Monday, December 29, 2008

Mexico Attacks!

Mexico has acquired thousands of long and short range missiles and have been firing them at cities within the United States. Two civilians have been killed by the incessant missile fire, including an American of Mexican heritage in El Centro, and another American in San Diego. The United States has been respecting a cease-fire with Mexico since the end of the Spanish-American war in which the United States won territories in what is now the southwest United States, including most of California.

America has attempted diplomacy in an attempt to resolve the situation, and has gone so far as to give the disputed territories back to Mexico as a means for avoiding armed conflict. Mexico has set up provisional governments in those territories, but, contrary to international expectations, rather than curtailing the violence, Mexico has used those reclaimed territories as launching grounds to hoard and fire missiles at more American cities.

In response to international efforts to calm an already tense situation, the Mexican authorities have stated, "We will not rest until every American is dead and we have taken over the entire United States. We will continue our campaign deeper and deeper into the American heartland, making use of every weapon available from rocks to suicide bombers until every American has left America."

Oh wait, that's not Mexico, they're not that crazy, and America's would never make such concessations or be so patient. It's Hamas and Israel. Did they think that Israel had to let this keep going on? Even now that they are a separate state? If we wouldn't let Mexico do it to us, why should Israel let Hamas do it to them?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

LEPRECHAUN! In Mobile, Alabama?


Crichton Leprechaun
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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The Crichton Leprechaun (known alternatively as the Mobile Leprechaun) is a leprechaun purported to have been sighted in March 2006 by the residents of the Crichton neighborhood in Mobile, Alabama.[1] The Crichton Leprechaun rose to international prominence after a news story on the creature was aired by the local NBC affiliate, WPMI-TV.[2] The news story soon spread to internet video sites such as YouTube.com and Google Video, eventually reaching an audience of over 6.8 million people worldwide.[3] After the phenomenon hit the web, fans ran away with the idea, prompting the creation of sites dedicated to the Mobile Leprechaun "Where Da Gold At" and "Where The Gold At".[4][5]

The WPMI-TV news story featured an amateur sketch of the creature drawn by Nina Thomas-Brown.[6] Upon realizing the sudden fame of their story, WPMI-TV conducted an auction for the sketch on eBay for charity, which garnered $1100.[6] The sketch was purchased by Tye Miksis of New York City and the money raised was donated to the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life.[6]

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

It's about time: Cheney, Gonzales indicted in South Texas county

McALLEN, Texas – Vice President Dick Cheney and former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales have been indicted on state charges involving federal prisons in a South Texas county that has been a source of bizarre legal and political battles under the outgoing prosecutor.

The indictment returned Monday has not yet been signed by the presiding judge, and no action can be taken until that happens.

The seven indictments made public in Willacy County on Tuesday included one naming state Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. and some targeting public officials connected to District Attorney Juan Angel Guerra's own legal battles.

Regarding the indictments targeting the public officials, Guerra said, "the grand jury is the one that made those decisions, not me."

...

Guerra said the prison-related charges against Cheney and Gonzales are a national issue and experts from across the country testified to the grand jury.

Cheney is charged with engaging in an organized criminal activity related to the vice president's investment in the Vanguard Group, which holds financial interests in the private prison companies running the federal detention centers. It accuses Cheney of a conflict of interest and "at least misdemeanor assaults" on detainees because of his link to the prison companies.

Megan Mitchell, a spokeswoman for Cheney, declined to comment on Tuesday, saying that the vice president had not yet received a copy of the indictment.

The indictment accuses Gonzales of using his position while in office to stop an investigation in 2006 into abuses at one of the privately-run prisons.

...

Another indictment released Tuesday accuses Lucio of profiting from his public office by accepting honoraria from prison management companies. Guerra announced his intention to investigate Lucio's prison consulting early last year.

...

Willacy County has become a prison hub with county, state and federal lockups. Guerra has gone after the prison-politician nexus before, extracting guilty pleas from three former Willacy and Webb county commissioners after investigating bribery related to federal prison contacts.

Last month, a Willacy County grand jury indicted The GEO Group, a Florida private prison company, on a murder charge in the death of a prisoner days before his release. The three-count indictment alleged The GEO Group allowed other inmates to beat Gregorio de la Rosa Jr. to death with padlocks stuffed into socks. The death happened in 2001 at the Raymondville facility.

In 2006, a jury ordered the company to pay de la Rosa's family $47.5 million in a civil judgment. The Cheney-Gonzales indictment makes reference to the de la Rosa case.

...

The indictments were first reported by KRGV-TV.

___

Associated Press writer Deb Riechmann in Washington contributed to this report.

"..." indicates BOR redactions, not those of the authors or original publisher.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

God Bless America!

Obama's speech put tears in our eyes.  These words are inspirational.  Students should be taught to memorize them along with the preamble to the Constitution.  They come from the same spirit:
"If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.
 
"It's the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen; by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the very first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different; that their voice could be that difference.   
 
"It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled - Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America. 
 
"It's the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day. 
 
"It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America."

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Beautiful cover of Soulja Boy's "Crank Dat"



Lyrics to Crank That Soulja Boy :
(Yoooouuuu!)
Soulja boy I tell 'em
Hey I got a new dance fo you all called the soulja boy
(Yoooouuuu!)
You gotta punch then crank back three times from left to right
(Aaaaaaaahhhhhhhh yeeeeaaaah!)

