Monday, February 28, 2011


Horgan on Sam Harris's neuroscientific moralism/SciAm:
""Harris asserts in Moral Landscape that ignorance and humility are inversely proportional to each other; whereas religious know-nothings are often arrogant, scientists tend to be humble, because they know enough to know their limitations. "Arrogance is about as common at a scientific conference as nudity," Harris states. Yet he is anything but humble in his opus. He castigates not only religious believers but even nonbelieving scientists and philosophers who don't share his hostility toward religion.

Harris further shows his arrogance when he claims that neuroscience, his own field, is best positioned to help us achieve a universal morality. "The more we understand ourselves at the level of the brain, the more we will see that there are right and wrong answers to questions of human values." Neuroscience can't even tell me how I can know the big, black, hairy thing on my couch is my dog Merlin. And we're going to trust neuroscience to tell us how we should resolve debates over the morality of abortion, euthanasia and armed intervention in other nations' affairs?

I suspect Harris wants to rely on brain scans to measure "well-being" because he doesn't trust people to simply say what makes them happy. If a Muslim girl says that she likes wearing a veil, as many do, she doesn't know what's good for her, Harris might say. Maybe she doesn't, but magnetic resonance imaging won't help us resolve these sorts of issues.""

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


""Public employees unions are an interesting hybrid. Industrial unions are organized against the might and greed of ownership. Public employees unions are organized against the might and greed...of the public? Despite their questionable provenance, public unions can serve an important social justice role, guaranteeing that a great many underpaid workers--school bus drivers, janitors (outside of New York City), home health care workers--won't be too severely underpaid. That role will be kept intact in Wisconsin. In any given negotiation, I'm rooting for the union to win the highest base rates of pay possible...and for management to win the least restrictive work rules and guidelines governing how much truly creative public employees can be paid.""

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Mr Bakunin's class

On Education:

"""""Now we see why the bourgeois socialists demand only a little education for the people, a soupcon more than they currently receive; whereas we socialist democrats demand, on the people's behalf, complete and integral education, an education as full as the power of intellect today permits, So that, henceforth, there may not be any class over the workers by virtue of superior education and therefore able to dominate and exploit them. The bourgeois socialists want to see the retention of the class system each class, they contend, fulfilling a specific social function; one specialising, say, in learning, and the other in manual labour. We, on the other hand, seek the final and the utter abolition of classes; we seek a unification of society and equality of social and economic provision for every individual on this earth. The bourgeois socialists, whilst retaining the historic bases of the society of today, would like to see them become less stark, less harsh and more prettified. Whereas we should like to see their destruction. From which it follows that there can be no truce or compromise, let alone any coalition between the bourgeois socialists and us socialist democrats."""""

Monday, February 21, 2011


"The evil that is in the world always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence, if they lack understanding. On the whole men are more good than bad; that, however, isn't the real point. But they are more or less ignorant, and it is this that we call vice or virtue; the most incorrigible vice being that of an ignorance which fancies it knows everything and therefore claims for itself the right to kill. There can be no true goodness, nor true love, without the utmost clear-sightedness."

Lunes con CAMUS, Albert

Saturday, February 19, 2011

sabado Gigante

"Do not give anyone what they ask for, but what you understand they actually need; then put up with the ungratefulness later".(Unamuno)

Friday, February 18, 2011

“Cheap Publicity Stunts” for $1,000, Alex

""""Every article about Watson, IBM’s Jeopardy!-playing device, should really lead off with the sentence “It’s the year 2011, for God’s sake.” In the wondrous science-fiction future we occupy, even human brains have instant broadband access to a staggeringly comprehensive library of general knowledge. But the horrible natural-language skills of a computer, even one with an essentially unlimited store of facts, still compromise its function to the point of near-parity in a trivia competition against unassisted humans. Surely this isn’t a triumph for artificial intelligence, or for IBM, so much as it is a self-administered black eye?

Jeopardy!, after all, doesn’t demand that much in the way of language interpretation. Watson has to, at most, interpret text questions of no more than 25 or 30 words—questions which, by design, have only a single answer. It handles puns and figures of speech impressively, for a computer. But it doesn’t do so in anything like the way humans do. IBM’s ads would have you believe the opposite, but it bears emphasizing that Watson is not “getting” the jokes and wordplay of the Jeopardy! writers. It’s using Bayesian math on the fly to pick out key nouns and phrases and pass them to a lookup table. If it sees “1564″ and “Pisa”, it’s going to say “Galileo”....."""""

