Thursday, December 28, 2006

Public Prayer Power

These catholics and muslims supposedly worship the same god. Haggling over permissions for muslims to worship in a church, or catholics to worship in a mosque, is the same sort of bullshit involved in the school prayer issue here in the USA.

It's not about prayer. It's about power.


The picture below is what I've been using as an online avatar for several years. It is the fundamental plus the first two odd harmonics of a Fourier series (the bold line is the sum of those three terms).

I'm just trying to get the thing reloaded into my Blogger profile directly from a Blogger URL in the hopes that the distortion it displays on my blog page will somehow be corrected. (The more conceptually obvious solution, modifying the image dimensions in the template, eludes me so far.)

Coheed & Cambria sounds pretty good on iTunes as I fiddle with Blogger. I'd never heard of these guys until my friend Chris recommended I check them out. I'm glad he did. Their Good Apollo album has been a good use for the iTunes pre-paid card Santa left in my stocking.

Update: I guess I'll have to either find a way to reduce my avatar to 80 X 80 pixels without the distortion, or find out how to modify the profile to allow the slightly larger image. How to do that is not obvious to me, and Blogger's new template modification features apparently don't allow for that particular modification.

Update again:
I used the Snag-It preview editor to resize (below) the 95x95 pixel jpg to 80x80. Let's see how that looks.

Update yet again:
That didn't work either. Looks like Blogger won't use an internal URL for the profile picture. I wound up posting the properly sized picture to my Flickr account and using that URL for my Blogger profile picture.

Why did I bother? Who cared? Same reason I blog, I guess.

In any event, it does look a little bit better, I suppose.

Before and After:

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Principles of Policy Analysis: Final Exam

Well, I'm just a dumb engineer barely able to spell "policy analyst", but for some reason I thought Mark Kleiman's post - a public policy final exam - was very interesting. He didn't provide an answer key, but I found myself thinking up answers anyway, wondering what conceptual blocks he might be trying to expose and so on.

Clearly, Kleiman knows a great deal, and I know next to nothing, about public policy analysis.

Kleiman is a prohibitionist with respect to drugs, whereas I think our national drug policy is the stupidest goddamn thing I've ever seen.

Should I defer to Kleiman with respect to drug policy on the basis that he knows a great deal about public policy analysis while I know next to nothing?

Naa... Interesting test though. Probably has something to do with the fact that Kleiman's blog remains on my read list while my collection of unclicked links grows and grows.

Friday, December 22, 2006


"It's tough to make a forecast, especially about the future."
-- Yogi Berra (presumably)

I have no forecast. The one I started to post met the delete key. I deleted it not because I thought it was wrong, but because I hope it is wrong.

Certain things seem more likely than others, though. I think Martin Rees is a bit of an optimist. Eric Pianka is probably right. Albert Bartlett is probably right.

Time will tell. Que sera sera.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Noise Pollution Clearinghouse

I wonder if anything can be done about loud motorcycles? What is it that compels some people with big Harleys and custom bikes to be so loud? The claim that it's for safety is pure hogwash, so what is it, really?

All I know is that having the peace and quiet shattered for a mile around by some selfish bastard riding a deliberately thunderous motorcycle is enough to raise murderous thoughts in me.

There's entirely too much ambient noise in most public places. Deliberately adding to the din, clearly the intent of many bikers, is especially galling.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Recurring interests, (useful?) obsessions

Several times, over the years, I've become interested in computer security. Each time, I eventually wound up getting tired of the subject and consciously decided to drop it. Security being just an illusion anyway, why not move on to something more entertaining?

For example, seven or eight years ago it occurred to me that computer security at work was lacking because senior management and employees generally didn't place much importance on it. Everyone thought things were fine because we had a perimeter firewall and Norton anti-virus. I did what I thought I should do to raise awareness, but wound up pissing off the poor security manager (at that time it was just a grunt position with no authority) so I backed off.

A few years later I had a run-in with a scamming fraudster. During this episode I again became interested in computer and network security. I learned a little about packet sniffing, port scanning, protocols and so on (emphasis on a little). Eventually, after failing to resolve multiple signs of unwelcome guests in my computer, I simply nuked it and all backups, adopted a new paradigm and left my sniffers and scanners behind. I still tried to practice safe computing, but paranoia gets tiresome.

My most recent interest in cyber security was sparked by a little toy I bought a few months ago, DU Meter. One night I decided to start DU Meter's stopwatch before going to bed. The next day I was surprised to see that there had been a lot of outbound traffic overnight. (I might have mis-read DU Meter. I've not seen such a thing again.) I could understand occasional inbound peaks from automatic updates to this or that, but an unattended outbound peak seemed, well, interesting.

Now I've got a few new toys and interests. I replaced my router with an old 600 MHz PIII computer running the Smoothwall firewall. I've learned how to run the tcpdump sniffer on the firewall machine, how to transfer the capture file to a PC, and how to analyze it with Wireshark. I've learned how to compare what's captured on the firewall machine with what's captured on the PC using Port Explorer, and now I'm assisted by the macro functions of my new text editor, EditPad Pro. Along the way I became interested in "regular expressions" and now I've started doing the tutorials to learn a little Python programming.

I've also upgraded my internal network to gigabit, and converted another old computer into a network file server using NASLite+. It's just the main PC and the NASLite box that are running gigabit so far, but the cabling and switches have been changed out.

When I set up the Smoothwall box, I included the unprotected DMZ option. I keep thinking about getting another old PC to set up a honeypot in the DMZ, but I don't think I'll go there (at least not yet). Any script kiddie can run circles around me, and while a honeypot might be interesting, so are matches and gasoline.

I won't go into the books I've started reading but not finished, or the various things I should be doing but am neglecting. Hey, I'm getting old, OK? I'll do whatever the hell I want, responsibility be damned. (I can't believe my KMA day (Kiss My Ass day - early retirement eligibility) is less than four weeks away!)

OK, now for an hour or so of Python tutorials, and maybe some paying attention to the world. Bye!

Sunday, October 29, 2006


The topic of Revere's Freethinker Sunday Sermonette this week at Effect Measure has to do with contemporary American religiosity as a driver of atheistic books. It's worth a read in itself, of course, but what caught my eye was a comment by The Ridger:
I remember hearing that BBC reporter, Tara Gadomsky, saying that the Amish "don't believe in" helicopters, cell phones, or ambulances. Well, that's ridiculous, because they certainly know they exist. What they don't "believe" is that such things are useful, sanctioned, or moral.

Many theists have a hard time with "I don't believe in God." They think it must be this use of "don't believe in" - the "reject" use - rather than the "don't think it exists" use.

Now that I've realized this, I'm trying not say "I don't believe in god" any more. I'm being more explicit. I don't want people to think I refuse to worship a god I know exists for some bizarre reason of my own.

Could it be that believers tend to interpret "I don't believe in God" to mean "I reject a God that I know exists"? I guess I'll have to ask some believers or try to find others' answers to this question.

New Blogger Beta (second update)

I've been meaning to check out the new Blogger beta, and was finally prompted to switch by the posting troubles Blogger has been having with the older version.

So far so good. I have not played with the new template features, and though I've played with the labelling tool I have not yet see how (or if) it looks after publishing.

Update 1: Ah, now I see... The labels appear at the bottom of the post after publishing. Publishing itself seems somewhat faster, as they said it would be. So far I've had a very similar experience to that with the old Blogger, though I read a post somewhere that made mention of a consequence to commenters who are still on the old version. I'm guessing that has to do with the change in how you sign in to Blogger, which is now done via a Google account.