[Chorus: x2]
Soulja Boy Off In This Hoe
Watch me Crank It
Watch me Roll
Watch me Crank Dat Soulja Boy
Then Super Man Dat Hoe
Now, Watch me You...
(Crank Dat Soulja Boy)
Now, Watch me You...
(Crank Dat Soulja Boy)
Now, Watch me You...
(Crank Dat Soulja Boy)
Now, Watch me You...
(Crank Dat Soulja Boy)

[Verse 1:]
Soulja Boy Off In This Hoe
Watch me Lean And Watch Me Rock?
Super Man Dat Hoe
Then Watch me Crank Dat Robocop?
Super Fresh, Now Watch Me Jock
Jocking On Them Haterz Man
When I Do Dat Soulja Boy
I Lean To The Left And Crank Dat Dance
(Now You)
I'm Jocking On Yo Bitch Ass
And If We Get The Fightin
Then I'm Cocking On Your Bitch
You Catch Me At Yo Local Party
Yes I Crank It Everyday
Haterz Get Mad Cause
"I Got Me some Bathing Apes"

[Chorus x2]

[Verse 2:]
I'm bouncin' on my toe
Watch me super soak dat oh
I'ma pass it to Arab
And he's gon' crank it up fo' sho'

Haterz wanna be me
Soulja Boy, I'm the man
They be lookin' at my neck
Sayin' it's the Rubberband Man, man
Watch me do it, watch me do it
Dance, dance
Let get to it, let get to it

Nope, you can't do it like me
Doe, so don't do it like me
Folk, I see you tryna do it like me
Man that damn was ugly

[Chorus x2]

I'm To Clean Off In This Hoe
Watch Me Crank And
Watch Me Roll
Watch Me Crank Dat Roosevelt
Then Super soak That Hoe,
Super Soak That Hoe [x9]
I'm to Fresh Off In This Bitch
Watch Me Show
Now Watch Me Gig
Watch Me Crank My Shoulder Work
And Superman That Bitch,
Superman That Bitch,
Superman That Bitch,
Superman That Bitch,
Superman that Bitch
(Awwwwwww) (You)

[Chorus x2]
[ Crank That Soulja Boy Lyrics on http://www.lyricsmania.com/ ] 

Monday, October 13, 2008

Voting for McCain is Racist

McCain's plays to the nut-job faction of his party's far right by stirring up racism. This became obvious when he used the phrase, "that one" as an epithet to describe the Senator from Illinois, instead of the usual address of "my distinguished colleague."

Still have doubts? This was carried on the AP:
Lewis' comments followed reported examples of anger at McCain-Palin rallies that has been aimed at Obama, the first black man to be a major party's nominee for president. GOP supporters have shouted "traitor," "terrorist," "treason," "liar" and "off with his head."

McCain defended his audiences, saying most who attend the rallies are "good and decent and patriotic Americans."

"To somehow intimate that the overwhelming majority of those people, with rare exception, are somehow not good Americans or are motivated by anything but the most patriotic motives is insulting and I won't accept that insult," he said.
Apparently his idea of what is "good and decent and patriotic" is a little weird. According to McCain, chants of "off with his head" were motivated by the "most patriotic motives" and suggesting otherwise is an insult. World, please note, most Americans would not agree with this sentiment.

This is the 21st Century for crying out loud. Racism, incitements to violence, and mob mentality are not good for America and are not patriotic. They are embarrassing.

John, Sarah: We anxiously await your apology.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Thought for the weekend

"You do not merely want to be considered just the best of the best. You want to be considered the only ones who do what you do."
-Jerry Garcia

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Hey U.S., welcome to the Third World!

It's been a quick slide from economic superpower to economic basket case.
Rosa Brooks
September 18, 2008
Dear United States, Welcome to the Third World!

It's not every day that a superpower makes a bid to transform itself into a Third World nation, and we here at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund want to be among the first to welcome you to the community of states in desperate need of international economic assistance. As you spiral into a catastrophic financial meltdown, we are delighted to respond to your Treasury Department's request that we undertake a joint stability assessment of your financial sector. In these turbulent times, we can provide services ranging from subsidized loans to expert advisors willing to perform an emergency overhaul of your entire government.

As you know, some outside intervention in your economy is overdue. Last week -- even before Wall Street's latest collapse -- 13 former finance ministers convened at the University of Virginia and agreed that you must fix your "broken financial system." Australia's Peter Costello noted that lately you've been "exporting instability" in world markets, and Yashwant Sinha, former finance minister of India, concluded, "The time has come. The U.S. should accept some monitoring by the IMF."

We hope you won't feel embarrassed as we assess the stability of your economy and suggest needed changes. Remember, many other countries have been in your shoes. We've bailed out the economies of Argentina, Brazil, Indonesia and South Korea. But whether our work is in Sudan, Bangladesh or now the United States, our experts are committed to intervening in national economies with care and sensitivity.

We thus want to acknowledge the progress you have made in your evolution from economic superpower to economic basket case. Normally, such a process might take 100 years or more. With your oscillation between free-market extremism and nationalization of private companies, however, you have successfully achieved, in a few short years, many of the key hallmarks of Third World economies.

Your policies of irresponsible government deregulation in critical sectors allowed you to rapidly develop an energy crisis, a housing crisis, a credit crisis and a financial market crisis, all at once, and accompanied (and partly caused) by impressive levels of corruption and speculation. Meanwhile, those of your political leaders charged with oversight were either napping or in bed with corporate lobbyists.

Take John McCain, your Republican presidential nominee, whose senior staff includes half a dozen prominent former lobbyists. As he recently put it, "I was chairman of the [Senate] Commerce Committee that oversights every part of the economy." No question about it: Your leaders' failure to notice the damage done by irresponsible deregulation was indeed an oversight of epic proportions.

Now you are facing the consequences. Income inequality has increased, as the rich have gotten windfalls while the middle class has seen incomes stagnate. Fewer and fewer of your citizens have access to affordable housing, healthcare or security in retirement. Even life expectancy has dropped. And when your economic woes went from chronic to acute, you responded -- like so many Third World states have -- with an extensive program of nationalizing private companies and assets. Your mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are now state owned and controlled, and this week your reinsurance giant AIG was effectively nationalized, with the Federal Reserve Board seizing an 80% equity stake in the flailing company.

Some might deride this as socialism. But desperate times call for desperate measures.

Admittedly, your transition to Third World status is far from over, and it won't be painless. At first, for instance, you may find it hard to get used to the shantytowns that will replace the exurban sprawl of McMansions that helped fuel the real estate speculation bubble. But in time, such shantytowns will simply become part of the landscape. Similarly, as unemployment rates continue to rise, you will initially struggle to find a use for the expanding pool of angry, jobless young men. But you will gradually realize that you can recruit them to fight in a ceaseless round of armed conflicts, a solution that has been utilized by many other Third World states before you. Indeed, with your wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, you are off to an excellent start.

