Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Thirty years ago journalist Tom Bethell wrote an article for The Atlantic about why Darwin's theory was...er, soon to be discarded.

As 2006 approaches, perhaps someone will take pity on the poor man, waken him from his three-decades-long slumber and have him read this.

Somehow I doubt the people at Regnery are going to feel compelled to update their Factually Politically Incorrect Guide to Science.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Crackpot Index Alert: "The other night I was brooding, as usual, on the Shakespeare authorship question..."

Dear God, someone tell this poor man to get outdoors once in a while.
This year's Christmas Message comes from the Dark Side. And Amy Welborn, who reminds us why Christmas shouldn't be all warm and fuzzy.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Judge Jones has issued a verdict:
After a searching review of the record and applicable caselaw, we find that
while ID arguments may be true, a proposition on which the Court takes no
position, ID is not science. We find that ID fails on three different levels, any one of which is sufficient to preclude a determination that ID is science. They are: (1)
ID violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting
supernatural causation; (2) the argument of irreducible complexity, central to ID,
employs the same flawed and illogical contrived dualism that doomed creation
science in the 1980's; and (3) ID’s negative attacks on evolution have been refuted
by the scientific community. As we will discuss in more detail below, it is
additionally important to note that ID has failed to gain acceptance in the scientific
community, it has not generated peer-reviewed publications, nor has it been the
subject of testing and research.

This is great news. Read the whole thing. More from the Judges conclusion:
The proper application of both the endorsement and Lemon tests to the facts of this case makes it abundantly clear that the Board’s ID Policy violates the Establishment Clause. In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.

Both Defendants and many of the leading proponents of ID make a bedrock
assumption which is utterly false. Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in
general. Repeatedly in this trial, Plaintiffs’ scientific experts testified that the
theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the
scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the
existence of a divine creator.
(emphasis mine) What should now become apparent to concerned Christians and parents everywhere is the utter mendacity and intellectual dishonesty behind much of the "movement" to force creationism into public school science classes.

Thanks to Judge Jones for reminding everyone this Christmas that being Christian does not necessarily mean checking your brains at the door.

I look forward to seeing how the Discovery "Institute" spins this one.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Things are not as they seem. It now appears that Richard Sternberg, about whom I blogged here, is not the martyr he has been making himself out to be.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Richard Dawkins refuses to live up to the stereotype painted of him by conservatives who like to cite him as an example of how acceptance of Darwin's theory necessarily rules out belief in God:

Is atheism the logical extension of believing in evolution?

They clearly can’t be irrevocably linked because a very large number of theologians believe in evolution. In fact, any respectable theologian of the Catholic or Anglican or any other sensible church believes in evolution. Similarly, a very large number of evolutionary scientists are also religious. My personal feeling is that understanding evolution led me to atheism.

(emphasis mine)

Reed Cartwright at Panda's Thumb...has more depressing evidence of the Discovery Institute's lying problem with intellectual honesty.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Special prayers and thoughts requested this Season for Mark Shea, who lost his father-in-law, and DarwinCatholic, whose father is seriously ill.

Friday, December 09, 2005

What Hollywood Fears. Excellent article from i2 Partners:
Hollywood believes large-scale broadband video distribution would only destroy proven value, fail to provide alternative value, and alter a business model that is still far from being in decline. With near-total control of the most valuable program libraries and the business models governing their distribution, a shift towards broadband media will come largely on Hollywood’s terms and at an incremental pace.
Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

By all means, let's teach the controversy!
Linguists here in Canada have been following closely, with a mixture of amusement, bemusement, and, it must be admitted, a little trepidation, the deliberations of our neighbours to the south, who are currently considering, in a courtroom in Pennsylvania, whether "Wrathful Dispersion Theory," as it is called, should be taught in the public schools alongside evolutionary theories of historical linguistics. It is an emotionally charged question, for linguistics is widely and justifiably seen as the centrepiece of the high-school science curriculum—a hard science, but not a difficult one to do in the classroom; an area of study that teaches students the essentials of scientific reasoning, but that at the same time touches on the spiritual essence of what it means to be human, for it is of course language that separates us from our cousins the apes.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Something for anti-technology environmentalists to keep in mind:
Let me give you one small example. We complain a lot about air pollution today, but there were 200,000 horses in New York City, at the beginning of the 20th century defecating everywhere. And when you walked around in New York City, you were breathing pulverized horse manure -- a much worse pollutant, than the exhausts of automobiles. Indeed in the United States, the automobile was considered the solution to the horse problem because pulverized horse manure carried a lot of deadly pathogens.

