May 2004 Archives

Wow, I've never read a less informed defense of evolution by someone who appears so confident.

What does the "theory" of ID [Intelligent Design; I haven't read the whole Wikipedia entry, but it looks like a decent description, although quite biased -- MW] predict? NOTHING - it simply provides a post facto rationalization for some of the processes observed in biology. Just like "F=mv" vs. "F=ma", ID chokes on those cases that are explained elegantly by the theory of evolution.
Apparently, Gene Expression author "godless" isn't particularly familiar with typical descriptions of evolution. To quote some of Fred Reed's questioning of evolution:
So much of evolution contradicts other parts. Sparrows evolved drab and brown so that predators won’t see them. Cockatoos and guacamayas are gaudy as casinos in Las Vegas so they can find each other and mate. But…but….

The answers to these questions either lapse into a convoluted search for plausibility or else boil down to the idea that since guacamayas are as they are, their coloration must have adaptive value. That is, it is the duty of the evidence to fit the theory, rather than of the theory to fit the evidence. This is science?

Not remotely. (Some of Mr. Reed's questions are refutable in detail, but they give a general sense of the most persuasive arguments against evolution.)

I do not to deny that, as "godless" points out, the theory of evolution has led to some interesting lines of thought -- from molecular chemistry to computational algorithms (the utility of which he appears to vastly overrate) -- but that doesn't make the theory true. After all, one particular implementation of the theory of Intelligent Design, called Christianity, has had a substantial effect on civilization as well.

I could go through "godless'" post point by point, but I doubt I would convince anyone of anything, because -- as "godless" denies but Steven Den Beste accedes -- belief in evolution is based on faith. Despite what "godless" claims, evolution is not falsifiable, any more than is ID; absent a time machine or direct and convincing revelation, neither can be proven nor disproven. One is free to construe the existing evidence in the direction one finds most convincing -- in conjunction with other aspects of one's worldview -- but claiming that either theory is more fact than faith is intellectually dishonest.

(HT: Donald Sensing and S3.)

How come, even with all the mounting evidence (pun intended), no one is questioning the wisdom of having women serve in the same military units as men? The abuse in Abu Ghraib prison appears to be intimately linked to illegal sexual relations between solders in the Military Police unit supervising the captives.

(More of what I've written about women at war.)

Is the Catholic Church a purely political entity these days? If not, then why are its chief concerns about Catholics marrying Muslims apparently completely unrelated to theology?

The Vatican warned Catholic women on Friday to think hard before marrying a Muslim and urged Muslims to show more respect for human rights, gender equality and democracy.

Calling women "the least protected member of the Muslim family," it spoke of the "bitter experience" western Catholics had with Muslim husbands, especially if they married outside the Islamic world and later moved to his country of origin.

The comments in a document about migrants around the world were preceded by remarks about points of agreement between Christians and Muslims but they seemed likely to fuel mistrust between the world's two largest religions.

The document said the Church discouraged marriages between believers in traditionally Catholic countries and non-Christian migrants.

It hoped Muslims would show "a growing awareness that fundamental liberties, the inviolable rights of the person, the equal dignity of man and woman, the democratic principle of government and the healthy lay character of the state are principles that cannot be surrendered."

When a Catholic woman and Muslim man wanted to marry, it said, "bitter experience teaches us that a particularly careful and in-depth preparation is called for."

Wouldn't it be much more correct for the Vatican to completely repudate the practice, based on the fact that Muslims and Christians worship entirely different gods?

I'm not Catholic (but I know many of my readers are), and I haven't read the full paper. Am I wrong about what the Vatican appears to be saying?

Then again, here's the flip-side: I think it's perfectly appropriate for religious people to allow their religion to shape politics. So yes, it should be a one-way street. Humans make political decisions, and God makes theological decisions. It looks pretty clear to me.

The Roman Catholic bishop of Colorado Springs has said Catholics should not receive Communion if they vote for politicians who support abortion rights (search), stem-cell research, euthanasia and gay marriage. ...

"I think it is an outrageous intrusion into what is supposed to be the separation of church and state. It is frightening," said Michael Merrifield, a Democratic state lawmaker who is not Catholic but represents part of the heavily religious Colorado Springs area. "It goes against everything that we believe is important to democracy since we founded this country."

Well gee, I don't see any conflict-of-interests in Mr. Merrifield's positioning, do you?

And then there's Texas mayoral candidate Pastor Jim Norwood, who's taking pictures of pornography consumers and sending them post-cards.

Pastor Jim Norwood (search) started the practice of driving around with his camera taking photos outside of sexually-oriented businesses (SOBs) about five months ago. The reverend, who is running in Saturday's mayoral election, was able to access public vehicle registrations record, allowing him to get the addresses of the vehicle owners and send them postcards of his photos.

One side of the postcard shows the patron's vehicle parked outside the adult store. On the other side is written a note from Norwood: "Observed you in the neighborhood. Didn't know if you were aware there is a church in the area."

He says some postcard recipients have even come to attend his church. Interesting. Naturally, an attorney for the Sexually Oriented Businesses misses the entire point and tries to change the subject to one of taxes.
"You've got SOBs in Fort Worth. You've got SOBs in Dallas, in Houston, just about every metropolitan area. I represent some up in Utah. It doesn't seem to affect those towns," said Attorney John Gamboa. "What people don't understand is that it is a regular business that pays its regular real estate taxes, employment taxes, sales taxes, liquor taxes."
I'm not taking a position on the effectiveness of Pastor Norwood's approach, but it's certainly legal, and a good example of putting religious beliefs into political action. He isn't trying to pass a law against pornography, organize a boycott, or even publicly shame the customers (from what I can determine, anyway).

I've been thinking more about South America recently, so when I saw this image of the capability ranges of America's Marine Expeditionary Units it struck me as odd that none are within five days travel of the shores of our southern neighbors.

Scientists are wondering how humans affect cicada populations, but I think they're missing the boat.

Clay says cicadas can reach densities of up to a ton an acre, or 3,000 kg per hectare. He believes humans are altering the environment to make it more hospitable to cicadas, by creating little patches of forest that have lots of edges -- which the insects appear to prefer.

Understanding cicadas could help scientists understand other animals whose life cycles are affected by human activity, including white-tailed deer and the ticks that carry Lyme disease, Clay told a news conference at the National Science Foundation (news - web sites), which sponsors his work.

Sure, sure... but how mundane. I think there's a much more obvious influence.
For instance, when a male calls a female his buzz takes one tone, and the female makes a flicking sound to answer during a lull. The male's call changes substantially after that.

"He'll start pawing her front legs," she said. His mechanical-sounding whir will change again, to a kind of chuckling. "While he's doing that, he'll mate with her," Simon said.

The Big Fish

It's hard to be critical of a man who just had his son murdered, but Michael Berg is disgracing and dehumanizing his son when he blames President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld for Nicholas Berg's murder.

Nicholas Berg went to Iraq to find work, entirely of his own volition and not at the request of the American government. He went to try to take advantage of an opportunity created by the invasion; he went to make money, and to help out the people of Iraq. His intentions were good and honorable, and he made his own decisions. He saw the rebuilding of Iraq as a chance to do business, and to help his fellow-man, despite the obvious danger.

When Michael Berg strips his son of the dignity of free will, he turns his son back into a child. Nicholas Berg was a victim, but the guilty parties are the cowards hiding behind black scarves in the video, not any American officials. Michael Berg said this:

"My son died for the sins of George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld. This administration did this," Berg said in an interview with radio station KYW-AM.