Perhaps this letter comes as a surprise to you, and you feel you're not fully ready to join the Third World. Don't let this feeling concern you. Though you may never have realized it, you've been preparing for this moment for years.

rbrooks@latimescolumnists.com

Friday, September 19, 2008

Listen to the open blessings of life

A Thought For Shabbat:

This week we read a very gripping description of the curses that Moshe promises the retribution if we stray from the path of G-d.

The narrative is gripping and a brief sweep across the horizon of Jewish history tells us that tragically those warnings have been proven manifold...

But is that all there is to it?

...Dovber, a young child not even Bar Mitzva, would sit in Shul every week and listen to his father, the renowned Baal Hatanya (whose Birthday is today) read the Torah.

One year, on this Shabbat of the reading of the "curses", his father was out of town and one of the other rabbis in the community read it in his place.

As the reader began the customary undertone lamenting the tragedies that would befall the Jewish People, little Dovber, a bright child with an astute mind but equally emotional sensitivity suddenly felt nausea and by the time the reading was over he had taken ill.

(So much so, two weeks later on Yom Kippur there was discussion whether he would even be able to fast)

When he had already recovered one of his friends asked him why he suddenly became so emotionally overwhelmed hearing the curses if in fact he had already heard them read a number of times?

"When my father reads" explained Dovber, "I hear blessings."

The Baal HaTanya read the same Biblical premonitions that we do, but he only saw and heard blessings.

No, he wasn't G-d forbid delusional or theoretical.

He was a realist as much as any of us - but he looked beyond the headlines.

Yes, even if you didn't invest your life's saving in Lehman Brother's no one is having it easy - and not just financially.

These are trying times for G-d's children the world over - in so many ways...

And yet, my inner sense tells me that we can still hear blessings.

They may not be in the headlines - but the Baal HaTanya taught us that even the hardships of the Torah are only a layer, a surface, a cover - waiting to be peeled away to expose the true blessings inside.

Far be it from me to preach to another that their suffering isn't real and painful.

But I can pass on the message that there's more to the story - don't just read the headlines, even of your own life.

Listen to the open blessings of life - which we still do have - be it a ray of sunshine, a rush of fresh air, a moment with a close friend, a child's smile, or just the fact that we're still alive.

And soon we'll please G-d see those blessings in our headlines.

Wishing you a Shabbat or listening to the blessings - even in the headlines,

Rabbi Avi and Dena Rabin


Monday, September 15, 2008

'Drill, Drill, Drill' by playwright, Eve Ensler (The Vagina Monologues)

I am having Sarah Palin nightmares. I dreamt last night that she was a member of a club where they rode snowmobiles and wore the claws of drowned and starved polar bears around their necks. I have a particular thing for Polar Bears. Maybe it's their snowy whiteness or their bigness or the fact that they live in the arctic or that I have never seen one in person or touched one. Maybe it is the fact that they live so comfortably on ice. Whatever it is, I need the polar bears.

I don't like raging at women. I am a Feminist and have spent my life trying to build community, help empower women and stop violence against them. It is hard to write about Sarah Palin. This is why the Sarah Palin choice was all the more insidious and cynical. The people who made this choice count on the goodness and solidarity of Feminists.

But everything Sarah Palin believes in and practices is antithetical to Feminism which for me is part of one story -- connected to saving the earth, ending racism, empowering women, giving young girls options, opening our minds, deepening tolerance, and ending violence and war.

I believe that the McCain/Palin ticket is one of the most dangerous choices of my lifetime, and should this country chose those candidates the fall-out may be so great, the destruction so vast in so many areas that America may never recover. But what is equally disturbing is the impact that duo would have on the rest of the world. Unfortunately, this is not a joke. In my lifetime I have seen the clownish, the inept, the bizarre be elected to the presidency with regularity.

Sarah Palin does not believe in evolution. I take this as a metaphor. In her world and the world of Fundamentalists nothing changes or gets better or evolves. She does not believe in global warming. The melting of the arctic, the storms that are destroying our cities, the pollution and rise of cancers, are all part of God's plan. She is fighting to take the polar bears off the endangered species list. The earth, in Palin's view, is here to be taken and plundered. The wolves and the bears are here to be shot and plundered. The oil is here to be taken and plundered. Iraq is here to be taken and plundered. As she said herself of the Iraqi war, 'It was a task from God.'

Sarah Palin does not believe in abortion. She does not believe women who are raped and incested and ripped open against their will should have a right to determine whether they have their rapist's baby or not.

She obviously does not believe in sex education or birth control. I imagine her daughter was practicing abstinence and we know how many babies that makes.

Sarah Palin does not much believe in thinking. From what I gather she has tried to ban books from the library, has a tendency to dispense with people who think independently. She cannot tolerate an environment of ambiguity and difference. This is a woman who could and might very well be the next president of the United States . She would govern one of the most diverse populations on the earth.

Sarah believes in guns. She has her own custom Austrian hunting rifle. She has been known to kill 40 caribou at a clip. She has shot hundreds of wolves from the air.

Sarah believes in God. That is of course her right, her private right. But when God and Guns come together in the public sector, when war is declared in God's name, when the rights of women are denied in his name, that is the end of separation of church and state and the undoing of everything America has ever tried to be.

I write to my sisters. I write because I believe we hold this election in our hands. This vote is a vote that will determine the future not just of the U.S. , but of the planet. It will determine whether we create policies to save the earth or make it forever uninhabitable for humans. It will determine whether we move towards dialogue and diplomacy in the world or whether we escalate violence through invasion, undermining and attack. It will determine whether we go for oil, strip mining, coal burning or invest our money in alternatives that will free us from dependency and destruction. It will determine if money gets spent on education and healthcare or whether we build more and more methods of killing. It will determine whether America is a free open tolerant society or a closed place of fear, fundamentalism and aggression.