Thursday, February 17, 2011

green Carnivores


""""If pigs are fed on residues and waste, and cattle on straw, stovers and grass from fallows and rangelands – food for which humans don't compete – meat becomes a very efficient means of food production. Even though it is tilted by the profligate use of grain in rich countries, the global average conversion ratio of useful plant food to useful meat is not the 5:1 or 10:1 cited by almost everyone, but less than 2:1. If we stopped feeding edible grain to animals, we could still produce around half the current global meat supply with no loss to human nutrition: in fact it's a significant net gain.

It's the second half – the stuffing of animals with grain to boost meat and milk consumption, mostly in the rich world – which reduces the total food supply. Cut this portion out and you would create an increase in available food which could support 1.3 billion people. Fairlie argues we could afford to use a small amount of grain for feeding livestock, allowing animals to mop up grain surpluses in good years and slaughtering them in lean ones. This would allow us to consume a bit more than half the world's current volume of animal products, which means a good deal less than in the average western diet."""

A point lost on religious dogmatists--the pork industry, however unsavory does not produce nearly the environmental damage that cattle does. For that matter, shrimp beds don't either(or poultry, mutton, etc).

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

for a few shekels mo'

Wiseguys in Idaho

""To his Idaho neighbors, Jay Shaw was an outgoing, glad-handing greenhorn cattle rancher who liked to go hunting — at least until this week, when they learned he was actually accused Boston Mafia hit man Enrico M. Ponzo, on the lam for nearly 20 years.

“It was a shock to my system,” said one neighbor, who spoke anonymously out of fear of retaliation from the friend who turned out to be a mobster. “He always told me he was from Jersey.”
Yesterday in federal court in Idaho, Ponzo, 42, pleaded not guilty to 1997 charges of racketeering, plotting to murder and attempting to murder. A federal official said he’ll eventually be extradited back to Massachusetts.
Pals said the man they nicknamed “The New Yorker” for his accent landed in Marsing, population 842, nine years ago, with girlfriend Cara Lyn Pace. She bought 12 acres of land, and they built a home, then had a son and a daughter.""
Fuggetaboutit, sodbusters

Monday, February 14, 2011

St. Valentine's Day...........

Massacre, that izz...

""On the morning of Thursday, February 14, 1929, St. Valentine’s Day, five members of the North Side Gang, plus non-members Reinhardt H. Schwimmer and John May, were lined up against the rear inside wall of the garage at 2122 North Clark Street in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago’s North Side, possibly by members of Al Capone’s gang, possibly by gangsters hired from outside the city so they would not be recognized by their victims, or a combination of both.

Two of the shooters were dressed as crestview police officers, and the others were dressed in long trenchcoats, according to witnesses who saw the “police” leading the other men at gunpoint out of the garage. When one of the dying men, Frank Gusenberg, was asked who shot him, he replied, “Nobody shot me” despite having 14 bullet wounds. Capone himself had arranged to be on vacation in Florida. The St. Valentine’s Days Massacre resulted from a plan devised by a member or members of the Capone gang to eliminate the Polish-Irish Bugs Moran.""

Karpis claimed that Capone told him while they were both in Alcatraz (and Caponay decaying from syphillis) that Goetz had planned the massacre. Bugs Moran outlived Capone by ten years and died, nearly penniless, in the infirmary at Leavenworth.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

sabado Gigante

Life is doubt, and faith without doubt is nothing but death.
Miguel de Unamuno

Friday, February 11, 2011

L-Wrong Hubbard , cont.


""""L. Ron Hubbard may have faked his war record--
Scientologists revere the church's founder as a near-God, but Wright discovers that L. Ron Hubbard may have been all too fallible. Hubbard wrote Dianetics, the church's founding text, after claiming to have healed himself of his World War II injuries. But Hubbard's actual military records — all 900 pages of them — contradict the story. "Nowhere in the file is there mention of Hubbard's being wounded in battle," reports Wright. The Church says that it hired veteran intelligence agent Fletcher Prouty back in the '80s to unearth documents proving Hubbard's claims. Prouty's evidence, according to an archivist interviewed by Wright, is a "forgery."""""



CoS 1.

CoS 2

L-Ron's definitely a front-runner on the Quack-o-meter but in reality was not the crypto-nazi his one-time pal RA Heinlein was (e.g. peruse some of Heinlein's commentary with WF Buckley and the "Nixon was soft" crowd, not to say his support for Reagan's "Star wars" hype).  Following  LRH's mysterious death the CoS arguably became far more secretive and sinister . 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

EA Beantown

"Poe, Poe, Poe -- and po' Baltimore. A forthcoming big-screen thriller starring John Cusack as Edgar Allan Poe, called "The Raven," is set in Baltimore but has been filmed in Budapest and Belgrade. Now ABC is shooting a pilot called "Poe" featuring the poet, critic and fiction-writer -- and father of the detective story -- as a mid-19th-century P.I. cracking cases in Boston, where he was born.