In the interview from outside his home in West Chester, Pennsylvania, a seething Michael Berg also said his 26-year-old son, a civilian contractor, probably would have felt positive, even about his executioners, until the last minute.

"I am sure that he only saw the good in his captors until the last second of his life," Berg said. "They did not know what they were doing. They killed their best friend."

That's absurd. Nicholas Berg was no Rachel Corrie. From other articles, it's clear that he supported the invasion of Iraq, and I highly doubt he would have been best friends with the inhuman monsters who murdered him.

Bill Hobbs points to some recent developments in the tiny, oil-rich African nation of Sao Tome.

It's important that -- although the focus of our attention must be on terrorist nations and the Middle East -- American should not lose sight of the rest of the world. I'm glad to see that our military is working with Sao Tome to protect their oil reserves, and I'd like to see America get more engaged in South America, too.

As Mr. Hobbs writes:

One of the more interesting and important - and, therefore, less covered by the American media - developments in American foreign policy is the United States' increasingly close relationship with the tiny island nation of Sao Tome & Principe, off the west coast of Africa, south of Nigeria and west of Gabon. Sao Tome is small, pro-American, and is predominantly Christian, unlike Nigeria, which is 50 percent Muslim is increasingly wracked by extremist Muslim violence against Christians.

Oh, and Sao Tome sits atop a whole lot of undeveloped oil.

Perhaps our enemies won't notice these fringe developments, and we should take advantage of whatever distraction the War on Terror affords us to flank our adversaries diplomatically.

SDB has led me to my new favorite linguistics blog: Amaravati: Abode of Amritas. I love linguistics, and have done quite a bit of study into languages (and language processing) over the course of my AI education, but I'm really just an amature enthusiast. For an interesting post, check out Amritas' explanation of why he thinks nouns and verbs are the only two universal lexical categories.

As SDB points out, computer-recognizable languages are far more primitive than human language. I don't think it's merely a matter of scale, either; I think human language is a powerful indication against the existence of strong AI.

So I guess everyone (including Lynndie England) will now be willing to agree that the abuse of Iraqi prisoners was committed by the participating criminals entirely on their own initiative?

Something I just considered... none of the recent political polls could have possibly taken into account the opinions of the immense number of US voters who are currently living and working in Iraq. How many are there, including business-people and soldiers? A million? Half a million? Not an inconsiderable number, considering they're all likely to vote, and likely to vote for President Bush.

How will these Iraq veterans shape the future of American politics? Will they have as much influence over the next 30 years as the Vietnam vets have had over the last 30? Will presidential candidates in 2028 have to explain why they were or weren't in Iraq in 2004?

No surprise here.


Which Princess Bride Character are You?

One of my favorite movies, but it goes downhill once Vizzini is killed.

(HT: Maddy and mysti.)

David Bernstein asks rhetorically,

This seems like a good time to remind readers that, according to Newsweek Donald Rumsfeld argued for stripping Americans suspected of aiding Al Qaeda of their rights and holding them indefinitely as "enemy combatants." If the man can't be trusted with the rights of Americans, would you trust him with the rights of Iraqis?
Even if the Newsweek story is true, it has no bearing on my trust in Secretary Rumsfeld's handling of civil liberties in Iraq. Why? Because Iraq is currently a protectorate of the United States, not a part of it. Iraqis aren't protected by the Constitution, and don't have the same rights we do. For one thing, they can own machine guns, and I sure can't. For another, they can't vote (yet).

And is it at all odd for Mr. Bernstein to then, in a subsequent post, call on the FBI to use torture on suspects in "ticking bomb" scenarios?

TM Lutas responds to my earlier post on the dangers of libertarianism with some examples... but honestly, I think they do more to undermine his position than to support it. They don't seem realistic to me at all. Further, he would strip power from legislators but then invest even more power in judges. Libertarians seem to have a strong distaste for "judicial activism" and imperfect judges, but their dreams for society appear to rely almost entirely on civil lawsuits.

Take the drunk driving laws. In a libertarian society, public roads would be replace by private ones. Private road owners would need to carry insurance and, if they were willing to endure the cost in excess premiums, could allow drunks to drive on their road. This is obviously a dumb choice to make but libertarians would permit the theoretical choice while ensuring that people don't consider actually doing it by pinching them in the pocketbook, hard. And the pinching would occur in multiple directions road owner and driver, as well as surrounding property insurance. Driving in an area that permitted drunk driving would raise the cost of automobile insurance as well so even if the road owner is a crazy loon willing to take the financial hit in his own pocket, his customers are not likely to be willing to do the same. Even living on a property next to a road where the cars are more likely to veer off and into your house would increase pressure for a more sensible resolution to the situation than laissez *hic* faire.
But consider the implications of this example.

1. We'd need private insurance for everything.

2. How would drunk drivers get pinched hard? By lawsuits. If you think there are too many lawsuits now, just try to imagine how many there would be in a libertarian society. We'd need a huge number of additional judges, and in the end we'd have even more judicial legislation than we have now. Would these judges be elected? If so, how's that different from electing tyrants?

3. If the guy who owns the road near your house suddenly decides to allow drunk drivers, everyone who owns property nearby sees the values of their investments plummet. There might be financial incentives for him not to do it, but you know how crazy some people can be. Or, he might own adjoining property and be purposefully trying to hurt the value of his neighbors to increase interest in his own investment. The only recourse a homeowner would have would be to sue on some grounds... but how long would that take?

TM Lutas goes on to say,

What is attractive about libertarianism is that it would allow for superior alternatives to the current BAC test levels to emerge much more rapidly and spread quicker. That, and not some theoretical freedom to drive drunk, is what is appealing in the libertarian alternative to current drunk driving statutes.
But is that really true? None of these solutions emerged even when there was little government regulation, not at the local, state, or federal level; since 1980 (and the founding of MADD (not my favorite group, by any means)) drunk driving deaths have been reduced by 40%, largely due to regulation and law enforcement. Prior to that, drunk drivers who caused injuries were subject to civil suits (as they still are), but it didn't do much to discourage them. Why? Because people are generally terrible judges of risks and rewards.

My libertarian sympathies spring from a love for freedom, and if TML were really eager to argue for a right to drive drunk, I could understand that (although I'd disagree). From a purely pragmatic standpoint, however, it's clear that government regulation has made progress in reducing the number of deaths that had previously occurred without regulation.

(And don't argue that no one owned the roads before regulation -- the states and local municipalities (representing their citizens) could have acted as owners and exercised the powers TML described.)

There are certainly many areas where more freedom and less regulation would be beneficial, but I don't think it's true for every situation. Anyway, replacing excessive legislative power with excessive judicial power doesn't seem like a winning move to me.

What libertarians don't seem to get is that consensual governments are the organizational structure people have chosen to set up to manage their affairs. Libertarians would probably be pleased to have a giant corporation oversee all the roads in the country, but that's basically what the government is. The structure is a bit different, but those differences have been implemented because people think they have utility. Our government is hugely inefficient, but guess what, so are large companies. And so forth.

Philisophically, I think there's a maximum level of efficiency that can be attained by any human organization -- dependent on size and technology -- no matter what the structure is. Increased size increases inefficiency, and improved technology reduces inefficiency through improved communication. The rest is just gravy.

TML responds again and backs down a bit (with regards to libertarianism "at the most extreme margins"), but doesn't address my criticism of tyranny by judges (and insurance companies).

