Campus

We’ve had two armed muggings on campus this week near where I work. The one yesterday occurred in broad daylight in the parking lot outside our building. There have also been a recent rash of break ins in the immediate area as well. I’ve lived in Raleigh for a year and a half now and this activity seems highly unusual for this neighborhood.

Police Search for Robbers on N.C. State Campus

I suspect these are connected to a single gang of thugs that has decided that our area is now part of their territory.

Someone didn’t get the memo.

Apparently, airport security hasn’t been briefed on the new laptop technology out there. Who new Apple was making suspicious devices?

I’m standing, watching my laptop on the table, listening to security clucking just behind me. “There’s no drive,” one says. “And no ports on the back. It has a couple of lines where the drive should be,” she continues.

Steve Jobs Made Me Miss My Flight

Nova: Judgment Day

Tiffany and I watched Nova documentary on the Dover trial last night: Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial.

I was glad to see that they covered all the major points and events of the trial. It was eerie watching the interviewed making the exact same points that they’ve made in email. I still remember the day that Nick wrote us the email about the discovery of the drafts and later the finding of “cdesign proponentsists”.

The best part was the appearance of our Prof. Steve Steve in the background of one of the shots.

If you missed it, you can watch it online starting on Friday the 16th.

Reposted from The Panda’s Thumb

As reported by NCSE, Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) has withdrawn his $100,000 earmark for anti-science education: Vitter earmark withdrawn. During yesterday’s session Vitter asked that the money in the earmark be directed to other projects, insisting that he never intended—yeah, right—for the money to go towards teaching creationism.

Joshua Rosenau of “TfK” has the full exchange on his blog.

Mr. VITTER Madam President, I rise today to discuss a project I sponsored in the fiscal year 2008 Labor, Health, Human Services and Education appropriations bill. The project, which would develop a plan to promote better science-based education in Ouachita Parish by the Louisiana Family Forum, has raised concerns among some that its intention was to mandate and push creationism within the public schools. That is clearly not and never was the intent of the project, nor would it have been its effect. However, to avoid more hysterics, I would like to move the $100,000 recommended for this project by the subcommittee when the bill goes to conference committee to another Louisiana priority project funded in this bill.

Mr. HARKIN Madam President, I appreciate the sentiments by the Senator from Louisiana and accept this proposal to move the funding for this project to other priority projects for the State of Louisiana in the bill when it goes to conference committee.

Mr. SPECTER Madam President, I concur with my colleague and will agree to move these funds in conference committee.

Congratulations to everyone who contacted their senators about this earmark. The students of Louisiana owe you a debt of gratitude. You not only got the earmark withdrawn, you also got the sponsor to do it.

Kudos all around.

Reposted from The Panda’s Thumb

Last January Prof. Steve Steve, Bora, and I met Congressman Brad Miller (D-NC) at the NC Science Blogging Conference. We took the opportunity to explain to him NCSE’s Project Steve and our Project Steve Steve.

Rep. Miller is the Chairman of the House Science and Technology subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation and promised us that he’d ask science skeptics that testify before him “How many are named Steve?”.

Today, he did it:

Do you all know any climate skeptics … named Steve?

During a hearing about the impact of global warming on the arctic he unexpectedly asked the panel if they knew any Steves that agreed with them. The global warming skeptics couldn’t name any off the top of their head, while the global warming researchers named two.

Miller also gave the Panda’s Thumb a plug for good measure.

The discussion about Steves begins a bit before one hour, fourteen minutes (1:14) in the RealPlayer clip of the hearings. It continues for a few minutes.

I’d love to see the clip on youtube if anyone can extract it. If not, a transcript would be nice. (A lot of people don’t like dealing with RealPlayer.)

I guess that Miller had a good time bringing up Project Steve because he directed his staff to email us about it.

Hopefully, more politicians will follow his example when dealing with “expert” testimony.

The Victim Strikes Back

The San Francisco Chronicle has a cool story about a woman who chased down the person who stole her identity.

If it hadn’t been for the distinctive suede coat, there would have been no chase through the streets of San Francisco, no heroine and, in all likelihood, no justice. But when Karen Lodrick turned away from ordering her latte at the Starbucks at Church and Market streets, there it was, slung over the arm of the woman behind her.

