- Security Fix: Microsoft Update Quietly Installs Firefox Extension. This is why nobody trusts Microsoft. Pulling this sort of stunt as an OS vendor is really irresponsible.
- Scott Rosenberg: Rosen and Sotomayor: Blame it on the blog. After writing a really irresponsible hit piece, Jeffrey Rosen tries to blame his own crappy reporting on the fact that he was writing a blog post. Even though he wasn’t.
- drupal.org: Apache Solr Search Integration. How to use Solr for site search with Drupal.
- drupal.org: Zappos.com and Drupal. A case study.
- Ajaxian: GWT team Wave’s goodbye to annoying question; It’s the API stupid. How Google Wave makes use of Google Web Toolkit.
Here’s the difference between what a company like Google can do and what most can do. Google Wave was the big news yesterday, but it’s not exactly a new effort. It’s been in the works since 2007:
Lars had already moved to Sydney, and made the case that Wave could best be created there, where the team could operate as a kind of independent startup. Jens moved over, and they built the first prototype over nine months with a team of five, during 2007. Since then, the team has grown to about 100.
Not many companies can afford to dedicate 100 highly paid people to what is essentially a completely speculative effort. Google has almost certainly invested more resources in Wave than Twitter has utilized over its life, and Twitter has millions of current users.
It’ll be interesting to see how Wave does once the demos are over and real people start using it. Google Wave’s evolution clearly runs counter to the “release early and often” culture that pervades Web development these days and I’ll be interested to see whether it works out well.
- O’Reilly Radar: Google Bets Big on HTML 5. The big takeaway from this is that current browsers already support a big chunk of HTML 5.
- Webmonkey: Google Throws Its Weight Behind HTML 5. More coverage.
- O’Reilly Radar: Google Wave: What Might Email Look Like If It Were Invented Today? Really interesting new project from Google.
- Introducing Typekit. Third party hosting for embeddable fonts. This could be huge.
- The New Yorker: Annals of Medicine: The Cost Conundrum. Convincing argument that capitalism is driving rising medical costs, delivering inferior care to patients and lining the pockets of doctors and the health care industry. This is a must-read for anyone who cares about health insurance.
I have a number of Sonya Sotomayor links today.
- SCOTUSblog: Judge Sotomayor’s Appellate Opinions in Civil Cases. A review of her actual work. This is the important stuff when evaluating judges.
- Daytime Running Lights: Simple Wins. Case study of a realtime chat server built using CouchDB.
- The Quine Page (self-reproducing code). A quine is a program that produces its own source as its output.
- Tim Bray: The Web vs. the Fallacies. How the Web makes many of the fallacies of distributed computing less fallacious.
- SCOTUSblog: The Dynamic of the Nomination of Sonia Sotomayor. She’s as qualified as any other recent nominee, she doesn’t seem like she’ll expand the ideological boundaries of the Supreme Court, and she’s going to be confirmed.
- Glenn Greenwald: Justice Sam Alito on empathy and judging. The fixation on Obama’s empathy criteria for Supreme Court justices is a canard.
- Shhhaw! On Redesigning the Front Page of Talking Points Memo.
I placed a space between ”if” and ”(” so that the ”if” didn’t look like a function invocation.
I’m just quoting this because it’s one of those little things that drives me nuts when people are sloppy about it.
The lesson of today’s events is simple. We cannot and should not rely on the courts to save us. Liberals were spoiled in the 50s and 60s by the Warren Court — much progress was made through Supreme Court rulings. And when I say spoiled, I mean spoiled. Liberals have fallen back on the position that no matter how stupidly our elected officials behave, the courts will invalidate the most pernicious laws they pass. This is why the stakes are so high for judicial appointments these days. Liberals bank on the federal bench, and conservatives desperately want to change the makeup of the courts so that liberals can’t rely on them.
Unfortunately, court mandated change is the worst kind of change there is. I’d prefer a court ruling remedy an injustice than see that injustice stand, but it is always better if we elect Congressmen who will pass the laws we want and an executive branch that will enforce them. When elected officials pass a law and judges strike it down, people feel like democracy has gone unserved.
Barack Obama has made this very point more than once, and his choice of Sonia Sotomayor reflects that philosophy. I don’t think he’s interested in creating a new Warren court — he’d prefer that liberals take the bull by the horns and work to effect change through the legislative process. Today’s ruling in California upholding Prop 8 maintaining the state’s ban on same sex marriage is another lesson. Relying on the courts in this case was foolish — Prop 8 needed to be killed last November when it was on the ballot. I’m certain another opportunity will arise, hopefully very soon, for California to legalize gay marriage. Liberals need to fight harder when that opportunity arises. We can’t count on the courts to save us.
- The Big Picture: Memorial Day, 2009. Moving collection of photos.
- James Fallows: On Memorial Day. On the Map of the Fallen project, an overlay for Google Maps with information on the American soldiers who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan.
