Wednesday, June 29, 2005


I was looking at Rantings of a Sandmonkey and he had posted this piece - Ironic Justice which highlights this article by Freestar Media. It seems that Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter owns a home and some land in New Hampshire. Logan Darrow Clements of Freestar media has come up with a proposal which would benefit both the town and the nation:

The proposed development, called "The Lost Liberty Hotel" will feature the "Just Desserts Cafe ©" and include a museum, open to the public, featuring a permanent exhibit on the loss of freedom in America. Instead of a Gideon's Bible each guest will receive a free copy of Ayn Rand's novel "Atlas Shrugged."

Because of the nature of the proposal it isnecessaryy that Justice Clements land be used since he is one of the Justices responsible for the eminent domain ruling which both allows and likely inspired the project.

I would definitely spend a vacation in the town of Weare if this project goes through.

Benny Hinn!

(Not Benny Hill, though he would have loved this guy!)

Benny Hill has been investigated by CTV (a private sector Canadian News network) and some American network and found to be ethically and monetary shady. Not to mention the fact that faith healers have been exposed as frauds repeatedly over the centuries and some faith healers go from jail back to the pulpit with barely a moment to change from stripes to three piece suit. I remember one guy in the late eighties being caught with a transmitter in his ear so he could hear the voice of God/his wife and he is back preaching in a different state (successfully). Yet apparently Benny and the gang have found a new market in Africa but you need to keep an eye on your middlemen or the rubes will get fleeced before you can get your cut.


Mugabe! You no longer need to explain... his name alone is a tragic joke.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Chrenkoff and the News From Iraq.

In the last few weeks NBC Nightly News has reported that Iraq had begun a civil war. They got this information from an unnamed government official since the only people reporting out of Iraq these days are Iraqi news organizations. (The Canadian Broadcast Corporation ran a radio story sometime ago saying that it was too dangerous to send reporters to Iraq and that was why they were not covering developments there except for bombings which they can read about on the Internet like the rest of us. I guess it is too dangerous to relate news from Iraqi reporters as well for some reason) Well, NBC must have decided that the civil war was not interesting enough to cover since I have not heard which side is winning or loosing or how the war is going.

But then a few days ago NBC Nightly News did find some interesting news out of Iraq. America, they declared... had lost the war. That's right - Lost! There had been no formal declaration of surrender or word of which nation the survivors fled to. Perhaps the defeat had been total and there were no survivors. I am sure NBC will keep us abreast of these developments. In the mean time, there is another installment of Good news from Iraqthat is really interesting. Since it will no doubt be the last one given America's defeat you should read it all for historical context. Fortunately these good news articles are archived on the internet because for the offline media they never happened and would have been lost to history.

Now that America has lost the war will Bin Laden get to run the oil companies in Texas? Maybe NBC will answer that for me tonight.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Operation Drive out Trash

Our world has been watching the same kind of nonsense unfold in Zimbabwe that our world has gotten quite good at watching.

First the esteemed President Robert Mugabe liberated the farm land from white farmers who had the bad form to be descended from the colonizing power and so are only citizens by birth and not by right apparently. This lead to what government intervention in agricultural matters always leads to, a crash in the agricultural sector and the need for international food aid. It seems that people who are good at violently seizing land seem to lack the skills needed for agriculture - modern or otherwise. He felt that this land redistribution would give him a boost in the polls but since most Zimbabweans don't actually want to be poor and hungry while thugs sit around on farm land doing jack all, he thought he would give himself the added advantage of running an even more crooked election than the last one with beatings, vote rigging... you know, the usual only more so.

But it seems that you can only blame one group for so much and with no more land to seize he turned his wrath on the landed gentry which for Bobby M. is the poor and their shanties. About 300,000 people have been evicted; some were forced to destroy their own homes while others were afforded the luxury of watching someone else do it. While
Amnesty International has not called Zimbabwe a gulag or anything yet they are kind of upset. Even the African Union and the U.N. are clucking their tongues about it.

Fortunately for Pres Mugabe, he has kept the madness in his own country and the internationally recognized principle of national sovereignty states that what goes on within a nation's borders is all fair pool. The head of state owns his people and if they don't like it and they are not allowed to leave then... well no one told them to be born and no one is stopping them from killing themselves. The last thing this world needs is more nations butting into each others business like Iraq right?