He also says,

Government ownership of roads does not mean federalized road ownership. It means public road ownership and public roads have a very old history in the US. There are very few private roads around in the age of automobiles and what few exist do not form a critical mass sufficient to justify the creation of an alternative system of regulation. If private roads are a mere appendix, they will just save themselves the effort and just mimic government rules.
But I fail to see how a small democratic municipality with sole authority over a road would act differently than a local private owner.

He also writes that government is slow to adopt new technology, but large corporations are the same in that regard. Technological retardation is, as with other things, largely a result of size, not structure.

Michael's Five Pound Stew

4 tbsp oil
1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 tbsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 tbsp sugar

5 lbs sirloin steak, cubed
5 lbs potatoes, cubed (not too small!)
1 lb carrots, cut or mini
1 lb celery
1 lb peas
1 medium white onion
3 cans beef broth

If desired:
a bit more flour for thickening
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp sage

0. Cube the meat and potatoes; chop up the onion, celery, and carrots.
1. Mix the flour, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and sugar together in a bowl, and then roll the chunks of meat around until they're all covered.
2. Put the oil in your (large) pot and boil it. Dump the meat in and brown it all for a few minutes; be careful to continue stirring to prevent burns. Dump in the onions after a little bit to fry them.
3. Lower heat. Pour in beef broth, carrots, and peas. Add rosemary, thyme, and sage, if desired. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and cover. Allow it all to simmer for 90 minutes.
4. Add potatoes and celery. Carrots and peas can be delayed to this step, if desired. Personally, I like my celery and potatoes firmer than my carrots and peas. Add a little more flour (3 tbsp or so) for thicker stew. Make sure you stir it in so you don't get lumps! Simmer for another 30 minutes or so.
5. Enjoy tasty stew. Serves one. (Or maybe a dozen.)

Donald Sensing refers to "the new erotic-worship genre" (not his term) and links to some Christians who feel that many modern worship songs are focused on the supposed-worshipper instead of on God. Rather than quote his quotes of other people quoting various articles, just follow the first link; I'll wait.

One of the posts he links to cites the song "Breathe" by Marie Barnett as archetypal of the "new genre".

This is the air I breathe, this is the air I breathe
Your holy presence living in me
This is my daily bread, this is my daily bread
Your every word spoken to me

And I--------, I'm desperate for You
And I--------, I'm lost without You

I happen to like the song, and I don't think it's particularly "erotic" (perhaps the writers were projecting their own emotions?). Both metaphors -- God's word as bread the Holy Spirit as the breath of life -- are directly from the Bible. As for emotion, compare it with the longing expressed in the Book of Psalms.
Psalm 5

1 Give ear to my words, O LORD,
consider my sighing.
2 Listen to my cry for help,
my King and my God,
for to you I pray.
3 In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you
and wait in expectation.

And so on. I could go through the entire book and find dozens more.

As for eroticism, just go read Song of Solomon, which describes the relationship between God/Christ and his chosen people (Israel, and arguably, to some extent, modern Christians as well) using the metaphor of marriage.

Anyway, I agree that worship music is about God, not about us. In reality, singing is only one way to worship God, and not even the most important way. Perhaps one of the biggest failings of modern Christianity is mistaking mere singing for worship, of which it is only a part. More importantly, we should worship and honor God in everything we do, and in every aspect of lives. (Including the erotic.)

SDB has written about the current state of the world as a three-way war (my take), and Francis Porretto has upped the ante with two more sides! Mr. Porretto identifies the sides by their material goals rather than their philosophies, and to that end I think he is right in calling out Red China and the "Pacific Enterprise Bloc" as significant players, in addition to SDB's Empiricists, Idealists, and Islamists.

In a sense, both China and the PEB are Empiricists who just don't have the same goals as the Anglosphere (SDB's main Empiricist group).

Mr. Porretto also briefly mentions the various "Hispanic states" (presumably most of South America, and the like; is that the right term for the group?) as "uninterested in the war, incapable of taking a hand in it, or both", and perhaps Africa falls into the same category. Still, South America strikes me as far less backward and troubled than Africa, and I'd say they're closer to the PEB in their desires (to make money and to be left alone).

I think it would be very advantageous for the Anglosphere to court these Hispanic states through freer trade and cultural exchange. We spend a lot of time and money on our enemies, but these mostly-neutral states could be developed into strong allies over the next few decades if we play our cards right. We need a more workable approach to the War on Drugs, and we need open trade from Canada to Argentina.

You know, for whatever it's worth, the terrorists' plan is starting to work on me.

"My name is Nick Berg, my father's name is Michael, my mother's name is Susan," the man said on the video. "I have a brother and sister, David and Sarah. I live in ... Philadelphia."

After reading a statement, the men were seen pulling the man to his side and putting a large knife to his neck. A scream sounded as the men cut his head off, shouting "Allahu Akbar!" — "God is great." They then held the head out before the camera. ...

"For the mothers and wives of American soldiers, we tell you that we offered the U.S. administration to exchange this hostage with some of the detainees in Abu Ghraib and they refused."

"So we tell you that the dignity of the Muslim men and women in Abu Ghraib and others is not redeemed except by blood and souls. You will not receive anything from us but coffins after coffins ... slaughtered in this way."

If they're trying to make me hate them, it's working. I doubt I'm not the only American feeling this way, and if they expect us to pull out of Iraq when we get pissed off, they're mistaken.

Do they really want coffin after coffin of dead? How about if we just turn them all directly into greasy vapor? We can do it. And we will, if we have to.

I wish our government would focus more on making them afraid of us, rather than on trying to make us all buddies.

Two bloggers I much respect may both be misunderstanding a rabbi's denunciation of gun rights as idolatry. Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, the President of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations said,

Is the need for sensible gun-control a religious issue? You bet it is.

The indiscriminate distribution of guns is an offense against God and humanity.

Controlling guns is not only a political matter, it is a solemn religious obligation. Our gun-flooded society has turned weapons into idols, and the worship of idols must be recognized for what it is-blasphemy. And the only appropriate religious response to blasphemy is sustained moral outrage.

Eugene Volokh thinks his point is a metaphor run amok, and Clayton Cramer thinks the rabbi's position springs from a lack of comprehension of the gun culture. Either or both may be right, and as Mr. Volokh says, it's hard to speculate on the motivations of a speaker, but I have a different take.

My first thought when I read the quote was that the rabbi was calling an affinity for guns "idolatry" because the gun owner is depending on the weapon for protection, rather than on God. If Rabbi Yoffie is a pacifist, for example, he may believe that all forms of defensive violence betray an underlying lack of trust in God, and from such a perspective a gun could, in fact, be a literal idol: usurping God's role as our protector.

Victor Davis Hanson has a really long piece about "The Wages of Appeasement", and even though it's too long for me to focus on, there are some real gems.

In the face of such visceral anti-Americanism, the problem may not be real differences over the West Bank, much less that "we are not getting the message out"; rather, in the decade since 1991 the Middle East saw us as a great power that neither could nor would use its strength to advance its ideas--that lacked even the intellectual confidence to argue for our civilization before the likes of a tenth-century monarchy. The autocratic Arab world neither respects nor fears a democratic United States, because it rightly senses that we often talk in principled terms but rarely are willing to invest the time, blood and treasure to match such rhetoric with concrete action. That's why it is crucial for us to stay in Iraq to finish the reconstruction and cement the achievement of our three-week victory over Saddam.
As Sun Tzu said millenia ago, the best way to win is to convince your enemy not to fight. The best way to convince your enemy not to fight is to demonstrate that the results of fighting will be disasterous for them. And that means sometimes you have to fight, just to prove the point.

