Monday, July 31, 2006
Sunday, July 30, 2006
Anyhow, I must be getting old; I sat among these guys on the plane, having decided that the plane was delayed enough to justify a business class upgrade.
Amazing; I am amongst popular musicians and I don't even recognize them, and they are apparently successful enough to fly business class.
Friday, July 28, 2006
Thursday, July 27, 2006
JERUSALEM, July 27 — Israel’s security cabinet met today to discuss expanding the offensive against Lebanon, a day after the heaviest fighting in the two-week-old conflict killed 9 Israeli soldiers and dozens of Hezbollah fighters, as well as at least 23 Palestinians who died in the continuing battle in Gaza.
Before the meeting, Israeli officials said they regarded the failure of an international conference to reach agreement on a cease-fire plan as clearing the way for further assaults on Hezbollah.“We received yesterday at the Rome conference permission from the world,’’ Justice Minister Haim Ramon told Israeli radio, “to continue this operation, this war, until Hezbollah won’t be located in Lebanon and until it is disarmed.’
I didn't give them permission...
Mr. Ramon [said] “all those now in south Lebanon are terrorists who are related in some way to Hezbollah.’’
IOW, get ready for some ethnic cleansing...
Arriving today in Kuala Lumpur for a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice defended her resistance during the Rome conference to the push for a quick cease-fire. She said she was “willing and ready to go back to the Middle East at any time’’ for talks on a “sustainable’’ peace plan...
Wonderful; we now have the equivalent of our highest diplomat saying we don't give a shit about the carnage...that'll sure win us friends and influence people.
And sure enough, not to be left out of our attention, and expressing solidarity usually hostile Muslim sects...
Also today, Ayman al-Zawarhiri, al Qaeda’s second-in-command, vowed in a videotape released today that the group “will not stay silent with regard to what is happening to Muslims in Palestine and Lebanon.”"What is happening to Muslims is a Crusader and Zionist war," Mr. Zawarhiri said, promising “we will attack everywhere’’ in response.
what i feel when i'm playing guitar is completely cold and crazy, like i don't owe nobody nothing and it's just a test just to see how far i can relax into the cold wave of a note. when everything hits just right (just and right) the note of nobility can go on forever. i never tire of the solitary E and i trust my guitar and i don't care about anything. sometimes i feel like i've broken through and i'm free and i could dig into eternity into eternity riding the wave and realm of the E. sometimes it's useless. here i am struggling and filled with dread
—afraid that i'll never squeeze enough graphite from my damaged cranium to inspire or asphyxiate any eyes grazing like hungry cows across the stage or page. inside of me i'm crazy i'm just crazy.
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
If you need an outrage, consider that a senior UN official says there's about 250,000 active child soldiers in the world.
If you want to worry about things you haven't been lately, consider that bird flu has infected some cats, and it's not being well controlled in Indonesia.
On the other hand, if you've got a drunk rat you need to sober up, offer the creature a cigarette.
And on still another hand, GlaxoSmithKline says they've made a breakthrough on bird flu vaccine.
If you want something that's more useless than usual, consider designer ice.
Finally, be sure to check and see how many earthquakes we've been getting and where. It's looked really quiet lately...
Oh, might as well be topical: Hezbollah, in their own words can be found here. I cannot say I sympathize with them, despite the carnage in Lebanon - in fact I find a great deal of this stuff repugnant. They're certainly not doing what I would do.
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
The fact is, there have been folks that are theocrats, and James Dobson and D. James Kennedy are among them.
And yeah, they're far more of a threat to America than our indigenous Communists ever were.
And so that's why Bush stayed mum on nuclear proliferation in Pakistan?
Sunday, July 23, 2006
SOME big American cities are flourishing as at no time in recent memory. Places like New York and San Francisco appear to be richer and more dazzling than ever: crime remains low, new arrivals pour in, neighborhoods have risen from the dead. New York is in the throes of the biggest building boom in 30 years, its population at an all-time high and climbing. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg proudly promotes his city as “a luxury product.”
But middle-class city dwellers across the country are being squeezed.
n the San Francisco Bay Area, the percentage of households earning more than $100,000 a year rose to over 30 percent in 2000 from approximately 7 percent in 1970, said Joseph Gyourko, a professor of real estate and finance at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. “Is that area worse off?” he asked. “At least so far, there’s a lot of evidence that economically they’re better off. Land prices are really high, lots of people want to move there.”
Edward L. Glaeser, a Harvard economist who studied 300 large cities with a range of levels of income inequality in the 1960’s and 1970’s, says he found little evidence that those levels later affected the growth of housing prices, income or population there.
Of course, cities need police officers, firefighters, teachers. But as long as they can get the labor they need from somewhere nearby, some economists say, middle-class shrinkage may not hurt. In Southern California, developers import construction workers from Las Vegas and put them up in hotels; costs go up but rich clients can pay. Firefighters who want to live in high-priced cities can work two jobs, said W. Michael Cox, chief economist for the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. “I think it’s great,” he said. “It gives you portfolio diversification in your income.” Pay for essential workers like plumbers and cabdrivers will tend to go up, he said.
You're not poor, you see, you just need "portfolio diversification in your income."
Saturday, July 22, 2006
Kenise Barnes, who owns a gallery in Larchmont, N.Y., was formerly the specialist in charge of contemporary paintings and drawings at Christie’s East, which was the section for work under $50,000. She says she knows the feeling.
After moving to the suburbs, “I’d walk into galleries in Chelsea with my stroller and I’d been in the business and I’d be intimidated by the snooty little girl behind the desk.”
