Sunday, August 30, 2009

GG's Snark

Glenn Greenwald in fine form.

GG makes it clear, but just in case, the people named in his article all appear all over the media. Their primary achievements are as follows:

Jenna Bush Hager is famous for being one of President George W. Bush's daughters.
Luke Russert's primary recommendation is that he is the son of Tim Russert, deceased host of NBC's "Meet the Press". Liz Cheney is known to us only because of her father, VP Dick Cheney. Megan McCain is likewise has visibility only because of her father, Senator John McCain. Regarding Jonah Goldberg, Wikipedia tells us "Goldberg's career as a pundit was launched following his mother Lucianne Goldberg's role in the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, when he wrote about the "media siege" on his mother's apartment in the The New Yorker." He has managed to leverage that into a career. Chris Wallace perhaps has some claim to have earned his position, though he is well-connected, too.

Lisa Murkowski, Senator from Alaska, got that seat because she was appointed to it by her father, who vacated it upon being elected governor of Alaska. I don't know what Senator Evan Bayh owes to his father who was a Senator too. Jeb Bush is one more of the Bush family. Bob Casey (Jr) is another Senator whose father was a Senator (Sr). Mark Pryor, Senator from Arkansas repeats the pattern. Jay Rockefeller is of course, beneficiary of the Rockefeller fortune. Representative Dan Lipinski followed his father's footsteps to Congress, as did Harold Ford, Jr. Re: Bill Kristol, I pull this from my archives
(The Economist, via dailykos)I remember back in the late '90s when Ira Katznelson, an eminent political scientist at Columbia, came to deliver a guest lecture to an economic philosophy class I was taking. It was a great lecture, made more so by the fact that the class was only about ten or twelve students and we got got ask all kinds of questions and got a lot of great, provocative answers. Anyhow, Prof. Katznelson described a lunch he had with Irving Kristol back either during the first Bush administration. The talk turned to William Kristol, then Dan Quayle's chief of staff, and how he got his start in politics. Irving recalled how he talked to his friend Harvey Mansfield at Harvard, who secured William a place there as both an undergrad and graduate student; how he talked to Pat Moynihan, then Nixon's domestic policy adviser, and got William an internship at The White House; how he talked to friends at the RNC and secured a job for William after he got his Harvard Ph.D.; and how he arranged with still more friends for William to teach at UPenn and the Kennedy School of Government. With that, Prof. Katznelson recalled, he then asked Irving what he thought of affirmative action. "I oppose it", Irving replied. "It subverts meritocracy."

Tucker Carlson and John Podhoretz have the advantage of family too — I do not know if they used it, however.

With that under your belt, perhaps this from GG makes more sense to you? Well, maybe you have read or hear what some of those mentioned above were saying during the period that Justice Sotomayor was being confirmed.
Just to underscore a very important, related point: all of the above-listed people are examples of America's Great Meritocracy, having achieved what they have solely on the basis of their talent, skill and hard work -- The American Way. By contrast, Sonia Sotomayor -- who grew up in a Puerto Rican family in Bronx housing projects; whose father had a third-grade education, did not speak English and died when she was 9; whose mother worked as a telephone operator and a nurse; and who then became valedictorian of her high school, summa cum laude at Princeton, a graduate of Yale Law School, and ultimately a Supreme Court Justice -- is someone who had a whole litany of unfair advantages handed to her and is the poster child for un-American, merit-less advancement.

I just want to make sure that's clear.

PS: GG has not spared the Kennedys in the past, and is silent about them only because of their recent bereavement.

The Free Market for Ideas

The beauty of the free market for ideas is discussed here, by Paul Krugman.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Adam Smith revisited

David Leonhardt in a NYTimes book review:
Six years ago, Bantam Classic published a mass-market volume of Smith’s 1776 masterwork, “The Wealth of Nations,” with an introduction by Alan B. Krueger, an economics professor at Princeton. Krueger argued that Smith’s modern image had become unhinged from his actual writings. “Smith was a nuanced thinker. He was not nearly as doctrinaire a defender of unfettered free enterprise as many of his late-20th-century followers have made him out to be,” Krueger wrote. “He recognized that human judgment was not infallible.”