Further, as VDH points out, many Americans just don't realize how good we've got it. Many Americans don't have the intellectual confidence to argue that the United States is the greatest nation that has ever existed on the face of the earth. They waffle, yes, but..., and it's true, America isn't a perfect country. But there's a reason everyone in the world wants to come live here. We're wealthier and more free than any place else, bar none, and it's no accident.

Capitalism and liberal democracy work. It's not a crime against multiculturalism to say that the Middle East would be better off without madrassas, female circumcision, and Islamofacism -- it's just a fact. Similarly, those on the left who pine for disappearing cultures should ask themselves why the cultures are disappearing. Norman Borlaug, the father of the Green Revolution, has some thoughts on the matter.

Reason: Environmental activists often oppose road building. They say such roads will lead to the destruction of the rain forests or other wildernesses. What would you say to them?

Borlaug: These extremists who are living in great affluence...are saying that poor people shouldn't have roads. I would like to see them not just go out in the bush backpacking for a week but be forced to spend the rest of their lives out there and have their children raised out there. Let's see whether they'd have the same point of view then.

I should point out that I was originally trained as a forester. I worked for the U.S. Forest Service, and during one of my assignments I was reputed to be the most isolated member of the Forest Service, back in the middle fork of the Salmon River, the biggest primitive area in the southern 48 states. I like the back country, wildlife and all of that, but it's wrong to force poor people to live that way.

Once people from backwards cultures are exposed to modern life, they don't want to keep living in the wilderness. I don't blame them. Being a tribal nomad would suck. Everyone knows that, including members of the cultures the left wants to "preserve" (by denying poor people the opportunity to leave). It's not at all unreasonable to say that American culture is simply better than the rest. Just look at the evidence.

I think the primary cause of past American appeasement was moral ignorance. We look at other cultures as museum pieces, all equally valuable just because they're different. But these primitive, barbaric cultures oppress real people, just like you and me, who don't deserve to be refused entrance to modernity just because we (and the elite of a given culture, who profit off the misery of others) want to preserve their culture as a curiousity.

Plus, as VDH notes, we were fat, happy, and invulnerable -- or so we thought.

Mrs. Du Toit is determined to find SDB a wife, which sounds like a fine idea. Maybe when she's done she can help me out, too? It's only fair; after all, her husband helped me pick out my first handgun.

This article just floors me. "Oral sex lessons to cut rates of teenage pregnancy", says Exeter University in the UK.

Encouraging schoolchildren to experiment with oral sex could prove the most effective way of curbing teenage pregnancy rates, a government study has found.

Pupils under 16 who were taught to consider other forms of 'intimacy' such as oral sex were significantly less likely to engage in full intercourse, it was revealed.

Now an unpublished government-backed report reveals that a trial of the course has been a success. Schoolchildren, particularly girls, who received such training developed a 'more mature' response to sex.

The study by the National Foundation for Educational Research found youngsters were 'less likely to be sexually active' than peers who received traditional forms of sex education, dispelling the fears of family campaigners who believe such methods actually arouse the sexual interest of teenagers.

Does having oral sex not even count as being "sexually active" anymore? I've never bought into the idea that "oral sex is sex" just because it uses the word "sex" in the title, but c'mon, it's obviously sexual at the very least.

The whole idea here is totally bizarre. It's like suggesting that should kids start smoking to curb the obesity epidemic, or become alcoholics so they're too drunk to shoot heroin.

Isn't it possible that the best solution is for parents to control their children and carefully supervise their activities? The whole idea that "they'll just do it anyway" is crap, because they won't if you keep an eye on them, know their friends, spend time with them as a family, and provide a loving home.

I've worked with kids of all ages at my church; it's sad to see that some of the best ones come from some of the worst families, and to know that they're probably doomed to a life of misery because their parents are screw-ups. I really don't think it's hard to be a good parent, all it takes it time. I've read that most fathers spend less than 5 minutes a day with their kids, on average, and that's pathetic. With so many moms working, I doubt they get much more time in. It's no wonder kids are looking for "intimacy" through sex, when they can't get real intimacy at home from their family.

Sexual activities aren't "intimacy". They're a part of a certain kind of intimacy, but all alone they're just an illusion. We need to teach our kids what true love is, and what true intimacy means, not how to get each other off to slake their momentary lusts.

My email has been acting screwy, so I'm a bit late in noticing that I just got my first paid ad, by a band called Atomship (on the top of the right sidebar where it says "Enter the rabbit"). They've got some samples of their music up on their site, and the first track that comes up is pretty rad. But even better, the second track is about Mothra, possibly the only monster ever based on a moth. I always thought she got short shrift, I mean, is it really fair to pit her against Mecha Godzilla? I don't think so. She's just a moth! She'd own vanilla Godzilla in a fair fight though.

Someone needs to make a song about Rodan.

What about the ROUSes?
Rodans Of Unusual Size? I don't believe they exist. ARGH!

Drudge points to this Oregon Daily Emerald article on a presentation by Los Angeles Times editor John Carroll, who complains about "pseudo-journalists" and calls for speech restrictions.

In a scathing critique of Fox News and some talk show hosts, such as Bill O'Reilly, Carroll said they were a "different breed of journalists" who misled their audience while claiming to inform them. He said they did not fit into the long legacy of journalists who got their facts right and respected and cared for their audiences.

Carroll cited a study released last year that showed Americans had three main misconceptions about Iraq: That weapons of mass destruction had been found, a connection between al-Qaeda and Iraq had been demonstrated and that the world approved of U.S intervention in Iraq. He said 80 percent of people who primarily got their news from Fox believed at least one of the misconceptions. He said the figure was more than 57 percentage points higher than people who get their news from public news broadcasting.

Weapons of mass destruction like this? Collaboration with al Qaeda like this? And gee, I'm really sorry that France and Russia (i.e., "the world") are pissed because we eliminated one of their largest arms partners and their source for cheap, illegal oil.
"How in the world could Fox have left its listeners so deeply in the dark?" Carroll asked.
Ah! Sweet, sweet irony.
As he addressed some of the hard hits journalism has taken in the field of ethics, Carroll noted that anyone could be a journalist because, unlike other fields, journalism had no qualification tests, boards to censure misconduct or a universally accepted set of standards.
And unlike other fields, no actual knowledge is required about the subject being reported on -- just a pretty face or a clever sneer. Apparently only some people are qualified to exercise their right to free speech, but I'm relieved that Mr. Carroll isn't entrusted with the responsibility of determining who.

My brother Nicholas, a soon-to-be graduate of Stanford, pointed me to this story about how Stanford students have voted to deny funding to the racist Chicano group MEChA.

Stanford University students have voted to stop funding the Chicano group MEChA after a series of articles in the conservative Stanford Review accused the organization of racism.

In what is believed to be the first such vote on any college campus, Stanford students voted 1,357 to 1,329 to withhold MEChA's special fees, which amount to more than $40,000. The students voted about five months after articles in the Review cited anti-white statements in MEChA documents and compared the group to the Ku Klux Klan.

Stephen Cohen, who my brother knows through his fraternity, Phi Psi, coordinated the effort.
Stephen Cohen, Stanford Review editor, said the articles were responsible for stirring opposition to the group, especially after campus MEChA leaders refused to renounce the founding documents. ...

However, campus MEChA leaders said the vote was based on "misinformation," insisting that the modern club no longer subscribes to all the views in the founding documents, according to the Stanford Daily, the school newspaper.

That's what the group could have demonstrated by renouncing the founding documents, but they refused to do so.

What's so offensive in the MEChA constitution?

