Blog Ipsa Loquitur

Study finds Wi-Fi makes trees sick via Macworld UK:

Radiation from Wi-Fi networks is harmful to trees, causing significant variations in growth, as well as bleeding and fissures in the bark, according to a recent study in the Netherlands.

[…]

Besides the electromagnetic fields created by mobile-phone networks and wireless LANs, ultrafine particles emitted by cars and trucks may also be to blame. These particles are so small they are able to enter the organisms.

I also would have accepted “Either Wi-Fi or pollution is hurting trees, but we’re going to go with the sensational and inaccurate title.”

Even in areas heavily saturated with Wi-Fi or cell phone networks, the amount of man-made radiation present is negligible compared to the amount of radiation which the Sun creates. We get about a kilowatt of insolation per square meter at the earth’s surface. Cell phones and Wi-Fi routers produce milliwatts of radiation. (My router is set to broadcast at about 50 milliwatts, for the record.) If radio waves are making trees sick, let’s start by pointing fingers at the Sun, which bombards our leafy friends with far more radiation daily than my cell phone or my router.

I’ll dig up all the trees and put them in a dark room, where they will thrive far from the deadly rays of the Sun. Who’s with me?

Published on under The News

Barry Ritholtz pens a letter to the government in the voice of one Warren Buffet, if the latter had been dosed with sodium pentathol. Excoriating and enlightening, as always. My favorite highlight:

Before I get to the bailouts, I have to remind you that in:

  • 1999, you passed the Financial Services Modernization Act. This repealed Glass-Steagall, the law that had successfully kept main street banking safely separated from Wall Street for seven decades. Even the 1987 market crash had no impact on Main Street credit availability, thanks to Glass-Steagall.

  • 1997-2010, you allowed the Credit Rating Agencies to change their business model, from Investor pays to Underwriter pays — a business structure known as Payola. This change effectively allowed banks to purchase their AAA ratings, and was ignored by the SEC and other regulators.

  • 2000, you passed the Commodities Futures Modernization Act. It allowed the shadow banking industry to develop without any oversight by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the SEC, or the state insurance regulators. This led to rampant creation of credit-default swaps, CDOs, and other financial weapons of mass destruction — and the demise of AIG.

  • 2001-04, the Fed, under Alan Greenspan, irresponsibly dropped fund rates to 1%. This set off an inflationary spiral in housing, commodities, and in most assets priced in dollars or credit.

  • 1999-07, the Federal Reserve failed to use its supervisory and regulatory authority over banks, mortgage underwriters and other lenders, who abandoned such standards as employment history, income, down payments, credit rating, assets, property loan-to-value ratio and debt-servicing ability.

  • 2004, the SEC waived its leverage rules, allowing the 5 biggest Wall Street firms to go from 12 to 1 to 20, 30 and even 40 to 1. Ironically, this rule was called the Bear Stearns exemption.

(In case you’ve never heard of him, Ritholtz was the one that called that whole “Goldman’s gonna settle” thing months ahead of time.)

Published on under The News

While I’m listening to the new Girl Talk album, I am occasionally reminded of how superficial my appreciation is.  I also enjoy Tarantino’s movies, despite not “getting” them the way others apparently do.

I had missed this little bit of brilliance in Girl Talk’s new album, though:

“That’s Right” has Beyonce singing “Single Ladies” over the beat from M.O.P’s “Ante Up,” telling you to put a ring on it, and then the vocals cut to M.O.P, telling you to take off your rings and jewelery.

The level of attention this dude puts into his songs is ridiculous.

via Shoplifter of the World.

UPDATE: for the unsophisticated readers like myself: All Day Samples describes all the samples in the entire album.

Published on under Irreverently Irrelevant

via Talking Points Memo:

According to Glenn Thrush of Politico, [freshman Congressman Andrew Harris] created a stir at the orientation meeting by demanding to know why he had to wait a month after he was sworn in in January for his government-subsidized health care to kick in. After responding in a huff, he even asked if there was some way he could buy into the government care in advance, seemingly thinking there might be a government program similar to the so-called ‘public option’ championed by progressive Democrats in 2009.

This would be amusing if he hadn’t campaigned so vigorously against socialized healthcare. Now, it’s just embarrassing.