Is this planet not charming?

Update: The madness continues. I was reading this BBC article about Zimbabwe's explanation and the reaction of neighboring nations.

Zimbabwe's Local Government Minister, Ignatius Chombo, ...denied that it had created widespread humanitarian problems, and said the demolitions had been welcomed by all patriotic Zimbabweans.
That is the problem with people who have their homes destroyed by the government, they are so un patriotic! What about their neighbors?

South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki has questioned why the West is so concerned by Zimbabwe but makes relatively little noise about other African emergencies, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, where some three million people died in a civil war, and where armed bands kill, rape and loot with impunity in some areas.
Thabo Mbeki is no Nelson Mandela. Hell, he is no
Gomer Pyle. This is the guy who could never believe that AIDS was caused by HIV. He has decided that Mugabe is a hero of the independence movement and as such can only shit sunshine. As for his above pondering? Um Africa is your freaking continent T.M. - why don't you make some noise about the Congo?

But let us let the last word go to the A.U. - the organization that was going to bring peace and stability to the continent.

But AU spokesman Desmond Orjiako told the BBC's Network Africa programme: "If the government that they elected say they are restoring order by their actions, I don't think it would be proper for us to go interfering in their internal legislation."

I don't know which is more rich, the fact that he thinks Mugabe was elected by Zimbabweans (maybe he meant several elections ago) or that the apologists for Mugabe are stomping all over each other's arguments (compare the last two boxes). As for why no African nation will criticize this behavior - it is because it hits them too close to home. I can not believe that I was feeling optimistic about Africa not so long ago. Live and learn.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Eminent Domain or Enema Domain?

Either way it is a pain in the ass.

The U.S. Supreme Court decided that if your city thinks it has a use for your property that may benefit the "public good" even if that public good is just making a profit for a friendly neighborhood real estate developer, your out of luck. My advice? Move next to a Superfund site. You may get cancer but no one will ever take your house. Plus, even if eminent domain applies to your internal organs they will be so twisted and mutated that even city councilors would not be able to use them.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Science is Fun!

I just bet that this is going to become one of the most cited and linked to stories on the Internet pretty soon.

The last bit is kind of hurtful though:

The team has already done a similar study involving 11 men, which revealed far
less deactivation during orgasm than in women. However, Holstege says the
results are probably unreliable and need to be repeated. The problem is that PET
scanners measure activity over two minutes - and in men it is all over in a few

Let's not get personal - [sniff]

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Poor Europe. The Chief Wiggum of the Modern World

In one episode of The Simpsons, the town police chief Clancy Wiggum is out of a job and tries to rob Homer with a piece of a gun (having sold the rest) Homer shows no fear and much pity when he exclaims "Poor Wiggum." Wiggum is unoffended by this pity because he himself realizes his fall and shares Homer's pity by himself exclaiming "Poor Wiggum." in the third person.

Unfortunately Europe has not come to the point where it realizes that it has gone down several very wrong turns (except for this guy). While the electorate of France and the Netherlands rejected the European constitution out of a sensible distrust of the political elite which has kept their economies flat for years. The real reasons they have (zis competition and free-markite bizinis eez too Anglais, mon Deu.) betray the thinking that will keep Europe stuck to the floor of the movie theatre while everyone else has gone for drinks. France not only has multiple left-wing parties but a communist party that does pretty good by western terms. Yes, there are significant numbers of people in Western Europe (all over the planet actually but in Europe they don't get laughed at) who believe that communism might just work if it were given one last shot (or two).

Many of those who are not communists or in some cases fascists, are still to some degree enamored with the concepts of nationalism and central planning. Maybe the new members will be able to snap them out of it but then they will probably react to the growing economies of the east, not by realizing that they are doing something right and copying (privatization, reduction of regulation, not choosing which companies are, or should be the winners in the economy and corrupting them with pointless support), but instead by claiming that the east is growing too fast and calling for protectionist measures. Humans are as predictable as the tides.

Wiggum gets his life back in the end. Europe will too but the question is whether it will be soon or another century or two.

Gay Marriage Vs. High Syphilis Rates.

Here is an interesting bit of info. Countries in Europe which have legalized gay marriage found that their rate of syphilis infections dropped. As with most medical and sociological studies this one will need to be examined and survive any methodological criticism - something that always seems to happen after the study is reported in the news. But if it stands up it might suggest that allowing people to get married to the person of their choice is actually a good thing for society.

