- Left for dead by New Labour, John Pilger
- Five Untouchable Symptoms, Matt Stoller
- Could there be a Darwinian Account of Human Creativity?,Daniel Dennett
- Laws of Nature, Source Unknown, Dennis Overbye
- Oligarchical decay, Glenn Greenwald
- Review - Can Science Help Us Make Wise Moral Judgments? by Paul Kurtz (Editor), Eyja M. Brynjarsdóttir
It is in the prosecution of some single object, and in striving to reach its accomplishment by the combined application of his moral and physical energies, that the true happiness of man, in his full vigour and development, consists. Possession, it is true, crowns exertion with repose; but it is only in the illusions of fancy that it has power to charm our eyes. If we consider the position of man in the universe,—if we remember the constant tendency of his energies towards some definite activity, and recognize the influence of surrounding nature, which is ever provoking him to exertion, we shall be ready to acknowledge that repose and possession do not indeed exist but in imagination. - Wilhelm von Humboldt, The Sphere and Duties of Government (The Limits of State Action) (1854 ed.)
Sunday, December 30, 2007
Friday, December 28, 2007
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Monday, December 17, 2007
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Monday, December 3, 2007
In this month's audio podcast we celebrate our program's two-year anniversary by interviewing Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and Christopher Hitchens. HNN's Duncan Crary interviewed these best-selling authors, a.k.a. "The New Atheists", at the Atheist Alliance International annual conference in September. At the conference, Harris, author of "The End of Faith," told the crowd that they should not identify with the atheist label. Dawkins, Dennett and Hitchens react. So does the Rational Response Squad and Pastor Deacon Fred of the Landover Baptist Church. Also, Sweet Reason gives advice on "coming out" as an atheist.
Sunday, December 2, 2007
Letters Published: 71
Most Popular Topic: Iraq War
Number of Letters: 60
Second Most Popular Topic: The now-dead proposal to rename a Portland street after Cesar Chavez
50. If God be infinite, he has much less relation with man, than man with ants. Would the ants reason pertinently concerning the intentions, desires, and projects of the gardener? Could they justly imagine, that a park was planted for them alone, by an ostentatious monarch, and that the sole object of his goodness was to furnish them with a superb residence? But, according to theology, man is, with respect to God, far below what the vilest insect is to man. Thus, by theology itself, which is wholly devoted to the attributes and views of the Divinity, theology appears a complete folly.
( See link at top right. )
Friday, November 23, 2007
First, if all waterboarding is torture, why does the U.S. government waterboard its own folks in survival training programs?
. . .
Second, if it's torture, why didn't Congress say so when the issue came up in 2005.
. . .
Does it qualify as torture under some other U.S. law? As former prosecutor Andrew McCarthy points out in a crack National Review Online article, our criminal code defines torture as a government act "specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering," with "severe" meaning "prolonged mental harm." Waterboarding could qualify if done repeatedly. "But," he asks, "what about doing it once, twice, or some number of instances that were not prolonged or extensive?"
. . .
Yes, what about this limited use when the time bomb is ticking and thousands of American lives are at stake? If your answer is "Yes, whatever it takes," you're in line with the public. In a Pew Research Center poll, 12 percent said torture (not waterboarding, general torture) was sometimes justified to gain critical information; 31 percent said it was often justified.
- Uh ... maybe they do it in a military program called "Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape", to uh you know, learn how to evade, resist and escape? Stooopid.
- Maybe because the Republicans were in the majority in Congress in 2005?
- This is just dumb. If you are going to use waterboarding "once, twice, or some number" then it is just sadistic. Making such a policy simply means the 'bad guys' know all they have to do is hold out.
- Reinhard's math skill are in line with the rest of his cognitive abilities. "In line with the public" means 12 + 31 = 43% of the public.
How about a video response from someone who ought to know?
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Letters Published: 80
Most Popular Topic: Oregon's Measure 49
Number of Letters: 96
'Yes' on 49: 57
'No' on 49: 34
No position: 5
Next Most Popular Topics:
Oregon's Measure 50: 67 letters
Bicyclists/traffic safety: 61 letters
Saturday, October 27, 2007
... Modern science itself is based on three Christian assumptions that are at root metaphysical.
Assumption number one: The universe as a whole is rational. The universe embodies rationality. ... that matter and objects and planets embody a certain kind of rationality they follow rational principles.
. . .
Number two: The universe obeys laws that are comprehensible in the language of mathematics. ... How does matter obey laws? How does the electron know what to do? ... It follows the laws of Newton's inverse square law, it obeys Einstein's laws.