- Michael Lewis: The Master of Money. A review of Alice Schroeder’s biography of Warren Buffett.
- Wall Street Journal: Obama Is Changing the Art on the White House Walls. An interesting look at the impact of Presidential taste in art.
- Financial Times: Argentina: The superpower that never was. Speculation as to why the fortunes of America and Argentina diverged so greatly over the course of the twentieth century.
- PSD Blog: The verdict is in on microfinance. The headline is provocative and I think overstates the case. However, it appears that material gains from microfinance are not leading directly to gains in other aspects of human development.
- National Journal Online: Chopra Wants To ‘Productize’ Innovations. What the federal CTO is working on.
Today’s batch of links:
- Alan Clarke. Saw a link to these brilliantly designed posters for the 2012 Olympic games on Twitter. I absolutely love the diving poster.
- Transformation in the Federal Sector: Data.gov Arrives!. Announcement from the consulting firm that built it.
- Sunlight Labs: Everything We Know About Data.gov. It’s a LAMP site.
- Jake Brewer: Data.Gov Launches: Why You Should Care and What You Should Do.
- Schneier on Security: On the Anonymity of Home/Work Location Pairs. Sort of like my post about the uniqueness of various phrases this week. Generally speaking, the amount of data required to uniquely identify something is smaller than we think.
- Anil Dash: Flags, Windows, Lucky Numbers and Hidden Mickeys. How the new Windows logo builds on the old Windows logo.
As I’ve watched the “torture debate” unfold over the past few weeks, and in particular as I read the highlights of the speeches by President Obama and Dick Cheney yesterday, I realized how stunted our country really is, and I realize the degree to which this is the direct result of cowardly leadership in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.
Here’s America in 2009:
We live in a country where most people believe that our prison system is not adequate to safely incarcerate international terrorists.
Where our law enforcement agencies are not to be trusted to compile evidence that can be used to convict terrorists.
Where our court system can’t be trusted to discern which accused terrorists are guilty and which are not.
Where our intelligence agencies are incapable of successfully interrogating detainees without resorting to medieval torture techniques.
Where the regulations that govern how enemies taken prisoner on the battlefield are to be treated are seen as out of date and useless.
Where our intelligence courts are believed to be so slow and inefficient that they cannot be allowed to supervise wiretaps.
And most importantly, that the Constitution is too restrictive to enable us to effectively fight terrorists.
The immediate aftermath of 9/11 was an opportunity for real leadership. Of course people were angry and scared — they were right to be. But a real leader would have championed our institutions and our values and prosecuted a war that was in keeping with those values. Instead the Bush administration chose to openly devalue the Constitution in many ways and to secretly ignore it in most of the others.
Not long after 9/11, Jim Henley wrote that terrorists are a threat to Americans, but that we are the only people who can destroy America. I took that to heart.
I knew from the beginning that building the facility at Guantanamo to incarcerate prisoners was an awful idea. Everybody knew why we were doing it — because its location could provide legal cover for questionable activities. Everything that has followed flowed from that. It set the precedent that the Bush administration was going to pay lip service to the letter of the law but trash the spirit of the law. That loopholes would be sought, invented, and exploited wherever possible. That everything meaningful related to the war on terror would be kept secret from the American people.
And now, nearly eight years later, people have been conditioned to believe that the things that we were taught make America great are outmoded concepts. Or perhaps more accurately, that we should still believe in those things and do our best to ignore the fact that they were abandoned long ago.
When we elected Barack Obama, I believed he would be a champion for the Constitution. He has not been. And what I worry about is that it was foolish to hope for a champion for the Constitution. Any such person faces a tidal wave of opposition from people who have accepted the devaluation of American ideals by the Bush administration and its defenders.
It’s only now that I’m really seeing the degree to which the things that I really do cherish about America have been debased. Everybody knows that the government has abandoned the values of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence when it was expedient over the years, but it’s only in recent times that we see such widespread belief that it’s not even wrong to do so.
In a discussion of Maureen Dowd’s plagiarism of Josh Marshall, he mentions that each sentence is a little snowflake:
An eminent technologist once explained to me that any specific ordering of a relatively brief sequence of words — I forget the exact number, but it was certainly no more than nine — is distinct enough that (unless it is some boilerplate phrase that gets repeated over and over in some type of document) it can be used as a unique fingerprint for the entire document. He demonstrated this for me with Google searches. (Try it yourself, using the “exact phrase” setting — search string in quote marks.) It’s a pretty nifty idea with all sorts of implications.
I did in fact try it, and it’s true. I took a few unremarkable pieces of sentences from my blog and searched them in Google, and sure enough, my blog posts were the only things matched. The unlikeliness of a sentence being unintentionally duplicated is vastly underrated, I think.
Some examples: “It’s impossible to escape the conclusion that the Pentagon” or “five promises that Obama made regarding gay rights issues” or “if you’re dealing with relational databases you really need to know SQL“.