Friday, February 25, 2005

Deploying Logic Against A Stupid Argument

One of the objections to the Iraq war I hear a lot is, "But Saddam was supported by the U.S. under Reagan." Similar arguments, of the form "Regime X was supported by Administration Y back in the day, so Administration Z is being hypocritical to try and take out X," seem to pop up all the time. This is, frankly, silly. It surprises me that theoretically rational people make this argument. Realizing the likely futility of the excercise, I will nevertheless attempt to use logic to refute this spurious argument:

At a time t1, Y is forced to hold its nose and do business with X (whom it finds abhorent,) usually because it has bigger fish to fry (another more dangerous regime, more pressing domestic problems, or any of a number of different situations.) At time t2, the bigger fish has been fried and Z is free to deal with X the way Y would have preferred to earlier on.

In other cases, at t1 Y does business with X because it thinks X is more benign than it in fact is. At t2, when it comes out that X has been up to some pretty nasty stuff, Z decides to correct the mistake of supporting X, either removing its support or removing X.

Now, we live in a democracy. I know it's hard for some people to understand this, but the whole point of a democracy is that the government can be changed, and in fact is changed on a regular basis. This means that there are different people in power. People who think differently. People who have different ideas ... different ideas about, oh, say, what regimes to support, what regimes to undermine, and what regimes to remove. If the actions of a new administration were to be bound entirely by the policies of previous administrations, there wouldn't be much point in holding elections.

I can understand this being confusing to foreign countries which are used to kings or presidentes-for-life. After all, they haven't substantially changed policy (at least, not since the last coups), so what's up with this constant western flux? What strikes me is that people who have grown up in a democracy don't seem to get this fundamental fact about democracies: that new governments are elected so that the bad policies of the old governments can be changed. Let me be very clear about this: this means that the policies change. I know, I know, it's hard to get your head around it. This whole democracy thing is pretty new, after all. I mean, it's only, oh, hundreds of years old, so I can see why some people have problems understanding the principle.

If someone takes a shit in your living room, and the cabinets need dusting, you clean up the shit first. But you don't then say, "Well, I chose not to dust the cabinets before. So I geuss I'll just never dust them, because that would be an inconsistent domestic policy and would make me look foolish in the eyes of my housemates." Or maybe you do decide not to dust the cabinets ... but if you do you're going to have one seriously dirty house after a while.

Nuclear Power is Un-natural!

Someones Feeding Scoobie Snacks to These Goddamn Animals!

Hunter S. Thompson meets Scoobie Doo. I can't do justice to this. Just go read it.

Regarding International Law

A thoughtful post over at Normblog. The essence of the article is that, while international law is something that we cannot afford to do without, at the same time it is hardly perfect, either. International 'law' that respects the rights of nation-state to torture its own citizens, commit genocide, and engage in other atrocities is no sort of law at all.

The article quotes extensively from an Atlantic Monthly piece, The Accuser, from March 2005. It describes in painful detail what Saddam and his Ba'athists did to the kurds, and others, in Iraq. Anyone who can read this and still defend an anti-war position needs to give their head a shake.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

A Digital Orange

The death penalty is immoral. So is imprisonment.

This wasn't always the case, but then, what is moral and what is not is often a function of what is technologically practical. Hundreds of years ago, when the resources did not yet exist to build and maintain prisoners for societies population of convicted criminals, the only viable options for dealing crime were the death penalty or public humiliation. We used to hang thieves, remember, and put people in the stocks for lesser crimes. We've lost the taste, as a society, for the latter, and the former has been abolished entirely in many societies, and in others is reserved for murderers.

Instead, we lock up our felons, taking away months, years, or decades of their lives. Is this right? In the past - even the near past - it was. Crime must be punished, after all. And yet, imprisonment is hardly an effective means of dealing with crime. It is expensive, for one thing. For another, it does not seem to achieve its stated aim of rehabilitation; some changes their ways, but many others only become hardened criminals. Granted, many of those locked up are sociopaths, and society must be protected from their predation. But what of those whose crimes are relatively minor? Who, had they not been brutalized by forced socialization with hardened criminals, might actually have been rehabilitated?

Things change fast, these days. The rapid advance of technology can render society almost unrecognizable to people who have known only the grey concrete walls of their prison cell for the last decade. How, one wonders, are these people meant to become productive members of society when their best years have been taken from them?

So here's my proposal, one which I imagine will shock, even disgust, some of you. It is unconventional, and it has never been tried because up until quite recently it was not even possible. But I believe the idea has merit, both in being a more effective method of crime prevention, and in being for more ethical.

The proposal is this: instead of putting the felon in jail, why not put the jail in the felon?

