Wii First and Pulling Away, PS3 Third and Closing, 360 Second and Lagging

DailyTech – Nintendo Wii Tops for Console Sales in June

Bloomberg reports that the Nintendo Wii outsold the Sony PS3 and Microsoft Xbox 360 in the U.S. last month. Nintendo sold 666,000 of its Wii consoles in June compared to the 405,500 PS3’s sold and 219,800 Xbox 360’s. It’s interesting to note that the PS3 sold nearly 200,000 more units for the month than the Xbox 360.

Both Sony and Microsoft recently increased the size of the hard drive inside their respective consoles to lure new buyers. The minimum hard drive on the PS3 will now increase to 80GB with the Xbox 360 growing to 60GB. NPD Group says 10.9 million Wii consoles have been sold since it launched in November of 2006 – that tally pushes the Wii past the Xbox 360 in total U.S. sales despite the Microsoft’s consoles one-year head start.

Just a quick update on the console wars.  This has been an interesting generation, as it looks like the Wii is expanding the market so much all three can be winners.  With online markets and downloadable old-school content, all three platforms have IMMENSE libraries.  It might even be hard, at this point, to know how many games, exactly, are playable on each system.  I’ve been seeing torrents with 5000+ roms for various boxes.

Regardless, interesting times in the gaming world.  Transformative, even (Boom Blox, FTW).

The Utter Lack of Justice (a Bush Administration Trademark)

Report Sees Illegal Hiring Practices at Justice Dept. – NYTimes.com

WASHINGTON — Justice Department officials over the last six years illegally used “political or ideological” factors to hire new lawyers into an elite recruitment program, tapping law school graduates with conservative credentials over those with liberal-sounding resumes, a new report found Tuesday.

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Back Story With Eric Lichtblau (mp3)

The blistering report, prepared by the Justice Department’s inspector general, is the first in what will be a series of investigations growing out of last year’s scandal over the firings of nine United States attorneys. It appeared to confirm for the first time in an official examination many of the allegations from critics who charged that the Justice Department had become overly politicized during the Bush administration.

“Many qualified candidates” were rejected for the department’s honors program because of what was perceived as a liberal bias, the report found. Those practices, the report concluded, “constituted misconduct and also violated the department’s policies and civil service law that prohibit discrimination in hiring based on political or ideological affiliations.”

The shift began in 2002, when advisers to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft restructured the honors program in response to what some officials saw as a liberal tilt in recruiting young lawyers from elite law schools like Harvard and Yale.

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In th elong run, I think this might be one of the wrost thing that the Bush administration has done.  I mean, when you think about going from Ashcroft, who was a horrid idealogue who set up these practices, to Gonzales, who ended up resigning from office because he got busted implementing these practices…what does that say about Bush’s concept of “justice”?

It’s more of a “political justice” kind of thing, and it becomes evident that everything these folks see if filtered through the lens of political leaning.  And I mean filtered at a base level.  Coulter and Rush are not, as it turns out, outliers.  For a while there, they were pretty mainstream.  No wonder we have gone so far off course.

More on this one later.  This is actually an older story, but I’m trying to keep up with everything on my desktop and this was sitting for a while.

How They Justify Spying on American Citizens and Baracks Betrayal

Understanding Recent Changes to FISA — A Visual Guide (Flowchart) | Ketchup and Caviar

“Ketchup and Caviar” (which is a euphemism for “West and East”, one would guess) has put together this wonderful guide for how the government decided we were scared enough as a people to accept them monitoring everything we say.  But hey, they only keep the parts where people say (or it sounds like they say) something about the terrorism and/or terror-related stuff (said stuff to be slowly expanded to drugs, crimes, and then finally pr0n).

Go and look at the charts.  Pay special attention to the loopholes.  The guys who worked on this stuff were pretty smart and know how to build in loopholes (like the ones they built at Guantanamo to allow for torture).

Here’s the gist of it…

What New FISA does is create a special case involving our bold red line in the first chart. It provides a way for the executive branch to engage in warrantless (but “certified”) wiretapping of wire and cable (including email and phone) of any Foreign-to-U.S. communications collected inside the U.S. You’ll see the new set of criteria for certification in this special case. It does add new protections for U.S. Persons (citizens or greencard holders) by requiring the typical FISA warrant in all cases in which they are targeted.

