Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Journalists killed in Iraq

Reuters demands release of wounded Iraq journalist
Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based media rights group, called the shooting "extremely disturbing" and said the Reuters soundman was the 66th journalist or media assistant killed in Iraq since the invasion of 2003, three more than died in 20 years in Vietnam.
This reminds me of that Eason Jordan thing a while back. I don't want to open up all that again.


What's up with all the journalists killed in Iraq? Why is the military so indifferent to them?

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

War is Peace; Freedom is Slavery; Mexico is California.

Bad news for racists: "Texas has become the fourth state to have a non-white majority population, the U.S. Census Bureau said Thursday, a trend driven by a surging number of Hispanics moving to the state."

The author goes on to remark that the states that have been overtaken by "minorities" are all states that America took from Mexico in the Mexican-American War. I've been saying that about California for a while now. People complain about the Mexicans moving in over there, and I find it funny because California used to be part of Mexico.

Human origins overview taught in school

In an earlier post I suggested that a compromise in the Intelligent Design/Evolution debate might be to teach a class that's an overview of origin beliefs. It turns out someone tried that:
They created a new class -- under the heading of social studies -- that examines all the theories on human origins. Not only did the class cover evolution and creationism, it also surveyed Navajo beliefs, the Hindu creation story and a host of other perspectives.
How did that go over? Well, "...after two semesters, so few kids were interested in the subject there weren't enough to fill a course section."

This post (where I got the link) takes that to mean:
The creationists are not sincere about wanting their kids exposed to a diversity of alternative ideas...they just want their myths promoted, and they all fade away otherwise. I imagine the science-minded kids were also unenthusiastic about the course, since it wasn't going to give them the hard information they needed.
Of course, maybe the guy teaching the class was boring. As an elective, there was no reason for students to subject themselves to it.

Anyway, I thought it was interesting that someone else had the same idea. I'd be interested also in whether it has been tried more places and what the results were there.

Monday, August 29, 2005

RIAA, are you listening?

From this post at Feministe, I found Phrases that sound like cliches even though probably no one has said them before, which I'm posting here only for this phrase:
Let's run it past Weird Al and see what the parody sounds like.
That reminds me of Michael Jackson's best quality: he always lets "Weird Al" do whatever he wants with his music. That's worth the price of "Thriller."

Saturday, August 27, 2005

I'm getting too senile for this.

I was just about to write a post (about Bloglines) I had floating around in my head for a couple months when I thought I probably ought to check out what I've written about it before. As it turns out, this post is just what I was going to write.

I just forgot that I'd already written it. It even has the same title. Now I wonder if I've been repeating myself already without realizing it. Maybe the whole 16 months I've been doing this has been a loop of only about three months worth of material.

Not that I'm too proud for that. After all, I just wrote a post about the post I was going to write but didn't.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Would you, could you, with a bomb?

Someone brought up torture on RedState before I was banned, and I followed up with my "I'd rather be dead than a monster" line. In response I got a good question:
I agree that the "ticking bomb" scenario is unlikely however if that were the case, would you be willing to see others die so that you wouldn't become a monster?
My answer was "Ideally, yes."

It's a weak answer. It'd be hard to resist saving my loved ones by doing something horrible, particularly if it were done to someone who deserves it. That having been said, I hope I'd actually stick to my principles instead.

This is a question that's clearer to me when asked in reverse. Would I want someone else to torture someone to save my life?

No, I certainly wouldn't. I won't torture another to save my life, and I can't condone torturing on my behalf for the same reason or any other. Perhaps I'm in the minority on this, and the majority of Americans want our troops to sully themselves and our country through the use of torture on their behalf. I don't know. I'm only speaking for myself here.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

I refuse to name this post.

Garou responds to my Unnamed Intelligent Design post:
You'll note that I didn't say why I liked the article, yes?
I totally noticed that.
Sadly, too many people refuse to acknowledge the role of faith in society, and seem determined to drive any mention of it out of schools entirely.
Faith certainly has a role in society. In fact, I forgot to make something very clear in my earlier post. I quote myself:
For people who study radioactivity (and, perhaps, milk), the question of whether radioactive milk is safer after boiling is pretty well closed, and any dispute stems from ignorance. I've read enough about Evolution and Intelligent Design (ID) to know that it's a much deeper debate than I have time to follow, so opinions I have on it come to you direct from the land of ignorance also.
I think most people engaging in the debate do so from a position of faith. I don't understand all the nitty gritty (ooey gooey?) detail the science of our origins, but I have some faith in the people who do. There are proponents of Intelligent Design who also don't grasp its complexities but agree with those who do. Then we have these ignorant faithful arguing with each other in public. Am I proud to be among them? Well, uh, let me get back to you on that.