Update 2: Now I see, too, that whereas the RSS feeds ("live bookmarks" in Firefox) of the blogs of other Blogger bloggers whose opinions I value are failing to load (as mine almost certainly would have before converting to the new Blogger), mine loaded as they are supposed to. To any Blogger blogger who happens to see these words, I suggest going to the new Blogger at the earliest opportunity. It's a little different but not that much, and their new equipment and software seem to be coping much better than the old.

The God Delusion. By Richard Dawkins - Books - Review - New York Times

The God Delusion. By Richard Dawkins - Books - Review - New York Times

Here's an interesting review of a book I'm not likely to read. I'm a slow reader with a few other books already open, besides which I've only got one toe, if that, left in the doorway to Dawkins' choir hall.

As stated early in the review, and as I understand from other exposure to his ideas, Dawkins allows for some small uncertainty. I think that disqualifies him from out-and-out, strong atheism, and it places me in his camp. Sure, there might be something out there that a deist could be comfortable with, but the traditional God, the one who sits up there monitoring everyone's thoughts while answering all prayers and guiding the seasons, is so improbable as to be dismissed.

The reviewer wonders what sort of event it would take to unsettle an atheist's conviction. Actually, he's more elegant than that:
But what possible evidence could verify or falsify the God hypothesis? The doctrine that we are presided over by a loving deity has become so rounded and elastic that no earthly evil or natural disaster, it seems, can come into collision with it. Nor is it obvious what sort of event might unsettle an atheist's conviction to the contrary.
I'm not sure I go along with (or understand) the bit about doctrinal elasticity, but Ironwolf addressed some possible evidence a couple of days ago.

I have no problem with some religious people. I have known, respected and loved a few of them over time. What I detest is the aggression of the religionist who seems to think he's got a lock on truth to go with a mandate from his god to shove it down my throat.

It's interesting that such people invariably claim belief in an omnipotent god, but at the same time, they limit that god's power to be different things to different people. Religionists are simply involved in a power play, their own or that of some annoying memeplex.

Hat tip: The Revealer

Friday, October 27, 2006

Coping with Climate Dread ::

Coping with Climate Dread ::
Depleted fish stocks, species extinction, SUV and oil obsessions, Kyoto rejections, disenfranchized youth, the Alberta tar sands and deadly methane gas: Condon says 'an emerging consensus' is setting in among his colleagues; 'Every hour of [our] work is in the context of 'Can the madness be stopped?'' he relates. 'And when you're looking critically at the information, and using your critical functions, you often conclude that it can't be.'
I don't often conclude that the madness can't be stopped. It is my conclusion, period.

Which is a bitter pill to swallow, when the conclusions you draw from your professional life spell a disastrous future for your own children. When she's at her lowest, Campbell has moments where she looks at her son and second guesses the wisdom of having brought a child into the world.
That's the hardest part of all.

Rees gets philosophical: "I suppose I'm an existentialist: you have to decide what you're going to do," he says. "I mean I could go and shoot myself, I'm wealthy enough to put my feet up, go out and buy myself a boat and a case of rum and enjoy the remaining days of my life."

But, like the others, Rees has resolved to continue the fight, and to see global warming through, in whatever shape or form life on earth takes in the coming decades. Just because this is the grimmest thing we've ever faced as a species doesn't mean they're throwing in the towel. Far from it.

But it's going to take some work.

"The very tendencies that gave [us such] a leg up in the competition with the other species 50,000 years ago are maladaptive today," Rees concludes.

"Now, if we are intelligent enough to recognize that, at least in theory we should be able to over-ride our biological predispositions. If we don't, we're doomed."
If we don't, we're doomed.

The title of this piece is "Coping with Climate Dread". Expanding the scope only makes the outlook worse.

My own prescription for coping is one of resignation, acceptance, hoping against hope that I'm wrong, and trying to live in the present.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Morals and Ethics...

300 Million Reasons to Vote Republican by James P. Kelly:
This March, the Texas Institute of Science named American scientist Dr. Eric Pianka, a world renowned ecologist, its “Distinguished Scientist of 2006” for offering a creative solution to Man’s ecological woes -- the killing of 90% of mankind with the Ebola Virus.
Morals and ethics represent our only protection...
Unlike those who see killing mankind as its only hope, I believe that far more practical solutions exist. ... When I first read of professor Pianka’s proposal -- and more importantly of its enthusiastic acceptance by his peers ...
Morals and ethics, one on each fork of the tongue.

This author did not read any proposal by Pianka to kill mankind, nor did Pianka's peers enthusiastically accept any such proposal, nor did Pianka receive the award for making any such proposal.

There was no such proposal.

Morals and ethics. Sure.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Prominent Republican Calls For Republican Ouster in November

NOW . Transcript . October 6, 2006 | PBS:
HINOJOSA: California Republican Pete McCloskey should know about cover ups. He was in Washington during Watergate … serving in Congress from 1967 until 1983.
PETE MCCLOSKEY: The only way it's gonna change in Washington, I think, is if the Democrats take over the House in November. That's the only possible way to restore good ethics. And then you've gotta watch the Democrats-- two to four years hence, because they will be abused by power. It is in the nature of the beast.
Well, that's certainly how I will be voting - against something rather than for something. It would be nice to vote FOR something, someone with ideas about taking power away from the extremes, making it impossible for the parties to collude in shutting down ethics committees, someone with ideas on how to curb lobbyists, someone with ideas on shifting loyalties from the parties first to the nation first, ... * POP * Well, that was nice while it lasted.

Let the population grow | Chicago Tribune

Let the population grow | Chicago Tribune

So, there's literally too much food in the world, there's plenty of room for lots more people, productivity will continue to trump reproductivity, sustainability means consigning billions of poor people to lives that threaten the environment, while the usual boogeymen Malthus, Sanger and Ehrlich, the Holocaust, eugenics and gas chambers, ...
These days, overpopulation is primarily a hang-up for environmentalists, though suburbanites and feminists occasionally whine about it too. And an important part of the argument has changed. While before, Progressives were worried about the "muck" at the low end of the global population, they're now vexed by the fat cats at the top.

Americans consume more of the earth's resources, they complain, and produce piles more greenhouse gasses. At the environmentalist fringe, there's even a growing movement to convince eco-friendly Americans to voluntarily reduce or eliminate their own reproduction in order to ease the strain on Mother Nature. Since the political orientation of your parents is the single best determinant of your own politics, you can expect a lot fewer environmentalists in a couple of decades if this idea catches on.
So be it. The meek and the assholes shall inherit what's left of the earth.

Friday, October 20, 2006

god god god god god god

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Iran warns of revenge over Israel

Mr Ahmadinejad called Israel's leaders a "group of terrorists" and appeared to threaten any country that supports it.

"You imposed a group of terrorists... on the region. It is in your own interest to distance yourself from these criminals... This is an ultimatum. Don't complain tomorrow."

Ultimatum? One of these days there'll be a cure for religion.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Ergosphere: Open letter about the ethanol lobby

The Ergosphere: Open letter about the ethanol lobby

What he said!
And that's why YOU, dear voter, should be skeptical about ethanol or even opposed to it. There are benefits from it, but those benefits aren't for you.

Music Videos

In no particular order... Latest additions on top...

