Saturday, April 14, 2007


A Civility Article

Read it here.


Civility: The New Virtue

The O'Reilly article and Imus incident both point to a desire for civility in America public discourse. Two points are hard to make into a trend. Lets hope.

The culture has changed since Imus started in radio. White straight men don't control everything any more, and they don't get to set the rules for public discourse with the same finality they once did. What we've seen here is, I think, a genuine reflection of the new American mainstream. Most Americans simply find the spectacle of a rich white bigot beating up on young black female achievers after a crushing tournament loss to be gratuitously cruel and unfair. Punishing someone for calling college women "whores" - especially those who have beaten the odds and are role models for other back girls and women - is not a new step in political correctness. It's applying a very old American standard of fairness and decency, which now applies to all Americans, regardless of race or gender. This was the voice of mainstream America speaking. It's not what it once was. I wonder whether many of Imus's buddies realize that yet.



The admission of need for something called a Bloggers Code of Conduct is about more than just the Web. The deeper import of what may be happening here should be evident in Mr. O'Reilly's remark, which was the final sentence in a long New York Times article on the subject last Sunday: 'Free speech is enhanced by civility.' It is difficult for me to imagine a more revolutionary sentence. One might call it 'subversive.' 'Free speech is enhanced by civility.' The revolution comes at the end of that sentence. Free speech we know about. Civility we have forgotten. Ask Don Imus.

Daniel Henninger


Thursday, April 12, 2007


Why We Fight

PZ Myers has a reaction up to the fact that a school board has dropped the teaching of the holocaust to avoid offending Muslims. He sees this as part of a larger issue. The money quote is below:

this struggle in which we're engaged is more than a fight against a few specific clowns — it's for a broader ideal of striving towards a truth, against those who want to twist perception of reality to support short-sighted, selfish, and silly beliefs. It's not just science, it's history, politics, culture. If you side with the primacy of faith over reason in science, there is a long list of other virtues you will also be sacrificing on your altar.

I am a fair bit more "live and let live" then Myers is, but I agree with the principle.


Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Why Bruce Lee is Great

A poll in Japan placed Bruce Lee in the top 100 people of all time. Andrew Su;;ivan comment on this and some his readers responded with derision. Then this response came. From this take, the idea is much more reasonable.

Your reader's remark about Bruce Lee not being worthy of the top 100 list is very Western-centric. Beyond just being a martial artist, many Asians (largely Chinese) see Lee as the first propagator of Chinese values and worldviews in the Western world (unlike most Western films like 'Breakfast at Tiffany's", or even the TV show 'Kung Fu' which Lee was turned down for over the white David Carradine). Lee was the first cultural missionary-hero to millions in the East, not just the cultural artifact we in the West see him as.

You might also read one of his books for more insight into this amazing man. Chuck Norris makes foolish videos about how evolution shouldn't be taught in the classroom, while Bruce Lee graduated with honors with a degree in Western philosophy, and injected a great deal of his writings on martial arts with both Eastern and Western philisophical concepts. Don't forget that martial arts is not just a mess of punches and kicks - there's a much deeper aspect to it.

Finally, for what he is known to most of the world: martial arts. Lee revolutionized hundreds of years of martial arts beliefs in a single lifetime. He broke free from the forms of Wing Chun and provided martial freedom in Jeet Kune Do. In a sense, he invented martial pragmatism.



All great religions, in order to escape absurdity, have to admit a dilution of agnosticism. It is only the savage, whether of the African bush or the American gospel tent, who pretends to know the will and intent of God exactly and completely. "For who hath known the mind of the Lord?" asked Paul of the Romans. "How unsearchable are His judgments, and His was past finding out." "It is the glory of God," said Solomon, "to conceal a thing." "Clouds and darkness," said David, "are around Him." "No man," said the Preacher, "can find out the work of God." ... The difference between religions is a difference in their relative content of agnosticism. The most satisfying and ecstatic faith is almost purely agnostic. It trusts absolutely without professing to know at all.

H. L. Mencken


Tuesday, April 10, 2007


Republicans are Scared of Women

This article points out how much the authoritarian male fears women of power. A telling quote below:

The most confrontational part of the day came when Gore was being questioned by Oklahoma senator, famed global warming skeptic and former chairman of the environment committee James Inhofe, in a battle of wits that was not exactly an equal match. Inhofe had trouble getting Gore to answer questions the way he wanted to, and kept interrupting him and complaining about the limited time he was given.