Salon. At age ten, still beating the odds.


Thursday, December 01, 2005

Perhaps children's author Philip Pullmam continues to whine about the success of C.S. Lewis's Narnia stories because he knows none of his own agitprop will be turned into big-budget movies anytime soon. Who knows? I'm not a huge fan of Lewis's fiction myself, but Michael Nelson does a nice job here of explaining why Pullman's hot hair is unlikely to deter children everywhere (and some of us adults) from lining up to see the The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

John Derbyshire on the New Yorker's 12/05 issue feature on the Dover, PA Intelligent Design case:
The clearest indicator Talbot could find was, in fact, that people who avidly read the local newspapers were anti-I.D., while people who scorned to read them were pro-I.D. This is odd, since one of the two local papers, the York Daily Record, has a pro-I.D. editorial line!
Now that's a shock, huh? Honestly, I don't see how anyone who reads the transcripts of the whole case (here) can come away with a very positive view of either the "theory" or its proponents. But I'm sure the slick PR hacks at the Discovery Institute are probably already working out how to spin the loss ("hey, the Dover folks wouldn't listen to us!")

Monday, November 21, 2005

Why do I have the feeling they are going to ruin it?

Sky One is in talks to bring back the adventure series, which starred Patrick McGoohan as Prisoner Number 6.

The series, which made its debut 1967, is today credited by its fans as being ahead of its time.

Featuring McGoohan as a former secret agent trapped in an isolated seaside village, it was shown in more than 60 countries.

The new version will not be placed in the original setting, the north Wales village of Portmeirion, or have the arty, "pop" feel of the original, according to the magazine Broadcast.

Damien Timmer, who has been lined up to executive produce the show, told the television and radio industry magazine that the new series "takes liberties with the original".

Friday, November 18, 2005

Well...I guess this was a just a matter of time.

We should be hearing about this from Pat Robertson fairly soon, no doubt.
Cleaner: It's still ALIVE.
So they’re finally getting around to releasing a new version of Cleaner for the Mac (6.5) and Windows (XL). Given the years this software has been lingering on the verge of death, whether this will be hailed as great news, or with a collective yawn remains to be seen.
"I think I'll make me a lemur today.''

Why I love Charles Krauthammer.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Monday, November 14, 2005

Memo to Mark Shea: Reason is not the exact same thing as Science.

It might be worth going over in detail something that seems to really bug pro Intelligent Design types like Mark (who is a great guy by the way and runs a fun, engaging blog even for Evil, Dark Side pro-Darwin Papists like myself):

Why doesn’t the scientific establishment take the idea seriously?

Straight answer is: it isn’t science, but bear with me as I explain why.

Let it be said that Michael Behe begins with a perfectly reasonable observation, based on his experience as a biochemist:

1. the bacterial flagellum is extremely complex. He submits, it is too complex for evolution by natural selection to explain its development.

Fair enough. Many scientists have and do disagree, but at this point, no real problem.


Because –most scientists would be expecting Behe, as a scientist, to take the next two steps:

Let's have some fun imagining it:

2. Behe introduces the idea that some new, more dynamic system is responsible or co-responsible for the development of complex machines like the bacterial flagellum. It is a deterministic system, has nothing to do with chance and may not need natural selection. He suggests that some principle of auto-catalysis or self-organization (utilizing chaos theory) is responsible for this developmental process.

3. He calls Bill Dembski and says, “Bill, I got this problem. Is there a mathematical algorithm that might express itself in biochemical systems that could be responsible for the relatively fast development of a bacterial flagellum, or the blood clotting cascade?”

Bill says: “Let me get to work on this and I’ll get back to you.”

Six months or a year later, Behe and Dembski submit a paper to Nature arguing that the well-known Such-and-such Algorithm may have a physical counterpart in nature—indeed right inside the cell, and is potentially responsible (note their caution when they say potentially) for the evolution of complex parts of cells, such as the flagellum.


“We suggest,” they further write, “a possible experiment in the lab to test this theory.” And they provide at least the outline of this test using some generations of fast-reproducing bacteria. NOTE: they don’t have to show that the flagellum actually evolves this way in front of our observational instruments. All they have to show to gain some interest in their theory is that the bacteria evince the development of some complexity and that it indeed seems to follow this algorithm.

Their paper gets published because it sounds like a new approach and it outlines testable features.

