Taskrabbit delivered an awesome guy to help me move heavy crap


I was not looking forward to moving two monstrously heavy pieces of furniture from my house to my sister-in-law's house. They probably weighed about 200 lbs each, but we had to get them out to make room for some new heavy furniture we bought. So I used Taskrabbit to post a notice that I needed someone with a truck to help me. Later that day, a fellow name Brett said he'd do it. I ok'd the offer on the spot.

Today Brett came over with a huge white cargo van. It was hard work but we got the job done and Brett was awesome. We had fun talking in between grunting and lifting. He's the bass player for Falling Still, and I've been listening to the band's excellent hard rocking tunes this afternoon. Check out Falling Still's "I am the Dr" below:

Thanks, Brett!

Average Congresscritter gets 1,452% raises when they turn corporate lobbyist

Republic Report has released figures documenting the fact that the average member of Congress gets a 1,452% salary hike when she or he leaves office and becomes a corporate lobbyist. They point out that politicians are allowed to negotiate these raises while they are in office, and don't have to disclose this fact when they're working on legislation that will benefit their future employers. One of the poster children for this is former Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) who fought against financial reforms to the derivatives market, then joined the board of a derivatives-trading company and was given an advisory role at Goldman Sachs.

Our research effort uncovered the partial salaries of twelve lawmakers-turned-lobbyists. Republic Report’s investigation found that lawmakers increased their salary by 1452% on average from the last year they were in office to the latest publicly available disclosure:

Former Congressman Billy Tauzin (R-LA) made $19,359,927 as a lobbyist for pharmaceutical companies between 2006 and 2010. Tauzin retired from Congress in 2005, shortly after leading the passage of President Bush’s prescription drug expansion. He was recruited to lead PhRMA, a lobbying association for Pfizer, Bayer, and other top drug companies. During the health reform debate, the former congressman helped his association block a proposal to allow Medicare to negotiate for drug prices, a major concession that extended the policies enacted in Tauzin’s original Medicare drug-purchasing scheme. Tauzin left PhRMA in late 2010. He was paid over $11 million in his last year at the trade group. Comparing Tauzin’s salary during his last year as congressman and his last year as head of PhRMA, his salary went up 7110%.

Former Congressman Cal Dooley (D-CA) has made at least $4,719,093 as a lobbyist for food manufacturers and the chemical industry from 2005 to 2009. Republic Report analyzed disclosures from the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), an industry lobby — for companies like Kellogg — where Dooley worked following his retirement from Congress. We also added in Dooley’s salary from the American Chemistry Council, where Dooley now works as the president. The Chemistry Council represents Dow Chemical, DuPont, and other chemical interests. Dooley’s salary jumped 1357% between his last year in the House and his last reported salary for the Chemistry Council in 2009.

Former Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) makes approximately $1.5 million a year as the chief lobbyist for the movie industry. Dodd, who retired from the Senate after 2010, was hired by the Motion Picture Association of America, the lobbying association that represents major studios like Warner Bros. and Universal Studios. Although the MPAA would not confirm with Republic Report Dodd’s exact salary, media accounts point to $1.5 million, a slightly higher figure than the previous MPAA head, former Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman. Dodd received about a 762% raise after moving from public office to lobbying.

ANALYSIS: When a Congressman Becomes a Lobbyist, He Gets a 1,452% Raise (on Average) (via Techdirt)

Helmetcam video of 9-year-old psyching herself up for a ski-jump

Here's a POV video of a fourth grade girl psyching herself up for her first run down an intimidating ski-jump. The tension mounts as she narrates her anxieties and checks in with her instructor for comfort, and the payoff -- a successful run and delighted cheering -- is all the better for it.

Girls first Ski Jump (via Kottke)

Anonymosus-OS: the checksums that don't check out

Further to the ignoble saga of Anonymosus-OS, an Ubuntu variant targeted as people who want to participate in Anonymous actions: Sean Gallagher has done the legwork to compare the checksums of the packages included in the OS with their canonical versions and has found a long list of files that have been modified. Some of these ("usr/share/gnome/help/tomboy/eu/figures/tomboy-pinup.png: FAILED") are vanishingly unlikely to be malware, while others ("usr/share/ubiquity/apt-setup") are more alarming.