. . .
A third one: The laws out there in nature are mirrored by the goings-on in my minds. We can apprehnd and understand the laws. Very odd. Why should the goingson within our head match the goings-on in the universe?
Now if you are ...
a scientist or have any knowledge about science, the statements: "How does matter obey laws?" or "matter ... follow[s] rational principles" are at best meaningless, perhaps only ignorant, but more likely stupid.
Matter - electrons - do NOT "obey" Einstein's laws! (And even better, they did not stop obeying Newton's laws once Einstein formulated his!) Scientific laws, theories, etc. are simply our predictive descriptions in a way we can understand, ie.&eg. mathematics. They are not reality! At most, scientists will admit, at times (see Popper), that hypotheses are at best our guess at reality. But in reality, a theory or law is simply our model that seems to work. Nothing more.
What a maroon!
(Right Paul? Send me an email if you want. I have been wondering about you -- and everyone else -- too.)
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
So I started looking externally. And in doing so I felt I need to be able to present myself. In fact, I want(ed) to present me as a person and as a programmer so I made some serious improvements to my website.
But, I eventually found an internal opportunity that I hope will pan out. My old boss, though, wanted to know if I might explain why I wanted to leave his team and the department. So I wrote this little story.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Monday, October 15, 2007
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Well, I just released 1.1.0 -- a major feature enhancement release. I also announced on freshmeat.net.
Doing this project has taught me a lot. Not about the technologies used: Python, Qt, XML, but about myself. This is the most fun I have ever had programming. I have loved using the open-source community's resources (SourceForge, freshmeat). I love writing the documentation for the tool, especially the page on my Agile project management philosophy. I love the idea that today (Oct. 14th) PrjPlanner's website has been hit 829 times for a total of 220 pages! Who are these people?! Have they downloaded the tool and used it? What do they think? And why will they not leave a message in the forum!!?!
But, I was not motivated to work on PrjPlanner because it is fun, but because I have not enjoyed my day job for a long time. And so I began looking elsewhere. Doing so was the motivation behind this work and other efforts. [to be continued]
Hillary voted for the Iraq invasion, each subsequent funding request, and the belligerent Senate resolution on Iran.
It should be extremely clear to anyone. Do not vote for Hillary.
Her Iraq related votes:
- (-) Voted to Agree To: H.J.Res. 114; Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002
- (-) Voted to Reject: Durbin Amdt. No. 4865; To amend the authorization for the use of the Armed Forces to cover an imminent threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction rather than the continuing threat posed by Iraq.
- (-) Voted to Reject: Levin Amdt. No. 4862; To authorize the use of the United States Armed Forces, pursuant to a new resolution of the United Nations Security Council, to destroy, remove, or render harmless Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, nuclear weapons-usable material, long-range ballistic missiles, and related facilities, and for other purposes.
- (-) Voted to Reject: Byrd Amdt. No. 4868; To provide statutory construction that constitutional authorities remain unaffected and that no additional grant of authority is made to the President not directly related to the existing threat posed by Iraq.
- (+) Voted to Agree To: Byrd Amdt. No. 4869, As Amended; To provide a termination date for the authorization of the use of the Armed Forces of the United States, together with procedures for the extension of such date unless Congress disapproves the extension.
- (-) Voted to Agree To: S. 1689 As Amended; Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Iraq and Afghanistan Security and Reconstruction Act, 2004
- (-) Voted to Agree To: Biden Amdt. No. 1190 As Modified; To express the sense of the Congress that the United States remain engaged in Iraq in order to ensure a peaceful, stable, unified Iraq with a representative government.
- (-) Voted to Pass: S.762, As Amended; Supplemental Appropriations Act to Support Department of Defense Operations in Iraq for Fiscal Year 2003
- (-) Voted to Agree To: Warner Amdt. No. 3260, as Modified; To authorize appropriations for a contingent emergency reserve fund for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
- (-) Voted to Reject: Kerry Amdt. No. 4442; To require the redeployment of United States Armed Forces from Iraq in order to further a political solution in Iraq, encourage the people of Iraq to provide for their own security, and achieve victory in the war on terror.
- (-) Voted to Agree To: Motion to Table McConnell Amdt. 4269; To require the withdrawal of the United States Armed Forces from Iraq and urge the convening of an Iraq summit.
- (+) Voted to Agree To: Feingold Amdt. No. 3164; To safely redeploy United States troops from Iraq.
