David Kirkpatrick

March 20, 2008

One more on Obama’s race speech

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:13 am

I totally agree with Reason’s Jesse Walker. This is the core element of the speech.

 From the link:

This morning Obama delivered a speech on the subject. It goes on endlessly, as his speeches often do, but it makes the essential, obvious point:

As imperfect as he may be, [Wright] has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions — the good and the bad — of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother — a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.

I guess you either understand this instinctively or you don’t. And then, of course, there are the people who understand it but will continue to pretend they don’t, the better to smear Obama as a secret jihadist, Weatherman, or Farrakhanite.

Parts one here and two here.

GIF loop of lunar impact

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:44 am

This is one cool post from Bad Astronomy. A recorded, and confirmed, meteor impact on the moon.

From the link:

Image from George Varros of a meteor impact on the MoonAmateur astronomer George Varros did just that on March 13, and better yet, he had a video camera hooked up to his telescope! He captured an impact, and has an animation on his site of it; the image above is a still from it.These are notoriously hard to get on video, and even then they are harder to confirm; it might be something else like a flaw in the camera. But in this case, other cameras caught it, so this has been confirmed; it was the equivalent of about 100 kilograms of TNT exploding on the lunar surface. Assuming an impact speed of 30 km/sec (that’s a complete guess, but about the speed of an orbiting object near the Earth’s distance from the Sun) the object itself would have massed about a ton kilogram. If it were a rocky sphere it would have been about a meter across 10 centimeters across, roughly the size of a baseball. Not something you want hitting your house!

Varros has a page listing other impacts he’s caught as well. Very cool, and very useful! Eventually, when we go back to the Moon, the number and size of impacts on the surface will determine how we build structures on — or below — the lunar surface.

March 19, 2008

Haddo’s Delight — early Thursday smoking

Filed under: et.al. — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:14 pm

I recently posted my short story titled “Haddo’s Delight” and realized I haven’t smoked any of the blend in quite a long time. Tonight I popped a tin from 2/22/06, so it’s been aged for a bit over two years. Had a bowl in a Savinelli “natural” poker (a standard tobacco pipe shape) variant.

This Virginia/perique/plus (there’s a light rum topping among other ingredients) is always good. And it’s been so long since I’ve enjoyed a bowl there’s not much to compare to, but I’ve always heard this is an awesome tobacco aged. I can say this two-year-old bowl was wonderful.

Haddo’s is part of G.L. Pease’s “original mixture” blends.

From the link:

photo

This is a stout blend consisting of several grades of Virginia tobaccos with a generous measure of long-cut perique. Unflavored Green River black Cavendish and a little air-cured white burley ribbon provide fullness, body, and a bit of extra strength. Finally, an exclusive process darkens and marries the mixture, and gives the blend a subtle tin aroma of cocoa and dried fruit. The flavor is full on the palate, earthy, slightly sweet and intriguingly piquant, with overtones of figs and raisins. A wonderful and unprecedented blend for the true perique lover!

Haddo’s, more than any other blend in the range, has developed an almost cult-like following. It has inspired music, written and recorded by Apalachian dulcimer performer Chris Carlisle, and even poetry!

Softer, fuller and more voluptuous than a Boticelli.
Flavor and finesse surpassing a ’29 Lafite
Complexity that would shame a Mozart sonata.
Haddo’s, before thy diaphanous cloud, I fall prostrate!!
-Bear Graves

If you haven’t, yet, and love perique, give it a try. But, be careful, as you, too, might fall victim to its charms and begin composing sonnetts.

Haddo’s Delght was introduced in August, 2000

NIST preps bridge to molecular electronics

Filed under: Business, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:47 pm

From KurzweilAI.net:

NIST team proves bridge from conventional to molecular electronics possible
KurzweilAI.net, March 19, 2008Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have set the stage for building an “evolutionary link” between the microelectronics of today (built from semiconductor compounds) and future generations of devices, made largely from complex organic molecules, by assembling the devices on the same kind of substrate used in conventional microchips.
Side and top view of NIST molecular resistor

The ability to use a silicon crystal substrate compatible with the industry-standard CMOS (complementary metal oxide semiconductor) manufacturing technology paves the way for hybrid CMOS-molecular device circuitry. This, in turn, is a necessary precursor to a “beyond CMOS” totally molecular technology.

National Institute of Standards and Technology News Release

On the fifth anniversary of the Iraq invasion …

Filed under: Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:44 pm

Since today is the fifth anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq, here’s what I wrote back on December 30, 2003:

Iraq easily dominates the year-end review and the currently ongoing news. The fait accompli that was the US invasion of Iraq and sack of Baghdad began on March 19. Military success was fairly swift as soldiers (with embedded reporters) marched across Iraq in extended lines of armament. President Bush declared the war over after a little more than a month of fighting, and for all intents the war seemed over. Except for the pesky, and deadly, guerrilla resistance which continues today. Saddam Hussein himself was finally captured this month, but no “weapons of mass destruction” (WMDs in 2003 military/media/social jargon) the reason for most Americans fully supporting the war, have been found. Most likely none will be.