None of this is conclusive proof of malware in the OS, but it is further reason not to trust it -- if you're going to produce this kind of project and modify the packages so that they don't check, you really should document the alterations you've made.

all.md5 > /dev/shm/check.txt
md5sum: WARNING: 143 of 95805 computed checksums did NOT match
anonymous@anonymous:/$ grep -v ': OK$' /dev/shm/check.txt
usr/share/locale-langpack/en_AU/LC_MESSAGES/subversion.mo: FAILED
usr/share/locale-langpack/en_GB/LC_MESSAGES/gbrainy.mo: FAILED
usr/share/applications/language-selector.desktop: FAILED
usr/share/locale-langpack/en_GB/LC_MESSAGES/file-roller.mo: FAILED
usr/share/locale-langpack/en_CA/LC_MESSAGES/metacity.mo: FAILED
usr/share/locale-langpack/en_GB/LC_MESSAGES/jockey.mo: FAILED
usr/share/locale-langpack/en_AU/LC_MESSAGES/lightdm.mo: FAILED
usr/share/doc/libxcb-render0/changelog.Debian.gz: FAILED...

The bad checksums in Anonymous-OS (Thanks, Sean!)

Midnight Climax: CIA's MK-ULTRA LSD experiments in San Francisco

Newly released documents shed light on the San Francisco edition of the CIA's notorious MK-ULTRA program (through which people were unwittingly given massive doses of LSD to see if the drug would be useful for brainwashing), which ran from 1953-1964. There's lots of detail about MK-ULTRA's work in NYC and Montreal, but the San Francisco operation has been shrouded in mystery. The newly declassified documents form the springboard for a good investigative piece in SF Weekly, in which Troy Hooper speaks to Wayne Ritchie, one of the survivors of MK-ULTRA's San Francisco operation.

There were at least three CIA safe houses in the Bay Area where experiments went on. Chief among them was 225 Chestnut on Telegraph Hill, which operated from 1955 to 1965. The L-shaped apartment boasted sweeping waterfront views, and was just a short trip up the hill from North Beach's rowdy saloons. Inside, prostitutes paid by the government to lure clients to the apartment served up acid-laced cocktails to unsuspecting johns, while martini-swilling secret agents observed their every move from behind a two-way mirror. Recording devices were installed, some disguised as electrical outlets.

To get the guys in the mood, the walls were adorned with photographs of tortured women in bondage and provocative posters from French artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. The agents grew fascinated with the kinky sex games that played out between the johns and the hookers. The two-way mirror in the bedroom gave the agents a close-up view of all the action.

The main man behind the mirror was burly, balding crime-buster George H. White, a Bureau of Narcotics maverick who made headlines breaking up opium and heroin rings in Europe, the Middle East, Latin America, and the U.S. Few knew he doubled as a CIA spook for Uncle Sam. He oversaw the San Francisco program, gleefully dubbing it Operation Midnight Climax.

"[White] was a real hard head," said Ritchie, who regularly ran into him in courtrooms and law enforcement offices in downtown San Francisco. "All of his agents were pretty much afraid to do anything without his full approval. White would turn on them, physically. He was a big tough guy."

American chemist Sidney Gottlieb was the brains behind White's brawn. It was the height of McCarthyism in the early '50s, and government intelligence leaders, claiming fear of communist regimes, were using hallucinogens to induce confessions from prisoners of war held in Korea, and brainwash spies into changing allegiances. What better way to examine the effects of LSD than to dose unsuspecting citizens in New York City and San Francisco?

Operation Midnight Climax: How the CIA Dosed S.F. Citizens with LSD (Thanks, tyrsalvia!)

Reagan's doodles


From the newly released collection of Margaret Thatcher's papers by the Cambridge University archive, "Doodles left by President Reagan on the table beside Margaret Thatcher at the G7 summit at Ottawa in 1981."

Doodles left by President Reagan on the table beside Margaret Thatcher at the G7 summit at Ottawa in 1981

Thor's goat made out of scrap metal


Sculptor Jud Turner writes, "I thought you might enjoy this full-sized goat, 'Tanngrisnir', named after one of the two goats in Norse mythology that pulled Thor's chariot. He ate them for dinner every night, saved the bones, and by morning they had come back to life. Hopeful analogy for recycling, it's made from 100% recycled scrap crap. It's one of the new pieces for my upcoming solo show DoubleThink, which opens March 30th at the WAVE Gallery in Eugene, OR.""

Tanngrisnir (Thanks, Jud!)

