Wednesday, June 30, 2004


I sense that if I were to publish this stuff in code and then neglect to diseminate the key, my audience would not decrease substantially, but screw it. Here we go.

Answer quickly: Who's in charge of the World Bank? Where does he make decisions? Whom does he consult? Do they have meeting agendas, or do they just sit and spit until the deadline?

You can replace World Bank with "G7" or "the Fed" or "the Vice President's Energy commission," and unless you have some special acquaintence with the issue, you probably can't answer quickly. I'd have to check wikipedia or something. Maybe that's my fault. On the other hand, the Fed evidently holds its meetings behind closed doors, leaving the world to snivel outside the door waiting for the official news of a .25% interest rate increase. According to news sources, most folks with some expertise knew what Greenspan was about to hold forth with, to the extent that no one expected "markets" to react much because they'd already done it. But why does the whole spectacle need to be arranged like the College of Cardinals picking the a new Pope? At least the Cardinals can claim that they need the peace and quiet to hear God's choice. Why is the discussion not public? I've listened to public radio an awful lot in the last few days; to my knowledge, no one at all asked why the public doesn't have access to the discussion. Would this be dangerous somehow? (In comparison, the situation surrounding WTO, IMF, World Bank, G7 meetings is worse, in part because of the wash of folk protesting, principally I think, the acts of these organizations, "impact of globalization," that sort of thing.) Perhaps transcripts or some other general records of these meetings exist in the public domain, but even then it's a far cry from, say, orations in the forum. I drift towards conspiracy theories sometimes, but there's no need to drift in this case. These are people, in fact, conspiring behind closed doors, even if the conspirators believe they're doing this for our benefit. I don't know if we, the public, accept this situation. If so, I suppose that says something bad about us. I'm sure that if activists of various and sundry kinds want to effect some real change in the behavior of these bad guys, the best tactic must be to subject the decision making process to public scrutiny.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Uh... "Judgment" maybe?

I guess this one's going to be serious (he said, as if he was ever funny).

I'm going to demonstrate that, in the context of a religion that predicts a final reckoning before the Almighty, the sin of killing is basically equivalent to the sin of the fallen angels. Those religions include, obviously and in particular, Christianity and Islam, both of which, I believe, have a notion of Satan as a fallen angel. (If I'm wrong in this, please, correct me.) Notice also that I wrote "sin of killing" rather than "sin of murder"; that's exactly what I mean. I include in "killing" every act that causes a persons death and is at least as intentional as "a depraved indifference to human life."

Here we go.

Nowadays, we don't, as rule, consider (small?) blasphemies to be particular evil, or even evil at all. Most people, when they hear someone use an infix-type-thing like "Oh, Jesus-fucking-Christ..." are likely to be as put out by the "Fucking" part itself as by the blasphemy. At the same time, I think most Christian people, presumably Muslims as well, still think of blasphemy as a sin in itself, even if they're hesitant to actually label a given utterance as blasphemy. The one act that (I, as a Christian person, would hope) everyone would call blasphemous is inserting oneself in God's place, or trying to. This is the fallen angels' sin, after all. It's also Eve's. I'm not going to discuss why this turns out to be so loathsome--in fact, I'm not perfectly satisfied that it is--but within doctrine, this is the supreme sin. Let's take this as given.

We also have to remark that both Christianity and Islam assume that a person's moral resume becomes Read-only material upon his death. Even with Purgatory, there is no notion of undoing or counter-balancing the sins of one's life--it is a severe mercy, but the judgment is laid upon the soul that life made. We will take this as given as well: Death is the end of the game.

Now, suppose that Adam acts to cause Brian's death, in the sense indicated above. In fact, Adam has made two decisions. First of all, he has decided to end a life. In general, the moral question in this decision is something of a muddle, but it's not really germane here. Second, Adam has decided that the story of Brian's soul is complete. The judgment Brian will face is, I believe, determined by Adam in that he has implicitly judged that Brian was, by that moment, as good as he was ever going to get. Hence, Adam has taken a chair among some Ultimate Tribunal--but the judgment is supposed to be God's alone (last I checked). You can get pitchforks at Walmart, I think.

So what do we have? If you kill someone, you are committing a fully diabolical crime, The Crime. You get two mortal sins for the price of one.

I'm tired now, so I'm not going to try to treat ramifications. By the way, I don't think Predestination gets you out of this. I haven't read this argument before, but I don't claim that it hasn't already been made. In fact, if you've seen it before, I would like to know. Thanks.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

There exist smart bad people.

