Saturday, December 29, 2007

Things I've learned during the X-mas break...

I learned a few of the following things and maybe a couple more...
Singapore is still a great city with great food and a lot of attractions for the tourist. Also, if you're at Boat Quay and the touts are getting on your nerves with their constant needling you to come into their restaurant and not the other guys', don't let your wife drag you into the Tex-mex place just so she can eat quickly get food and get away from it. The enchiladas are mediocre and the steak is tough. In a city of fantastic food, you can do better in the shopping mall food courts. Also, Durty Nelly's has good food at lunch, but nothing for supper. And Sentosa is a resort island that has a lot of stuff to do.
I learned that Oscar Peterson died.
I learned that American women are vacuous beauties and that English women are substantive trolls.
As a good Canadian, I would have said that Thinsulate or Polartec were the greatest inventions in the universe, however I have learned that the PS3 is now the single best thing that humans have ever created.
From Pretty Shaved Ape at Canadian Cynic, I learned that religious whack-a-doodles just can't help themselves and have to say undeniably stupid shit.
I learned that David Warren can't help himself either. But I repeat myself.
I learned that Mike Huckabee just can't help himself either.
I learned that the life expectancy of a Pakistani opposition leader goes up linearly with their distance from Pakistan, but goes down exponentially with their time back in the country.
I learned that Larry Bud Mellman died back in March. Hunh...
I learned that Italians tend to give a shit about the history of Christianity more than the so-called devoted folks in the US. They certainly understand the need to understand better.
I've been reminded that cdesign proponentists are mind numbingly repetitive.
I've finally learned to make shortcrust pastry by hand.
I learned the names of the 50 worst people in the States for the year 2007.
I learned a few more celebrity atheists.
Those are my big lessons of the last week. I wonder what the new year will hold.
Minna sama, yoi otoshi o!
Happy New Year and see you in January.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

My wife sends me these things...

My wife, Jebus bless the little limey, keeps sending me these little things and says something like, "Do you remember parmos? They were good, weren't they? I didn't know they were from Middlesborough."
I usually reply, "Are you just making up words, or what?"
What the hell is a parmo?

Finalists announced for World Parmo Championship - Gazette Live
THE finalists have been announced for the first ever World Parmo Championships - after votes came flooding in from Japan to Cardiff!

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Friday, December 14, 2007

Science marches on. What YOU got?

It's the end of the year and everyone is putting up various lists about stuff from 2007.
Here's one that will make you excited if you have more that 2 firing neurons.
Top 10 Scientific Discoveries - 50 Top 10 Lists of 2007 - TIME
A fave:

Top 10 Scientific Discoveries - 50 Top 10 Lists of 2007 - TIME
#6. "Hot Jupiters" Discovered

This October, British scientists identified three new planets outside our own Solar System, as part of an ongoing search for Earth-like exoplanets called the Wide Area Search for Planets, or WASP. The new planets, named WASP-3, WASP-4 and WASP-5, are about the size of Jupiter, and orbit so close to their suns that their surface temperature reaches some 2,000°C. That rules out the possibility of life on these "hot Jupiters," but scientists surmise that other Earth-sized planets may be making cooler, longer orbits around those same suns.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

How is this anything any more than total bilge?

You know as someone who has a brain, this just seems like crap. Why the fuck to people listen to these whack-a-doodles?
--  From: 	The Eternal Gaijin 	Lost Somewhere in Kobe, Japan 	"Words Cannot Describe What I Am About To Tell You."

And another comic to read

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The Modern World

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Just a few quick quotes.

Think of them as buttered popcorn for the brain. If that's what you like doing with buttered popcorn.

[GBG] Atheist News: Top 10 Atheist Quotes

Top 15 Quotes By Famous Atheists - The List Universe

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

On the Lighter Side

The Guardian runs these travel lists periodically, and after the last few days, why not think about unwinding in one of these pubs. Of course, the further south they get in England the less you want to consider eating there.
Top 10 cosy pubs | Travel | Guardian Unlimited

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Mitt Romney and "The Speech"

Mitt Romney, who loves to trumpet his faith all over the place and retreats behind the Wall of Rude when actually asked a question about it gave a speech the other day. It was a listening experience that was akin to slow pulling band-aids off your balls.
Reason Magazine - Flunking a Religious Test
"A person should not be elected because of his faith nor should he be rejected because of his faith," he said.

Rejected because of his faith, no. But rejected for his lack of faith? That's another question. Romney evinces a powerful aversion to skeptics. "We need to have a person of faith lead the country," he said in February, which sounds like a religious test to me.

I agree. It's funny how Mitt Romney grabbed onto the religious test the second he had to decide who couldn't be a serious leader in the US. And to do it he had to re-write history as the Faithheads always do.Faith or bust.
Now I don't think their should be a religious test for public office in the States or anywhere else for that matter. But if you have the un-Mitt-igated gall to talk about how important your religion is to you and how the faith of your fathers informs your decision making, people have the right to ask, "Um, how so?" and you don't get to say, "Whoa, dude. Rude," when they do. Don't tell us if you don't want us to ask.
The electorate can decide if you have anything of value to say about your values.

denialism blog : O'Donnell on Mormonism
Effect Measure : Freethinker Sunday Sermonette: Mitt Romney, George HW Bush, Mike Huckabee, Chuck Norris meet JFK
Governor Mitt Romney's "Faith In America" Address

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Monday, December 10, 2007

Omiyage of a sad, sad chapter

Avro Arrow mementoes on auction block
An important part of Canadian aviation history will briefly return to the spotlight Sunday as a Toronto auction house sells a collection of memorabilia related to the Avro Arrow jet. Company papers, employee notices, models and photos — along with a copy of the fateful speech in the House of Commons announcing the project's demise — will go on the auction block around 2 p.m. ET.

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Saturday, December 08, 2007

Romney Speech

HT to The Perplexed Observer
--  From: 	The Eternal Gaijin 	Lost Somewhere in Kobe, Japan 	"Words Cannot Describe What I Am About To Tell You."

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Basic competence is just too much to expect.

The other day the British Government lost an absolute butt load of personal information. They sent it in the mail. Unregistered. On CDs.
And it just gets worse. News - Missing discs 'hold witness protection scheme IDs'
DETAILS of hundreds of people given new identities under witness protection programmes are included in the child benefit discs lost in the post by HM Revenue and Customs, it was claimed today.
Up to 350 people who have been given new names and re-homed after giving evidence against criminals are said to be among 25 million parents on the register.
It is claimed both the old and new identities are included on the discs, potentially putting their lives at risk and raising the prospect of a costly exercise to hide them again.

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The Mormons and the Origins of the Universe

I've noticed recently how easy it is to make a religious ideal look absolutely fucking stupid. Make a cartoon of it.

Christing fuck, people, how on earth can this be sensible. Suddenly the Scientologists look good.
HT to
--  From: 	The Eternal Gaijin 	Lost Somewhere in Kobe, Japan 	"Words Cannot Describe What I Am About To Tell You."

How will they lie their way out of this one?

Still unconvinced.