Right now the situation in Iraq seems to be pretty sticky. Troops are being deployed for much longer stints than originally expected and a severe lack of post-invasion planning has created a situation of near anarchy in areas of the country. Reports coming back from journalists (and the military in some cases) tell of an Iraq the US public did not expect to read about by December 31, 2003.

To complicate matters further, 2004 is a presidential election year. Bush is staring down a continuing political hot button issue in Iraq that is no longer working for him. It is working, and will continue to work, against him. Luckily for the sitting POTUS, the Democratic challenge hasn’t coalesced. Howard Dean has become a fly in the primary ointment, but it’s early in the game and things could rapidly change over the next 90 days.

Operation Iraqi Freedom (the official name of the conflict up until Bush’s May 1 address stating, “Major combat operations have ended.”) itself was historic if only by virtue of the access the press, and by extension the public, had to the front lines. Some 500-odd journalists were trained by the US military pre-war and were “embedded” with a military unit. Television journalists reported live, on camera, from the field through satellite uplinks. Journalists without camera crews reported with satellite phones. The public was treated to a month-long spectacle of live shots and sounds from an actual war zone.

Here’s an excerpt from my journal during Operation Iraqi Freedom: 3/29/03, 4:56 a.m. — “An amazing press conference from the Iraqi minister of information. This guy might be worse than Ari Fleischer. He’s talking about suing the war criminal, George W. Bush.”

Now with the clarity of hindsight, it’s easy to see how the minister of information, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf (AKA Comical Ali, AKA Baghdad Bob), became something of a cult figure in the US with his increasingly wild statements — such as declaring Iraq is winning the war and no US troops were in Baghdad while the cameras filming him were catching US troops and tanks in the background. But the statements were made under duress, likely the threat of his life, and the order for the statements very possibly came straight from Hussein.

As for Ari Fleischer — the first press secretary of the Bush administration — after a very contentious relationship with the Washington press corps, and a few wild statements during the midst of the conflict (most notably a very under-reported brain fart about using nuclear weapons, a gaffe I considered akin to Alexander Haig’s, “I’m in charge here.” when Reagan was shot) Fleischer announced his resignation in mid-May. The resignation became effective in July.

March 18, 2008

No new Democratic primary vote in Michigan

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:16 pm

Joining the news out of Florida yesterday, it looks like Michigan will not conduct a new vote to try and seat delegates to the Democratic convention.

From the link:

Lansing (WWJ)  — It’s appearing more and more likely there will not be a re-do of the Democratic presidential primary election.  WWJ Lansing Bureau Chief Tim Skubick reports state Senate Democrats came out of a closed door meeting Tuesday morning and said there are not enough votes to approve a re-do.  

Legislative approval is necessary for a re-vote to happen. 

Speaking live on WWJ, Skubick said it would take a “miracle” to have the re-do approved, but he added it’s still possible. 

There has been no comment from the Michigan Democratic Party.  A spokesman said they are waiting to see what the legislature does. 

Arthur C. Clarke, RIP

Filed under: Arts, et.al., Media, Science — Tags: , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:12 pm

One of the greats has passed on. Arthur C. Clarke has died at 90.

From the link:

Science fiction writer Arthur C Clarke has died aged 90, it was confirmed tonight.

The visionary author was most famous for his novel 2001: A Space Odyssey, and for his collaboration with director Stanley Kubrick on the film of the same name.

Clarke was the last surviving member of what was sometimes known as the “Big Three” of science fiction alongside Robert A. Heinlein and Isaac Asimov.

More reactions to Obama’s race speech

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:58 pm

You can find my part one here and part three here.

Here’s some more reactions around the right and left parts of the blogosphere.

From the Corner:

Have I missed the competition?    [Charles Murray]

I read the various posts here on “The Corner,” mostly pretty ho-hum or critical about Obama’s speech. Then I figured I’d better read the text (I tried to find a video of it, but couldn’t). I’ve just finished. Has any other major American politician ever made a speech on race that comes even close to this one? As far as I’m concerned, it is just plain flat out brilliant—rhetorically, but also in capturing a lot of nuance about race in America. It is so far above the standard we’re used to from our pols…. But you know me. Starry-eyed Obama groupie.

Also from the Corner:

My Two Cents and Bottom Lines   [Cliff May]

Barack Obama gives a good speech — better than most of his congressional colleagues. But at this stage in his life and career, he’s not yet who he wishes to seem.

Obama’s supporters will now say: “Enough. Let’s move on.”

Hillary supporters will say: “We agree. Enough. Let’s move on.” But they will whisper: “You don’t think those evil Republicans will use this against him in the fall? He’s damaged goods.”

Independents will be split — they always are, that’s their job. But fewer will see him as they did: a different breed of politician, one who transcends race and party, an agent of beneficient and desirable “change.”

Conservatives are less likely to think an Obama presidency would be not so bad, and more likely to  see McCain as the lesser evil.