Six months later, Team Z headed by Drs. X and Y in the UK submit a paper to Science. They write how they came up with not just one but two ways based on Behe and Dembski’s outline on how to test Behe and Dembski’s theory. They describe their experiments, with graphics, data and conclude that… their results don’t seem to support the theory.

But wait.

A month later, another team from Japan publishes in the journal Cell, saying, “hold on, we did the same two tests and came up with a third, and factoring out certain “noise” features that should be considered, we conclude that Behe and Dembski’s theory is a very possible process that may work in tangent with natural selection—or indeed in isolation of it. We suggest continued tests.”

Behe and Dembski are psyched. They crack a six pack. They start writing some more papers. Some colleagues get excited and ask if they can pile on.

This is the way that science works, as mundane as it sounds. And had Behe come up with such a hypothetical model, we might today all be talking about Behe’s Theory.

Now, when pro-ID types get irate and wonder why most scientists don’t give the theory the time of day, it’s precisely because neither Behe nor Dembski have in fact done any of this kind of work. (Dembski’s information theory fluff basically tries to provide a mathematical undergirding for Behe’s dubious irreducible complexity.)

Instead, they stopped at point one. That’s it. Game over. We surrender. It’s just too hard to figure out. God did it. (No, wait, a giant blancmange from the planet Skyron in the Galaxy of Andromeda did it.) Whatever.

They decided…complexity is too hard to explain by science; they dropped their tools, so to say, and they leaped from point one to a non-scientific conclusion: that some intelligent agent (basically God) is responsible.

Most scientists and educated people are predictably underwhelmed. It’s a non-scientific ‘conclusion’. Meaning, by it’s very nature, it cannot be tested. And since neither Behe nor Dembski have bothered to even suggest a model by which some other mechanism than natural selection could be posited, most scientists conclude that neither Behe nor Dembski are serious.

I’m kind of bummed.

When the Dover plaintiff’s attorney Eric Rothschild asked Behe during his testimony in the Dover case, what was the mechanism for ID, Behe essentially punted. Even though he explicitly said in his book that ID can propose a mechanism for ID. But Behe has never delivered in the 9 years since his book came out. No mechanism for ID. He pulled a Bill Clinton on the stand and started equivocating about what he really meant by the word mechanism.

Worse than that, he admitted that the definition of science basically needs to be broadened to accommodate his theory. Broadened so far that mumbo jumbo like astrology gets equal time.

This is why Intelligent Design isn’t taken seriously as science.

Kenneth Miller cites plenty of peer-reviewed papers that at least take the time and the trouble to explain how complex systems evolved by natural selection (not by pure chance, by the way, as many Christians utterly innocent of Darwin’s theory believe).

That in a nutshell is why Darwin still rules.

ID may have a future in philosophy class. Not in science class.

(Yeah, I’m a Catholic. I ain’t got a problem with Darwin. So sue me.)

Friday, November 11, 2005

Intelligent Design may be pseudo-science, but if what NPR reports is true, then this behavior is a disgrace, and will only confirm many anti-Darwin types in their deep-seated suspicion of "the orthodox Darwinian establishment."
Gunning for Netflix. But will the online DVD rental company sell out?

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Clifford Van Meter asks: What's wrong with this picture?

Why is it whenever a new Microsoft patch comes out that fixes 77 security flaws in their crappy OS it gets reported as “Microsoft Improves Security in XP”, but anything that Apple fixes gets, “QuickTime suffers four critical holes”. TechWorld has used exactly that headline in reporting that the new QuickTime update fixes four critical security holes.

Its like the story about Steve Jobs and Bill Gates playing frisbee by the lake. Gates throws the frisbee over Job’s head and into the lake. Unflustered, Jobs walks on water onto the lake to retrieve the floating frisbee — the next day the headlines read, “Micsoft Exceeds Expectations, Apple CEO Can’t Swim.”

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Barbara Forrest catches the Creationist Intelligent Design crowd redhanded. (Hat tip to Nick Matzke).
It looks like the Vatican has decided to set the record straight:

"The fundamentalists want to give a scientific meaning to words that had no scientific aim," he said at a Vatican press conference. He said the real message in Genesis was that "the universe didn't make itself and had a creator".

This idea was part of theology, Cardinal Poupard emphasised, while the precise details of how creation and the development of the species came about belonged to a different realm - science. Cardinal Poupard said that it was important for Catholic believers to know how science saw things so as to "understand things better".

Cardinal Schoenborn, please call the Vatican.

