Politics & Law

Sign of Machine Intelligence?

by Michael Alderete on 8/28/2007

A friend sent me the following screen capture from Google News:

Google knows that President Bush thinks poor kids without health insurance is funny

I take this as another sign that the first true machine intelligence will emerge in the Googleplex.

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I present without comment two articles. One comes complete with a video that should chill your bones.

  1. “I am committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president.” — Walden O’Dell, CEO of Diebold promises to deliver Ohio to George Bush in the 2004 election
  2. How To Steal an Election With Diebold Voting Machines — Security researchers demonstrate just how easy it is to rig an election run on Diebold machines. Like those rushed into use in Ohio in 2004.

Thinking “no, it couldn’t possibly have happened, they’re not criminals, just stupid.” Yeah. Right.

Hmmm, I guess this wasn’t entirely without comment. ;-)

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Can I kiss Eliot Spitzer?

by Michael Alderete on 5/14/2003

Can I vote for him for President?

Seriously, this is clearly an ambitious man with his finger squarely on the pulse of what’s making people feel crazy. He takes the pulse, he prosecutes cases against the bad buys. It’s great. I wish I had a politician so responsive in California. I predict that state attorney general is not the highest office he will ever hold.

Now, can I sign up to be on the jury?

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Phoenix from the ashes

by Michael Alderete on 1/19/2003

If you’re familiar with the ongoing debate over copyrights, you probably know that the Supreme Court ruled, in Eldred vs. Ashcroft, that Congress could extend copyrights essentially indefinitely. This is a case that a lot of people wanted to win.

The lawyer who lead the case, Lawrence Lessig, appears to be taking the defeat and turning it towards victory, with a proposal that would move the great majority of material affected into the public domain, while still allowing copyright holders who are actively using their rights to publish commercially valuable works to keep those copyrights:

Here is something you can do right now. In this NYT op-ed, I describe a proposal that would move more work into the public domain than a total victory in the Supreme Court would have. The basic idea is this: 50 years after a work has been “published,” a copyright owner would be required to pay a copyright tax. That tax should be extremely low—this proposal says $50, but it could be $1. If the copyright holder does not pay the tax for 3 years, then the work is forfeit to the public domain. If the copyright holder does pay the tax, then its contacting agent would be made a matter of public record. Very quickly we would have a cheap, searchable record, of what work is controlled and what work is free.

If Justice Breyer is right that only 2% of the work from the initial period affected by the Sonny Bono Act continues to have any commercial value at all, then this proposal would mean that all but 2% will move into the public domain within three years. And as the proposal applies to all work that is more than 50 years old, it would apply to a much larger range of work than would have been affected had we prevailed in the Supreme Court. This could give us (almost) everything we wanted—98% of the public domain that our framers intended. Not bad for government work.

It’s a great proposal, and one that deserves broad support, even from the giant media companies that fought so hard to extend their copyrights. There’s a FAQ about the proposal. I’m exceptionally proud to have suggested question #3 to Prof. Lessig. (I do not know if I was the only one with that suggestion, but it’s exciting to have made a contribution, no matter how small.)

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Habeas corpus

by Michael Alderete on 5/1/2002

Why suspend the habeas corpus in insurrections and rebellions? Examine the history of England. See how few of the cases of the suspension of the habeas corpus law have been worthy of that suspension. They have been either real treasons, wherein the parties might as well have been charged at once, or sham plots, where it was shameful they should ever have been suspected. Yet for the few cases wherein the suspension of the habeas corpus has done real good, that operation is now become habitual and the minds of the nation almost prepared to live under its constant suspension.

— Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1788

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Senator Lott in favor of Vietnam War

by Michael Alderete on 3/3/2002

Last week Senator Trent Lott sharply criticized Senator Tom Daschle for asking some uncomfortable questions and wanting answers about the so-called war on terrorism:

In his initial reaction Thursday to Daschle’s questioning of Bush’s strategy, Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., had said, “How dare Senator Daschle criticize President Bush while we are fighting our war on terrorism, especially when we have troops in the field? He should not be trying to divide our country while we are united.”

I guess Senator Lott would have been blindly in favor of the Vietnam War, too, and assert that asking questions about it would have been un-American.

I disagree, strongly, with people who say we need to unite unquestioningly behind the current administration’s policies. There’s a lot to question, and a lot that’s being kept secret about the administration’s activities (and not just about the war).

It’s pretty clear our current president likes secrecy and doesn’t like to have to answer uncomfortable questions (probably because he has to think to do so, and he’s not working with a high-horsepower engine).

I think that’s un-American.

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