But back to faith in society. Certainly it has a place. I still believe in the separation of church and state, however, and I'm not very comfortable with officially bringing faith into classrooms teaching subjects that don't involve it. If students want to pray before a test, more power to them. If they want to ask questions about the role of God in the process of making a bill into a law, I leave it to the teacher to address that. If that question comes up every year in every class, then consider incorporating the answer into the regular lecture. If the students don't have a question about it, and it's not really part of the subject, I don't think "lots of people think it's part of the subject anyway" is a good reason to include it.

Maybe the compromise is to have a subject that includes it. An overview of different ideas of origins would certainly include Intelligent Design (and Evolution, and Creation, and Brahma, and so on).

Or maybe the compromise is not to teach the subject at all. Let the parents do the teaching, and they can instill in their children whatever beliefs they want.
I consider this more tragic when it comes out of people who preach tolerance and diversity - I expect a fundamentalist to decry discussing Islam in school, but it saddens me when a liberal says that a sidebar about ID in a biology class is beyond the pale.
I think a sidebar is fine (though I'd still prefer to go without it), especially if it's coming up in class unbidden.

I don't look at this as a matter of tolerance and diversity at all. If that were the case, we'd have to also make room for every origin belief held by anyone in the community. That would be diversity, certainly, but I don't hear a lot of ID proponents saying we need to have Creek mythology in our schools on the basis of having a "broad range of fact, of science, including faith." How can one propose this on the basis of pluralism but not propose also teaching many other things?

I highly enjoyed the comparative religions class I took in college, and I'd have no problem putting it in high schools too. I just prefer religion in schools to be studied rather than practiced. That's my real fear: that my daughter will go to a school funded with my taxes, and someone will say "our faith is the truth" before she really knows what that means.

This title is false.

Lee replied to my blog like a conservative post, in part:
I thought of this post today in the first session of a class I'm taking. The teacher said that someone who cannot understand and argue the opposite side of their own position is merely an irrational fanatical.
So, my question for him is, what's the argument on the other side of that position?

Why, yes, I do think I'm just so clever. But I also think it's a good question.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Robertson calls for assassination of Chavez

I couldn't believe it when I read it. Pat Robertson called for the assassination of Hugo Chavez (President of Venezuela). I thought, "that's got to be spin." I thought, "he probably said it wouldn't be so bad if it happened, not that he really wanted it to."

Well, friends, I gave him the benefit of the doubt that he didn't deserve. See for yourself.
We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability.
I'm just dumbfounded.

It's not a race.

This morning on my way to work, I had the rare pleasure of being trailed nearly all the way by some woman in an Infiniti. She wasn't trying to trail me. On the contrary, she kept trying to get ahead of me. In fact, she did get ahead of me three out of four times she tried, but somehow she kept ending up behind me again.

It must be very frustrating for the owner of a very expensive car to get outpaced by some lunatic in a Beetle jamming out to "Weird Al" Yankovic.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Unnamed Intelligent Design post

My friend over at Random Brain Dribbles linked to an article about the Intelligent Design debate. I hadn't intended to remark on this, but I just can't resist a bad argument. The one that really got me was this:
... let us consider another possibility, which is that where there is a political controversy, there can be no scientific certainty. Or, to put the matter another way, so long as men dispute with each other about the answer to a question, that question cannot be considered settled.
As noted previously, quite a few Americans believe you can make radioactive milk safe by boiling it. This is false. It's no less false for there being a dispute. The article goes on:
To the scientist, this thesis may smack of heresy. After all, if I have discovered the truth, and have expressed it in my theory, then surely everyone else should be obligated to accept my ideas and to put away those of their own that are in conflict with it. Yet, oddly enough, the world does not work this way, nor is it immediately obvious that the world should work in this way.
Here we're talking about something different, and it's important to notice the difference. Scientific theories can certainly be in dispute, but not everything science tells us is theoretical. There's not much theory about the safety features of radioactive milk. The weakest statement we can make is that in every single experiment done, boiling has not made radioactive milk safe.

Now, bring this back to the origin of species. Evolution certainly is a theory and subject to debate. That's not to say that every time some large part of the population has a disagreement with scientists, there's some equivalence of authority. There isn't.

For people who study radioactivity (and, perhaps, milk), the question of whether radioactive milk is safer after boiling is pretty well closed, and any dispute stems from ignorance. I've read enough about Evolution and Intelligent Design (ID) to know that it's a much deeper debate than I have time to follow, so opinions I have on it come to you direct from the land of ignorance also.