The students voted as MEChA faces increasing criticism statewide for statements included in some of its original documents, particularly El Plan de Aztlan.

El Plan de Aztlan describes white people as "the brutal 'gringo' " and "the foreigner 'gabacho,' " saying they invade the Chicano territories, exploit their riches and destroy their culture. It calls for Chicanos to reclaim "the land of their birth" and "declare the independence of our mestizo nation."

The plan's motto, "Por la Raza todo. Fuera de La Raza nada," means, "For the race, everything. For those outside the race, nothing."

Oh, that! It's nothing, really, just some words on paper. Don't worry about it!
The vote doesn't mean the end of Stanford MEChA. With a total budget of about $100,000, the organization also receives funding from the academic departments, the Stanford Fund and El Centro Chicano, the school's Hispanic umbrella group, according to the Review.
But hopefully these groups will start to feel some pressure, now that MEChA has been finally outed for what it is.

For whatever it's worth, here's a page on the influence of Freemasonry on the layout of Washington DC. Anyone who's really curious will do some research on a fellow named Adam Weishaupt and wonder what he and our first President had in common.

I had a party at my house last night for a friend-of-a-friend's birthday (a surprise thing) and I met this girl. She was cute, and when we started talking I discovered that she's pretty smart and fairly interseting, as well.

There were only two problems. First, we talked for about 20 minutes, and I asked her a bunch of questions and listened to her go on and on about herself and her life, but she never asked me anything about myself. That's a real turn-off. I like talking to people, and I enjoy listening to their life stories and that sort of thing, but it's polite to at least pretend to be interested in my life, too.

The second problem was that all the guys who knew her who were at the party were all over her, and she didn't seem to care. I found out later that one of them was actually her boyfriend, but who could tell from observation? A half-dozen guys were hanging on her and following her around, which is super not-cool. After we talked and I wandered off, I saw her glancing at me from time to time during the rest of the night, but there'd always be some (different) guy standing right up next to her. Sorry babe, not my style.

So here's my analysis. She probably is a really cool person, but she's addicted to the attention she gets and thinks that's how all guys should relate to her. When I found out near the end of the night that she had a boyfriend, my only thought was that if I were he, I'd be pissed at how she had been acting with everyone else. He probably felt lucky to be the one to chauffeur her around.

I know a lot of pretty girls who would be totally awesome, but are difficult to tolerate solely because of how their beauty affects their relational mindset.

Just saw a discussion about domestic violence over at Snooze Button Dreams (HT: Dean Esmay) and I'd like to thow in my $0.01 by pointing back to a post I wrote last October about Domestic Violence Month.

I just discovered that October is Domestic Violence Month, so I want to take this opportunity to mention a problem that isn't very widely recognized: in 40%-50% of domestic violence cases, men are the victims of violence committed by women. A great deal of attention is given (justifiably) to violence that men perpetrate against women, but the fact of the matter is that men are almost as likely to to be victims of domestic violence as women are.

I have some sources here to back up this claim, and they have interesting statistics (that mostly agree with each other). The most comprehensive data appears to come from a study performed by Straus & Gelles, which concludes that some degree of violence occurs at a rate of 113 man-against-woman incidents per 1000 couples per year, and 121 woman-against-man incidents per 1000 couples per year. As well, men and women are both about equally likely to strike the first blow. Overall, men and women were victims of violence at about the same rates, but the violence against men was 50% more likely to be "severe" -- a level that includes being attacked with an object (as opposed to fists), being "beat up", being threatened with a gun or knife, and being attacked with a gun or knife.

Some other interesting facts from the earlier post:
1. Women are three times more likely than men to use weapons in spousal violence.
2. Women initiate most incidents of spousal violence.
3. Women commit most child abuse and most elder abuse.
4. Women hit their male children more frequently and more severely than they hit their female children.
5. Women commit most child murders and 64% of their victims are male children.
6. When women murder adults the majority of their victims are men .
7. Women commit 52% of spousal killings and are convicted of 41% of spousal murders.
8. Eighty two percent of the general population had their first experience of violence at the hands of women.
I generally agree with Mrs. Du Toit's comment:
Where is the woman's voice in any of this? NO WHERE. "Yes" means "yes" and "NO" means "no." If she stays, she is saying "yes" to all that the relationship includes--and that means "yes" to continued abuse. We may be offended by it, it may repulse us, but it is NONE OF OUR BUSINESS. It is HER business.

Females who abuse their mates are a different matter. Men don't want to admit it for all sorts of reasons. Women are more likely to use weapons of some sort (stereotypical rolling pin comes to mind) to alter the size and strength dymanics. But the reaction of society should be the same. BUTT OUT unless the person chooses to press charges. If the guy stays in the relationship, doesn't press charges, then he has CHOSEN to remain abused. His choice.

I hate it when people try to talk to me in the bathroom. I normally ignore them entirely and just walk away, which I view as being far less rude than an attempt to initiate a conversation.

Steve Sailer, the author of the UPI story I quoted previously, commented and pointed me to a much longer and more detailed essay he wrote for National Review in 1997 titled "Is Love Colorblind?". He addresses many of the issues and gives a lot of data and historical background, and I highly recommend it to anyone curious about the issue. A short excerpt:

Interracial marriage is growing steadily. From the 1960 to the 1990 Census, white - Asian married couples increased almost tenfold, while black - white couples quadrupled. The reasons are obvious: greater integration and the decline of white racism. More subtly, interracial marriages are increasingly recognized as epitomizing what our society values most in a marriage: the triumph of true love over convenience and prudence.Nor is it surprising that white - Asian marriages outnumber black - white marriages: the social distance between whites and Asians is now far smaller than the distance between blacks and whites. What's fascinating, however, is that in recent years a startling number of nonwhites -- especially Asian men and black women -- have become bitterly opposed to intermarriage.

This is a painful topic to explore honestly, so nobody does. Still, it's important because interracial marriages are a leading indicator of what life will be like in the even more diverse and integrated twenty-first century. Intermarriages show that integration can churn up unexpected racial conflicts by spotlighting enduring differences between the races.

For example, probably the most disastrous mistake Marcia Clark made in prosecuting O. J. Simpson was to complacently allow Johnny Cochran to pack the jury with black women. As a feminist, Mrs. Clark smugly assumed that all female jurors would identify with Nicole Simpson. She ignored pretrial research indicating that black women tended to see poor Nicole as The Enemy, one of those beautiful blondes who steal successful black men from their black first wives, and deserve whatever they get.

The heart of the problem for Asian men and black women is that intermarriage does not treat every sex/race combination equally: on average, it has offered black men and Asian women new opportunities for finding mates among whites, while exposing Asian men and black women to new competition from whites.

Air America continues to falter as two of its largest investors resign from top management positions. That can't be good. The network hasn't even been around long enough for Arbitron to rate! Nevertheless, the media treats the fledgling network as a major story.

The self-flagellation continues as President Bush apologizes yet again.

President Bush (news - web sites) acknowledged "times are tough" for the United States and the Middle East and repeatedly apologized for U.S. soldiers' conduct in Iraq (news - web sites) in an interview published by an Egyptian newspaper Friday.
... neatly handing the Islamofacists a new arrow for their quiver of terror.

And if you don't think the press is driving this "story", consider the third paragraph:

The editors of Egypt's Al-Ahram newspaper who conducted the interview didn't ask about the future of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. Critics have called upon Rumsfeld to resign for his handling of the prisoner-abuse scandal.
No word on what other questions weren't asked, but at least we know AP's position on the matter. This is a PR debacle. Some short colonel should have been answering questions and issuing apologies, if necessary; instead, we've got the President of the United States bending over and taking it.
Bush didn't apologize in two television interviews Wednesday, but he made up for it in the Al-Ahram interview, saying the word "sorry" six times.