Pharyngula: 34 Unconvincing Arguments for God
Introduction - Atheism – the lack of belief in gods – is based upon a lack of evidence for gods, lack of a reason to believe in gods, and difficulties and contradictions that some god ideas lead to. Nevertheless, atheism is a tentative state, subject to change if compelling theistic arguments are presented. Following are some of the arguments that atheists have considered, along with some of the reasons these arguments have been rejected. (1) God-of-the-Gaps (God as a “free lunch”) - Almost every “proof” for the existence of gods relies, at least in part, on a god-of-the gaps argument. This argument says that if we don’t know the answer to something, then “God did it.” “God” gets to win by default, without any positive evidence. But is saying “God did it” really an answer? Intelligent design, god-advocate William Dembski has authored a book entitled No Free Lunch. However, “God” is the ultimate “free lunch.” Consider the following: We don’t know what gods are composed of. We don’t know what gods’ attributes are. We don’t know how many gods there are. We don’t know where gods are. We don’t know where gods come from or, alternately, how it is possible for them to always exist. We don’t know what mechanisms gods use to create or change anything. We don’t know what the “supernatural” is, nor how it is capable of interacting with the natural world. In other words, we know absolutely nothing about gods – yet at least one god is often given credit for many things. Thus, to say “God did it” is to answer a question with a question. It provides no information and only makes the original question more complex. The god-of-the-gaps argument says that not only do we not have a naturalistic answer today, but we will never discover a naturalistic answer in the future because no naturalistic answer is possible. Thus, to rebut a god-of-the-gaps argument, we only have to show that a naturalistic answer is possible. For example: We open the door to a room and observe a cat sleeping in a corner. We close the door, then open it again five minutes later. We observe that the cat is now sleeping in another corner. One person says “God did it by levitating the sleeping cat” (without offering any proof). Another person says “It’s quite possible that the cat woke up, wandered over to the other corner, and fell asleep again.” Thus, although no one saw what actually happened, the god-of-the-gaps argument has been rendered implausible by a possible naturalistic explanation.

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

You could also end up writing a blog under a pseudonym...

ABC News: 22-Year-Old Virgin? Watch Your Health
While past research has linked early sexual activity to health problems, a new study suggests that waiting too long to start having sex carries risks of its own.

Those who lose their virginity at a later age -- around 21 to 23 years of age -- tend to be more likely to experience sexual dysfunction problems later, say researchers at Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute's HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies.

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Was she home-schooled, or what?

Not quite a rap video

HT to The Uncredible Hallq --  From: 	The Eternal Gaijin 	Lost Somewhere in Kobe, Japan 	"Words Cannot Describe What I Am About To Tell You."

Getting a LooCDe TouV but not a JooViC but it is ready for the HouD.

--  From: 	The Eternal Gaijin 	Lost Somewhere in Kobe, Japan 	"Words Cannot Describe What I Am About To Tell You."

Buying a TV

I've just been down in Namba looking at TVs, as my wife, god love her, is enough of a bloke that she can't stand a CRT type o' deal much longer. So I'm out looking for Sony's, but not just anything in a model kicing around, but an overseas model. Which, puts the price up. A bit.
So we're gong to have it delivered next week. And I'm glad I've been taking those Japanese lessons. It helps get a few things done.

Monday, December 03, 2007

If the Stupid Burns, Explain Why There Aren't Forest Fires All Over the Red States

Self-explanatory. More people believe in talking snakes with fruit fetishes than in the Theory of Evolution.
And the ending writes itself.

Poll finds more Americans believe in devil than Darwin | Lifestyle | Reuters
More Americans believe in a literal hell and the devil than Darwin's theory of evolution, according to a new Harris poll released on Thursday. It is the latest survey to highlight America's deep level of religiosity, a cultural trait that sets it apart from much of the developed world.

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Kinda Cool Ways to Go.

I recently discovered recently and have had some fun with the lists. Look up terrifying foods for a kick (and a vom).

The 5 Most Kick-Ass Apocalyptic Prophecies |
There are a lot of apocalyptic scenarios looming out there, in various religious sects in the nooks and crannies of history. Though the scenarios are wildly different in method, you can rest assured that most will leave us all equally dead.

While we can't know which one is actually going to happen, here are the ones we're rooting for, along with the heavy metal album cover each most resembles.

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Friday, November 30, 2007

Minor Mulroney Update. Haven't Really Commented Before.

This is the gift that keeps giving.
Or getting re-gifted from year to year. Whatever.
Schreiber tells ethics committee about $500K deal with Mulroney
Karlheinz Schreiber wrapped up more than two hours of testimony before a Commons committee Thursday, saying Brian Mulroney was only paid $300,000 of a $500,000 business deal because the former prime minister did not hold up his end of the bargain.
The German-Canadian businessman appeared before a federal ethics committee to testify about his dealings with the former Tory prime minister. Schreiber said he made an arrangement with Mulroney to help establish a military vehicle factory in Nova Scotia. The project, known as Bear Head, was on behalf of Schreiber's client, German industrial company Thyssen Industries.
"Since he didn't perform, he didn't get the $500,000. Simple as that," said Schreiber.

Nice. He underperformed so he didn't get the full packet. Memo to Citibank.

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Spoiled for Choice

How do you say much more than this?
Mayor resigns, reveals false identity he created to escape "satanists" - Boing Boing
Arkansas? Isn't that the home of Mike Huckabee, theocracy candidate? What else could I add to that?

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My name is Yahweh and I approved this message.

The 9 Most Badass Bible Verses |
If the Bible had been written by King Leonidas and the rest of the Spartans from 300, it would probably read pretty much the same as it does now.

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Self-explanatory what I think about this.

Canada's coming DMCA will be the worst copyright yet - Boing Boing
The Canadian government is about to bring down Canada's version of the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and it promises to be the worst copyright law in the developed world.

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A bad architectural idea

When you come out of Monument station on the Tube and walk down the slight incline you come into a small open square surrounded by office buildings, some modern, some more classic. Dominating the square is Christopher Wren's Monument to the Great Fire of London from which the station and surrounding area derive its name.
Lo and behold, guv'ner. All that is set to disappear into the belly of one of the worst architectural ideas to come along since the anti-lupine use of straw.
The Monument will be downgraded from impressive reminder of the loss and rebuilding of much of London to the shadowcaster in an oversized, underthought sundial at the front of this building.
Lest you get the idea that I'm some Prince Charles-level ignorant ranter on the topic of anything I don't know about, I'm not against modern architecture. If you look in the back of the photo in the Daily Mail article, you'll see one of my favourite buildings in London - the Gherkin. Yes, it does look like a giant steel and glass pickle, but it's one of the most interesting buildings around, let alone in the City.

London Monument to disappear into the guts of monstrous accordion - Boing Boing
London's Great Fire Monument to get new accordion-shaped neighbour | the Daily Mail

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A bad architectural idea

When you come out of Monument station on the Tube and walk down the slight incline you come into a small open square surrounded by office buildings, some modern, some more classic. Dominating the square is Christopher Wren's Monument to the Great Fire of London from which the station and surrounding area derive its name.
Lo and behold, guv'ner. All that is set to disappear into the belly of one of the worst architectural ideas to come along since the anti-lupine use of straw.
The Monument will be downgraded from impressive reminder of the loss and rebuilding of much of London to the shadowcaster in an oversized, underthought sundial at the front of this building.
Lest you get the idea that I'm some Prince Charles-level ignorant ranter on the topic of anything I don't know about, I'm not against modern architecture. If you look in the back of the photo in the Daily Mail article, you'll see one of my favourite buildings in London - the Gherkin. Yes, it does look like a giant steel and glass pickle, but it's one of the most interesting buildings around, let alone in the City.

London Monument to disappear into the guts of monstrous accordion - Boing Boing
London's Great Fire Monument to get new accordion-shaped neighbour | the Daily Mail

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I like the Indiana Jones movies, too, but I don't take 'em so seriously

All the way there to baulk at the doorway? Come on.

Smithsonian Magazine | People & Places | Keepers of the Lost Ark?

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I like the Indiana Jones movies, too, but I don't take 'em so seriously

All the way there to baulk at the doorway? Come on.

Smithsonian Magazine | People & Places | Keepers of the Lost Ark?

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Somebody's been busy.

And now a message from the religion that promotes peace, love and hypocrisy.