More specifically, why not implant interrupors in the nervous systems of convicted criminals? Four should suffice; one per limb. When activated, the interruptors - I call the system as a whole a nerve harness - would paralyze the individual. Guards would be assigned to watch the prisoner, 24/7, through surveillance systems that will likely be there anyways (at least, if David Brin's transparent society happens, as I think it will.) So long as the felon does nothing illegal, the guards would let him be. However, the instant he tries something - violence, theft, rape, what have you - he is paralyzed, and the police show up to cart him away.

A nerve harness would make it effectively impossible to commit a crime twice. A first conviction would result in the harness being implanted for a period depending on the severity of the crime. Two years for armed robbery, say, or twenty for murder. Every subsequent attempt to commit an illegal act would extend the term under the nerve harness. When the allotted time is up, the felon is set free (though would likely be kept under surveillance for a while, just in case.)

There are, of course, objections, some of which I have anticipated and will attempt to address.

1) Privacy: the system presupposes that the felon has no privacy at all while under the nerve harness, save perhaps when he is at home. All I can say to this is that felons in jail have very little privacy as it is, and in far less congenial conditions.

2) Security: What is to stop the felon from slipping out from under the surveillance net? This is an engineering issue. The system could be rigged so that, in the absence of an encrypted signal emitted from the surveillance network, the nerve harness automatically activates. At which point the police reappear to drag the felon back under the network.

3) Invasion of the Felon's Body: Forcing a felon to undergo surgery might seem, to many, to be a gross violation of their dignity. One might respond, "When did we start worrying about a felon's dignity?" But a better response would be that felons could be given a choice between old-fashioned imprisonment and going under the knife. Given that the second option implies far greater freedom, I imagine that many would choose the nerve harness over the jail cell.

4) Punishment: The nerve harness might strike some as being fundamentally soft, as completely ignoring the imperitive for retribution. There is some justice in this, but there is, I believe, a certain amount of retribution in the nerve harness: social stigma. There would almost certainly be some outwardly visible sign of the nerve harness' presence, one that would immediately mark the felon as a lawbreaker. This obviously much milder than being raped on a daily basis by the skinheads in your cellblock, but then, the primary point of the nerve harness is not to punish. It is to prevent the felon from re-offending, while simultaneously making it much easier to reintegrate with society.

If there are others, please bring them to my attention in the comments; I'll attempt to address them.

The major benefit of the system would be that it would greatly encourage rehabilitation. While under the nerve harness, the felon would still be able to carry on essentially as normal (so long as no laws were broken.) They could hold down a job, maintain a household, socialize. Or not. It would be up to them. The point is that the option would be there.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

This was unexpected....

A dark matter galaxy! Visible only in the radio spectrum, and apparently far more massive than can be accounted for by the hydrogen giving off the radio waves. How many more of these things are out there? And what are the implications of a whole galaxy of dark matter?

Cosmology just seems to get weirder every year.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Free Mojtaba and Arash

I've never been to their blogs, nor had I even heard their names until today. But, I'll jump on this bandwagon. Why, you ask? Because I'm an opportunistic shit? Always eager to pin the latest good-guy-badge on my chest and smugly display my moral superiority? Well, yes. Bask in the humble glow of my righteousness, ye benighted masses!

More to the point, however, is that if the Iranian government can be pressured into releasing them, their power over their own population will be lessened that much more. The Iranian people will have less reason to fear their government, and a democratic revolution will be that extra bit closer....

Monday, February 21, 2005

Vegan Diet = Child Abuse

Why doesn't this surprise me? Not only is it somewhat brain damaged not to eat anything from animals (what do these people imagine canine teeth are for? Dominance disputes?), it's now very likely that eating nothing but plants damages one's brain. Amongst other things.

What really makes my day about this is that the vegans can't go around sneering at the rest of us for our unhealthy diets. Quite the opposite in fact. And if they try and say, "Health be damned, it's still wrong to take food from animals!", we can respond with, "What's worse? Milking a cow? Or making sure your kids grow up with the strength of a raging mouse and the mental agility of a drug-addled tortoise?"

Attention Must Be Paid

If any of you sanctimonious little shits still give a rat's dick that Arthur Miller is dead, then you've got worse taste than even I thought possible. Last night, the world lost a talent that burned far brighter.

RIP, Hunter. You deserve it more than anyone.

It's That Time of Month Again....

Spiked injects some much-needed reality into the left's PMS-addled hissy fit about Gitmo.

For the record, I still think using sexual provocation to offend the inmates is pretty funny.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Finally! A Solution....

... to the myriad problems caused by the petty assholes who so often surround us. This man has convinced me. I'm buying a squirt gun.

Evil Capitalists Kick Tar Out of Starving Hippies

Brit Greenpeace activists, emboldened by their success in forcing Kyoto down EUrope's throat, decided to celebrate by crashing the International Petroleum Exchange. This was a mistake: floor traders are, I have heard, noted for being aggressive sorts, and said activists found this out the hard way when the traders rose up as one and literally kicked them back out onto the street.