For the sake of argument, let's suppose that the "War on Terror" is actually appopriately classified as a war--or maybe more generally, a tactical confrontation, or a game that happens to have horrifying consequences. This is a very nontrivial supposition, but, like I said, "for the sake of argument..." I will now demonstrate that "winning" this war, for the non-terrorist side of the conflict, is a painfully remote prospect.

Let's make a definition: a person is to be called smart if s/he is (1) good at learning things and (2) creative in inventing, possibly novel, solutions to problems. It's a limited definition, but I think it will serve.

Has this beginning been dry enough? Hopefully, it will get better from here.

I've been listening to news radio an awful lot these days (as I don't have a television, and in silence, I tend to talk to myself a bit more than is probably healthy), so I've heard a number of government officials, from the FAA, NORAD, etc., make claims that, I think, boil down to the following: For any situation, in order to expect an adequate response, the situation must be trained for. I obtain this from statements like "No one ever told us about the possibility of..."; presumably, one could interpret this differently... but fug 'dat. Now, "training" an organization the size of the FAA or The Air Force is not something you do over a weekend. Then, even if you, the Anti-Terrorist, have a cabal of smart people at your disposal predicting vulnerabilities and inventing countermeasures, it's not feasible to counter every member of the class of vulnerabilities. For example, I, alone, not a smart person, can probably think of, say, ten independent attacks based on my knowledge of the situation; even if the Anti-Terrorist realizes all ten of these, how fast can he actually implement the countermeasures for, say, five of them? So, the Anti-Terrorist has to deal with a pretty gross disadvantage. Unfortunately, there probably exist smart terrorists, so this disadvantage is, in fact, very likely to be exploited at some time in the future, regardless of the resources the Anti-Terrorist commits to the game and even if every countermeasure is appropriately and adequately implemented. (As Anti-Terrorist=President, the "even if..." is off the table; for example, morbidly screening passenger IDs is not actually countermeasure to anything.) You may also have heard that humans have solved some very hard problems--say harder than computer voting machines and less hard than contructing the regular n-gon, for definiteness. Blowing stuff up is probably between those.

In this game, the Terrorist can't actually lose so long as he's alive and free, and the Anti-Terrorist wins only if s/he prevents every attack, forever. The only winning strategy for Anti-Terrorist is to capture/kill every single terrorist for all time. This is preposterous. If you think it's not preposterous, you're dumb. Example: human beings (every terrorist, by the way, is assumed to be a human being) are born in large numbers everyday; some of these people may be both smart and mean; it follows, the supply of terrorists is inexhaustible. Thus, Anti-Terrorist loses the game.

So, if you=Anti-Terrorist, and you decide to play this game, at least one of two things must be true. You haven't thought this all the way through, or you're not particularly interested in the consequences. (One might say that it's necessary, regardless, to maintain preparedness to whatever degree you're capable. Well, sure. But if that's all you plan to do to deal the existence of Smart Terrorist, you should know what's coming.) Assuming that you are in possession of a collection of smart people of your own, maybe their efforts would be better spent in imagining novel ways of getting out of the game; so that when smart, mean people do mean things it's apparent that the only motivation is the fact of being mean. It's possible that there is a solution that is not the same as capitulation.

So this post is a little embarrassing, but i'll post it anyway. I should, in the future, spend some time thinking before I start typing.

Friday, June 11, 2004


Once upon a time, my ISP (that is, Juno/NetZero) provided limited access to the New York Times online on the the prefab homepage they provide to their users. (I think this homepage somehow, presumably through advertising revenues, enables them to charge their customers half as much as other ISPs do.) I suppose NYT has its flaws, but I was pretty happy with this arrangement. Then, a few months ago, NYT was suddenly replaced by USA Today; nobody asked me about this, and I can't find any where to send a complaint. As you may already be aware, USA Today is just a shitty newspaper. A shitty newspaper. They *might* even have a political agenda of some kind.

So why bring this up now? Because they seem to be pissing themselves over the glory of Reagan, the Fallen God. Now, I admit, I don't miss Reagan even a little bit, and I count him one of the poorer presidents of the 20th century, etc. But even if he was the awesomest of the awesome, how does his funeral, the preparations for his funeral, the ETA of the plane carrying his carcass, what Nancy was planning to wear, what she actually did wear--how is any of this NEWS? As I write this, Juno's "News" (as opposed to Sports, Money, Life and Travel) headlines provided by USA Today are
"Reagan praised as 'enduring symbol of our country.'"
"Reagan family, supporters gather for funeral."
Even NPR and the News Hour with Jim Lehrer are in on this. Perhaps this is all some kind of national self-congradulations for "winning" the Cold "War," which we're expressing through blithering elegies for the Gipper?