Smith was indeed a champion of individual liberty and worried about how governments might muck up an economy. But he also wrote that the goal of employers, “always and everywhere,” was to keep wages as low as possible. “When the regulation, therefore, is in favor of the workmen, it is always just and equitable; but it is sometimes otherwise when in favor of the masters,” he concluded. He supported a tax on luxury carriages and taxes on alcohol, sugar and tobacco. He said that “negligence and profusion” inevitably occur when corporate managers control shareholders’ money. And as the historian Emma Rothschild has noted, “The Wealth of Nations” uses the phrase “invisible hand” precisely once. In the 1,231-page Bantam edition, it appears on Page 572.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Road to Good Governance

Government, too, is a commodity that is bought and sold. The vote is not enough. The way to a citizens' government is for the citizens to outbid the corporations. With respect to health care reform, please go here. know you're doing the right type of thing when a source like The Economist agrees that progressive groups are finally understanding the nature of the battle they face...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Why the Death Penalty Will Remain in the USA

This is why. The convicted bomber got a hero's welcome back in Libya, as per NPR. Why would a man who denied so many people life, let alone the privilege of dying at home, be eligible for compassion? Well, according to some relatives of the victims, it is because the British government is currying favor with Libya's dictator Qaddafi, because of oil.

A lot of people are going to reflect on this and conclude that the death penalty must remain. If life in prison doesn't really mean life in prison, and government officials have the right to decide on their own to release prisoners, then people are going to conclude that the death penalty must remain.

The Scottish Justice Secretary blathers on about compassion and high values and other such BS, but he really had none at all for the victims' families.

Monday, August 17, 2009



Photographically speaking, this is known as making lemonade out of lemons. :)

What is reality?

This is what the camera saw at the Readington Balloon Festival:
With mild Photoshop changes, one can get this:

Now, here is a completely untouched shot from last year, showing what things looked like in better light:

Now what the camera "sees" itself is a choice made by Canon engineers as they put together their algorithms for converting sensor voltages into colors. So above, I was perhaps bringing the photograph closer to some ideal reality, where the sun was shining in a blue sky.

But it is possible to exaggerate. If I turn this:
into this:

When is the photograph obscuring instead of illuminating reality?

The Fate of Whistleblowers

The US government puts them in prison.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Readington Balloon Festival

These are from July 25 morning. It was misty and gray, and not the best conditions for photography.

So I didn't really look at the photographs I took till now. Here are some.

The AT&T balloon firing up:

Some more colorful pictures (with mild digital enhancement)

More on butterflies

The Readington Balloon Festival had a stall that was selling mounted butterflies, like below. Supposedly there are butterfly farms, from which these butterflies are harvested, coated with some preservative and mounted like shown below.

I overheard the sales people telling some children that, no, the butterflies were not killed, that they were gathered after the butterflies' rather short natural life, and it made me smile.


Butterfly Bush - 2


As noted by NYT's Theresa Burns, (sorry, print edition only) "in a world replete with false advertising, darned if many of them {butterfly bushes} aren't covered in butterflies this week."

The deep purple flower is likely "Dark Knight", i.e., one of my "Peacock"'s is mislabelled. This might be a problem, because "Dark Knight" grows to two-three times the size of "Peacock".

Saturday, August 15, 2009


Rajan did some improvements to the pictures of flowers posted earlier.

Day Lily - improved
Day Lily - original
Day Lily
In this case, the improved version is closer to reality. Rajan, of course, has not seen the original; in the case of the rose, this would be a new rose association winner.
(Or perhaps when the bush grows up, it will produce deeper colored blooms.)
Improved version:
Tahitian Sunset

How To Win Friends and Influence People

Here. This is the last sentence of the story:
Last month U.S-based carrier Continental Airlines apologized to former Indian president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam for frisking him at New Delhi airport.