No the other one. No, try again. Last chance.
It's the Baptists!

Church rejects interfaith service on its property
Austin Area Interreligious Ministries, the city's largest interfaith organization, announced Thursday that its annual Thanksgiving celebration Sunday had to be moved because Hyde Park Baptist Church objected to non-Christians worshipping on its property.
The group learned Wednesday that the rental space at the church-owned Quarries property in North Austin was no longer available because Hyde Park leaders had discovered that non-Christians, Muslims in particular, would be practicing their faith there. The event, now in its 23rd year, invites Jews, Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Bahais and others to worship together.

Let the special pleading begin:
Kent Jennings, associate pastor of administration at Hyde Park, released a statement Thursday that said church leaders received a postcard about the service Monday and only then realized that it "was not a Christian oriented event."

The postcard also "promised space for Muslim Maghrib prayer and revealed that the event was co-hosted by the Central Texas Muslimaat, the Forum of Muslims for Unity, and the Institute of Interfaith Dialog," according to Hyde Park's statement.

"Although individuals from all faiths are welcome to worship with us at Hyde Park Baptist Church, the church cannot provide space for the practice of these non-Christian religions on church property," the statement said. "Hyde Park Baptist Church hopes that the AAIM and the community of faith will understand and be tolerant of our church's beliefs that have resulted in this decision." [emphasis added]

We have to be intolerant. Surely you can understand that? Please be tolerant.

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For those who've been to London and ridden on the Underground

She also has gigs for phone companies doing hold voices and "Press 1 for..." instructions. Emma Clarke's voice is well familiar to all of us who've travelled around the city.
Voice of the London Underground canned for blogging funny fake announcement audio - Boing Boing
The woman who reads the London Underground next stop announcements has been fired for keeping a blog where she records and posts her own funny fake announcements, like "We'd like to remind our American tourist friends that you are almost certainly talking too loud" and "Would the passenger in the red shirt pretending to read a paper, but is actually staring at that woman's chest, please stop. You are not fooling anyone. You filthy pervert" and "Residents of London are reminded that there are other places in Britain outside your stinking shithole of a city, and if you removed your heads from your arses for just a couple of minutes, you may realise that the M25 is not the edge of the Earth"

The Voice of the Underground is silenced | MetaFilter
The Voice of the Underground is silenced November 26, 2007 10:17 AM RSS feed for this thread Subscribe Emma Clarke the voice of the London Underground has just been fired for recording and posting some spoofs on her own website. "Mind the gap" no more. (To spare Emma's server and in case she is forced to remove the files for some reason: External linkage to streaming mp3's of these spoofs are below)

John Cleese was right. The Brits are losing their sense of humour.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

More on Kirk Durston

A while back, I blamed the rev of The Woodshed fame for backing me into a corner and forcing me to publish this post on Kirk Durston. I went through a debate from iTunes U that Durston participated in. I was unimpressed by the atheist side and unconvinced by Durston.
Well, over at Sandwalk, Larry Moran, a personal friend in the I've never met the guy nor exchanged correspondence with him in any way but I read his blog once a week kind of way, decided he'd suffer through a talk at an IDiot class. Turns out to feature Durston. And thus red meat was hung out in front of Moran. Since the heavy lifting's been done, I'm just going to link to some highlights and say "Mee 2."
Sandwalk: I'm Going to a Lecture on Intelligent Design

Sandwalk: Kirk Durston's Proof of God
As it turns out, not understanding the science shouldn't have been such a big deal since the form of his argument was obviously silly. At least I thought it was obvious. Here's the way it went ...

1. By making assumptions A, B, C, and D and constructing equations E and F he is able to predict that no protein will have more than X amount of information.

2. By making a few assumptions about protein families it is possible to measure the amount of information in a folded domain by plugging the data into his equations. It turns out that most proteins have more than X information.

3. Therefore God exists (i.e., the protein must have been intelligently designed).

This are (at least) two major flaws in this argument and it doesn't take an expert in computer science or biochemistry to detect them.

First, when you formulate a scientific hypothesis you test it against scientific reality. If the predictions of your hypothesis are not fulfilled then your hypothesis is falsified. At that point it's back to the drawing board. You need to reconsider your assumptions or your equations because they were not successful. That's how science is done but that's not how Intelligent Design Creationism is done.

Second, the sudden appearance of God in the conclusion is illogical. There's no mention of God intelligent design in the premise. It just pops out of the argument without any warning. This is not how logic works and it's certainly not how science works.

Sandwalk: Kirk Durston Interview
Sandwalk: A Scientific Test for the Intelligent Designer
Sandwalk: By Jove, I Think She's Got it!!!
The debate over the conflict between science and religion has been going on for hundreds of years. In the past 50 years the debate has focused on the methodology of science and how it must exclude the supernatural if it's supposed to work properly. I'm shocked (not really) that Denyse has never heard of this before. It's one of the main themes in the writings of Phillip Johnson [see Are You as Smart as a Second Year University Student? Q1 and comments].

Sandwalk: Bacterial Genomes and Evolution
Ryan Gregory is one of the world's leading experts on genomes and their evolution. He's also a Professor at the University of Guelph. Ryan has published an excellent description of what the Mira et al. (2000) paper shows and what it does not show. You should all read it [Bacterial genomes and evolution]. For Kirk Durston's sake, I hope Ryan Gregory isn't on his Ph.D. oral committee.

Sandwalk: Bacteria Genomes Are Degrading
At no point in the paper do the authors suggest anything close to what Durston says. There's no mention of primitive bacteria having the full complexity of all modern species including the myxobacteria and photosynthetic bacteria etc. Why in the world do the Intelligent Design Creationists have to lie about things like this? (I assume it's a lie because the only other possibility is ignorance and a Ph.D. student in biophysics can't be stupid enough to misunderstand such a key principle of evolution, right?) Naturally in a forum like this Durston had me at a disadvantage. He was displaying the scientific papers and I had to admit that I had not read them recently enough to comment. The point was not lost on some members of the audience. The atheist scientist was trumped by the religious graduate student who was more aware of the scientific literature. "Frustrating," doesn't begin to cover it ...

And some extra fun from the ever entertaining Canadian Cynic.

Canadian Cynic: The burning stupid: Denyse O'Leary edition.
Canadian Cynic: Kirk Durston: Hacktacular!
Canadian Cynic: I think Kirk has some serious 'splainin' to do.
I know: Lazy, lazy, lazy. Gotta cook supper. L8R.

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More reactions to Faith in Science.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Late to the Party but Still Want You to Know This

ERV: DI Fellows-- EXPELLED for plagiarism
Memo to the Dishonesty Discovery Institute: Fuck, guys. Come on. People are watching. Try a little harder.

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And a little Sagan for people

It's just a different way of interpreting gravity 'n' stuff...

