Apr. 24th, 2003

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Interesting Monstah has two wonderful essays up, here and here.

edit: Agenda Bender

edit again: a gospel meme from Laura
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This metafilter item about Madonna's pranked mp3 file and the interesting and creative things people are doing with it (downloads!) is also, in comments, a sterling display of whimsical geekery (I adore geeks) as well as an interesting debate on piracy and distribution models:


Can she be charged with promoting obscenity to underaged Kazaa users?
posted by HTuttle at 11:56 PM PST on April 23

madonna is weird.
posted by kv at 11:58 PM PST on April 23

What kind of compression is mp3 if a track comprised mostly of silence is of a convincing size?
posted by ODiV at 12:10 AM PST on April 24

ODiv, Normal, non-VBR mp3 compression will compress to a set bitrate...if it's a 128kbps mp3, you'll just get very "good" quality silence. Variable Bitrate (VBR) compression, on the other hand, reduces the bitrate in sections of the audio that don't have much data anyway - silence, low-pitch sounds, mono sounds.
posted by Jimbob at 12:23 AM PST on April 24

yeah, one of the tricky things about file compression is that you are, to some extent, trying to second-guess the input you're recieving. If you're into math, you might check out Lovasz' notes on computational complexity. [postscript file; try ghostview] The chapter of particular importance is chapter 7 on information complexity, though the whole of the text is fairly interconnected... That's rather more abstract than the stuff that goes into the mp3 encoding algorithms, though, which I've little knowledge of. Other than that it sounds like ass below 160kbps. *grin*
posted by kaibutsu at 12:37 AM PST on April 24

F*ck Madonna.
posted by drstrangelove at 12:53 AM PST on April 24...
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Andy Sullivan on Santorum:

...Notice how Santorum uses the pronoun "we" when referring to the state. He's been in power too long. Has Santorum heard of limited government? It was once a conservative idea, you know, Senator.


Apr. 24th, 2003 11:42 am
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PUT THE LEGAL FRAMEWORK aside for a moment and consider, simply, Sen. Rick Santorum's list: "If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual [gay] sex within your home," he told an Associated Press reporter this week, "then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything." By its grammatical construction this is a list of approximate equals, in this case equal in deviance. It may be broad-minded of Mr. Santorum (R-Pa.) to include adultery, as that must encompass some in his professional acquaintance. But that's small comfort to those who oppose prejudice against homosexuals, now offensively lumped in by the chairman of the Senate Republican Conference with bigamists and those who practice incest, not to mention the vast Caligulan landscape that "anything" might encompass...

but, on the other hand,

Santorum expounded on homosexuality in a recent interview with the Associated Press. He raised the topic himself when he mentioned a pending Supreme Court case about Texas's sodomy law, which prohibits you-know-what, and envisioned what would happen if the law was inexplicably overturned:

"If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything."

Santorum later said his remarks "should not be misconstrued in any way as a statement on individual lifestyles." I wouldn't dare.

Not to be picky, but when Santorum likens homosexuality to, say, incest, he is conjuring up an offense in which there often is a victim -- commonly a child. That is not the same as consensual sex between adults, which, some maintain, ought to be the business of no one else, particularly the government.

As for adultery, another of the hideous possibilities Santorum mentioned, it is already not a crime in most of the country -- and not much of a crime anywhere else. As this is being written, my crack research staff is trying to find the last time the cops raided anyone's home for adultery. One of them cynically suggested the police would have far less work if they raided homes on suspicion of fidelity.

Of course, the usual gay and liberal groups denounced Santorum, but Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee came to his defense with alacrity. He pointed out that Santorum "is a consistent voice for inclusion and compassion in the Republican Party and in the Senate and to suggest otherwise is just plain politics." The eloquence of that rebuttal helps explain why some observers detect a touch of Churchill in the Tennessean.

Still, some may quibble and niggle by suggesting that being "a voice for inclusion and compassion in the Republican Party" is a pretty low bar. These cynics should be dismissed out of hand as "elites." As luck would have it, Gary Bauer, the illustrious former GOP presidential candidate, used precisely that word -- "elites" -- to characterize Santorum's critics. He added that Santorum's remarks "were pretty much in the mainstream of where most of the country is" -- a redundancy, but well worth it.

