Actually evil

Actually evil

Republicans in Congress are trying to pass a law that fits the very definition of evil — legalizing extraordinary rendition. I’ve written about that practice a number of times. It involves placing someone in US custody in the custody of another country that will torture them to extract information, and is morally equivalent to torturing themselves. I think we can safely refer to the Republican party as the pro-torture party at this point, can’t we?

Update: Michael Froomkin addresses the issue in the stark terms required.

Google News and censorship

Google News and censorship

Google has posted an explanation for their decision to aid and abet the Chinese government’s censorship by removing certain news sources from the Chinese version of Google News. The fact that Google and many other Internet companies are willing to bend over to help the Chinese government keep its citizens in the dark is quite shameful, isn’t it?

Unfalsifiable

Unfalsifiable

Today William Saletan hits President Bush for something I’ve been complaining about for ages — the fact that he frames his stances in such a way that they’re unfalsifiable. Anything that happens proves he was right all along. That is perhaps the ultimate demonstration of his contempt for science.

More on sprawl

More on sprawl

Yesterday I cited positively some discussions in favor of sprawl. There’s another side to the story, though, which I touched on in a discussion last week of global warming. In defending sprawl and car culture, John Tierney eloquently defends sprawl in terms of land use, but sort of waves his hands when it comes to air pollution and resource consumption. He dismisses those problems by saying that technology will rescue us. That answer, though, is inadequate. Sprawl make work well for America right now, but the American suburban lifestyle cannot scale given today’s technology. We can’t produce enough fossil fuels on a day to day basis to enable everyone in the world (or even a much larger percentage of the world) to use as much energy per capita as Americans do. One of the reasons oil prices are going up is increased demand for oil — if people in more countries could afford cars, houses in the suburbs, and long commutes, oil prices would go up even more, in turn, making our sprawlophilic lifestyle significantly more expensive. I’m not an economist, but it sure seems like these problems should have been addressed in the article.

Missile defense

Missile defense

The Washington Post has a long story today on the Bush administration’s record on missile defense. The other day I was having a conversation with a Bush supporter who says that the missile defense system we’re deploying has been fully tested and will protect us from nuclear attack. That was depressing.

The suburbs

The suburbs

I’m finding a lot of interesting writing about the suburbs today. Here’s Jane Galt on how the idea of smart growth clashes with real life. Inspired by John Tierney’s article in this weekends NY Times Magazine, The Autonomist Manifesto. I grew up in something approximating the suburbs, and I live in the suburbs now. (I’m moving to the city, though.) I confess to being a big fan of “new urbanism” and “smart growth,” but these pieces do a good job of pointing out the downsides. It’s hard to overcome the basic aesthetic unpleasantness of big box stores and generic suburban neighborhoods, but I don’t think that the fact that this mode of living is incredibly popular is an accident. People like living in the kinds of neighborhoods that most people choose to live in (even people who can afford to live anywhere they like), and who am I to tell them any different?

The cult of personality

The cult of personality

Another aspect of the Presidential campaign that has been on my mind lately is the factor to which building a cult of personality plays into it. To be blunt, there is no John Kerry cult of personality. There are people who are trying to create one — for example, I’m seeing pro-Kerry web sites refer to him as “Big John” more and more. There’s already a strong George W Bush cult of personality, and both Howard Dean and Wesley Clark seemed to have similar cults during the Democratic primary season.

Obviously no American politician enjoys a personality cult like the ones described in the Wikipedia article that I linked to above, but there are people who become so reverent about politicians that they no longer worry about how the politician proposes solving particular problems or how they perform on their job because of the level of trust they have developed. They simply assume that their leader will do the right thing, and thus absolve themselves of the need to verify that the leader is actually doing the right thing. I don’t want to see any leader that way. I don’t care if the President is a Republican or a Democrat, my assumption is that they’ll probably screw just about everything up to some degree. Our political system is at its best when people see things that way.

I fear that the George W Bush cult of personality is what’s going to win him this election. At the same time, if Kerry has to build a personality cult to defeat Bush, I’d just as soon as see him lose. Why can’t we live in a country of grown ups? The President is a man with a job to do, not a cure for all that ails us.

Use XP or get hacked

Use XP or get hacked

Microsoft is not going to backport the new version of Internet Explorer from Windows XP SP2 to previous versions of Windows, so if you want a “secure” browser, you have to cough up the cash to upgrade your operating system. The article points out that 200 million people are using older versions of Windows. On one hand, people who don’t want to pay to upgrade their OS to get a better browser seem like perfect candidates to use Firefox. On the other hand, are people who don’t bother to upgrade their OS going to find and download a new Web browser? It seems unlikely to me.