- (+) Voted to Agree To: Levin Amdt. No. 2898; To provide for a reduction and transition of United States forces in Iraq.
- (+) Voted to Agree To: Feingold Amdt. No. 2924; To safely redeploy United States troops from Iraq.
- (+) Voted to Agree To: S. J. Res. 9; United States Policy in Iraq Resolution of 2007
- Voted to Agree To: Kyl Amdt. No. 3017 as Modified; To express the sense of the Senate regarding Iran.
- Statement of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in Support of Stop Iran Now Rally
- Clinton: No Military Action on Iran Without Congressional Authority
Thursday, September 27, 2007
- Daniel Ellsberg: A Coup Has Occurred (consortiumnews.com)
- Iran Reformist Warns Democracy at Stake:
One of Iran's top reform politicians said Wednesday that demonizing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — such as in this week's Columbia University forum — only strengthens hard-liners' hand as Iranians rally around their otherwise unpopular leader.
- Gates seeks $190 billion for wars: Any of that going to be used on Iran, hmm?!?
- Glenn Greenwald takes down Dianne Feinstein, but does he realize that she represents the core of the Democratic party?
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Monday, September 24, 2007
Sen. David Vitter, R-La., earmarked $100,000 in a spending bill for a Louisiana Christian group that has challenged the teaching of Darwinian evolution in the public school system and to which he has political ties.
. . .
"This program helps supplement and support educators and school systems that would like to offer all of the explanations in the study of controversial science topics such as global warming and the life sciences," Vitter said in a written statement.
If you are Republican and offended by both my name-calling AND what Vitter has done, why are you a Republican anyway?
Friday, September 21, 2007
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Jason Rosenhouse: Young on Dewey on Being High-Brow
Larry Moran: Jake Young Wants Atheist Scientists to Keep a Low Profile
PZ Myers: Taking exception to Jake
Jake Young: Pairing Science and Atheism Redux
-- Annotated version of Bush's Sept. 13th speech
-- Naomi Klein: Why failure is the new face of success
-- Towards Iran: Rice swipes at IAEA, urges bold action on Iran
-- TomDispatch: American Exceptionalism Meets Team Jesus, Tom Engelhardt interviews James Carroll
Sunday, September 9, 2007
Friday, September 7, 2007
Thursday, September 6, 2007
But a summary so far:
- 7/11: Lieberman certainly wants to "confront" Iran. All of the Senate votes and agrees.
- 8/15: Branding the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist: Iranian Unit to Be Labeled 'Terrorist'
- 8/28: Raw Story: "Study: US preparing 'massive' military attack against Iran"
- 8/28: Bush warns of "nuclear holocaust". More details here.
- Larry Johnson: Stopping the New War Before It Starts
- Robert Baer: Prelude to an Attack on Iran
- Ray McGovern: Do We Have The Courage To Stop War With Iran?
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
Update: Maha was not too happy with me (see comments). Is this headline any better? "Maha says an almost certain/highly likely failed impeachment means an exoneration"
Monday, September 3, 2007
In many way, not so much:
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Update: Here is a Raw Story report about a possible massive attack and here is Glenn's post on the rhetoric Bush has recently employed about Iran.
Update 2: Scott Horton at Harpers
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Robert Ingersoll is an American figure everyone ought to know and have read (like Jefferson and Paine).
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Saturday, August 25, 2007
Here was my letter:
In David Reinhard's latest absurdity ('There are defeatists, and then there is Brian Baird', Aug. 23), he convinces no one of the notion that he is either sorry for nor will refrain from "partisan name-calling". It is certainly not "defeatist" to recognize reality, as evidenced in the latest National Intelligence Estimate which notes that the "steep escalation of rates of violence has been checked for now" leaving Iraq with a best a flat rate of violence in which easily over 1500 Iraqi civilians are killed each month -- hooray! Since it is certain that US troops will kill more civilians, children among them, a "truth-telling simple descriptor" of David Reinhard and other 'succeedists' such as Baird would be: 'Child-killers'.
Friday, August 17, 2007
He never mentions international law and mentions the UN in passing as one of those "multilateral" possibilities that justify aggression. It is left up to his commenters to bring this up.
I think Article 51 is unambiguous:
Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defence shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.
I think it is obvious that there must be an on-going/active attack. Not one that happened 6 years ago. Sorry, but 9/11 can not justify any current action -- such as, say, Obama's theories about Pakistan.