A Day of Reckoning for This American Life & Mike Daisey

Fans of the popular public radio program This American Life - and I count myself among them - learned last night that the single most downloaded episode of the show ever - an exposé of sorts of Apple's production operations in China - was to a great extent a work of fiction. The episode in question, "Mr. Daisey Goes to the Apple Factory," was an adaptation of a spoken word performance piece by Mike Daisey called "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs," which Daisey is currently performing at the Public Theater. 

In the performance piece, Daisey recounts a trip to China where he met with various workers at Foxconn, a factory that makes products for Apple. The working conditions at Foxconn and other Apple production facilities in China have been the focus of a number of critical reports over the past few months, including this series in The New York Times. But Daisey's performance piece came first, and many credit him with drawing attention to the story. If that's true, then This American Life's massive amplification of his performance aided in that process.

It turns out, ultimately by his own admission, that many of the interactions Daisey describes didn't actually happen, rather they were often amalgamations of stories and encounters he heard about in his travels across China. A Shanghai-based reporter for the public radio show Marketplace named Rob Schmitz heard the broadcast and Daisey's story didn't sit well with him so he did some digging. He confirmed the lies and it wasn't difficult. All he did was Google the first name of Daisey's translator, along with the word translator and the name of the city she worked in, and she was the first result. He spoke to her and she told him that much of what Daisey described didn't happen. This American Life had asked Daisey for the translator's number when they were fact checking the story, but Daisey said he didn't have it. They believed him and for some reason elected not to try and track her down themselves. 

Read the rest

Cross-section of America's electronic freedom campaigners

Forbes's Carol Pinchefsky profiles "4 Public Interest Groups Who Are Fighting for Your Digital Freedom" including EFF, Public Knowledge, TechFreedom and the Center for Democracy and Technology. It's a great cross-section of the different approaches that activist groups take to technology and freedom (but I would lobby for the inclusion of some of the newer groups, like AmericanCensorship.org and DemandProgress.org, who were so key to the SOPA/PIPA fight). This is part one, focusing on Public Knowledge and EFF.

Cohn said, “We continue to battle the warrantless wiretapping that was started by the Bush administration and continued by the Obama administration. The administration has been trying to avoid a court looking at what they’re doing by hiding behind the state’s secrets privilege, so we’ve had to have a lot of fights around that.”

Among other battles, the EFF is fighting copyright trolls, people who “use copyright claims to try to shake down people. The business model is not about the lawsuit, it’s about the strategy of extracting money.” For example, Camelot Distribution Group blanketed the users of a peer-to-peer downloading site with threatening letters, claiming that the users illegally downloaded the “nunsploitation” movie, Nude Nuns with Big Guns.

According to Cohn, Camelot Distribution Group told users, “You can pay us a thousand dollars and this whole thing will go away.” She said, “People feel intimidated by this, whether or not they did it, because even if they fight this and they’re exonerated, they’re going to be forever linked to Nude Nuns with Big Guns.”

Worse, the lawsuits are usually created in locations that are geographically undesirable for the defendants, which makes it hard for them to defend themselves. Cohn said, “We’ve been filing amicus briefs and getting appointed by courts across the country to defend these people and to develop some processes that is more fair than the trolls want to do it.”

4 Public Interest Groups Who Are Fighting for Your Digital Freedom (part 1) (Thanks, Carol!)

Retro rocket ring


Noah Scalin sez, "Just look at this awesome steampunky rocket ring created by Herbert Hoover (not the former president) for his Ring-A-Day project. He also has a laser-cut miniature wooden version for sale on his Etsy page as well."

I'm partial to Hoover's espresso ring, too.

Ring-A-Day: Rocket Ring

UK petrol station CCTVs will check insurance/tax status before you are allowed to fill up

Under a pending proposal, the license-plate cameras at UK filling stations will soon begin to trigger automatic lookups of every motorist's insurance and tax records. Drivers whose insurance and tax records can't be located or verified will not be allowed to fill their tanks. This requires that the existing cameras, which are there to document drivers who don't pay for their gas, be connected to sensitive government databases filled with identifying personal information. Forensic cameras -- whose records are used after the fact to catch crooks -- don't need to be 100 percent accurate, since almost every plate they capture will not be involved in a crime, and ambiguous results can be resolved by a human backstop. But cameras that prevent you from getting something you need, like petrol, need to be 100 percent accurate, since it wouldn't do to let the person operating the cash-register override the judgment of the automated system.

CCTV at petrol stations will automatically stop uninsured cars being filled with fuel (Thanks, VoxAudi!)