Ah, the relativists come out of the woodwork again. There's a lot of twaddle peddled in the so-called culture wars these days, but this idea that science is just another faith is one of the most insipid. Further contributing to the mix of pity and despair felt when reading these sorts of articles is when they come from the mouth, pen or word processor of someone who's smart enough to know better.
Take for instance:
Taking Science on Faith - New York Times
SCIENCE, we are repeatedly told, is the most reliable form of knowledge about the world because it is based on testable hypotheses. Religion, by contrast, is based on faith. The term “doubting Thomas” well illustrates the difference. In science, a healthy skepticism is a professional necessity, whereas in religion, having belief without evidence is regarded as a virtue.
So far, all true. We are told that science is the most reliable (note: not completely reliable given it's rather tentative nature) way of discovering and adding to the storehouse of human knowledge. Do you want to know why? Because it is. 'Faith' (watch this space for shifting sands under this word) is it's opposite and isn't reliable. Indeed, it's the anchor that will keep people from actually trying to acquire new knowledge.
The problem with this neat separation into “non-overlapping magisteria,” as Stephen Jay Gould described science and religion, is that science has its own faith-based belief system. All science proceeds on the assumption that nature is ordered in a rational and intelligible way. You couldn’t be a scientist if you thought the universe was a meaningless jumble of odds and ends haphazardly juxtaposed. When physicists probe to a deeper level of subatomic structure, or astronomers extend the reach of their instruments, they expect to encounter additional elegant mathematical order. And so far this faith has been justified. [emphasis added]

Boom! It's just another way of having faith! Note the bit I've highlighted. He's right, you couldn't be a scientist, (or in my university training, a historian) if you thought the world was just random and nothing was connected. You could however, still have faith. It is interesting to see Davies point out that "so far this faith has been justified." Well, of course. That's why the basic laws don't change every few weeks.
It's here that we see a bit of bait and switch on the word faith. Faith that the sun will come up in the morning or a released pencil will drop is a forward extrapolation of experience not a matter of belief without evidence. It's not the faith of Faith. It's not looking at the Bible saying that you should have faith. Keep this straight. Also keep it in mind because I have faith that this will be a recurring theme.
The most refined expression of the rational intelligibility of the cosmos is found in the laws of physics, the fundamental rules on which nature runs. The laws of gravitation and electromagnetism, the laws that regulate the world within the atom, the laws of motion — all are expressed as tidy mathematical relationships. But where do these laws come from? And why do they have the form that they do?

When I was a student, the laws of physics were regarded as completely off limits. The job of the scientist, we were told, is to discover the laws and apply them, not inquire into their provenance. The laws were treated as “given” — imprinted on the universe like a maker’s mark at the moment of cosmic birth — and fixed forevermore. Therefore, to be a scientist, you had to have faith that the universe is governed by dependable, immutable, absolute, universal, mathematical laws of an unspecified origin. You’ve got to believe that these laws won’t fail, that we won’t wake up tomorrow to find heat flowing from cold to hot, or the speed of light changing by the hour.

Over the years I have often asked my physicist colleagues why the laws of physics are what they are. The answers vary from “that’s not a scientific question” to “nobody knows.” The favorite reply is, “There is no reason they are what they are — they just are.” The idea that the laws exist reasonlessly is deeply anti-rational. After all, the very essence of a scientific explanation of some phenomenon is that the world is ordered logically and that there are reasons things are as they are. If one traces these reasons all the way down to the bedrock of reality — the laws of physics — only to find that reason then deserts us, it makes a mockery of science.

Boy, there's a lot there isn't there? Did you notice the play on the word law? In science a law is a regular pattern, and is always considered as separate from the explanation for it's mechanisms; that would be the theory. The law of gravity is basically this: stuff falls at a rate of acceleration that we can measure, a bit over 9 m/s squared. Now, here we have Davies switching in law, as in the law of the land, a create, codified body of legislation governing conduct. It's clever; if there's a law, there's a law giver. On the other hand for his point if there's a discernible pattern of behaviours, it's really hard to plug a discernible pattern of behaviours giver. So he conflates a legal and a scientific notion of laws.
With a little handwaving he says that the reason there are laws is untouchable in science by some fiat of the higher ups. I find that not convincing, as every scientist that I've ever read and the few I know don't seem to like the idea of any sort of sacred cow. And although there's some debate forming about the utility and scientific nature of string theory, isn't that part of what they look at?
Can the mighty edifice of physical order we perceive in the world about us ultimately be rooted in reasonless absurdity? If so, then nature is a fiendishly clever bit of trickery: meaninglessness and absurdity somehow masquerading as ingenious order and rationality.

Um, dunno. Don't think the world is even close to having an answer to this. We might one day, or we might never get there.
Although scientists have long had an inclination to shrug aside such questions concerning the source of the laws of physics, the mood has now shifted considerably. Part of the reason is the growing acceptance that the emergence of life in the universe, and hence the existence of observers like ourselves, depends rather sensitively on the form of the laws. If the laws of physics were just any old ragbag of rules, life would almost certainly not exist.

And the anthropic principle rears its head. People leave it alone. It's not a muscle; playing with it doesn't make it stronger. Besides, have you looked around you. This planet is stunningly unsuited to life in lots of places, let alone the whole of the universe. Seriously. If you're not an extremaphile bacteria, you're not going to like a staggering percentage of everywhere.
A second reason that the laws of physics have now been brought within the scope of scientific inquiry is the realization that what we long regarded as absolute and universal laws might not be truly fundamental at all, but more like local bylaws. They could vary from place to place on a mega-cosmic scale. A God’s-eye view might reveal a vast patchwork quilt of universes, each with its own distinctive set of bylaws. In this “multiverse,” life will arise only in those patches with bio-friendly bylaws, so it is no surprise that we find ourselves in a Goldilocks universe — one that is just right for life. We have selected it by our very existence.

I remember a quote by Einstein wherein he said that as far as he knew relativity could just be a local phenomenon. Or I could have been on drugs. Maybe I was. I mean have you ever really looked at your hand, man? It's so cool.
Where was I? Oh, yeah, Einstein. He may be right, but the further afield we look in the universe, all the discoveries we make seem to follow what he said. We're pretty sure the universe is pretty regular. But anyone who can show it's not can start writing out his Nobel acceptance speech now.
The multiverse theory is increasingly popular, but it doesn’t so much explain the laws of physics as dodge the whole issue. There has to be a physical mechanism to make all those universes and bestow bylaws on them. This process will require its own laws, or meta-laws. Where do they come from? The problem has simply been shifted up a level from the laws of the universe to the meta-laws of the multiverse.

The multiverse theory is a bit weak, but there is some math behind it. And if it's theoretical it can be tested, at least better than "Magic man done it."

Clearly, then, both religion and science are founded on faith —
namely, on belief in the existence of something outside the universe,
like an unexplained God or an unexplained set of physical laws, maybe
even a huge ensemble of unseen universes, too. For that reason, both
monotheistic religion and orthodox science fail to provide a complete
account of physical existence.

If I've gotten this far into making fun of you, clearly you haven't established that faith is the foundation of more than one of those. And I don't think your unstated goal of moving religion towards science is going to be successful until you start coming up with tests for God.

This shared failing is no
surprise, because the very notion of physical law is a theological one
in the first place, a fact that makes many scientists squirm. Isaac
Newton first got the idea of absolute, universal, perfect, immutable
laws from the Christian doctrine that God created the world and ordered
it in a rational way. Christians envisage God as upholding the natural
order from beyond the universe, while physicists think of their laws as
inhabiting an abstract transcendent realm of perfect mathematical

What? Seriously, what? Math is the expression we use to transcribe relationships. It's not where the laws come from.

And just as Christians claim that the world
depends utterly on God for its existence, while the converse is not the
case, so physicists declare a similar asymmetry: the universe is
governed by eternal laws (or meta-laws), but the laws are completely
impervious to what happens in the universe.
Again, what?

It seems to me
there is no hope of ever explaining why the physical universe is as it
is so long as we are fixated on immutable laws or meta-laws that exist
reasonlessly or are imposed by divine providence. The alternative is to
regard the laws of physics and the universe they govern as part and
parcel of a unitary system, and to be incorporated together within a
common explanatory scheme.

Meta-laws. As if just making stuff up and saying that's what people believe makes it so. Oh, what, that's faith.

In other words, the laws should have
an explanation from within the universe and not involve appealing to an
external agency. The specifics of that explanation are a matter for
future research. But until science comes up with a testable theory of
the laws of the universe, its claim to be free of faith is manifestly

Laws should have an explanation of the universe. No. That's not what laws are. That's a theory. This is directly analogous to creationists saying that if the theory of evolution doesn't encompass abiogenesis then it doesn't explain anything. If your trying to tell me that religion gives us a clearer understanding of anything then you'll have to do better than the odd straw man, a bit of conflation and the anthropic principle.


