Sonar, Subs & Whales

Galrahn dives into the Supreme Court’s USN sonar decision. I haven’t read the opinion yet but respect G’s technical expertise. Start your research here. I will say I consider the opinion a good thing. You don’t want to go into ASW not knowing how to use active.

Michigan Cracks Down on RIAA Snoopers

Amid all the complaining about the RIAA’s unlicensed snooping into file-sharing, Michigan’s legislature has passed a law that, yes, says firms engaging in “computer forensics” must obtain a private-investigations license.

What Palin Says About McCain

Joe Klein and Andrew Sullivan both see the pick as rash and impulsive:

The Palin pick reflects the most dangerous tendencies in McCain’s foriegn policy–the tendency to react, to overreact, to crises, without thinking it through. It also reflects a defiant, adolescent “screw you” attitude toward governance.

I’m not so sure about that. You can’t govern if you can’t get elected, and I’m not sure McCain thinks he can be elected unless he changes the game. What worries me, though, is that his method of changing the game may be risky in a way not even Sullivan and Klein are seeing. Palin, I’m growing more convinced, is a play to rural voters partially sympathetic to the GOP. That makes it also a bid to tip anywhere from two to four states (Colorado, Nevada, Virginia and maybe New Mexico) firmly into the GOP camp and thus decide the election. Ohio — a mixed bag between rural and urban — would constitute a bonus. 

The risk in this strategy is the possibility of another popular-vote loss for the GOP. And I’m not talking a thin margin like George W. Bush’s 543,895-vote loss in 2000, either. Obama with his organizing prowess could roll up a couple million votes more than McCain thanks to his vote-getting potential in the major cities. 

If that comes to pass, and Obama still loses the electoral vote, the calls for a constitutional amendment will be immediate and impossible to ignore. But Republicans won’t go along with that, as passage of a popular-vote amendment would likely sink their presidential prospects for at least a decade or so.

Such an impasse would make the wrangling we saw after Clinton’s plurality wins in 1992 and 1996 and Bush’s electoral-vote-only win in 2000 seem like mere child’s play. And yet McCain and his team are accepting that risk.

The folks at 538 at the moment believe there’s only a 2.55 percent chance of McCain’s winning without carrying the popular vote. Those are small odds. I don’t know if they’re small enough.

Palin and Abortion

As usual, the right misses the point when it comes to abortion:

I saw a concerted effort by the media to marginalize her as a far right winger, out of touch with moderate and pro-choice women.  This is unfair to her, and to all of us who respect her admirable decision to carry to term a child diagnosed in utero with Down’s Syndrome.  It’s been noted here that 90 percent of parents who receive the news that their child will be born with this disability choose to terminate.  Governor Palin put her principles into practice.  And as a pro-choicer, I can say with sincerity that I admire her act of character and love.

As can we all. What provokes rather more controversy, however, is the assumption that people who believe as Palin does have the right to impose their views on the other 90 percent of America.

Backbone Growth

Also from the New York Times, an interesting piece about how other countries are trying to build Internet backbone infrastructure to bypass the US. Even amongst our allies, there’s worry about how a US-dominated net would expose information:

“Since passage of the Patriot Act, many companies based outside of the United States have been reluctant to store client information in the U.S.,” said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington. “There is an ongoing concern that U.S. intelligence agencies will gather this information without legal process. There is particular sensitivity about access to financial information as well as communications and Internet traffic that goes through U.S. switches.”

The Grid’s the Thing

The New York Times identifies a key barrier to exploiting renewable energy: the fractured state of America’s transmission grid. Eventually, Congress may have to invoke its power to regulate interstate commerce to sort things out:

Politicians in Washington have long known about the grid’s limitations but have made scant headway in solving them. They are reluctant to trample the prerogatives of state governments, which have traditionally exercised authority over the grid and have little incentive to push improvements that would benefit neighboring states.

Appealing No-Fly

The Ninth Circuit says a Malaysian woman can appeal her placement on the FBI’s no-fly list. Timothy Lee at Ars Technica applauds:

If the FBI or TSA genuinely suspected that Ibrahim was a terrorist, they should have been actively investigating her and preparing to arrest her; as a Stanford student, she can’t have been hard to track down. If she wasn’t a terrorist — and by all indications, she’s wasn’t — then harassing her at the airport is a gratuitous infringement of her civil liberties. The no-fly list allows federal officials to act like they’re “doing something” about terrorism without taking responsibility for actually investigating and charging terrorism suspects.