Morning Links

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008
  • Alabama Rep. Spencer Bachus: ignoramus or giant ignoramus?
  • Taser loses $6 million wrongful death suit. Oh, and here’s another death after a 37-second (!) zap from the “non-lethal” weapon.
  • Saturated fats: good for you, now? How deliciously rich it would be if the high-fiber, low-fat diet the government and public health nuts have been pushing is not only unsustainable, but less healthy than higher-fat diets, too.
  • MPAA protects you from on-screen bullets.
  • California court determines that use of file erasure software may indicate wrongdoing.
  • The full Malicki-Obama timetable story, explained with context.
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  • 36 Responses to “Morning Links”

    1. #1 |  z | 

      I believe that Atkins theory wasn’t that fat was good for you, but that carbs were bad. Plasma cholesterol in humans is created as a side affect of insulin action, more carbs = more insulin = higher cholesterol. The more mainstream idea is that the cholesterol from fats we eat is transferred directly into the bloodstream (you are what you eat).

    2. #2 |  joel | 

      File erasure: bullshit. The whole point of any file eraser is to *not* leave a fingerprint, his problem is that he used a crappy one; that and the reporter doesn’t know what he’s talking about. The name of the software “Evidence Eliminator” is probably the biggest strike against him. That, and his poor timing of when to use it. I use one regularly, mine is called “Sweet and Kind Hard Drive Care and Lovin'”. Just like my antivirus and malware scanners and my defragger and my registry cleaner. It’s just plain old good computer security, not just for me, for everyone. But Gawd help me if my computer is ever seized, I’m obviously guilty of hiding “something really bad.”

    3. #3 |  Dakota | 

      On the file erasure. Although the LAT didn’t go into detail about it, it sounds like a civil litigation “Bryant v. Mattel, 04-9049”????

      Where the “wiper” was the plaintiff in a civil litigation revolving around date of design, and concept. That is much different then then being accused of wrongdoing by using disc cleaners in the ordinary course of business or personal use.

      Also the story mentions that it was “2 days” before the disc was to be copied. I’m assuming he was under a court order stemming from a motion to compel or some similar direct order to preserve evidence, otherwise why would there be such a hard schedule.

    4. #4 |  Eric | 

      In my short time in the private practice of law, I twice ran across someone who had used “Evidence Eliminator” just before their computer was imaged. Both times, the defendant was careless and our computer guy was able to recover some good stuff that showed that the attempted wipe was targeted at probative e-mails, memos, etc. It’s probably fair to say that most litigants who use “Evidence Eliminator” on their computer are doing so in a non-routine manner.

      Use of file erasure software in the middle of a pending court case – in this case two days before a computer is to be imaged by the other side – is not much different than physical spoliation like shredding documents. An adverse inference is a good deterrent.

    5. #5 |  Nando | 

      Rep. Spencer Bachus must be an ignoramus. Did he really ask you about age verification when Ross Boatman was 12 years old? If he had his bio, then he should’ve seen that Boatman was born in 1964 so the episode he eludes to happened in 1976 (32 years ago, obviously there was no Internet back then). What a moron!

    6. #6 |  John | 

      How deliciously rich it would be if the high-fiber, low-fat diet the government and public health nuts have been pushing is not only unsustainable, but less healthy than higher-fat diets, too.

      Oh, it’s deliciously rich and absolutely the case. Read Nina Planck – you’ll come away further convinced of the goodness of fat and cholesterol and the evilness of those who try to tell us to stay away from it.

    7. #7 |  freedomfan | 

      Regarding Bachus: So, an elected official designing technology policy is a technological illiterate? What an enormous shock! No doubt he has someone on staff hired because his resume experience said, “25 years HTML, 20 years Java”. :D

      In reality, one of his minions was probably trolling through the site and spotted the bio blurb mentioning a 12-year old and thought, “They don’t do age verification! This is a smoking gun!” From that point to the point where Bachus made a fool of himself in the hearing, no one bothered to check what was really going on. A likely case of a story that’s too good to check.

    8. #8 |  joel | 

      RE: file erasing
      If you think you are ever gonna end up in court (and even if you do not) and your PC might become evidence against you: wipe the damn thing every day. Don’t just do it the day before you meet the judge. That’s what messed this guy up. Establish a pattern of good computer security and stick to it. These days this is good advice for any and all, criminals and plain folk too.

