Miscellany

Sacrificial Ram

In an unusual approach to environmental fundraising — call it free-market wildlife conservation — the Wyoming-based Foundation for North American Wild Sheep (FNAWS) has struck deals with 21 U.S., Canadian, and Mexican states in which FNAWS gets to auction a precious few bighorn hunting permits in return for giving 90 percent of the proceeds back to those states’ sheep conservation programs.

Sacrificial Ram

Miscellany

How to shorten a conversation at work

Open up your cellphone, and approach [the person’s] cubicle. Say into the phone, “hold on one second.” Then tell your talkative friend exactly what you need to tell them. They feel important because you interrupted your other conversation, but then you can motion to the phone to disengage them from any further small talk. Walk away and continue talking to your dial tone.

How to shorten a conversation at work

Miscellany

Anonymous Library Cards Allow You to Wonder, ‘Who Was That Masked Patron?’

You’ve seen anonymous cash cards already; you may even have received them before. They’re better known as gift cards. Using the same principle, libraries can issue a borrower card that uses cash, rather than personal ID information, as collateral. Here’s an example: If a privacy-minded user deposits $20 to get an anonymous library card, she can check out The Terror State without identifying herself. Her account balance is temporarily reduced by $15, and when the library checks the CD back in (in good condition), her balance is restored to its original value.
That’s one way to get around the Patriot Act!

Anonymous Library Cards Allow You to Wonder, ‘Who Was That Masked Patron?’

Miscellany

Going for Broke

The crowd this week in San Francisco at Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference seemed mildly excited by the prospect of its favorite computer company turning to Intel processors. The CEO of Adobe asked why it had taken Apple so long to make the switch? Analysts on Wall Street were generally positive, with a couple exceptions. WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON HERE!? Are these people drunk on Flav-r-Ade? Yes. It is the legendary Steve Jobs Reality Distortion Field at work. And this time, what’s behind the announcement is so baffling and staggering that it isn’t surprising that nobody has yet figured it out until now.

Apple and Intel are merging.

Going for Broke

Miscellany

No Privacy in Your Cubicle? Try an Electronic Silencer

Two people in an office here were having a tete-a-tete, but it was impossible for a listener standing nearby to understand what they were saying. The conversation sounded like a waterfall of voices, both tantalizingly familiar and yet incomprehensible.

The cone of silence, called Babble, is actually a device composed of a sound processor and several speakers that multiply and scramble voices that come within its range. About the size of a clock radio, the first model is designed for a person using a phone, but other models will work in open office space….

The system will be introduced in June by Sonare Technologies, a new subsidiary of Herman Miller, the maker of the Aeron chair, as part of an effort to move beyond office furniture. The company plans to sell the device for less than $400 through consumer electronics and office supply stores.

No Privacy in Your Cubicle? Try an Electronic Silencer

Miscellany

Our New Nuclear Age

Dreams of peace historically float around the idea of superweapons, but so do dreams of omnipotence, not to speak of depths of revenge and hatred. Nuclear weapons, too, were supposed to be the weapons to end war, though more accurately, they were the weapons that would end war by threatening to end all human life on the planet. The distinction, it turns out, is a subtler one than we might imagine. But dropped in a spirit of revenge, they would prove the most addictive of weapons, opening to leaders everywhere alluring vistas of global power, ultimate destruction, and darkness. From the moment Little Boy left that bomb bay, no major power (and few regional powers) were going to be without such weapons forever — unless all of them were. As weaponry, they proved so strangely seductive and addictive that they burst the bounds of the Cold War effortlessly and have simply continued to multiply in our world.

Our New Nuclear Age

Miscellany

Memo disputes Bush Iraq claims

A highly classified British memo, leaked during Britain’s just-concluded election campaign, claims President Bush decided by summer 2002 to overthrow Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and was determined to ensure that U.S. intelligence data supported his policy.

The memo, in which British foreign-policy aide Matthew Rycroft summarized a July 23, 2002, meeting of Prime Minister Tony Blair with top security advisers, reports on a U.S. visit by Richard Dearlove, then head of Britain’s MI-6 intelligence service.
See the full text of the memo here.

Memo disputes Bush Iraq claims

Miscellany

Should drug laws make exceptions for spiritual highs?

In a 2002 case that foreshadowed Uniao do Vegetal’s fight for the right to drink ayahuasca, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit suggested that RFRA might protect possession (but not distribution) of marijuana by Rastafarians. No doubt that possibility gives drug warriors nightmares in which everyone arrested on marijuana charges claims to consider the plant a sacrament.
In related news, Rastafarianism is the fastest growing religion in America, especially on college campuses…

Should drug laws make exceptions for spiritual highs?

Miscellany

Battlespace America

The creation of NORTHCOM, as part of the “unified plan” in the wake of 9/11, established the military’s first domestic combatant command center. This precedent departs from a long-standing tradition of distinguishing between the responsibilities of the military and those of law enforcement. Since 1878, when Congress passed the Posse Comitatus Act in response to interference in elections by federal troops, an underlying assumption of U.S. democracy has been that soldiers should not act as police officers on American soil.

Battlespace America

Miscellany

A Figleaf of Legality

Finally, there is the broad principle of proportionality. Force used against Iraq in service of the U.N. resolutions “must have as its objective the enforcement of the terms of the [Gulf War] cease-fire [i.e., Resolution 687],” needed to be limited to achieving that objective, and had to be proportional to “securing compliance with Iraq’s disarmament obligations.” In other words, Goldsmith explicitly noted, “regime change cannot be the objective of military action.”

George Bush sought a congressional resolution authorizing force and secured it on Oct. 10, 2002. That resolution explicitly restricted the use of force to compelling adherence with “relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions,” and continuing threats from Iraq. This was not a blanket declaration of war. The resolution’s contingent authority evaporates if its conditions are not met.

We now know that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction and very little in the way of programs to develop them. That is why the weapons inspectors, quite rightly, were not going to report a material breach — the inspectors could find no evidence of weapons. Iraq was in compliance with the Gulf War resolutions and had not invaded anyone — hence no threat to international peace and security. Washington’s assertion otherwise remained crucial to cover an aggressive war with a fig leaf of legality. That fig leaf has now disappeared.

A Figleaf of Legality