Rick Springfield - Jesse's Girl

Crossroads Guitar Duel - Steve Vai vs. Ry Cooder (Ralph Maccio)
INXS - Suicide Blonde

Village People - Macho Man
The Monkees - Daydream Believer
Alannah Myles - Black Velvet
Saraya - Love Has Taken Its Toll
Robert Palmer - Simply Irresistible
Pearl Jam - Wishlist
The Bangles - Manic Monday
Ministry - New World Order
Mary Chapin Carpenter - He Thinks He'll Keep Her
Joan Osborne - What If God Was One Of Us
Iron Maiden - 2 Minutes to Midnight
Iron Maiden - Number Of The Beast
Hooters - And We Danced
Golden Earing - Radar Love
Bad Religion - American Jesus
Montrose - Bad Motor Scooter

Chris deBurgh - Lady in Red
Mike and the Mechanics - The Living Years
Jefferson Airplane - White Rabbit
Leann Rimes - Cowboy Sweetheart
Pink - Get This Party Started
Pink - Don't Let Me Get Me
Juan Luis Guerra - Ojala Que Llueva Cafe - La Bilirubina
Jose Luis Perales - Un Velero Llamado Libertad
OK, that does it. I just found another worthy music video on YouTube. Rather than post embeds to all these videos I like, I'll just put them all in one post that I'll update as time goes by. I'll include a link to this post at the top of my links list so that I'll always be able to find it when I want to. I think one can also change the date of the post so that when it's updated it it'll show up as if fresh. We'll see. Here goes:

Chambers Brothers - Time Has Come Today The Chambers Brothers were on stage playing this song as I arrived at the entrance of the 3-day First Annual West Palm Beach Music and Art Festival in Florida back at the end of November 1969. We still had quite a way to walk before we could see the stage, but the music was clear and memorable, a great intro to an unforgetable experience.

Joan Baez - Sweet Sir Galahad The video's end is taken up with credits, but I just close my eyes and it doesn't matter. I wish I could find a video of Baez doing Dylan's With God on Our Side, which was the reason I became a Joan Baez fan 35 years ago (having previously hated her for her activism - what can I say? I was a young, stupid dropout enlistee in the Vietnam era). What an absolutely beautiful voice to go with Dylan's fantastic lyrics. With God On Our Side still moves me deeply, but it makes me sad because, in part, on another level my attitude has hardened into a nihilistic kill them all.

Elefante - Mentirosa
Tina Marie - Lovergirl
Sheena Easton - Sugar Walls
Sheila E - The Glamorous Life
Twisted Sister - We're Not Gonna Take It
Quiet Riot - Metal Health
Starz - Cherry Baby
Pat Benatar and Martina McBride - Independence Day
Pat Benatar - Promises In The Dark

OK, now I'll go include this post at the top of my links list on the lower left of the main blog view.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Obsidian Wings: Ban Interstate Traffic In Nonhuman Primates

Obsidian Wings: Ban Interstate Traffic In Nonhuman Primates

I'm a bit late here, but I support this notion for the reasons well stated in the link.

I was attacked by a "pet" monkey that got loose when I was 12 or 13 years old. It was a bit scary and he drew a little blood, but that's not my interest here.

The long and tall of it is that the animal should never have been kept as a "pet".

Elefante - Mentirosa

I really like this song, Mentirosa, by the Mexican band Elefante (not to be confused with vocalist John Elefante formerly of the rock band Kansas, or Joe Elefante's big jazz band from Noo Yawk City (which reviews seem to indicate is well worth checking out)).

Artist: Elefante
Song Title: Mentirosa
Album: Elefante

Sorry, my translation eesn't perfec, bat jew get de idea.

Que le vamos a hacer?
What's there to do?
si la vida es asi,
Life is like that,
le aposte todo a tus besos
I bet everything on your kisses
y asi todo lo perdi.
That's how I lost it all.

No me pidas perdon, que ni tu te lo crees,
Don't ask me for forgiveness, not even you believe it,
esas lagrimas son falsas, como falso fue tu amor.
those tears are fake, as fake as your love.

Pero no me digas nada, que el tonto he sido yo,
Don't say anyting, the dummy has been me,
si la luna no es de queso, ni las nubes de algodon.
the moon's not made of cheese, nor clouds of cotton.

Para que seguir con cuentos, con amores de ficcion,
Why continue with stories, with loves of fiction,
si tu boca no es de fresa ni en tus ojos sale el sol
your mouth isn't of berries and the sun doesn't rise in your eyes.

Mentirosa, traicionera
Liar, backstabber
y yo que daba por ti la vida entera
and I who'd have given my entire life for you
Mentirosa, embustera
Liar, cheater
basta ya de tanto ruido, este cuento se acabo.
that's enough with so much noise, this story is over.

Para que decir mas, si todo termino,
Why say more, it's all over
todo lo que sube baja, todo lo que viene va.
what goes up comes down, what comes goes.

No me pidas perdon, que ni tu te lo crees
Don't ask forgiveness, not even you believe it,
vete por donde llegaste y ojala te vaya bien.
go the way you came and bon voyage.

Pero no me digas nada, que el tonto he sido yo,
But don't tell me anyting, the dummy has been me,
si la luna no es de queso, ni las nubes de algodon.
the moon isn't of cheese, nor the clouds cotton.

Para que seguir con cuentos, con amores de ficcion,
Why continue with stories, with loves of fiction,
si tu boca no es de fresa ni en tus ojos sale el sol
your mouth isn't berries, the sun doesn't rise in your eyes.

Mentirosa, traicionera
Liar, backstabber
y yo que daba por ti la vida entera
and I who'd have given my entire life for you
Mentirosa, embustera
Liar, cheater
basta ya de tanto ruido, este cuento se acabo.
that's enough with so much noise, this story is over.

Mentirosa, traicionera
Liar, backstabber
y yo que daba por ti la vida entera
and I who'd have given my entire life for you
Mentirosa, embustera
Liar, cheater
yo contigo no regreso aunque me muera
I won't go back to you even if it kills me

Mentirosa, traicionera
Liar, backstabber
y yo que daba por ti la vida entera
and I who'd have given my entire life for you
Mentirosa, embustera
Liar, cheater
basta ya de tanto ruido, este cuento se acabo.
that's enough with so much noise, this story is over.

More YouTube

I'm coming to love YouTube. I don't know to what extent enjoying YouTube depends on having a broadband connection, but it seems likely. I noticed that sometimes there are duplicate versions of the same video on YouTube, and that the quality of the duplicates can vary. In any event...

update -

I've noticed that sometimes it's better to go straight to the YouTube site to see the videos rather than click on the embedded video. Just click on the link I included above the embed to do that.

I just watched Independence Day again, and am reminded that at the end, though it's not shown in the video, Martina makes a comment about Pat's performance making her cry. I agree, it's that outstanding.

Here's a video I probably haven't seen since college more than a couple of decades ago. A highlight of my week was to pick up a six-pack of Oly pounders on my way home from classes on Friday afternoons, down one or two of them on my 20-mile drive home through the beautiful Palouse countryside (perfectly legal by the way), drop the books at my desk, and sit back to put on a buzz and watch the MTV Top 20 Countdown. (Back then MTV actually played music. Nowadays it seems they've always got some stupid reality show going.)

These videos place me back in those days:

Teena Marie - Lovergirl:

Sheena Easton - Sugar Walls:

Sheila E - The Glamorous Life:

One of my profs used to use Twisted Sister in examples having to do with signal analysis.

Twisted Sister - We're Not Gonna Take It:

Quiet Riot - Metal Health:

Starz - Cherry Baby:

OK, that's enough. Changing gears, I spent a little time looking for Luciano Pavarotti's rendition of Ave Maria from some Christmas concert a few years back. That particular performance of the piece gives me chills and goosebumps, and can bring tears to my eyes. I didn't find it, but I did find clips of Pavarotti doing the Ave Maria with a number of other singers like Bono, Roberto Carlos, Dolores O'Riordan, Jose Carreras and Roberto Carlos.

All I can say is that nobody should be allowed to sing the Ave Maria with Luciano Pavarotti. Nobody should want to sing the Ave Maria with Luciano Pavarotti. It only makes them look and sound inadequate. There should be one, official version of the Ave Maria, and it should be by Pavarotti. Schubert wrote the Ave Maria for Luciano Pavarotti knowing that God would eventually bring him along to sing it.