My Head Is Spinning

Thomas P. M. Barnett - the geopolitical genius who wrote The Pentagon's New Map - just had a piece posted on Esquire, Dear Mr. President, Here's How to......Make Sense of Your Second Term, Secure Your Legacy, and, oh yeah, Create a Future Worth Living. In it, he advocates letting Iran have their nukes and withdrawing the security guarantee from Taiwan, and then presents several options for dealing with North Korea. And you know what? It makes sense. Why is this man not the Secretary of State?

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Now I've Seen It All

Kabbalistic Nanotechnology, by Rav P.S. Berg. Really, what more can I say?

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Decadence of the Left

Decadent Leftist decided to attack me in the comments section of this blog. After responding, I decided to check out his profile ... and discovered that he was a proud participant in the Transplanted Texan Fan Club, a blog dedicated (so near as I can tell) to ripping a good friend of mine. Small world! I said to myself. So I mosied on over to said blog, and discovered - to my immense surprise - a litany of ad hominem attacks that don't seem to bother with even the most basic level of intellectual engagement, preferring instead to mock people's weight, sex lives, and other such utterly irrelevent aspects of their opponents. (Well, okay, it's not quite that bad. I exagerate. But not much.) Really, this post is just to marvel at the fact that my friend pissed these losers off so much that they (by their own admission) spent a month trying to debunk what he was saying.

Which really, when you think about it, says a lot about the state of the left these days. On the one hand, you have people trying to come up with creative solutions to the problems that plague our world (you know, nuclear terrorism, the demographic crash and the resulting social security fallout.) On the other you have people whose response is usually along the lines of "What you say is wrong, because you're a racist/sexist/cultural bigot, and anyway, you're fat and can't get laid, so obviously you're stupid and your ideas have no merit, which is why I won't bother trying to debunk your ideas or even propose ideas of my own." Because, you know, smart people have always been attractive, charismatic sex kittens. I remember from my days as a physics major, I mean, wow, I was absolutely surrounded by gorgeous, witty people. One had only to bask in their radiant presence, and know everything they said was Right and True, because they were all Beautiful People. Proving theorems through the rigorous application of mathematical and empirical discipline was completely beside the point; all one had to do was show the prof a dazzling smile full of perfectly capped pearly whites, and he knew that what you said was right. Even if you said bricks can fly and triangles have two corners. After all, it's all relative, right?

I suppose after writing this I'm going to get lots of hateful, petty remarks in my comments section. C'mon, guys, prove me wrong! Grit your teeth, mutter "What an asshole," under your breath, and go back to your comforting echo chamber. Or, you can fill my comments with LOTS OF CAPITAL LETTERS AND MANY (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) EXCLAMATION MARKS just like you have plastered all over your spiteful blog, and call me fat and stupid and racist and, really, just prove my point for me.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Eerie, no?

Ward Churchill has, apparently, met with Col. Quadaffi in the past, in order to discuss diplomatic ties. The eerie thing was that Tom Clancy's early 90's nove, The Sum of All Fears, featured as part of the plot a connection between mid-east terrorists and a disgruntled ex-AIM member.

Fallujah, the movie

Just thought I'd point out that Lt. Prakash has posted a compilation of clips gathered by GI's on his excellent blog Armor Geddon. I haven't watched it yet (I'm still at work) but don't let that stop you.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Torture at Camp XXX-Ray

The media seems to like to harp a lot on Guantanamo Bay. Seems every few weeks, we get a fresh report of all the horrid, inhumane torture that goes on there ... usually something along the lines of "They brought strippers into my cell, and then they touched me in my special place."

Those poor bastards. I mean, how would you feel, if someone violated your human rights that way? I know how I'd feel. I'd be ... um ... very, uh, displeased, and, um, mortified, that I was being subjected to such cruel and, and inhumane.... Oh, hell, who am I kidding? I wish someone would violate my human rights.

Seriously, though. How did using strippers get classified as torture!? I mean, come on. Thumb screws, yes. The rack, sure. Electrodes wired up to your balls, or a glass rod shoved up your urethra and shattered, those are no-brainers. But strippers? That's not torture. Sexual harassment, I could see ... but unless there's physical pain involved, it's not torture. I mean, it's not like we're talking about twelve year old girls here. These are grown men, hardened killers.

And one other point. Since when does a grown man complain that he was forced to look at a stripper's naughty bits? In my experience, that means you're either, a) gay or b) still in the closet (unless the stripper's an ugbo ... have to file that away until pics come out. In fact, if the interrogators are preferrentially using total dogs, then maybe that would qualify as torture....)