It was, Lodrick thought, a “beaucoup expensive” light-brown suede coat with faux fur trim at the collar, cuffs and down the middle.

The only other time Lodrick, a 41-year-old creative consultant, had seen that particular coat was on a security camera photo that her bank, Wells Fargo, showed her of the woman who had stolen her identity. The photo was taken as the thief was looting Lodrick’s checking account.

The Alabama High School Athletic Association has denied a team’s request to schedule a nationally televised football game on a Sunday, citing “Sunday is a day of worship”:

“Sunday is a day of worship,” AHSAA executive director Dan Washburn said when citing the reason for denying Hoover’s application to play an out-of-state opponent.

(AP)

I wonder if anybody pointed out to Dan Washburn that Saturday is a day of worship as well. Oh yeah, and Friday is a day of worship, but I don’t expect the AHSAA to move high school football to Wednesday’s because Friday is a day of prayer for Muslims.

Heck, everyday is a day of worship for some people. Let’s cancel high school football in Alabama altogether if the AHSAA is so concerned about allowing people to worship.

CNN has a story on developments at the National Association of Evangelicals’s meeting. It appears that ultra-conservative, partisan Republican lapdogs are no longer able to dictate politics to evangelicals. The association rejected a push by prominent, Fox-News evangelicals like Dobson and Bauer to reject global warming, affirming its support of Washington policy director Cizik’s message that on global warming is offensive to God.

But they didn’t stop there. The association went further in distancing itself from partisan Republican politics by condemning the acts of torture that the US has done in the war on terror. That’s not a watered-down, general condemnation, but a specific condemnation of the White House’s policies. I’m wondering how long until the hardcore Republican pundits denounce the NAE as a bunch of terrorist loving, traitorous Democrats.

And finally am I the only one who finds this ironic?

But Dobson and the other signatories of the letter to the National Association of Evangelicals board said evidence supporting global warming was not conclusive and that the organization “lacks the expertise to settle the controversy.”

“The issue should be addressed scientifically and not theologically,” they said, calling on the group’s board to either rein in Cizik or encourage him to resign.

When was the last time Dobson or other Fox-News evangelicals thought that they shouldn’t speak on something because it was out of their expertise? From creationism to Terri Schaivo the religious right is always butting in on topics that they not only lack the expertise for but also completely reject the opinion of experts. They’ve had much success in dumbing down our politics for the last thirty years. I wonder if the happenings of the NAE is a sign that Christian progressives are beginning to make inroads into the religious right.

We Won!

I am excited to report that we have won the Cobb Country Disclaimer Case. I’ve been out of the loop, but Ed Brayton has the scoop. Basically, when the 11th circuit appeals court sent the case back to the trial judge for more information, several members of the Dover law team (there is an A-Team parody in there somewhere) joined the case and successfully convinced the trial judge to hold a retrial and allow expert testimony. With the specter of 2 Kitzmiller 2 Furious coming to an Atlanta courtroom, the school district folded. And gave us everything we wanted.

In an agreement announced today, Cobb County school officials state that they will not order the placement of “any stickers, labels, stamps, inscriptions, or other warnings or disclaimers bearing language substantially similar to that used on the sticker that is the subject of this action.” School officials also agreed not to take other actions that would undermine the teaching of evolution in biology classes.

Since I participated in the trial phase and helped organize two amicus briefs for the case, I am excited about this outcome.

What happens when you ignore evolution?

You sentence innocent people to death.

Squidbillies Rule!

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Squidbilles.gif

Tiffany and I absolutely love Squidbillies; although, she forgets to watch it when I’m not around. Last night’s episode, “Survival of the Dumbest”, was absolutely hilarious. The episode dealt with the origin of squid, with both religious and evolutionary explanations. As usual Early wore various hats, but this time they involved Jesus and Darwin fish.

Probably the funniest moment to me is when the sheriff pasted a warning label on a library book: How Stella—Allegedly—Got Her Groove Back. I was laughing so hard I had to pause my DVR, which I guess happens often with Squidbillies.