"I can't tell you how sorry I am to them and their families for the humiliation," he said. "I'm also sorry because people are then able to say, `Look how terrible America is.'"

Bush conceded that the issue has cost the United States standing in the Middle East.

"I think that things in the Middle East for the United States are difficult right now," Bush said. "I think they're difficult because people don't really understand our intentions. ... I'd say right now times are tough for the United States and the Middle East."

Utterly insane. The media lost interest in January after the initial report, and they would have lost interest again if the only response they got was from a PR flack, but now that they've got the President himself on the scaffold we're never going to hear the end of it.

At least the President still has some backbone.

Bush declined to offer any guarantees on two issues of special concern to Arabs — that an eventual Palestinian state would encompass almost all the West Bank, and that Palestinian refugees who fled in 1948 from land that now lies in Israel be allowed to return.
Of course, it doesn't take much guts to refuse to promise the impossible -- unless you're a diplomat, maybe. Both those issues of "special concern" are 100% guaranteed to be rejected by Israel, and everyone in the game knows it, so why does the media keep acting as if they're on the table? Because the media wants to see the eventual destruction of the Zionist entity?

Meanwhile, the Vatican points out the obvious:

The abuse of Iraqi prisoners by US soldiers is a scandal offensive to God himself, the Vatican (news - web sites) said, in its first public comment.

"Violence against people offends God himself, who made humans in his own image," the Vatican's foreign minister, Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, said in a pre-recorded television interview due to be broadcast later on Friday.

Lots of stuff that people do every day offends God, so this is hardly news. You steal? You lie? You offend "God himself". So what's the Vatican's agenda?
Lajolo said he hoped Iraq (news - web sites) would regain its independence and sovereignty as soon as possible, that the country would be led by "a competent Iraqi leader, recognized as such by the people", and that the United Nations (news - web sites) would be given "a defining role" in the oil-rich country.

He said he was optimistic that the return to Iraq on Thursday of UN special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi meant the UN could soon assume that role.

Right, it's definitely time to put Kofi Annan et al back in charge of Iraq's oil.
"The pope had reasons for denouncing the idea of a preventive war and it is clear that this war has not done away with terrorism," he said.
Uh, yeah... terrorism still exists. We're working on it!

Fortunately, the American people in general aren't as quick to worship at the altar of lip-biting apologies as the Administration, the media, and most of the blogosphere. An ABC poll shows that most Americans don't think the abuse is a big deal.

Most Americans express dismay about the abuse of Iraqi detainees by U.S. soldiers, and the nation divides on whether the Bush administration sought at first to investigate the scandal — or to cover it up.
Right, the Administration tried to cover it up by issuing a report about it four months ago. Or maybe the media is just trying to give that impression.
Three-quarters of the public are closely following the story, a level of attention reserved for some of the most gripping news events.
Translation: whatever the media decides is "gripping" and then reports on 24/7.
Two-thirds favor criminal charges against the soldiers involved; fewer — but still a majority — 54 percent, say punishment should go up the chain of command to higher-level officers who allowed a breakdown of training and discipline.
That's all?! Those numbers would be high for a presidential popularity poll, but they're remarkably low for a question about punishing obvious criminals.
Still, given current knowledge, most say the buck should stop before it gets to Rumsfeld. Twenty percent in this ABCNEWS/Washington Post poll say he should resign, while many more, 69 percent, say he should retain his position. Even most Democrats — hardly the administration's fondest fans — say Rumsfeld should stay.
The the pollsters didn't ask about the future of the media. Critics have accused the mainstream press of creating this scandal themselves for the purpose of hurting the Republicans in the upcoming election.

James Joyner says it best. (HT: Donald Sensing.)

Allah is on the right track, too.

One reason I like my job.

Is it just me, or does most of the "outrage" over the abuse of Iraqi prisoners look almost completely feigned? From every side of the political spectrum, from reporters to politicians to bloggers, everyone acts shocked and appalled. Am I alone in thinking that, although the abuse shouldn't have happened, it's just not that big of a deal?

I mean, some pictures were taken of unclothed prisoners, and some prisoners were threatened with mild forms of torture. They weren't actually tortured, were they? Maybe I just haven't been following the story closely enough. I've heard some reports that some prisoners were murdered, but are those incidents related to the photos currently circulating, or are they completely different?

Look, prisons aren't nice places to be. Even prisons here in America are far more brutal than they should be, in all the wrong ways. Prison shouldn't be pleasant, but prisoners shouldn't be subject to rape and torture by as a matter of course, either. As I've written before, other forms of punishment would probably be cheaper, more humane, and more effective than prison. The whole prison paradigm needs to be re-examined, in my opinion. If you think the abuse in Iraq is unusual or outstanding, you need to get more familiar with prisons in general, in America and elsewhere. The only interesting feature here is that these idiots took pictures of their crimes.

I'm going to save my outrage for more important matters. This is small potatoes, not a matter for the President or his cabinet to worry about. Let the system work, or even better, revamp the system. In my opinion, this just isn't news; it's a high-profile example of a widespread, low-level problem.

Some commenters think I'm out of line here, but c'mon -- the Pentagon issued a report about these incidents in January. The only reason this is news now is because the media is hyping it. We need to get these guys and punish them, but the public humilation and self-flagellation by the President and Rumsfeld et al is just playing into the hands of the anti-Americans. It should have been enough for some colonel to say "we're aware of the situation, it's terrible, and we're dealing with it in the standard fashion."

Women tend to look for husbands who resemble their dads, according to some researchers in Hungary. That's pretty much conventional wisdom, and not particularly surprising. The reason I point out the article is because there are two strange assertions that are unsupported, and strike me as false.

Husbands and wives have long been suggested to look alike and this is known to occur in many animal species. Couples that look like each other are also more likely to share common genes, and having a degree of similarity is believed to beneficial. ...

"One good possibility is that there are some fortuitous genetic combinations which are retained in the offspring if both parents are similar," he says. "In humans there is evidence to show a lower rate of miscarriage."

However, he points out that there is a balance between the benefits of marrying someone genetically close and the harmful effects of inbreeding. "There seems to be an ideal balance, maybe around the first or second cousin point."

First cousins are generally too closely related to intermarry without a significant chance of accumulated genetic defects. Single instances of first-cousin marriage in a family will likely be just fine, but if the practice is carried on over generations the line will be severely weakened. There is a lot of evidence to support the notion that mating between widely different genomes leads to more robust children.
Imprinting is a fast, instinctive form of learning, perhaps best known from the phenomenon in which newborn ducklings bond with the first object they see.

To test whether women use imprinting to base their marital choices on the appearance of their fathers, the researchers took 26 adoptive families and examined how alike various family members looked. Using adoptive families meant inherited preferences could be ruled out. ...

The second showed a photo of the adoptive father as he would have looked when his daughter was between two and eight years of age, and the possible husbands. The third set showed the adoptive mother and the four possible husbands.

Imprinting is generally considered to be a myth among humans. Ducks appear to imprint, but human babies do not. Until around 6 months of age, babies probably can't distinguish one adult from another, and most don't get fussy about who holds them until 12 months of age or older. Human children certainly do become attached to their parents, but not via "imprinting".
An "unexpected" finding, says Weisfeld, was that fathers who were judged by their daughters to have showed the most emotional warmth were much more likely to have son-in-laws who looked like them.
This result undermines the above argument that women tend to select mates who look like their fathers because there's a benefit to marrying close genetic relatives. It's much more likely that this affinity is almost entirely environmental, and that women who had good relationships with their fathers will look for similar behaviors in their husbands.