And one more from the Corner:

So, I just watched Barack Obama’s big race speech on YouTube. I haven’t yet read or heard any reaction or analysis. So, please forgive me if I repeat what has already been said.

My first reaction? Race speeches are rarely good, and this was no exception. For all of Obama’s new talk of change, courage, politics you can believe in, I heard a whole lot of liberal boilerplate dressed up in euphemism and offering no fresh solutions.

From Little Green Footballs:

Obama Attempts Double Back Flip

Tue, Mar 18, 2008 at 9:05:24 am PST

Drudge Reporthas the transcript of Barack Obama’s speech, and it was just as weak as you thought it would be. Amazingly, Obama is sticking with the “cherry-picking” defense.

I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely – just as I’m sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.

From Obsidian Wings:

That’s Why I Say Hey Man Nice Speech

by publiusFirst impression – good speech. I wasn’t entirely convinced it was a good idea to do it, but I think it will play well – and certainly better than Romney’s. What I liked about it in particular was not so much the arguments themselves (which were good), but the unwillingness to fold in the face of media pressure.To back up, I think the relentless multiple-news cycle coverage of Wright has been absurd – and rooted in old stereotypes of the black community as a hotbed of angry nationalists. My fear was that Obama, in opting to give the speech, was giving into the trumped up and bogus frenzy. While I knew this specific controversy would pass, my more general fear was that Obama the candidate and president would be pressured to twist in the Beltway winds.

Here’s a link to a slew of reviews at Daily Kos.

Obama’s race speech

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:55 pm

I haven’t heard the Obama speech on race today, but from the online reactions it sounds like he totally killed. I really didn’t expect less of him on this topic.

My guess is he knew he’d be giving some variant of this speech during the campaign. Maybe it was going to come in a concession to the nominee, maybe during a victory speech when accepting the nomination, or maybe — as is turned to be — his race speech pulled double duty both explaining his spiritual life and controversial spiritual adviser and acknowledging the role race is playing in this campaign.

He couldn’t give a victory speech just yet, but he did need to set the tone for the general election to counter Team Clinton’s death throes and its ridiculous kitchen sink/toilet bowl strategy.

This speech has most likely been part of his plan from the point he decided to run for president. It’s a tricky subject and it was going to be very important to make the speech, not only at the right time, but to make sure it was successful. I think he accomplished both goals.

From the NYT:

Senator Barack Obama renewed his objection to the controversial statements delivered by the longtime pastor of his Chicago church, but declared in a speech here Tuesday that it was time for America to “move beyond some of our old racial wounds.”

“It’s a racial stalemate we’ve been stuck in for years,” Mr. Obama said. “Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy — particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.”
In an address at the National Constitution Center, a building steeped in the nation’s historic symbolism, Mr. Obama delivered a sweeping assessment of race in America. It was the most extensive speech of his presidential campaign devoted to race and unity, a moment his advisers conceded presented one of the biggest tests of his candidacy.

Here’s Andrew Sullivan’s take over at the Daily Dish. He’s become a very vocal supporter of Obama’s over the last few months:

Alas, I cannot give a more considered response right now as I have to get on the road. But I do want to say that this searing, nuanced, gut-wrenching, loyal, and deeply, deeply Christian speech is the most honest speech on race in America in my adult lifetime. It is a speech we have all been waiting for for a generation. Its ability to embrace both the legitimate fears and resentments of whites and the understandable anger and dashed hopes of many blacks was, in my view, unique in recent American history.

And it was a reflection of faith – deep, hopeful, transcending faith in the promises of the Gospels. And it was about America – its unique promise, its historic purpose, and our duty to take up the burden to perfect this union – today, in our time, in our way.

I have never felt more convinced that this man’s candidacy – not this man, his candidacy – and what he can bring us to achieve – is an historic opportunity. This was a testing; and he did not merely pass it by uttering safe bromides. He addressed the intimate, painful love he has for an imperfect and sometimes embittered man. And how that love enables him to see that man’s faults and pain as well as his promise. This is what my faith is about. It is what the Gospels are about. This is a candidate who does not merely speak as a Christian. He acts like a Christian.

Bill Clinton once said that everything bad in America can be rectified by what is good in America. He was right – and Obama takes that to a new level. And does it with the deepest darkest wound in this country’s history.

I love this country. I don’t remember loving it or hoping more from it than today.

Head here for more reactions from the blogosphere and my part three take here.

Tuesday video — BigDog robotic pack mule

Filed under: et.al., Media, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:50 am

This is entirely too cool for words.

From the Boing Boing link:

From BB Gadgets:

This new video of “Big Dog,” the amazing quadrupedal robot from Boston Dynamics, shows of its latest tricks: the ability to walk through snow and even over ice, catching itself when it slips and falls. Its normal gait is unnatural, but when it starts to scramble to recover it looks eerily real.

Link

Obama tames Rezko firestorm

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:37 am

It looks like Obama went a long way toward putting out the Rezko fire. That association, along with the ongoing flap about his ex-pastor have had the strongest legs so far of any hint of scandal facing his campaign.

