The adventure of links

Sorry I haven’t posted much lately. I blame the ennui. Other people have posted some stuff, though.

Matt Selman: The United States of America vs. Wesley Snipes:

DEFENSE ATTORNEY: The defense would like to call to the stand… Blade.

PROSECUTOR: Objection. Blade is not a real person, but rather Mr. Snipes in sunglasses and fake vampire teeth.

JUDGE: Overruled. I’ll allow it.

Digby: They Will Not Stop

I wish I knew how either Clinton or Obama planned to deal with this, but I confess I haven’t the vaguest idea.

Matt Yglesias: Fear Factor

The real world doesn’t work this way. If Saddam Hussein wasn’t frightened of George W. Bush and the United States of America in 2002, then he was making a big mistake. He had good reason to fear Bush, just as Iranians would have good reason to fear John McCain. The trouble is that international relations isn’t zero sum. Even America’s relationship with someone as odious as Saddam wasn’t zero sum. We were able to take action that was incredibly harmful to Saddam personally, and to the cause of his followers in Iraq, but it was also incredibly harmful to the United States.

And more Yglesias.

Chris Clarke: Killing Whales for Empire

The issue is profound and usually mortal injuries that whales and dolphins, and likely other types of marine life, suffer, directly or indirectly, from exposure to intense bursts of artificial sound such as active sonar pings. Mass strandings of cetaceans have been documented after sonar tests in the Bahamas, the Mediterranean, and elsewhere. On her blog Cocktail Party Physics, Jennifer Ouellette has posted one of the best summaries of the issue I’ve seen, discussing the political and scientific angles.

The midlevel active sonar pings being discussed range around 230dB. Water conducts sound much more readily than does air, and 300 nautical miles away from the test zone, the ping may only have attenuated to about 140dB, about like standing next to a military jet taking off. That’s also the level the Navy has set, after study, as the loudest underwater sound to which one of its divers can be safely exposed. Cetaceans, with senses of hearing unimaginably more sensitive than humans’ — humpbacks have been observed carrying on conversations across distances of hundreds of miles — get a whole lot louder sounds than that “safe level” if they venture within 300 miles of a test.

Jill at Feministe: Framing

Dear fellow progressives,

Please, please stop using the term “identity politics” as a negative. “Identity politics” is a term adopted by conservatives (and moderate-to-right-leaning lefties) in an effort to insult the political action of women, people of color, the LGBT community, and other traditionally marginalized groups. It assumes that advocating for gender, racial or sexual orientation equality is about promoting particular “identities” as opposed to doing what white men have always done — engaging in the political system, often in a self-interested way. If you’re going to use the term “identity politics,” go for it — but own it as a good thing. We are all influenced by our identities; but since white, straight, Christian male is the default, it’s only commented on when the rest of us voice our opinions.

Stephen Fry: Why I love smart toothbrushes and loathe internet plug-ins

The problem is that Nokia claims ownership of some elements of Ogg, which is essentially the file format for the streaming and delivery part of the codec. This was news to me: I thought Ogg was as Open Source as Vorbis. Anyway, Apple doesn’t like the idea of its QuickTime not being the baseline video codec and, of course, iPods don’t read Ogg Vorbis audio. So it seems it’s going to be the same old mad world of plug-ins and incompatibilities for the near future – unless, that is, you all subscribe to the Working Hypertext Application Technology Working Group mailing list ( and exert pressure. Despite the high ideals of W3C, it is often closer to Swift’s Isle Of Laputa than anything sane – indeed, an angry developer recently compared it to Orwell’s Minitrue. Oh dear. All things that are human are also frail and foolish. Never mind. I am sure thousands of individual voices can be as influential as two big corporations.

On a happier note, I have added to my collection of unnecessary but pleasing technological doo-dads. I have not spent any time in the bathroom with you yet, so I am very happy to report that Oral-B has come up with a mad new electric toothbrush. It is so over-engineered as almost to defy description. A base station, where sits and charges the toothbrush itself, transmits by radio to a receiving element. The receiver substation is a plastic cartouche complete with obligatory LCD screen called a SmartGuide (phrases compressed with UpperCaseLetters such as this are DeRigueur for today’s sad MarketingPerson), which gives a reading of how long you’ve brushed, and how long you’ve got to go in each of the quadrants of the mouth, according to “professional” brushing standards recommended by dentists. It also tells you the time and rewards you with a smiley face when you’re done. Sigh. I think I’m in love.

On that last one, I’m still unable adequately to express my joy about Stephen Fry’s blog. It’s like, he couldn’t just be erudite and British, he also had to be erudite and British about gadgets and web standards, like he’s Joel Johnson’s Watcher or something. It is to swoon.