Well, OK...

Friday, October 13, 2006

Great Stuff!!

I absolutely loved the rendition of Independence Day by Martina McBride and Pat Benatar on the CMT show Crossroads. For some reason the only DVD I could find of the show was a used one on eBay, and I passed it by. A while later I found Independence Day on Google Video and bought it, but for some reason it was cut off after about a minute and a half, and all Google could manage was to refund my $2.

Something moved me to check iTunes this evening, and when I saw that they had it I didn't think twice. It's just outstanding. Cheap at twice the price, as they say.

Turns out you can see it on YouTube, too:

Independence Day

And here's Pat Benatar doing Promises in the Dark. Great Stuff! I'm going to have to look into YouTube some more. They must be doing something right for Google to have shelled out a billion or two for them. Anyway...

Promises in the Dark

Thursday, October 12, 2006

XP - SiS PCI to USB Enhanced Host Controller - Unknown Device - Simple Things First!


No, sorry, I don't have the hotfix. When it didn't work for me I un-installed it and trashed the download.

It really wasn't much trouble at all to get the hotfix from Microsoft. I just called them on the phone, gave them the KB article number and explained that the KB article said to contact them for the hotfix. Then I got transferred to someone who made sure I knew what I was talking about, and that I understood the hotifx might not work and had not gone through all the testing. This second person then sent me the link and a time-limited password to open the file via email.

You did try unplugging everything for half an hour and holding in the power button for a minute, didn't you? ;>) I'm still mad at myself for not trying that first.]


If your XP computer's integrated USB hardware stops working, try shutting it down and disconnecting it from the power source for half an hour.

Long version:

The integrated USB2 hardware on my confuter's motherboard quit working.

The machine is a three or four year old 1.6 GHz Pentium 4 running Windows XP Home SP2. The motherboard itself (Gigabyte RZ Series, 8S651MP-RZ) is newer, having replaced the one whose cazapitors blew a year or two ago. The machine is kept up to date with OS patches, and is as well protected from creepware as I can make it. It's also reasonably well protected from power glitches.

Nothing lasts forever, but there wasn't any reason for the USB to have quit working. What might have precipitated the problem was installation of the APC PowerChute Personal Edition software that came with my new APC UPS, and connection of the new UPS's comm port to one of the ports on a powered USB hub connected, in turn, to one of the computer's USB ports. The APC software is supposed to allow the UPS to shut down the computer if there's a power outage of a given duration. I didn't test that function while things were still working, but if I re-install the UPS software and reconnect the UPS to the computer, I will certainly test it. For now, though, I'm a bit hesitant.

I became obsessed with fixing the motherboard's integrated USB hardware, and probably spent more time on it than I should have. At first I was pretty happy because a bit of googling pointed to the "SiS PCI to USB Enhanced Host Controller" part of the USB setup in the Device Manager*. Following the suggestion, I disabled the "SiS PCI to USB Enhanced Host Controller" in the Device Manager and, like magic, USB started working again. That being the case, I started an incremental backup to my USB hard drive before I went to bed.

(*You can get to the Device Manager through Properties on My Computer, or by hitting the Windows and Pause/Break keys on the keyboard at the same time.)

In the morning I was surprised to find that my incremental backup was still running. That led to the realization that what I had actually done was to disable the faster USB2 while reviving the glacial USB1 functions. Better than nothing, but unacceptable. Back to Google.

I was reasonably certain there was nothing wrong with my hardware since the USB still worked under version 1, so I carried out different suggested remedies such as obtaining the latest drivers, removing the USB entries in the Device Manager and re-booting and so on, most of which I'd already tried.

One authoritative-sounding suggestion was to simply give up early and install a USB card instead of wasting time trying to fix the integrated USB.

I tried a few things I thought might help, like disabling USB support in the BIOS and then running my registry fixer program immediately after rebooting. RegSupreme Pro found a lot of stuff to toss, but this did not solve the USB problem. Nothing I did solved the USB problem. The Microsoft web site was not helpful at all when I went looking for USB-related help (or maybe I didn't look hard enough). My motherboard manufacturer didn't help either, simply saying something to the effect that due to Microsoft licensing they only made the drivers available on CD.

Eventually I found something referring to a known issue with XP and USB, so I went back to the Microsoft site and searched a little harder, eventually finding an article (892050) acknowledging the known issue and mentioning a patch file. One would have to contact Microsoft to obtain the patch file, though, apparently because it hadn't gone through all the testing they do. I contacted Microsoft on the phone and in short order had a link in my email inbox to download the patch. I applied the patch to zero effect, and since the problem persisted I uninstalled the patch.

I was about to break down and install a USB card, feeling like an ass for not heeding the earlier advice to give up early on fixing things, but it was already past my bedtime. I remembered the advice to shut down, unplug the machine from the wall, push the power button for one minute and then wait half an hour before firing it up again. I went a little further than that and unplugged all peripherals in addition to the power.

After a minute of holding the power button in, and about 40 minutes of waiting, I came back, plugged everything back in, fired it up and, you got it, it worked like a champ.

Lesson (re)learned: Try the simple things first.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Police spokesman surely knows better

The Ely Times - :: News: Clergy members support effort to legalize marijuana:
[Las Vegas police Lt. Stan Olsen] said the argument that Nevada should legalize marijuana because laws have not stopped the use of the drug, is like saying the state should legalize burglary because laws have not stopped burglars.
The police spokesman surely knows better. I'd venture to guess he knows that he knows better. This is almost as bad as that stupidity the other day.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Gore Cigarettes NewsMax Drudge Limbaugh Bullshit

A few days ago NewsMax went with a story making the fantastic claim that Al Gore had addressed the United Nations, and that he had told them that cigarette smoking is a significant contributor to global warming. (my earlier post)

The clear but false implication in the writing, and the one picked up and transmitted by the likes of Drudge, Rush and a whole shitload of similarly-minded people, was that the smoke from cigarettes was the significant contributor to global warming.

There is no way in hell that Gore meant any such thing.

The thing that amazes me is how fast and how far this story spread, how uncritically it is received, and how brazenly it was spread by the puppeteers.

Drudge picked up the bullshit from NewsMax, apparently, and for two or three days had a link prominently displayed on the left hand side of his page. You'd click on that link and be taken to a page with a few paragraphs repeating the ridiculous assertion about Gore's talk to the UN, and breathlessly baiting the reader with the final line, "Developing...".

That there was noting to develop, that the whole thing was a smearing propaganda play, and that the likes of NewsMax, Drudge and Rush were in the thick of it is one thing. What really surprised me was the silence from the other side.

Obviously, it's not possible to read everything, but by using search engines you can try to find things. There just wasn't anything out there countering this onslaught of bullshit. There was a forum somewhere in which the participants expressed disbelief and discussed a few things that Gore might have actually been talking about, such as soil disturbance or the overlap among prominent smoking cancer and global warming denialists, but essentially there was nothing out there responding to the nonsense. It was unopposed.

Why was that? I suppose one possibility is that smarter people than me have concluded that this sort of thing is just a large-scale analog to newsroom trolling, best left unanswered. Maybe the smarter ones recognize the whole episode as something designed by the right to help keep control of political discourse, with a response simply furthering the right's aim.

I don't know. What I'm left with, though, is a deepened disrespect for dittohead puppeteers and political dirty tricksters. I can't say much for people's uncritical reactions to the thing, either.

Oh well, I guess we need cannon fodder.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Jeff Beck

Jeff Beck put on a great show last night at the Mesa Arts Center's Ikeda Theater. Beth Hart was very impressive, particularly on Morning Dew. What a set of lungs!