From the link:

Late last week, Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) sat down with The Chicago Tribune and The Chicago Sun-Times for 90 minutes each to answer questions about all things Tony Rezko.

As a result, the Tribune‘s editorial board pronounced themselves satisfied:

U.S. Sen. Barack Obama waited 16 months to attempt the exorcism. But when he finally sat down with the Tribune editorial board Friday, Obama offered a lengthy and, to us, plausible explanation for the presence of now-indicted businessman Tony Rezko in his personal and political lives.The most remarkable facet of Obama’s 92-minute discussion was that, at the outset, he pledged to answer every question the three dozen Tribune journalists crammed into the room would put to him. And he did.

No new Democratic primary vote in Florida

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:33 am

In a blow to Team Clinton, Florida will not re-vote its Democratic primary.

From the link:

WASHINGTON — The Florida Democratic Party chairwoman on Monday officially buried the possibility of redoing the state’s disputed January presidential primary, saying there was no practical or affordable way to conduct a new election.

The chairwoman, Karen L. Thurman, essentially threw up her hands after failing to secure approval for a new election from state officials or the campaigns of Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama.

She said in a statement late Monday that party officials in Florida had proposed such a plan last week. It was unceremoniously shot down, she said.

March 17, 2008

Nanny state in attitude — UK-style

Filed under: et.al., Media, Politics — Tags: , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:46 pm

This is a truly frightening attitude. From KurzweilAI.net:

Put young children on DNA list, urge police
The Guardian, Mar. 16, 2008

Primary school children should be eligible for the DNA database if they exhibit behavior indicating they may become criminals in later life, according to Britain’s most senior police forensics expert.

Read Original Article>>

Clinton supporters are pouting

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:37 pm

Some of Clinton’s high dollar supporters in Florida are demanding refunds of political donations to the Democratic National Committee if delegates from the state are not seated at the convention.

From the link:

Pushing to seat the Florida delegates, at least one top Clinton fund-raiser, Paul Cejas, a Miami businessman who has given the Democratic National Committee $63,500 since 2003, has demanded Democratic officials return his 2007 contribution of $28,500, which they have agreed to do.

“If you’re not going to count my vote, I’m not going to give you my money,” said Mr. Cejas, who was the United States ambassador to Belgium from 1998 to 2001.

Christopher Korge, a Florida real estate developer who is another top fund-raiser for Mrs. Clinton, held an event last year in his home that brought in about $140,000 for the national party, which was set aside in a special account for the general election battle in Florida. But he told committee officials this week that if Florida’s delegate conundrum was not settled satisfactorily he would be asking for the money back.

“If we do not resolve this issue,” Mr. Korge said, “I think it’s safe to say there will be a request for a return of $140,000.”

My question here is, where was this outrage when the state was making the decision to change the vote’s date and violate the DNC order? This late-in-the-day pouting sounds a lot like the kid who lets everyone know he’s taking his ball and going home since he’s losing the game.

Obama announces major speech tomorrow

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:53 pm

Obama is planning a speech tomorrow to cover the flap over his ex-pastor and on the issue of race in this campaign. If nothing else a speech directly addressing race should undercut the Clinton strategy of quiet, assumed racism.

As a political team the Clintons’ are certainly compiling quite the track record. In the 90s they completely sold the gay and lesbian community down the river. Now in the late-oughts, they are giving the black community the same treatment.

Anyone who wants to argue the Bob Johnson, Ferraro, et. al., comments were not sanctioned from within the Clinton camp and were not clear statements of racism must be either working for the campaign, be phenomenally deluded, or may just be a tad soft in the head.

From the link:

Barack Obama will give a major speech on “the larger issue of race in this campaign,” he told reporters in Monaca, PA just now.

He was pressed there, as he has been at recent appearances, on statements by his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright.

“I am going to be talking about not just Reverend Wright, but the larger issue of race in this campaign,” he said.

March 16, 2008

Sunday video fun — John Cage, 4’33”

Filed under: Arts, et.al., Media — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 8:13 pm

It’s a minimalist kind of Sunday. Presenting the gold standard, John Cage’s “4 mintutes, 33 seconds.”

March 15, 2008

Nanny state in decline — Dallas-style

Filed under: et.al., Politics, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:07 pm

It looks like my hometown, Dallas, is scaling back its use of red-light cameras because they work too good. People are running fewer red lights, so the city isn’t getting the revenue expected from the devices.

From the linked article:

Dallas City Hall has idled more than one-fourth of the 62 cameras that monitor busy intersections because many of them are failing to generate enough red-light-running fines to justify their operational costs, according to city documents.

Initial gross revenue estimates for the red light camera system during Dallas’ 2007-08 fiscal year were $14.8 million, according to city records. The latest estimate? About $6.2 million. City Manager Mary Suhm on Friday estimated net revenue will fall $4.1 million under initial estimates.