The elites, of course, compared Santorum's remarks on homosexuality with Trent Lott's on racial segregation and his apparent nostalgia for the good ol' days of dual water fountains, school systems and state parks and the occasional, but regrettable, lynching. In fact, there is no comparison. The GOP is seeking the black vote, but homosexuals remain reviled among the mainstream of conservative theologians who are dear to the heart of the Republican Party. These are the people who cannot decide which is more evil -- Islam or homosexuality. It is a dilemma that I look to Franklin Graham to solve.

As is always the case -- these people are so predictable -- some elite columnist is going to point out that homosexuals are often the victim of hate crimes...

I get from this that the Post is starting to worry about the libertarians.

the chain

Apr. 24th, 2003 11:58 am
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Jeanne is humbled by Nina Simone, I'm humbled by Jeanne, my cat throws me a bone and pretends she's impressed sometimes when she's in a good mood or I have chicken.

We each have our niche.

No kidding, go read the whole week.

note: when I was looking for a quote to describe the quality I see in Jeanne's work (and Laura's as well), I found this, which sort of makes you wonder, doesn't it, what book the "Christian" voices I'm hearing from Washington have been reading:

Leader: Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, so that you may live and occupy the land that the LORD your God is giving you. Deuteronomy 16:20

Left: You shall not deprive a resident alien or an orphan of justice; you shall not take a widow's garment in pledge. Remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this. Deuteronomy 24:17-18

Right: For the word of the LORD is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness. He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD. Psalm 33:4-5

Left: Depart from evil, and do good; so you shall abide forever. For the LORD loves justice; he will not forsake his faithful ones. The righteous shall be kept safe forever, but the children of the wicked shall be cut off. Psalm 37:27-28

Leader: Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets the prisoners free; the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous. The LORD watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin. The LORD will reign forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the LORD! Psalm 146:5-10

Right: For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this. Isaiah 9:6-7

Left: Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness abide in the fruitful field. The effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places. Isaiah 32:16-18

All: To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice. Proverbs 21:3

Right: Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. Matthew 23:23

Left: Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. Amos 5:23
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The senior Senator for Alaska, the biggest, noisiest boar at the federal tit, on sacrifice in time of war:

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) usually reserves his fabled temper for environmentalists opposing commercial development of Alaskan resources or critics of the federal projects he stuffs into appropriations bills for his home state. But earlier this month, he was fuming more about fellow Republicans in the House of Representatives.

"I'm just sorry they repealed the law on dueling. I'd have shot a couple of the [expletives]," cracked Stevens, who once packed a pistol during federal raids on vice rings in Fairbanks, Alaska, while serving as a young U.S. attorney in the 1950s.

Stevens's ire, sparked by the refusal of House GOP leaders to accept a long list of Senate projects and provisions in a bill paying for the war in Iraq, has since subsided...
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Another Unworthy Judicial Nominee

Carolyn Kuhl, a nominee to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, seems to have undergone a classic confirmation conversion. As a lawyer and as a California state court judge, she advocated objectionable positions on civil rights, abortion and privacy. But at her confirmation hearings, she backpedaled furiously. Her testimony may have been tactically shrewd, but it failed to allay serious concerns about how she would perform as a judge. The Senate should not confirm her.

Judge Kuhl started out as a hard-driving conservative lawyer in the Reagan administration. When the I.R.S. denied tax-exempt status to Bob Jones University, which discriminated against blacks, she played a key role in persuading the Justice Department to take Bob Jones's side. In a landmark 1983 decision the Supreme Court rejected her position, 8 to 1. Judge Kuhl also argued forcefully for Roe v. Wade to be overturned. And she was co-author of a brief backing the defendant in a landmark sexual harassment case. The Supreme Court unanimously rejected its conclusion, ruling for the woman who had been harassed.