After some back and forth between Inhofe and Gore, the new chair of the committee, Barbara Boxer of California, put a hand on Inhofe's arm and said, "I want to talk to you a minute, please." After Boxer suggested that Inhofe give Gore the time to answer his questions, Inhofe replied, "Why don't we do this: at the end, you [Gore] can have as much time as you want to answer all the questions..." Boxer then interrupted: "No, that isn't the rule. You're not making the rules. You used to when you did this," she said, holding up the chair's gavel. "Elections have consequences. So I make the rules."

Boxer spoke with appropriate authority: not angry, not loud but unmistakably firm. There was no doubt who was in charge in that room. You could almost see the steam coming out of Inhofe's ears, not only because he had been deprived of his power, but because he was deprived of it by a woman. She even held up the gavel, the symbol of that power, and practically taunted him with it. Freud couldn't have scripted it much better.



I found this rant on Cathie's blog which was quoted by some from some else and so on. Just enjoy:
On the other hand, one of the better things about our recent crop of teeth-gnashingly conservative politicians is a direct result of this omnipresent narcissism: when they finally implode, they do it in style. Tom DeLay compares his plight to that of the Holocaust, thereby Godwining himself smartly over in the corner where nobody's even been watching. Hastert and the entire Republican Majority vanished not just because of their complete inaction on the steadily disintegrating Iraq War, but when they weren't willing to take even trivial steps to stop one of their own from attempted child buggery. Libby goes and gets himself indicted and then convicted simply because the White House hates critics with such a McCarthyite passion that they can't not attempt to punish them. Gonzales has the entire Justice Department melting around his ears, and appears to be in no position to do a damn thing about it. Conservative shock pundits like Savage or O'Reilly or Little Annie Coulter have taken to immolating themselves for any tiny shreds of self-absorbed publicity. Gingrich -- oh, sweet Heaven, Newt Gingrich himself! -- went supernova long ago, but now is back as conservative white dwarf star: insignificant in the national landscape, but still burning bright as legend in his own mind. And he even packed a sack lunch of old scandals for us to all share, as if in recognition that you can't be a nationally known conservative these days without a display of truly spectacular immorality and sordid personal baggage.


Why Vimy

Vimy Ridge is the national millitary story for Canada. But most Canadian don't know why. This article will explain it for you.


Malkin Spins so Hard Her Head Hurts

"Judge rejects Padilla torture argument," - a Michelle Malkin post today.

"U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke stressed in a 12-page order filed late Monday that she was not passing judgment on the torture allegations. Rather, she said the effort to dismiss the case for 'outrageous government conduct' was faulty on legal grounds," - the second paragraph of the AP story Malkin was linking to.

From Andrew Sullivan.


Hippy Islam

This article proves that chemically assisted peace is not just a western phenomenon:

The issue of substance abuse, intoxicants and Islam rose to the Turkish media's attention recently when police carried out a raid on the home of private citizen Nazif Kamil Orde in Istanbul for the benefit of current-affairs documentary program Arena. They smashed their way into the home of the man newspapers have nicknamed "the junkie teacher" - Esrarc Hoca - a self-styled imam who interspersed his lessons on Islamic philosophy with some strong tokes on a lit joint and encouraged the young followers sitting around his living room to do likewise. He extolled the virtues of cannabis and said no one could make him stop - smoking was his duty to God.

The headlines screamed "A joint in one hand, the Koran in the other", and more than 32,000 people have watched the video clip of him being arrested broadcast via the Web on Hurriyet Video. Esrarc Hoca's behavior has largely been interpreted as the actions of a drug pusher trying to drum up business, and he has made himself somewhat of a joke to serious media pundits with such over-the-top statements as "My child will learn to roll joints and smoke at the age of six," "How can you outlaw weed? God orders us to smoke it," and "Friends, you can't take away the gun on a Muslim's belt, the horse beneath him or the joint in his hand."


Monday, April 09, 2007


Law and Hockey

Toronto, Ontario - A seven year old boy was at the centre of a Toronto courtroom drama yesterday when he challenged a court ruling over who should have custody of him. The boy has a history of being beaten by his parents and the judge initially awarded custody to his aunt, in keeping with the child custody law and regulations requiring that family unity be maintained to the degree possible.