Friday, August 14, 2009


Paul Krugman in the NYT:
(In early 2008)...I warned that his [Obama's] vision of a “different kind of politics” was a vain hope, that any Democrat who made it to the White House would face “an unending procession of wild charges and fake scandals, dutifully given credence by major media organizations that somehow can’t bring themselves to declare the accusations unequivocally false.”....

....The truth is that the factors that made politics so ugly in the Clinton years — the paranoia of a significant minority of Americans and the cynical willingness of leading Republicans to cater to that paranoia — are as strong as ever...

...So far, at least, the Obama administration’s response to the outpouring of hate on the right has had a deer-in-the-headlights quality. It’s as if officials still can’t wrap their minds around the fact that things like this can happen to people who aren’t named Clinton, as if they keep expecting the nonsense to just go away.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Tahitian Sunset - contd

Tahitian Sunset

This is a very classical rose, very formal. Compare this to Don Juan (the lone flower on a plant just barely clinging on to life), business casual.

Don Juan

Or the hippie Red Knockout — this so saturates the red channel on the Canon 5D that I had to resort to underexposure. In bright sunlight the eye cannot focus on the flower, and it appears sort of blurred.

Red Knockout

The Tahitian Sunset and Don Juan are moderately scented. The Red Knockout has very little scent in one flower, but since usually the bushes are covered with blooms, the surroundings tend to smell nice.

PS: The butterfly from a few days ago could be a male Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Your router can be hijacked

An old one, but I learned of it only today. Malware can try to silently change the settings in your home router, guessing the user id and password needed to access the router. If you haven't changed them from factory defaults, it will likely succeed.

All that the malware has to do is to change the DNS setting - the server which translates "" into an IP address - to a server controlled by the malware author. Now when you try to reach, your traffic goes to where the malware author directs it; (s)he can intercept it and also forward it to its right destination.

This WaPo blog describes it further,
and how you might protect yourself against it.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

More Day Lily

Day Lily

Tahitian Sunset at sunrise

Tahitian Sunset

Monday, August 10, 2009

Day Lily

I believe the name is because a flower remains open only for a day. The picture below is a severe crop of a picture taken with 300mm.


Identify the butterfly

Yes, I know the wings are blurred. But can you identify the butterfly? Is it a zebra swallowtail?

Lady Liberty Carries a Taser!

The incomparable Digby:
Tasers are routinely used by police to torture innocent people who have not broken any law and whose only crime is being disrespectful toward their authority or failing to understand their "orders." There is ample evidence that police often take no more than 30 seconds to talk to citizens before employing the taser, they use them while people are already handcuffed and thus present no danger, and are used often against the mentally ill and handicapped. It is becoming a barbaric tool of authoritarian, social control.
And it's happening with nary a peep of protest.
It was the third incident, however, that should get civil libertarians' serious attention. It featured an Idaho man on a bicycle who happened to ride past a police stop in progress on the side of the road. He had nothing to do with the stop, but was pulled over by the police and told to produce his ID. He said, correctly, that he had no legal obligation to produce ID and the police insisted he must. The situation escalated and he demanded that they call a supervisor to the scene when the police said they were going to arrest him. He ended up being tasered seven times -- you can hear him moaning in pain on the tape at the end. (In an especially creepy moment, the police try to confiscate the tape of the incident.)

Now, many people will say that he should have just showed his ID, that it's stupid to confront police, that like Henry Louis Gates you get what you deserve if you mouth off to the cops. And on a pragmatic level this is certainly true (although I would reiterate what I wrote here about a free people not being required to view the police in the same way they view a criminal street gang, which is to say in fear.) But the fact remains that there is no law against riding a bicycle without ID, and there is no law against mouthing off to the police. Certainly, there can be no rationale behind using a weapon designed to replace deadly force seven times against someone under these circumstances.

