Efforts to understand, improve, or do less harm to the world around me.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Bad logic in politics

Probably not limited to healthcare, facts are not informing upon a view points in politics.  Instead, its more about what team (left or right) you're on.

Monday, August 24, 2009

You might be the bad guy if ...

You use "threats to kill one suspect's children and to force another to watch his mother sexually assaulted." Sounds like Mobsters but, no, turns out its the CIA. Last I heard even some mobsters had a no women, no children policy.

Maybe its just threats, but it still seems like Chuck Norris needs to liberate some prisoners from America. After he's done, he'll take them back in time to the other America where that sort of thing was unthinkable. Where only they (the bad guys) did that kind of thing.


Republican Peter King responded to this issue in Politico and makes some strong points:

"When Holder was talking about being 'shocked' [before the report's release], I thought they were going to have cutting guys' fingers off or something — or that they actually used the power drill," he said.

"You're talking about threatening to kill a guy, threatening to attack his family, threatening to use an electric drill on him — but never doing it," King said. "You have that on the one hand — and on the other you have the [interrogator's] attempt to prevent thousands of Americans from being killed."

King is correct in that the threat of violence in interrogation is usually far more effective than actually performing it. Threats have the effect of letting the victim's imagination go overtime, which is usually more effective. Unfortunately, this type of interrogation can also be damaging and its impact over time -- especially years -- can be similar to being physically tortured. The concern is that threats of rape, murder, and power drills over time are just as damaging and represent a slippery slope. That an American soldier is making these threats is counter to notions of the United States as a beacon to humanity in a time of Rwandas and North Koreas of the world.

As the story has unfolded, it seems the prisoner abuses are only sounding more and more barbaric. Still, it seems King's views would be the same:

"They’ve declared war on the CIA. We should resist and fight back as hard as we can," he said. "It should be a scorched earth policy. ... This isn't just another policy. This goes to the heart of our national defense. We should do whatever we have to do."

This represents is an ugly dilemma, choosing between the possibility that 1,000s may die in some type of attack versus destroying a handful of individuals' lives. Victims of torture don't sleep at night even years after the initial trauma, and emotional torture and physical torture have similar effects. Its not difficult to find accounts of this as many dictatorships in Argentina and El Salvador left behind a destroyed populace of merely accused citizens. I'm sure they used the same rationale to torture prisoners: with this evil, we can prevent one greater.

We're all familiar with the idea of the idea of a ticking bomb, suggesting that torture would be acceptable in certain circumstances. While some call this a red herring, it doesn't change the fact that harsh interrogation can be torture, especially over prolonged periods. If based on accusation or possibility of future harm, this is not a legal system and instead a description for a mad playground operated by thugs and masochists. We know these people are the bad guys not because they have been convicted, but from classified information that we won't know for 20+ years. Imagine the people defending the program are wearing El Salvador uniforms and suddenly you won't want to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Obviously, the answer cannot be "don't interrogate anyone," but should include an awareness that we are still the good guys and good guys don't cheat the difficult process of possible bad guys being innocent until proven guilty. If we throw out the rights of those people, you might one day be confused for one of those people. The way to do that is with accountability and transparency; when interrogation is done outside the rule of law and without consequence to those who break the law, that's a recipe for another kind of human disaster, one that dissolves the pride of what it is to be American.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Entertaining videos

  • Knowing someone that's getting into dating for the first time, I found this useful. Some of the tips may also apply to those that have been in the game for a while.
  • A surprisingly good look at how to deal with bullies.
  • Cuss words are still hilarious - The Onion (from Kim)
  • Pretty much any video making fun of KISS is welcome, but this one is very good.

Lies repeated often enough ...

An educated citizenry is the backbone of democracy.  Unfortunately, our citizenry has been misinformed.  It reminds me of the number of people who thought there were WMDs in Iraq and the bad decisions that were subsequently made.

"A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to Farce or Tragedy or perhaps both." - James Monroe

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


(I don't know what this is.)

Can't see but going in anyway - home base is a song - heart is in a jar - hat is in a grave - spirit shut down - hopes unfortunate and incompatible - goal hazy - not saving, just getting by - not sent by god - owning the work - rules rewritten - not even sitting at my own table.

AT&T vs. Google Voice

Some good ideas about competition in phones.  I really hope someone implements this and brings phone services out of the 80s.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

What drug war?

The impetus for change in drug policy in the United States to something that actually works is way past due. The Onions satirical take in 1998 ("Drugs win drug war") makes me wince even harder that nothing has changed since the 70s.

It would be a distraction for the current administration to make an attempt, but billions could be saved by doing something, anything to be more effective.

Update: Mexico tries something new: passes decriminalization for minor drug possession as well as providing treatment for addiction.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Japan hates dolphins

Japan's dolphin "research" is a pretty big industry.  Mercury poisoning, killing intelligent creatures, and totally inhumane methods?  What's not to love?

Intel better understands the problem by adding to the problem

Your computer rarely runs at 100% capacity, so why not use a program that will put those processes to use? Sounds like a good idea? Well, although there are projects that help humanity, I fail to see how this will positively affect climate change.

It seems like a bad idea to use more electricity, which means more coal burned and more CO2 in the atmosphere that's causing global warming. Sort of a cancer-for-the-cure moment there.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The new definition of an Operating System

An excellent article on the upcoming Google OS:

Best quote:

David Gelernter, a computer scientist at Yale University, has described the chief goal of the personal-computer OS as providing a " 'documentary history' of your life." Information technology, he argues, must answer the question "Where's my stuff?" That stuff includes not only words but also photos, videos, and music.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Turn the page *slowly*

The comic presented (ala Penny Arcade) is pretty silly, but the interface?  I sat there just turning the page back and forth for a full minute.

I want this type of thing for programs like ComicsViewer.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Problems with recent "Cash for Clunkers" program

While I applaud the Obama administration trying to do things that are simultaneously good for the economy and good for the environment, this program has two major issues:
  1. Not really good for the environment.  Seems to be purely a boost to the car industry.
  2. I found out they destroy the engines, which I find disturbingly wasteful.  Although a device may not work well, that doesn't make it useless or otherwise salvageable.
If someone can speak to this, I'd like to know.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

A mountain of political cynicism

This isn't exactly constructive but its the sort of thing someone should say.  My hope is that once we're all conscious of it, maybe we can sit down at the table again and start talking to each other. (Thanks Switch)

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Health care analysis using actual research

A recent hilarious interlude fully underlines some people will just make things up as they go along.  Here's a little fact-checking on both sides.