But it’s time to get over it.
“People don’t know they can go into an art gallery just like they can go into any other store,” said Judith Tannenbaum, curator of contemporary art at the Museum of Art at the Rhode Island School of Design. “There seems to be some sort of mystique about it.”
Barbara Guggenheim, an art consultant and author who has built up the art collections of numerous celebrities and major corporations, goes even further: “There’s no difference between an art dealer and a used-car dealer — they both want to sell you something.”
It might be nice if the used-car world adopted some of the common practices of many galleries: they often will allow prospective buyers to take a piece of work home “on approval” for a short time to see how it looks en situ.
And, like Ms. Barnes, they can do an awful lot of hand-holding. While I was sitting in her gallery, she received a call from a repeat client who has a painting out on approval.
“Her husband has looked at it, the designer has looked at, she wants me to look at it, although I’ve looked at it many, many times,” she said. “It looks amazing, and I’ll say that again.”
Prospective purchasers should remember that gallery owners don’t just want one-time buyers, they want to develop collectors. So don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Ms. Guggenheim suggests that when starting out, don’t grab the first piece in your price range. Browse for a few months, because as you look, your eye will develop and change. Most galleries rotate exhibits fairly often, so if you discover one whose work you like, drop by frequently.
In the world I live in, people tastelessly decorate $1 million homes to sell to other people who are over-leveraged; if they can muster up the fortitude to buy one of them, you'd think they'd not care about snooty art types.I don't.
GEORGETOWN, Ky. — The request seemed simple enough to the Rev. Hershael W. York, then the president of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. He asked Georgetown College, a small Baptist liberal arts institution here, to consider hiring for its religion department someone who would teach a literal interpretation of the Bible.
But to William H. Crouch Jr., the president of Georgetown, it was among the last straws in a struggle that had involved issues like who could be on the board of trustees and whether the college encouraged enough freedom of inquiry to qualify for a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.
Dr. Crouch and his trustees decided it was time to end the college’s 63-year affiliation with the religious denomination. “From my point of view, it was about academic freedom,’’ Dr. Crouch said. “I sat for 25 years and watched my denomination become much more narrow and, in terms of education, much more interested in indoctrination.’’
Georgetown is among a half-dozen colleges and universities whose ties with state Baptist conventions have been severed in the last four years, part of a broad realignment in which more than a dozen Southern Baptist universities, including Wake Forest and Furman, have ended affiliations over the last two decades. Georgetown’s parting was ultimately amicable. But many have been tense, even bitter.
In Georgia and Missouri, disputes over who controls the boards of Baptist colleges led to prolonged litigation. In Tennessee, a clash over whether Belmont University in Nashville could appoint non-Baptists to its board led the Tennessee Baptist Convention to vote in May to remove the entire board. Belmont’s trustees are still running the university, and while negotiations are continuing, the battle for control could end up in court.
You're either on the side of education or ignorance.
Friday, July 21, 2006
Rocker Richards pardoned at last
Rolling Stone member Keith Richards is set to be pardoned - for a 31-year-old driving offence in US state Arkansas.
The veteran guitarist was arrested in the town of Fordyce in July 1975 for reckless driving and fined $162.20.
After Richards referred to the incident during a March concert in state capital Little Rock, Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee offered to clear his record.
"I realised his impression of our state was marred by a misdemeanour traffic stop," he told news agency Reuters.
"I wanted to clear his record in Arkansas as a goodwill gesture."
Presumably the Stones will still do "Sweet Neocon" at their concerts...
Thursday, July 20, 2006
Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) receive tremendous media attention, with oft-repeated claims that they have the potential to cure virtually every disease known. Yet there are spoilsports, self included, who point out that they have yet to even make it into a human clinical trial. This is even as alternatives — adult stem cells (ASCs) from numerous places in the body as well as umbilical cord blood and placenta — are curing diseases here and now and have been doing so for decades. And that makes ESC advocates very, very angry.
How many diseases ASCs can treat or cure is debatable, with one website claiming almost 80 for umbilical-cord blood alone. Dr. David Prentice of the Family Research Council, using stricter standards of evidence, has constituted a list of 72 for all types of ASCs. But now three ESC advocates have directly challenged Prentice’s list. They’ve published a letter in Science magazine, released ahead of publication obviously to influence President Bush’s promise to veto legislation that would open wide the federal funding spigot for ESC research. The letter claims ASC “treatments fully tested in all required phases of clinical trials and approved by the U.S Food and Drug Administration are available to treat only nine of the conditions” on his list.
Well! One answer to that is that it’s nine more than can be claimed for ESCs. Further, there are 1175 clinical trials for ASCs, including those no longer recruiting patients, with zero for ESCs. But a better response is that the letter authors come from the Kenneth Lay School for honesty, as do the editors at Science.
If it comes from a right-wing source, it's probably false. Here the lie's by omission, not that you couldn't smell this a mile away by the operative words, "Family Research Council."
Well, yes, there's no ESC treatments. Know why? Behold:
20. How many human embryonic stem cell lines are there?
The available number of human embryonic stem cell lines is a matter of some debate. To date, over 100 human embryonic stem cell lines have been derived worldwide. However, most of those lines are not adequately characterized yet. And only 22 cell lines are eligible for federal funding in the USA. Detailed information on those 22 cell lines can be found at the National Institutes of Health Human Stem Cell Registry at http://stemcells.nih.gov. Information on several of the other cell lines can be found at http://www.isscr.org/science/sclines.htm. - updated 09.17.04
The International Society for Stem Cell Research is doing real research, and conducting real bioethical work in this area.
