Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Release the Hounds!

Nothing can get people on your case quicker than speaking your mind. Prof. Reynolds has pulled an avalanche upon his head by admitting to having worked with the ACLU in the past and might in the future. Not only have some people pledged to stop reading him, others have organized de-linkings.

Of course, I doubt there is anybody that doesn't read Instapundit before coming here.

The whole idea that someone would become a pariah due to mere association is not a good sign for a political majority. It is clear that conservatives are starting to fall into the pattern of hunting down heretics that had eviscerated liberals during the Clinton years. What this reaction through Stop the ACLU indicates is that opposing the ACLU is of higher priority than any other principle. Let me make this clear: people can work together in some instances without agreeing in whole to each other's agendas. I disagree with the ACLU's vehemence in purging nativity scenes from public property, but I am all with them in opposing the abuses resulting from the drug wars.

To those who solely oppose: Its called nuance, look it up.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Okay, Now I'm Depressed

Scientific illiteracy is one of my big buttons. So imagine my chagrin when I read this article about the pathetic results on a survey of scientific knowledge. I can tolerate, barely, that people don't know about cells or Strontium 90 as a component of nuclear fallout. But this just takes the cake:
Dr. Miller's data reveal some yawning gaps in basic knowledge. American adults in general do not understand what molecules are (other than that they are really small). Fewer than a third can identify DNA as a key to heredity. Only about 10 percent know what radiation is. One adult American in five thinks the Sun revolves around the Earth, an idea science had abandoned by the 17th century.

Maybe, just maybe, I'll have another go at teaching. Somebody has to step up and do something about this.

And I don't mean government, they've done enough damage already.

Hat tip: Instapundit

Was This Headline Necessary?

The body of the story is almost entirely about Wal-Mart and other retailers pledging aid and extablishing drives at their stores. You know, corporate america acting as members of their communities and showing that they care about their customers beyond sales.

Hard to tell from the headline:
Wal-Mart closes 123 stores from storm

Of course, its Wal-Mart, so you just know there are only base motivations involved.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Not All Emergencies Are Created Equal

In the terms implied in this post, I am just one step away from being an extreme libertarian. Do you smoke and drink? I'll drink a toast to your health as I enjoy my cigar. Want to jump off a cliff? Try to hit some public property and spare a private landowner the cost of cleaning the splat. Not evacuating from New Orleans as Hurricane Katrina closes in? If you are not in the Superdome, I'll put your name in for a Darwin Award.

I'm not really sure if I don't qualify as an extreme libertarian, because in the example he gives, I my rational for being OK with compulsory quarantining comes from an important libertarian principle. I phrase it as: Go ahead and kill yourself, but thou shalt not take others with you. Jumping off a cliff: OK; Jumping in front of a bus: not OK. If a person is ignoring a quarantive order, then he is putting many others at risk, and that is just not tolerable.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

In Relentless Pursuit of Principled Consistency

Question: What do these two articles have in common?

Bush supporters create opposing camp
U.S. gravestone guidelines changed

Answer: People tend to take offense at using memorials of war dead to make political statements without permission. Both should just stop exploiting the dead.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

I Don't Want to Call it Dishonesty

As part of my quest to remind people that words have meanings beyond rhetoric, I try to save words for situations that deserve them. To call this CNN report, and the video linked from that page, dishonest would mean that I have evidence that there was deliberate effort to be inaccurate. I'm using honest in the sense of making a good faith effort to provide all pertinent information regarding both sides. Since the report excludes a few pertinant points rather than including clear inaccuracies, I can't say that for certain that it has the deliberateness to make it truly dishonest. However, there is clear indication that the definition of "pertinent" is variable with respect to the different sides of the issue.

In the video report the "You Don't Speak for Me, Cindy" caravan is described as "supposedly grass-roots" but actually backed by a "conservative" organization, Move America Forward. Meanwhile, Cindy Sheehan's backers are described as "a PR firm and a non-profit organization founded by Ben Cohen. That is, Ben from Ben&Jerry's." (Note: this is a quick and dirty personal transcription from the video, I apologize if I got the precise wording wrong) The word "liberal" is not mentioned in the same manner and implied agenda-setting as "conservative". Nor are other backers of Cindy Sheehan mentioned, such as, International ANSWER, and Code Pink. While they may not have started Mrs. Sheehan's protest, they have certainly been right at the forefront of driving the publicity.