If the Polar Bears don't move you to go and do everything in your power to get Obama elected then consider the chant that filled the hall after Palin spoke at the RNC, 'Drill Drill Drill.' I think of teeth when I think of drills. I think of rape. I think of destruction. I think of domination. I think of military exercises that force mindless repetition, emptying the brain of analysis, doubt, ambiguity or dissent. I think of pain.

Do we want a future of drilling? More holes in the ozone, in the floor of the sea, more holes in our thinking, in the trust between nations and peoples, more holes in the fabric of this precious thing we call life?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Republicans Lie, part 104,368. This is getting too easy.

MIAMI HERALD:

Out of bounds: McCain-Palin misdirect blame for immigration flop

By DAVID LIGHTMAN

September 12, 2008

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics/AP/story/683911.html

Throw the flag against: The McCain-Palin campaign.

Call: Illegal shift.

What happened: The campaign Friday launched a 30-second Spanish-language television ad charging that Democrat Barack Obama and his Senate colleagues torpedoed meaningful changes in immigration laws.

"The press reports that their efforts were 'poison pills' that made immigration reform fail," the ad charges. "The result: No guest worker program. No path to citizenship. No secure borders. No reform. Is that being on our side? Obama and his congressional allies ready to block immigration reform, but not ready to lead."

What that's wrong: Media accounts cited two votes as effectively killing immigration reform last year - and Obama was on the same side as McCain in both.

On June 7, supporters failed by 15 votes to cut off a filibuster. McCain and Obama voted to limit debate. The Politico headline the next day: "Senate immigration compromise collapses."

On June 28, another effort to limit debate failed by 14 votes; CNN called it a "crushing defeat." Obama and McCain again voted to cut off debate, but it was largely Republican senators who led the filibuster.

In its review of the 2007 Congress, Congressional Quarterly cited both votes as crucial to killing the immigration measure.
Penalty: Set the McCain-Palin campaign's credibility back five yards.

ON THE WEB
To read the CNN account on the June 28 vote:
http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/06/28/immigration.congress/index.html


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Compare this to "Am I Just a Figment of Someone's Imagination"

Are We Trapped in God's Video Game?

10.15.2007
Discover Magazine

Probably not. And no, he's not looking at your underwear.

by Jaron Lanier

There are certain questions about virtual reality (VR) that I’ve been asked a few times a day, every day, for over a quarter century. The e-mails still come in, from a kid in Korea or a grandmother in Australia: Will VR ever get so good that we will no longer be able to tell it’s VR? Is it possible we are already living in VR? Recently even The New York Times got into the act, interpreting an argument from philosopher Nick Bostrom to mean that “it is almost a mathematical certainty that we are living in someone else’s computer simulation.”

When these questions come up, I usually try to redirect the inquirer’s attention to the world of actual VR research, because that topic is richer than most people realize. But readers of this column know I am as friendly as can be to weird speculations, and it is interesting to think about the metaphysical side of virtual reality.

The concept of “VR so good you can’t tell” can mean different things. It might mean that a person who started off in natural reality can be fooled by a simulation, or it might mean that a being who was created as part of a simulation can become conscious.

Let’s consider the second possibility. Can consciousness arise inside a computer simulation? As it happens, I’m that rare creature, a cybernetic daredevil who is usually a dualist: I get thrills from figuring out how to make computer programs reproduce tricks the brain can do, and yet I often believe consciousness is something special that cannot be simulated like other phenomena. Suppose I’m wrong, though, and a simulated character can become conscious. Could it know it is living in a simulation?

Robotics researcher Hans Moravec originated the argument that we are probably already living in VR: If it is possible to build virtual realities sophisticated enough to give rise to sentient residents, it’s likely there would be many such VRs. After all, once we built the first car or the first laptop computer, millions upon millions more followed. (And even if humanity never builds superlative VR machines, some alien civilization somewhere will do it, if it is possible.) If you are a self-aware creature, then, there are two possibilities: You live in natural reality, or you live in one of these super-VRs. Since there is only one of the former and a lot of the latter, the chances are quite strong that you, and indeed all of us, are living in a simulated world.

Although this pseudostatistical style of reasoning doesn’t prove anything, it does say something about the relative likelihood of a particular metaphysical truth. That may seem like a strange way to think, but an even stranger development, to my mind, is that recent results may give us empirical evidence about whether we are living in a simulation. If you believe that thinking about metaphysics in a pseudostatistical way is sensible, then these results make it seem much less likely that we’re living in a VR than it did back when people first started asking me those questions.

When Moravec first made his case back in the 1980s, the popular way of thinking was that there is one and only one natural reality. These days, that answer is becoming less popular all the time, because of a seemingly unrelated field: quantum computation.

Experiments over the past decade show that quantum computers (which process information using the quantum states of particles rather than transistors) really can work. And as it happens, one interpretation of quantum mechanics that used to be somewhat obscure has suddenly become popular because it’s better adapted for explaining quantum computation, at least to human brains.

I’m speaking, of course, of the many worlds interpretation. In this view, each world has a copy of your quantum computer, and they all run at once; that’s why they outperform regular computers that can function in only one reality. When you get an answer out, it’s the same thing as discovering which of the many worlds you are in.

The rising fortunes of the many worlds interpretation seem to have emboldened champions of other ideas about multiple realities. Some string theorists now talk about a “landscape” of realities in which physics is different in each reality. Cosmologist Max Tegmark and the late philosopher David Lewis have offered yet other ways of thinking about many realities instead of one.

You might object that even if there are a large number of realities, there still ought to be many more VRs, because each reality could have many VRs inside it. But that’s not so. Many of the multiple-realities theories suggest an unbounded number of worlds, and if the number of realities can be infinite, then there can’t be more VRs than realities; infinity is as many as there can be. Even if there are only a finite number of realities, there is no guarantee that each reality would host VRs. Virtual realities take up time, energy, and space—and a given reality has limited supplies of those things. All of this suggests that VRs are unlikely to be more common than natural realities.

+++

Of course, this whole discussion begs the question of what we mean when we distinguish a VR from a natural reality. If a simulation is perfect in every way, it is by definition indistinguishable from the thing it simulates. So there must be some difference between a natural reality and a virtual one, or else there’s nothing virtual about it. Maybe the VR is self-evidently low resolution. The ones we can build today certainly are! But that’s not the only possible difference.

