Just Curious

Please state the answer in the form of a question... Just Curious is the occassional blog of Andrew Nelson. In an attempt to balance the polemical tone of most of the blogosphere, all entries hope to pose at least one useful question. Many entries simply advance useful memes. Personal entries may abandon the interrogative conceit.

Friday, June 30, 2006

why aren't more people saying this? (subtext: isn't this how most people feel about anti-terrorism measures?)

...probably because it's reasonable.

The always fair-minded Richard Clarke points out in this Times op-ed that neither side in the controversy of the Bush administration's secret bank-monitoring program really has much to say. Violation of our privacy? Financial transactions have long been monitored for criminal activity. Press accounts tipping off terrorists? What villain worth his twirly mustache wouldn't already assume that his calls, bank accounts, etc. are being monitored?

There's no question that after 9/11, we needed to rethink certain limitations on law enforcement, particularly regarding the sort of gathering and sharing of data that might have prevented the attacks. This is a discussion we still need to have. Most people rightly fear government "fishing expeditions" for data. Yet we all recognize the utility of searchable databases (if you use Google) and we voluntarily submit information to such databases all the time (again, if you use Google). If Congress held hearings on this sort of thing rather than symbolic nonsense, we might come up with some reasonable standards that protect useful programs (like this banks one) and bar dangerous ones (like wire-tapping).

But the real problem with the Bush administration is that it sees no need to consult us. It does not see the legal need, as its regular dismissal of Congress shows. But it also does not see the cultural need to have an open discussion of such issues in the press. Conservatives, by temperament and by political necessity, should be well-suited to lead such a discussion of how to balance privacy and national security. The ambivalent poll data surrounding programs like wire-tapping (I believe a fair statement of the average opinion would be, "It might be okay if it really does catch terrorists and doesn't hurt innocent people.") shows that this is a discussion the country wants to have. But the current GOP, sorry excuses as leaders and as conservatives, wouldn't even know how to start.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

overheard in a Starbucks

"I know you're not Jewish. I can smell them."

:: look of dismay ::

Monday, June 26, 2006

typo/clicko update

Donna B., in comments below, has nominated "clicko" as a term for the kind of error described in this post. Google reveals that the word is already being used in similar senses here for mouse-based errors in general and here in reference to online games. Even though not all errors of the type described in earlier post are the result of mouse error, it's hard to imagine them happening without a mind conditioned by mice ("a mind conditioned by mice" -- that should scare all behavioral psychologists present -- or parents who have kids who watch the Disney channel).

Proposed definition:

clicko - n. - 1. any sort of computer error that results from human error in the use of a mouse. 2. specifically, this sort of error in an online game, sometimes with the implication that the player should be allowed a "do-over." 3. mistakes introduced into a document as a result of human error in the use of word-processing functions such as copy-paste, spell-checking, etc.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

is it really so simple in Darfur?

Of course not; this is Africa.

I've often felt hypocritical for not supporting our campus Darfur Action group, which aims to somehow end the genocide. But whenever I've talked to someone representing them, their plans for action seem either unrealistic or unhelpful. This article from this morning's Times worsens my suspicions of the Save Darfur movement. While I don't know if I buy the author's argument that the movement has actually made things worse, it makes me question whether groups pushing for humanitarian intervention should stick with the narrative of genocide. It seems to suggest inappropriate causes and solutions to situations like Sudan's... perhaps more later...