Category ArchivePolitics

Politics 15 May 2008 12:24 am

Ceci n’est pas un Bob: The 2007 CECI Award

Ceci n’est pas un Bob: The 2007 CECI Award

A rundown of several interesting stories around “privacy, identity, security, and risk.”

I am particularly shocked by the principal deputy director of national intelligence’s wish to redefine privacy. Not surprised, just shocked.

Also, the book, Nation of Sheep, by Judge Napolitano, sounds pretty good too. Good in that OMFG-that’s-depressing way.

(Via Phil Windley.)

Politics 14 May 2008 11:54 pm

Party at Moody’s

Party at Moody's: ”
When the de facto market regulators are aping Austin Powers movies, something’s gotta give.”

I thought this was a particularly readable synopsis of several other ways that financial markets are in serious need of repair.

(Via Concurring Opinions.)

Humor &Philosophy &Politics 24 Feb 2008 09:36 pm

Move over Brights, Facebook eases all

Bill Thompson of the New Humanist says, “Facebook knows I’m an atheist”.

“Perhaps Facebook will help, simply because it encourages us to treat religious views and sexual orientation as of no more significance than favourite movies or preferred pizza toppings. In the end this could matter more than any number of ‘Brights’ t-shirts or big red ‘A’s, because it will simply relegate religious belief to the level of other superstitions, habits and personal preferences. Where, of course, it belongs.”

Philosophy &Politics &Software &Words 23 Feb 2008 05:50 pm

The Future of Reputation

The Future of Reputation full text online.

History &Language &Philosophy &Politics &Programming Languages &Science &Software 02 Jan 2008 08:23 pm

Reading List that Inspired Smalltalk

Squeakland has a list put together by Alan Kay for his students that gives background on the ideas behind Smalltalk.

It looks like quite an interesting list.

History &Philosophy &Politics 06 Oct 2007 12:05 pm

The Responsibility of Intellectuals, by Noam Chomsky

The Responsibility of Intellectuals, by Noam Chomsky, is a deep analysis of 1960’s hypocrisy by intellectuals, and a call to expose lies by all those trained to seek truth.

Chomsky does a brilliant job at critiquing power in this essay, particularly the power of intellectuals who have ensconced themselves in Western society. Ultimately though, as we, in America, all live in a democracy, we all have power to expose lies. He further states that ultimately we have to ask ourselves, “What have I done?”, when asked about our government’s actions.

It seems unavoidable that the American citizens as a whole are responsible for their government’s actions, either by intention or neglect. Obviously, no one talks about this on the news or on talk shows (I suppose, since I quit watching them. I am glad to learn otherwise).

So, how will a nation that does not recognize it’s own responsibility, let alone discuss the exigencies in fulfilling that responsibility, keep from being abused by a small minority intent on installing a kleptocracy?

(Via Wikipedia entry on Arthur Schlesinger, Jr..)

Humor &Politics 01 Apr 2007 09:04 am

Doonesbury – Think it Through

Doonesbury is brilliant today.

History &Miscellaneous &Philosophy &Politics 13 Jan 2007 12:10 am

“Live or Dead”, as Bush says

Today — this morning — something happened that I didn’t understand until tonight. I was doing my commute from the Santa Cruz Mountains to Mountain View. I was already over the hill and on 85. It was about 9:10 and I was listening to Democracy Now on KPFA. The news, delivered in Amy Goodman’s even voice, was of the 15 Republican congressmen standing with the new Democratic majority against Bush’s plan for escalation in Iraq– the “surge” as he spins it. I had, without much deep consideration, signed a petition the day before to congress expressing my feelings against the escalation. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, as I listened to the report, I started feeling happy, like it was going to be a good day. Normally, Democracy Now kills my mood, but this morning I felt some spirit. As I drove down 85 towards Moffett Field, I felt good, maybe even like I should have a funny joke to tell, or a prank to play at work. I wasn’t really sure why. I was glad that the Congress was finally standing up to the president, but I didn’t think too much about why I felt good.

When I got home tonight, it was kind of exciting. One, because it was Friday, and two, because the weather was getting really cold. So cold that the night sky becomes crystal clear and you can see twice the number of stars as usual. I watched the outside temperature reading on the Prius’ screen drop as I headed over the hill. 45 in Mountain View. 41 in Los gatos. 39 climbing the Summit. 37 coming down the hill. 41 in Scotts Valley. 39 in Felton. The second time it dropped to 37, the screen actually popped up a special message saying, “Outside temperature: 37 degrees.” It seemed to notice that something was unusual. Finally, it was 36 degrees on our street as I pulled up the driveway. It almost never gets that cold here.

