The revolutions are being blogged

From Iraq, the start of a new political party, and the jitters that come from living under totalitarianism. From Ukraine, people continue to rally and demonstrate against the hijacking of their democracy:

The past four days have taught me something valuable: when I’m watching the situation unfold on television, I grow tense, fearful that it’s not going to end well. But when I return to the crowd, I feel elated, thanks to people like Tanya, tens of thousands of them, and to everyone else who’s out there, people of all ages, hundreds of thousands of them, fearless.

(I don’t want to distract from either of the beautiful posts above. Go read them. But television has a need to compress stories, to find compelling visuals. Reading blogs written by the noew-free victims of totalitarian states gives an entirely different picture.)

Bush & Putin

Will President George W. Bush now stand up to Russia’s
blatant imperial overreach in Ukraine? Will Mr. Bush
protect America’s interest in the spread of democracy
and free markets?

While the President has touted good relations with his
Russian counterpart, it is clear that Vladimir Putin
financed and actively campaigned on behalf of an
authoritarian candidate whose supporters stole the
election. Rampant voting violations were confirmed by
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard
Lugar, whom Mr. Bush sent as his personal emissary to
monitor the Ukrainian election. Now there are reports
that Russia is sending troops to Ukraine to protect
its ill-gotten electoral conquest…

(writes either Maidan, a Ukranian newspaper, or they’re publishing a letter from Michael Balahutrak of Houston, TX. The relation is unclear.)

Regardless, Bush may have an important choice to make between realpolitk and principle, and his like for Putin. On principle, we should support free elections, even if we don’t like the resulting leader. America does better in the world, and gets less backlash when we follow principle. On realpolitik, Putin supported his client in Iraq, Mr. Hussien, against Mr. Bush, and deserves some payback for that. So the only reason I can see that the President might do the wrong thing on the Ukraine is that he like Putin personally. Lets hope that the intersection of political reality, the President’s emissary, and the right thing are enough to bring a condemnation of this fraud from the bully pulpit.

Evidence based…cooking

The curiosity that fueled the experiments in Mr. McGee’s first book is undiminished after 20 years, and his approach to cooking is still skeptical. He tries to take as little as possible for granted, asking at each step: Why am I doing this? Is there a better way? All this questioning has yielded conclusions, some more useful than others, and many of them heretical in culinary circles.

The second edition of “On Food and Cooking” was published yesterday. The above is from the New York Times article.

The democracy meme

“I will not accept the results of the presidential election until it is proved to me and the Ukrainian people that they are legitimate and credible in accordance with conditions set down by the constitution,” [Yanukovych] said in a statement.

“I need no fictitious victory, a result which could lead to violence and victims. No position of authority, no matter how important, is worth a single human life.”

What’s happening in the Ukraine is truly astounding. People who grew up living under a Communist dictatorship are now out in the streets, demanding an honest vote count.

(Via the BBC.) Update: Dig Postmodern Clog, blogging from the front.

A market for journal articles, again

George Akerlof shared the 2001 Nobel prize in economics for his paper on “Lemon markets.” While reading Akerlof’s Nobel Prize essay, I was struck by the comment:

I submitted “Lemons” there, which was again rejected on the grounds that the The Review did not publish papers on topics of such triviality.

It seems to me that a fair number of interesting papers go through this process. Ideally, they are strengthened by the reviews, but as Akerlof makes clear, no one bothered to provide a useful review. Worse, it seems that journals go largely unread. Papers are disseminated when someone takes notice and promotes them (this starts with the author, telling his friends that he just got something published.)

In Zetland’s model, it would be reasonable to create a journal dedicated to interesting new ideas that are having trouble finding a place for publication. The goal would be to find new ideas, well presented. The journal would speculate on papers. It could drive readership on a promise to be interesting. I’m reserving the name “Curiouser and Curiouser” for my journal.

A lemons market for … anti-spyware

Anti-spyware software has many of the issues that other privacy software has had.* It’s hard to understand the technical means by which privacy is invaded. It’s hard to see that you have (some) spyware. And it’s hard to evaluate what anti-spyware software works, and what doesn’t.

Well, it was.


Eric Howes has started testing anti-spyware, and finds that it all sucks:

No single anti-spyware scanner removes everything. (1) Even the best-performing anti-spyware scanner in these tests missed fully one quarter of the “critical” files and Registry entries.

I hope that broad-circulation home PC magazines pick up his work, and send him loads of money to test more. Given that signaling is hard in this market, we need a consumer reports.

* I originally analyzed this in thinking about why Zero-Knowledge’s Freedom anonymous internet service didn’t take over the world. The big difference is that much spyware is intrusive, popping up windows and taking you to porn sites, motivating you to go find anti-spyware software.

(Via Slashdot.)

NYT on TSA

These women and a good many others, both frequent and occasional travelers, say they are furious about recent changes in airport security that have increased both the number and the intensity of pat-downs at the nation’s 450 commercial airports. And they are not keeping quiet.

Most of the women interviewed said they did not make formal complaints, most saying that they assumed it would be futile to do so. Ms. Maurer said she and some other women she had spoken to are wary of complaining in writing, both because of the presumed futility and from fear of being singled out when they travel in the future.

When does the intrusiveness end? The TSA has claimed unending power to change the law, to intrude on our lives as it sees fit, in the name of security. One thing I can say is that complaining in writing has not impacted the frequency, nor the competence, of the searches that I’m subjected to. Complaining at the site sure does bring out the brownshirts, though.

(From “Many Women Say Airport Pat-Downs are a humiliation”,” in the New York Times.)