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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Never ending war continues to never end.

So are we winning or not?

The enemy has not lost the desire or capability to attack us. --- Bush SOTU 2006
What no progress yet?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Loathsome Much?

Over at the Liberal Avenger there was a post about The Beast's 50 Most Loathsome People in America, 2005

A few of my favorites are... Continue reading the post...

34. Scooter Libby

Charges: Known as “germ boy” within the administration for his obsession with creating panic over biological warfare in order to facilitate huge government vaccine purchases and alter markets to the benefit of big pharmaceutical industry stock holders like Rumsfeld, George Shultz and himself. Sound familiar? A high-level fall guy, responsible for leaking what was in the interest of profit, not leaking what wasn’t, and barking on cue to produce the noise of governance without the drawbacks of actual governance.

Exhibit A: “The Aspens turn in clusters,” or something.

Sentence: Raped by bear.

15. Karl Rove

Charges: A greasy pig whose only distinction in life is his total lack of decency. Rove is decidedly not a genius; he is simply missing the part of his soul that prevents the rest of us from kicking elderly women in the face. His admirers have elevated fanatical, amoral ambition to the status of a virtue, along with lying, cheating, and negligent homicide, all in the name of “values.” Quite possibly the worst person in the worst White House in American history.

Exhibit A: “As people do better, they start voting like Republicans - unless they have too much education and vote Democratic, which proves there can be too much of a good thing.”

Sentence: Lowered head first into oil refinery smokestack.


13. God

Charges: If your answer to the age-old question of God’s existence is “yes,” your next question should be, “Why is he such a dick?” After three major natural disasters, not to mention the eternal constants of famine, war and disease, to believe in God is to believe either that He enjoys fucking with us, or at best has totally lost interest in the whole “people” thing. Never calls anymore.

Exhibit A: Mosquitoes, Ralph Reed.

Sentence: Forever listening to an unending stream of idiotic, mundane prayers uttered by the dumbest, most inarticulate people in His creation.


Saturday, January 21, 2006

Ah those ol' Terror Alerts

Whenever there is talk of "Terror Alerts" I think back to September 30th 2004.


Saturday, January 14, 2006

Truth is only the Truth of the Party

We sit here watching as America is pulled further and further into an abyss of it's own apathic creation. The vapid and vanity driven society we have created has turned most Americans into spongy automatons capable of believing anything BushCo tells them. Believing not because of logic or the real truth involved but rather because of messenger repetition. For BushCo truth is subjectively relative while at the same time portrayed as absolute and objective. For the past 5 years we have been constantly told what to believe, talking point after talking point and plenty have followed, shuffling in shackled lockstep with whatever the party line is at the time. Fix the facts to fit the belief - never mind if it doesn't make sense, "sense" is subjective to the Party's objectivity.

"Who controls the present controls the past,"' said O'Brien, nodding his head with slow approval. ...


... We, the Party, control all records, and we control all memories. Then we control the past, do we not?'

'But how can you stop people remembering things?' cried Winston again momentarily forgetting the dial. 'It is involuntary. It is outside oneself. How can you control memory? You have not controlled mine!'

O'Brien's manner grew stern again. He laid his hand on the dial.

'On the contrary,' he said, 'you have not controlled it. That is what has brought you here. You are here because you have failed in humility, in self-discipline. You would not make the act of submission which is the price of sanity. You preferred to be a lunatic, a minority of one. Only the disciplined mind can see reality, Winston. You believe that reality is something objective, external, existing in its own right. You also believe that the nature of reality is self-evident. When you delude yourself into thinking that you see something, you assume that everyone else sees the same thing as you. But I tell you, Winston, that reality is not external. Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else. Not in the individual mind, which can make mistakes, and in any case soon perishes: only in the mind of the Party, which is collective and immortal. Whatever the Party holds to be the truth, is truth. It is impossible to see reality except by looking through the eyes of the Party. That is the fact that you have got to relearn, Winston. It needs an act of self-destruction, an effort of the will. You must humble yourself before you can become sane.' --- Orwell 1984

Monday, January 02, 2006

Too many Memes

That question sure has a lot of great stuff.. here's another by one of my favorite Philosophers

Philosopher; University Professor, Co-Director, Center for Cognitive Studies, Tufts University; Author, Darwin's Dangerous Idea

There aren't enough minds to house the population explosion of memes

Ideas can be dangerous. Darwin had one, for instance. We hold all sorts of inventors and other innovators responsible for assaying, in advance, the environmental impact of their creations, and since ideas can have huge environmental impacts, I see no reason to exempt us thinkers from the responsibility of quarantining any deadly ideas we may happen to come across. So if I found what I took to be such a dangerous idea, I would button my lip until I could find some way of preparing the ground for its safe expression. I expect that others who are replying to this year's Edge question have engaged in similar reflections and arrived at the same policy. If so, then some people may be pulling their punches with their replies. The really dangerous ideas they are keeping to themselves.

But here is an unsettling idea that is bound to be true in one version or another, and so far as I can see, it won't hurt to publicize it more. It might well help.