The Frontal Cortex : The Faith of Scientists
onegoodmove: Faith

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

The composition of fighters in Iraq

Interestingly they come from US allies in the main.
Can't you hear the Washington Spineless Brigade -- 33rd Fox Division already warming up their counter-points.
Let's hear you say it: "B-b-but, but, but....Iran. Iran!"

Foreign fighters in Iraq are tied to allies of U.S. - International Herald Tribune
Saudi Arabia and Libya, both considered allies by the United States in its fight against terrorism, were the source of about 60 percent of the foreign fighters who came to Iraq in the past year to serve as suicide bombers or to facilitate other attacks, according to senior American military officials.

The data come largely from a trove of documents and computers discovered in September, when American forces raided a tent camp in the desert near Sinjar, close to the Syrian border. The raid's target was an insurgent cell believed to be responsible for smuggling the vast majority of foreign fighters into Iraq.

The most significant discovery was a collection of biographical sketches that listed hometowns and other details for more than 700 fighters brought into Iraq since August 2006.

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Finally got the laptop rebuilt

So here's some snark courtesy of Pharyngula about creationists.
Pharyngula: Creationist cowardice

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

And about bloody time too.

I've wanted a PS3 for quite a while now, which should normally just mean I'm a guy. But I have been holding off until some compelling games come up. Of course, I'm with everyone else in not buying one.
In the meantime I've been out to the shop to pick up some new PS2 games (it's so good to be back in Japan; having a Japanese PS2 overseas really sucks. Looks good, can't play it. Great reviews, can't play it.)
This looks like a promising development, as the variety of games should improve shortly.

Sony halves software fees to spur PS3 game designers | The Japan Times Online
Sony halved the fees it charges for a software development kit for the PlayStation 3 video game machine Monday to encourage outside designers to make more games for the struggling console.

Sony Corp.'s gaming unit, Sony Computer Entertainment Inc., said prices for the development package for the PS3 will be reduced to ¥950,000 in Japan, $10,250 in North America and 7,500 euro in Europe.

The move follows the price cuts on the PS3 around the world that the company announced last month in an attempt to woo buyers.

Although its predecessor, the PlayStation 2, dominated the gaming market, the PS3 has struggled against Nintendo's hit Wii console,the rival offering from Nintendo Co.

Boosting PS3 sales is crucial for Sony's overall business strategy because it also supports the Blu-ray disc next-generation video, which is vying with the rival HD-DVD format.

The Wii has succeeded in drawing people not usually accustomed to playing electronic games, including the elderly, by offering easier to play games that use a wandlike hand held device for the remote controller.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Just 'cause I live in Kobe.

My lord Japan is an odd place some times.

Top 60 Japanese buzzwords of 2007 - Boing Boing

Top 60 Japanese buzzwords of 2007 ::: Pink Tentacle
23. Dondake~ [どんだけぇ~]: This catch-all exclamation of surprise/disbelief/reproach arose from the Shinjuku 2-chome gay community and was popularized by Ikko, a popular transvestite TV personality. Dondake~ can be used in a wide variety of situations, sort of like “Really?!” or “No way!” Usually said with a slight rising intonation and seasoned with whiny sarcasm. [More]

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Of course they do. What else could they say?

Monday, November 19, 2007

It's so hard to imagine better snark...

What could I add?

Your Creation Museum Report
Imagine, if you will, a load of horseshit. And we’re not talking just your average load of horseshit; no, we’re talking colossal load of horsehit. An epic load of horseshit. The kind of load of horseshit that has accreted over decades and has developed its own sort of ecosystem, from the flyblown chunks at the perimeter, down into the heated and decomposing center, generating explosive levels of methane as bacteria feast merrily on vintage, liquified crap. This is a Herculean load of horseshit, friends, the likes of which has not been seen since the days of Augeas.

And you look at it and you say, “Wow, what a load of horseshit.”

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

At the nexus of credulity and stupidity...II

Oh what the hell. Let's talk about homoeopathy for a minute. In the Guardian this week, there's a defence (or defense, if you're so inclined) of homoeopathy. Let's take a look at what Jeanette Winterson has to say about this. And I wonder if there's a logical fallacy of two to find...

In defence of homeopathy | Health and wellbeing | Life and Health
Picture this. I am staying in a remote cottage in Cornwall without a car. I have a temperature of 102, spots on my throat, delirium, and a book to finish writing. My desperate publisher suggests I call Hilary Fairclough, a homeopath who has practices in London and Penzance. She sends round a remedy called Lachesis, made from snake venom. Four hours later I have no symptoms whatsoever.

Hmmm. First of all, that's a single data point. I also do like the fact that the Hilary Fairclough treats the whole person (a common claim among the woo-set) without seeing the patient.
So what is Lechesis?
Lachesis by Weleda, Homeopathic Medicines, UK
Lachesis A homoeopathic medicine for bites and stings - Purple discoloration around the bite. Also for menopause - Hot flushes with headache and dizziness. Flooding periods. Also for pre menstrual tension - Breasts painful. Symptoms worse in the morning.

The above is a useful reference and highlights the common ailments or symptoms that homeopathic remedies are frequently used for, but is not fully comprehensive. In most cases the 6c potency should be used for self help. It is most appropriate for conditions that are mainly physical, for example first aid situations or coughs and colds. 6c remedies are ideal for the family medicine chest. The 30c potency can be used for conditions which affect our health more generally or illnesses which may be partly emotional in nature such as occasional sleeplessness. 30c remedies should be taken as a short 7 day course, unless prescribed by a practitioner. If a condition is at all persistent or could be serious, please consult your doctor or a qualified homeopathic practitioner.

Weleda endorses a very individual approach to healthcare, aiming to treat the whole person rather than just the symptoms of the illness, by stimulating the natural healing process. It's an approach that echoes the thinking of Samuel Hahnemann over 200 years ago when he established the principles of homeopathy.

On a trivial note, Hahnemann made up his principles out of whole cloth before the Germ Theory of disease; he had the brain fart that the body wouldn't allow 2 similar conditions to affect it simultaneously, so like should cure like. And if it's true, that kills about a third of the plot lines on House. Apologies to Hugh Laurie.
Wait, did she have the symptoms associated with Lachesis as a cure?
Dramatic stuff, and enough to convince me that while it might use snake venom, homeopathy is no snake oil designed for gullible hypochrondriacs. Right now, though, a fierce debate is raging between those, like me, who trust homeopathy because it works for them, and those who call it shamanistic claptrap, without clinical proof or any scientific base.

My grandfather got shot a half dozen times in the 1940's (doing what I wonder; it was either in the war or exiting bedroom windows. 50-50 split on that one) and lived to be 90. Not recommending that as a prescription for achieving octogenarian status. Like bullets and my grandfather's age, there's no reason to suspect that homoeopathy is related in any way good or bad to someone's health.
There have been a number of articles in the press recently criticising homeopathic remedies as worthless at best, and potentially lethal at worst, if they are being taken instead of tried-and-tested conventional medicines for conditions such as malaria or HIV.
I have found myself cited, and drawn into this, because I am on record as supporting homeopathic practice in general, and in particular the Maun homeopathy project, a clinic in Botswana set up by Fairclough.

Wait, you're involved in supporting a clinic set up by the "doctor" you were recommended by your desperate publisher? So why did your publisher have to recommend her to you? What order did this happen in?