Also, work on embryonic stem cells is in the very early stages of research.
Naturally, this was all left out of the "National Review" article, and it was quoted by many in the blogosphere, as well as Limbaugh.
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
- I wish Israeli spokespeople could go 24 hours without using the word "terrorist" or its deriviatives. They've got military combatants. And their people, who are either in the IDF or the reserves till they're a gazillion years old, are themselves "mixing in with their civilians."
Israel has heard these arguments before. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said, “Proportionality is not compared to the event, but to the threat, and the threat is bigger and wider than the captured soldiers.”
Nor does Israel deliberately single out civilians, she argued, as Hezbollah and Hamas do through rocket attacks and suicide bombings. Intent matters, she said.
But in Gaza and Lebanon, civilians are inevitably harmed when militants hide among them. And in Lebanon, she said, some of the dead may be civilians associated with Hezbollah, assisting it or storing its rockets.
“Terrorists use the population and live among them,” Ms. Livni said. “It’s difficult to target like a surgery. Unfortunately, civilians sometimes pay the price of giving shelter to terrorists.” Under pressure or not, she said, citing Israeli intelligence, many civilians in southern Lebanon have Katyusha and other rockets under their beds.
But this kind of talk I think I can live with:
“When you go to sleep with a missile,” she said, “you might find yourself waking up to another kind of missile.”
Those arguments leave Lebanese and Gazans cold.
Earth to Lebanese and Gazans: she was using "missile" as a metaphor for penises.
- Joe Lieberman can't stop acting like Joe Lieberman even for a brief, 3 month election season.
- Most folks haven't beeen making lots of money in the past few years, and the economy sucks. Right-wing media, stop trying to put lipstick on a pig.
- News reports have been typically saying there's 25,000 Americans in Lebanon, a population of about 3.8 million people. Were similar proportions of Americans to be living in China, there'd be more than 657,000 Americans in China, and another similar number would be living in India, or almost 1 of every 200 Americans in those countries. Which leads me to wonder: how many of those Americans in Lebanon are, you know, spies?
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Two weeks have now passed since the presidential vote in Mexico, pitting Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the party for a Democratic Revolution (PRD) against Felipe Calderón of the ruling National Action party (PAN). The candidate who trailed, López Obrador, has explicitly charged that the count was cooked. He has challenged the result in court. No final resolution is due before September.
Yet the stalwarts of democracy outside Mexico are silent. Bush has congratulated Calderón, not waiting for the court to rule. Reuters and Bloomberg echo the confidence of the elites that Calderón will win in court - never mind whether he won at the polls. When The New York Times is heard from, the headlines tell us of the "leftist claims" about the occurrence of fraud, while Calderón is described as "presidential." The Times never doubted that fraud did occur in Ukraine. In Mexico on the other hand, it seemingly renounces any duty to examine the facts on the ground.
Here's one difference between the two situations. In Ukraine, it was extremely hard to learn exactly what the evidence of fraudulence actually was. In Mexico, it is extremely easy. That is because the Mexican electoral authority, known as IFE, posted the ongoing count on its website in real time, an initiative called PREP. Independent scholars kept a record of PREP as the night progressed. A statistical analysis of that record does not, of course, constitute proof. But it brings to mind Henry David Thoreau's remark that circumstantial evidence can be very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk.
To begin with, a simple matter. According to an article by Roberto González Amador in La Jornada, the vote totals don't match the percentages reported. Given the just over 15m votes Calderón was said to have earned, the percentage reported for him, 35.89%, could only be obtained by including invalid ballots in the total reported. If, on the other hand, one takes the overall vote total and the percentage reported for Calderón as correct, then his total vote must have been substantially less than was reported.
The same is true for AMLO and the other candidates, and there is a total shortfall of over a million votes between what can be justified by the official percentages of the valid votes, and the sum of votes reported. The discrepancy proves nothing, but even if it is only a simple error, it certainly seems to cast doubt over the competence of the count.
Let's turn to the harder stuff. An analysis by the physicist Luis Mochán of UNAM based on the realtime evolution of the vote count and the distribution of vote totals by polling place can be found here, and in greater detail in Spanish, here. It's not easy reading, but is immensely worthwhile. It's possible that Mochán's work inaugurates a new era in realtime checking for vote fraud, made possible by the simplicity of Mexico's first-past-the-post direct vote and the rich electoral data sets that can be made instantly available. Call it the age of transparency, in collision with an oligarchy of thugs.
Wal-Mart has branded itself into a corner: it's cheap, dowdy or plainly low-class clothes and products are only bought as a last resort, which kind of limits their ability to grow into markets.
No kid past the tween years is ever going to want clothes from Wal-Mart.
I can't wait till the spoof videos appear...
- Vote for Alito before he voted against him.
- Voted for the bankruptcy bill before he voted against it.
- Had no problem with Alberto Gonzales, or Abu Ghraib.
- He's no fan of womens' rights' to her body.
- He equates brain dead people with people.