Dan Kervick comments, that Michael says he agrees with, does not fall within Article 51:
If my neighbor is shooting at my house, I am entitled to shoot back. If my neighbor goes out onto his lawn, loads his gun and takes aim at my house in a deliberate and aggressive manner, I am also entitled to shoot back. That's preemption: once it is reasonably clear that an attack is about to take place or is under preparation, I need not wait for the first blow to be struck.
The first sentence falls within Article 51. The second sentence is completely wrong. The UN and other treaties of the time were created with WWII in mind. State aggression outside of self-defense under an active attack is meant to be forbidden to states; and state aggression is designated as a war crime. All as a response to WWII.
... but we have to recognize that there may be times and places where it is appropriate and where America must defend its national security.
... while also recognizing that in exceptional circumstances it may be necessary to act preemptively - say for example the takeover of Pakistan and its nukes by Islamic extremists.
This is the same sort of justification pro-torturists make.
And finally this:
Shoot first and ask questions later is not a good way to run a national security policy and frankly is out of mainstream of our nation's history.
Which Arthur has sufficiently (already) responded to (and this series).
Monday, August 13, 2007
Friday, July 27, 2007
Well, here it is:
When including Falluja, it is impossible to have a precise estimate of post-invasion mortality. [p 3]The goal it seems is to show that the study is wrong. And what is the motivation to show that it is wrong? Yummy soup indeed!
Yet excluding Falluja is not “conservative.” In fact, including this cluster — i.e., using all the available data — generates a result with such a wide confidence interval that the reported increase in Iraqi mortality becomes statistically insignificant. [p 5]
From the calculations above, it is impossible to be 95% confident that there was an increase in mortality. The lower bound of the confidence interval for the relative risk can not be 1.6, as reported in L1. It must be much lower. [last paragraph]
Somewhere at some point someone (hahaha!) suggested that sampling and polling and the like are similar to a cook taking a spoonful of their well-stirred soup to determine how it tastes. Assuming cooks do this and it works it seems just as amazing as deriving large conclusions from "such a small sample".Anyway, probably does not make any sense or have any relation to reality, but it was fun coming up with anyway!!
Well, to continue with and extend this metaphor to the study and Iraq. Imagine Iraq as a large pot of soup at a rolling boil. Now, you decide to take a couple of samples from various locations within the pot; not necessarily just with a spoon from the top but say you drop in your thimble-on-a-string and pull it up and taste it.
Now say that you get five samples this way. One tastes almost passable, three taste really bad and the fifth one tastes truly beyond horrible. What is the "taste mean"? Taste standard deviation? What do you think the soup tastes like "overall"? What about the "truly beyond horrible" sample? Is it an outlier? Do we throw it out? Do we have a large confidence interval? If so and we add in the outlier, does that increase our confidence interval? So much so, that maybe large portions of the soup actually taste quite yummy!?!
This study updates methods of communication analysis popular in the period between the world wars in an effort to analyze news commentator Bill O’Reilly’s ‘‘Talking Points Memo’’ editorials. The results show that O’Reilly is a heavier and less nuanced user of the seven devices developed by the Institute for Propaganda Analysis in the late 1930s than the notorious radio commentator of that time, Father Charles Coughlin. O’Reilly also employs other propaganda techniques, identified by Lasswell, Berelson and Janowitz. This includes ample use of fear appeals and the construction of the battle between good and evil. The most evil villains in O’Reilly’s world are illegal aliens, terrorists, and foreigners because they are apparently a physical and moral threat to the United States. Slightly less evil -- but unambiguously bad -- are groups (media, organizations, politicians) who share a political leaning to the left. On the other side, the virtuous flank emerged as an all-American crew made up of the military, criminal justice system, Bush administration, and ordinary US citizens.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
Bill Moyers: So, has it been within that period of time that you made this you wouldn't recognize it, but we recognize it, transformation from the stand-up comic to a serious social and political critic?
Jon Stewart: I don't consider myself a serious and social political critic.
Bill Moyers: But I do. And I'm your audience.
Jon Stewart: Yes, and I end up with one of your tote bags. But the important thing is, that I guess I don't spend any time thinking about what I am or what we do means. I spend my time doing it. And, I think that's I- I'm not trying to be modest of self-deprecating or in any way trying to do that.
Bill Moyers: Maybe you don't know why...
Jon Stewart: I'm just trying to tell you- I focus on the task and try and do it as best we can. And we're constantly evolving it, because it's my way of trying to make sense of all these ambivalent feelings I have.
