YOU WON'T BELIEVE YOUR EYE: I've seen many weird Ebay auctions... but I think this one takes the cake.

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SOAR: There's a gorgeous, new trailer out for the movie Winged Migration. It's from the makers of a fantastic film, Microcosmos, which featured a stunning new approach to how nature films are made -- meticulously documenting the life of insects in a revealing and immediate way. It's a sort of reality-show version of A Bug's Life. The new film takes the same approach, this time to birds -- with amazing results.

I just watched it again. It's absolutely riveting.

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BELOW-AVERAGE INTELLIGENCE: Much of Brittain's latest intelligence report on Iraq was plagiarized... from publicly available magazines and publications. Well, shucks... if its due tomorrow, it's gotta get done, right? Happens to everyone. Apparently.

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BUT IT'S ART! How many kids will this movie kill? The term I would use to describe the filmmakers involved is 'free speech abolitionists.'

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MUTUALLY ASSURED NET DESTRUCTION: The US is considering the use of 'cyber warfare' -- disabling the enemy's computer infrastructure through the use of viruses, hacks, and other methods -- in the near future. But get this, the issues being weighed are similar to those involving nuclear weapons. Do we want to set a precedent? Can we control collateral damage? Will we have to buy even more Microsoft licenses? Etc...

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Hail the progress in the War on Drugs

One week ago, Ed Rosenthal, a self-proclaimed marijuana growing expert, was convicted of federal marijuana cultivation and conspiracy charges. He's looking at 10 years to life, when he'll be sentenced on June 4th.
That's a bit shocking when you consider the following facts:

1. California passed a law in 1996 legalizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes.
2. The city of Oakland (in California) specifically authorized Ed Rosenthal, to grow 'medical' marijuana for its citizens.
3. Mr. Rosenthal grew his plants specifically for people requiring them for medical reasons

Got that? Good. Because the jury that convicted Mr. Rosenthal was specifically barred from learning about 2. and 3. by the presiding U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer. It's an unbelievable story.

Read an account of the ordeal here here, and also check out the disheartened jury's reaction when they learned the facts.

This case raises tough issues regarding state's rights, jury nullification and supression of evidence during a trial. (Not even speaking of victimless crimes and the misguided doggedness of the Bush administration to keep medical marijuana illegal. But that's an other story.) Will keep you posted as the story develops. (Oh, and watch for the Larry King interview with the man's wife. I predict the following question: "Did Mr. Rosenthal ever get high with you? And when he did, did he get a case of the 'munchies'?")

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Ambiguity

Many a crucial question regarding Iraq can not be answered with unwavering confidence. Whether it comes to their weapons of mass destruction, their connection with terrorists or their expected future behavior -- we can only make educated guesses or speak of probabilities. Even with evidence in hand, we can not be absolutely certain of our charges. Nevertheless, even in the face of indecision, we must act. I found the following comment from former C.I.A. director Robert Gates instructive (quoted in a New Yorker piece about our Iraq intelligence):
"[The ambiguity has to do with] intentions [...] If the stakes and the consequences are small, you're going to want ninety-per-cent assurance. It's a risk calculus. On the other hand, if your worry is along the lines of what Rumsfeld is saying—another major attack on the U.S., possibly with biological or chemical weapons—and you look at the consequences of September 11th, then the equation of risk changes. You have to be prepared to go forward with a lot lower level of confidence in the evidence you have. A fifty-per-cent chance of such an attack happening is so terrible that it changes the calculation of risk."
Something to think about, certainly.


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Survive this!

Word has it that Fox is coming out with a new reality show, to follow up its latest hit, Joe Millionaire.

Sources tell us that the cameras, along with the viewers at home, will closely follow the exploits of a hundred bespectacled scientists, as they chase after a mustachioed, fun-loving dictator, who, in some of the early stills Stinky Shorts has obtained, strongly resembles Saddam Hussein.

Viewers will be able to play along, as they watch the wily dictator move his stashes of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons from place to place each week. Will Saddam thwart the inspectors and force them to leave empty-handed again? Will bombs rain on Israel in the bonus round? Will al-Queda walk away with valuable 'prizes' after its guest appearance? Tune in to find out...

The show is a joint production between the German and French governments, as well as the Iraqi Council on Free Speech and Human Rights for Weapons Scientists...

But seriously, folks. After seeing the evidence Powel presented to the UN, considering the history of the inspections and the past behavior of Saddam, calling for further inspections is just a bad joke. We seem to be left with no choice other than war -- and the only remaining question is whether we can justify any delay in its execution.

The Washington Post makes a strong case that the time for war has come.

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Pithy
The other day, Secretary of State Colin Powell was reminded that his boss is in bed by ten and sleeps like a baby. Powell reportedly replied, "I sleep like a baby, too—every two hours I wake up screaming."
- An other New Yorker gem, this one from an anxiety-filled commentary by Hendrik Hertzberg, questioning Bush's approach to Iraq

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Real Love

Dave Barry says:
If ever two people deserved to be together, for ever and ever, with no possibility of escape, those two people are Joe Millionaire and the Bachelorette.
I couldn't agree more.