The longer this war goes on, the less I hate the terrorists. They're to pathetic to be worth hating.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Celestica, Home of the Corporate Ninja

While scanning the web for a decent job, I came across this somewhat odd offering: a Master Blackbelt Consultant. Now why, might one ask, should a multinational corporation whose stock-in-trade is high technology, need to employ a black belt? Do their executives feel a need to train themselves in the martial arts? In-house executive protection (ie, bodyguards?) Are they building a corporate espionage team? Cyberpunk-style megacorp street samurai?

Many answers present themselves; as always, I'm sure the reason is entirely prosaic. Which is why I elect not to do further research, my fantasies being so much more entertaining.

Some Disconnected Thoughts on the Budget

A friend of mine sent me an excerpt to a NYT story on the budget, referrencing the expected (massive) cost over-runs of the medicare program, along with the following commentary:

Gee, like this wasn't TOTALLY FUCKING OBVIOUS when the bill waspassed. Shit, it's going to be more than 720 AND GUESS WHO GETS TOPAY THAT BILL - ME! I hate Bush so, so much.

As usual, I sent off a half-baked reply, which I reproduce below simply because I can:

But look on the bright side: the boomers won't have to pay for all those over-priced pharmaceuticals. It's OBVIOUSLY far more ethical for our generation to forgo such needless extravagances as cars, homes, and children, in order keep our parents alive for a few extra years. I mean, these ARE the boomers we're talking about here ... the world revolves around them.

More seriously, do you imagine the situation would be any better with Kerry in power? Or any other democrat for that matter? I didn't pay too much attention to the whole issue, but something tells me that the House democrats, if they complained about the budget, complained far more about military expenditures than about medicaid. Bush isn't the problem here; it's far more systemic than that. I see medicaid as a bribe to the american people: we give you 'free' drugs, you let us pump up the army and make the world safe for democracy. Which says a lot about the boomers: their parents, during WWII, said, "Hmm, we're at war ... maybe we should cut back on spending at home in order to support the war effort." But the boomers, sacrifice some federal entitlements for the war? Hell, most of their females wouldn't even sacrifice a few years of their career to raise their children.

I don't blame Bush; he's just playing to the Grampa Simpson constituency. "I'm old! Gimme!"As obvious as it was that this program would cost roughly twice what the White House said it would, it's equally apparent that it's not sustainable. This can't go on forever, and as wise man say, "If something can't go on forever, it won't."

Friday, February 04, 2005

Uh Oh ... The Lancet's At It Again!

Showing once again why I resolutely ignore any and all food-and-drink related health warnings, a study has just come out showing that alcohol consumption was linked to more than 60 different medical conditions including breast cancer and heart disease. Wait ... I thought alcohol was supposed to be good for your heart ... or maybe that's just if you don't engage in two-pints-in-a-night 'binge drinking'. The joyless puritans who conducted the study go on to recommend higher prices and reduced availability as the most efficacious method of lowering the occurance of illness deriving from the Demon Drink.

As I said, I intend to ignore this study (conducted, incidentally, by the Lancet, those paragons of disinterested inquiry who charged, weeks before the election, that the U.S. military had offed 100,000 Iraqi civilians since entering the country.) I am certain, however, that nanny-statists the world over will be only to eager to put into place it's recommendations. I've yet to meet a politician who didn't get a hard-on at the thought of extracting yet more cash from the citizenry whilst simultaneously limiting their freedom in yet one more petty way. Of equal certainty is that, some years down the line, a study will come out showing alcohol to have a beneficial effect on 60 (or more) medical conditions. The little hitlers who inhabit the health ministries and lobby groups will, of course, ignore that study entirely (just as they have ignored studies showing nicotine to have a positive effect on parkinsons, alzheimers, and senility in general. It's okay to be old and stupid, but god forbid you be marginally less old and short of breath.)

Of course, this wouldn't be an issue if it weren't for 'free' public health care. But then, no one ever stopped to think that if it's the government's responsibility to pay the repair bills for our bodies, the government would get the idea that said bodies are its property. No government in its right mind would ever have entertained the thought of passing laws and raising taxes in order to promote 'healthy lifestyles' amongst (theoretically) responsible adults. Not, that it, before the welfare state. Now it's second nature, and the world gets a little less fun every day.

So before the government decides, in our best interests of course, that bars should close at 7 p.m. and beer should cost $50 the pint, I'm going out 'binge drinking.' And so should you.

Stealing Lenny

My good friend Mike Flynn (not the science fiction writer) has been working on a blog-novel called 'Stealing Lenny' for a few months now. It's nearing completion, and he's apparently gotten an offer from a publishing house. After endless pestering (okay, two e-mails ... so I hyperbolize) I finally read it, and as your unfriendly globalhood aggregator, I advise you to read it. The weird fucker has managed to spin a twisted tale about a character who is, if possible, even more deranged than him. Substance abuse, animal abuse, and verbal abuse abound. Everything you could want and more.

Seriously, why are you still here? Go read it, you lazy bastards.