Monday, July 17, 2006
The Dobsons were members of the Nazarene Church, a denomination of evangelical Christianity that believes human beings are inherently evil but can be saved if they repent and put their faith in Jesus Christ. Followers believe fervently in Judgment Day, when the Lord will return to the earth, the dead will be raised, and the faithful will be reunited with their loved ones in Heaven. Nazarenes believe that after a person has had an initial born-again experience, the Holy Spirit will seek to perform a second work of grace called “entire sanctification” or “baptism with the Holy Spirit,” which purges all sin. Gil Alexander-Moegerle, a former Focus executive and once one of Dobson’s most trusted advisors, writes in his 1997 book James Dobson’s War on America that this “Holiness” principle is key to understanding Dobson’s worldview: “James Dobson believes that he has been entirely sanctified, morally perfected, that he does not and cannot sin. Now you know why he and moralists like him make a life of condemning what he believes to be the sins of others. He is perfect.”
With his born-again experience, James Dobson was on his way to fulfilling a family prophecy: His great-grandfather had told the family that he received a message from God informing him that four generations of his family would rise up and serve the Lord. Dobson’s father often spent three to four hours a day on his knees; the child attempted to pray before he learned to talk. Being the son of an itinerant, evangelical preacher was hard on young Dobson, an only child. While his parents spread the gospel, the boy often was left with relatives. Sensing his son’s loneliness, Dobson’s dad bought a house in Bethany, Oklahoma, and for the next 11 years his wife, Myrtle, looked after their child while he traveled from farm to church, sowing God’s word.
In the Dobson household there were “a million rules,” the son would later write, “regulations and prohibitions for almost every imaginable situation.” He was chewed out for using the expression “Hot dog!” and forbidden from uttering “darn,” “geez,” or “dad-gummit” because they were considered shorthand swear words. Yet Dobson was a rambunctious and mischievous kid. He loved roughhousing with his father; one of their favorite games was kick fighting. The elder Dobson would encourage the boy to kick him in the shins, blocking the blows with the bottom of his feet. “Jimbo,” or “Bo,” as his father called him, would fight back like a tiger, prompting his dad to “tap” him on the shins with his toe. “We would end up laughing hysterically, despite the bumps and bruises on my legs,” Dobson writes in Bringing Up Boys.
Once, as Dobson writes in The New Strong-Willed Child, Jimbo provoked a fight between a pug bulldog and a “sweet, passive Scottie named Baby” by throwing a tennis ball toward Baby: “The bulldog went straight for Baby’s throat and hung on. It was an awful scene. Neighbors came running from everywhere as the Scottie screamed in terror. It took ten minutes and a garden hose for the adults to pry loose the bulldog’s grip. By then Baby was almost dead. He spent two weeks in the animal hospital, and I spent two weeks in the doghouse. I was hated by the entire town.”
Myrtle Dobson was an amiable and social woman, but she didn’t hesitate to whack her son with a shoe or belt when she felt it was required. Consequently, Dobson writes, he learned at an early age to stay out of striking distance when he back-talked to his mother. One day he made the mistake of mouthing off when she was only four feet away and heard a 16-pound girdle whistling through the air. “The intended blow caught me across the chest, followed by a multitude of straps and buckles wrapping themselves around my midsection.” The girdle incident did not dampen his defiance, however. One evening, after Dobson’s mother forbid him from going to a dance, the recalcitrant teenager told her that he was going anyway; she picked up the telephone and called her husband. “I need you,” she said.
“What happened in the next few days shocked me down to my toes,” writes Dobson. His father canceled the next four years’ worth of speaking engagements, put the Oklahoma house up for sale, and took a pastor’s job in San Benito, Texas, a small town near the Mexican border. Dobson had two years of high school left, and when he started classes he found himself the target of a couple of bullies. Rather than turn the other cheek, Dobson wheeled around and threw his schoolbooks in the face of one annoying youth. “By the time he could see me again I was on top of him,” Dobson writes. Dobson also tried a little bullying himself, targeting a boy whom he sized up as a “sissy.” But the boy gave him such a thrashing that Dobson concluded bullying wasn’t for him.
It's also a warning to parents everywhere, to cultivate discipline over themselves.
Sunday, July 16, 2006
Hugh Hewitt and the racists at Little Green Footballs are touting this as "anti-semitism."
I don't agree or disagree with the position of your diary, but I do think that it should not be out of bounds for anyone to discuss whether Zionism is a good thing or a bad thing for the world, though I personally think that any religious or ethnic-based privilege always leads to strife, and therefore whether it's Polish nationalism or Jewish nationalism or Japanese nationalism or American nationalism, it's a net minus.
That said, realistically, we live in a world with nation states, and we have to, within the nation states in which we find ourselves, find a way to a better world. Or we'll all suffer.
The fact is, the UN had a point, albeit a hypocritical one (since many member states of the UN practice the same form of racism): any form of ethnic based nationalism, or religiously based nationalism, is inherently exclusive by means that are illegal in the United States for citizens, and if you think about it, ought to be illegal internationally.
No nation has a "right" to exist - they exist because they assert their power to exist. That does not mean it is moral for them to exist any more than it is immoral for them to exist as a nation. Nations are creatures of human creation, and as such either are useful things for doing good in the world, or evil and wise or stupid things.
Let's drop the facade that Israel - or Palestine- have "rights" to exist, and let's start talking about how to keep all involved over there from killing each other, and let's talk about how we can stop enabling the killing.
Let's also not be overly idealistic: nation states will exist, and will use weapons to defend themsevlves. But when they start murdering innocents because of grievances others have against them, which they don't address, it's time to stop coddling those nation states, whether they're Saudi Arabia or Iraq or Israel. And let's also realize that it's by nation states that peace will be achieved anyway, so let's also put away the "Imagine there's no countries..." pop-song sentiments.