The report then is attacking the counter-protest for not being grassroots because a group with an agenda was aiding and organizing it. What the report fails to convey is that the pro-Cindy side, while it may have started grass-roots, has been subsumed into the anti-war establishment.

Another point: I was at first a little torqued over how the video report was very clear in stating that Deborah Johns, the leader of the "You Don't Speak For Me, Cindy" caravan, had a son who returned home alive after two tours in Iraq. My first reaction was that the statement was intended to devalue Mrs. John's opinions by showing that she does not have the "moral authority" that Mrs. Sheehan has in having lost her son. On further reflection, to have not stated that would have implied an equivalence between Deborah and Cindy that would not have been accurate.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Forget the Robots

There is a far more pressing (no pun intended) application for this new tactile sensory material. Merge this technology with the advances in using sensory feedback methods in prosthetic devices and the degree of functionality of replacement limbs will be increased greatly.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

No Patience for the Piecemeal

I've noticed a running theme in criticism of the status quo in both science and politics. Namely that matters are not perfect now, therefore the methods used now are insufficient. Iraq doesn't yet have a constitution and the opposition has not been silenced? Then it must be a complete quagmire and Bush should be impeached for getting us in there in the first place. Evolution can't explain all of the mechanisms of nature? Then evolution is completely useless and the guiding hand of Intelligence is necessary to explain the gaps. A very good post here on the Evolution/ID matter.

In science, the fact that there are questions is taken as evidence that science is insufficient for the task. I like to say that science is more about the questions it asks than the answers it finds. An old story goes that it is aerodynamically impossible for bublebees to fly. That such an obvious contradiction existed did not mean that the known laws of aerodynamics had to be discarded. Instead, further research was done and a deeper understanding of the mechanisms was realized.

In war, there are strategy and tactics. Strategy is the large, sweeping goals of a campaign. Strategy does not just leap from plan to reality with no intervening steps. Those steps happen where the plan meets reality, the realm of tactics, and tactics take time. Trying to predict how long that will take is like predicting the weather, we have some theories about general trends, but the particulars always throw in complications. Making a quantum analogy, predictions change the system. Name a deadline, and the circumstances under which the deadline was set has changed and the other side takes that into account and changes their plans.

In the end, my point is that plans and theories are not static, nor are they necessarily, if ever, perfect. Fundamental to methods of dealing with and explaining reality is that it must continue to conform to new information from reality. And it is not reasonable to claim that generals and scientists should have known from the beginning. If I had that type of knowledge I'd be the one doing the designing on my own.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Find Wall, Apply Head

I've been re-reading Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault by Professor Stephen Hicks. Simply reading through the philosophical roots of postmodernism brings much illumination to the way the farthest left elements of society "debate". Between the philosophies of Kant, Hegel, and Heidegger we get the following conclusions (from Explaining Postmodernism, pp 65,66):
1. Conflict and contradiction are the deepest truths of reality.
2. Reason is subjective and impotent to reach truths about reality
3. Reason's elements - words and concepts - are obstacles that must be un-crusted, subjected to Destruktion, or otherwise unmasked.
4. Logical contradiction is neither a sign of failure nor of anything particularly significant at all.
5. Feelings, especially morbid feelings of anxiety and dread, are a deeper guide than reason.
6. The entire Western tradition of philosophy - whether Platonic, Aristotelian, Lockean, or Cartesian - based as it is on the law of non-contradiction and the subject/object distinction, is the enemy to be overcome.
People who are familiar with the deep blue portion of the blogosphere can testify to the proliferation of this type of thinking.

The result, for those who prescribe to this methodology, is that no matter how much evidence you lay out that things are one way, if they feel that matters are the other way then they refuse to accept the logic. After all, logic and reason have no use in determining reality. In fact, the more one feels correct, the more correct the position. Hence the strong reliance on volume, obnoxiousness, and profanity.

Another result is the vitriolic response to criticism. If views of reality derive from feelings, then criticism can not be anything other than personal. In fact, it can be taken as an attempt to completely negate the validity of the individual. The flip side of the coin is that if a person believes something that one considers wrong, then the person must be either stupid or evil. Yet more reason for obnoxiousness and profanity.

I don't really need to be limiting this discussion to the leftist elements of society. The far right tends to be just as guilty (see: Intelligent design). If anything, the religious right is more in keeping with the philosophical tradition of Kant and Hegel. Those two gentlemen attacked reason with the explicit intent of bolstering religion. Say what you will about ID supporters, they muster on and don't take evidence as an answer.