The usual sort of difference that people are interested in is the existence of an entity that can look into the lives of players in the VR, a powerful player who is usually but not necessarily hidden. It’s similar to believing in a god. The rhetoric of VR thought experiments often plays up this angle. Some people imagine this creature as a pimply nerd in the sky who is running a cosmic copy of The Sims, who are us. Perhaps with that image in mind, one woman commented to me that she worried that this being might be able to see whether her underwear was clean on a given day.

A pimply video-game-playing kid is an especially unlikely “god” ruling over our reality.

Strangely enough, there are some recent empirical results that may influence whether we should believe in this underwear-­obsessed dude. Before I describe them, though, I need to introduce the idea of a spectrum of possible gods, running from wimpy to omnipotent. All the supernatural beings of religion and science fiction fit somewhere on the spectrum.

The very wimpiest god can hypothetically see into our world but can’t do anything at all to interact with us in any way, in any world—including hypothetical afterlives. As far as we’re concerned, it’s meaningless to think of this god as one who exists. The second-wimpiest god might be able to perform just a trick or two that seem supernatural to us, but underwear spying is just one trick of many, and therefore unlikely.

Paradoxically, pseudostatistical reasoning suggests that the most omnipotent god won’t notice your underwear, either. Such a god can see and manipulate all possible versions of you and your world (including your wearing clean, filthy, or no underwear at all). If there is something special enough about your underwear to merit notice, there’s another version of you in another reality wearing even more special underwear. The Top God is infinitely less likely to focus on the particular pair of underwear you are wearing today than you are likely to focus on a particular grain of sand on a beach. He is just as moot as the weakest god.

So as far as underwear spying goes, it’s only those gods in the middle of the spectrum who should concern us. A god who spies would do so, presumably, only if he (or she for that matter) experiences surprise at the unveiling of the future and is able to see into only a narrow range of realities. The Greek gods were like this.

The empirical results that influence how we might think about God-as-video-game-player are the successful demonstrations of quantum cryptography, in which a sender and receiver can be assured that no natural observer has eavesdropped on a message. This system works because a component of the message is ruined by quantum effects as soon as it is read. For a god to eavesdrop on a quantum cryptography session and then cover his tracks, would, as it happens, require near omnipotence. When the first quantum cryptography experiments were done, I felt a little relieved and sad at the same time, because we then knew that one kind of potential exotic or supernatural form of life that might have been watching us either did not exist or wasn’t paying attention.

Continuing the pseudostatistical arguments, a god that can exist only within a narrow portion of the spectrum of possible gods is less likely than a god that can exist over a larger portion of the spectrum. The game-playing kid feels the squeeze from both ends. He has to be both weak enough to be able to focus on a particular pair of underwear and strong enough to be able to cover his tracks after eavesdropping on a quantum cryptography session—or else be willing not to peek at any messages we decide to keep secret.

That probably—no guarantees—places him within a razor-thin niche on a wide spectrum of possible gods. So I can’t swear that we’re not living in a simulation, but I can offer some assurance: A pimply virtual reality operator is an especially unlikely god.

Further down the rabbit hole...

"WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush secretly approved orders in July that for the first time allow U.S. special forces to carry out ground assaults inside Pakistan without the approval of the Pakistani government, The New York Times reported on Thursday."
  1. Pakistan is in a time of transition in which a staunch U.S. ally, a military leader, Musharref, was unable to control the fundamentalist factions in his otherwise moderate moslem country.
  2. This country became unstable the minute it was clear that Musharref could not maintain his power. I think that was about July.
  3. Shouldn't our special forces be operating in our war zones? Oh, we must be opening another front in our war. Pakistan's a good choice: after all it is an increasingly fundamentalist moslem country, thrust into a period of political instability, which has nuclear capacity.
  4. Also I guess the fact that Al Queda is already entrenched and protected by the locals-- because they like Al Queda-- shouldn't make you worry that, if a U.S. invasion leads to a galvanization of the fundamentalists, Al Queda could easily end up with nukes.
  5. But then again, what are the odds that a U.S. invasion would actual create greater instability in the country resulting in the galvanization of, increased recruitment for, and thus power in the hands of the fundamentalists. I mean that already happened in Afghanistan and Iraq, so (ala Garp) what are the odds of that happening again?
  6. Well no doubt we'll have far better luck than Musharref in getting Pakistan to follow a moderate line, after all, what could Musharref possibly have known about Pakistan?
  7. Oh, something else-- how much do you think its going to help Benazir Bhutto's husband to have a US military presence in the country when he's promising to reestablish a moderate and functional democracy and actually has a chance to do so?
  8. Isn't there some historical precedent for when a president authorized special forces to conduct operations in a country we were not at war without the approval of that government? How did that work out? Not too good, huh? Well I'm sure things will be different this time. After all, history never repeats itself.
Idiots.
(The forgoing sarcastic tirade, of course, is subject to withdrawal if we nab Osama as a result of these operations. Maybe two weeks before the election in November would be the best timing. But to suggest that the administration is taking this stupid risk to try to help McCain's otherwise worthless campaign would be the type of conspiracy-theorist paranoia that this writer tries --sometimes helplessly-- to avoid. Maybe they're not just stupid, maybe they're evil too.)

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Republicans Lie, Part DDMXII


The press has given the republican party another break, calling this a mistake. What is missed is the irony of the fact that in trying to associate their candidate with the Walter Reed Medical Center, they have proved that their candidate has never even seen the Walter Reed Medical Center (or if he has, he has no recollection of it.)

It gets worse. The LAUSD charges $2,500/day for filming at its schools. I wonder if a check is on the way. So if its not bad enough that Republicans perpetually underfund education, it now appears as if they are actively stealing from our public schools.