Saturday, July 15, 2006
Mr. Lieberman was scheduled to attend a Puerto Rican festival in Bridgeport last Sunday, but his campaign canceled his appearance upon hearing a report of a stabbing there that afternoon. The festival went on, drawing over a thousand people (including a Lamont supporter holding a “Kiss this, Senator Lieberman” sign). It was Mr. Lieberman’s only scheduled campaign appearance on one of the few Sundays left before the primary. Mr. Lieberman said he made an impromptu trip to an Italian neighborhood in Bridgeport instead, after Italy’s soccer team won the World Cup.
“Don’t make too much of it,” Mr. Lieberman said of the decision to skip the Puerto Rican festival, which he said he regretted in retrospect. “Or blame it on my staff.”
But never, ever infer that Lieberman himself had any responsibility...
Friday, July 14, 2006
Seriously, I'd almost forgotten that in my chosen field, I may not be analogous to Eric Clapton playing guitar, but damn, I'm good. I understand something that can make certain radio systems perform a certain way, and there are perhaps 20 or so people in the world who could follow what I'm doing at the moment. It's like climbing Mount Everest, it's like seeing a finished version of the Sistene Chapel for the first time, it's why I do what I do, it's what I do.
Damn, it's good.
At some point, when all legal and professional conditions are satisfied, I'll post about it here.
But I will say this: if you don't have this kind of passion for your work that you hold it like a koan, I wish you did, and I am grateful to you if you've served me, taken my garbage, checked out my groceries, taught my child, or any other such thing that's supported me in this endeavor.
What is obvious to Frey, as well as anyone else in this field, as that we can only work with what we know from the genome, and transcriptions therefrom, which itself is compiled on the basis of an (incomplete) sample of the population.
Oddly enough, despite the hoopla, even the genome cannot circumscribe the entirety of what it means to be human, even in a limited mechanistic sense. Frey agreed with that point when I raised it with him after his talk, and also agreed with the point that this indicated a fatal flaw in the whole nonsense of "intelligent" "design" theory.
Frey does fascinating, important work, that does in a very fundamental, phenomenological sense, point to what we are. But there's no deity lurking, no ghost in the machine that has to be pulled out to make things right.
Frey's worthing knowing: he's a real information theorist working in molecular biology, the close cousin of evolutionary biology.
Thursday, July 13, 2006
It is to me evident that many folks in the mainstream media want Kos to go away, to tax it, to do something to make it irrelevant.
But it's a rather potent political force right now.
Not many people read this blog regularly and I don't blame anyone- unfortunately my work is taking too high a priority these days; or rather, I've been obsessed and inspired to get an answer to a rather tricky problem I've never seen before, which, when I've got that answer will allow me to get all kinds of additional answers to related and unrelated problems.
I still want to get back to writing about Brendan Frey's talk at ISIT-2006; it was fascinating, and I hope to get back to that later today.
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
1. There is going to be an upcoming post on Brandon Frey's talk at ISIT-2006, which was fascinating for the problem it illuminated, and for what it's implications are for "intelligent" "design." Frey is a real information theorist working in biology, as opposed to a creationist wannabee such as Dembski.
2. This is disgusting.
3. The issues rlated to what Atrios is quoting of Greenwald are also disgusting.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Embraced by the leadership of all the mainline Protestant denominations, as well as large segments of American Catholicism, liberal Christianity has been hailed by its boosters for 40 years as the future of the Christian church.
nstead, as all but a few die-hards now admit, all the mainline churches and movements within churches that have blurred doctrine and softened moral precepts are demographically declining and, in the case of the Episcopal Church, disintegrating.
It is not entirely coincidental that at about the same time that Episcopalians, at their general convention in Columbus, Ohio, were thumbing their noses at a directive from the worldwide Anglican Communion that they "repent" of confirming the openly gay Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire three years ago, the Presbyterian Church USA, at its general assembly in Birmingham, Ala., was turning itself into the laughingstock of the blogosphere by tacitly approving alternative designations for the supposedly sexist Christian Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Among the suggested names were "Mother, Child and Womb" and "Rock, Redeemer and Friend." Moved by the spirit of the Presbyterian revisionists, Beliefnet blogger Rod Dreher held a "Name That Trinity" contest. Entries included "Rock, Scissors and Paper" and "Larry, Curly and Moe."
Following the Episcopalian lead, the Presbyterians also voted to give local congregations the freedom to ordain openly cohabiting gay and lesbian ministers and endorsed the legalization of medical marijuana. (The latter may be a good idea, but it is hard to see how it falls under the theological purview of a Christian denomination.)...
You want to have gay sex? Be a female bishop? Change God's name to Sophia? Go ahead. The just-elected Episcopal presiding bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, is a one-woman combination of all these things, having voted for Robinson, blessed same-sex couples in her Nevada diocese, prayed to a female Jesus at the Columbus convention and invited former Newark, N.J., bishop John Shelby Spong, famous for denying Christ's divinity, to address her priests.
This is why the religious right is and has always been and will always be irrelevant: they insist on theological correctness and happily toss out the baby with the bath water.
It is ultimately a big reason why I'm Buddhist: all the insistence on theological shibboeths merely distracts and obstructs from what needs to be done.
SANTIAGO, Chile, July 10 — Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s former intelligence chief, now one of his bitterest enemies, has implicated the disgraced dictator and one of his sons in a cocaine manufacturing and smuggling scheme and contends that it was one of the sources of General Pinochet’s illicit $28 million fortune.