These are just three incidents that happened last week. There's nothing special about them. They happen every day. Even this horrific scene, which is so shockingly authoritarian (excuse the pun) that it makes you feel sick, is not unusual:

A former Southern Virginia University and Brigham Young University adjunct professor of political philosophy and jurisprudence, Dr. Lowery entered the Utah Third District courtroom alone on November 22, 2004, to make oral argument before Judge Anthony Quinn. Two Salt Lake County Deputy Sheriffs sat at the back of the courtroom, one on each side of the door. Other deputies were in the foyer of the courtroom. No members of the public were present.

Dr. Lowery suffered from major depression, bipolar disorder, paranoia disorder, delusional disorder, and psychotic disorder. Judge Quinn granted one of Dr. Lowery's motions made under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title II, which allowed for reasonable modifications of court rules, policies, or practices in order to accommodate Dr. Lowery's multiple mental disabilities.

Near the end of his oral argument, the traumatic content of the argument moved Dr. Lowery into moderate mania, and he characterized a previous crabbed ruling by Quinn as "bullshit."

Impatient for the speech to end, Judge Quinn took that as an opportunity to order the bailiffs to take the professor into custody and cool him off.

The plaintiff's state of agitation was caused by his mental disabilities. The deputy sheriffs' approach only caused the situation to escalate. As five or more Salt Lake County deputy sheriffs/bailiffs seized Lowery from behind, he shouted, "I am cooled off; I deserve to be heard. I deserve to be heard, your Honor, and you are violating my access to due process at this very moment. I am not violent and --"

Judge Quinn interrupted him with ordering the bailiffs to take Dr. Lowery to a holding cell. A split second later -- unclear whether following the judge's orders or acting on his own accord, a bailiff sent 50,000 volts of incapacitating electricity into the lower back of the unsuspecting professor. As the courtroom video shows, nothing in Dr. Lowery's behavior suggests that the bailiffs had any reasonable motive to believe they or the judge were in physical danger.

Yet the taser gun fired more than once.

The repeated electric shocks blew Dr. Lowery over the podium, and he landed face down on the floor, with two bailiffs on his back. The electric blasts caused Dr. Lowery's bowels to empty twice. He screamed, "Help me!" while he complied with a bailiff's order to stay on his belly, neither capable nor willing to offer resistance. Then, suddenly, he went unconscious.

Remembering they were still on camera, the bailiffs shouted at Dr. Lowery to not resist again (though his resistance was only instinctive) and threatened him with more electrocution. When they realized that he could no longer hear them, they dragged the man across the floor, put him in a chair, and massaged his heart. One bailiff called for paramedics. [...]

Since no one but the victim and the abusers were in the courtroom, this crime remained unknown to the public until recently.

(Read on if you can stomach it.)

Here's the Youtube of the event. You can see for yourself if there was justification for the reaction of the judge or the police.

Representatives of the government torture innocent citizens into unconsciousness, on camera, in United States courtrooms with tasers. They use them on prisoners and on motorists and on political protesters and bicycle riders, on mentally ill and handicapped people and on children And it's happening with nary a peep of protest.

The Deceitful Media

Quoting from Paul Krugman:’s the latest in the “Obama’s health reform will kill people” news: Investor’s Business Daily — which poses as a reputable source of financial information — opines that

People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn’t have a chance in the U.K.,
where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man,
because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless.

That would be Stephen Hawking, British professor, who was born in the UK and has lived there for his whole life.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

John Kerry can be witty



Q: What’s a common and accepted practice for Americans nowadays that you think we’ll look back on with regret?

A: Up until this November, it was voting Republican.

The Deep Sickness of America

A collective insanity has struck some 30% of the US population.
Hunter describes it.

Perhaps I should say that the world in which the premises which these 30% operate on are true would be truly strange and scary.

Sometimes, the news is good

From the NYT:

Scientists figure out how to return oysters to Chesapeake Bay.

Herring return to the Bronx River.

The Wisdom of Crowds?????