Why HIV and gonorrhea do not show similar drops may have to do with the transmissibility rates and unknown social factors. (I know that HIV does not transmit every time an infected person has sex with an uninfected person so it tends to travel faster in populations where those who are promiscuous form networks of semi permanent relations instead of the more casual anonymous cheating.)

What is clear (if the research holds up) is that the official sanction of the state, combined with the legal ramifications of a marriage result in a certain degree of commitment and those who what to be truly committed are provided with a means of telling if their partner is in it for real or just killing time until the next fling comes along. If the prospect of saving money on health and disability costs plus avoiding the loss of productivity when workers are on sick leave is not a reason to reconsider opposition to gay marriage, perhaps the fact that, like AIDS, syphilis among homosexuals leads to syphilis among bisexuals then heterosexuals and promiscuous life style is not needed to come in contact with a promiscuous person. Even if HIV and gonorrhea don't show the same drop, it is reasonable to assume that their are STDs which will. Can people who disapprove of homosexuality really write off their own kids' health just because they may have had one or two unprepared-for encounters? Since these are usually the same people who oppose sex education they probably would have considered preparing for it as premeditation so virtually any fall off the celibacy wagon is going to be unprotected.

It is interesting how attitudes that seem unconnected end up working together to have unexpected consequences. Just as people who are against gay marriage and against sex education are often the same people, the group who oppose stem cell research and who oppose the theory of evolution have an interesting connection.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

June May be an Interesting Month in Iran

An Iranian group dedicated to regime change in Iran is giving the Islamic Republic an ultimatum (PDF). I do not know how much support the Iran of Tomorrow Movement or S.O.S. Iran have but I have heard that Iran has been experiencing unrest. Student protests, dissatisfaction with the lack of reforms and this years latest sham election, and now this. I figure if we do not see Iran in the M.S.M. news this month the movement will have fizzled but if June 16th comes and goes and the opposition are able to make good on their promises with public support then all bets are off. It may all come down to who the Army is loyal to.

NBC Nightly News Scared the Vinegar Out of Me

I was watching the NBC nightly news (I was not in charge of the TV remote) and I was so shocked by what I saw that I thought the world was coming to an end. It started out normally enough with a story about Afghanistan - there were recently American casualties there so all of a sudden it is in the news. But then, out of the usual hopelessness and despair that the media will serve up when present and makes up when absent, there was an actual bit of editorial content that was... positive towards the military and the work they were doing. I just about died right there.

But the shock to my system was not finished. At the end of the broadcast was a piece about the Baghdad symphony (composed of Sunni, Shia, Kurds and Christians) and it did not try to make life under Saddam seem nice or try to praise the insurgents as freedom fighters. It did not even have some reporter trying to get them to bad mouth the Americans by asking leading questions. The story mentioned their rising salaries and their commitment to bringing about an improvement in their country through their music. After I checked the channel to see if I was really watching a network news show and not some new kind of pirate TV station, I have decided that reality has completely snapped into little shards and melted in a tangled mess.

Run for the hills - if they are still there.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Extra Stupidity (Plus - Internet Explorer 6 Can Now See Me!)

I looked a little deeper into the site where I got one of the links for the last post - the one about Williams selling a rape clip to HBO - and I found that it is posted by a site that has no ability to distinguish between violence against fictional and pixelated people and violence against real life people (Free Radical). One of my pet peeves is organizations which put real human life and suffering on par with fictional depictions and who adamantly claim that fictional violence leads to real violence despite the fact that the well performed research, with things like proper sampling methods and sizes and controls, show no connection. I bet you a gillion-jillion dollars that I have played far more violent video games and seen far more gory movies than Bernardo or any other violent offender and I don't have corpses in my freezer. Attacking people like me because people like Bernardo's father raise violent shit-heads, strikes me as somewhat unfair.

But their page on the HBO transaction is worth reading so I will leave it in. Though I wish to go on record as saying that I think Free Radical is a group of anal fascists who want to be mummy to the world because they are scared of it. They make me sick. Cheers!

On a happier note...

My blog should now be viewable on Internet Explorer 6. I had deleted something that IE really needed so I had to restore the template and re-add all the bits and pieces of my blog. If anyone has any trouble viewing it they should e-mail me pronto so I can do some more jiggery-pokery. (Did jiggery-pokery sound violent? I would not want Free Radicals after me.)