On the face of it, this new loophole might not seem to be such a big problem, barring the facts of a) retroactive telecom immunity and b) the implication that Bush will never be held accountable for numerous felonies. Unfortunately, it also really is, as far as I can tell, a back door to greatly expanded wiretapping powers. Beyond the obvious fact that it requires only certification and loose judicial review rather than a warrant, it does so in the following way:

  1. It Eliminates the requirement that there be probable cause that a foreign target is a suspect of any kind — terrorist, criminal, ore “foreign agent.” They merely need be your French grandmother, as long as they are outside the United States and not a U.S. person, and if the government says wiretapping them is for the purpose of collecting “foreign intelligence information” (e.g., her Pommes Frites recipe)
  2. It requires the cooperation of telecoms in these efforts
  3. It eliminates of the need to specify a particular email address or phone number to be wiretapped
  4. 1-3 together imply that certifications of wiretapping on individuals is not the issue. The point is to use telecom cooperation to target large collections of data on communications between U.S. Persons and foreigners. This implies data mining — where, for instance, because a foreign target has communications passing through a given domestic switch, any communications (domestic or international) passing through that switch are subject to collection, analysis, and storage.  There are “minimization requirements” meant to ameliorate this, but it is unclear if they really help.
  5. The compromise of domestic communications in (4) is exacerbated by the fact that targets need only be “reasonably believed” to be outside the U.S.
  6. It includes only minimal court oversight — who it is that is subject to warrantless wiretapping will not be know to the FISA court; the government can wiretap before it court order is sought and continue to do so even if it is denied — during a lengthy appeal process.

I have to say I’m really unhappy about this one.

There’s been some other good news recently and hopefully I can get to post some of that today, but this one sucks.  And I’m very unhappy with Obama for supporting it….especially because he said this…

The FISA court works. The separation of power works. We can trace, track down and take out terrorists while ensuring that our actions are subject to vigorous oversight, and do not undermine the very laws and freedom that we are fighting to defend.

No one should get a free pass to violate the basic civil liberties of the American people – not the President of the United States, and not the telecommunications companies that fell in line with his warrantless surveillance program. We have to make clear the lines that cannot be crossed.

back on January 28, 2008.

And then did this last month.

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) today announced his support for a sweeping intelligence surveillance law that has been heavily denounced by the liberal activists who have fueled the financial engines of his presidential campaign.

In his most substantive break with the Democratic Party’s base since becoming the presumptive nominee, Obama declared he will support the bill when it comes to a Senate vote, likely next week, despite misgivings about legal provisions for telecommunications corporations that cooperated with the Bush administration’s warrantless surveillance program of suspected terrorists.

In so doing, Obama sought to walk the fine political line between GOP accusations that he is weak on foreign policy — Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called passing the legislation a “vital national security matter” — and alienating his base.

“Given the legitimate threats we face, providing effective intelligence collection tools with appropriate safeguards is too important to delay. So I support the compromise, but do so with a firm pledge that as president, I will carefully monitor the program,” Obama said in a statement hours after the House approved the legislation 293-129.

[full post]

And so the virgin-fan portion of my Obama love passes into the past.  I ahte to see him reverse so plainly on this topic, yet I can understand why he felt the need to.  I hope he got bad advice on giving in to this and didn’t make the decision himself.  This was exactly the kind of change we needed, Mr. Obama.

The national security thing is bullshit.  People are not that scared.  it’s not the trump card it was in 2004.  Be honest, dammit.

Science Confirms Bill Hicks Theory on Religion

Spiritual effects of hallucinogens persist, researchers report

Writing in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, the Johns Hopkins researchers note that most of the 36 volunteer subjects given psilocybin, under controlled conditions in a Hopkins study published in 2006, continued to say 14 months later that the experience increased their sense of well-being or life satisfaction.

“Most of the volunteers looked back on their experience up to 14 months later and rated it as the most, or one of the five most, personally meaningful and spiritually significant of their lives,” says lead investigator Roland Griffiths, Ph.D., a professor in the Johns Hopkins departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Neuroscience.

In a related paper, also published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, researchers offer recommendations for conducting this type of research.

The guidelines caution against giving hallucinogens to people at risk for psychosis or certain other serious mental disorders. Detailed guidance is also provided for preparing participants and providing psychological support during and after the hallucinogen experience. These “best practices” contribute both to safety and to the standardization called for in human research.

I remember running into this study a while back. And personal experience has confirmed it rather well, both in the insight and the lasting impact of the insight.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about here, a fellow Texan Bill Hick nailed the whole concept in this bit. you can just listen..

A number of cultures have realized this curious confluence of psychological substance and religious experience.

The U.S. made some serious moves towards this attitudes a couple of generations ago, but then the religious and experimental aspects of the culture became set at incompatible angles because of an idiotic war (speaking of the 60’s obviously) and a historic opportunity was lost.

UPDATE/Bonus:

O.k. I just found this funny. It was linked on the YouTube page. Here’s Bill Cosby on lysergic acid diethylamide (lsd, acid)