The organisation Sense About Science and journalists such as Ben
Goldacre and Nick Cohen are targeting a symposium in London in December
that will discuss HIV and Aids and the homeopathic response to such
diseases. Of particular concern is a claim by the British homeopath
Peter Chapel and his Dutch colleague, Harry Van Der Zee, that Chapel
has developed a remedy, PC1, that can be used to treat the HIV virus.
a patron of Fotac (Friends of the Treatment Action Campaign) that has
been fighting President Mbeke's lunatic insistence that HIV sufferers
just need Vitamin C and a good diet, I am dismayed by any claim that
may deter HIV sufferers from taking anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs). And
so is Peter Fisher, an NHS doctor, director of the Faculty of
Homeopaths, and, incidentally, homeopath to the Queen. Good homeopaths
know the value of conventional medicine and do not seek to undermine
that value. Fairclough's clinic, and her talk at the symposium,
concentrate on using homeopathy to support the ARV programme by
alleviating the side-effects of ARVs, and boosting the patient's immune
system so they are better able to fight off the opportunistic viruses
that follow behind HIV, and the drugs necessary to suppress it. There
is no suggestion that homeopathy can replace ARVs.

Key point for woos: never promote CAM for anything that's not self-limiting. Stuff we understand, like cancer or AIDS -- Never. Stuff that gets better on its own, like nausea, jetlag, etc -- knock yourself out. If the shit worked it would be part of conventional medicine.

Edwin Cameron, a justice of South Africa's supreme court of appeal who
is HIV positive, has done much to counter the disastrous Aids
denialists there. He visited Maun and agreed in writing that "there are
patent health benefits". He also admitted that, although initially
sceptical of homeopathy, he had had a persistent mouth and gum disease,
untreatable by antibiotics, but which was cleared by homeopathic

W00t! We have a second data point. No. Sorry. My bad. We have two anecdotes, completely subjective and unconnected or controlled. So what's that prove? Nothing.
I use the word "intervention" because I admit it is hard to talk about
what it is that homeopathy actually does, or why it works. For my part,
I want to know more, not less, but I can't dismiss the thing in the way
that Sense About Science, many doctors, and some journalists are asking
me to.

Look, you can study and look into anything you want. But the literature, not a study but the overall pattern of the literature is clear. There is no mechanism for this stuff, no measurable effect. What is science to do with it?
Stop wasting time.

A recent furore over those homeopaths who offered an undercover
journalist alternative remedies for the prevention of malaria has also
prompted long-term critics of homeopathy to demand its head on a plate.
There will soon be an article in the Lancet calling on doctors to tell
their patients that homeopathic medicines offer no benefit. Until now
the caveat has been no "proven" benefit. But where is the scientific
sense is saying that because we don't understand something, even though
we can discern its effects, we have to ignore it, scorn it, or suppress

Spot the false assumption. We can discern its effects. The better designed the study, the smaller the effect. The best studies show no effect.
It's not a suppression of witchcraft to say it has no benefit.

This homeophobia is, I think, a genuine terror of what homeopathy is
suggesting; which is that we think differently about the relationship
between the cure and the disease. It is not enough to say Disease A is
caused by B and can be cured by C. Homeopathy, in common with other
holistic approaches, asks that we look at the whole picture - the
person, and not just his illness. Specifically, in the case of
homeopathy, the remedy picture, which is carefully drawn up after full
consultation with the patient, follows the "like by like" premise -
that tiny dilutions of the "problem" can prompt the body to effect its
own cure. This is why the homeopathic code of practice does not talk
about the medicines themselves having a simple causal effect - C cures
A. Homeopathy seeks to understand everything we are, everything we do,
as a web of relatedness. The reason why I have a recurring sore throat
will not be the reason why you have one, and what helps me may not help

Umm. The lady who sent you the Lachesis, which is for other symptoms that what you had without meeting you, how was that taking into account the whole person? Are you joking? By the way, how are you going with 'like cures like' and we can't say that A is caused by B and cured by C. If like cures like that C cures A regardless of B. Seriously. Pick one.

This seems to be partly why tests used for conventional medicines
fail when used to test homeopathy. Sceptics will say it is the
medicines that fail, and not the trials, but if the medicines really
are ineffective, why is it that so many people who have tried
homeopathy have found that it makes a difference to their wellbeing?

What does wellbeing mean? How are you defining or measuring it? Why is it that woos always want a total pass when it comes to showing that it works.

I understand it, homeopathy is not a linear medicine - a drug aiming
for a target - nor does it seek to remove the human factor. The patient
and the practitioner are both important and relevant when it comes to
understanding how humans respond to treatment.

Not linear, but like cures like. That's a straight line, isn't it?

That a good doctor
is part of the therapeutic process is commonsense to anyone who has
ever visited their GP or been for surgery. We know too that patients
heal differently, develop complications or not, secondary infections or
not, and so on. The placebo effect that is often cited by detractors as
homeopathy's only resource (ie that people like being talked to and
then given a pill to take), is common to all therapeutic processes, and
it is valuable. We can feel better in the right hands - everyone knows
that - and people can shrivel and die in the wrong hands - whatever the

I am sure that there is a placebo effect in
homeopathy, but it is a fact that many of the people who end up
visiting a homeopath do so as a last resort, when nothing else is
working. That such people often see an improvement suggests that the
remedies themselves are contributing to the wellness of the individual.
Again, no one does actual statistical looks at if people who can't be cured by conventional therapy actually do have improvements or if they do, how it's different to the rate of people who go into spontaneous remissions. Again, we have actually do some research.

to homeopathy begin with what are viewed as the impossible dilutions of
the remedies, so that only nano amounts of the original active
substance remain, and in some cases are only an imprint, or memory. Yet
our recent discoveries in the world of the very small point to a whole
new set of rules for the behaviour of nano-quantities. Thundering
around in our Gulliver world, we were first shocked to find that
splitting the atom allowed inconceivable amounts of energy to be
released. Now, we are discovering that the properties of materials
change as their size reaches the nano-scale. Bulk material should have
constant physical properties, regardless of its size, but at the
nano-scale this is not the case. In a solvent, such as water, nano
particles can remain suspended, neither floating nor sinking, but
permeating the solution. Such particles are also able to pass through
cell walls, and they can cause biochemical change.
We do not know whether this has a bearing on homeopathic dilutions, but it may well be that nanoparticles offer a clue.

Ahh, the appeal to (misundertood/incorrect) quantum physics coupled with a little god of the gaps. First of all, the odds that even a single 'nano-particle' (a meaningless phrase. Is it a molecule? Atom? Electron?) remains in the dilution is about 50-50. A second particle is about is well nigh impossible. And water memory? Are you jucking foking? It's burnt hydrogen, get over it.

says that water as a solvent has properties that are not yet
understood, and there was great excitement recently when a team of
Korean scientists seemed to show that water has "memory". I take New
Scientist every week and I am continually amazed at how the seemingly
well-known physical world of ours is beginning to show itself as
stranger than anyone imagined.

At the risk of repeating myself, burnt hydrogen.

I would like to see homeopathy
better regulated. I would like to see the Society of Homeopaths
engaging with its critics, as well as initiating more research. There
will always be rogue homeopaths and bad homeopaths, but that is true of
any profession. Above all we should be careful of dismissing the
testimony of millions who say the remedies have worked for them.

It's an interesting contradiction, better regulated but less scrutinized and not held accountable. If a doctor told me that praying to a certain angel would help with my weight loss or cure my cancer I would be willing, nay able, nay enthusiastic to dismiss the testimony of millions who believe in angels. Ditto, homoeopathy.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

There are days I truly weep for my country.

Although I don't envy him the after effects, I have to admire this guy for his initial achievement.