The Vortex of Stupidity.

Every once in a while there is an event or a person or a situation that is so objectionable, so offensive that it begins to bend space and time around it. It attracts higher levels of stupidity and insanity towards it and forces reason away. Anyone who is able to retain their senses in one of these maelstroms of mental decay is to be commended though this ability is rare.

I am not talking about the Jackson trial and the creepy M.J. fans from the cuckoo's nest who through rocks at the media for "making" Jackson look guilty, though you could be forgiven for assuming that. I am referring to the Scarborough rapist or more specifically, one of the two people who were the Scarborough rapist; the one who was able to get off with a far lighter sentence than she deserved. Karla Homolka was Paul Bernardo's wife and willing enthusiastic accomplice. She did not do anything to stop the crimes even after her lawfully wedded husband got too rough with her and it occurred to her that playing games with a murdering serial rapist was not a safe thing to be doing. Around this time Bernardo got caught. A full timeline of the madness is available here.

But what is equally repulsive is the pure, distilled stupidity of certain (for lack of a better term) people. It is a seemingly contagious incompetence that has rolled the red carpet out for this demonic duo as they continued to blight humanity with their presence.

  • Bernardo's lawyer Ken Murray, who hid the videos that incriminated both Bernardo and Homolka; the videos which would have made unnecessary the plea bargain that prevented Homolka from receiving the life sentence and dangerous offender status which she deserved, was found not guilty of concealing evidence. What could Justice Patrick Gravely possibly have been thinking? Well, in his own words:
"In my opinion, it does not follow that because concealment of incriminating evidence is forbidden, there is a corresponding positive obligation to disclose," said Gravely.
Remember my rants about logic not being taught in schools?

In other words, when the lawyer went in to the crime scene to the hiding spot he had been directed to by Bernardo and snuck the tapes out, he was not hiding them, he was merely not disclosing them. Americans complain about their judges. Ha! At least their's can understand words like "concealment" and "forbidden". In Canada many of our judges have serious solvent sniffing problems.

When Murray was acquitted he made the following interesting comment:

"I'm just as relieved for everyone involved that it's now over," said Murray. "Now, hopefully, everyone can get on with their lives."
Anybody see the flaw there?

  • Stephen Williams is a man (to use the term in its loosest context) who did everything he could to profit from the carnage and suffering and who would later plead guilty to violating a publication ban by publishing the names of rape victims of Bernardo including those who survived and were trying to get on with their lives. The following is excerpted from the CBC timeline page.
"May 2004: Williams wins a grant from Human Rights Watch, an organization that supports victims of political persecution, to help defer his legal costs. The award places Canada alongside countries such as Myanmar, Peru and Sierra Leone. "
This also puts Human Rights Watch alongside organizations like NAMBLA. And I thought Amnesty International had their heads up their asses.

  • Michel Biron, a Liberal Party Senator who was appointed by former Prime Minister Jean Chretien is doing everything he can to lend his emotional support to Karla (proving that almost every person to come in contact with that former jackass-in-chief becomes a monster - Paul Martin must be taking some kind of antidote on a semi regular basis). He feels that Homolka is being treated too harshly (for a rapist murderer):
"The Senator also expressed concern over the court's usage of a Section 810 clause in Canadian law which is defined as peace bonds used as preventative court orders which require an individual to agree to specific conditions to keep the peace. "These instruments are available to police to protect the public before a criminal offence has been committed", according to the legal definition. Section 810 first appeared in the Canadian Criminal Code in 1892. The Senator maintains that the law is archaic."
So are torture chambers but that did not stop his favorite little death-skank from working in one. I should mention that the purpose of the senate in Canada is to provide a patronage post for members of the party in power who are too old or drunk or stupid to make it in to the actual parliament. If someone close to the ruling party needs to resign in disgrace you will find them appointed to the senate in a few years time. Occasionally the Prime Minister will stick in an ex-hockey player or a leftist poet to make it look like anyone can become a senator. One Senator used to spend most of his time on a Mexican beach for "health reasons". To their credit though many Senators have sobered up and wiped the drool off their chins in order to condemn Senator de Sad; an event which is unprecedented in Canadian history. Watching the Senators wake up is like watching a horror movie where zombies rise from the grave.