Gen. Manuel Contreras, who ran the Directorate of National Intelligence, the Chilean secret police, during the 1970’s, made the charges in a document submitted last week to an investigating magistrate here. He also accused General Pinochet of embezzling money from secret government accounts that the dictator controlled during his 17 years in power, which ended in 1990.
According to General Contreras’s account, the cocaine was processed with General Pinochet’s authorization at a Chilean Army chemical plant in Talagante, south of here, during the 1980’s. General Pinochet’s son Marco Antonio and one of his business partners then arranged for the drugs to be transported to Europe and the United States, with payoffs going into secret bank accounts the Pinochet family held abroad, General Contreras’s account said.
The accusations were first reported Sunday in the Chilean newspaper La Nación. General Contreras has been in jail since January 2005 in connection with human rights abuses and was not available for comment. But his lawyer, Fidel Reyes, and judicial officials confirmed Monday that the account published Sunday accurately reflected the written statement General Contreras supplied to the magistrate.
Psilocybin induces mystical experiences. (This is news?) Unfortunately, the real experience is borne of hard work. But I'm not surprised...
However, judging by their policies, this anarchist collective is less 60's hippedom and more IEEE 802 standards body...
The "dream" was over quite a while ago, I' m afraid...
Monday, July 10, 2006
Sunday, July 09, 2006
On Tuesday, White House officials are expected to announce that the tax receipts will be about $250 billion above last year's levels and that the deficit will be about $100 billion less than what they projected six months ago. The rising tide in tax payments has been building for months, but the increased scale is surprising even seasoned budget analysts and making it easier for both the administration and Congress to finesse the big run-up in spending over the past year.
Tax revenues are climbing twice as fast as the administration predicted in February, so fast that the budget deficit could actually decline this year.
The main reason is a big spike in corporate tax receipts, which have nearly tripled since 2003, as well as what appears to be a big increase in individual taxes on stock market profits and executive bonuses.
On Friday, the Congressional Budget Office reported that corporate tax receipts for the nine months ending in June hit $250 billion — nearly 26 percent higher than the same time last year — and that overall revenues were $206 billion higher than at this point in 2005.
Congressional analysts say the surprise windfall could shrink the deficit this year to $300 billion, from $318 billion in 2005 and an all-time high of $412 billion in 2004.
Republicans are already arguing that the revenue jump proves that their tax cuts, especially the 2003 tax cut on stock dividends, would spur the economy and ultimately increase revenues.
"The tax relief we delivered has helped unleash the entrepreneurial spirit of America and kept our economy the envy of the world," President Bush said in his weekly radio address on Saturday.
Democrats and many independent budget analysts note that overall revenues have barely climbed back to the levels reached in 2000, and that the government has borrowed trillions of dollars against Social Security surpluses just as the first of the nation's baby boomers are nearing retirement....
The surge could also evaporate as quickly as it appeared. Over the past decade, tax revenues have become much more volatile, alternately soaring and plunging in the wake of swings in the stock market and repeatedly defying government projections.
Nevertheless, the short-term change has been striking. At the beginning of the year, the Congressional Budget Office projected that this year's deficit would be $371 billion and the White House Office of Management and Budget put the figure at $423 billion.
Of course, it is likely that the Republican entities were using bullshit numbers to predict this thing in the first place. And furthermore, these increased revenues are not "trickling down" to people who need it. And the volatility, the lack of any long term structural soundness of the budget fininancing is repugnant.
But wait there's more: bonddad over at Kos picks the numbers apart:
So of course, Powerline is just wetting themselves over this. "The tax cuts pay for themselves". Then they get a handy little graph that shows total federal receipts. Get that? Total federal receipts. There's one huge, glaring, incredibly fucking obvious problem with this. The tax cuts only targeted individual tax receipts, which, as the Times author points out:
Despite almost five years of economic growth, individual income taxes -- the biggest component of federal tax revenues -- have yet to reach the levels of 2000. Even with surging payments for investment profits and business income, individual tax payments in 2005 were only $972 billion -- below the $1 trillion reached in 2000, even without adjusting for inflation.
Actually, the Times author transposed the 2005 figure, which should be 927 billion.
You Jackasses might want to check the Congressional Budget Office as well, because they confirm it. If you don't believe them, try the Bureau of Economic Analysis, because they confirm what the Times and the CBO said. Receipts from individual income taxes (not all taxpayers, just the people who actually had their taxes cut you nimrods), were $994 billion in 2001 and $927 billion in 2005. I realize you guys are lawyers, but 927 IS LESS THAN 994 - unless you subscribe to Republican fuzzy math. Which you morons obviously do.
Powerline then goes on to say the budget deficit is shrinking. Really? Then why is federal debt issuance near an all-time high? Does the treasury just feel like issuing all this debt?
Saturday, July 08, 2006
C. John Sommerville, however, is less interested in any loss to religion than in the loss to the university—and its place in shaping the culture.
A century ago, American universities aspired to be the wellsprings of political, social and cultural leadership, Mr. Sommerville, a professor emeritus, argues in "The Decline of the Secular University," a slim volume published by Oxford in May and excerpted last month in The Chronicle of Higher Education.
But today, he maintains, "the secular university is increasingly marginal to American society," ceding influence to popular culture, talk show pundits, "populist bloggers" and political research organizations, even hiring out university laboratories to business and government in hopes of revenues from patents.
Utter nonsense; first of all my alma mater was always a "secular university," as were places like MIT, Cal Tech and so forth. They helped make the US an industrial power, which on the balance is not a bad thing, provided we learn from our mistakes.