The principal of Walter Reed Middle School, Donna Tobin released a statement on the school's website saying that the school had not given permission for the footage to be used, "nor is the use of our school’s picture an endorsement of any political party or view." I have lived in North Hollywood. McCain's lame attempt to connect himself to this marvelous community is an insult. I am willing to bet that there is not a single person with a family member in that school or otherwise actively involved at that schools that benefits from another Republican administration (except for those that are willing to sacrifice their jobs and affordable healthcare over gun control.)

I am not convinced this is a mistake. At best, this was a reckless act. In other words, an act undertaken without any regard for the truth. As McCain has insisted, "this campaign is not about the issues." It is an effort to convince a majority of the populace that they are similarly situated to those who earn over $600,000 per year and thus benefit from Republican policies. The only way they can do this in light of increased wealth stratification, decrease in real wages, the disappearance of public social services, and the rising cost of and thus unavailability of health care to the marginalized middle class, is to lie.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Family Values, Republican Style


Meet America's first trailer-trash vice-presidential candidate: Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska ("the state closest to Russia!" )-- soon-to-be grandmother of out-of-wedlock child carried by 17-year-old daughter, Bristol. Shown here relaxing, Alaska-style.

Who is Sarah Palin? Here's some basic background:

  • She was elected Alaska's governor a little over a year and a half ago. Her previous office was mayor of Wasilla, a small town outside Anchorage.1
  • Palin is strongly anti-choice, opposing abortion even in the case of rape or incest.2
  • She supported right-wing extremist Pat Buchanan for president in 2000. 3
  • Palin thinks creationism should be taught in public schools.4
  • She's doesn't think humans are the cause of climate change.5
  • She's solidly in line with John McCain's "Big Oil first" energy policy. She's pushed hard for more oil drilling and says renewables won't be ready for years. She also sued the Bush administration for listing polar bears as a threatened species-she was worried it would interfere with more oil drilling in Alaska.6


1. "Sarah Palin," Wikipedia, Accessed August 29, 2008
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarah_Palin

2. "McCain Selects Anti-Choice Sarah Palin as Running Mate," NARAL Pro-Choice America, August 29, 2008
http://www.naral.org/elections/election-pr/pr08292008_palin.html

3. "Sarah Palin, Buchananite," The Nation, August 29, 2008
http://www.thenation.com/blogs/jstreet/350730/sarah_palin_buchananite

4. "'Creation science' enters the race," Anchorage Daily News, October 27, 2006
http://dwb.adn.com/news/politics/elections/story/8347904p-8243554c.html

5. "Palin buys climate denial PR spin—ignores science," Huffington Post, August 29, 2008
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kevin-grandia/palin-buys-climate-denial_b_122428.html

6. "McCain VP Pick Completes Shift to Bush Energy Policy," Sierra Club, August 29, 2008
http://yubanet.com/opinions/Sierra-Club-McCain-VP-Pick-Completes-Shift-to-Bush-Energy-Policy.php

"Choice of Palin Promises Failed Energy Policies of the Past," League of Conservation Voters, August 29, 2008
http://www.lcv.org/newsroom/press-releases/choice-of-palin-promises-failed-energy-policies-of-the-past.html

"Protecting polar bears gets in way of drilling for oil, says governor," The Times of London, May 23, 2008
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article3987891.ece

Friday, August 22, 2008

McCain vs. Obama, the facts as they aren't.

Voter Information for the 2008 US Presidential Election

From Uncyclopedia, the content-free encyclopedia.

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We at Uncyclopedia are very interested in the fate of our world. Unlike our counterparts at Wikipedia we are committed to educate our fellow humans so that they may make informed and intelligent decisions. As you probably already know, no one needs educating more than the American electorate. For this reason, we present the following fair and unbiased information.

[Because of some of the content of this article, I am only presenting the introduction. The content is very funny, but, as is often the case with Uncyclopedia entries, offensive. Click here for the content.]

Monday, August 11, 2008

The End of The Line

by The Traveling Wilburys

(chorus 1)
Well its all right, riding around in the breeze
Well its all right, if you live the life you please
Well its all right, doing the best you can
Well its all right, as long as you lend a hand

You can sit around and wait for the phone to ring
Waiting for someone to tell you everything
Sit around and wonder what tomorrow will bring
Maybe a diamond ring

(chorus 2)
Well its all right, even if they say you're wrong
Well its all right, sometimes you gotta be strong
Well its all right, as long as you got somewhere to lay
Well its all right, everyday is judgment day

Maybe somewhere down the road aways
You'll think of me, and wonder where I am these days
Maybe somewhere down the road when somebody plays
Purple haze

(chorus 3)
Well its all right, even when push comes to shove
Well its all right, if you got someone to love
Well its all right, everything'll work out fine
Well its all right, were going to the end of the line

Dont have to be ashamed of the car I drive
I'm just glad to be here, happy to be alive
It don't matter, if you're by my side
I'm satisfied

(chorus 4)
Well its all right, even if youre old and grey
Well its all right, you still got something to say
Well its all right, remember to live and let live
Well its all right, the best you can do is forgive

(chorus 5)
Well its all right, riding around in the breeze
Well its all right, if you live the life you please
Well its all right, even if the sun don't shine
Well its all right, we're going to the end of the line

Apollo 14 astronaut claims aliens HAVE made contact - but it has been covered up for 60 years

Last updated at 1:44 AM on 24th July 2008

Aliens have contacted humans several times but governments have hidden the truth for 60 years, the sixth man to walk on the moon has claimed.

Apollo 14 astronaut Dr Edgar Mitchell, said he was aware of many UFO visits to Earth during his career with NASA but each one was covered up.

Dr Mitchell, 77, said during a radio interview that sources at the space agency who had had contact with aliens described the beings as 'little people who look strange to us.'

He said supposedly real-life ET's were similar to the traditional image of a small frame, large eyes and head.

Chillingly, he claimed our technology is 'not nearly as sophisticated' as theirs and "had they been hostile", he warned 'we would be been gone by now'.

Dr Mitchell, along with with Apollo 14 commander Alan Shepard, holds the record for the longest ever moon walk, at nine hours and 17 minutes following their 1971 mission.

'I happen to have been privileged enough to be in on the fact that we've been visited on this planet and the UFO phenomena is real,' Dr Mitchell said.