Monday, November 07, 2005

John Allen at the National Catholic Reporter has some "interesting" comments from the new Nuncio to the Persian Gulf:

The Holy See's new nuncio to Kuwait and several other Gulf States, Archbishop Paul-Mounged El-Hachem, a Lebanese Maronite Christian, recently gave an interview to Monday Morning, a Beirut-based newspaper. El-Hachem's comments illustrate the views of one of the Vatican's most important representatives in the Muslim world.

"The Holy See is convinced that the solution chosen by President George W. Bush and his allies is not a good one," El-Hachem said, referring to the U.S.-ledwar in Iraq.

"His holiness the pope, the Maronite patriarch Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, the Maronite archbishops and bishops and all the dignitaries of the Catholic church have spoken out against the war, since it can only deepen the gulf between the parties and increase fanaticism," El-Hachem said.

Asked about a link between religion and terrorism, El-Hachem gave this response.

"I consider that terror is the result of repression, of suffering, of injustice directed against a person, a group or a particular people, who lose all that they possess and no longer have anything to regret or to lose," he said.

"This reminds me of the distressing incident at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, when young Palestinians massacred Israeli athletes. I recall the shocked outcry throughout the world and the strong condemnation by the international community. At that time I was in the Vatican. Pope Paul VI appeared at his window and addressed the faithful: 'We too reprove and denounce the massacre in Munich, but we ask the following question: Why have young Palestinians committed this act? We reply: because the Palestinian people (it was the first time anyone had spoken of the Palestinian 'people') have been the victims of the most dangerous of injustices in the history of humanity, an innocent and peaceable people turned out of their land, who have lost their roots and identity amid the indifference of the entire world… What impelled these young men to commit this act was to attract the attention of the world to their cause.'"

"This papal intervention greatly changed opinion on this drama," El-Hachem said. "Terrorist acts flow from distress and from despair of ever recovering one's rights. And such is the despair, in some cases, that an individual may be driven to suicide as a means of protestand of drawing attention to his plight."

I have some questions for Archbishop El-Hachem. Would Ghandi have agreed with Paul VI? Are we to understand from his statement that the murderers who killed over 3,000 people on September 11, 2001 did so because...the U.S. had taken their Saudi homeland away from them? Are we to understand that he believes the al-qaeda thugs currently murdering Iraqi civilians as well as U.S. soldiers are doing so...because the U.S. took Saddam's murderous dictatorship...away from them? And, since he and so many other prelates have been thus far mute in words of congratulation to the millions of Iraqis who turned out despite the threat of death to vote themselves a constitution, are we to believe he regrets the overthrow of Saddam Hussein?

("We too..." Sure.)

While I'm at it, since the Nuncio's words could be construed...in his thoughtful efforts to dignify the motivation for the greatest source of mass murder in today's world (including but not restricted to the beheadings of little Christian girls, blowing up old ladies and shooting unarmed Iraqis)... to be condoning evil in a righteous cause, are Radical U.S. Catholics now to understand that...say, shooting abortionists will be similarly "understood" by the Church?

These are just some of the questions that come up as I read the archbishop's comments (and scratch my head).

Yeah, "We, too" indeed.

Update: 11.15.05: Thanks to Sandro Magister for showing that the good archbishop was...how you say...misprepresenting the Pope.

Friday, November 04, 2005

The grave of Nicholas Copernicus found?
WARSAW, Poland (AP) -- Polish archeologists believe they have located the grave of 16th-century astronomer and solar-system proponent Nicolaus Copernicus in a Polish church, one of the scientists announced Thursday.

Copernicus, who died in 1543 at 70 after challenging the ancient belief that the sun revolved around the earth, was buried at the Roman Catholic cathedral in the city of Frombork, 180 miles north of the capital, Warsaw.

Jerzy Gassowski, head of an archaeology and anthropology institute in Pultusk, central Poland, said his four-member team found what appears to be the skull of the Polish astronomer and clergyman in August, after a one-year search of tombs under the church floor.
And another thing, says John Derbyshire:
I spent last Saturday evening over at Cold Spring Harbor lab with a bunch of geneticists. One of them, a self-described conservative, said something like this:

"Biology takes it from the Right and the Left. On the Right we get these 'Intelligent Design' nuisances telling us that one of our most basic investigative tools, evolutionary theory, is all hogwash. On the Left we have these fanatics saying that human evolution couldn't possibly have produced any significant group differences, when of course we all know it did. It's a wonder we get any actual science done."

Thursday, November 03, 2005

John Derbyshire on why some American Catholics need to wise up:
There is, to judge from my mailbag, a widespread opinion that adherence to Darwininian biology is ungodly, if not actually atheistic. To the attention of NRO readers holding that opinion, I commend Francisco Ayala.