That having been said, what are the chances that the scientists who've studied this stuff are full of primordial ooze, but the Intelligent Design folks are objective, unbiased observers of truth? I haven't studied it enough to know for sure, but it seems to me the ID folks have an agenda (God) which is not only less objective than scientists' agenda (as if objectivism can be relative), but also not quite in keeping with public schools.

I recall hearing about phlogiston in chemistry class. I wouldn't mind talking about ID in biology the same way, but I don't think the ID proponents would accept that. If it's not given an equal footing, it's not good enough.

There was one other really bad argument I couldn't let lie. It's this:
Darwin grew up believing in Adam and Eve -- proof that it makes little difference with what opinion we start out with, since all that ultimately matters are the convictions that we discover for ourselves.
I disagree. This is like saying that it doesn't matter if some people get a head start in a race because people without a head start sometimes win anyway. Opinions we start out with matter quite a bit. It's true that people don't always retain their opinions, but they're also far from irrelevant.

This is why what we teach in school matters to us and our children. If it's true that "all that ultimately matters are the convictions that we discover for ourselves," why push for teaching ID anyway? Why teach anything? Students can discover the truth by themselves.

It's as if they're biased or something.


Monday, August 22, 2005

Lefties: in their right minds.

Witness the terrifying greatness of the liberal blogsphere! The Technorati top 100 confirms that the very finest in blogging flows freely and chiefly from liberal blogs. The MSM trembles in fear, jealousy, hatred, and wealth. One look at the conservative blogsphere could tell even a borderline retarded disembodied chimpanzee brain wired to the Internet that they are hopelessly out of touch with the will of the American people, truth, justice, reasoned debate, and their own precious bodily fluids.

The indisputable proof of this can be found here with further expansion of the essential logic of our might from this at Obsidian Wings.

UPDATE: More here and here

UPDATE: Still more here.

Dilbert on the news.

This Sunday's Dilbert is the best I've seen in a long time. In it, Dogbert's Easy News Channel brings you all the news that's easy to gather.

Friday, August 19, 2005

I was banned at RedState


I'm hardly the first.

I had an interest in the opposition perspective. I like to ask what I think are serious questions about that perspective. I really went to RedState to learn how the other side "sees things" beyond talking points.

Frequently, this was frustrating. I was ignored and insulted, but I did manage to get some good conversations out of it at times. My standard M. O. was to head over there, find someone saying something easy to challenge, and do so. It was always easy to find some "President Bush is trustworthy" comment or "the media is biased" comment.

I posted links with what I thought were relevant facts. I tried to separate facts from opinions as much as possible, and I tried to encourage the sharing of both. I stayed respectful, even in the face of disrespect.

This morning a particular user whose replies are typically short and disrespectful got my goat. Rather than let one of his non-replies lie, I followed up with a comment titled "Thank you, sir, may I have another!" In it, I politely asked for further explanation.

The title refers to the movie "Animal House" in which a fraternity initiation ritual is to be paddled by a fraternity member while saying that phrase. At the time, I was thinking that getting him to post another non-response would show how ridiculous his responses are, like the ritual, but it also referred to the topic at hand: reelecting President Bush for a second term after the disaster of his first. I liked the ambiguity.

After that, I figured it was the perfect way to respond every time: "Thank you, sir, may I have another!" in the title and a polite request for elaboration in the body. I think he may have deleted one of them, but I also thought I might have forgotten to hit "Post" (as I sometimes do after previewing), so I posted it again. That's when he banned me.

I had a look at their posting rules, and what I was doing might have qualified as "harassment" or "disruptive behavior," but it doesn't seem to me much worse than the behavior of their other regulars. I wouldn't be the first to remark that there's a double standard over there. Those who disagree with the RedStates are required to play nice more than the site's "base."

Anyway, I can still log in, but I'm read-only. I honestly thought the site was better off for my participation, but clearly they don't agree. Perhaps this comment is right.
The simple fact is that the difference between the liberal and conservative communities that swirl around in comments threads is because the latter cannot stand consistent factual argument against their collective beliefs. Liberals thrive on intelligent argument; conservatives shun it.

Try it some time. Post facts and links and see what happens.

Record-setting Vacation for Bush

You can't make this stuff up: Vacationing Bush Poised to Set a Record. His approval rating is the worst it's been, and he takes a vacation. Good work, dude! Way to rest on the laurels you wish you had!

Supporters will say that he works even when on vacation. His job goes with him. That's fair, but I'm not clear to what extent the President's vacation is not really vacation, and this hardly seems like a time to do a little less and relax a little more, regardless of how little the difference really is.