Rock Radio:
Jeff Beck will open his fall tour with a show on Wednesday, September 6th, at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, Florida. He's often surprised fans with the material he plays live, and this tour is no exception. Beck told us that for these dates, he's pulling stuff out from his earliest days as a solo artist, and the reason is that he's got the right group for the songs: "The setlist, it looks a little bit like (a) leftover from the early days, but the fact of the matter is, we're having to play this stuff partly because the players are not techno players -- they're pure musicians. We play the stuff that has the most challenging parts in it, plus we got a, you know, vocalist now, which can cover some of the Rod Stewart stuff. So it's like a sort of mini-life story on stage."

Beck's band for the tour includes Beth Hart on vocals, Jason Rebello on keyboards, Randy Hope-Taylor on bass, and Vinnie Colaiuta on drums.

The guitarist and company will be on the road through an October 1st date in Mesa, Arizona.
Review. Another review.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Gov. Acts on Last of New Bills - Los Angeles Times

Gov. Acts on Last of New Bills - Los Angeles Times:
Acting on the last of 1,172 bills sent to him this year by the Democratic-led Legislature, Schwarzenegger...
Wow! Maybe they should have a law that says something like "No more than 100 bills, and each one about only one thing."

I'm sure they don't really need a law prohibiting teens from riding in the trunks of cars. Surely there's already a law covering that sort of thing.

I'm happy to see that gay and lesbian couples can file joint returns now, but disappointed that the Governor vetoed the hemp measure. Who cares about the Feds? Where's the States Rights attitude when you need it?

Oh, well, I'm from Arizona anyway.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Explanation please

Walter pointed me to this Newsweek page by way of this blog post pointing to that blog post.

I suppose the Newsweek link will change, so here's what it looks like now. The snag of Newsweek's cover thumbnails in those other blogs is for real, as can be seen in the snag of the whole page below if you click on it (note the URL in the address bar):

It would be interesting to know Newsweek's rationale for the different covers. Maybe it has more to do with foreign readers not knowing of Annie Liebovitz and less to do with glossing over bad news for American readers. In any event, the difference in edition covers looks really bad, and it raises the question of what other differences exist between US and foreign editions.

I'm dropping that question, though, because the time I allotted to answering it has expired.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Cigarettes, Global Warming, Propaganda and Slime

As I type, Drudge and NewsMax are reporting that Al Gore, addressing the UN, claimed that cigarette smoking is a "significant contributor to global warming!" Really!

Somehow I just don't think Gore actually said that, but we'll see. On the other hand, it doesn't surprise me very much to see this kind of thing in Drudge and NewsMax.

Who knows where the links below will lead down the road, so here's where they lead now (my emphasis):

Fri Sep 29 2006 09:04:05 ET

Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore warned hundreds of U.N. diplomats and staff on Thursday evening about the perils of climate change, claiming: Cigarette smoking is a "significant contributor to global warming!"

Gore, who was introduced by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, said the world faces a "full-scale climate emergency that threatens the future of civilization on earth."

Gore showed computer-generated projections of ocean water rushing in to submerge the San Francisco Bay Area, New York City, parts of China, India and other nations, should ice shelves in Antarctica or Greenland melt and slip into the sea.

"The planet itself will do nicely, thank you very much what is at risk is human civilization," Gore said. After a series of Q& A with the audience, which had little to do with global warming and more about his political future, Annan bid "adios" to Gore.

Then, Gore had his staff opened a stack of cardboard boxes to begin selling his new book, "An Inconvenient Truth, The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It," $19.95, to the U.N. diplomats.


Gore Warns U.N. on Climate Change

Stewart Stogel
Friday, Sept. 29, 2006

UNITED NATIONS -- Self-proclaimed "global warming warrior" Al Gore came to U.N. headquarters Thursday to lecture on the "perils" of climate change.

The former vice president and U.S. senator spent


Catholic Muslim

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Space tourist in Earth touchdown
However, the first female Muslim space tourist insisted that 'this 10 days has been magnificent for me'.
I don't know Anousheh Ansari, but it seems to me that she's about as much a muslim as I am a catholic. While seemingly sufficient for some people, that my grandmother was a catholic, that I was baptized and had my first communion as a kid, and that I was raised around catholics in a mostly catholic country isn't remotely enough to make me a catholic.

Pasting Ansari with the label of "muslim" stands out because, if anything, she seems to avoid the subject. Not that I looked all that hard, but the closest thing I've seen to any sort of self-characterization by her with respect to religion was a USA Today article containing an aside that Ansari calls herself a "liberal Muslim".

Whatever the meaning of "liberal muslim", the label seems safe enough. In the present context, though, "liberal Muslim" and "Muslim" probably mean two entirely different things.

I think Anousheh Ansari is a thoroughly modern, fully secular human being who thinks she's got to tread lightly. In her shoes I, too, might leave people to their illusions.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

CS Monitor: The war on SOME drugs: Ambushed in Jamundi

The war on drugs: Ambushed in Jamundi |
"Three thousand Americans a year die from Colombian drugs," says US Ambassador to Colombia William Wood. "That's like suffering a World Trade Towers attack every year."
No, it's not!

Mr. Ambassador, you cannot be as completely stupid a man as one who would believe that bullshit. Come on!

There is no similarity, none at all, between 3000 or so innocents killed in a major act of terrorism, and the similar number of people you claim, who die essentially at their own hand.

Plan Colombia has cost the US $4.7 billion, of which 75-80 percent has gone to the security forces.


Sunday, September 24, 2006

War on Fundamentalism

War on fundamentalism

I don't know who wrote it, but I second this emotion.
And if you are incapable of accepting the simple message of tolerance then yes, you are immoral, you are evil, you are a fundamentalist. You are at war with the world, you are at war with humanity, you are at war with God, you are at war with messages in the sacred texts of your religion.
Sounds good to me. I'm not into wearing symbols, but so does this:

Wear this symbol on your person. It is not a religious symbol. It does not replace Christianity or Islam. It does not conflict with any valid message in Christianity or Islam. There is no agenda behind this symbol. The purpose of this symbol is one single solitary message: I reject you, fundamentalist. And I embrace my fellow human being, regardless of religion. The belief in multiple paths to God does not reduce the majesty of your religion. It does not nullify it. It does not supplement it either. It merely underlines a message already existing in your religion. There are cultural differences in the paths to God. But none of them counteract the basic truths we all believe in, regardless of culture.
The way I see it, if people of the book really believe what they say about their god being omnipotent, then who are they to limit that god's power to be all things to all people?

Land of the Free, Home of the Brave � Blog Archive � The Great Debate: Heads vs. Feds

Land of the Free, Home of the Brave � Blog Archive � The Great Debate: Heads vs. Feds

What she said!

Her description of this "debate" reminds me of the Timothy Leary - G. Gordon Liddy road show, not a debate as much as bullshit for entertainment.

A Fantasy

Bolivia Reaches for a Slice of the Coast That Got Away - New York Times

One of my fantasies is that nations start acting with unilateral good will and in each others' interests in order to cultivate and cement friendliness. Along those lines, Bolivia would ceremoniously hurl the detestable bayonet statue into the bottom of Lake Titicaca, and Chile would reciprocate by giving Bolivia a relatively small swath of land for access to the sea, and the two nations would lead the world in promotion of oceanic sustainability.

There would be ceremonies, declarations, treaties and celebrations in favor of friendly relations forever.

On second thought, they might want to keep that sculpture, but change it so that the bayonet is shown being thrust into the throats of nationalistic ideologues and those who would use such arguments to bolster dominance.