Six-month hangover for 60-pint Scotsman | The Register
A 30-year-old Glaswegian has suffered what may go down in history as the greatest hangover west of the Mississippi - a six-month headache induced by sinking 60 pints over four days.

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Who needs to comment on this?

The Economic Consequences of Mr. Bush: Politics & Power:
When we look back someday at the catastrophe that was the Bush administration, we will think of many things: the tragedy of the Iraq war, the shame of Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib, the erosion of civil liberties. The damage done to the American economy does not make front-page headlines every day, but the repercussions will be felt beyond the lifetime of anyone reading this page.

I can hear an irritated counterthrust already. The president has not driven the United States into a recession during his almost seven years in office. Unemployment stands at a respectable 4.6 percent. Well, fine. But the other side of the ledger groans with distress: a tax code that has become hideously biased in favor of the rich; a national debt that will probably have grown 70 percent by the time this president leaves Washington; a swelling cascade of mortgage defaults; a record near-$850 billion trade deficit; oil prices that are higher than they have ever been; and a dollar so weak that for an American to buy a cup of coffee in London or Paris—or even the Yukon—becomes a venture in high finance.

And it gets worse. After almost seven years of this president, the United States is less prepared than ever to face the future. We have not been educating enough engineers and scientists, people with the skills we will need to compete with China and India. We have not been investing in the kinds of basic research that made us the technological powerhouse of the late 20th century. And although the president now understands—or so he says—that we must begin to wean ourselves from oil and coal, we have on his watch become more deeply dependent on both.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

At the nexus of credulity and stupidity...

Now, now, now...try not to judge just cause you don't believe what they believe...
Oh, fudge, children. Judge away.

Woman drowns during exorcism ceremony | The Guardian | Guardian Unlimited
A 22-year-old woman died during an exorcism ritual in New Zealand, drowning at a relative's home as up to 40 family members looked on, police said today.

Janet Moses, a mother of two, was held under water in an attempt to drive away a makutu, or Maori curse. Containers holding an "extensive amount" of water were brought into the lounge of the house, in Wellington, for the ceremony.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Is this really a debate? Are we still talking about this?

Waterboarding is Torture… Period (Links Updated # 9) (SWJ Blog)
I’d like to digress from my usual analysis of insurgent strategy and tactics to speak out on an issue of grave importance to Small Wars Journal readers. We, as a nation, are having a crisis of honor.

Last week the Attorney General nominee Judge Michael Mukasey refused to define waterboarding terror suspects as torture. On the same day MSNBC television pundit and former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough quickly spoke out in its favor. On his morning television broadcast, he asserted, without any basis in fact, that the efficacy of the waterboard a viable tool to be used on Al Qaeda suspects.

Scarborough said, "For those who don't know, waterboarding is what we did to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is the Al Qaeda number two guy that planned 9/11. And he talked …" He then speculated that “If you ask Americans whether they think it's okay for us to waterboard in a controlled environment … 90% of Americans will say 'yes.'” Sensing that what he was saying sounded extreme, he then claimed he did not support torture but that waterboarding was debatable as a technique: "You know, that's the debate. Is waterboarding torture? … I don't want the United States to engage in the type of torture that [Senator] John McCain had to endure."

In fact, waterboarding is just the type of torture then Lt. Commander John McCain had to endure at the hands of the North Vietnamese. As a former Master Instructor and Chief of Training at the US Navy Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape School (SERE) in San Diego, California I know the waterboard personally and intimately. SERE staff were required undergo the waterboard at its fullest. I was no exception. I have personally led, witnessed and supervised waterboarding of hundreds of people. It has been reported that both the Army and Navy SERE school’s interrogation manuals were used to form the interrogation techniques used by the US army and the CIA for its terror suspects. What was not mentioned in most articles was that SERE was designed to show how an evil totalitarian, enemy would use torture at the slightest whim. If this is the case, then waterboarding is unquestionably being used as torture technique.

Powell's Books - Review-a-Day - The Terror Presidency: Law and Judgment Inside the Bush Administration by Jack Goldsmith, reviewed by The New Republic Online
Jack Goldsmith's book is quite possibly the first sober account of the pressures that a post-9/11 president faces in the attempt to respond under the rule of law to the security threats facing this country. The book is largely a memoir of Goldsmith's service as an assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), and of his terrible predicament as he found himself in the midst of an extraordinary debate among administration officials about how best to respond to the threat of terrorism. While OLC operates in relative obscurity for most Americans, it is in fact a genuinely significant institution of American government: all thorny legal questions within the executive branch are supposed to be submitted to this tiny elite office. OLC is the "decider" of these questions, and its judgments bind the entire executive branch.

In the fulfillment of his duties at OLC, Goldsmith said no to the White House on various matters, including torture and electronic surveillance. As a result, he soon left his Justice Department position and decamped to Harvard Law School. Now he has written this remarkable book -- a book that anyone concerned about civil liberties in the war on terror must read. Goldsmith is not a civil libertarian. And this is not a kiss-and-tell book. It is a serious book with a serious lesson: that the war on terror is here to stay and will continue to pose extraordinary challenges to our current legal framework. Those inclined to think that the next administration will instantly shut down mass detention centers such as Guantanamo, or promptly terminate massive electronic surveillance under the Patriot Act, are likely to be sorely disappointed, no matter who sits in the Oval Office.

Mixed messages on torture | Salon News
In the war on terror, abusive interrogations of suspects don't work. You get faulty information. The rough stuff has been proven worthless and should be banned.

Or, harsh interrogation tactics have been a successful and indispensable tool that has generated crucial intelligence to foil terror plots that would have otherwise caused death and destruction inside the United States.

Both versions were true in Washington on Wednesday, depending on whom you asked -- the Pentagon or the White House -- and depending on whether you watched the president's nationally broadcast afternoon press conference or a press conference by a general on a cable channel little seen outside military bases

unrepentant old hippie: They can't stop lying
Why can't they stop lying? They already practically wrecked this guy's life by scooping him off the street and sending him to some middle east shithole for a year of competitive swim lessons torture. None other than Condi Rice has admitted that the US government mishandled the case. He got a public apology from US Congress. The Canadian government gave him financial restitution. He. Is. Innocent.

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Friday, November 09, 2007

I said Support the Troops!

Huh? You got a discharge? On your own then.

Crooks and Liars » 1 In 4 Homeless Americans Are Veterans
Veterans make up one in four homeless people in the United States, though they are only 11 percent of the general adult population, according to a report to be released Thursday. And homelessness is not just a problem among middle-age and elderly veterans. Younger veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are trickling into shelters and soup kitchens seeking services, treatment or help with finding a job. “We’re going to be having a tsunami of them eventually because the mental health toll from this war is enormous,” said Daniel Tooth, director of veterans affairs for Lancaster County, Pa. Read on… The human toll of the Iraq disaster is piling up around us and our liberal media is all too happy to sweep these unfortunate souls under the rug. These soldiers, many of whom suffer from one form of mental issue or another, return home to find they have difficulty settling back into their families, leading to divorce (nearly 60,000 divorces from the Iraq conflict alone) which, in many cases, leads them down the path to homelessness

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Is me readingable?

cash advance

Cash Advance Loans

Kinda, I guess.
--  From: 	The Eternal Gaijin 	Lost Somewhere in Kobe, Japan 	"Words Cannot Describe What I Am About To Tell You."

Hey, Morality Crowd! Listen and Repeat!

Abstinence works. Abstinence-only sex education programs don't. End of story. Do not distort.
Now go sort yourselves out.

Crooks and Liars » Abstinence-only programs still don’t work
Abstinence-only programs still don’t work
By: Steve Benen on Thursday, November 8th, 2007 at 5:11 AM - PST

Those who are concerned with reality probably didn’t need more evidence that abstinence-only programs don’t work, but we have some anyway. The nonpartisan National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy released the results of its latest research project this week.