Hansel from Zoolander:
I wasn't like every other kid, you know, who dreams about being an astronaut, I was always more interested in what bark was made out of on a tree. Richard Gere's a real hero of mine. Sting. Sting would be another person who's a hero. The music he's created over the years, I don't really listen to it, but the fact that he's making it, I respect that. I care desperately about what I do. Do I know what product I'm selling? No. Do I know what I'm doing today? No. But I'm here, and I'm gonna give it my best shot.
Here was my letter:
What was thuglican David Reinhard's point in his July 26th opinion "A surge of information to counter the defeatocrats"? Is it that Bush is taking propagandistic advice from Osama bin Laden in framing the war in Iraq as the "third world war"? Or is it to prove correct the assertion of critics when he informs us that "in 2004 [Zarqawi] pledged allegiance to bin Laden" finally giving al-Qaida any real sort of "presence" or "prestige" in Iraq and thereby putting the lie to al-Qaida as a justification for the invasion? Really, what is the point to David Reinhard?
Monday, July 23, 2007
Here was my letter:
David Reinhard ("[Hateful - so very Portland]") and Charles Gorder Jr. ("[Bumper-sticker mentality]") in Sunday's paper complain about the -- sarcasm ahead -- anti-war surrenderist Portlanders who make art and not bombs and sloganeer on their cars their support for bring the troops home. I, on the other hand, am proud to be a resident of this city and thoroughly enjoy seeing the weekly tally of letters received by the Oregonian which, this week and historically, are consistently 15 to 1 in favor of peace and rationality.
Here was my letter:
It is revealing to note that recent events allowed David Reinhard in his commentary "World's greatest deliberative ... pajama game" to comment on two deliberative bodies: The US Senate and the Iraqi Parliament. In the Senate, Republicans filibustered, something they used to call the "nuclear option" and "obstructionism", a vote on the Levin-Reed admendment that would begin within 120 days troop redeployment from Iraq. In Iraq, its parliament is planning on taking off the month of August -- something Whitehouse press spokesman Tony Snow is sympathetic to: Baghdad is quite hot on the summer you know -- before the much anticipated report on progress to Congress by General Petraeus. Sadly but truely, yet another demonstration of David's partisan mind.
Here was my letter:
Presumably the Editors wished to provide some "balance" to the Iraq surge by offering Saunders' opinion ("too soon to discuss surge failure'), which 36% of Americans at most would agree with (Pew Research Center's survey of March 26, 2007). Saunders', like all those on her side of this issue (see Reinhard on Sunday), only offer as "evidence" of the surge's effectiveness the military's own statements and pronouncements. Such propagandistic stenography is repellent to the bulk of humanity that understood by the Enlightenment; Saunders ought to be ashamed.
Here was my letter -- and published!*
Reinhard pens another apologia for the military, straight from the military -- something we hoped had been left in the last century -- in "A Soldier's Truth about Gitmo". I will let other readers write in about his blatant lying ("the detainees are being treated humanely."); my favorite is the sympathy we are supposed to feel for the guards when the detainees react to their pleasant condition. Reinhard parrots: "Apparently, [the detainees] weren't impressed with Gitmo's good grub, top-tier medical care and Islamic sensitivity." Yes, it is unsurprising that Reinhard can not fathom why they go on hunger strikes, act up towards their most hospitable hosts, and attempt and succeed at killing themselves. One wonders why Reinhard does not make a reservation for himself: Certainly he would enjoy the amenities and has nothing to miss outside Gitmo - just like the current guests.* - The editors unfortunately replaced "blatant lying" with "[such claims as]" suggesting that the treatment of the detainees is open for interpretation. Bullshit.
Here was my letter:
A useful corrective to the Oregonian's editorial
"A license for chaos" -- like much else in the paper --
is to review the ACLU's position. Unsurprisingly the ACLU
opposes the Real ID act, but more interestingly on the ACLU's
website for this issue (www.realnightmare.org) you can find a
color coded map of US states that have passed or introduced
state legislation *opposing* the federal Real ID act. It turns
out that 17 states have passed legislation opposing this
implementation of a national identification system. Arkansas
has decided to opt out, Georgia has authorized its governor
to delay compliance (because their attempt already ended
in disaster), Tennessee opposes its implementation and
urges its repeal, and finally Oregon has introduced legislation
requiring implementation only with federal funds and better
data security and privacy safeguards effectively opposing
Real ID. As usual, the Oregonian is on the wrong side of
There might be other posts as well ... but do not count on it!
The next couple of posts will be some catch-up.
* - a mildly mentally retarded person