Well, it is just fantasy. Sorry.

Update: I tried to find a picture of the monument with the bayonet, the one the Times says bears the words “What once was ours, will be ours once more”, but I didn't find one. Along the way, though, I found this picture by Tim Hilliard showing the Titicaca naval base and a sign that says: The sea is ours by right. Recovering it is a duty. I am not respectful of beligerent sentiments like that. They are counterproductive at best.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Going With a Flow

So I saw that Kurt Cobb was back from vacation with an interesting post about the Romans and their long view. One of Kurt's commenters quibbled a bit and concluded by offering up his own post about Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion at EnergyBulletin. I enjoyed Kurt's piece but agreed with his other commenter about Tainter and complexity. (Tainter paper).

I'm not a fan of OTEC, but I decided to go look at the post at EnergyBulletin, then followed their link to The Oil Drum to look at some commentary. Commentary immediately went off-topic but held my interest anyway. One of the commenters along the way offhandedly referred to an article, Evolutionary Psychology, Memes and the Origin of War.

Well, the title was certainly intriguing, but I wasn't familiar with the author or the website. Thought I'd try to find out a little bit about both before actually reading the article. To make a long and entertaining (but you probably had to be there) story short, the author, Keith Henson, has had some run-ins with the scientologists, has testified before congress, and is an electrical engineer with some other claims to fame.

When I googled the title of Henson's paper I wound up looking at a Wikipedia article on memetics which included two links to the paper, one at Kuro5in and the other at The Mankind Quarterly. As I did a little checking on each of those (enough to conclude that they're both done by smart people and probably worth reading), I landed on a now defunct parody site, (Archive)(Wikipedia), that gave me some exposure to smart mischievous people who like to troll post apparently for the hell of it. Some of it made me smile.

OK, time to go read the paper at Kuro5in. (Mankind Quarterly is a subscription only journal of anthropology, and this paper is not one of their free samples.) Make that tomorrow. I had too much fun today checking out the background and writing this post, and now it's way past my bedtime.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Question 7

Home | Regulate Marijuana in Nevada

I wish these people all the success in the world on November 7, even though I have a quibble with one of their FAQs:
If Question 7 passes, won’t the feds just come in and shut it down?

It is within Nevada’s power to pass this law. Back when Nevada’s medical marijuana initiative was on the ballot, federal authorities threatened to shut it down if it passed. It’s been in effect now for over five years, and these threats never materialized. In an age when the federal government cannot manage to inspect even five percent of containers coming into this country or adequately respond to a hurricane, one would hope they have better things to do than prosecute Nevadans who are abiding by state law.

Not that it affects my support for their effort, but if Question 7 passes in Nevada, prohibitionists will almost certainly find a way to squash it.


BBC NEWS | Technology | Global web celebrations under way
The organisers are planning to create what they hope will be the largest global online photo collaboration.

Web users are being asked to tag their pictures with OneWebDay and upload them to photo-sharing sites Webshots and Flickr, to create global photo albums.
Well, OK, here's my contribution.

The organisers are also encouraging people to post entries to their blogs on Friday which reflect on how the web has changed their lives.
Well, OK, let's see... I didn't have a personal domain, web page or blog before Sir Tim and his colleagues came around with their good ideas, so I credit them and the Web with putting me in contact with some good people I'd never have known otherwise. I also, though, spend a lot of time using the computer, whereas in times past I might have spent that time interacting with people more directly. Who knows?

I'm sure others will go into such things as how the Web has had an impact on political life. Aside from things like Howard Dean leading the race for the Democratic presidential nomination early on largely as a result of Web activism, now we have fundie jihadi's using the Web for their purposes. Ayatollah Khomeini became HMFIC of Iran without the Web, so maybe the jihadis would be where they are today without it, but the Web seems to have had a significant impact on radical jihadi operations. (The embrace of the Web by 7th-century-minded people seems ironic to me.)

I used to have some hope that the Web would lead to a complex interconnectedness from which might emerge a sort of global consciousness, a global brain along the lines described by Howard Bloom and others, that would somehow help humanity's lagging evolution to catch up with present conditions to which we seem so maladapted. More recently, though, I've come to think Cas Sunstein is right when he worries about increased polarization as a function of the Daily Me. "The imagined world of innumerable, diverse editions of the "Daily Me" is the furthest thing from a utopian dream, and it would create serious problems from the democratic point of view." Maybe the global brain will suffer a form of schizophrenia (before getting better, one hopes).

The Web has given me new tools at work. I'm pretty sure I was the first engineer at work to publish a report on the intranet, rather than on paper, some years ago. I keep a little web site on my employer's intranet where I keep job-related reference material, reports and so on. I also have a fledgling online forum for people at other companies involved in my line of work, and searching the Web is a useful tool in my job from time to time.

I guess the Web is like any other tool, available for good or evil. Like a gun, I'd much rather have it than not.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Scientific American: Fiddling While the Planet Burns

Scientific American: Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Will the Wall Street Journal's editorial writers accept a challenge to learn the truth about the science of global climate change?
I don't believe for a second that the Wall Street Journal's editorial board are ignorant here. I think they are, at best, in amazing denial, at worst, liars.

The WSJ's adoration of Bjorn Lomborg, and later their coverage blackout of Lomborg's censure by the Danish Committee on Scientific Dishonesty (not one syllable in the WSJ) cost them my subscription some time back.

Reporters for the Wall Street Journal routinely distance themselves from the editorial page. Many of the paper's own reporters laugh or cringe at the anti-scientific posture of the editorials, and advise the rest of us simply not to read them. Nevertheless, the consequences of those editorials are significant. The Wall Street Journal is the most widely read business paper in the world. Its influence is extensive. Yet it gets a free pass on editorial irresponsibility.

As a neighbor to the paper at Columbia University, the Earth Institute has repeatedly invited the editorial team to meet with leading climate scientists. I've offered to organize such a meeting in any way that the editorial board would like. On many occasions, the news editors have eagerly accepted, but the editorial writers have remained safe in their splendid isolation.

Let me make the invitation once again. Many of the world's leading climate scientists are prepared to meet with the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal, and to include in that meeting any climate-skeptic scientists that that the Journal editorial board would like to invite. The board owes it to the rest of us to make the effort to their own "open-minded search for scientific knowledge." If only for the sake of their own sweltering hometown, it's time they accept the invitation.
Good luck.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Volokh Conspiracy - The ONDCP on Marijuana (Ads):

The Volokh Conspiracy - The ONDCP on Marijuana (Ads):

What he, and most of the commenters, said.

I wish people would stop refering to the so-called War On Drugs as such, and instead heap scorn on this idiocy by referring to it more accurately as the War On Some Drugs.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Distributed Backups and Monty Hall

Mozy Blog: Probability is Fun

So I was wandering around looking at stuff having to do with distributed backup storage. One of the solutions available that seems highly regarded is Mozy. I don't know much about Mozy yet, such as where they actually store your stuff, but I looked at their blog and found this Monty Hall post.

Since the Monty Hall problem twisted my brain pretty severely back when Marilyn Vos Savant raised hell with it in Parade Magazine a dozen or more years ago, and this is about the best explanation I've seen, here it is.

Now to check out Mozy some more. So far my backups are primarily periodic disk images and differential updates, with a few files also backed up online using GoDaddy's Online File Folder service. This works fine but it seems Mozy, AllMyData and various others have good ideas, too.

Anticrepuscular Rays

APOD: 2006 September 17 - Anticrepuscular Rays Over Florida

NASA's "Astronomy Picture of the Day", APOD, is my first stop on the Internet every day. Every selection is worthy. Accompanying explanations are always interesting, thought provoking and linked to other interesting stuff.