“At present there does not exist any strong evidence that any abstinence program delays the initiation of sex, hastens the return to abstinence or reduces the number of sexual partners” among teenagers, the study concluded. […]

The study found that while abstinence-only efforts appear to have little positive impact, more comprehensive sex education programs were having “positive outcomes” including teenagers “delaying the initiation of sex, reducing the frequency of sex, reducing the number of sexual partners and increasing condom or contraceptive use.”

“Two-thirds of the 48 comprehensive programs that supported both abstinence and the use of condoms and contraceptives for sexually active teens had positive behavior effect,” said the report.

You mean, simply telling teenagers not to have sex doesn’t work? And quality, comprehensive education does? And the Bush administration insists on supporting the prior while rejecting the latter? You don’t say.

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Attention Whack-a-doodle Bitch. You're Welcome!

Rachel Marsden - Official Website
Welcome to the official online home of Rachel Marsden, New York based political strategist and media commentator.

Sun Media Column Statement:

"Attention terrorists and Islamofascists: You can now read the Toronto Sun without having your delicate sensibilities offended, as my weekly column is no longer with Sun Media. I am currently exploring US syndication and other venues for the column. In the meantime, you can continue to read it here at, every Monday. And yes (to respond to some of your queries), after more than 2 years of writing weekly for the Sun, I've been under a new Editor-in-Chief, Lou Clancy, since October 5th, who comes from Canada's most liberal newspaper: The Toronto Star. My column about Islam was spiked on his first day at the job. Best of luck to any principled conservatives who remain."

UPDATE: Looks like the Sun fell for a letter writing campaign by the biggest leftist blog in the USA: The Daily Kos.

- Rachel Marsden, November 7/07

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

More Commentary on a Swimming Lesson

Dispatches from the Culture Wars: More on Waterboarding as a War Crime
Judge Even Wallach, one of the nation's most respected experts on the law of war, has an op-ed in the Washington Post pointing out what Andrew Sullivan has been pointing out for weeks as well, that the US has not only always considered waterboarding to be torture, but has aggressively prosecuted other nation's for war crimes for using that technique on American POWs.

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Love for the Sun

I love the Sun. The Toronto Sun, Ottawa Sun, the original in London. I love the scratchy feeling when you wipe.
Otherwise I have no use for something that when spread around the kitchen the dog would rather keep busting for a whiz than piss on.
So when the paper-training reject of the print world publishes this I just have to say something. - Rachel Marsden - Torture? Sounds like a swimmingly good idea

President George Bush's nominee for attorney general, Judge Michael Mukasey, may end up getting dunked at his Senate confirmation hearing because he refuses to call waterboarding torture. According to the Geneva Convention, prisoners of war are afforded certain protections. But contrary to what some folks might believe, we're not talking about prisoners of war here. In the war on terror, we're dealing largely with "unlawful enemy combatants" -- unaccountable freelancers who dress like they're coming out of philosophy class at UC Berkeley.

Hey, I remember you. You were on the news the other day saying something about 'CIA-sponsored swim lesson' that made me think you were dumber than a pithed frog in grade 9 biology. (Shout out to Mrs Boicey). BTW, UC Berkely? Seriously. That's the CanCon we can expect from you? At least pick on Carleton U or something. Mount Alison has it coming too. You sound like some kind of wanna-be Coulter-Limbaugh stem-cell experiment for Republican Jesus. (I think I hit everything there. Still something's missing. What could it be? Oh, right.) Fuck.
If you want full legal protections that come with engaging in legitimate warfare, then go join an army and put on a uniform so that Western forces can spot you before you head into a civilian centre with a bomb strapped to yourself and blow up innocent people.
So fuck you, Blackwater, you and your fucking immunity from...sorry. Oh, right, not them. The other not-in-a-regular-army types. The brown ones.
Think they play by Geneva Convention rules when they get a hold of someone from our side? Not a chance.
There's a motto for recruitment: Join the army! Be all Al-Qaeda can be! Way to stake out the moral high ground.

Ever since the 17th century Military Revolution aligned armies with nation states rather than rich guys, it has always been completely legal to just kill unlawful enemy combatants on the battlefield. But since there's a possibility they might know something, sometimes it's worth keeping them around.
Intelligence saves lives. Two years ago, the White House detailed several terror attacks that had been foiled through intel gathering. It's worth its weight in gold during wartime -- which is why, for example, during the Cold War, the Russians paid traitors like the FBI's Robert Hanssen and the CIA's Aldrich Ames millions of dollars for it.

Intel has the potential to save lives. It rarely does. This is not
24. It doesn't work like that. Intel has not been the decisive factor, or even high on the list, in any major confrontation. It has a contribution, but let's not forget that little fact.
Notice also the major cases she cites there didn't actually turn the tide in the favour of the Soviets. Was it then worth the millions? Or its weight in gold?

Now consider the case of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the 9/11 mastermind who ultimately claimed to have been involved in dozens of terrorist plots. He was found dressed like a slob, naturally, and also apparently in possession of a letter from Osama bin Laden. Think he might have known a thing or two?
I'm not sure how folks who are critical of the CIA's interrogation techniques would suggest eliciting intelligence from guys like this. Perhaps by offering him some tasty snacks and the love and understanding that he lacked as a child?
So there you have it. There are only two choices: torture or animal crackers with a hug. Here's an idea: try listening to these guys.
And don't give me that ticking bomb scenario bullshit. It doesn't work like that. Thought experiment: you hold the knowledge of the next big strike. It's happening in 3 hours. You'll be water-tortured/boarded/sported. Do you give the accurate information to stop the plot or do you take a beating, then cough up some disinformation that send people on a four-hour wild goose chase? Ask yourself this. Then ask yourself, what would the US gubmint expect a Navy Seal to do? How's that ticking bomb now?

The CIA doesn't do what they do for kicks. As CIA Director Michael Hayden explained the other day, interrogation techniques serve a purpose.
Torture works this way: you start off thinking you're doing good, making the hard choices. Then you're looking for revenge for something. Then you're preventing the enemies of the state from plotting something. Then you're sending a message. Then you're doing it just cause you can. What stage are you at now?

So now that we've established that the detainees in question aren't even protected by the Geneva convention, and that they often have crucial information that can save lives, what about the idea of waterboarding as "torture"?
Umm. How about this link, this link, or this link?

When asked about it during a recent CNN appearance, I suggested that "one man's torture is another's CIA-sponsored swim lesson." In case anyone thought I was being facetious -- I wasn't.
We know. That's the fucking problem.

I suppose that those who object to terror suspects getting water up the nose would say that, as a young competitive swimmer, I was also tortured. It was called "hypoxic training" -- swimming underwater and holding our breath until we passed out. Our coaches didn't call it torture, just an exercise in "mental toughness." So think of it this way -- terror suspects are getting some free mental toughness training courtesy of the U.S. government.
Flag on the play. I call false analogy! If your swim lesson included being tied to a board and held underwater until your lungs filled, and needed a doctor there to ensure you didn't die, and you couldn't quit the team, and you didn't ask to join, and you couldn't go home, and when you done they poured cold water on you and cranked the aircon in the locker room...then we're just starting to get an analogy.

Here's another idea to make the concept more palatable to objectors: Call the place where waterboarding is performed "The CIA Centre For Aquatic Excellence," give all participants an "I survived training camp" T-shirt with the centre's logo on it, and treat them to a couple of carbo-loading pancake breakfasts. It worked for us.
I Got Tortured by the CIA 'Cause It Turned Out That I Had the Same Name As Somebody...And All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt.
STFU while the big kids are talking.

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