The Senator also feels that restrictions on Homolka, which are hoped to keep her from playing her sick little games again with another freak (she is a high risk to re offend) are violations of her civil rights.

"This law is the kind of law used in totalitarian regimes"
Yes, putting restrictions on sex offenders is totalitarian. No wonder Human Rights Watch is pissed with us.

Perhaps the greatest stupidity is the one that seems to have been forgotten by the news archives of the day. But I remember it. It is the fact that after the trial there were Canadians out there who actually claimed that the tapes of these two girls being raped and tortured were something that the public had a right to see. Yes, access to violent child pornography of murder victims is a human right. I am sure they would claim that they had the right to lick the blood off of Bernardo's circular saw too (which was also in evidence, since it was used to dismember one of the victims). I can only hope it is plugged in and running when they exorcise their right. Maybe that could be the next project for Human Rights Watch.

The Province of Ontario had the tapes destroyed (finally someone does something right) when they were not needed for legal purposes any more except for those which Stephen Williams sold to HBO which were out of their power since this was done illegally. No one at HBO has, to my knowledge, ever been charged with purchasing child pornography though they did make a TV show episode out of it so they probably made enough money to pay the lawyers.

No one knows how many girls were raped and how many of them were murdered both before and during the Bernardo/Homolka marriage. One thing is for sure. Lots of people showed their true colours. Lawyers broke laws, cops broke laws (making 8 hours of Bernardo's interrogation inadmissible) , an author broke laws, human rights organizations and journalistic associations fought for the rights of an exploitive peddler of misery to violate the privacy of rape victims. Some of these heinous acts had consequences. Others did not.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Know Your Market

"By their fruit you shall know them." some guy once said. But don't buy their fruit until you know them. One of the best ways to evaluate a religion or a denomination or a sect or a cult or an organization which may be taking a page out of the religion "How to" manual is by looking at how they try to gain new converts. If the numbers are all that matter to them and they do not care about things like informed consent, they will probably try to get at people at their most vulnerable. Maybe they have just experienced a natural disaster. You can go in to a country under the pretence of helping out and use the opportunity to spread your message and quietly piss on the competition like the Hubardinians have been doing. This tactic is why the very conservative Christian denominations, having pushed too many moderates out of church in their own countries to retain the kind of influence they would like (a process that is just now underway in America but further advanced in Europe and the wealthier former colonies, minus Australia), are finding that the war ravaged, illiterate and under fed are an easier sell. Bishop John Shelby Spong explains why this is not the good news that evangelists claim it is. It should be noted that once people have heard the "Good News" and the rest of the scriptures as literally interpreted by the missionaries, they often start up their own churches which have no organizational attachments to the originating denomination. While Islam was able to maintain a fairly unified belief system in a free-market independent model, they had the benefit of being mostly of one ethnic and linguistic group. Africa is a stew of colonial and indigenous languages and beneath the nation state system they still have many rural areas where kinship connection and tribal kingdoms mean that Africa is a very diverse cultural landscape. The chances of these independent churches maintaining their 17th century European character are pretty low - and that is assuming that modern education, Internet access, cell phones (Africa's market for cell phones is on fire) and globalization do not bring strange new beliefs and ideas from Scientology to secular humanism to their door. Also, Unlike Europeans Christians, Jews and Moslems, who frown on doctrinal dilution of "reveled truth", most places in the world have a history of mixing, matching and picking religious beliefs. Modern Hinduism and Buddhism were highly influenced by long philosophical debates between their scholars and with people of other religions. Independent churches also are only accountable to the local justice systems who may not want to touch a hot potato like religion until it becomes too corrupt to be ignored. The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God loves to attract new followers in the third world but given that they are selling miracles on a "no money back if you lacked faith" bases, I doubt that they are highly concerned about their flock, let alone the future of Christianity. Another way to get high recruitment is to go after a group that has already proven receptive to recruitment like an Air Force Academy. Once you have them in a position where they are isolated from their friends and family and in an environment where challenging authority is... frowned upon, you can start bombarding them with your marketing campaign day and night. [See DFACs not for religion - scroll down to third item].