Edited to replace the numerical list with a more comprehensive list found in the book. I should have highlighted better the first time through.

Just Don't Get Specific

How about this one? A doctor tells a patient that she is obese and he is now facing disciplinary action. One would think that the doctor would have been negligent had he not told his patient the unpleasant truth. This just in time for the regular report of how America is getting ever fatter.

So let this be a lesson to everyone, not just doctors. One may say "people are too fat", but never say "you are too fat". Rememer, just because you have numbers and evidence does not give you permission to hurt someone's feelings.

Gag me

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Sadly, They Feel Proud of Themselves

You know, deep down, people are animals. It's just a matter of simple biology. In the case of these animal "rights" protestors their taxonomy should be changed from Homo sapiens to Canis mesomelas. Digging up a woman's remains in order to ransom (extort?) her guinea-pig raising descendants is simply beyond the pale. Unfortunately, the family has announced that they will shut down the operation that supllied guinea pigs for medical experimentation.

I have one thing to say to this spokesman of the group responsible for this outrage
A spokesman for Stop the Newchurch Guinea Pigs, who gave his name as Johnny and would not reveal his surname, said:

"This is the most fantastic day of my life.

"It's a victory for the animals and it's a fundamental victory for the animal rights movement. I feel so unbelievably proud to be part of the movement."

Johnny, I can not voice any support for your opinion unless you are willing to volunteer for medical experimentation in place of the noble guinea pig. Otherwise, I remain unconvinced that you truly value the life of a guinea pig as much as you do your own.

Link via Samizdata

Monday, August 22, 2005

Parsing Cindy Sheehan's Rhetoric

Hopefully this will be the only post I will make on the whole Cindy Sheehan circus. Then again, I never intended to post as much as I did about Teri Schiavo, so we'll see how this goes.

First, Cindy Sheehan is fairly well known, at least in the Blogosphere, for having called President Bush the biggest terrorist in the world. I'm certain that she has never followed the reasoning that proceeds from such a statement, but I offer to fill in the gap. No one can argue that Osama bin Ladin would have to rank in the top three for that honorific. And it would follow that Mohammed Atta and all those who choose to serve him are also terrorists, if not moreso because they are the ones who are hands-on in perpetrating the atrocities. Then it would follow that the United States military would be Bush's answer to the al Qaeda network. Therefore she has indirectly implicated her own son as a terrorist.

A more serious analysis of Cindy's words will reveal her thoughts regarding her son. All of her statements regarding Casey's life have been passive. He was the victim of Bush's sending him to war. Nowhere does she acknowledge his responsibility for his own choices. That responsibility is the whole point of a person being an adult. In her words, Casey is her child and never his own man. It would seem that those who oppose Cindy's position are showing her son more respect than she does.

A Dissection of the Release Valve

Neptunus Lex, one of the gentlemen I had the pleasure of meeting last night, offers a post contemplating the nebulous notion of the Arab Mind I wish to toss in my two bits (two cents repeatedly with one half-baked idea) with respect to several points he made.

First, the idea we are, or shall soon conduct, an experiment in democracy as applied to an Arab culture is spot on. It has been said that America is an experiment in democracy and the Soviet Union was an experiment in socialism. Given the tenses that have to be used, you can tell how those experiments turned out. The study of these experiments are even referred to as Political Science, so let’s please apply a little rigor here and not assume the results before the experiment.

Second, Lex directs our attention to a point/counterpoint regarding the “release valve” theory. The counterpoint argument, elucidated by Michael Kraig writing at Democracy Arsenal is that there is a real dimension to the outward tuned anger that leads to terror.
Unfortunately, it's wrong -- or at least, half-wrong. There is of course an "escape valve" factor at work here. But after traveling to the Near East and the Persian Gulf for a combined total of two months this year (in a cross-country outreach tour for a Stanley product translated into Arabic), what I found was nearly everyone saying that "democracy" is not just about internal practices -- there is also an international dimension to justice, development, and democracy. And this is where anger toward perceived neo-colonialist aggression, not too different from the British mandate in Egypt and the French mandate in Lebanon and Syria, comes in. The truth is that people feel oppressed at one in and the same time by their own governments (internally) AND by perceived anti-Islamic, anti-Arab forces at the international or global level (externally), and neither of these exists in a vacuum apart from the other. The truth is that people feel oppressed at one in and the same time by their own governments (internally) AND by perceived anti-Islamic, anti-Arab forces at the international or global level (externally), and neither of these exists in a vacuum apart from the other.