But having become tongue-tied when it comes to this language and associations, secular universities "fail to connect with people's most urgent questions," Professor Sommerville writes.
People's "most urgent questions" involve things like: how can we keep from blowing ourselves up? How can we feed and keep healthy 6 billion people? These questions don't have a damned thing to do with religious beliefs but practices.
The point, Professional Sommerville emphasizes, is not "to apply religious dogmas to our intellectual puzzles," an unlikely venture, in any case, but also reflecting "the habit of seeing religion as a collection of doctrines, a thing to think about, when it can be a whole perspective or way of thinking."
What he wants, instead, is simply that the university "widen its discourse," invite "religious voices into the discussion" and allow religiously committed scholars "to be themselves in their academic roles."
Other than dogma, and a committment to practice (in which we Buddhists seem to have a large market share) what else could be brought to the table?
What would be the point bringing the Pope into a discussion on generalized singular value decomposition?
I cannot go into any of the details, of course, but I was surprised to find elements of optimization theory, the theory of matrices, and other areas that simply didn't exist 16 years ago, and how areas of topology are increasingly creeping into electrical engineering. Were I to get my Ph.D. today, I would certainly include courses in topology and functional analysis, rather than rely on the stuff I picked up in systems optimization and real analysis (though that did quite nicely). Ah yes - now I remember- I never took functional because I did get most of what I needed in real analysis. But nowadays it's gotten much more infused with topological concepts.
I suspect that the only real job security in engineering is kick-ass research: otherwise you get obsolete. And right now, that's just what I'm doing.
Friday, July 07, 2006
It also reminds me of what I was seeing as I was finally watching the PBS documentary on Bob Dylan the other night.
Bob Dylan was villified in the conventional press for a long time, and deified in the "alternative" press; Dave Marsh was an example of the latter.
Yet two things came out in this show that were never, in the 40+ years of Dylan in the media, never widely reported:
1. Dylan was a hard worker. That's how he became famous. He worked hard, obsessively hard, and studied many, many other musicians. He was talented, and the talent was refined through his hard work. But that was completely counter to the narrative that a beatnik/hippie was a lazy good-for-nothing.
2. Bob Dylan dealt with the media the way they desrved to be treated, and the media obliged by distorting what he was saying. In one bit in the show, in a press conferenc in the 60s, a Brit photographer/reporter asks Dylan to put his glasses in his mouth, to probably simulate a "pensive" look. Dylan responds by noting that that would be a weird gesture, and invites the reporter to do what he has just suggested, something any of us would love to do if we were dealing with the media. Dylan, honorably, or naievely, just didn't care what the media said and printed.
So why should we expect anything more of the media today?
After Wealth & Poverty, my work focused on the subject of human creativity as epitomized by science and technology and embodied in computers and communications. At the forefront of this field is a discipline called information theory. Largely invented in 1948 by Claude Shannon of MIT, it rigorously explained digital computation and transmission by zero-one, or off-on, codes called “bits.” Shannon defined information as unexpected bits, or “news,” and calculated its passage over a “channel” by elaborate logarithmic rules. That channel could be a wire or another other path across a distance of space, or it could be a transfer of information across a span of time, as in evolution.
Crucial in information theory was the separation of content from conduit — information from the vehicle that transports it. It takes a low-entropy (predictable) carrier to bear high-entropy (unpredictable) messages. A blank sheet of paper is a better vessel for a new message than one already covered with writing. In my book Telecosm (2000), I showed that the most predictable available information carriers were the regular waves of the electromagnetic spectrum and prophesied that all digital information would ultimately flow over it in some way. Whether across time (evolution) or across space (communication), information could not be borne by chemical processes alone, because these processes merged or blended the medium and the message, leaving the data illegible at the other end.
"Regular waves?" "Elaborate logarithmic rules?" No communication engineer knows wtf you're talking about George. You simply haven't a clue what real communication engineers do or study.
One more quote:
The failure of purely physical theories to describe or explain information reflects Shannon’s concept of entropy and his measure of “news.” Information is defined by its independence from physical determination: If it is determined, it is predictable and thus by definition not information. Yet Darwinian science seemed to be reducing all nature to material causes.
First, there's no such thing as "Darwinian science," there's evolutionary biology. Secondly, there is simply no reason why "physical theories" should explain what's random, other than to say they generate random processes. That's why we have structured probability theory the way it is, because we cannot talk about it otherwise.
Gilder, like the rest of his ilk at the "Discovery Institute" is a phony.
A decade after the Pentagon declared a zero-tolerance policy for racist hate groups, recruiting shortfalls caused by the war in Iraq have allowed "large numbers of neo-Nazis and skinhead extremists" to infiltrate the military, according to a watchdog organization.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks racist and right-wing militia groups, estimated that the numbers could run into the thousands, citing interviews with Defense Department investigators and reports and postings on racist Web sites and magazines.
"We've got Aryan Nations graffiti in Baghdad," the group quoted a Defense Department investigator as saying in a report to be posted today on its Web site, www.splcenter.org. "That's a problem."
A Defense Department spokeswoman said officials there could not comment on the report because they had not yet seen it.
The center called on Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to appoint a task force to study the problem, declare a new zero tolerance policy and strictly enforce it.
The report said that neo-Nazi groups like the National Alliance, whose founder, William Pierce, wrote "The Turner Diaries," the novel that was the inspiration and blueprint for Timothy J. McVeigh's bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building, sought to enroll followers in the Army to get training for a race war.