In Cobb County the school board would have pasted a wordier disclaimer into the book:

stella-disclaimer.png

Good Riddance!

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ellerslie.png

My darling wildernesse has an interesting post up about the removal of her home—unincorporated—town (Ellerslie, GA) from the official state transportation map. You see, the Georgia DOT has decided to remove some 500 location names from their state road map.

Poor Experiment, GA. Poor Dixie Union, GA. Poor Lost Mountain, GA. Poor New Georgia, GA. And poor Reed Creek, GA. They no longer deserve to exist according to the DOT.

As wildernesse points out, the places most affected are either crossroads in rural Georgia or unincorporated communities in the shadow of larger communities, like Evans and Martinez, GA, two suburbs of Augusta.

I have to agree with the man who said it shows a disrespect for the rural areas. Some of those towns are in areas where it’s hard to figure out why it would be cluttered there—Dewy Rose, for instance is near Elberton. There is nothing cluttering up the area near there. Same for Box Springs and Upatoi and Juniper—they are the only things on the map between Columbus and Buena Vista or Butler. How can they be cluttering the map?

Well, actually they are not just taking the nowheresvilles off the map. If you read the names, you realize that they are taking the little towns that are being enveloped by the metro areas off the map. As if Ellerslie, Cataula, Midland, Upatoi, Box Springs, and Mountain Hill were just all one big happy family with its big, dumb neighbor Columbus. I am NOT from Columbus! Why would anyone go somewhere outside a city?—ask Metro-ites. It’s the same for Atlanta—Tucker is leaving too. And Augusta—Evans, Phinizy.

Musella! Pennington! I keep reading names that are real places to me that are being wiped off the map. How are you going to tell people where to get delicious peach ice cream between Forsyth and Talbotton if you can’t point to Musella on the map?

Now that Ellerslie, GA is no longer, I will now have to skip Winterval with the in-laws because I can’t find them on the map.

Democratic Rule

Now that the Democrats appear to control both the House and the Senate (as well as a majority of state governments), I expect that we will see a much more fiscally responsible federal budget in the future. The explosion in pork given to us by Republicans will disappear under Democrats as the two parties now have to come to an agreement on legislation. Americans voted for checks and balances yesterday.

However, I am certain that several years from now conservatives will forget the previous six years and attribute the fiscal responsibility of the Democratic Congress to Bush controlling “tax-and-spend” Democrats.

What I am most excited about is the opportunity that Congress will actually investigate and expose the corruption and incompetence of the Bush administration. The Republicans refused to do their jobs, but Democrats will relish in it.

Vote the Bums Out

The Republicans need to be voted out of power this Tuesday. They’ve controlled all three branches of government for years now and have made a mess of our country. Government spending is out of control; our country is sinking into debt; good soldiers are dying in Iraq because the Republicans refuse to give them enough body armor.

And yesterday the New York Times revealed that the Republicans, in a partisan effort to create a talking point, posted Irag’s nuclear weapon research from the 1980s in Arabic on a government website. They don’t want to give terrorists lawyers, but they’ll give them the bomb, all to win a blog war.

WTF? We need a change, if only so that Congress will actually investigate the ineptness that is currently controlling Washington.

Last March, the federal government set up a Web site to make public a vast archive of Iraqi documents captured during the war. The Bush administration did so under pressure from Congressional Republicans who had said they hoped to “leverage the Internet” to find new evidence of the prewar dangers posed by Saddam Hussein.

But in recent weeks, the site has posted some documents that weapons experts say are a danger themselves: detailed accounts of Iraq’s secret nuclear research before the 1991 Persian Gulf war. The documents, the experts say, constitute a basic guide to building an atom bomb.

Last night, the government shut down the Web site after The New York Times asked about complaints from weapons experts and arms-control officials. A spokesman for the director of national intelligence said access to the site had been suspended “pending a review to ensure its content is appropriate for public viewing.”

Officials of the International Atomic Energy Agency, fearing that the information could help states like Iran develop nuclear arms, had privately protested last week to the American ambassador to the agency, according to European diplomats who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity. One diplomat said the agency’s technical experts “were shocked” at the public disclosures.

Here is Keith Olbermann’s take.

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