The idea of converting people to your beliefs is an old idea. The Buddhists believed in teaching any who were interested and even sending teachers into other lands but since they believed in reincarnation there was not the frantic desire to "save" people from the consequences of disbelief. If they did not get it now they might come around in a thousand years. The Romans converted themselves to the Greek religion and then sought to convince everyone they came across that their Gods and stories were actually Roman Gods that they had been mispronouncing - a surprisingly effective mode of unification which only required the adoption of some new holidays.

Unfortunately one of the few and most successful versions of monotheism came with the commandment "You shall have no other Gods but me." He did not say "I am the only God. Just saying is all. Don't go killing anyone about it this is just to clear things up." What he said was "I am a jealous God" and spent a significant amount of time telling his chosen people that by mixing with people who do not worship only him they are a dirty slut (See Ezekiel). This, along with the rapid success of the break away religions of Christianity and Islam set the stage for a dream that has haunted every religious follower and instigator (that goes for secular know-it-alls too - Marx, Hitler, Mao, Stalin - I'm looking in your direction!) ever since. The dream of having your idea on everyone's mind. Converting the whole world to a new idea so that everyone will be more identical.

But in the frenzy to achieve the dream, like the holy grail of myth, it vanishes when you try to reach it. The Islamic extremists have resorted to violent world wide uprising because they have looked out on the world and have seen that it is too large and diverse and complicated (modern) to convert peaceably. In this and this alone they may know something the more moderate Muslims do not. Or it could be that they both understand it but the extremists are unwilling to let go of the dream of worldwide adherence so they have pursued the line of thinking to its conclusion.

Christian extremists, being more image conscious had decided to go for a middle road. They can not reason the world to conversion and they are unwilling to repeat the violence of past conversion efforts so they rely on constant pressure. Show the unbelievers the ten commandments when they go to court. Make them pray in school. Pray with them in the work place. Sing gospel in the mess tent. Open city counsel meetings with evangelical prayers (none of this "Dear God" crap that Jews and Muslims can get behind but "Praise Jesus our only savior for today's municipal agenda" - you know - stuff like that). Tell their kids that their parents are going to Hell - you are just expressing your beliefs after all.

Everyone who reaches for the Grail fails to notice is that the very act of reaching causes the dream to vanish. New Zealand may be evidence of the Christian world's dream of theological unity fading as the conservatives grasp ever harder at it. The blogosphere is evidence of the vanishing of the extreme Islamic hope for the same. For while it is easy to find anti-Semitic conspiracy-spewing Islamic extremists on the net, you can also find growing numbers of moderate and democratic (sometimes even secular and pluralistic) Middle Easterners who do not share the dream of converting the world by what ever means necessary. It is nice that we have a medium to hear from them. Now if we can just get those hacker people to make web traffic unblockable in countries like Iran. Get to it you geeks!

It is not just the military which has low recruitment and high turn over. As long as religions care more about the number of bums in seats or on mats than about what the attached heads think of them, the unity they seek will, thankfully elude them.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Insane on the Mainframe

I am not sure if this story represents a case of computer science helping to advance neuroscience or of neuroscience helping to advance computer science. Either way (or both) it sounds like a nifty, if long term project. What gets simulated may not be very human though I would propose that human intelligence is not the greatest final blue-print and that using the neo-cortex as a jumping off point rather than an end in itself might be the way to go. What will really be interesting is when neo-cortical inspired artificial intelligences are paired with other forms of AI that are nearly as powerful but are currently limited because there needs to be a human intelligence to set the problem up for it. Genetic algorithms/evolutionary design systems and the creativity machine that Stephen Thaler is working on are a couple of examples of tools which a neo-cortical AI might make use to enhance its abilities.

By the time the brain simulation project is done (ten years, roughly) the massive supercomputers needed to run the model will be small and cheap enough for at least a medium size business to own one (Google and cable companies will be able to buy whole tribes of them). Even if that kind of hardware never makes it to the desktop market for some reason, A small group of neighbors could chip in and get one to act as a monitor for security cameras, a lawyer/accountant/lobbyist for the neighborhood's interests and screen out telemarketers while being polite to the extended family of the residents (or visa-versa).

I must reiterate at this point that artificial intelligences do not need to be perfect human replacements. They do not need to fool anyone into thinking they are a human on a Turing test in order to change everything about life in the twenty first century. They only need to be intelligent problem solvers, creative thinkers and have the ability to learn. It seems to be that even without a model of the human neo-cortex, it is easier to get machines to do this than to wait for these skills to emerge spontaneously in the human population. This may be the best argument yet for working to automate human level intelligence. We need teachers and tutors who can actually learn how to teach. Children deserve better than having two or three good teachers (tops) in their public school careers.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

No Reason for the Season.