That leaves Dallas government with a conundrum. Its red-light camera system has been an effective deterrent to motorists running red lights – some monitored intersections have experienced a more than 50 percent reduction. But decreased revenue from red light-running violations means significantly less revenue to maintain the camera program and otherwise fuel the city’s general fund.

And more:

The results of Dallas’ 2-year-old red-light camera system are mixed blessings for City Hall, Mayor Tom Leppert said.

“The good news is it’s having the effect everyone in this community wants: fewer red lights being run. The goal was not to make money on this,” Mr. Leppert said. “But these are numbers and realities we’ll have to deal with.”

The mayor added that under no circumstances does he expect a decrease in red-light camera revenue to affect the city’s public safety budget, although the overall budget may not enjoy as much revenue, perhaps resulting in the city streamlining other items.

Council member Angela Hunt, long skeptical of the reasoning behind such camera systems, says she’s not surprised Dallas is faced with altering its efforts to reduce red-light running.

“The idea of the red-light cameras is that they’ll be used as a revenue generator instead of being implemented for public safety purposes. It’s imperative that the council review this program, especially when the results don’t align with the initial performance projections,” Ms. Hunt said.

She cited national statistics suggesting that the cameras increase rear-end collisions.

Saturday video fun — Hank III, “Dick in Dixie”

Filed under: Arts, et.al., Media — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:50 pm

A middle finger to Nashville’s Music Row from the best of today’s outlaw country, Hank Williams III. (NSFW)

Music reviews

Filed under: Arts, et.al., Media — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:44 pm

I completely understand what bullshit record reviewing is because long ago I reviewed records for Detour magazine under the non de plume of MC EZ2ME. Many times I would be given a very large stack of LPs and cassettes (all my reviewing was done just on the cusp of the CD revolution) and I’d give each one about eight seconds of song one to determine if it would make the cut of the two or three reviews I’d do for that issue.

I’ve always had a very jaundiced eye toward any half-assed criticism since then. Of course, at least I listened to the music I reviewed

 From the link:

Some months ago, in questioning arbitration-type criticism, I asked, rhetorically: [W]hat’s the value of the 250-word [album] review when samples of the music are available everywhere, for free?

It is now clear, if it wasn’t before, that that type of criticism is officially dead, or at least hopelessly corrupt:

How is it that a magazine can review an entire album–and assign a star rating to it–without actually hearing the album?

Case in point: the “review” of Warpaint–the new album by THE BLACK CROWES–in the March issue of Maxim magazine.  The writer–who has not heard the album since advance CDs were not made available–wrote what appears to be a disparaging assessment anyway, citing “it hasn’t left Chris Robinson and the gang much room for growth.”

Incredulously [sic], the magazine gave the album a two and a half star rating–although neither the writer nor the editor could have heard more than one song (the single “Goodbye Daughters of the Revolution”).

When approached for an explanation, the magazine described the review as “an educated guess preview.”  Huh?

It seems Maxim is fairly equal opportunity, genre-wise:

Then, there’s this:

RAPPER Nas was shocked when Maxim gave his new album, “N – – – – r,” a 21/2-star review – because it isn’t even finished yet. “I’m finishing the album now, and it will be out April 22,” Nas told Page Six. Maxim has since apologized for the premature review, but Nas doesn’t care. “I’d prefer [a review from] Playboy,” the rapper said. “That kind of stuff doesn’t reach my radar or effect anybody around me. I don’t know what a music rating from Maxim is . . . I don’t know what it even means really.” Maxim also reviewed the Black Crowes’ album, “War Paint,” without listening to it in its entirety.

Again, it’s entirely possible that the reviewer was privy to some leaked working Nas tracks, but this is getting ridiculous.**

(Hat tip — the Daily Dish)

March 14, 2008

Authenticated Mozart portrait

Filed under: Arts, et.al., Media — Tags: , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:11 pm

Very interesting story from the UK’s Times Online.

From the link:

True face of Mozart revealed

Passing the Turing Test

From KurzweilAI.net:

AI researchers think ‘Rascals’ can pass Turing test
EE Times, Mar. 12, 2008Passing the Turing test–the holy grail of AI (a human conversing with a computer can’t tell it’s not human)–may now be possible in a limited way with the world’s fastest supercomputer (IBM‘s Blue Gene) and mimicking the behavior of a human-controlled avatar in a virtual world, according to AI experts at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

“We are building a knowledge base that corresponds to all of the relevant background for our synthetic character–where he went to school, what his family is like, and so on,” said Selmer Bringsjord, head of Rensselaer’s Cognitive Science Department and leader of the research project.

“We want to engineer, from the start, a full-blown intelligent character and converse with him in an interactive environment like the holodeck from Star Trek.”
Read Original Article>>

Superdelegates to the Democratic Party rescue?

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:25 am

This Bloomberg story may provide the clear blueprint to save the Democratic Party from itself since no individuals seem up to the task.

From the first link:

March 14 (Bloomberg) — Barack Obama has pulled almost even with Hillary Clinton in endorsements from top elected officials and has cut into her lead among the other superdelegates she’s relying on to win the Democratic presidential nomination.