The problem with this formulation is that it does not address the issue at the appropriate level. The release valve concept is about why people come to believe what they do. Talking to the man on the street about what he thinks is to look at the effect rather than the cause. Mr. Kraig’s vocabulary works against him: “And this is where anger toward perceived neo-colonialist aggression, not too different from the British mandate in Egypt and the French mandate in Lebanon and Syria, comes in.” The release valve concept is that the perception, or misperception, has been encouraged in order to draw attention away from the internal causes. To merely say that there is the perception is to beg the question as to whether the perception is justified.

The need for the release valve is necessary in Arab society with respect to two different realms, namely the political and the religious. The political is to cover the classic misdirection. The governments are failing to provide, and in many cases is outright stealing, prosperity for the people. To misdirect the anger at that, a scapegoat is created in the form of outside aggressors. The religious realm uses the release valve to answer the ages old question faced by all religions: “Why do bad things happen to good people?” If Muslims are acting in a good and moral way (I’ll leave the irony with respect to the bin Ladin minority unaddressed for now), then why has Allah not blessed them with the rewards due a good people?

I will interject one whole argument of my own that Lex gave a nod to regarding the danger of speaking of a whole people can come dangerously close to racism. Namely, I refer to the seeming belief that the Islamic culture, indeed any non-Western culture, can act only in reaction to the action of the West. I believe that this formulation is in itself racist in that it denies to entire societies a faculty that is supposedly only available to the West: the ability to formulate goals and act proactively upon them without reference to outside forces. The most pressing example of this ability in the Arab world has been bin Ladin’s repeatedly stated desire to establish a world-wide Caliphate. This stems from a radical reading of the Koran, and in truth can not be wholly directed at the actions of the West, but instead follows peripherally from the very existence of the West.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Milblogger Bar-B-Q

Just got back from San Diego where I attended Doc-in-th-Box's first Milblogger Bar-B-Q. OK, so technically speaking I'm not a Milblogger, yet somehow I still ended up with an invitation. Sean (Doc In The Box) said it had something to do with my writing ability. Anyway, a good time was had by all. Except for the chicken, they didn't seem to last all that long, but they gave their lives for a good cause.

The one issue I do have to make about the preliminary recap at Sean's is that Team America did not actually induce the mentioned shutting up. There were the sing-alongs and rude comments and applause at various points of the film. I leave it to you to guess which ones. Hint: "Why did Alec Baldwin's head getting blown off get three showings and Janine Garofolo's head only get the one?"

There are a few photos taken by Sean at the above link, but expect more from Da Goddess and She Who Will Be Obeyed!!

By the way, in case any of you ever wondered, I'm the dude with the dark beard.

Put Your Money Where Your Theory Is

I have gone on and on about what science is and is not in the past few weeks. One thing I forgot to mention is that it can be a way of pulling in a little extra green. I don't mean getting paid to find the "right" answers, but I do mean to make side bets on the outcome of the contests between competing theories.

The tradition of these wagers is that it is the proposers of the theories that make the wagers, although just because I haven't heard about third party wagers doesn't mean they don't happen. The first time I heard about such a wager was when Stephen Hawking and Kip Thorne bet against John Preskill about whether information became irrecoverable when it falls into a black hole. Certainly a bit more arcane than the next Super Bowl. The website doesn't list the prizes of the wager, but I recall something to the effect of bottles of Scotch.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Strategies of the Pull-out

Many people have been speculating as to what Ariel Sharon's reasoning behind the pull-out of Israeli settlers from the Gaza Strip. There are already claims from both sides that this is a victory for terrorists or that this will only encourage more terrorism. That last point is rather ironic in that terrorists are going to be encouraged whether the Israelis stay or go, so the threat is neutralized beyond consideration of how many net terrorists result.

Israeli blogger Gloria Salt considers what Sharon's strategy is.
Simple military strategy. Clear your own soft targets out of the way and then do what’s necessary.

Sounds about right to me.