I forgot to mention this a couple of weeks ago but the Teachers' Union and the New Brunswick Government were able to avoid both a teachers' strike and the embarrassment of implementing a commitment to teaching logic and reasoning skills, which would have risked bringing up the question of why they were not doing this before. I salute the Province of New Brunswick and its steadfast refusal to provide the fundamental principles of all education to the country's future voters. This bureaucratic buggery; this act of pedagogical treason is at least consistent and consistently stupid behavior is the closest thing to good government that we as taxpayers can expect.

Perhaps I should have included Ronald Munson's book The Way of Words: An Informal Logic as one of my choices of five books that had an effect on me. It is responsible for a lot of my cynicism. When you 'feel' that politicians and preachers, news paper editors, activists and lobbyists etc are full of crap you can dismiss them. When you know exactly how they are full of crap and you notice that they are recycling the same crap over and over because they don't have enough respect for you to think up some new crap to shovel at you, you realize just how much these people hold us in contempt.

Well right back at them.

I think I will try to round up some good sites on informal logic and critical thinking and create a new category in my links column. If the province of New Brunswick refuses to teach the fundamentals of education to our students, maybe some of them will accidentally find this post when searching for "province of New Brunswick" or "New Brunswick education system" or " NB public education sucks" on Google.

Logic is like sex. If your parents will not tell you what you need to know and your teachers won't tell you and your preacher is dead set against it in all its forms, you can always start on the Web. Just be careful who you get it from. (The information not the... What I mean is... Oh, Shut Up!)

Friday, June 03, 2005


I had put Jihadpundit in my list of links after reading a few of his posts. To be honest I lost interest after he came down really hard on the "Terri Schivo's Hubby is a murderer" and as a member of the culture of death I guess that might have turned me off him. Anyway, his site is down for the foreseeable future and his web site:

  • Jihadpundit - the Arab street neoconservative

  • redirects to a site called Eurabia Update.

    After reading some of the posts I have decided that I will link to them in this post but I won't yet add them to my links list. The posts which I read are valid criticisms of Islam and the West's tendency to allow more tolerance for its excesses than any religion deserves but there are two things that I don't agree with about the site. One is the opening statement that Europe is entering a darkages because of the growing Islamic influence. This makes no distinction between moderate verses fundamentalist Muslims and ignores the fact that the same factors that have been secularizing European Christians and emptying their churches are having the same effect on second and third generation European Muslims. It also relies on that belief that democracy and Islam are like oil and water which current events in the world are, to say the least, challenging.

    Secondly, the site itself seems to me to have a tone in which the distinction between criticizing terrorists and their fundamentalists supporters on the one hand and criticizing the entire religion in general on the other is lost. While I believe every religion needs criticism (lots of it!), different orders of magnitude are required for different orders magnitude of beliefs. It is unfair to lump someone who is looking for cultural accommodation which you do not see as reasonable in with people who want to kill you and your neighbors by the thousands.

    If I become certain that I have been too harsh I will put them as a permanent link but for now it is the darkages for Eurabia Update.

    Update: Ok the first time I did not read all the articles and so I did not see comments like:

    "Muslims just seem to become more barbaric by the moment. I'm just waiting for the inevitable cannibalism to set in."

    Even given the context of the atrocious crime described below this comment, this kind of crap removes any qualification for a permanent link. It is a shame that someone would go to such length to provide needed criticism and then remove all credibility by surrounding it with this.

    Oh well.

    Dereliction of Duty.

    I was going to do a long post about the Amnesty International gulag bs but I found this article at Tech Central Station which is far better than anything I was going to say.

    I will just add that for Amnesty International to wipe its ass with its own credibility is a total dereliction of duty because the world really needs an organization that genuinely is what Amnesty would like us to believe it is. But then this is the organization which condemned Garry Larson's Farside cartoons because the had medieval torturers in some of them. We are not working with geniuses here.

    Thursday, June 02, 2005

    Human Shields are Heavy and Smelly but Cheap.

