Blog Ipsa Loquitur

Published on under The News

Wikileaks posted more documents yesterday, this time, over 250,000 messages sent to and from American embassies. Last time, the big story was that the American government knew it had killed thousands of Iraqi civilians. This time, Daniel Drezner says that the big story is that there’s no big story:

There are no Big Lies. Indeed, Blake Hounshell’s original tweet holds: “the U.S. is remarkably consistent in what it says publicly and privately.” Assange – and his source for all of this, Bradley Manning – seem to think that these documents will expose American perfidy. Based on the initial round of reactions, they’re in for a world of disappointment.

Oh, sure, there are small lies and lies of omission – Bob Gates probably didn’t mention to Dmitri Medvedev or Vladimir Putin that “Russian democracy has disappeared.” Still, I’m not entirely sure how either world politics or American interests would be improved if Gates had been that blunt in Moscow.

If this kind of official hypocrisy is really the good stuff, then there is no really good stuff. U.S. officials don’t always perfectly advocate for human rights? Not even the most naive human rights activist would believe otherwise. American diplomats are advancing U.S. commercial interests? American officials have been doing that since the beginning of the Republic. American diplomats help out their friends? Yeah, that’s called being human. I’m willing to be convinced otherwise, but it strikes me that these leaks show other governments engaged in far more hypocritical behavior.

via Daniel W. Drezner at Foreign Policy.

Published on under Irreverently Irrelevant

This is a new feature of Barely Legally, one that involves much less writing, and many more snarky one-liners. If this lawyer thing doesn’t work out, I’ll just be a writer for that fortune-cookie company down the block.

On to the links!

  • Google Street View shows naked man climbing out of the trunk of a car. This happened in Germany, because hey, why not? [Technically Incorrect]
  • Microsoft’s new version of Internet Explorer is really, really good at this one benchmark. Are they cheating, or just using the programmer’s version of a warp whistle? [T3ch H3lp]
  • Man, this “predictive text” stuff on phones these days is getting really smart. It must have found all your Google searches for divorce attorneys. [DamnYouAutocorrect]
  • Area 51 is a “place” you can review on Google Maps. The internet ensues. [Google Maps]
  • Microsoft is not pleased to find out that you nerds want to hack the Kinect. They promise to “work closely with law enforcement” to halt tampering. [CNET News]
  • Microsoft is actually very excited to see what you nerds have done with your Kinect hacking. [Mashable]
  • Microsoft totally left the Kinect open by design, guys. They were, like, sooo joking with that whole “law enforcement” bit before. You kids have fun, now. [Ars Technica]
  • Computer Engineer Barbie is now on sale. Your move, Malibu Stacy. [Nerd Approved]

Published on under The News

Ron Coleman on COICA: Big IP supersizes it.

The fact is, these proposals are reactions to real problems. But in typical piggy fashion, Big IP wants to use a sledgehammer where perhaps some fine carpentry would do.

Now learning how to build things right — even radically different things, but things that will stand up — takes hard work, diligence and practice, and not just everyone can be a cabinet maker. The IP enforcement community, however, is flummoxed. They don’t want to spend the money on craftsmanship; they want the big, wide problem of IP enforcement to be amenable to solution by journeymen. This reaction is understandable, considering how expensive the work of master can be — and often, how little there can be to show for it.

Even-handed and incendiary. The content-producers seem to rumble around like dinosaurs dimly aware that a meteor has hit, and furiously engaged in an attempt to grow fur. When reminded that they can’t grow fur, they seem just as keen to stomp out the mammals as anything else.

Published on under The News

I’m catching up on the news I missed during the week, and there are a couple more articles about cell phone radiation in the glut of news and “news” that has gathered in my Google Reader account.

The excellent ShortFormBlog presents a video from MC Paul Barman, a nerdy rapper advising folks that cell phones may in fact give them cancer. Barman advises that to avoid (what he assumes to be) the harmful effects of radio-frequency radiation, people use bluetooth headsets with their phones. I’ll skip the cheap joke about a radio-free bluetooth headset, and acknowledge that bluetooth headsets use much, much smaller transmitters than the phone does.

However, in order to use the bluetooth headset, you need to have a cell phone. And you need it near enough to your precious meatspace body that your phone can communicate with your bluetooth headset. If you’re not locked inside a Farraday Cage, all you’ve done is increased the total amount of radiation you’re exposed to. (And if you are locked inside a Farraday Cage, your headset is little more than a blinky blue paperweight.)

The New York Times also has a wishy-washy article, doing what most of the press seems to do whenever they have to contemplate whether cell phones are dangerous: posing more questions than answering any, and pointing out that some things may be true and also may not be true. Specifically:

  • Holding a cell phone may be hazardous.
  • So might having a cell phone in your pocket.
  • Why would cell phone companies warn you not to hold their products up against your head if it weren’t dangerous?
  • Not everyone agrees that cell phones are perfectly safe.
  • Did you know children are more vulnerable to radiation than adults?  Just saying.
  • Someone who wrote a book about how she thinks cell phones are dangerous thinks cell phones are dangerous.

Um, gee. Thanks for that hard-hitting journalism, guys. Thank you for pointing out that some people have pointed out things that may or may not be true. And also that some people have some questions about things. This is like half a step up from reading tweets on CNN.

The high point of the article is the mention that one scientific study in the 1980s showed that radio waves can damage brain DNA in rats. Not for the study itself, but because the next (and only other) study mentioned in the article purports to show that radio waves from cell phones actually decrease the risk of brain tumors.

The Times in brief: ‘Science shows cell phones will give you cancer, except for when it shows that they will cure your cancer. But hey, what do I know? I’m just another example of a media more concerned with narrating a controversy than informing anyone.’

For the record, the FCC has a web site devoted to frequently asked questions about radio waves and their possible health effects. It mentions the difference between ionizing radiation (the kind the TSA uses to measure your penis) and non-ionizing/thermal radiation (the kind your cell phone uses to text photos of your penis). Ionizing radiation is bad; it will make your DNA all funky. Thermal radiation will reheat your leftovers; that’s why your chicken vindaloo is hot, and not glowing green when it comes out of your microwave.