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Current Topic: Politics and Law

The State of the Union Address Drinking Game 2008
Topic: Politics and Law 8:02 pm EST, Jan 28, 2008

The general rules of this game are no different from any other drinking game. A drink is either a shot or a good gulp from a beer (or cider). Different events call for different numbers of drinks and all you do is watch the speech and play along. If all goes well, you'll be unconscious by the time they show the other party's response.

It's that time again folks!

Remember to lay on your side so you don't choke on your vomit...


[20:27] In addition to whatever State of The Union drinking game you may be playing.. I have and addition.
[20:27] You must have one pre-prepared shot.
[20:28] Something you either really like, or that can hurt you badly. Your choice there.
[20:28] You drink it upon hearing the word "cybersecurity".
[20:28] Or, for that matter, anything cyber- that has to do with infosec.

Update^2: So much for that...

The State of the Union Address Drinking Game 2008

The Legacy of George W Bush's Presidency
Topic: Politics and Law 3:08 pm EST, Jan 24, 2008

Via the Democratic Caucus...

Click through for a large version:

The Legacy of George W Bush's Presidency

Mathematician proposes another way of divvying up the US House : Nature News
Topic: Politics and Law 9:41 pm EST, Jan 10, 2008

The Hamilton method, used from 1850 until 1900, is the simplest. In this method, an 'ideal' district size is determined by dividing the US population by 435 (the number of seats). The state populations are then divided by this ideal size to find their deserved fraction of seats. In 2000, for example, California was entitled to a quota of 52.44 seats. The states are then ordered by the size of their fractional remainders. Those with the biggest remainder are the first to be rounded up and given an extra representative. Remaining seats are distributed, down the list, until all 435 seats are meted out.

The other methods round up or down without regard to rank. But this can easily result in a total of more or less than 435 seats. So then the 'ideal' district size is adjusted and the numbers re-crunched until the right number of seats comes out of the mix.

These methods — Jefferson, Webster and the current one, Huntington-Hill, which has been in effect since the 1940 census — use different rounding points. For example, the Huntington-Hill method rounds up or down from the geometric mean of the nearest integers (so if California deserves 52.44 seats it is rounded down, as the geometric mean of 52 and 53 is 52.4976). Since the geometric mean is proportionally larger for higher numbers, the current method has an inherent bias towards giving small states a boost up — something Edelman and others have criticized.

Edelman's method is instead designed to minimize the difference between the most over-represented state and the most under-represented one, in terms of the difference between the actual number of people per representative and the ideal number. This is done through an iterative process that evaluates 385 scenarios to find this minimum total deviation. He argues that this comes closest to matching the ideal of “one person, one vote”.

Using his method for populations in 2000, Montana, Delaware, South Dakota, Utah and Mississippi would each gain one seat; Texas, New York, Florida, Ohio and North Carolina would lose one; and California would lose three. “That could very well freak people out,” says Edelman.

Mathematician proposes another way of divvying up the US House : Nature News

Supreme Court Won’t Hear Torture Appeal - New York Times
Topic: Politics and Law 2:33 pm EDT, Oct  9, 2007

A German citizen who said he was kidnapped by the Central Intelligence Agency and tortured in a prison in Afghanistan lost his last chance to seek redress in court today when the Supreme Court declined to consider his case.

The justices’ refusal to take the case of Khaled el-Masri let stand a March 2 ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, Va. That court upheld a 2006 decision by a federal district judge, who dismissed Mr. Masri’s lawsuit on the grounds that trying the case could expose state secrets.

The Supreme Court’s refusal, without comment, to take the case was not surprising, given that a three-judge panel for the Fourth Circuit was unanimous. Nevertheless, today’s announcement prompted immediate expressions of dismay, and it could exacerbate tensions between the United States and Germany.

The Fourth Circuit acknowledged the seriousness of the issues when it dismissed Mr. Masri’s suit. “We recognize the gravity of our conclusions that el-Masri must be denied a judicial forum for his complaint,” Judge Robert B. King wrote in March. “The inquiry is a difficult one, for it pits the judiciary’s search for truth against the executive’s duty to maintain the nation’s security.”

After 23 days, he said, he was turned over to C.I.A. operatives, who flew him to a secret C.I.A. prison in Kabul. There, Mr. Masri said, he was kept in a small, filthy cell and was shackled, drugged and beaten while being interrogated about his supposed ties to terrorist organizations. At the end of May 2004, Mr. Masri said, he was released in a remote part of Albania without ever having been charged with a crime.

Supreme Court Won’t Hear Torture Appeal - New York Times

Man kills self in front of City Council after zoning decision -
Topic: Politics and Law 3:56 pm EDT, Oct  5, 2007

A business owner shot and killed himself during a City Council meeting Thursday night after members voted against his request to rezone his property, witnesses said.

Ronald "Bo" Ward, owner of Bo's Barber Shop, had told the council his business would go under if he couldn't get his home rezoned as commercial. After the 5-7 vote Thursday night, Ward stood and walked toward the council.

"Y'all have put me under. ... I'm out of here," he said before shooting himself in the head with a small handgun.

Unlike the Budd Dwyer incident, this one was not televised.