Sharon strikes me as more of a soldier and less of a politician. That said, there are some points of reasoned discussion (what little there is in this whole matter) that bear examination. By removing the settlers, Sharon has not only removed physical cover for the enemy operating out of Gaza, but also a good deal of rhetorical cover. Should the intifada continue unabated despite this huge concession, then the pretense of negotiation goes out the window. In return for such a prize, an honorable opponent that desires peace would be bound to take some steps in reciprocation. From here, the Palestinians (Hammas included) must now either put up or shut up with any overtures that they want anything less than Palestine from the river to the sea. That goes as well with those who side with the Palestinians and see Israel as the terrorist state.

Please, note, that I shall not be holding my breath in the meantime.

Via Instapundit

Friday, August 19, 2005

Incomprehensible Numbers

$253 Million. Roll that around in your mind. Try to picture that in dollar bills. Imagine that as almost $1 for every man, woman, and child in the United States. Whatever image you get is going to be too small. The human mind just can not comprehend that number as it really is.

In this case, there is no way that the jury that awarded that judgement had a true appreciation of that number. How does that number compare to the allegedly concealed additional risk of heart attack associated with Vioxx? How does the number 253 millions of dollars compare to the entirety of the Merck corporation. There is really no conceptual difference once the number hits about 10 million. Beyond that point its like comparing falling 100 ft or 1000 ft, the result is no different.

If civil penalties are to have any real meaning any more, I would recommend the change that penalties be expressed as a percent of a company's profits or cash reserves or some other number that is publicly available. A percentage is easily pictured, and it will force jurors to face whether or not the damage incurred is worth destroying the corporation, which the raw number just does not communicate.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Papers Please

A German gallery is showing an exhibition of the works of various masters of oragami. Looking through the photos, I had to keep reminding myself that these are all paper.

The page should load in English. If not, and your German isn't all that strong, you can load the site in English by selecting the language at the bottom right of the page.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Irony of the Intelligent Design Debate

I have touched on the Intelligent Design bebate before. (No, really? - ed.) Much of the debate is marred with with significant scientific illiteracy, particularly on the scientific definitions of fact vs. theory.

The title of this post refers to the best possible description of the scientific process: the scientific method establishes an evolutionary environment in which theories must compete and advance toward the best possible description of the world. Those familiar with the concept of memetic evolution will recognize the analogy, but I won't go too much into the terminology of that framework. Having multiple theories attempting to explain the same set of facts is, temporalily, a good state of affairs for science. The competition of theories will drive investigation into the unknown areas of the world of facts via experimentation.

Ultimately, however, the competition needs to be resolved. Merely proposing a theory that points out weaknesses in existent theory is not enough. The new theory has to actively set out to prove that it is the superior theory by virtue of being the better fit to the world of facts. If the theory of intelligent design is to be taken seriously, it must proactively seek to describe current known facts and all facts that are discovered over time. In the end, one theory or another has to be the better fit in the world of facts. Like the losing creature in the environment must either adapt or die, the proponents of Intelligent Design (scientifically the clear loser) must either amend their theory or sit down and shut-up.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Dude, Thank God for the Tripod

This report (windows media file) is a spoof worthy of the Daily Show, although the Daily Show's live audience makes up for the lack of a laugh track.

I believe that the war on drugs is fundamentally hurtful to the fabric of our society. Then again, I still think that the burning of drug caches should be publicly announced they way they do Grateful Dead cover band festivals. Better yet, throw the drugs in ovens so that they form easily disposable brownie-like bricks. Just a suggestion.

Link via Dave Barry

Monday, August 15, 2005

Scientist, Not a Diplomat

With all of the stink going on with the Intelligent Design debate, you would think that a person investigating the bio-chemical origins of like would try not to stoke the fire.
"My expectation is that we will be able to reduce this to a very simple series of logical events that could have taken place with no divine intervention," said David R. Liu, a professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Harvard.

Really excellent. Way to wave a red flag in that bull's face. Maybe there was some serious out-of-context going on here, but you'd think that Harvard would have some PR people doing a little training.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Nice Teeth, Are They Yours?

In the future, the answer for even the replacements would be "Yes".

In honor of the Once-and-Future-Fanged-One I direct your attention to a Scientific American teaser describing work developing cloned teeth.