The groups are being abetted, the report said, by pressure on recruiters, particularly for the Army, to meet quotas that are more difficult to reach because of the growing unpopularity of the war in Iraq.
The report quotes Scott Barfield, a Defense Department investigator, saying, "Recruiters are knowingly allowing neo-Nazis and white supremacists to join the armed forces, and commanders don't remove them from the military even after we positively identify them as extremists or gang members."
Mr. Barfield said Army recruiters struggled last year to meet goals. "They don't want to make a big deal again about neo-Nazis in the military," he said, "because then parents who are already worried about their kids signing up and dying in Iraq are going to be even more reluctant about their kids enlisting if they feel they'll be exposed to gangs and white supremacists."
The 1996 crackdown on extremists came after revelations that Mr. McVeigh had espoused far-right ideas when he was in the Army and recruited two fellow soldiers to aid his bomb plot. Those revelations were followed by a furor that developed when three white paratroopers were convicted of the random slaying of a black couple in order to win tattoos and 19 others were discharged for participating in neo-Nazi activities.
Yeah, yeah, nobody could have forseen that in the wake of an unpopular war that only racists and skinheads would join the military...
Thursday, July 06, 2006
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
Reacting to a strong challenge from Ned Lamont, a wealthy businessman and political newcomer who has criticized him for supporting President Bush on the war and other issues, Senator Lieberman said that he would begin gathering the 7,500 petition signatures necessary to put his name on the ballot should he lose the primary on Aug. 8.
He said that even if elected as a petition candidate, he would remain "a proud Democrat" and would caucus with other Democratic senators. Still, the prospect that Mr. Lieberman may challenge his own party's nominee is a startling turn for the senator, who has spent his entire three decades in politics within the Democratic Party and ran as its vice-presidential nominee in 2000 alongside Al Gore.
The senator's announcement signaled his growing concern over Mr. Lamont's candidacy. Left-leaning Internet bloggers have marked Mr. Lieberman for defeat, drawing national attention and money for Mr. Lamont — and posing a difficult choice for Democratic leaders, who have vigorously backed Mr. Lieberman.
And I predict Lieberman will lose if he does this.
When in the Course of human events, it
becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the
political bands which have connected them with
another, and to assume among the powers of the earth,
the separate and equal station to which the Laws of
Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent
respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they
should declare the causes which impel them to the
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men
are created equal, that they are endowed by their
Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among
these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of
Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments
are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers
from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any
form of Government becomes destructive of these ends,
it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish
it, and to institute new Government, laying its
foundation on such principles and organizing its
powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely
to effect their Safety and Happiness.
But when a long train of abuses and usurpation's,
pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design
to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their
right, it is their duty, TO THROW OFF SUCH GOVERMENT,
and to provide new Guards for their future security.
The history of the present President of the United
States is a history of repeated injuries and
usurpation's, all having as a direct object, the
establishment of an absolute tyranny over these United
States. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a
George Bush has suspended the rights of American
citizens to fundamental civil liberties. He has
forgotten that the United States was founded on the
proposition of the separation of Church and State. He
has combined with others to subject us to a
jurisdiction foreign to our Constitution and
unacknowledged by our laws, giving his assent to their
acts of pretended legislation. A President whose
character is thus marked by every act, which may
define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free
Whether or not I fumble, or stumble over certain
words, the truth is just, the truth is here.
And we indict George Bush. Just as the revolutionaries
indicted King George III, so we indict George Bush:
For refusing to abide by international agreements for
the protection of the environment,
for abandoning Alaska to the oil companies,
for abandoning Afghanistan,
for humiliating the United Nations,
for squandering a vast federal surplus,
for giving tax breaks to the rich,
for refusing to participate in international courts,
prosecuting crimes against humanity, for flouting the
Geneva convention by sequestering captured prisoners
at Guantamano Bay,
for holding captured Iraqi's in barbaric conditions,
where neither their families or the Red Cross have
access to them,
for destroying the Baghdad International Library,
for destroying the oldest copy of the Koran,
for napalming Iraqi soldiers,
for killing innocent Iraqi citizens,
FOR WAGING A WAR BASED ON LIES!
Monday, July 03, 2006
Mr. Madrazo, 53, carrying the banner of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or P.R.I., tried to position himself in the center, promising to crack down on crime, cut taxes and provide more direct aid to the poor.
He came in last among the top 3 candidates.
Sunday, July 02, 2006
The continuing customer-service problem at AOL is one beyond the reach of an attorney general's office: it is within AOL's rights to refuse to reorganize its procedures so that a customer can depart without having to run through a sales gantlet.
Within their rights, but it is within the customer's rights to demand a quid pro quo for anything outside of any contract.
When I think about blogging though, the ugly racism of Joe Carter's equating of zygotes with African-Americans comes to mind .("Besides, would he apply the same reasoning to other issues where religious influence changed the law? Would he prefer to see slavery legal but discouraged through public-service announcements? Should Jim Crow laws have been made obsolete by educational rather than political means?")
It is obvious to me that the reason these folks think this way is well, they never quite figured out what being a human being is.
Which, for some reason I can't figure out, was what I thought after reading this idiotic article in the NY Times magazine, about the proliferation of cars in China.
To which I reply, "Well, duh." Anybody who's been to Beijing knows that. Earth to NY Times: lots of Americans go to Beijing nowadays, and every last one of them experiences Beijing's pollution and gridlock. It's like, you know, inescapable.
I've serious work to do this weekend. And I've got to waste what little leisure time I've got on that dreck?