    There are many forms of cowardice in this world. Some are more understandable then others. All are saddening. There is one form of cowardice however, that I have always despised more than any other. It is the kind which is displayed when a person or organization tries to protect itself or just escape the consequences of their actions by putting uninvolved people in danger. The defense of "You don't know what it is like to be in our position" carries no weight with me either.

    Canadian feelings toward Israel dropped by a full order of magnitude in 2004 when, after having been assured by Israel that their intelligence operatives would not obtain (either by fraud or theft) or use Canadian passports, we discovered that such assurances we just big fat lies to the stupid canucks. As a result, no one can travel in the middle east on a Canadian passport without arousing some suspicion that they could be with Mossad. Add a Jewish sounding name or too much camera equipment and it is only a matter of time before some Canadian traveler disappears into a cell and never comes out. Just ask Iran how easy it is to kill a Canadian and get away with it. Israel has done this to other countries like New Zealand where they tried to steal the passport of someone with cerebral palsy. They must have figured that if they got his name in trouble he would die before any government could retaliate against him. Classy.

    Israel's response to Canada has gone from 'We will never do this again; we agree we should not have violated Canadian sovereignty.' to 'We will do as we please because you don't know what it is like to be bombed by terrorists. Israel needs to look out for its own and Canada be damned.' At least they are more honest about it now. As for us not knowing what terrorism is like, we can thank Mossad for doing everything in their power to bring such experiences to us. Now sure, Palestinian intifadorians did kind of invent the concept of "there are no such thing as innocent civilians" (see Ward Churchill for further development of this idea) but as long as everyone is looking out for their own and everyone else be damned, Canada also needs to do what is best for us like boycotting Israeli businesses and breaking off diplomatic contact - though, to be realistic, since we don't do that when Iranian police rape, torture and kill one of our citizens and their government laughs in our face about it, I doubt Israel will stop looking for Canadian passports on eBay. I suppose that since Israel thinks that firing missiles into an urban settings is an "assassination" and everyone else killed is "collateral damage", they will probably not spend much time thinking about how the world or their trading partners see them. (They are probably too busy making tinfoil earplugs to keep the space rays out of their brains.)

    Collateral damage is unintended. Unintended means not deliberate. Deliberate means "Done with or marked by full consciousness of the nature and effects". ( How can anyone authorize a helicopter to fire a missile at someone in an urban setting and not be conscious of the effect? Just how hot is the air they breath in the Middle East? More interestingly, why do the Israelis and Palestinians have any problem living together? Shouldn't one wild-eyed, irrational religious nut seem pretty much the same to the other wild-eyed, irrational religious nut? How do they even tell each other apart? Teach the Israelis how to do that suicide bombing thing and give the Palestinians a US sponsored military and you would instantly have one people - Palisraelistine! Or Ispalestinerael?

    But putting other people in danger to make your own job easier seems to be the new business model these days. The CIA has decided to put some young spooks through universities (covert scholarships no less) as anthropologists so that they can go to other countries on the pretext of learning about other cultures and while they are there they can spy on them. Apparently reading legitimate anthropology papers is too hard for the CIA. Now when a young anthropologist goes to a far off country, in addition to having to gain enough trust from the locals to start observing their culture, they also have the added fun of risking being picked up by the local government and tortured in a cell somewhere. Then again some paramilitary group may decide that a village of natives is spilling secrets to the CIAnthropologist and just wipe out the village as traitors. Interestingly enough, in this case the US is also putting its own civilians at risk to accomplish its aims whereas Israel is only letting foreigners take the fall. Is that more noble or less?

    So if all really is fair in war time, even if it is a poorly defined war with no start or stop date or a defined front line like, for instance, the cold war or the wars on terrorism, drugs and homelessness, why do we need to have democracy at all? What is with the concern for human rights or rule of law? Why don't all nations just give up, declare permanent martial law and war everlasting and forget all the niceties of civilization. It is not my first choice but it beats the current situation of faking civilization. As long as crimes like Baathist Iraq or Sudan or the latest nightmare regime which the UN is running interference for, Tunisia; as long as governments use civilians as disposable assets, making any claim to there being a "community of nations" is laughable. Just as there comes a time when kids need to put down the underwear catalog and go out and get a real date (now and then), so the time must come when Earth needs to start demanding some simple basic standards of behavior from anyone who wants to live on this planet.


    Day By Day© by Chris Muir.