Published on under Irreverently Irrelevant

From the “and the bug was probably originally named after the Greek god of good intentions” file:

On Monday, we voiced our concerns about the security implications of Facebook’s newly announced messaging service. Today, those concerns take new shape as a Facebook bug has erroneously deactivated a number of accounts on the social networking site.

According to Read Write Web, Facebook has confirmed that a bug that went live today was designed to find and disable accounts that seem fake. The social networking site is apparently working to fix the issue and to get those accounts up and running.

via Mashable.

Published on under The News

In Chicago, a woman was arrested last week for trying to hit a police officer with a “rigid feminine pleasure device.” Apparently, Carolee Bildsten was found passed out on the side of the road after walking out on her tab at a local watering hole. When officers confronted Bildsten, she led them to her house and offered to pay her tab. The police report is everything I had hoped it would be, and more:

“She walked into her bedroom. She said her money was in her dresser drawer and she opened it and reached inside and removed a “clear, rigid feminine pleasure device” and held it over her head and approached the officer in a threatening manner. The officer knocked the device out of the way prior to being struck and placed the woman under arrest. She was then escorted out of the residence, placed in the squad car and transported to the Gurnee Police Department.”

In Illinois, this qualifies as a misdemeanor “aggravated assault” — in New York, this would have been much more serious. I can’t resist pointing out that in New York, things actually meant to be used as clubs end up being used… internally. Eek. Threatening people with sex toys is never a good idea. (But when it makes The News, it’s hilarious.)

Assault, Generally

In New York, assault is the crime of intentionally causing injury to another person. ((There are also ways to do it recklessly or negligently, but we’re going to assume that Bildsten picked up her … device purposefully.)) You’ll go from Third Degree Assault to Second Degree if you either:

  1. Intend to cause serious injury to someone, and cause serious injury.
  2. Intend to cause injury to someone, and cause it by using a dangerous instrument or deadly weapon.
  3. Commit assault on a police officer.

Second degree assault is a felony punishable by up to four years in jail, while the third degree variety is a misdemeanor, which by definition is punishable by up to a year in jail. The MSNBC article notes that this lady was charged with misdemeanor assault: in New York, if you hit a police officer, that’s a felony.

Just like you can be bumped up from Third to Second Degree Assault for hitting a police officer, you can be bumped up from Second to First Degree Assault if you hit someone with a dangerous instrument (and cause a serious injury, but we’ll get to that).

“Dangerous”

So this begs the question: can a “rigid feminine pleasure device” be a “dangerous instrument?” Depending on which side of the moral majority you fall on, you might be tempted to make the argument that … devices are dangerous, but the New York Penal Code has its own definition. I would argue that rigid feminine pleasure devices don’t kill people, guns kill people.

“Dangerous instrument” means any instrument, article or substance […] which, under the circumstances in which it is used, attempted to be used or threatened to be used, is readily capable of causing death or other serious physical injury.

This, in turn, begs the question whether a … _device _is readily capable of causing a serious physical injury. I mean, I’ve played GTA: San Andreas; I know what those things can do. Further, I recall my mother warning me that I’d lose an eye if I ran around with something as innocuous as a pencil in my hand. Frankly, I wouldn’t want to get cold-cocked by one of those things. But again, the New York Penal Code has its own definition:

“Serious physical injury” means physical injury which creates a substantial risk of death, or which causes death or serious and protracted disfigurement, protracted impairment of health or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ.

In one of my favorite cases in law school, a person’s teeth were declared not a dangerous instrument, because a part of the body cannot be a dangerous instrument. You could try to argue that a … device is little more than a plastic prosthetic body part, and so it couldn’t be a dangerous instrument. But that logic would hold up better if the Owusu case above had been based on Owusu’s dentures or something.

On the contrary, the victim in People v. McBride was struck by an unnamed blunt object, which was ruled to be a dangerous object for its capacity to knock a person unconscious and cause bleeding. Depending on just how ‘rigid’ this “rigid feminine pleasure device” is, it could be a dangerous instrument.

Wrapping It Up

Ms. Bildsten got off pretty easy with a misdemeanor assault charge; had she injured a police officer in New York, that’s at least Second Degree Assault, which is a Class D Felony: the kind punishable by up to four years in prison. Worse, if her … device were deemed a dangerous instrument that caused a serious injury, she could be charged with First Degree Assault, which is a Class B Felony, punishable by up to ten years in prison.

And that’s no laughing matter. Yes it is.

Published on under The News