The boy surprised the court when he proclaimed that his aunt beat him more than his parents and he adamantly refused to live with her. When the judge suggested that he live with his grandparents, the boy cried out that they also beat him. After considering the remainder of the immediate family and learning that domestic violence was apparently a way of life among them, the judge took the unprecedented step of allowing the boy to propose who should have custody of him.

After two recesses to check legal references and confer with child welfare officials, the judge granted temporary custody to the Toronto Maple Leafs, whom the boy firmly believes are not capable of beating anyone.

I am not a big sports fan but I have lived in Toronto enough to enjoy this joke




A year ago my approval rating was in the 30s, my nominee for the Supreme Court had just withdrawn, and my vice president had shot someone," President Bush said Wednesday night during the annual gathering.

"Ah," he said, "those were the good ol' days.

George Bush


Internal Fight Over Torture

"No. 1, it’s not going to work, No. 2, if it does work, it’s not reliable. No. 3, it may not be legal, ethical or moral. No. 4, it’s going to hurt you when you have to prosecute these guys. No. 5, sooner or later, all of this stuff is going to come to light, and you’re going to be embarrassed."

Col. Brittain P. Mallow

Read about the fight in Gitmo against torture.


A Quote, A Blogstorm and My Thoughts

That is one of the mistakes a lot of people make — believing that uncensored speech is the most free, when in fact, managed civil dialogue is actually the freer speech. Free speech is enhanced by civility
Tim O'Reilly via Andrew Sullivan.

This quote is a lovely example of an interconnected story. The O'Reilly article is about a code of conduct that Tim O'Reilly (the definition of internet guru) and Jimmy Wale (founder of wikipedia) have created and are trying to promote.

Now this code is in response, in part, to the incident involving Kathy Sierra. Kathy Sierra is a tech writer and blogger that has received death threats due to the fact that she has deleted offensive, obnoxious and abuse comments from her website. I had noticed the Sierra incident on Ornicus.

Well, Andrew Sullivan is hardcore pro-free-speech, and he saw the above article quoting O'Reilly and decided to fire off a shot. Sullivan didn't seem to realize that he was taking a aim at one of the most revered figures in techie portion of the internet. He has been on the receiving end of quite the blogstorm. He has posted some of the responses so far (here and here).

The thing is both O'Reilly and Sullivan are making correct points. Sullivan is correct in observing that free speech doesn't exist when there is censorship. O'Reilly is correct in his observation that censorship can be imposed through intimidation without the participation of authority. O'Reilly's code of conduct is an attempt to frame when it is permissible to censor so as to limit the effectiveness of intimidation. I suspect that O'Reilly has thought this one through more then Sullivan has, however Sullivan's point is very important and should not be dismissed.


Russia Would Want an American-Iranian War

Short answer: $200 a barrel oil

Edit: The unofficial Politburo of the new Russia is filled with ex communist oilmen. These people realize Russia's main source of strength is oil. High oil prices only serves to increase Russia's power.

The Russia leadership would like to gain control of the Russian border states (also called the near abroad). These are Russia's traditional sphere of influence and Russia keenly feels the loss of influence in this region.

A war between America and Iran would almost certainly lead to Iranian missile and terrorist attacks on the oil facilities in the Arabian peninsula. As well Iran would probably also be able to stop shipping through the Straits of Hormuz. These attack could easily result in oil prices of $200 to $300 a barrel (Much higher if America begins to suffer hyperinflation*).

Oil wealth would give Russia economic leverage to begin to get control of its near abroad and counter Russia's perceived humiliation at the hands of the West.

Russia also knows the America and Israel do not want to see Iran develop nuclear weapons. America's influence in the region would be greatly curbed. Israel, however, would face an existential threat. A small number of nuclear weapons delivered by rocket from Iran's Hezbollah allies could physically destroy Israel (a plain of radioactive glass) with Israel beening able to mount a successful counter attack (due to the short flight time of the incoming missiles. Israel might only have minutes to react). As such Israel could be forced into a war with Iran to insure its own existence.

Not pretty, I know.

* China is very dependent on imported oil. China also has about a trillion US dollars in the bank. I would expect China to use this money to get oil in the event of such an oil crisis. These would lead to a flood of US dollars on the market oversaturating supply and creating a scenario ripe for hyperinflation.