    9. #9 |  Lior | 

      These “deep pockets” lawsuits and sovereign immunity are getting on my nerves. The police taser the guy 30 times, and his family sues the manufacturer??

      I guess to the jury it makes sense that since person X died from a random combination of factors, the manufacturer was supposed to specifically warn police about this random combination of factors? As they say, hindsight is 20/20, but we all know that sympathy counts more than logic with a jury.

      Obviously the people who should be paying are the state (in the large part) and the police officers in their individual capacity (in the small part). They are the ones who caused this death. Unfortunately in the US monarchy it is not possible to sue agents of the king.

      What would make you safer: Taser adding extra stupid warnings to their product, or the police being accountable for their actions?

    10. #10 |  ClubMedSux | 

      Re: File Erasing

      One other thing to keep in mind. As a party to litigation you have a duty to preserve potentially relevant evidence. The fact that you regularly use data-erase programs does not relieve you of that duty. When the court says that use of file erasure software may indicate wrongdoing, the wrongdoing to which they refer is likely failure to preserve evidence, not the underlying cause of action (and I say likely because I haven’t read what the court actually said).

    11. #11 |  joel | 

      What duty do i have to preserve evidence if I’m not a party in litigation? As I said, erasing data two days before it’s gonna be seized is just flat out stupid. Until I’m officially notified that my data will be evidence am I not free to erase/wipe/encrypt any and all things that I want too?
      This guy did it two days before seizure, even I think he’s doing something wrong. But for the rest of us, lock it up.

    12. #12 |  ClubMedSux | 


      You can still have a duty to preserve evidence even if you’re not a party so long as the court feels you should have reasonably anticipated litigation. Here’s an example of how the court draws the line:

      Overall, my point was just that Radley may be mischaracterizing the judge’s ruling (or perhaps I’m misreading Radley’s characterization).

    13. #13 |  La Rana | 

      Radley, please stop linking to morons every time their accidental conclusions align with those you are predisposed to favor. Tierney may very well be the dumbest person employed by the NYT (and you know who that includes). If you use the word “science” you could convince the man that up was down.

      Did you even read the post? He extrapolates from a difference between 10% and 12.5%, in a single hard-by-its-nature-to-control-study, amidst other uncontrolled variables. How do you spell meaningless?

      The dude he cites is the same jackass he referred to in this column”, in which he both asserted that hunter-gatherers had a high-fat diet and that high-carbohydrate diets have not been extensively studied. One only needs the slightest knowledge of nutrition to realize how fantastically false those claims are.

      On this issue you sound like a creationist or global warming denier.

    14. #14 |  joel | 

      Thank you for the extensive reading, my head still hurts.
      It all boils down to this: is it evidence before a court declares it so?
      If I’m a criminal and wipe my computer every day should that be considered evidence against me because I “should have anticipated litigation.”?
      This makes me sick to my stomach, if the law has a problem with me they have a duty to prove it right there and then. “Anticipated litigation” smells a lot like thought crime.

    15. #15 |  Radley Balko | 

      #13 — Don’t tell me who to link to. Don’t like it? Go elsewhere.

      You also don’t really know what you’re talking about. Taubes is widely considered one of the best science writers in the country. And this is merely the latest of many studies to confirm that the low-fat, high-fiber diet is not only impossible to maintain, it’s less conducive to weight loss than low-carb diets.

      I suppose instead we should trust the same government and public health activists who told us 15 years ago that we should switch from animal fats to trans-fats, eh?

      Your opinion of Tierney . . . is your opinion of Tierney. I happen to think he’s a terrific writer, and he’s the only real libertarian the NYT op-ed page has ever employed.

    16. #16 |  claude | 

      RE: File Erasure… im a computer technician by trade and i usually recommend a program called “Eraser” to my customers who want something like this.

      Its free. Its one of the best ones out there. I use it myself.

    17. #17 |  joel | 

      I agree and use Eraser myself. But is it proof that we have something to hide? To a cop “Eraser” is proof that you’re a drug dealer or money launderer. Or a pedophile, or worse.
      We’re getting to the day when just having these things are not necessarily a crime but they imply that you are up to something. Either way you end up in handcuffs. And your computers vanish into a bureaucratically invisible void. There’s no “win”.

    18. #18 |  Matt Moore | 

      Tierney may very well be the dumbest person employed by the NYT (and you know who that includes).

      I couldn’t disagree more, and I think you’re firmly in the minority in this opinion.