Among the 313 of 796 superdelegates who are members of Congress or governors, Clinton has commitments from 103 and Obama is backed by 96, according to lists supplied by the campaigns. Fifty-three of Obama’s endorsements have come since he won the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses, compared with 12 who have aligned with Clinton since then.

“That’s not glacial, that is a remarkable momentum,” Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, a superdelegate and Obama supporter, said in an interview. “I don’t think there is anything that will slow that down.”

Someone in party leadership ought to do some serious numbers-crunching (more serious than the various “delegate math” exercises done by the media, and occasionally posted on by me and other bloggers) on what is left in the nomination process and what it will take for Obama to secure the Democratic bid for president. Once that superdelegate magic number is clarified, the party leader should get hard pledges from enough supers to reach the magic number, go to Clinton behind the scenes and ask her to step down or the supers will all go public en masse and publicly, and humiliatingly, end her failing and divisive bid.

It may be a plan along these lines is in place already and will be set into motion after Pennsylvania votes, Clinton wins big as expected and her campaign goes back into the ridiculous “she’s inevitable” mode because of the win.

Here’s more interesting bits from the Bloomberg link:

Both sides agree her chance to win the nomination rests on winning a significant majority of superdelegates because Obama is likely to maintain a lead of at least 150 pledged delegates – – those won in primaries and caucuses — after the last contest is finished. If he does, Clinton, 60, would have to snag more than 70 percent of the remaining 334 or so superdelegates.

And:

Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska said Obama, unlike Clinton, stands a chance of winning at least part of his state, which has voted Republican in every presidential election since 1964 and is one of two states that award some presidential electoral votes by congressional district rather than winner-take-all.

“Obama has coattails in Nebraska,” said Nelson, who endorsed his Senate colleague two months ago. “Our internal polls show he can win one, possibly two, congressional districts.”

And:

The same holds true in Ohio, which Clinton won, and Pennsylvania, where voter surveys say she is leading in the April 22 primary. Polls show Obama does as well or better than Clinton against McCain in those crucial swing states.

In Iowa, a February Des Moines Register poll showed Obama beating McCain 53 percent to 36 percent, while McCain beat Clinton 49 percent to 40 percent.

That is one of the reasons he’s won support from governors in Republican-leaning states, including Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, Janet Napolitano of Arizona and Iowa’s Chet Culver.

Bear Stearns reaches for bailout

Filed under: Business, Media — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 9:52 am

The media may be reporting mixed signals, but the US economic crisis is going nowhere.

From the linked NYT article:

Bear Stearns, facing a grave liquidity crisis, reached out to JPMorgan on Friday for a short-term financial lifeline and now faces the prospect of the end of its 85-year run as an independent investment bank.

With the support of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, JPMorgan said in a statement that it had “agreed to provide secured funding to Bear Stearns, as necessary, for an initial period of up to 28 days.”

Update — Here’s a CFO.com article with more on this issue and about government financial regulation in general.

From the CFO.com link:

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, now dealing with his very own horror show in the melting credit markets, can probably relate.

Paulson, the former chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs, has strived to regulate the financial markets with a light touch. Yet the most recent report of the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets, which Paulson chairs, shows financial regulators are being pulled inexorably by the worsening credit crisis to use a heavier regulatory hand, or even to intervene directly in the market.

Indeed, today, just one day after the report was released, the Federal Reserve was forced to back a bailout of Bear Stearns. And earlier in the week, the Fed poured some $200 billion of liquidity into the market. The report of the President’s Working Group itself contains recommendations that translate into increased regulatory oversight of everything from credit rating agencies to banks to institutional investors to mortgage brokers. The report also recommends that regulators intervene with other standard-setting bodies, notably the Financial Accounting Standards Board and the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision.

March 13, 2008

Where is the Democratic leadership?

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:58 pm

Check out this direct quote from Clinton’s campaign strategist, Mark Penn:

Mark Penn said, “We believe that [the Pennsylvania primary result] will show that Hillary is ready to win, and that Sen. Obama really can’t win the general election.”

It’s become clear that her campaign’s only goal at this point is to try and render Obama unelectable in the eyes of voters. She cannot win the nomination without a ridiculous number of superdelegates joining her sinking ship even looking at the very best case scenario over the next few months of primary voting.

She’s gone on record saying that John McCain is better presidential material than Obama. I’ve read it a few places, but it looks like she’s expecting to lose to Obama, and hopes for a McCain victory so she can plausibly run again in 2012. For all her supporters who say this handling of the nomination process is just her “fighting,” I say she’s not fighting for the Democratic Party. If I were a strong Democratic supporter I’d be screaming at the top of my lungs right now. As a staunch independent it saddens me to see (well, read via web forums and comment sections) young politicos become disillusioned and burnt out by Clinton’s divisive and corrosive tactics.

Those tactics are folly and are stupid.