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Four views on Columbia lessons



A diversity of divergent viewpoints -- at least 3 of them carefully reasoned, too. With the Bush administration having just proposed a NASA budget increase, I wonder if anyone in the administration is reading these.

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A different kind of war

Operating system debate causes domestic standoff. Don't ya just hate it when that happens?
(via fark)

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Can you hear me now?

It's not the holding, it's the talking! Going back at least 10 years, study after study has shown that it's dangerous to gab on your cell phone while driving, even if you've got a phone holder or a mic attachment. It's the talking that's distracting you, not the holding of the phone. A new study explains why -- it turns out that when you talk more, you see less.

The bothersome news here is that cell phone companies have known about these studies -- this is not news to them, even if scientists are just beginning to understand why this is so. Their response? To state that more information is needed and to lobby for laws mandating hands-free kits -- such a law has already been passed in New York. Of course, this puts more money in their pockets, increases consumer safety little, if at all, and also creates the appearance that they 'care'. Remember kids, business is all about PERCEIVED quality -- you'll learn this at any MBA program during your first term.

This is the space where I argue the strong parallels to the behavior of cigarette companies. But I think the facts speak for themselves.

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Paper mounted CPUs

And you thought $200 for a CPU was cheap.

(via Slashdot)

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Finally, a talk show with 'tude?

Ali G is a British import, a comedian who does spoof interviews with 'serious' people, who've no idea who he is. Apparently, his victims (er... interviewees) are generally none too pleased.
"I'm amazed it even aired," said John Judge of the Washington Peace Center, who was interviewed by Ali G for a panel on corporate control of the media. Mr. Judge said he was paid for his appearance and told it would reach 4 million people in Britain. "It was perhaps the most surreal interview I have ever done."

Answering questions via e-mail, Mr. Judge recalled that before the show, Ali G asked him to spell his name and then crossed out the "d" in Judge, explaining that this was so he could pronounce it. Mr. Judge said he was also surprised when Ali G asked the panelists why people still read books when everyone can now afford television. After telling Ali G that he had read thousands of books, Mr. Judge said that Ali G "told me not to be `bragging' about it and asked me to name one" to prove it.
I'd like to see him interview Triumph the Insult Comic Dog for extra-special fireworks.

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A different take

Dave Winer has an unusual perspective on Columbia; well worth the read.

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Columbia

The Columbia disaster left me shocked and saddened. It also made me realize just how cynical and tired we have become since September 11th -- how the loss of life just doesn't feel the same anymore, how our sense of proportion has changed. We have acquired a different sense for the scale and for the proximity of tragedy. We have learned how un-protected we are -- from terrorism and accident, from fortune and fate.

In the coming days, the space program will be publicly debated in a way it hasn't been in a long time. As after every public loss of life, politicians and pundits will step forward and claim to speak in the name of the dead, to tell us what 'they would have wanted.' They do this knowing we can disagree with politicians, but will not think of 'arguing' with the dead. I dread such talk. Our media, especially TV, will again fail to inform us of facts -- but will deliver tasteless, unreasoned emotion with a false integrity. (I caught a snippet of a Larry King interview, already, talking with the parents of one of the astronauts. "Tell us, when did he first say that he wants to be an astronaut?" I didn't wait for the inevitable tears.)

Even though this wasn't a terrorist attack, the incident speaks to the power of terrorism. It illustrates the gravity of our symbols; their importance to us, their psychological weight becomes clear at times like this. While our military is mighty and our people numerous, our symbols are vulnerable and precious and deeply mourned when lost. The loss of our symbols -- be it a space shuttle, the Trade Center towers or the Pentagon, can leave a gaping wound on our psyche that is as painful as any tangible loss.


[This unsentimental essay by Gregg Easterbrook makes an intriguing case for why the Shuttle program should be dropped. He also predicted troubles ahead for the Columbia in 1980. Yes, in 1980.]


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Huh

Iraq has the largest, most efficient, food rationing program in the world.

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The Case for Impatience

Are we convinced that Saddam has some WMD's up his un-inspectable shirt sleeves? It's becoming harder and harder to believe otherwise, and perhaps come this Wednesday's "not smoking-gun, but incredibly goddamn powerful" intelligence presentation to the UN Security Council by Colin Powell, the issue will be finally decided.

Still, that would leave an important question on the table, one that opponents of the war will argue is the real question, the one from which the focus has been getting further and further away: Why now? A long-time Iraq hawk, Kenneth Pollack, makes a very careful, reasoned argument, that Iraq simply can't be deterred. Must-read for hawks and doves, alike.

[Thanks for the link goes to alert reader C.B., bureau-chief for Stinky Shorts' Berkeley, CA bureau.]

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