This is another "Administration of the Onion" post. See also, Gloating Rights, The Administration of the Onion, and President Bush in Canada.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Parlor game.

Let's say I'm hypothetically in possession of a group of hypothetical children, and I'd like to treat them to ice cream, but I'd also like them to learn some fiscal responsibility or some character-building crap like that. Here's the game I create.
  • Every child orders anything desired.
  • We note who spent the most and how much that is.
  • Every child who spent less gets cash equal to the difference between their own order and the big spender's order.
For example:
  • Alice spends $6 on ice cream.
  • Bob spends $5.
  • Charlie spends $4.
As a result, every child gets ice cream, but Bob also gets $1, and Charlie gets $2.

This works if the children really do compete to spend the least. Depending on the kids, they may get confused and ignore the game. They may also decide they care about ice cream more than cash (and ignore the game).

The worst outcome (for me, the ice cream treater) is if the one of the kids really understands the game and clues in the others. They make out like bandits if they cooperate like so: one kid orders for everyone and runs up a huge bill. The others spend zero. Then the one buyer trades ice cream for cash. In the above example, Alice spends $15 for everyone's choices, Bob and Charlie get $15 each, and the three kids then divvy up the money evenly. Each gets $10 plus ice cream.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Chat log, Tue Feb 24 1998 00:32

<Him> hello
<Me> Greetings.
<Me> Greetings.
<Him> i am a homosexual
<Me> What's your point?
<Him> I want to suck dick
<Him> you got one?
<Me> I think I'm talking to one. Does that count?
<Him> :(

Thursday, August 11, 2005

This just in.

Gestation really takes a lot out of you.

Maruchan vs. McDonald's

I'm shocked and dismayed that the Maruchan Instant Lunch that I frequently eat has about the same calories and calories-from-fat as a McDonald's cheeseburger. I didn't think my little soup cup was good, exactly, but I did think it would compare more favorably than it did.

Monday, August 08, 2005

No true love on Earth.

I saw this on a church sign:

"The only true love is God's love."

I take issue with this because it means that no love between people is true. No saint's love is true. Not even a Heavenly angel's love is true love.

I am only a sinner, of course, but it seems to me that one could praise the love of God as somehow superlative without voiding the love of others.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Still elite.

Word is the "blogsphere" is doubling in size every 5.5 months. Since I started this blog about 15 months ago, I've been doing this through approximately three doublings, which means I've done this longer than about 88% of the people doing it today.

Add to that the fact that I was writing stuff like this in other places before, and I feel like quite the codger.

This mirrors my record on the Internet. For quite a while, it was said, the Internet doubled in size every year. Whether that still holds true today, I don't know, but I started my Internet usage in 1990. The last time I heard someone say the Internet was still doubling every year, that put me ahead of 99% of users at the time.

Anyway, it's nice to know I'm still ahead of the crowd on some level.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Fly jihad, Part 2

Bedroom flies Living room flies
The strip in the bedroom caught the most flies, but the one in the living room is a close second.
(See also "Fly jihad!!")

Iraq's connection to terrorists.

It turns out that maybe Iraq had connections to al Qaeda after all. Some will say this justifies our invasion of Iraq, but I can't get over the fact that President Bush was told before the invasion that Iraq had no connections to terrorists. I wrote about this before, so I won't rehash it, but the short version now appears to be:
  1. President Bush told Iraq is not a threat.
  2. President Bush invades anyway (thousands die).
  3. Evidence now suggests that Iraq was a threat.
I don't think you can justify a bad decision on the basis of it turning out well after all, but set that aside.

What is the new evidence? Well, from the interrogation of a detainee, we've learned that:
In August 1998, the detainee traveled to Pakistan with a member of Iraqi Intelligence for the purpose of blowing up the Pakistan, United States and British embassies with chemical mortars.
Sounds bad, but on the other hand, it doesn't look like such a huge connection to me. Was this Iraqi Intelligence agent working on official business, or was he a double agent or something? We don't know.

The connection itself is slim enough, in my opinion, but there's another problem articulated by The White House:
We know that members of al Qaeda are trained to mislead and to provide false reports. We know that's one of their tactics that they use.
I've written about this idea too, and the short version is that I don't take that line as gospel, but it's a possibility.

If this detainee were tortured, I don't think we can rely on anything he said. I don't know that he was tortured, and I certainly don't know that he lied. I don't understand, though, how one could believe that detainees lie and this story is credible. It's based entirely on a detainee's statements!