Man kills self in front of City Council after zoning decision -

US Department of State Blog - The Dipnote
Topic: Politics and Law 12:05 pm EDT, Oct  5, 2007

Welcome to the State Department's first-ever blog, Dipnote. As a communicator for the Department, I have the opportunity to do my fair share of talking on a daily basis. With the launch of Dipnote, we are hoping to start a dialogue with the public. More than ever, world events affect our daily lives--what we see and hear, what we do, and how we work. I hope Dipnote will provide you with a window into the work of the people responsible for our foreign policy, and will give you a chance to be active participants in a community focused on some of the great issues of our world today.

With Dipnote we are going to take you behind the scenes at the State Department and bring you closer to the personalities of the Department. We are going to try and break through some of the jargon and talk about how we operate around the world.

We invite you to participate in this community, and I am looking forward to stepping away from my podium every now and then into the blogosphere. Let the conversation begin.

PS - We're new at this. It looks like we broke our own rule and used State jargon in our blog title. "Dipnote" refers to a diplomatic note. It is one of the many ways in which governments formally communicate with each other.

The dictionary definition of a diplomatic note is: "A formal communication between an ambassador and a minister (usually the foreign minister) of this host government or another ambassador."

The faceless nameless Dept of State now has blog. In true USDoS fashion, it's color scheme is grey on black.

So what do you think we can expect from the comments? Diplomats vs. Trolls? Just trolls? People that use lots of semicolons?

US Department of State Blog - The Dipnote

Legislation, Texas Style
Topic: Politics and Law 5:56 pm EDT, Oct  1, 2007

Well, that's one way to run a legislature.

Legislation, Texas Style

Justice John Paul Stevens - Supreme Court - Law - Washington - New York Times
Topic: Politics and Law 1:05 pm EDT, Sep 24, 2007

This article about Stevens contains a few interesting tidbits about the man I had not heard before...

After graduating Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Chicago in 1941, Stevens enlisted in the Navy on Dec. 6, 1941, hours before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He later won a bronze star for his service as a cryptographer, after he helped break the code that informed American officials that Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto, the commander of the Japanese Navy and architect of the Pearl Harbor attack, was about to travel to the front. Based on the code-breaking of Stevens and others, U.S. pilots, on Roosevelt’s orders, shot down Yamamoto’s plane in April 1943.

Stevens also distinguished himself as the only justice to spend a substantial part of each Supreme Court term away from Washington. He and his wife have a condominium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and they spend two weeks a month there from November through April. (In 1979, Stevens was divorced from Elizabeth Jane Sheeren, whom he married in 1942, and married Maryan Mulholland Simon.) “I do much more work in Florida than I do here,” Stevens told me, looking contented. He sometimes reads briefs on the beach. “One of my favorite memories is the time I was sitting” on the Supreme Court bench in Washington just after returning from Florida, he recalled. “I shook the sand out of the brief!” During his early years on the court, Stevens was known as “the FedEx justice” because he would hand-write his drafts on a yellow pad, dictate them for his secretary, FedEx them to Washington so she could type them up and then FedEx back and forth with his law clerks for editing. “That was cumbersome,” he recalled. But he switched to computers about 20 years ago and, with a secure Internet connection and phone line, he has become the first telecommuting justice.

During Stevens’s first years on the court, he sometimes commuted to Florida in an unusual way: as the pilot of his own private plane. “My secret ambition was to get Gerry Ford to take a ride in my airplane,” he said. “Any plane that contains the president becomes Air Force One,” Stevens explained, so “I would be able to call the tower and say, ‘This is Air Force One!’ ”

Justice John Paul Stevens - Supreme Court - Law - Washington - New York Times

Bush Wants Universal Health Coverage
Topic: Politics and Law 1:11 pm EDT, Sep 18, 2007

President Bush would like to see some form of universal health coverage for all Americans before leaving office next year, a Cabinet official said Monday.

But, Mr. Leavitt said, the president would "like to see the larger debate begin" regarding health care - an emerging issue in the next election.

"The very best opportunity we have may well be in the next 15 months," he said.

Mr. Bush's intentions come on the heels of a universal health care plan offered Monday by Democratic presidential contender Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York.

Are they completely delusional at the White House? If universal health care is something the Bush administration truly cares about, they missed the ball. There is zero chance of them making it a reality in 15 months.

Bush Wants Universal Health Coverage

Greenspan book: GOP 'swapped principle for power' -
Topic: Politics and Law 11:46 am EDT, Sep 17, 2007

"The Republicans in Congress lost their way," Greenspan wrote. "They swapped principle for power. They ended up with neither. They deserved to lose."

"It would send a message to Congress that it did not have carte blanche on spending," Greenspan recalls telling the administration. "But the answer I received from a senior White House official was that the president didn't want to challenge House Speaker Dennis Hastert. 'He thinks he can control him better by not antagonizing him,' the official said."

"To my mind," he wrote, "Bush's collaborate-don't-confront approach was a major mistake -- it cost the nation a check-and-balance mechanism essential to fiscal discipline."

He further wrote that former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill "found himself the odd man out; much to my disappointment, economic policymaking in the Bush administration remained firmly in the hands of the White House staff."

Greenspan praised former President Clinton and his attitude toward economic policies, saying, "either Clinton shared many of my views on the way the economic system was evolving and on what should be done, or he was the cleverest chameleon I'd ever encountered."

"Clinton was often criticized for inconsistency and for a tendency to take all sides in a debate, but that was never true about his economic policy," he wrote. "A consistent, disciplined focus on long-term economic growth became a hallmark of his presidency."

Greenspan book: GOP 'swapped principle for power' -

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