And Japan has about the same amount of money and is more dependent on oil imports then China is.


Is Peak Oil Here?

Is this the year that peak oil arrives? One expert says yes and backs it up with facts.
The EIA projects that all the world's oil producers will increase their oil production hugely by 2030. They see Saudi Arabia shooting up to 17.1 million barrels a day when, in fact, Saudi production fell 7 percent just over the past year alone to 8.4 mm/b/d. They see Mexico shooting way up, despite the announcement last year by Pemex that the Cantarell field (60 percent of Mexico's total production) is crashing at a minimum rate of 15 percent a year. They see Russia zooming way up, despite the fact that Russia is probably past the 70 percent mark of its original total reserves.
Scary thoughts.

Peak oil has a bright side. It will make renewable energy much more economical and put us a long way down the road to solving the problem of climate change.


The Pope Has a Choice

Kevin Dowling is the Roman Catholic bishop of the diocese of Rustenberg in South Africa. He is forcing the pope to make a choice between humanity and authority.

Dowling is the Bishop over a community called Freedom Park. It is a migrant worker town supplying the nearby platinum mines with labour. The men come for the work with moderately good pay. The women come because the men have money. Prostitution is ubiquitous. This environment is perfect for the spread of HIV.

Dowling has realized that he will not be able to build a culture of faithfulness any time soon and that HIV is an immediate problem. Therefore he is giving out condoms.

The official church condemns condoms as evil. Its doctrine would lead to thousands of needless deaths in Freedom Park and enable the massive spread of HIV as the migrant workers travel to other parts of Africa.

These leaves the Pope with a decision. Will he focus on the humanity of the people of Freedom Park and endorse Bishop Dowling's approach as the best for the community at this time? Or will Benedict choose to push the absoluteness of the church's position and authority?

My bet: Benedict goes for power over humanity and chooses to be complicit in the destruction of thousands of lives.

The article is here.


What does liberal mean?

One interesting quirk of the english language is how in North America liberal refers to someone on the social left, and in Continental Europe it means someone on the economic right. This is an example from Sweden.


Marching Powder

Marching Powder is a book about a prison in Ecuador. This link is to a slide show about the prison. Take your time to go through it. You will find it interesting.


Vive Les Nukes

I am not a big fan of nuclear energy. My attitude is best described by paraphrasing a famous Canadian quote:

Nuclear if necessary, but not necessarily nuclear.

Here is an article about the french nuclear industry.


Mount Chimborazo, Highest Place on Earth

"Did you know Mount Chimborazo is the highest place on Earth."

"What? Hey haven't you heard of this little place called Everest?"

"Yep, 29,000 ft above sea level, big mountain."

"And Chimborazo is 20,000 ft above sea level... ergo Everest is higher."


"29,000 is bigger then 20,000, unless you are smoking crack."

hides crack pipe

"The problem is sea level... its not level. It bulges out at the equator. If we took distance from the center of the earth then the results are different. Chimborazo is standing on a 1.5 mile high bulge which then makes it higher then Everest."



Super Cheap Solar Cells

If these numbers are right then we have a revolution on our hands:
Solar cell technology developed by the University’s Nanomaterials Research Centre will enable New Zealanders to generate electricity from sunlight at a 10th of the cost of current silicon-based photo-electric solar cells.
The problem with solar cells right now is the capital cost (Which is universally the problem with alternative energy and is a comment that will get people nodding with sagely in the right circles).

At 1/10th the current cost solar cells will be the cheapest source of power in almost all regions of the globe. In Toronto, you are currently looking at ~$0.30 per kWh for solar (and a market rate of $0.06 per kWh. At $0.03 per kWh solar will be the cheapest source of power in fucking Canada (okay, really southern Canada, but the point still stands). We have no source of power in this province that gets anywhere close to $0.03 per kWh. This is a big fucking deal. <Link>


Sunday, April 08, 2007


Canada and Small Government

Poll after poll has indicated that by and large Canadians support single payer health care and want it to work. They support action against climate change and want the government to actually do something. While they may be critical of inefficiencies in the delivery of services, they think the government has a role to play in delivering them. The reason Harper is tapdancing around the middle and trying to look like a moderate is precisely because he knows the majority of Canadians don't share his original ideological vision. <Link>


Men Don't Matter

Feministe pulls out her razor sharp wit and heads into the jungles of Wingnuttia. The results are beautiful.
On any given day, one isn’t likely to find common cause with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He’s a dangerous, lying, Holocaust-denying, Jew-hating cutthroat thug — not to put too fine a point on it.