Furthermore, doesn't it seem likely that men who have good relationships with their daughters will all share similar qualities? Isn't it likely that most women, regardless of their fathers, look for pretty much the same qualities in men? Those women with fathers who also possess those good qualities can be seen to be looking for the same things in mates, but really, that similarity is an effect of what most women want, not a cause of what any particular woman wants.

(HT: GeekPress.)

No human really has any idea how intelligence works or what it is, but when most people see another human we know that they're an intelligent agent, just like we are. Even if you believe in strong AI, it's not at all clear how to distinguish real intelligence from mechanical imitations, other than the "I know it when I see it" approach we all rely on to recognize fellow humans.

But not everyone. One of the differences between psychopaths, autists, and regular people is that the former two groups can't project their emotions onto others -- they have no empathy. If you ever speak to a person with autism you'll notice that they may pay attention for a little while, and then just wander off without a word. Often, autists will just sit alone in the corner, silently, completely isolated from the rest of humanity. The reason for this behavior is that they are alone, no matter how many other people are around them. Depending on the degree of autism, autists don't identify with other humans or recognize them as fellow intelligences. To an autist, having a conversation is like watching TV: they aren't "interacting" with you. To them, you're no different than a ball or an elephant or a TV character, and if they get bored they just walk away.

Psychopaths are different, and generally much more "functional". They usually realize that the other humans around them are rational creatures, but they still don't identify with them. Psychopaths view other humans like unpredictable animals. Psychopaths may be violent and dangerous, but even when they're not it's impossible to build a relationship with a psychopath; in his mental model you're not the same type of being that he is.

I give these two examples to help explain to you just how different the thought processes of statistical outliers can be. It took me a long time to realize that most people don't think in the same way I do, using the same types mental models and the same decision-making processes. I suspect from what I've read that I share some mental characteristics with Steven Den Beste as far as holistic ("Emphasizing the importance of the whole and the interdependence of its parts.") reasoning and distain for irrelevant details, and I imagine these qualities are present in greater to lesser degrees in all successful engineers. The differences between us and "normal" humans aren't as dramatic as those between normals and autists or psychopaths, but they do lead to frequent misunderstandings and occassionally awkward personal interactions.

Once I realized that most people think differently than me I started learning how to emulate normal behavior, and I think I'm getting pretty good at it. It may sound pretentious or odd to say that I'm often forced to feign interest in the topics of conversation my friends enjoy, but that's not the way I see it.

For example, I wish I did enjoy music and sports, but for the most part I don't. I haven't bought a music CD in over a decade, and I never download music off the internet; I occasionally listen to music on the radio, but only when the talk radio stations go on their simultaneous commercial breaks. I enjoy the experience of going to a concert, but that's not about the music. I almost don't care at all what band is playing.

I rarely watch sports on TV or in person, but I enjoy playing them sometimes. I don't care about teams or athletes, but I follow the Lakers during the playoffs because everyone else in Los Angeles does and it's fun to participate in the conversations.

I don't "look down" on these things at all, I just don't really care about them. To me, they're unimportant, trivial details -- except insofar as knowing and caring about sports and music helps me build relationships with my friends, who I do care about a great deal. So I learn to emulate the thought processes of normal people, and try to act the right way in whatever situation I find myself.

I'd be lying if I said I wanted to be like everyone else. I don't. God made me the way I am, and I quite enjoy it. There are some downsides, but I imagine everyone sees some negatives that flow naturally from the positives they value about themselves. That's just how life is.

Better than Drudge: the new and improved Random Conspiracy Generator.

Another revealing position, via Charles Coleson (Brad's favorite author):

"I think abortion is killing a life. [But] the person who is pregnant should decide whether to do it or not." ...

Ms. Flores’s attitude is deeply troubling, especially when you realize how widespread it is. Over and over again, people at the march made similar comments—the kind of comments that make your hair stand on end. The political debate is changing among activists on the ground. They’re now willing to admit that abortion is killing. But they’re arguing that their right to do what they want, without restraint, justifies that killing.

What we are seeing, of course, is the logical consequences of the desire for personal autonomy in an era of moral relativism. People can say with a perfectly straight face and without a twinge of conscience, "Yeah, it is wrong. It is murder. But nobody is going to tell me I can’t do it."

As Donald Sensing notes: chilling.

As I've said many times before, as science and technology advance it will become impossible to deny that abortion ends a human life. For pro-abortionists, however, the power to abort is axiomatic; if the facts don't end up supporting their position then, the facts must be changed.

I think a computer architecture concept intended to reduce power consumption may also have a lot of potential for hardware-level artificial intelligence implementations.

Palem's team has designed a format for embedded chips that are capable of going with a hunch rather than performing painfully precise calculations. Early testing indicates that the chips can extend battery life and, as a bonus, may also enable mobile devices to run more complex applications, since an awful lot of time is currently wasted in churning out those exact calculations. ...

In conventional computer circuits, each single bit of information is represented by a 0 or a 1. This information is definite; a circuit is either on or off -- the answer is either yes or no.

But with Probabilistic Bits, or PBits, chips, a circuit can be "on" with a high degree of certainty, but not with 100 percent certainty, said Palem, whose team developed the PBits prototype.

"In the chips being built today, the hardware obeys the software instructions absolutely, even though the application software does not require such precision," said Palem. "So the simple idea that we have is to make the following connection: If probabilistic algorithms do not need the hardware to be reliable, then why invest a lot of money and time in making hardware reliable?"

A lot of computational power is used in AI to simulate probabalistic unreliability, but it would be pretty neat if we could get it built in on the hardware.

(HT: GeekPress.)

Not even yourself.

Authorities in the state of Washington say an Oklahoma man may have infected up to 170 people with HIV.

Anthony Whitfield is charged with 12 counts of sexual assault in addition to charges of witness tampering and violating no-contact orders. He pleaded not guilty to all of the charges. ...

A woman who had a relationship with Whitfield when he lived in Washington said he often talked his way into the lives of women who would give him sex, money and affection.

"There was just something about him ... that he had the ability to make you feel that you were really special and beautiful, and you were the only woman in the world to him," she said.

There are a ton of reasons why it's wise to be celibate outside the bounds of marriage, and this story illustrates two: there are plenty of people out there who will intentionally try to hurt you, and you can't tell who they are.

SDB has a great post about the three-way war between Empiricists, Idealists, and Islamists, and the only slight objection I have is his decision not to put quotes around the Idealists' use of the word "elegant". The URL of his post shows that he would probably agree with me in saying that the Idealists' worldview isn't, in fact, elegant at all, because it doesn't work.

To an engineer, an elegant solutions meets two criteria: it works, and it works as simply as possible. The socialism espoused by SDB's "Philisophical Idealists" isn't at all simple; every experiment with socialism has shown that the system eventually collapses under the weight of its own regulations (read: totalitarianism). People don't want to behave socialistically, so more and more laws are continually required to cluge the system and push total failure slightly farther into the future. That's the opposite of simplicity.

And, of course, every socialistic system eventually does fail.

Capitalism is both simple and effective, and thus far more elegant than socialism. Capitalism's effectiveness requires only a single: each person does whatever they want. Some regulation can be beneficial to prevent egregious violations of natural rights (however those rights are defined within the system, and assuming that the participants in the system agree that the preservation of rights is more important than efficiency), but in general few are needed. Each person will naturally attempt to maximize his ecoomic utility, and the emergent result will be a prosperous and efficient system. America's competitive capitalistic system isn't perfect, but most of its weaknesses are the results of flirtation with socialism.