After all, John McCain wanted her to be one heartbeat from the presidency -- and 60 million Americans agreed. — Steve Benen on Sarah Palin

Human multitasking and computers

Humans start multi-tasking (to their detriment) when sitting in front of a computer, because computers are too slow - more precisely, are not responsive enough. Of course, I have only anecdotal evidence for this.

E.g., when I'm reading a book, flipping the page is subjectively immediate. Not so when browsing the web. There is a perceptible lag between pages and that gives time for the attention to stray. (I'm talking about subjective time here, this may not be borne out in real time.)

Saturday, August 08, 2009


Context: A few weeks ago, Professor Gates of Harvard was arrested in his own home for at worst being rude to a policeman. Meanwhile, town hall meetings by Democratic members of Congress to discuss health care reform are being disrupted all over the country (typical example)

When someone talks back to a cop in his own house, that’s disorderly conduct.

When people make death threats and start fights in public, that’s exercising their First Amendment rights.

PS: Worth reading

PPS: People unclear on the concept:
President Obama at a town hall meeting last week described a letter he received from a Medicare recipient:
"I got a letter the other day from a woman. She said, 'I don't want government-run health care. I don't want socialized medicine. And don't touch my Medicare.'"

At a town hall meeting held by Rep. Robert Inglis (R-SC):
Someone reportedly told Inglis, "Keep your government hands off my Medicare."

"I had to politely explain that, 'Actually, sir, your health care is being provided by the government,'" Inglis told the Post. "But he wasn't having any of it."
(via HuffPo)

Your system's color profiles

Take a look at this.
Windows users - try the most recent version of Firefox - this should be ICC Version 2 ready.
Internet Explorer does no color management, period.

Mac users, Safari 4 should be ICC Version 2 and 4 ready. Firefox is only ICC Version 2 ready.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009


From Bob Herbert's NYT column:
No one is too young. I traveled to Avon Park, Fla., a couple of years ago to write about the arrest of a black 6-year-old named Desre’e Watson. She threw a tantrum in her kindergarten class. The police were called, and the terrified child was arrested, handcuffed (the handcuffs were too large to fit her wrists, so she was cuffed on her upper arms) and driven off to headquarters.

When I asked the police chief about the incident, he said: “Do you think this is the first 6-year-old we’ve arrested?”

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Bob Herbert on Gates

Bob Herbert in the NYT makes an interesting observation: "If Professor Gates ranted and raved at the cop who entered his home uninvited with a badge, a gun and an attitude, he didn’t rant and rave for long. The 911 call came in at about 12:45 on the afternoon of July 16 and, as The Times has reported, Mr. Gates was arrested, cuffed and about to be led off to jail by 12:51."

You can yell at a cop in America. This is not Iran. And if some people don’t like what you’re saying, too bad. You can even be wrong in what you are saying. There is no law against that. It is not an offense for which you are supposed to be arrested.

That’s a lesson that should have emerged clearly from this contretemps.

I continue to be dismayed at the number of people who dispute this point.

It was the police officer, Sergeant Crowley, who did something wrong in this instance. He arrested a man who had already demonstrated to the officer’s satisfaction that he was in his own home and had been minding his own business, bothering no one. Sergeant Crowley arrested Professor Gates and had him paraded off to jail for no good reason, and that brings us to the most important lesson to be drawn from this case. Black people are constantly being stopped, searched, harassed, publicly humiliated, assaulted, arrested and sometimes killed by police officers in this country for no good reason.

Bob Herbert is increasingly disillusioned about President Obama. Earlier on the matter of preventive detentions, the refusal to investigate torture and illegal surveillance, and now this:

Most whites do not want to hear about racial problems, and President Obama would rather walk through fire than spend his time dealing with them. We’re never going to have a serious national conversation about race. So that leaves it up to ordinary black Americans to rant and to rave, to demonstrate and to lobby, to march and confront and to sue and generally do whatever is necessary to stop a continuing and deeply racist criminal justice outrage.

America's Corporate Press

The corporate owners of the news media squelch anything that would inconvenience them.