Archive for September 1, 2011

More Books from War Criminals

September 1, 2011 Leave a comment

No, I’m not going to write about that guy. I’m not going to provide a link to his book that came out this week, or an image of it at the top of the post. I don’t promote the works of war criminals. But how about a link to this post two days ago by Dahlia Lithwick at Slate?

I want to quote her, but I don’t want to mention the author of the new book by name. Let’s call him Dr. Evil. I’ll replace appearances of his real name with that.

It’s currently fashionable to believe that political and ideological battles are “real,” and it is the law that is empty symbolism. But Dr. Evil stands as an illustration of the real-life, practical value of the law. Torture really did become legal after 9/11, and even after it was repudiated—again and again—it will always be legal with regard to Dr. Evil and the others who perpetrated it without consequence. The law wasn’t a hollow symbol after 9/11. It was the only fixed system we had. We can go on pretending that torture is no longer permissible in this country or under international law, but until there are legal consequences for those who order or engage in torture, we will only be pretending. Dr. Evil is the beneficiary of that artifice.


Most of agree that we should not be a nation of torturers, and that torture has tarnished the reputation of the United States as a beacon of justice. Most of us do not want warrantless surveillance, secret prisons, or war against every dictator who looks at us funny. We may be bloodthirsty, but we aren’t morons. On his most combative and truly lawless positions, Dr. Evil still stands largely alone.

The tragedy is that it doesn’t matter if we are all Dr. Evils now. That there is even one Dr. Evil is enough. He understands and benefits from the fact that the law is still all on his side; that there is only heated rhetoric on ours. As John Adams famously put it, the United States was intended to be a government of laws, not of men. Dr. Evil is living proof that if we are not brave enough to enforce our laws, we will forever be at the mercy of a handful of men.

By the way, I’m not letting Obama off the hook on this. His decision to look forward, not backward is the reason the law is still on Dr. Evil’s side. It didn’t have to be this way.

Amy Davidson managed to slip in a good line about Dr. Evil in a post at the New Yorker blog, also two days ago. The subject was the imminent end of the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. I’ll pick it up in mid paragraph:

These soldiers have already given quite enough, and still are — sixty-six servicemembers died in Afghanistan in August, the highest toll for any month yet. And, again, they gave up part of themselves by lying: an Air Force Captain said, “It’s a sanity issue…How many times can you lie before you go completely nuts?” (This would be a good week to ask that of Doctor Evil.)

Categories: Books, Politics, Torture


September 1, 2011 Leave a comment

The all-in-one solution?

I was one of the last people on the block to get a laptop. Among the last, anyway, within the circles I travel in. And I was late to PDAs. I got a Palm in July 2001. I could even tell you the date, since it marks the start of my electronic calendar. I ate at Wild Ginger that night. It was the first event I recorded besides the purchase of the Palm itself. I already had a cell phone. And it was Christmas 2001 that we got our first digital camera. That’s also easy to remember, because the first digital photos we have were taken at my sister-in-law’s place on New Year’s Day 2002. Most notably, there is a great photo of Joel with his grandfather (my father-in-law), the last photo of them together before Stew died that March.

Every time I traveled, I would have five pieces of electronics to bring with me. The phone, the Palm, the camera, the laptop. Let’s see. What am I forgetting? Oh, the iPod, though I didn’t get one for another few years. It was the original iPod shuffle. So there I was, carrying five things onto the plane whenever we flew somewhere. How long would I have to wait for that glorious moment of convergence, when I could do everything on one device?

You know what happened. PDA and phone? Sure, combining them happened quickly, with the further convenience that you didn’t have to maintain separate contacts lists on them. Even better, in due course, you could sync the contacts between PDA/phone and computer, as well as the calendar. I waited until July 2006 to join that world, with my Palm Treo. But I still needed a separate iPod and laptop, and a camera too, since the Treo camera wasn’t so good.

The iPhone came next, though I didn’t get one until my Treo contract with Sprint expired. Now I had the phone, PDA, and iPod functions all in one. And a camera, but still a lousy one. On the other hand, the email and web browsing weren’t bad, so the laptop wasn’t essential.

Then a newer iPhone came, with better camera and even a video camera. And faster web browsing. My five objects had converged. Except by now a sixth object had shown up on the scene and become part of our lives: the Kindle. Well, there was Kindle convergence too, thanks to the iPhone’s Kindle app. I could have all six functions — phone, PDA, iPod, camera, internet-connected computer, e-reader — on one. Convergence at last.

So one might think. But as I start to lay out my electronics in order to decide what to bring with me on our upcoming vacation, I’m having a heck of a time letting go of anything. Here’s my thinking:

1. iPhone. Gotta have it. It’s my phone after all.

2. Kindle. Gotta have it. I can’t read books outdoors in bright light on an iPhone or iPad. And I sure hope to be sitting outdoors in bright light. No choice. The Kindle is coming with me.

3. Laptop. Gotta have it. When I’m away awhile, email accumulates. I don’t want to be responding on the iPhone. Or the iPad. And what if I want to blog? I need the full keyboard. It’s coming.

4. iPad. Gotta have it. Yes, I can’t read the screen in that bright outdoor light. But it’s great for lying in bed and checking email, reading through my RSS feeds, browsing the web. Holding the laptop up whie lying down is a pain compared to the iPad. Plus, OmniFocus on the iPad is so much better than on the iPhone or laptop. I better take it.

5. Digital SLR. Gotta have it. You don’t really expect me to take photos with the iPhone or iPad do you? I bought a new prime (fixed focal length) lens for it earlier in the summer that is so much lighter than my behemoth wide-angle zoom lens or my long-range zoom. And the new lens is fast. I don’t even need to bring the flash, since the lens will work in fairly dim light. I figured I would have no reason to leave the camera at home anymore. One small lens. No lens changing. No flash to attach. This is my chance to try it out.

Where have I gone wrong?

Categories: Computing