I’ve already posted on a great Bob Novak column wondering who’ll be willing to tell Clinton it’s time to quit. He compares the task to one performed in 1974 when Barry Goldwater, both having the gravitas and drawing the short straw, telling Richard Nixon it was time to resign the presidency.

My question is, and a it’s a question that should be coming in a loud chorus from Democratic Party supporters, where is that leadership? Where is Al Gore? Where is Howard Dean? Where is John Kerry? Where is any Democratic leader with enough clout and gravitas to tell Team Clinton it’s time to quit and fall in line supporting Obama’s nascent candidacy? That other part of the equation — the fact it is “team” Clinton, and telling her to quit is also telling Bill to quit — may be the problem.

At any rate she’s doing more to destroy the party from within than any “vast right wing” conspiracy could ever hope for. I’m not such a huge GOP supporter that I’m pleased at what Clinton’s campaign is doing, but it does make me wonder why anyone would want to actively support the Democratic Party.

Iraq — no WMDs, no al Qaeda/Saddam connection

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:05 pm

Okay. We found no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the reason given pre-invasion for immediate action. Maybe the intelligence was bad, maybe cooked up. At this point there’s no way of knowing.

After that intelligence failure was disclosed and publicized, the Bush 43 regime continued (and still does to some extent) to push the idea the Iraq invasion was also important because we were able to break up an al Qaeda/Saddam Hussein party plotting against the US.

Whoops. Turns out that was patently false, and a US military study conclusively covers that very fact.

From the TPM Muckraker link:

We were told by the Joint Forces Command that our copy was mailed today. But ABC News has already got its copy and posted it for all to see. So here you go (pdf). Behold! “This study found no ‘smoking gun’ (i.e. direct connection) between Saddam’s Iraq and al Qaeda.”

It’s a shame every stated justification for the preemptive strike against Iraq has proven false. Right now we are in a true quagmire, with no end in sight. It’s wonderful the “surge” has improved conditions, but by all rights we shouldn’t be caught in a brutal civil war and spending unfathomable amounts of US treasure as our economy sinks into recession and our dollar freefalls in the international market.

(And although I’m not going to dig up any links right now, serious economists on the right and left, aside from pollyanna cheerleaders, agree we are in recession regardless how the Fed wants to play this thing.)

Thursday video fun — Juan Gabriel falling on stage

Filed under: Arts, et.al., Media — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:36 am

I’m going to guess (and hope) ranchera star Juan Gabriel wasn’t hurt during this fall. Because people falling down is almost always funny.

(Hat tip — Blender.com)

Solid state drives and pliable nanomaterial

Filed under: Business, Media, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:14 am

Two interesting bits of news from KurzweilAI.net today.

The first is Intel announces 160 gig solid state drives are soon to market.

The second covers somewhat surprising physical properties of nanomaterials.

Intel confirms 160GB solid-state drives will be unveiled soon
Computerworld, Mar. 11, 2008Intel is close to unveiling a new line of solid-state drives for laptop and notebook PCs that will feature a storage capacity up to 160GB, putting solid-state drives in direct competition with hard drives.
Read Original Article>>
Nanomaterials show unexpected strength under stress
Nanowerk News, Mar. 12, 2008University of Maryland-College Park and NIST researchers have discovered that materials such as silica that are quite brittle in bulk form behave as ductile as gold at the nanoscale.

At the macroscale, the point at which a material will fail or break depends on its ability to maintain its shape when stressed. The atoms of ductile substances are able to shuffle around and remain cohesive for much longer than brittle substances containing faint structural flaws that act as failure points. At the nanoscale, these structural flaws do not exist, and hence the materials are nearly “perfect.”
Read Original Article>>

The government is watching you …

Remember that little domestic spying program — Total Information Awareness — that was determined to be overly broad and more than likely unconstitutional? The one that was killed off several years ago?

Well, it wasn’t killed after all. It just went a little more underground like any good domestic spying program offered by tyrannic states throughout history.

Go read the entire linked Wall Street Journal article, but here’s the intro to get you started:

Five years ago, Congress killed an experimental Pentagon antiterrorism program meant to vacuum up electronic data about people in the U.S. to search for suspicious patterns. Opponents called it too broad an intrusion on Americans’ privacy, even after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

But the data-sifting effort didn’t disappear. The National Security Agency, once confined to foreign surveillance, has been building essentially the same system.

The central role the NSA has come to occupy in domestic intelligence gathering has never been publicly disclosed. But an inquiry reveals that its efforts have evolved to reach more broadly into data about people’s communications, travel and finances in the U.S. than the domestic surveillance programs brought to light since the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Congress now is hotly debating domestic spying powers under the main law governing U.S. surveillance aimed at foreign threats. An expansion of those powers expired last month and awaits renewal, which could be voted on in the House of Representatives this week. The biggest point of contention over the law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, is whether telecommunications and other companies should be made immune from liability for assisting government surveillance.

Largely missing from the public discussion is the role of the highly secretive NSA in analyzing that data, collected through little-known arrangements that can blur the lines between domestic and foreign intelligence gathering. Supporters say the NSA is serving as a key bulwark against foreign terrorists and that it would be reckless to constrain the agency’s mission. The NSA says it is scrupulously following all applicable laws and that it keeps Congress fully informed of its activities.