From the print article, I can describe for you how teeth are organs that one (technically) doesn't need to live. So, as opposed to your appendix, experimenting in implanting cloned teeth will have a definite upside with minimal downside for the patient should they fail. Matters are still a little iffy, keeping the insides in and the outsides out is tougher than it looks, but progress continues. The main forward-looking point is that once the process for teeth has been perfected, it would be a matter of details to expand the technology into critical organ systems.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Familiar Territory

I like to say that science is defined not by the answers it has but by the questions it has. John Cole adds to his already impressive collection of ID debate by linking to a TNR article that touches on the necessity of another theoryfor the development of species. (Hint: None)

Allow me to offer a different formulation on the concept of falsifiability (that neologism is bound to send the spell check nuts). Theories often have competition, multiple ways of organizing present facts into a coherent framework. The question for the scientific method then becomes to extrapolate from each theory and make predicitons about the shape of future facts. Where the predictions differ offer the potential to find new data (read: experiment) that will agree with the predictions of one, the other, or neither theory.

The new data may not necessarily be a death blow to the "losing" theory. It is entirely appropriate for the proponents to take the new datum into account and slightly alter the theory. Once done, predictions are made with the new theory and another experiment can be devised. Note: the way that a theory has to fit into the environment of facts and the minor changes in theory to conform to the demands of that environment place is evolutionary in nature.

A true scientific theory would have to be proactive enough to create predictions that would fit their theory and not Evolutionary theory. By introducing an intelligence, the only way to distinguish itself would be to discover a species alteration that would survive despite being unfit to the environment. That in itself would rock evolutionary theory to its core (which is the political goal of Intelligent Design) but would not establish ID as the reigning paradigm. ID would have had to predict the mutation through communication with the intelligence, no fair pointing to the new species and saying "He meant to do that". This is the dangerous part because one would have to prove that communication with the intelligence occured in order to link the cause of the intelligence (which can be arbitrary by definition) and the effect of the new species. I'm not sure that ID proponents are ready for the presence of a scientifically probable intelligence. That can take a whole lot of umph out of the idea of faith.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Gaming the Oil Market

The idea that the oil market is reacting to the perceived state of the war in Iraq has been very well covered by Dafydd at Captain's Quarters. The conventional wisdom that markets are the most effective means of collecting data of supply and demand. If the market is being driven by the war, then the market is in some way failing.

Dafydd's point is that the gatekeepers of the Mainstream Media are distorting the flow of information. Warzones are historically difficult places to get information from, but the Coalition, in this instance, is remarkably open in the setbacks and casualties taken. I don't think that anyone can honestly say that the reporters are getting out in the field and seeing these casualties happen, so most of the word has to be coming from public information officers and official releases.

So the market fails in direct relation to the failure of media failure. This is another instance of gatekeepers causing collateral damage in pursuing side interests rather than focusing on their primary function. If anything, it is the blogosphere and other distributed information outlets that are going to enhance the markets by providing accurate information.

Objection: What makes blogs any more accurate? Because there is no natural chokepoint or monopoly in the 'sphere. Each blog has to compete for eyeballs, and it would take very little for a site to get a reputation of being full of it. (I'm not there, I hope) Blogosphere, the market of memes.

Nothing new, just another application of the information/market identity. By the way, anyone interested in going in on shorting the market in the next couple of months? I'd guess that the price should be coming down the day the Iraqi Constitution is signed.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Those Evil Bastards

I think that we can all agree that spammers are the scum of the earth. Some people might say that that would rate them right next to lawyers, but I can at least acknowledge that lawyers are useful when he's on your side.

In conducting my regular purge of my inboxes, I went looking for the "Unsubscribe" link. I found it, right above the following horror:

Skin color among hill giants ranges from light tan to deep ruddy brown. Their hair is brown or black, with eyes the same color. Hill giants wear layers of crudely prepared hides with the fur left on. They seldom wash or repair their garments, preferring to simply add more hides as their old ones wear out. Adults are about 10½ feet tall and weigh about 1,100 pounds. Hill giants can live to be 200 years old. Combat Hill giants prefer to fight from high, rocky outcroppings, where they can pelt opponents with rocks and boulders while limiting the risk to themselves. Hill giants love to make overrun attacks against smaller creatures when they first join battle. Thereafter, they stand fast and swing away with their massive clubs. Rock Throwing (Ex) The range increment is 120 feet for a hill giant’s thrown rocks. Hill Giants As Characters Reckless brutes of incredible strength but little wit, hill giant characters are never truly accepted into society. Yet they do well on its edges and frontiers, forging a strong and profitable existence. Despite their rugged appearance and great size, their basically humanoid shape makes it easy for them to relate with more civilized folk. Hill giant characters possess the following racial traits. +14 Strength, -2 Dexterity, +8 Constitution, -4 Intelligence, -4 Charisma. Large size. -1 penalty to Armor Class, -1 penalty on attack rolls, -4 penalty on Hide checks, +4 bonus on grapple checks, lifting and carrying limits double those of Medium characters. Space/Reach: 10 feet/10 feet.