For example, the explanation for today's picture of anticrepuscular rays states that the rays appear to converge due to the straight lines of light being projected onto the spherical sky forming great circles.

Hmmm... Something twists my rusty spatial visualization gears. I can't help but think that, while true enough that a plane projected through a spherical shell forms a circle, it's not great circles that we're seeing.

If the earth were flat (and it is pretty flat from our human perspective) we'd see the same thing. The rays would converge just like railroad tracks running off to the horizon.

I'm splitting hairs again, and I could be wrong, but hey, it beat the hell out of moving on to see how many people were killed in Iraq overnight or what religionist pissed off how many others of his ilk, how we've got to get involved in Darfur or what a war with Iran would look like.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Nerd Score

I am nerdier than 70% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

Make that low mid-rank nerd, and I think I agree with the fellow who thought the test actually ranked geekiness. Kind of fun either way.

I would have thought there'd be a question or two to gauge one's interest in sports, but no.

Hat tip Deltoid via Rabbet Run.

Leaked memo

AP Wire | 09/15/2006 | Leaked memo bolsters image of Kline fostered nationally
Attorney General Phill Kline is frustrated that, as he seeks a second term, the national attention he has received for fighting abortion and championing conservative causes may overshadow his crime-fighting and other activities.

That has come to the forefront since a campaign memo he wrote in August, outlining an aggressive plan to court conservative Christians, was leaked anonymously to reporters. Kline's memo discussed political receptions held after services, directing his staff to get friendly pastors to invite 'money people.'
Hmmm... Making contacts at church. Sounds like my old realtor buddy.

"My position on the life issue is not born out of my faith but out of what I view the role of the government to be - to protect the most innocent and the most vulnerable," Kline said.
Is he blind to the contradiction or just acting that way?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Underprotected: Advocates for Muslim Women Face Constant Danger - International - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News

Police Protection: Advocates for Muslim Women Face Constant Danger - International - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News

What do do?
Those who take a stand for the rights of Muslim women -- by criticizing the practice of forced in marriage, for example -- put themselves at considerable risk in Germany. Murder threats and attacks by conservative Muslims are common, and the police can offer only limited help.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Stupid Judges Contemptible Decisions

USA v. $124,700 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This is not exactly new, but it is highly offensive none-the-less. That a subjective measure such as "preponderance" can justify the taking of substantial valuables absent actual evidence of wrongdoing, and in the face of plausible explanations to the contrary, is disgusting.

I contemptuously dissent. This is the sort of thing that creates scofflaws.

Here is the decision straight from the Court.

The War on Some Drugs is far more expensive than we think.

Friday, September 08, 2006

House votes to outlaw slaughter of horses for human consumption

House votes to outlaw slaughter of horses for human consumption
Despite the lopsided vote in favor of the measure, some lawmakers mocked GOP leaders for using one of the few days left on Congress' short fall calendar to address horse slaughter.

'With all the pressing political issues that confront our nation ... I do not think this is the issue the American people expect their elected representatives to be considering,' said Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., the House Democratic whip.
This is ridiculous.
Backers of the bill showed photos of stallions that were bloodied when crammed into trailers during transport to the plants. During slaughter, a bolt gun drives a metal rod into the horse's brain to stun it before the animal is hoisted by a leg to have its throat severed.

"It's brutal," said Rep. John Sweeney, R-N.Y., a chief sponsor of the bill. "We need to bring an end to this practice."
Why is it so brutal that it needs the attention of the federal government in the case of horses but not cattle?

I'm in favor of standards of treatment to avoid unneccesary suffering prior to or during slaughter, but there are already animal cruelty laws that could be enforced.

That's not what it's really all about, though, is it?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Good for Melinda Gates

National Catholic Register:
Another major beneficiary of the Gates Foundation has been International Planned Parenthood Federation, the world’s largest private abortion business.
"Abortion business". I stopped reading right there, having made it past
Melinda Gates is a Catholic who attended high school at Dallas’ all-girls Ursuline Academy. But she’s anything but Catholic in her position on condom use.
Not only do condom promotion programs fail where abstinence succeeds against AIDS — but souls as well lives are at stake.
"Abortion business." Right.

Monday, September 04, 2006

War on Terror vs. War on Drugs

The Volokh Conspiracy - -

What he, and most of the commenters, said.

Australia mourns 'colourful son'

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Australia mourns 'colourful son'
Mr Irwin, 44, was struck in the chest by a stingray's barb while filming a documentary on the Great Barrier Reef.
What a shame. And what a shame that the man and those around him were so reckless.

I almost wish all these animal-handling TV people would attend STOP training and think more about the possible consequences of unanticipated contingencies like sting ray barbs to the heart.

Steve Irwin's death was entirely preventable, and I don't think his show would have suffered much, if at all, had he displayed more safety consciousness.

Beyonce Knowles, freedom fighter |

Beyonce Knowles, freedom fighter |
This month, Beyonce and Jay-Z's 'Deja vu' is No. 1 on the top 40 of the biggest Muslim nation in the world, Indonesia. Nine of the top 10 songs on the United Arab Emirates singles chart are hip-hop or R&B. Earlier this year Egyptian rappers MTM -- whose hit song 'Ummi Musafra' ('My Mother's Away') is about a teenager who holds a dance party while his mother is away on holiday -- were voted best modern Arab act at the first Arabian Music Awards. Several journalists have reported on the vast Iranian black market in Western music and movies of all sorts. And everyone seems to agree that youth in Iran are engaged in widespread rebellion against Islamic sharia law. Tattoos, sneakers, platform shoes, belly rings, and public displays of affection are ubiquitous in the most militantly Islamic republic.

Hmmm... I could almost become a hip-hop fan.

Hat tip: The Revealer - Amoral Infection

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Temptation of Leviathan; A Lengthy Reply

Stop The Spirit Of Zossen - Temptation of Leviathan — A Lengthy Reply
Are you a 'Cultural Hobbesian'? Or a 'Neo Lockean'? My guess is that we both will be encountering that question under various guises in the future. Alot.
I landed on this "Stop The Spirit of Zossen" blog the other day, and here I am again. I don't know who these people are, but clearly they are way over my head. Still, every so often I pick up a crumb here and there that appeals to me.

I think these people might be academic philostophers or political skyentists. Historians perhaps. Whatever. They seem to have a sense of humor to go with their RSS feed.

Last time I was here I wondered if my leg was being pulled. I don't think so, but I'm pretty sure that if they wanted to pull my leg I might not notice.

As to the question above, probably more the former than the latter, but frankly, I'm just an ignorant nihilist.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

What should I call this post?

This comment to this post at Glenn Greenwald's Unclaimed Territory blog led to this post at Daily Kos, in which a blogger referred to this post on a vast right-wing conspirator's blog called Swords Crossed.

The point of the post at Kos was that Republicans know how to play the game and Democrats had better learn. The post at Kos had been updated to include the text of an email from the vast right-wing conspirator bearing congratulations for a nice post, thanks for kind words and a few points of clarification. Really. It's all very civil.

The vast right-wing conspirator's post is about the so-called "Overton window", a model for public attitude manipulation named after another vast right-wing conspirator, formerly vice-president of another vast right-wing conspiring think tank.

The point of Greenwald's post, by the way, was about how influential this yet other vast right-wing conspiring think tank is, how they want us to bomb Iran and so on and so forth.

I don't have anything constructive to contribute. What I have is a recollection of the distaste I felt in the company of some politically active friends of my Mother's who were gleeful about voting in the other party's primary in order to vote for the candidate most likely to be beaten by the guy they wanted to win from their party. Struck me as a dirty pool mentality then, and it all strikes me as a dirty pool mentality now. Too bad it doesn't really matter.