Ayala is a working biologist who is also an ordained Dominican priest. He does not only think "Intelligent Design" is flat wrong, he thinks it's blasphemous! There are some notes on his opinions here.

Ayala was raised and educated in General Franco's Spain, the most intensely Christian nation of modern times. In his Catholic schools, he was taught straight Darwinism, without warnings or qualifications. Now he teaches it himself, at UC Irvine. Note how he deals with the doubts of Catholic students (point 11).

Ayala's remarks illustrate an aspect of the I.D. business not much commented on: it is an entirely American phenomenon -- really, an outgrowth of American folk religiosity. You can find a scattered few I.D. followers in other countries, but I.D. is not a public or pedagogic issue anywhere but in the U.S.A. People in other countries are just baffled by it; scientists in other countries just shake their heads sadly. This is not the case with any scientific theory that I am aware of. Real science is international. The presence of a strongly national coloring is, in fact, a pretty good marker of pseudoscience. Compare, for example, the "Soviet science" (Lysenkoism, Marrism, etc.) of Stalin.

There is nothing wrong with folk religiosity, of course. I personally regard it as a strengthening and cohesive force in the national life, and in the conservative movement. I am happy about American folk religiosity, and regard it with cheerful approval. But-- It. Is. Not. Science.

Update: Derb's getting some support from the Vatican.

Monsignor Gianfranco Basti, director of the Vatican project STOQ, or Science, Theology and Ontological Quest, reaffirmed John Paul's 1996 statement that evolution was "more than just a hypothesis."

"A hypothesis asks whether something is true or false," he said. "(Evolution) is more than a hypothesis because there is proof."

He was asked about comments made in July by Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, who dismissed in a New York Times article the 1996 statement by John Paul as "rather vague and unimportant" and seemed to back intelligent design.

Basti concurred that John Paul's 1996 letter "is not a very clear expression from a definition point of view," but he said evolution was assuming ever more authority as scientific proof develops.

Katie Roiphe puts Maureen Dowd...um, in her place.
In fact, Dowd's most compelling example of this rarefied, lonely demographic of woman too successful for love is herself. As Dowd would have it, men simply find her intelligence, her status, her wit too daunting. (A friend called her up to complain that her Pulitzer Prize would make it impossible for her to get a date.) But is it possible that there is something else at play? In a recent New York profile, the writer reports: "she is an utter and unreconstructed fox. Something that nearly every person I spoke to about her mentioned, unprompted, is that men can't resist her." The piece further describes the wide variety of men Dowd has been involved with, ranging from movie stars, to important editors, to creators of television dramas. And they have apparently all been attracted to her, even though she is not in a service profession, or a maid, or a virgin in a gingham dress. One imagines that her intelligence, her sharpness, her sarcasm may even have interested these men. Could there possibly be another reason that the attractive, successful Dowd has not settled down? Something that is not in the zeitgeist, or the political climate, but some ineffable quality of her own psychology? It would seem wrong to raise this question about a woman writer, and in fact about any writer, but Dowd uses her experience with men as template for her theories so often, and marshals her failure to marry as evidence so frequently, that she herself raises the question in her reader's mind.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

So, the Boston Red Sox bid adieu to Theo Epstein, courtesy of the town's worst hack:
As another man once said, "all this negativity that's in this town sucks."

As any Boston sports fan knows, Shaughnessy's column was just the latest in an interminable string of ad hominem attacks, veiled and unveiled. He did it to Pedro, he did it to Nomar, he's done it to Manny. Now it's Theo's turn.


He's got to know damn well that he's the most hated sportswriter in this city. But he doesn't seem to care. Simply put, it's all too apparent that Dan Shaughnessy doesn't really like the Red Sox. He prefers gossip, innuendo, and axe-grinding. Maybe he should get a new job.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Discovery Institute. Not just dishonest. Turns out...they're spineless, too:
Now that a fifth expert has backed out of the Dover district’s court battle, a rift is widening between defense attorneys and the primary pro-intelligent-design organization in the country.