For those who don't recognize this unholy code, it is a monster description and game mechanics for a Hill Giant in the Dungeons and Dragons system. I have my own opinions regarding the AD&D/D20 system. But to insert such heinousness in a spam message? That is just adding insult to injury. For that, I will not take your damn cola survey.

Not that I would have anyway.

The Heartless Libertarian Strikes Again

Nature doesn't give a damn about anyone in particular. I feel bad about people dying due to from events beyond their control, such as the victims of the Malaysian Tsunami. What I can't muster is much sympathy for those who bring problems upon themselves. A person whose house has been wiped out by a hurricane would get my sympathy, but that runs thin when it is the third house they had on that spot.

The Jawa Report drives the point of personal responsibility home with brutal succintness.
If you knock some strange chick up in a moment of ecstasy inspired passion, it's your problem. I don't want to send you to jail, I don't want to send you to rehab, I'm not going to say that what you are doing is okay- it's not okay. It's just not my problem.

If you get AIDS because you're a geek and playing catcher is the only way you can afford your next hit, I'm sorry, really really sorry, but how is that my or the government's problem.

Yeah, call me heartless. Life is a bitch. And so is personal responsibility.

I don't care what caused a reckless driver's impairment or whether a guy was stoned or sober when he raped a woman. Reckless driving and rape are illegal, and it would be entirely appropriate to make the penalties in all cases the maximum saved for either chemical impairment or sobriety. If you do drugs because of peer pressure, then you are still responsible for jumping off that metaphorical cliff.

Ultimately, I believe that it is better that a smack user overdose than a smack dealer's uninvolved little sister get gunned down in a turf war. One person's self-destructed life does not justify another's life of pain because a doctor is too scared to prescribe appropriate opiates.

Heartless? Not really. I have heart, I just don't give mine out indiscriminately.

Hat Tip: Protein Wisdom

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

2 2 = Conspiracy

Andrew Wilkow, the morning host on WABC currently filling in for an evening host at KABC is discussing the Able Danger intelligence report and some recent comments by Rep. Curt Weldon regarding this report that never made it to the 9/11 Commission.

I'm going to go jumping off into the deep end repeat the connection that Wilkow is making: Given the relative dates of documents involved in the two matters, how likely is it that the documents Sandy Berger removed from the National Archives were related to the Able Danger reports? Thus far, I haven't seen any information to verify the connection, but I think I may actually do some research on this one.

More later, maybe.

Update: Looking back in the archives of others, it would seem that the documents that Berger had destroyed were after action reports regarding the LAX/Millenium bomb plot penned by Richard Clarke. Given that some of the copies had been destroyed, and speculation is that it was marginal notes that were the target of destruction, it puts a different angle of speculation on just what those hand-written notes contained.

Additional information is always appreciated.

Lunch Break Toilet Humor

Yeah sure, this invention is intended to mute the sound of flushing.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Nothing Tonight Folks


Technology's Slave

I am quite tired becuase, after a long day of work, I drove a 200+ mile round trip to retrieve my cell phone (the only phone I currently have) which had been left at a friend's house this weekend.

Cell phones: so portable, so useful, so forgettable.

Friday, August 05, 2005

The Wrong Confirmation Scandal

A common expression coming from the Right portion of the media is that Senate Democrats are trying to Bork the nomination of John Roberts. So far, the opponents of the nomination have found nothing that sticks particularly well.

If you accept the word of the Drudge Report, then it would appear that the New York Times is seeking the adoption records of Judge Roberts's children. No one has come forward with any suspicions that there are any improprieties in the paperwork, and this would seem to be a fishing expedition.

The way this is playing out, I don't think Bork is the correct example for this strategy. Better would be that the media is trying to Baird Judge Roberts. Most of you should recall Zoe Baird, the Clinton nominee for Attorney General that had been undone by having employeed illegal aliens in her home. It is surprising that Democrats, who between Baird and Clinton said that private is private and has no impact on a person's public works, would seek out this type of information. A commenter on another blog pointed out that it is entirely appropriate for liberals to dig into Judge Roberts's past in order to prevent someone getting on the Supreme Court who might attack the right to privacy. (The commenter had expressed it, I hope, ironically.)