When it does get that cold here, it’s an event. You build a big fire, drink warm drinks, and hang out close to the fire. It’s too cold and too rare an event to waste the evening watching TV. So, we made a good dinner, and then listened to the Simon and Garfunkel box set we got for Christmas. I realize now how little I knew Simon and Garfunkel’s work. The box set has 5 albums spanning the 60’s. The early stuff is pure folk, but with really rich harmonies and inventive songs. It seems also inspired by Bluegrass and gospel music. As they progressed into the 60’s the songs got more political and more edgy, sometimes even angry. The late 60’s songs were sometimes downright strange, but still beautiful.

While listening, I got the same feeling I had back in music appreciation class hearing chants from the middle ages. Though the music sounds really foreign, it speaks to something universal in you in a quiet, hallowed way. The composer is removed by centuries of history, yet, it comes through that at some level they had to deal with some of the same problems you have, and they might have even felt the same way about some of them.

Tonight, I realized that, for the first time in a couple of years, I have some renewed hope for the future. I hadn’t really realized it had departed; I knew something was wrong for the last several months, but I didn’t know what. I thought it was just the rigors of stretching myself trying to write good research papers, or getting ready for the holidays, but that wasn’t it. I realize I had come to feel that the government was beyond redress and that the powers that be were hell bent on destroying the world and that nothing could stop them.

Tonight, I realized that it might be possible, once again, to be heard. That, once again, getting involved might actually help things get better. I don’t know what the answers to Iraq are, but I think it might be possible to find something better. I don’t know what to do about our national debt, but surely with the riches we have we can find a way to become solvent again. For all the people without health insurance, this time we need to make it happen. For the masters of war, I hope your time will end soon.

The hope makes me want to get involved again. Tonight I wanted to call my friends and family and talk about the cold spell that we are sharing all over the western United States. Even the ones who aren’t out west, I wanted to call up and tell them about what was happening here. It felt important to share and talk, even about small events. It feels important to get involved in a way that it hasn’t felt in a long time. It’s a pretty good feeling that I didn’t even realize I was missing until tonight.

(Oh, I think there’s going to be an anti-war rally in San Francisco two weeks from tomorrow, to mirror the one scheduled for D.C. I can’t wait.)

Miscellaneous &Philosophy &Politics 27 Oct 2006 10:15 am

Yay! First Anonymous poster

This is very exciting. Today I got my first anonymous post. Daniel Dennett was so right on the money when he told me, “Bob it’s easy to draw web traffic, just take a strong position that can’t be proven wrong or right.”
“No way Dan, that is crazy.”, I said.
Boy was I wrong — that dude is brilliant.

Philosophy &Politics 27 Oct 2006 12:55 am

Belief in Belief

In Belief in Belief, Kevin laments the closet atheists, and the supposition that it is popularly held in America that Atheists are crackpots.

I think the atheists should feel free to speak their mind, and not be persecuted for it in any form. It also may be true that atheists are widely viewed as crackpots. I think most evangelical groups are viewed as crackpots. It all sounds curiously like the claims of religious evangelicals in America who believe they are always being persecuted.

Personally, I believe that atheists are as likely to be right as anybody who firmly believes in any God. In essence, atheists take it on faith that God cannot exist. They are as incapable of proving their belief as those who believe in more standard religions. I believe it is a question that cannot be answered affirmatively one way or the other because we are trapped in the system we are trying to comment on, and the system is insufficient to discuss things that are outside the system (this is probably a bad plagiarism of Godel’s incompleteness theorem which states that any sufficiently powerful formal system is incomplete because it cannot fully describe itself (further bastardization I am sure.))

I would be sad if people repress atheists in any way. So why would people think they are crackpots or repress them? Probably it is not as much about their beliefs as what they do with them. Most of the atheists I know personally, not all, but a lot, are vehemently against people who hold a faith in religion, to the point of ridiculing them. Maybe that has something to do with it.

I think Dennett comes off as pompous when he tries to convince people not to believe in God. He should spend his time elaborating other things like his theory of mind. That is much more worthwhile for all. There’s no point trying to convince someone who thinks they can fly that they cannot.

Further, if thinking they can fly helps them be happy, and causes no harm to them or anyone else (that is if they don’t try to jump off a cliff and fly – or try to convince others that they also can fly), then let them believe and be happy. It reminds me of an expression that I often heard growing up: “Everyone’s right to swing their fist in the air ends at the tip of anyone else’s nose.” Or, something to that effect.

To quote a podcast I listen to occassionally, “Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Who cares? It’s all about proper logic and reasoning.” Which also answers the problematic things about any firmly held belief that is not provable – government and those who would govern should stay out of legislating it one way or the other, including funding any kind of faith-based initiatives for either side. As well, those who believe one way or the other are free to do so, and shouldn’t try to convince others of their own religion.

That said, I have great respect for Dawkins’ ideas, and I would be tickled if he could prove that God doesn’t exist. I’m looking forward to reading his book. Somehow though I am always reminded of the funny bumper sticker.

God is Dead

Nietzsche is Dead

Oh that reminds me, and this is probably not related, but why does cell death need to exist in the universe?

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