Too Much Information

The ACLU has a cute Flash demo showing a possible future where there are no consumer data privacy regulations. Combined with very tight integration between query software, databases, high speed internet, nation ID numbers, and corporate partnerships, this particular future looks bleak. It encourages one to think about the root causes of such a future and what might be the right thing to do in the present.

Outlawing Fair Use of Video

Joe Born, CEO of Neuros has posted his letter to Reps. Sensenbrenner and Conyers over their new bill, HR 4569, the Digital Transition Content Security Act. Neuros makes recording devices for people to time/place-shift their media viewing.

This bill aims to outlaw any electronic devices which convert analog video signals to any digital form without “somehow” preserving DRM.

It thereby also outlaws Fair Use of digital media since the DMCA made the “analog hole” the sole remedy for fair use of digital media. To my readers from Wisconsin or Minnesota: remember how these guys think come Election Day. Also ask yourself if they’re doing this for their citizens’ benefit or if they’re bought and paid for.

Please write your Congressman to express your thoughts on this issue. You don’t even need a stamp.

New Soy Plywood Glue Based on Mussel Adhesive

Here’s an article at Wood & Wood Products Magazine describing a new type of glue made from soy flour that’s replacing the urea formaldehyde glues typically used in plywoods.

The urea formaldehyde glues are especially troublesome as they outgas formaldehyde into the living space. The new type of glue was made by Kaichang Li at Oregon State University who studied the adhesive mussels use to attach themselves to rocks. Li figured out how the adhesive works and set to developing a process that can modify soy proteins to have similar properties. The method is simple enough that he can do it in his kitchen mixer.

According to this month’s Journal of Light Construction (not yet online) the new plywood can be boiled for 20 hours, dried, and boiled again without delaminating. The standard test for outdoor plywoods is a 4-hour boil and today’s plywoods cannot survive the 20-hour test.

Columbia Forest Products has already switched its hardwood veneer plywoods over to the new adhesive and is investigating switching over its other plywoods. As urea formaldehyde is derived from fossil fuels, its price is expected to increase with oil.

New Steamed Dumpling Record

Takeru Kobayashi is in for some pain. He recently swallowed 83 steamed dumplings in 8 minutes. story.

I’ve done a quarter of that on a good day at Empire Garden in Boston (the best dim sum in town). It’s not so bad until you drink something, then it expands. Some things are worth the pain, and dim sum is one of them. Here’s raising a cup of chrysanthemum tea to Kobayashi-san.

SCOTUS in Plainfield

Wow, it turns out one of the Supreme Court Justices, Stephen Breyer, has a home in my town, Planfield, NH. And some local Libertarians want to turn it into a “park”, comprised of two stone tablets, in protest of the awful SCOTUS decision, Kelo v. City of New London, which Breyer was on the wrong side of.

I’m not sure I get the point here. The hotel in Weare is a for-profit private enterprise that will enhance the tax base of the town. Constitution Park offers no such benefit to the people of Plainfield. In fact, a park is one of the uses that could be allowed under the old interpretation of emminent domain.

167 Acres is plenty to build a nice resort on that. People will come, Plainfield will benefit, and it’s more interesting than two stone tablets, and is directly related to the intent of the SCOTUS decision. ‘The Constitution Hotel and Resort’ is interesting - ‘Constitution Park’ is pointless. I won’t be voting for a new park come Town Meeting.

The Rove/Wilson Affair

I did some digging on the Rove/Wilson affair in response to a comment on Slashdot and was surprised what I found. Some of the more interesting bits follow:

This whole thing started when the State of the Union address said, “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”

Here’s what the Financial Times of London wrote:

“European intelligence officers have now revealed that three years before the fake documents became public, human and electronic intelligence sources from a number of countries picked up repeated discussion of an illicit trade in uranium from Niger. One of the customers discussed by the traders was Iraq.”

The CIA uses ‘NCO’ officers – people in normal jobs as operatives. Their identies are closely guarded secrets, and not even the President knows about most of them. Valarie Plame was working out of Langley when this ‘leak’ occurred, meaning she wasn’t an NCO at the time (though she was in the past). It’s only illegal to intentionally disclose the identity of an active NCO.

It has been suggested that Rove learned about Plame’s identity from a media source, perhaps Robert Novak. He apparently mentioned it in passing to Matt Cooper of Time Magazine, as an uncorroborated piece of information while trying to steer Cooper away from believing Wilson.

On Wilson’s veracity: The (bipartisan) Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the matter establishes that Wilson gave an oral report to the CIA which was considered ‘mildly-supportive’ of the case for Iraq shopping for yellow cake. Which is not what he wrote in the NYT Op-Ed that started this matter. They also establish that his wife got him the job. Which isn’t a problem, except Wilson said in his book, “Valerie had nothing to do with the matter, she definitely had not proposed that I make the trip.”

Here’s what the Washington Post wrote about the Committee’s report:

“Wilson’s assertions – both about what he found in Niger and what the Bush administration did with the information – were undermined yesterday in a bipartisan Senate intelligence committee report.

The panel found that Wilson’s report, rather than debunking intelligence about purported uranium sales to Iraq, as he has said, bolstered the case for most intelligence analysts. And contrary to Wilson’s assertions and even the government’s previous statements, the CIA did not tell the White House it had qualms about the reliability of the Africa intelligence that made its way into 16 fateful words in President Bush’s January 2003 State of the Union address….

The report states that a CIA official told the Senate committee that Plame “offered up” Wilson’s name for the Niger trip, then on Feb. 12, 2002, sent a memo to a deputy chief in the CIA’s Directorate of Operations saying her husband “has good relations with both the PM [prime minister] and the former Minister of Mines (not to mention lots of French contacts), both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activity.” The next day, the operations official cabled an overseas officer seeking concurrence with the idea of sending Wilson, the report said….

The report also said Wilson provided misleading information to The Washington Post last June. He said then that he concluded the Niger intelligence was based on documents that had clearly been forged because “the dates were wrong and the names were wrong.”

Committee staff asked how the former ambassador could have come to the conclusion that the ‘dates were wrong and the names were wrong’ when he had never seen the CIA reports and had no knowledge of what names and dates were in the reports,” the Senate panel said. Wilson told the panel he may have been confused and may have “misspoken” to reporters. The documents – purported sales agreements between Niger and Iraq – were not in U.S. hands until eight months after Wilson made his trip to Niger.”

On the subject of outing NCO’s, the New York Times deserves special mention. They exposed the operations of Aero Contractors as a CIA front, operating since 1979, in May of this year. Those were active NCO’s involved with real active missions.