Most engineers would agree with P-Idealists that elegant solutions do work, but that's because "it works" is part of our definition and only evaluated after the fact. It works, therefore it is (at least partly) elegant. To a P-Idealist, elegance is determined beforehand, and if it doesn't work then failure is most likely due to some conspiracy.

Abu Ghraib prison.

Commenter Phelps raises an interesting point in a comment to the recent post about politics and theology:

Perhaps I'm wrong (and someone will correct me) but hasn't the Catholic church always held thought as well as action to be within its domain? Haven't they always held the position that to think about something is the same as doing it?
I can't speak for the Catholic Church, but I can speak more generally to standard Christian theology.

To understand the question it's important to differentiate between two different actions that often both fall under the umbrella of "thought". Simply put, the main factor to consider is that some thoughts are voluntary and some are not. Voluntary thoughts that dwell on a particular evil are, themselves, evil; involuntary thoughts that speed through our minds before being rejected are not evil alone, but are temptations that may lead us to evil.

Consider the classic passage on the topic; Jesus raises the bar and teaches that keeping the letter of the law isn't sufficient for godliness:

Matthew 5:27-28

"You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

(Set aside the question of whether an unmarried person can commit "adultery" with another unmarried person.) The point Jesus is making is that it's not only our actions that are important, but also our thoughts and intentions. Good intentions cannot make up for evil acts (although they may, arguably, mitigate them), but bad intentions can certainly corrupt good actions.

Every man has inescapable moments of attraction to beautiful women he sees, but those moments on their own don't constitute "lust". Lust isn't the first glance; lust is when you turn your head to follow your eyes and imagine what it would be like to have sex with the woman you're watching. (This explanation will fit analogously to other sins, as well.)

One common misapplication of this principle is the thought that: "If lust is as bad as adultery, I may as well go all the way!" However, it should be clear that actual adultery will almost always have much more severe temporal consequences than will lust. Adultery destroys families and lives more easily and quickly than "mere" lust does. Both are equally wrong, but past commission of one does not excuse the other.

As a matter of public policy -- not morality -- does it seem beneficial to give official recognition and social benefits to relationships that are vastly more likely to fail than are heterosexual marriages (which already fail all-too-frequently)?

A new study of same-sex marriages and divorces in Sweden finds that married male couples were 50 percent more likely to divorce than married heterosexual couples; and lesbian couples were 167 percent more likely to divorce, compared with heterosexual couples over a similar period of time.

It looks like the vast majority of people John Kerry served with in Vietnam don't think he'd be a good president. Isn't this the type of bombshell that would have been more politically valuable in the week before the election?

John Kerry's former swift boat commanders and colleagues on Tuesday described the presumptive Democrat nominee as a self-absorbed and devious sailor during the Vietnam War who was there merely to advance a future political career. ...

More than 200 veterans have signed a letter from the group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth seeking the release of records. Retired Rear Adm. Roy Hoffmann commanded the swift boat force during Kerry's tour of duty.

"He arrived in country with a strong anti-Vietnam War bias and a self-serving determination to build a foundation for his political future," Hoffmann said. "He was aggressive, but vain and prone to impulsive judgment, often with disregard to specific tactical assignments. He was a loose cannon. ...

Another officer, retired Capt. Charley Plumly, said Kerry was under his command for two or three naval operations. He criticized Kerry's attitude and behavior.

"Kerry would be described as devious, self-absorbing, manipulative, disdain for authority, disruptive," Plumly said, "but the most common phrase you would hear [was] 'requires constant supervision.' "

Pretty damning. A true leader needs to be able to work well as a subordinate, and if Kerry's peers and superiors have such a negative impression of him I think it's pretty relevant.

As I wrote earlier, I just finished a manuscript for a short teen-ish book about monsters. If any of you are, or know of, a literary agent or editor who handles this type of work, I'd love to hear from you. Please leave a comment!

Eugene Volokh comments on white men who are attracted to Asian women, and I'd just like to point out some interesting statistics I found last year about interracial marriages.

A fascinating UPI story gives a bunch of statistics about interracial marriages from the 2000 US Census. The two biggest pieces of news are:

- African-American men had white wives 2.65 times more often than black women had white husbands. In other words, in 73 percent of black-white couples, the husband was black. For every 1,000 black women who were married, there were 1,059 black married men.

- Asian women had white husbands 3.08 times more often than Asian men had white wives. That means just over 75 percent of white-Asian couples featured a white husband and Asian wife. For every 1,000 Asian women with husbands, only 860 Asian men had wives.

The article goes on to discuss other statistics, but it never addresses the long term effects that these disparities will have on the US population. The overall racial (and mixed-racial) breakdown of the population won't be affected much, but any traits that are particularly strongly represented among black women or among Asian men will become diluted over the generations.

I agree with Mark Kleiman on the question of burning witches. Of course, there is one very good way to determine if someone is a witch: witches burn, and so does wood; wood floats on water, just as ducks do; so if she weighs as much as a duck, then she floats on water, and is made of wood, and thus certainly a witch.

Eugene Volokh has a bit about the Russian-language approach to friends and acquaintances, but I think English-speakers can be just as subtle.

One good indication that you're intellectually honest is when people who disagree with your philosophies agree with your analyses of others' philosophies. "Intellectual honesty" is, if you will, a meta-philosophy that attempts to prescribe how disagreements between belief systems should be evaluated and understood.

For example, I expect that phelps and I would disagree about a great many things, but he echos my analysis of Nancy Pelosi and her decision to continue taking Communion in spite of her church's objections. I can only quote a bit, since I try to keep swear words off my site as much as possible.

Pelosi, a San Francisco Democrat who was raised in a devout Italian Catholic home, told reporters, "I believe that my position on choice is one that is consistent with my Catholic upbringing, which said that every person has a free will and has the responsibility to live their lives in a way that they would have to account for in the end."
Right. The people who use the free will in a way that the church doesn't agree with are called SINNERS. People who publicly continue to sin are denied Communion. That is how it works. ...

"I want to keep supporting what my church considers to be a mortal sin, but I still want to be in good standing in my church. I'm a Very Important Politician, so gimme what I want, or I'll... uh... keep sinning like I was going to anyway."

I finished my first book this weekend and I'm hoping to get some people to read it this week. I'm sure I'll do some editing still, but the main trust of the work is done. It's just a short book about monsters for kids, but I think it's pretty good. Let's see what happens now....

From a NYT article about Kerry's floundering campaign:

At a recent meeting of senior staff members, Democrats said, Mr. Kerry's aides became entangled in a lengthy debate over what might seem to be a less than urgent issue: whether they should send a Democratic operative to Bush rallies dressed as Pinocchio, a chicken or a mule, to illustrate various lines of attacks Democrats want to use against Mr. Bush. (They say they want to portray him as a liar, a draft avoider and stubborn.)
If a Democrat political operative were to do that, they'd probably be mostly ignored by everyone except the media.

But try to imagine a Republican operative doing something similar at this rally... they'd be torn to shreds.

Looks like President Bush is trying to undo another one of his father's mistakes.

Supreme Court Justice David Souter suffered minor injuries when a group of young men assaulted him as he jogged on a city street, a court spokeswoman said Saturday.

The attack occurred about 9 p.m. Friday, court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said.

Some Democrats question the President's efforts to appoint a new Supreme Court Justice as "preemptive".

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