    19. #19 |  z | 

      You can’t conclude from this diet study that animal fats are good for you, those on the low-carb diet were told:

      “However, the participants were counseled to choose vegetarian sources of fat and protein and to avoid trans fat.”

    20. #20 |  dave smith | 

      The McGill study that found 90% of Congress talks out of their asses must have a 10% margin of error.

    21. #21 |  La Rana | 

      merely the latest of many studies to confirm that the low-fat, high-fiber diet is not only impossible to maintain, it’s less conducive to weight loss than low-carb diets.

      It doesn’t do that. Perhaps you need to re-read what I wrote. I have read a huge number of these studies, and while you are absolutely correct that the low-fat thing was just a scam, you are buying into a counter-authority conspiracy theory on the low-carb nonsense. The studies you are “referring” to confirm one of two things: First, that if you eat close to 0% carbohydrates, your body will go into ketosis – i.e. begin eating itself – and you will lose weight in the short-term. Second, that if you eat fewer calories, of any type, your body will respond to the laws of thermodynamics and you will lose weight over the long-term. No study has ever concluded that a diet which in and of itself does not lead to losing weight, will lead to long-term weight-loss through a simple reduction in carbohydrates. EVER.

      I know precisely what I am talking about. Taubes and Tierney are wrong. So are you. Read the studies.

    22. #22 |  Matt Moore | 

      No study has ever concluded that a diet which in and of itself does not lead to losing weight, will lead to long-term weight-loss through a simple reduction in carbohydrates. EVER.

      A diet that doesn’t cause weight loss won’t lead to losing weight. Way to go out on a limb there.

    23. #23 |  La Rana | 

      A diet that doesn’t cause weight loss won’t lead to losing weight . . . “through a simple reduction in carbohydrates.

      Its not hard.

    24. #24 |  Matt Moore | 

      Did you mean to say that just cutting carbs won’t lead to weight loss? Because that makes sense, but it’s not what that sentence meant.

    25. #25 |  La Rana | 

      I happily concede a poorly worded sentence. But yes, that’s what I meant.

    26. #26 |  Matt Moore | 

      Ok, but I agree with the poorly worded version… diets don’t work. Are there any studies that have found a diet that leads to long-term weight loss?

    27. #27 |  La Rana | 

      It’s just the laws of thermodynamics. Cut calories and/or increase the amount of calories your body burns.

      It’s possible that skewing your diet in the direction of one particular arrangement of molecules that our bodies can transform into glucose will be more amenable to weight loss, but there are a number of problems with that idea. First, there is no good evidence of this, whether for low-fat, low-carb, or whathaveyou. Most of what has been found is either insignificant or is dramatically overshadowed by other factors. The thing that nearly everyone misses is that in order to cut protein, fat, or carbohydrates out of your diet, you have to alter your consumption of entire food groups. That is the main reason why you find so much anecdotal evidence for weight loss.

      The main difference between low-fat and low-carb is that our diets are dominated by carbohydrate-rich foods. So when people go low-fat, its easy to simply load up on more carbohydrates. People who go low-carb, however, sometimes find it difficult to consume as many calories over the long-term without any grains, potatoes, rice, bread, etc.

      This is part of the reason why “low-fat” contributed to the rise in obesity (plus, carbohydrates do the least to maintain satiety and corporations were more than happy to label everything “low-fat”), and why so many people firmly believe in low-carb. The ones that lose weight have simply unwittingly reduced their caloric intake.

    28. #28 |  z | 

      La rana has a point. Just as nanny staters sieze on dubious studies and statistics which reinforce their predisposition to tell everyone else what to do, libertarians are very quick to oversell anything which might possibly back their strong bias against government and for individual freedom. There is nothing in this study which would seriously back the “Saturated fats: good for you, now?” tag. But it’s close enough and grabs your attention.

    29. #29 |  freedomfan | 

      Related to the file erasure case –

      I hope someone can refresh my memory on this, but didn’t a court ruled several years back that a defendant cannot use the fifth amendment to refuse to provide passwords to his accounts or encrypted data? To me, that was an overreach. (I think the punishment was a contempt of court citation with jail time. That may mean that he broke no specific law, but managed to annoy a judge.) It seems wrong to punish someone for not helping the prosecution to convict him.

      BTW, I have had Eraser on my PC since (I think) about 1999. Good stuff: small footprint, can be run regularly (scheduled), can be run from a USB stick, etc.

    30. #30 |  Matt Moore | 

      It’s just the laws of thermodynamics.