Then again, if there is something that comes up, then Republican precedent would set it that they would have to withdraw the nomination. Of course, it would be interesting to watch the contortions performed to justify Roberts. If Washington shows us anything, it is that history is no basis to form future opinion.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

I've Been a Bad Blog-Son

OK, please, the guilt can stop now, any time. By now, I think that everyone is aware of Venomous Kate's dental crisis and the stellar response the fund-raising drive for falsies is recieving.

The guilt is coming from not having sent what attention I could her way. The Venomous one is the blogger that first got me thinking, "Hey, maybe I can write one of those things, too." Also, she is the one who directed a link that created the single biggest deluge to this blog ever.

And to Kate: I can understand how this is absolutely no fun for you and scary to your son, but think about how this could be a big learning experience for him. Of course, he may come out of this with too high of expectations from the internet tooth fairy.

Now That's a Condemnation

An AWOL Israeli soldier, evidently upset about the withdrawl of Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip, opened fire on a bus, killing four people. As with all such incidents, my condolences go out to the families of those killed.

After the attack, Prime Minister Sharon made a very sharply worded condemnation.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon condemned the attack, calling it "a reprehensible act of a bloodthirsty Jewish terrorist who sought to attack innocent Israeli citizens."

"This terrorist event was a deliberate attempt to harm the fabric of relations among all Israeli citizens," Sharon said in a statement issued by his office.

Note the use of the word "terrorist" in this release. The actions were what defined this as terrorism, not the causes. Evidently, Sharon does not consider this soldier to have been a "freedom fighter".

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Yeah, That'll Help

The Bureau of Motor Vehicles of the State of Indiana has taken steps to reduce the number of complaints stemming from the long lines. Their method? They removed the clocks from their branches.

Of course, that would kind of assume that people don't have phones or watches. Heck, even one person can leak the information to all others by answering the question, "Do you have the time?" Obviously, the next step would have to be the banning of such items from the offices.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Design, Yes, Intelligent, Maybe Not

President Bush dumped a couple of gallons of gas onto the Intelligent Design bonfire. There's a lively discussion going on in the comments of Jeff Goldstein's response to the issue. Ever one to jump on a pretense, I'm going to offer another thought against ID.

One line of Intelligent Design is to deny the role of randomness in evolution. Namely that each any every evolutionary change was thought out in advance by the Creator. I limit this to one Creator because the whole project would still be on hold if it were a committee project.

The issue comes up when one notes that there is no qualitative distinction between a useful mutation and a birth defect. It is not until the organism has developed and attempts to function in the environment. If every mutation is the responsibility of the Creator, then it must be responsible for every failed mutation and the suffering that comes about because of it. The Creator then becomes a bumbling craftsman who sweeps his mistakes under the rug while proclaiming the beauty of his rare successess.

A second issue is when one considers the many organisms that work well in the environment, yet can in no way be said to add to the smooth functioning of creation. Things like ebola, AIDS, leprosy, etc. One would believe that all that is in creation has designed into it. Hard to believe that a Creator that cares for its top of the chain would do something like that.

Either way, those who idolize the Creator can not logically consider him to be both omnipotent and omnibenevolent. The thin pretense of Intelligent Design seems to be creating its own philosophical problems for the understanding of the Creator.

One last note: This is NOT a scientific argument, it is a philosophical argument. Because nothing in creation can be outside the purvue of the Creator, anything we see will be inherently biased.

Upadate: Some people like to make the argument that evolution is not scientific because one can not perform experiments that replicate the process. Putting aside the virtual experiments in the process, it is not precisely true that experiments can't be conducted. Given that evolution occurs over hundred of thousands of years for large animals, the difficulties are of a practical nature rather than a theoretical limitation. At this point, I don't know if there are any scientists quite willing to put in the time, their own and their professional progeny, to properly conduct such a line of research.

Monday, August 01, 2005

"Well, I Double Dog Dare You!"

Add another thing to the list of things you just don't do. Joining don't get involved in a land war in Asia and don't match wits with a Sicilian when death is on the line, you may include don't tell a bunch of hackers that your system doesn't have a security hole. Might as well put a red cape on your back and go running through the bullpen at a professional bull riders rodeo.

Double geek points for identifying the two movies referenced in this post.