Whatever the case, I expect Sunday will see a short segment of On the Media treating just this little episode. The folks pounding out Media of all kinds, it seems to me, know that something bizarre is happening, know that real news, events of real consequence, are not being covered because of this. And in a week or so they'll probably spend some time remarking on just this interesting trend in American media.

Suppose you are ill; you know precisely the nature of your illness, and you have the remedy in your possession. But you decide not to take the medication, instead choosing to discuss some weeks later the fact of having neglected to take it.

In this case, "talking about it some weeks later" would actually be another inflamation of the same sickness. If the disease were sufficiently serious and you behaving this way, the Catholic Church wouldn't allow you to be buried in consecrated earth. I'm guessing that most of the people involved in "media" have enough foresight that they could have written all the words I've just disgorged; they're not exactly penetrating insights after all.

I'm sure some with the full complement of verbiage for Spectacle and that could provide a more interesting discussion. My point is that a problem arises; an easy and obvious solution presents itself, and no one bothers to actually implement the solution.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Thinking shit through

Maybe that's what I should have called my weblog because, well damnit, that's probably what's closest to my heart. And, well, damnit, the folks that get payed to do that just aren't.

Point the first: "If our commission invests in that as a solution, then we set ourselves up for the printer version of the hanging chad," [DeForest Soaries] said. This august figure is the Elections Assistance Commission Chairman. I do not believe this. First of all, printers are not terribly complicated technology at this point in human developement. At this very moment, I have beside me an HP LaserJet 1100, which I purchased in 1999, the second semester of my freshman year in college. As you can imagine, this little bugger has been called upon to spit out thousands of sheets of paper over the years, and in that time I have replaced the toner exactly once--not rocket surgery this processs, incidently. I have no doubt that my pal the HP LaserJet 1100, or perhaps one of his big brothers, could easily rise to the challenge of printing out several hundred ballots on a blustery autumn Tuesday. A printer server, moreover, is not so hard a thing to put together in an evening, and the world is equipped with envelopes, which can be used to provide a measure of secrecy. My point being, that printing shit out is extraordinarily well-tested technology--and tested in the real damn world--assuming that you don't have your heart set on cute little custom-made ballot printers. If you were already thinking "Voting+Computers," it's not a great leap to think about the fact that a great many computers in use in the world, in fact, have printers connected to them, maybe even the one you're using right now.

Point the second: Reagan? He dead. Also, I do not believe that he had any real intention of "winning" the Cold "War," so let's try not to wet ourselves about his profound legacy. Alternatively, if he did, I say, he was criminally negligent about dealing with the consequences. Again, try not to peepee. If I am wrong about the following, please tell me, because it would really interest me: I have never heard of any meaningful preparations made by the U.S. or NATO in the 1980s for dealing with post-Communist economies. There was no "Institute for the Prevention of Economic Chaos and Profiteering in Post-Soviet Bulgaria" for example, at least to my knowledge. Only five year's later, or so, did the IMF stormtroopers descend on these poor slouches. Nobody knew what kind of chaos would follow? Bullshit. I could figure that out, and I was 10 years old at the time. If the Reagan administration really thought they could "win" the Cold "War," where was the preparation for victory? Alternatively, if they really did know, wouldn't it have been a reasonable thing, and probably lucrative for American interests, to make Eastern Europe into a livable place and pronto, rather than letting things get to the point where we now have to wonder where the enriched uranium that the USSR once controlled has gotten to? But there are so many variables to consider, boo hoo hoo, whine whine whine... How many supercomputers does NSA have that rival EarthSimulator? Well... I bet economic models only have, like, half as many variables to worry about as the Earth. That last part might be nonsense.

Point the third: Can you imagine what happens to a person's body if a 500lb bomb falls on someone's house and he lives, say, three doors down? We seem to freak out when American bodies are "mutilated" by mobs of angry brown people. And we should freak out 'cause people shouldn't be mutilated ever ever ever. Do you suppose, though, that when Ahmed arrives at what used to be his cousin Mahmoud's house to gather up the limbs and giblets of his family that have been tossed about so playfully by said ordinance, that Ahmed sees the state of his family as something different from mutilation? If mutilation is going knot up our panties so much, maybe we should think a little harder before we start dropping bombs on people.

Okay, I'm done for now.