Poe had such a contentious relationship with the scribes of his native city that it took until 2009 for Boston to designate "Poe Square" near the writer's birthplace. Even Beantown's mayor, Thomas Menino, had to acknowledge at the dedication that Poe said of Boston, "Their hotels are bad. Their pumpkin pies are delicious. Their poetry is not so good."

A few years ago, Mark Redfield filmed the independent "Death of Poe" right here in Charm City. Will we ever see a new Poe film set in Baltimore and shot here? It's beginning to seem, "Nevermore." .....
Viva EAP

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Mormowned, continued

Can-a-mormon-now-be-President? WaPo

"""""The general public seems to be getting more tolerant of Mormons. Eighteen months ago, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life said said Romney's ratings rose after the 2008 election where Romney was viewed unfavorably by 44 percent of the general populace and favorably by 30 percent. By June 2009, those figures had dropped to 28 percent unfavorably vs 40 percent favorably.

If Romney thinks he's got more traction now, he has Fox News host Glenn Beck to thank. In one swoop, Beck managed to sweep away every last vestige of evangelical resistance to Romney when he included a long list of evangelicals, conservative Catholics and conservative Jews in his "Restoring Honor" rally last summer. People like Jerry Falwell Jr. said at the time that Beck's Mormonism is "irrelevant" to evangelicals like him.

Many evangelical insiders wondered why it took a Mormon convert to assemble 240 Christian leaders as a "Black Robe Regiment" for national revival. Beck's prominence pointed to a dearth of evangelical leadership willing to embark on similar bold and audacious moves. Beck was at least willing to step out and lead, for which evangelicals were grateful. """"

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Reagan re-run


"""""It was extraordinary that, in Mikhail Gorbachev, Reagan was dealing with a man who knew that the Soviet Union could not sustain the arms race and a man who was out of patience with the satraps of East Germany. To Gorbachev goes an enormous share of the credit. But if I run the thought experiment and ask myself whether Walter Mondale would have made a better interlocutor in 1987, I cannot make myself believe it. This does not involve un-saying any of the things about Reagan that his admirers would prefer us to forget. But it does acknowledge the distinction between a historic presidency and an average one. Reagan's friend Margaret Thatcher once said that the real test of her success was the way that she had changed the politics of the Labour Party. By that standard, the legacy of Reagan in permanently altering the political landscape is with us still.""""

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Friday, February 04, 2011

smackdown--Hitler vs Stalin


""""In the second half of the twentieth century, Americans were taught to see both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union as the greatest of evils. Hitler was worse, because his regime propagated the unprecedented horror of the Holocaust, the attempt to eradicate an entire people on racial grounds. Yet Stalin was also worse, because his regime killed far, far more people—tens of millions, it was often claimed—in the endless wastes of the Gulag. For decades, and even today, this confidence about the difference between the two regimes—quality versus quantity—has set the ground rules for the politics of memory. Even historians of the Holocaust generally take for granted that Stalin killed more people than Hitler, thus placing themselves under greater pressure to stress the special character of the Holocaust, since this is what made the Nazi regime worse than the Stalinist one.

Discussion of numbers can blunt our sense of the horrific personal character of each killing and the irreducible tragedy of each death. As anyone who has lost a loved one knows, the difference between zero and one is an infinity. Though we have a harder time grasping this, the same is true for the difference between, say, 780,862 and 780,863—which happens to be the best estimate of the number of people murdered at Treblinka. Large numbers matter because they are an accumulation of small numbers: that is, precious individual lives. Today, after two decades of access to Eastern European archives, and thanks to the work of German, Russian, Israeli, and other scholars, we can resolve the question of numbers. The total number of noncombatants killed by the Germans—about 11 million—is roughly what we had thought. The total number of civilians killed by the Soviets, however, is considerably less than we had believed. We know now that the Germans killed more people than the Soviets did. That said, the issue of quality is more complex than was once thought. Mass murder in the Soviet Union sometimes involved motivations, especially national and ethnic ones, that can be disconcertingly close to Nazi motivations. ....""""

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Ayn Rand, looter

(via Alternet)
""""Ayn Rand was not only a schlock novelist, she was also the progenitor of a sweeping “moral philosophy” that justifies the privilege of the wealthy and demonizes not only the slothful, undeserving poor but the lackluster middle-classes as well.

Her books provided wide-ranging parables of "parasites," "looters" and "moochers" using the levers of government to steal the fruits of her heroes' labor. In the real world, however, Rand herself received Social Security payments and Medicare benefits under the name of Ann O'Connor (her husband was Frank O'Connor)...."
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