Under questioning by the Senate Judiciary Committee, Judge Kuhl repeatedly retracted or minimized her positions: supporting Bob Jones was a mistake, she said, but she had been a "very young staffer" and had not understood the issues fully. She had advocated overturning Roe because President Reagan had wanted it. When, as a private attorney, she had later written a brief critical of Roe, it had not been because she shared its views, but because she had wanted to build an appellate practice and "filing briefs in the Supreme Court is a prestigious thing to do." In the sexual harassment case, her difference with the Supreme Court had been over only a "technical" issue.

Judge Kuhl's many shifts are suspect because of their timing. It is also clear, given this administration's track record, that she was chosen precisely because of the actions she now seeks to distance herself from. The White House can tell from her record that she shares its conservative agenda, including opposition to abortion rights and skepticism about civil rights. It is unlikely that when she spoke with the administration she was as quick to renounce her past as she was before the Senate.

It shows how politicized the selection of judges has become that Judge Kuhl received a hearing at all. In the past, the Judiciary Committee often would not consider a nominee who lacked the support of both senators from the person's home state. The Republicans have pushed Judge Kuhl forward even though Senator Barbara Boxer has not endorsed her. They have also trampled on the Senate's traditional courtesies by reporting out Priscilla Owen for a Fifth Circuit judgeship, even though the committee rejected her last year.

The Senate has confirmed a vast majority of the administration's judicial nominees. It recently confirmed Jay Bybee, a conservative legal scholar, for the same court for which Judge Kuhl has been nominated. But senators must oppose candidates with views well outside the ideological mainstream, including Judge Kuhl and Judge Owen. Only by holding firm can they persuade a president who campaigned on a promise to govern from the center to start looking there for his judicial nominees.
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In the strongest and clearest terms he has used so far, Mr. Pataki reiterated his opposition to increasing income taxes on the wealthy. One proposal, by union leaders, would add a surcharge of seven-tenths of 1 percent on the tax rate for people earning more than $100,000 a year.

"I would hope that they will not pass it," Mr. Pataki said when asked at a news conference in the Capitol whether he would veto any plan by the Legislature to increase taxes on the wealthy.

"But I have made it very plain that I will oppose and fight any job-killing tax, such as a personal income tax surcharge, that I believe would really hurt this state's economic competitiveness and drive jobs out," he said. "I don't want to speculate, but I am certainly not going to approve of something like that."

Mr. Pataki also lodged a counter-attack on Joseph L. Bruno, the Senate majority leader, who said Monday that the governor's planned reduction in school aid would drive up local property taxes, a position that the Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, has been stating since Jan. 29, when the governor presented his budget.

Mr. Pataki said his proposed $1.2 billion reduction in school aid averaged about 4 percent a district, far less than the percentage by which state government agencies have been asked to reduce their spending.

"We're not looking to raise state taxes," Mr. Pataki said. "We're not looking to raise local taxes. Obviously, I would like to have more funds for schools, everyone would like to have more funds for schools, but the way we've been able to make the record investments in education, in health care, in the environment, over the course of the past five, six, seven, years has been because we have put in place the policies that created the right economic climate so the private sector grew and generated the revenues, the government revenues, that we could use for school districts."

Yet the three-term governor has been barraged by criticism from all sides, including powerful labor unions, newspaper editorial boards and standard-bearers in his own Republican Party who have split with him over his insistence on cutting health care and education to close an $11.5 billion gap in the state budget.

A statewide poll released today by the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute found that most registered voters surveyed would rather tax the rich than reduce spending on schools, said Maurice Carroll, director of the institute. It is the same message Republican state senators from the suburbs said they had been bombarded with.

The poll, taken by telephone from April 15 to April 21, surveyed 885 registered voters and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. It found that 71 percent of voters supported a temporary tax increase on the wealthy, as did 68 percent of those whose families earn $100,000 or more a year.
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The American military moved today to strip Baghdad's self-appointed administrator of his authority and warned Iraqi factions not to take advantage of the confusion and the political void in the country by trying to grab power.

Lt. Gen. David McKiernan, the commander of ground forces in Iraq, issued a proclamation putting Iraq's politicians on notice, saying, "The coalition alone retains absolute authority within Iraq." He warned that anyone challenging the American-led authority would be subject to arrest.