But he was dead-on when he wondered why a once-great power such as Britain sends mothers of toddlers to fight its battles.

Sending fathers of toddlers to fight and die is apparently a-ok, because men really don’t matter, at least when it comes to parenting. Or dying.
And rest of the article is here.

Which reminds me, there is a growing meme in Christofascia that Iran "does some things right." It is hesitant idea, and it may only be subconscious but there are example of it (that I am too lazy to track down).


Gratutious Sex Related Post

A witty comeback... of course some targets involve fish and barrels


Terrorist Can't Be White

Little did the Burlington Township Police Department think that their scenario for a terrorist drill would lead to an explosion of madness lead by right wing screech hag* Michelle Malkin. Their alleged mistake: basing the scenario on an attack by a right-wing christofascist militia group. Apparently in Malkin's delusional fantasies terrorist can't be white. Please ignore Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing. Malkin's frothing incoherence is given appropriate smackdowns here, here and here.


GreenCamp Logo

I want to thank Ryan Thomas for making this cool logo for GreenCamp. It rocks.


Erlang Style Concurrency

This is just a good article covering the state of innovation in the computer industry and the development of computer science as an introduction to why a really cool programming language isn't used much, and it is amusing in a geeky kind of way


The View of Iran from Brazil

It is good to examine views from outside the metropole. Especially during times where the metropole is in decline. This article is a view of the Iranian hostage crisis v2.0 from Brazil.

The seizure of British sailors – and their surprising release – seemed to be Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s perfect publicity stunt. He caught the world’s attention, made them gasp and then suddenly offered a goodwill gesture, just before Christian Easter. The media has displayed his smiling photo with the happy British marines all over the world. The value of this image as a means to gain public appraisal is obvious. The whole episode is an undeniable master’s coup.

The clear lesson that the Bush Administration could learn from this affair is that to deal with this enemy, Washington should use more brain than muscle.

President Bush's policies for dealing with Teheran have systematically failed. The U.S.’s closest and oldest allies have hesitated to pursue the same strategy of isolating the Islamic Republic. Even the sanctions approved by the United Nations Security Council did not enjoy many followers in practice...

It is time for the United States to review Bush's policy of threatening regime change in countries that don’t get along with the State Department. It has never worked. In fact, Iran's government is stronger today than it was five years ago. The Islamic Republic no longer has to deal with hostility from neighboring Iraq, a country it faced on battlefields back when Saddam Hussein was considered a reliable ally by the U.S. government. Designation as friend or foe has always been a matter of convenience for the U.S. government, never a parameter for the improvement of global freedom and democracy. Just look at the absolutist monarchy in Saudi Arabia.


Silk Road v.2.0

China is rebuilding the silk road.

They have discovered that trading with their neighbours is useful are beginning an ambitious project. The main artery is called Asian Highway is described in a guardian article:

Asian Highway One, will stretch more than 3,000 miles from Urumqi in China's north-west region of Xinjiang to Istanbul in Turkey. Once completed in 2010, its route will take it through areas rich with untapped resources, including Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, and Mashhad in Iran. Eleven other roads will link Xinjiang to Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Pakistan, the report said, citing the transportation department of China's north-western territory of Xinjiang.



Coral Reefs Die When They are Out of Water

These people are standing on what was, until last week, an underwater coral reef. Then an Earthquake struck and raised their island tens of metres (I have seen a quote of 70 metres... I am not sure I buy that number). The picture is impressive. <Link>

The island's name is Ranongga. I found this island has a thermal area that the islanders use to cook at. A sure sign of a geologically active place.


Bitublock: Lego from Garbage

Bitublock are an experimental building material made from waste. They are six times stronger then concrete and cost the same. Unfortunately they are still in the experimental stage. No word about any leaching problems,


A Self Hating Jew

Gideon Levy has written an article explaining that Israel does not want peace. It is an interesting thesis. The short version: we would rather fight then give up the settlements.


A Global Labour Shortage?

This author argues that the increased supply of high skilled labour introduced by the integration of China, India, Russia, and Eastern Europe into the global economy is reaching full utilization.

Of course, if you are low-skilled or unskilled labour, you are still screwed.


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