According to current and former intelligence officials, the spy agency now monitors huge volumes of records of domestic emails and Internet searches as well as bank transfers, credit-card transactions, travel and telephone records. The NSA receives this so-called “transactional” data from other agencies or private companies, and its sophisticated software programs analyze the various transactions for suspicious patterns. Then they spit out leads to be explored by counterterrorism programs across the U.S. government, such as the NSA’s own Terrorist Surveillance Program, formed to intercept phone calls and emails between the U.S. and overseas without a judge’s approval when a link to al Qaeda is suspected.

The NSA’s enterprise involves a cluster of powerful intelligence-gathering programs, all of which sparked civil-liberties complaints when they came to light. They include a Federal Bureau of Investigation program to track telecommunications data once known as Carnivore, now called the Digital Collection System, and a U.S. arrangement with the world’s main international banking clearinghouse to track money movements.

Keep in mind proponents of this level of domestic spying want you to remember, “there’s nothing to fear as long as you’re not doing anything wrong.” We all know government ought to be trusted with secrets and given expanded functions. I can’t believe some people still call the Bush 43 regime “conservative.”

March 12, 2008

Molecular machine created

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:18 pm

From KurzweilAI.net:

Molecular Machine Takes Control
MSNBC Cosmic Log, Mar. 10, 2008Japanese researchers have built a 17 molecule machine capable of parallel processing.
(Anirban Bandyopadhyay /ICYS)A central control molecule is able to change the states of the other 16 molecules, in a discovery that could provide a way to control many molecular machines simultaneously and eventually lead to a powerful new method of molecular assembly.

Modeled on how glial cells work to pass along instructions among neurons in the human nervous system, the machine is made entirely of the organic compound duroquinone. Sixteen of the duroquinone molecules form a weakly bonded ring around the central molecule, which serves as the control unit for the machine. Electrical pulses from the tip of a scanning tunneling microscope flip the control molecule to any one of four configurations. A single instruction given to the control unit was capable of generating more than 4 billion possible outcomes.

The researchers believe a first application could be “mimicking the 1965 movie ‘Fantastic Voyage,'” injected in the bloodstream to repair a tumor or other damaged tissues.

Another application would be building a massively parallel supercomputer based on cellular neural networks, a combination of cellular automation and the neural network of the brain.
Read Original Article>>

Be sure to hit the link for a cool video.

Does Clinton have Pennsylvania locked up

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:11 pm

This is an interesting bit of analysis that proposes just that.

From the link:

The press will try to make a race of it. There will surely be polls showing the race tightening, perhaps even suggesting that Obama could win it. But that’s just part of the predictable song-and-dance to sell newspapers and up ratings (and hit counts, for the political blogs and news sites that sell ads). The way the odd-numbered delegate districts break down, the demographics, the fact that it’s a closed primary (no Independent voters allowed), and its long border with the senator’s New York state make it a lead-pipe cinch for Clinton; to the extent that Obama supporters enter the “no, but yes, we can win it” narrative they’ll be walking into a trap.

Clinton has now moved 250 staffers (about 13 for each of Pennsylvania’s 19 Congressional districts) into the Keystone state and is opening two dozen field offices. She has the support of Governor Ed Rendell and his considerable machine, not to mention a phalanx of mayors including Michael Nutter of Philadelphia. They’re carrying a straight flush and they’re betting everythingon it. That makes it tempting for Obama fans to seek a knockout punch, but all their candidate really needs to do is survive to the next round – North Carolina, two weeks later – without having fallen into a rigged expectations game to clinch the nomination.

The new SurveyUSA poll(Clinton 55 percent, Obama 38) tells part of the story.

But a bigger part of the story was already told in Ohio’s 6th Congressional District. That’s the long, thin border district with West Virginia that The Field called the “Pennsyltucky” district. The Obama campaign outspent Clinton on TV and media advertising there, and Obama dedicated his final Ohio appearance in Athens, within that district (as well as sending rockers Arcade Fire to stoke up the youth vote on primary eve), but the Appalachian demographics were against him from the start: Clinton won there with 72.4 percent to just 27.5 for Obama.

The takeaway for Obama according to the post is to avoid too high of expectations in the state, and not let the media machine turn a Clinton victory into more than it it really is demographically.

In the big picture I don’t think even a Pennsylvania blowout for Clinton significantly changes her losing position math-wise. This Democratic nomination is an interesting game this year, but as has been written many other places, I wonder if it may not chew-up and disillusion many young voters who just joined the process.

It seems a lot of Ron Paul’s support has already begun slipping back into fringe-issue groups rather than a new libertarian/conservative political movement, and I bet many college-age voters tracking this campaign who thought the GOP had a stranglehold on scorched-earth politics and dirty tricks are growing more and more disgusted with the Clinton campaign and its ongoing “kitchen sink” attack.

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