'It's been well covered up by all our governments for the last 60 years or so, but slowly it's leaked out and some of us have been privileged to have been briefed on some of it.
alien

UFO theorists believe Roswell in New Mexico was the site of an alien crash in 1947

'I've been in military and intelligence circles, who know that beneath the surface of what has been public knowledge, yes - we have been visited. Reading the papers recently, it's been happening quite a bit.'

Dr Mitchell, who has a Bachelor of Science degree in aeronautical engineering and a Doctor of Science degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics claimed Roswell was real and similar alien visits continue to be investigated.

He told the astonished Kerrang! radio host Nick Margerrison: "This is really starting to open up. I think we're headed for real disclosure and some serious organisations are moving in that direction.'

Mr Margerrison said: 'I thought I'd stumbled on some sort of astronaut humour but he was absolutely serious that aliens are definitely out there and there's no debating it.'

Officials from NASA, however, were quick to play the comments down.

In a statement, a spokesman said: "NASA does not track UFOs. NASA is not involved in any sort of cover up about alien life on this planet or anywhere in the universe.

'Dr Mitchell is a great American, but we do not share his opinions on this issue.'

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Official Portrait

Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" the Opera (for reals!)

Friedkin To Take Inconvenient Truth To The Opera House

8 July 2008 9:08 AM, PDT | From wenn.com | See recent WENN news

Latest: The Exorcist director William Friedkin has been recruited to direct the forthcoming opera adaptation of global warming documentary An Inconvenient Truth.

The production will open in Italy at Milan's famous La Scala opera house on 11 May 2011. It will be written by poet J.D. McClatchy and the score composed by Giorgio Battistelli.

Director Davis Guggenheim's film, which starred former U.S. Vice President Al Gore as narrator, premiered at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival and has since taken the world by storm.

The documentary won Academy Awards for Best Documentary Feature and for Best Original Song at 2007's ceremony.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Monday, June 23, 2008

NASA scientist: "We're toast..."

NASA warming scientist: 'This is the last chance'

By SETH BORENSTEIN, AP Science Writer 56 minutes ago

Exactly 20 years after warning America about global warming, a top NASA scientist said the situation has gotten so bad that the world's only hope is drastic action.

James Hansen told Congress on Monday that the world has long passed the "dangerous level" for greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and needs to get back to 1988 levels. He said Earth's atmosphere can only stay this loaded with man-made carbon dioxide for a couple more decades without changes such as mass extinction, ecosystem collapse and dramatic sea level rises.

"We're toast if we don't get on a very different path," Hansen, director of the Goddard Institute of Space Sciences who is sometimes called the godfather of global warming science, told The Associated Press. "This is the last chance."

Hansen brought global warming home to the public in June 1988 during a Washington heat wave, telling a Senate hearing that global warming was already here. To mark the anniversary, he testified before the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming where he was called a prophet, and addressed a luncheon at the National Press Club where he was called a hero by former Sen. Tim Wirth, D-Colo., who headed the 1988 hearing.

To cut emissions, Hansen said coal-fired power plants that don't capture carbon dioxide emissions shouldn't be used in the United States after 2025, and should be eliminated in the rest of the world by 2030. That carbon capture technology is still being developed and not yet cost efficient for power plants.

Burning fossil fuels like coal is the chief cause of man-made greenhouse gases. Hansen said the Earth's atmosphere has got to get back to a level of 350 parts of carbon dioxide per million. Last month, it was 10 percent higher: 386.7 parts per million.

Hansen said he'll testify on behalf of British protesters against new coal-fired power plants. Protesters have chained themselves to gates and equipment at sites of several proposed coal plants in England.

"The thing that I think is most important is to block coal-fired power plants," Hansen told the luncheon. "I'm not yet at the point of chaining myself but we somehow have to draw attention to this."

Frank Maisano, a spokesman for many U.S. utilities, including those trying to build new coal plants, said while Hansen has shown foresight as a scientist, his "stop them all approach is very simplistic" and shows that he is beyond his level of expertise.

The year of Hansen's original testimony was the world's hottest year on record. Since then, 14 years have been hotter, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Two decades later, Hansen spent his time on the question of whether it's too late to do anything about it. His answer: There's still time to stop the worst, but not much time.

"We see a tipping point occurring right before our eyes," Hansen told the AP before the luncheon. "The Arctic is the first tipping point and it's occurring exactly the way we said it would."

Hansen, echoing work by other scientists, said that in five to 10 years, the Arctic will be free of sea ice in the summer.

Longtime global warming skeptic Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., citing a recent poll, said in a statement, "Hansen, (former Vice President) Gore and the media have been trumpeting man-made climate doom since the 1980s. But Americans are not buying it."

But Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., committee chairman, said, "Dr. Hansen was right. Twenty years later, we recognize him as a climate prophet."

___

On the Net:

Hansen's speech: http://www.columbia.edu/jeh1/2008/TwentyYearsLater_20080623.pdf

Friday, June 6, 2008

Stem cells apparently cure boy's fatal disease

The treatment uses umbilical and marrow cells to help develop normal skin. Doctors say it may move his genetic disorder 'off the incurable list' for other patients.

By Thomas H. Maugh II
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

3:17 PM PDT, June 6, 2008

Using stem cells from umbilical cord blood and bone marrow, researchers have apparently cured a fatal genetic disease in a 2-year-old Minneapolis boy, a feat that could open the door for a variety of stem cell treatments.

For the first time in his life, Nate Liao is wearing normal clothes, eating food that has not been pureed and playing with his siblings.

"Nate's quality of life is forever changed," said Dr. John Wagner of the University of Minnesota Medical School, who performed the treatment. "Maybe we can take one more disorder off the incurable list."

The team has subsequently treated Nate's 5-year-old brother Jacob and is preparing to treat 9-month-old Sarah Rose Mooreland of Folsom, Calif., and hopes are high for them as well.

Nate suffers from recessive epidermolysis bullosa, a genetic disease that affects one in every 100,000 children. Such children lack a critical protein called collagen type VII that anchors the skin and lining of the gastrointestinal system to the body.