Some say the Bush administration should be screaming this news from the rooftops. Shout it out, freedom fighters: Iraq really was a threat.

I think there are two reasons this isn't happening.
  1. The next obvious question people will ask is, "what do you mean 'really was'?" It will become clear in short order that Iraq was thought not to be a threat before the war. Then comes the question we set aside earlier: is it OK to drive drunk as long as the pedestrian you run over is a terrorist?
  2. While I've characterized this case as not-so-clear-cut, it's possible that if you look at it closer, the ambiguity disappears, and it turns out there really isn't a connection here after all. Maybe what they're not telling us is that they know for a fact the Iraqi Intelligence agent was not operating with Baghdad's approval.
The third view is that the story is solid but the administration is poor at communication. I think the third view is correct on the latter but not the former.

(Having written this, I'm taken aback by how light on facts it really is. Rest assured, gentle reader, I'm well aware of how much of what I wrote was opinion and not concrete.)

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Fly jihad!!

Inches away from my right eye, there's a fly. It struggles for life. It will die.

After our trip to New York, we came home to find flies in the house. They were not merely a few flies but many flies. Whence came the flies, we did not know, but we suspect the guys we got to walk our dogs may have left the door standing open.

We squirted them with Windex, and we herded them out of open windows when a large congregation was already trying to get through the windows, and we killed a few with our bare hands.

(When a fly takes flight, it jumps straight up and a little backward. Put your hands on either side of the fly and a little behind. Clap. The doomed bugger jumps right to its smeary death.)

The fly problem worsened. I'd see a dozen of them buzzing around each other in an area the size of a beach ball. Hate them, I did.

Today, I went to the same hardware store I'd gotten mouse traps before, and I purchased a whole mess of sticky strip fly catchers, and I've hung six of them. Right now, one hangs beside my head. On it, a fly is still fighting its fate. It's gotten its legs out of the goo, but now it has both wings stuck. It will die.

It's all about the clothes.

This is my daughter dressed as Cinderella in the Disney Store in New York. She loves to dress up, to look pretty. She has a four-year-old idea of what pretty is, but her four-year-old face can pull off practically anything. Her usual dress-up garb is a purple dress, pink wings, white wedding-style headband with Mickey Mouse ears, shoes, and a wand. Sadly, I don't have a picture of that, but I'm sure it's etched pretty well into the minds of commuters who saw it at the local Metra stop a while back.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Separate realities: the view of terrorists.

Why do terrorists do what they do? Here is one view:
It would continue because it is a sickness incubated within Arab/ Islamic culture, a toxic combination of repression, corruption, intolerance and fanaticism, fed by tyrannical regimes eager to deflect popular anger from themselves onto the American infidel. Until that political culture changes fundamentally, jihadism will thrive.
Paraphrased, terrorism is part of who they are. It has nothing to do with us in this view. They're lunatics who'd find a reason to do what they do regardless of the situation.

On the other hand, maybe they're ticked off about something. Someone studied suicide bombings and concluded that they're usually in response to a foreign occupier of another religion. How good a conclusion you can draw from only suicide bombings vs. the larger body of terrorist actions, I don't know.

To over oversimplify, this is a nature vs. nurture argument.

I suspect both are true to some extent. There are terrorists who'd just blow people up no matter what, and there are some who have a grievance, and they likely work together quite a bit, making it hard to tell them apart.

What's interesting to me about this is that in the "nature" view, what America does to other countries doesn't matter. Krauthammer says it this way:
But let's assume, for the sake of argument, that there are Muslims energized by Iraq--who were not energized by Western colonialism, American imperialism, Hollywood decadence, the Roosevelt-Saud alliance, the Afghan war, Zionism, feminism or other alleged outrages against Islam. They were living contentedly, tending their shoe shop in Riyadh, and all of a sudden they discovered the joys of jihad and the lure of heavenly posthumous sex awaiting them at the other end of a suicide bombing.
He seems to be saying, "if they weren't ticked about all those other things, they can't be ticked about Iraq." The other way I hear this is, "they already hated us before we went to Iraq." Either way, stomping around their stomping grounds can't be the cause of more terrorism.

Well, I don't buy it. I'm not holding America responsible for the acts of terrorists by any means, but I think a rise in terrorism was a predictable response to invading Iraq. Invading Iraq was like leaving an expensive car in a bad neighborhood with the windows down and the keys in the ignition. The thieves who steal it are guilty as sin, but they're not random.

If there are terrorists who are "inspired" by America's actions, I think it's worth avoiding that inspiration just to make it easier to deal with the ones inspired by their chemical imbalance.