The human population is still growing, but at nowhere near the rate that the population of memes is growing. There is competition for the limited space in human brains for memes, and something has to give. Thanks to our incessant and often technically brilliant efforts, and our apparently insatiable appetites for novelty, we have created an explosively growing flood of information, in all media, on all topics, in every genre. Now either (1) we will drown in this flood of information, or (2) we won't drown in it. Both alternatives are deeply disturbing. What do I mean by drowning? I mean that we will become psychologically overwhelmed, unable to cope, victimized by the glut and unable to make life-enhancing decisions in the face of an unimaginable surfeit. (I recall the brilliant scene in the film of Evelyn Waugh's dark comedy The Loved One in which embalmer Mr. Joyboy's gluttonous mother is found sprawled on the kitchen floor, helplessly wallowing in the bounty that has spilled from a capsized refrigerator.) We will be lost in the maze, preyed upon by whatever clever forces find ways of pumping money–or simply further memetic replications–out of our situation. (In The War of the Worlds, H. G. Wells sees that it might well be our germs, not our high-tech military contraptions, that subdue our alien invaders. Similarly, might our own minds succumb not to the devious manipulations of evil brainwashers and propagandists, but to nothing more than a swarm of irresistible ditties, Noφs nibbled to death by slogans and one-liners?)

If we don't drown, how will we cope? If we somehow learn to swim in the rising tide of the infosphere, that will entail that we–that is to say, our grandchildren and their grandchildren–become very very different from our recent ancestors. What will "we" be like? (Some years ago, Doug Hofstadter wrote a wonderful piece, " In 2093, Just Who Will Be We?" in which he imagines robots being created to have "human" values, robots that gradually take over the social roles of our biological descendants, who become stupider and less concerned with the things we value. If we could secure the welfare of just one of these groups, our children or our brainchildren, which group would we care about the most, with which group would we identify?)

Whether "we" are mammals or robots in the not so distant future, what will we know and what will we have forgotten forever, as our previously shared intentional objects recede in the churning wake of the great ship that floats on this sea and charges into the future propelled by jets of newly packaged information? What will happen to our cultural landmarks? Presumably our descendants will all still recognize a few reference points (the pyramids of Egypt, arithmetic, the Bible, Paris, Shakespeare, Einstein, Bach . . . ) but as wave after wave of novelty passes over them, what will they lose sight of? The Beatles are truly wonderful, but if their cultural immortality is to be purchased by the loss of such minor 20th century figures as Billie Holiday, Igor Stravinsky, and Georges Brassens [who he?], what will remain of our shared understanding?

The intergenerational mismatches that we all experience in macroscopic versions (great-grandpa's joke falls on deaf ears, because nobody else in the room knows that Nixon's wife was named "Pat") will presumably be multiplied to the point where much of the raw information that we have piled in our digital storehouses is simply incomprehensible to everyone–except that we will have created phalanxes of "smart" Rosetta-stones of one sort or another that can "translate" the alien material into something we (think maybe we) understand. I suspect we hugely underestimate the importance (to our sense of cognitive security) of our regular participation in the four-dimensional human fabric of mutual understanding, with its reassuring moments of shared–and seen to be shared, and seen to be seen to be shared–comprehension.

What will happen to common knowledge in the future? I do think our ancestors had it easy: aside from all the juicy bits of unshared gossip and some proprietary trade secrets and the like, people all knew pretty much the same things, and knew that they knew the same things. There just wasn't that much to know. Won't people be able to create and exploit illusions of common knowledge in the future, virtual worlds in which people only think they are in touch with their cyber-neighbors?

I see small-scale projects that might protect us to some degree, if they are done wisely. Think of all the work published in academic journals before, say, 1990 that is in danger of becoming practically invisible to later researchers because it can't be found on-line with a good search engine. Just scanning it all and hence making it "available" is not the solution. There is too much of it. But we could start projects in which (virtual) communities of retired researchers who still have their wits about them and who know particular literatures well could brainstorm amongst themselves, using their pooled experience to elevate the forgotten gems, rendering them accessible to the next generation of researchers. This sort of activity has in the past been seen to be a stodgy sort of scholarship, fine for classicists and historians, but not fit work for cutting-edge scientists and the like. I think we should try to shift this imagery and help people recognize the importance of providing for each other this sort of pathfinding through the forests of information. It's a drop in the bucket, but perhaps if we all start thinking about conservation of valuable mind-space, we can save ourselves (our descendants) from informational collapse.

Alone.. not so bad really

Via The Edge Annual Question — 2006


We are entirely alone

Living creatures capable of reflecting on their own existence are a one-off, freak accident, existing for one brief moment in the history of the universe. There may be life elsewhere in the universe, but it does not have self-reflective consciousness. There is no God; no Intelligent Designer; no higher purpose to our lives.

Personally, I have never found this possibility particularly troubling, but my experience has been that most people go to considerable lengths to convince themselves that it is otherwise.

I think that many people find the suggestion dangerous because they see it as leading to a life devoid of meaning or moral values. They see it as a suggestion full of despair, an idea that makes our lives seem pointless. I believe that the opposite is the case. As the product of that unique, freak accident, finding ourselves able to reflect on and enjoy our conscious existence, the very unlikeliness and uniqueness of our situation surely makes us highly appreciative of what we have. ...continue reading

(ht Sirk)

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year

Woo hoo... Party time ... excellent...

Got a hangover this morning....?


How hung over are you?

See The Hangover Rating Guide.