Their skin is extraordinarily fragile. Tearing and blistering occur with minimal friction, leading to painful wounds and scarring. Solid food produces erosion of the esophagus. Death usually results from malnutrition, infections or aggressive skin cancer.

The only treatment previously has been to keep the children wrapped in bandages to protect the skin as much as possible.

The idea of using circulating stem cells to treat the condition was developed by Dr. Angela M. Christiano of Columbia University Medical Center. This is the first time that cells from bone marrow and cord blood have been used to treat a condition that does not involve blood.

After perfecting the approach in mice, the team treated Nate seven months ago. Nate went first because one of his brothers was a good genetic match. Jacob received cells from a non-familial donor.

Lab tests show that Nate's body is now making collagen type VII, Wagner said at a news conference Tuesday.

More important, his face is plumped up and he has fewer blisters. New skin now covers his right leg, which once had only a translucent purple-and-red coating over his internal tissues and veins. And he is eating Oreos and chicken noodle soup and begging for more.

"I have watched Nate improve every day," said his mother, Theresa Liao. "It has been slow, but I believe we are on the road to him getting better."

The results will be published in a future issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

thomas.maugh@latimes.com

Paintings really can be heard, scientist says

Sept. 7, 2006
Courtesy University College London
and World Science staff

The Rus­sian art­ist Was­si­ly Kan­din­sky was­n’t talk­ing non­sense when he claimed his paint­ings could be heard, a sci­ent­ist says. In fact, he adds, we all link sound and col­or men­tal­ly at some le­vel—and tend to do so in con­sist­ent ways, which art­ists can exploit.

Kandin­sky's "Composition VIII, 1923," in the Sol­o­mon R. Gug­gen­heim Mu­se­um, New York.


Some peo­ple con­scious­ly rea­lize the cross­o­ver of sen­ses in their brains, said the re­search­er, Ja­mie Ward of Uni­ver­si­ty Col­lege Lon­don. These in­di­vi­du­als have a rare con­di­tion in which the senses min­gle, called syn­aes­the­sia.

They may real
­ly feel they hear paint­ings, for in­s­tance. But the con­di­tion does­n’t oc­cur on­ly with sound and sight: the most bi­zarre forms of it have been re­ported.

A stu­dy in the Aug. 22 is­sue of the re­search jour­nal Con­scious­ness and Cog­ni­tion, for ex­am­ple, found that some peo­ple link time and space. One de­s­cribed De­cem­ber as a red ar­e­a lo­cat­ed at arm’s length to the left of their bod­y.

Ward detailed find­ings of his own new stu­dies on syn­aes­the­sia at a talk at the Bri­t­ish As­so­ci­a­tion for the Ad­vance­ment of Sci­ence Fes­ti­val of Sci­ence in Nor­wich, U.K. this week. His work fo­cused on the sound-col­or-link­age of which Kan­din­sky spoke.

His found that most of us tend to agree with syn­aes­thetes on which im­ages match which sounds, and that we pre­fer them com­bined rath­er than alone.

Kan­din­sky, who lived from 1866 to 1944, “wanted to make vis­u­al art more like mu­sic—more ab­strac­t,” Ward said. “He al­so hoped that his paint­ings would be ‘heard’ by his au­di­ences. This seems more achiev­a­ble now that we have found such a strong link be­tween vi­sion and hear­ing.”

“Although in­for­ma­tion from the world en­ters our heads vi­a dif­fer­ent sen­so­ry or­gans—the eyes and ears in this in­stance—once they are in the brain they are in­ti­mate­ly con­nect­ed with each oth­er. Im­pres­sive­ly, they are con­nect­ed in non-random ways, so that some com­bi­na­tions of sound and vi­sion go to­geth­er bet­ter than oth­ers.”

In ex­per­i­ments, Ward said he asked six synaes­thetes to draw and de­scribe their vis­u­al ex­pe­ri­ences of mu­sic from the New Lon­don Or­ches­tra. Six non-syn­aes­thetes were asked to do the same. Also, an an­i­ma­tor crea­ted films com­bin­ing the mu­sic and drawn im­ages. These were shown to vi­si­tors at Lon­don’s Sci­ence Mu­se­um.

Furthermore, 100 im­ages were presented to over 200 peo­ple. They were asked to choose the im­age that best fit the mu­sic. They con­sist­ently chose im­ages drawn by synaes­thetes over others, Ward re­ported.

This shows, he said, that while non-syn­aes­thetes can’t hear a paint­ing or see mu­sic lit­er­ally, they do sense the cross­o­ver and tend to choose the “cor­rect” im­age. “All of us have links be­tween our hear­ing and vi­sion—even if we don’t really realise it,” Ward said.

That’s not to say that synaes­thetes hear pre­cise­ly the same sounds in “lis­ten­ing” to a Kan­din­sky paint­ing.

De­scrib­ing the art­ist’s “Com­po­si­tion VIII, 1923,” Ward re­ported, one synaes­thete said: “The jum­bled mass of lines gave var­i­ous tones, which changed as my eyes trav­elled round the pic­ture. When look­ing at the large mul­ti­coloured pow­er­ful cir­cle at up­per left, I get a pure tone which can be too much, so to re­lieve my mind of this I trav­el back to the ca­coph­o­ny of jum­bled lines and shapes. This paint­ing there­fore is a good bal­ance of con­trast­ing noise—pure tones and ca­coph­o­ny—which was a de­light to see.”

Anoth­er de­scribed it as fol­lows: “There is a huge splurge of sound left-hand top—boom­ing and vul­gar! Be­low it is a mousy lit­tle meee sound which then trans­lates in­to ‘o­h’s and ‘ah’s and pops at the var­i­ous cir­cles. The lines are sharp and are mov­ing to the right with the sound of steel—like blades scrap­ing against one anoth­er. The tri­an­gle and boom­er­ang shape are sur­prised and pop up laugh­ing with a ‘whooo’.”

The next stage of the re­search will use brain scans to mon­i­tor the brains of synaes­thetes when Kan­din­sky trig­gers sound or when sound trig­gers a vi­sion, Ward said.