Probability of razor-thin national election results

Is Mexico going the way of Venezuela, with political violence leading to a hostile government next door?

BBC NEWS | Americas | Mexico deputies stop Fox speech
The original count saw Felipe Calderon - of the National Action Party (PAN) - win just over half a percentage point more support than Mr Lopez Obrador, of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD).
I am highly suspicious of razor-thin national electoral results. I'm no sadistician, and probability gave me a headache in college, but I can't shake the sense that razor-thin national election results are very low-probability events with chicanery the most likely explanation.

It's easy for me to sympathize with a Mexican citizen who voted for Lopez Obrador as he heads out to raise hell at the demonstration.

If there is a good explanation for razor-thin national election results I have not found it. The closest I've found had to do with the likelihood of razor-thin results occurring in a small number of political subdivisions of a larger electorate in which a close election is forecast, but that's not the same thing.

Do razor-thin national election results indicate a high likelihood of chicanery? Is there a better electoral system?

So far I think the answer to both questions is Yes. I'm not particularly hopeful though.

"Risible Sprint" - Sam Harris has a way with words


The Language of Ignorance
by Sam Harris

In this essay, the bestselling secularist author of “The End of Faith” delivers a scathing review of “The Language of God,” a new book by Human Genome Project head Francis Collins that attempts to demonstrate a harmony between science and evangelical Christianity.

And it is scathing.
While the mere sighting of a waterfall appears to have been sufficient to answer all important questions of theology for Collins, he imagines himself to be in possession of further evidence attesting to the divinity of Jesus, the omnipotence of God and the divine origin of the Bible. The most compelling of these data, in his view, is the fact that human beings have a sense of right and wrong. Collins follows Lewis here, as faithfully as if he were on a leash, and declares that the “moral law” is so inscrutable a thing as to admit of only a supernatural explanation. According to Collins, the moral law applies exclusively to human beings:
Though other animals may at times appear to show glimmerings of a moral sense, they are certainly not widespread, and in many instances other species’ behavior seems to be in dramatic contrast to any sense of universal rightness.
One wonders if the author has ever read a newspaper. The behavior of humans offers no such “dramatic contrast.” How badly must human beings behave to put this “sense of universal rightness” in doubt? And just how widespread must “glimmerings” of morality be among other animals before Collins—who, after all, knows a thing or two about genes—begins to wonder whether our moral sense has evolutionary precursors in the natural world? What if mice showed greater distress at the suffering of familiar mice than unfamiliar ones? (They do.) What if monkeys will starve themselves to prevent their cage-mates from receiving painful shocks? (They will.) What if chimps have a demonstrable sense of fairness when receiving food rewards? (They have.) Wouldn’t these be precisely the sorts of findings one would expect if our morality were the product of evolution?

Collins’ case for the supernatural origin of morality rests on the further assertion that there can be no evolutionary explanation for genuine altruism. Because self-sacrifice cannot increase the likelihood that an individual creature will survive and reproduce, truly self-sacrificing behavior stands as a primordial rejoinder to any biological account of morality. In Collins’ view, therefore, the mere existence of altruism offers compelling evidence of a personal God. (Here, Collins performs a risible sprint past ideas in biology like “kin selection” that plausibly explain altruism and self-sacrifice in evolutionary terms.) A moment’s thought reveals, however, that if we were to accept this neutered biology, almost everything about us would be bathed in the warm glow of religious mystery. Forget morality—how did nature select for the ability to write sonnets, solder circuit boards or swing a golf club? Clearly, such abilities could never be the product of evolution. Might they have been placed in us by God? Smoking cigarettes isn’t a healthy habit and is unlikely to offer an adaptive advantage—and there were no cigarettes in the Paleolithic—but this habit is very widespread and compelling. Is God, by any chance, a tobacco farmer? Collins can’t seem to see that human morality and selfless love may be derivative of more basic biological and psychological traits, which were themselves products of evolution. It is hard to interpret this oversight in light of his scientific training. If one didn’t know better, one might be tempted to conclude that religious dogmatism presents an obstacle to scientific reasoning.
One of the more memorable experiences of my life occurred one day about 30 years ago while I was taking a drive in the San Gabriel mountains near Los Angeles, California. Having spotted something occupying the curb half of the driving lane ahead, I slowed down to move into the opposite lane of this narrow, twisting mountain road. As I drove slowly by, I looked at what turned out to be a group of a dozen or so squirrels huddled around a recently car-killed associate. They did not bound off the road into the bushes as my car approached. They just sat there, erect on their haunches, in a circle around their dead comrade. As I drove past, I received an overwhelming sense of their sorrow. They were mourning. A couple of them turned their heads to look at me as if saying, "Do you mind? We're praying here!"

It was a very touching scene and a highly spiritual experience, but I figure it probably had about as much to do with anything as would a vision of a frozen waterfall.


Collins’ sins against reasonableness do not end here. Somewhere during the course of his scientific career, he acquired the revolting habit of quoting eminent scientists out of context to give an entirely false impression of their religious beliefs. Misappropriation of Einstein and Hawking, while common enough in popular religious discourse, rises to level of intellectual misconduct when perpetrated by a scientist like Collins. Where either of these physicists uses the term “God”—as in Einstein’s famous “God does not play dice…”—he uses it metaphorically. Any honest engagement with their work reveals that both Einstein and Hawking reject the notion of Collins’ God as fully as any atheist. Collins suggests otherwise at every opportunity.

I wonder if there's some way for people who are deliberately mis-quoted, or their heirs, to sue people for twisting their words into something opposed to what was plainly meant?

If one wonders how beguiled, self-deceived and carefree in the service of fallacy a scientist can be in the United States in the 21st century, “The Language of God” provides the answer.
Maybe it's just bullshit in mistaken service of bridging a culture gap? If so, I prefer Wilson's approach:

While the scientist believes in evolution, the evangelical Christian interprets the Bible as the literal word of God.

"I may be wrong, you may be wrong. We may both be partly right," Wilson writes.
Naa... That's the devil talking.

Friday, September 01, 2006

... they won't do it


I don't know who the author, "A Marine in Iraq", is, and I don't know who the retired Marine said to have received and quoted the email is, but Soldiers for the Truth doesn't strike me as anything other than what they say they are. The message doesn't strike me anything other than what it appears to be: the assessment of a man on the scene. It would be nice to know the date of the email (the story is dated not quite a month ago). Still...
The biggest lesson I have learned over 6 months here is that the Iraqi culture is incapable of sustaining a western style military. The Arabic style military it can function with is distasteful to western soldiers: officers who hit their men, officer and senior enlisted men who regularly steal from their men, using leadership to openly grant yourself more food and standard of living items while your men go without, taking food from civilians while searching their houses, taking food from crops while searching for weapons caches, and all the while professing to be men of God.
Hat tip: Winds of Change

So after 6 months we've:
  • taught them techniques for planning operations...they won't do it.
  • shown them how to conduct weapons sustainment ranges...they won't do it.
  • we've shown them how to conduct convoys...they won't do it.
  • we've taught them moral and ethical behavior required of soldiers...they won't do it.
  • we've taught them how to manage logistics...they won't do it.
  • we've taught them personnel and administrative management...they won't do it.
  • we've taught them how to operate tactically...they won't do it.
  • we've taught them how to sustain the life support systems on the camp...they won't do it.
Basically we have taught them how to be a self sufficient battalion, but unless the Marines do it for them, they won't do anything. They ALWAYS revert back to the "Iraqi way" when we are not around and that involves DESTROYING and WASTING everything they get their hands on.

But other than all that they say they are "dedicated" to the future of Iraq...should be a bright and wonderful future.