Monday, June 23, 2008

RIP George Carlin

Comedic legend George Carlin died this weekend. In addition to being damn funny, his "seven dirty words" was actually a centerpiece in the Supreme Court decision FCC vs. Pacifica which, yes, did actually find that you CAN'T say that on the radio.

In honor of Mr. Carlin, here is his seven dirty words from 1978.

It's kind of funny that now several of the 7 are now ok to say on tv, especially on cable. For a good example look at the "Hits the Fan" episode of South Park which featured 162 uncensored use of shit.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Good News: Mars Explorers Only Need To Bring The Beer

In a very cool (sorry) development, scientists have announced that ice exists very close to the surface of Mars.

Scientists have long known that ice exists in the Martian polar ice caps, but this has shown that ice exists in a broader band beneath the surface. This means that the odds that life as we know it exists on the Martian surface is up. Pretty cool.

The Robert Downey Jr. Of Cookies

Steven Colbert takes on Cookie Monster. Did he abandon the pro-cookie agenda? See for yourself:

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

News You Can Use

Here's something actually useful on my blog.

Via dumblittleman, how to chill a hot beer or soda in 3 minutes.

Monday, June 16, 2008

You Think Gas Is Expensive...

In the UK, petrol (gas) has hit 1.99 pounds per liter. That's the equivalent of $14.79 a gallon (note, ignore where the article says it's 9 pounds per gallon, that's the imperial gallon, which is 1.2 US gallons).

In other words, gas could be way WAY more expensive without making the economy collapse. What we need is MUCH better public transportation alternatives so that (like in the UK) gas could be more expensive without bankrupting us all.

Friday, June 13, 2008

What Do We Do With People We Think Are Scary (but who we can't prove did anything wrong)?

AAAaaagggghhhhh! Today NPR's Nina Totenberg is telling us about this problem. Some of these people may not be a threat, and they may have been radicalized by years of mistreatment at Gitmo, what do we do with them? So they're innocent, and maybe they're mad at us for holding them for no reason for 6 years (you think?). So what, oh what do you do with people who you can't prove committed a crime?

Uh, how about LET THEM GO!?! I mean, seriously, I'm not a criminal attorney, but as far as I know, the US doesn't have a department of precrime yet.

"The government thinks you're a terrorist" is not probable cause. It's not due process. It's not a charge. "The government is charging you with terrorist acts" is a charge. "We don't like you," not so much.

RIP Little Russ

Tim Russert died today. He died of an apparent heart attack at work. I have to say, if I had a choice that would be pretty low on my list. Above "burned at the stake" but way below driving your rocket car into a cliff (yeah, it's an urban legend, but it's a good one...).

I don't wish to speak ill of the dead. He was pretty decent for a major media journalist. Still, it bothered me that NPR in their news spot on him remembered him as "a consummate beltway insider" and a great journalist. To a significant extent, these are really incompatible. If the people you are reporting on and "grilling" are inviting you to their parties, you're not a journalist anymore. Glenn Greenwald has a great anecdote from a smaller beat, where a Portland sports reporter reflects on how his relationships with the team and maintaining "access" affected his reporting.

He will be missed. Given NBC's stable of reporters, it seems unlikely that anyone who takes over "Meet the Press" will be as good. If it's Chris Matthews I'm selling my TV.

(barely a) Victory For Justice!

By a ruling of 5-4 the Supreme Court has decided that the oldest right of citizens in Anglo-American judicial tradition still exists.

Make no mistake, this is really great news. And I don't mean for the detainees. It certainly is good news for them, but really I don't care that much about them directly. Maybe that's cold but to be honest, I don't know them personally, and there are thousands of people detained and brutalized throughout the world, many in conditions far worse. The reason this is so exciting is that it is great news for America. The right of habeas corpus is a cornerstone of limited government.

Simply put, habeas is the right for a prisoner to demand the government prove to a judge that it has the right to detain him/her. The government must state the charges or other legal basis on which the prisoner is being held, and show that they have probable cause to so charge the prisoner. The threshold for evidence here is not high. The government doesn't need to prove facts sufficient to convict the prisoner. They only need to show admissible facts sufficient to charge him/her.

Basically, habeas is what keeps the government from just picking you up off the street and throwing you in jail. Filing a writ of habeas is the judicial process equivalent of saying "Hey, what did I do? Charge me with something or let me go!" The government can't just throw you away because they think you did something, or maybe you might do something bad later, they have to be able to prove you broke the law. Without this right, the government could just keep you in jail forever and never charge you with anything. It's so fundamental for the preservation of liberty, it's one of the very few rights that are actually in the body of the Constitution (rather than in an amendment).

What's really disturbing is how damn close we came to having this right destroyed. Looking at the flow chart (click on "Graphic" in the left bar) of the case, the court has consistently ruled against the Bush administration, and each time they have gone back to Congress which gave (or tried to give) more unlimited detention rights to the government, passing new laws in November 2005 and September 2006 to try and strip the courts of jurisdiction. These were both acts of a Republican congress, but both were enacted with significant Democratic support (especially in the Senate, where the Democrats could have stopped it if they had the stones to filibuster it).

So the executive branch has been hell bent on unlimited detention and the legislature has been eagerly trying to deliver it. When it got to the Supreme Court, four of nine justices thought that unlimited detention would be A-Ok. If Justice Kennedy had gone the other way, we would be that much closer to a police state.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Zombie Blog Will Not Die

After a bit of a hiatus due to... um, well let's say I had a personal realignment and now I'm back to wasting my time in a somewhat productive manner.

Like the undead hoards of Romero's many films, this blog has risen from the dead.

Photo by flickr user atp_tyreseus used under creative commons license