However, the American military presence is sparse in several areas of the city. With nobody to stop them, long-banned groups ranging from Shiite radicals to communists have been seizing villas in Baghdad and adorning them with their respective emblems.

Jay Garner, the retired lieutenant general who will lead reconstruction efforts, just arrived in Baghdad on Monday and has been traveling in the north these past two days. General McKiernan and his force are supposed to provide the security to enable rebuilding.

General Garner, traveling in the Kurdish-held northern region of Iraq, said today that anti-American sentiment would soon subside.

"The majority of people realize we are only going to stay here long enough to start a democratic government for them," he said. "We're only going to stay here long enough to get their economy going." Once that was grasped, General Garner added, "In a very short order you'll see a change in the attitudes and the will of the people themselves...

emphasis, as usual, mine.
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- or -

why there's such resistance in some circles to the Bible as Metaphor

Once upon a time, there was a prophet named Jonah. Prophets were people who thought harder about things than most people.

Jonah would sit very still and listen to what his God had to say, then he would go to people who weren't good listeners or who lived in noisy places and pass on whatever his God had to say.

This was very important, because his God sometimes got mad at people and smote them when they didn't do what he wanted. You can see how Jonah had a very responsible job.

One day, Jonah (who spoke for his God) got a message from his God to take off immediately for the city of Nineveh, where people were doing All Sorts of Bad Stuff, and tell them to knock off the Bad Stuff.

Jonah pondered this for a while. The Bad Stuff that the ninevites were doing was Bad Stuff that really pissed Jonah off. Sure, he thought, we're all technically sinners, but my sins are practically nothing compared to That Bad Stuff. I'm basically a really great guy who sometimes messes up, but those people are defined by the Bad Stuff that they do (and it's _really_ bad stuff, or at least I think so, and my God must agree with me or he wouldn't be talking to me).


So Jonah decided that he really didn't want the ninevites to get the word. He figured they had done enough bad stuff that they pretty much deserved the whole rain of fire treatment from his God and he wasn't going to do anything to keep that from happening.

He hopped a ship going the other way.

Now, circumstance (or God, if you look at it that way) doesn't always mold itself around our stances, and the ship Jonah was on hit some rough waters. The sailors, who were only romantics by the loosest definition of that term, decided that tossing someone over to appease the rough waters was a no-loss proposition - whoever died would have died anyway, and everyone else just might not, so they drew straws.

Jonah, of course, drew the short straw. His God didn't have much of a sense of humor, considering that He created the aardvark and the platypus. The sailors threw him overboard into the rough seas, which immediately calmed, creating a dreadful precedent and once again illustrating that hard cases make bad law.

Then a big fish ate him.

#$^*#$%%#@, thought Jonah. This really isn't good.

So he agreed, reluctantly, to go talk to the people in Nineveh and the fish barfed him up on shore.

Jonah didn't see anything in Nineveh that shook his conviction that these people were unsalvageable, and really couldn't be fixed any short of a bath of fire. Nonetheless, he had agreed, so he spoke to the ninevites, saying unto them "mygoddoesn'tlikewhatyou'redoingstopitorhe'llsmiteyoubye" and lighting out of town, just ahead, he figured, of the inevitable smiting.

Jonah found a place to sit and watch the fireworks. Oh goodie, he thought. They get theirs and I get that rosy glow that comes from watching other people Pay.

Only (and Jonah sort of felt as if they were doing it just to piss him off) people started to reform themselves in Nineveh and stop doing the Very Bad Stuff.

This really pissed Jonah off.

I smell like phytoplankton, he said, and I have ambergris in my hair, and I certainly never did any of that Bad Stuff, and they just get off the hook?

Yo. Gomer (his God said). Who died and made you me? You don't think your sins are any big deal because they're yours. What makes you think I'm not just as offended by your sins? Like, for instance, not listening to Me and trying to exploit a technicality to get a lot of people killed?

Some day, (his God said), there will be a really good Father Brown story about this very issue, but until then, keep in mind that a big chunk of the moral relativism you're dealing with here is your own.

But, Jonah said, surely my moral relativism is cleaner than their moral relativism...

At which point God went and got shitfaced, because sometimes you gotta.
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