      But dieting is not simply thermodynamics. There’s obviously a psychological element. If it was simple everyone that wanted to be skinny would be skinny.

      Now answer the question I asked, since you’ve read the studies and know what you’re talking about. Is there a diet that works, that provides long-term weight loss in a majority (or even a large percentage) of those that use it?

    31. #31 |  anonymous | 

      “#13 — Don’t tell me who to link to. Don’t like it? Go elsewhere.” — love it or leave it.

    32. #32 |  La Rana | 

      I did answer the question. That is the solution.

      What you are looking for (or at least what everyone else that asks about “diets” is looking for) is an answer to whether a short term manipulation of caloric intake can forever forestall the laws of thermodynamics. Obviously the answer is no. In that sense of the term “diet,” none ever will work. Let me explain.

      I burn about 2,000 calories a day, and I eat about 2,000 calories a day. Therefore my weight stays roughly the same. If I begin to eat only 1,800 calories a day, I will eventually lose weight in accommodation of the reduction in calories (holding everything else constant and ignoring the rate at which this will happen, which is complicated). If I resume eating 2,000 calories, however, my weight will naturally resume the old set point (again ignoring a few complications). This temporary manipulation of caloric intake is a “diet” in the pop culture sense, and it will never, ever work, because you cannot defeat the laws of thermodynamics. Every “diet” is some derivation of this idea, and fails for the same reason.

      The explanation for what will work is largely the same, though it utilizes a different sense of the term “diet.” My diet is 2,000 calories a day. If I change my diet to 1,800 calories a day, I will change weight, so long as i continue to eat 1,800 calories a day. It is literally impossible to lose weight and then resume the diet (my usage) you had without gaining that weight back. Yet this is what every diet (your usage) purports to do – I don’t imagine people think they will be on Jenny Craig or drink SlimFast forever (though that would work).

      To lose weight, in other words, you must change your “diet,” not go on one. The psychological element you note, I’m afraid, is largely people being unwilling to admit they’ve brought their weight problems on themselves (abnormal psychologies excluded).

    33. #33 |  Matt Moore | 

      I don’t imagine people think they will be on Jenny Craig or drink SlimFast forever (though that would work).

      Except people do think they’ll be on Jenny Craig forever, which is why Jenny Craig has a maintenance plan.

      You agree that diets don’t work. You agree that low fat diets work even less well than low carb diets. The only thing you seem to be arguing about is the mechanism by which low carb diets work… except that no one, either in the post, the linked article, or this comments section is arguing the other side.

      So what’s your point? I can’t see one, except that we shouldn’t listen to anything Tierney and Taubes have to say, even if they’re right, because they’re stupidheads.

    34. #34 |  La Rana | 

      I don’t know what to tell you. Almost everything I have written is incompatible with “the post, the linked article, [and] this comments section.” You (and most people) are using the word “diet” to mean “a short term manipulation of caloric intake [that] can forever forestall the laws of thermodynamics.” See Radley, above, “it’s less conducive to weight loss than low-carb diets,” or the study Tierney linked to, Tierney’s post, etc. If they were talking about diets in my usage of the term, that would imply that if you switch to a low-carb diet you will lose weight forever. So, um…

      My point is that nearly everyone is missing the forest for the trees. The solutions proposed by Tierney and Taubes (and Balko?) are unsupportable, but more importantly, the question they are seeking to answer is a complete nonstarter.

    35. #35 |  freedomfan | 

      La Rana –

      I think I agree with at least some of your intent, but the first law statements above (#32) are off.

      Strictly speaking, for someone who consistently burns 2000 calories per day, going on an 1800 cal/day “diet” will cause weight loss for as long as they do it. When they go back to 2000 cal/day, they will stay at whatever weight they were at when the stopped the diet. They won’t gain the weight back with things as stated. They idea that a 2000 cal/day burner needs to stay on an 1800 cal/day diet forever just to keep the weight off is incorrect. He only needs to do that to keep losing weight, not to maintain the weight he’s reached.

      The reason most people will gain the weight back is because they were initially taking in more calories than they burned (say 2050 cal/day) before they started the diet and then, with the diet over, they go back to that intake and start regaining any weight lost under the 1800 cal/day regime. (There are further complications, such as that, other things being even, the 2000 cal/day burn rate isn’t really constant at different weights, even given no change in exercise habits.)

    36. #36 |  La Rana | 

      freedomfan, thanks for catching that. I meant to say what your second paragraph says.