Monday, October 31, 2005

The Wisdom of Mother Basil:
Mother Basil would not have liked the intelligent design people. She would have felt that they bring religion into disrepute. What kind of religion is it that wants to enter the science class?
Good for Mother Basil.
How about a little something to cheer you up as you get off the subway today?
As for the small size of the weapons and the notion that they can be detonated by one person, those claims also been authoritatively dismissed. The only U.S. government official to publicly admit seeing a suitcase-sized nuclear device is Rose Gottemoeller. As a Defense Department official, she visited Russia and Ukraine to monitor compliance with disarmament treaties in the early 1990s. The Soviet-era weapon "actually required three footlockers and a team of several people to detonate," she said. "It was not something you could toss in your shoulder bag and carry on a plane or bus".

Glenn Reynolds, with some much needed clarity, on the Libby case and its implications. Here:

THE BIG LOSER in the Libby affair, it would seem to me, is the CIA. At least it will be if anyone pays attention.

Consider: Assuming that Valerie Plame was some sort of genuinely covert operative -- something that's not actually quite clear from the indictment -- the chain of events looks pretty damning: Wilson was sent to Africa on an investigative mission regarding nuclear weapons, but never asked to sign any sort of secrecy agreement(!). Wilson returns, reports, then publishes an oped in the New York Times (!!) about his mission. This pretty much ensures that people will start asking why he was sent, which leads to the fact that his wife arranged it. Once Wilson's oped appeared, Plame's covert status was in serious danger. Yet nobody seemed to care.

and here.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

From the House Divided Against Itself Dept. Interesting:

On October 21, the American Enterprise Institute sponsored a forum titled “Science Wars” that focused on the intelligent design/evolution controversy. Among the participants in the forum were the Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, Richard Thompson, and Mark Ryland, Director of the Discovery Institute’s Washington office.

During the course of the discussion, Ryland claimed that the Discovery Institute had “never set out to have school boards” teach intelligent design. He was swiftly corrected by Thompson, who held up a copy of the Discovery Institute’s “Intelligent Design in Public School Science Curriculum: A Guidebook” by Steven Meyer and David DeWolf Intelligent Design in Public School Science Curricula: A Legal Guidebook.

This is becoming a little farcical.

Update: it gets even better.

From Rosemary Righter at the Times in London:
Since the euphoria of their first chance at the vote last January, thousands of Iraqis have lost limbs and lives at the hands of terrorists and insurgents bent on inciting civil war. They have chafed under a weak, bickering Government that most Iraqis would say has done precious little to improve their lives. Yet even more people voted this time than in January.

The robustness of the Iraqi commitment to the political process is beyond remarkable. So listen, you defeatists and cynics who said that this couldn’t be done, shouldn’t even be attempted: however confused the outcome may be, the democracy that you patronisingly declared that Iraqis could never handle is taking shape. By all means sneer when Bush and Blair talk about progress, but lay off the Iraqi people. They are not the benighted fools you took them for; and their courage puts us all to shame.
God Bless them.

Monday, October 24, 2005

From the Times' coverage of Michael's Behe's cross examination in the Dover Case:
Under sharp cross-examination by a lawyer for parents who have sued the school district, he said he was untroubled by the broadness of his definition of science and likened intelligent design to the Big Bang theory of the origins of the universe because both initially faced rejection from scientists who objected for religious and philosophical reasons.
I've been told by people who know and have debated him that Michael Behe is a nice guy. One cannot resist, however, feeling he must have an ego the size of Jupiter to compare Intelligent Design to the Big Bang theory.

The Big Bang is science. Intelligent Design is smoke and mirrors.

Indeed, from the outset the whole ID movement has been about rhetoric, not science. Behe's position just proves it. There were specifically scientific reasons for the development of the Big Bang theory back in the late 1920s and early 1930s, ones that can be referenced and looked up to this day in any good library. To summarize, Georges Lemaitre convinced Einstein and his contemporaries in 1930, that the universe had to be expanding. He did this by essentially showing that Einstein's 'static' model, a temporally infinite, 4-dimensional model of the universe, and Dutch astronomer Willem De Sitter's essentially flat, empty model of the universe, were two bookends of a larger, dynamic model of the universe.

Shortly after this, Lemaitre realized that an initial static Einstein state could not be sustained indefinitely. The laws of physics couldn't support it. The expansion therefore had to wind back to some temporal, spatial origin, a point he liked to call the Day Without Yesterday. While this bothered Arthur Stanley Eddington and others because of the implications (the world began with a bang), no one dismissed Lemaitre's work the way Michael Behe's work has been dismissed by his own contemporaries, because the physics and mathematics behind Lemaitre's paper were so solid. And one can see by the number of papers by colleagues his own work generated. Indeed, in the 1960s Roger Penrose and Stephen Hawking showed that any relativistic model of the cosmos has to have its origin in a singularity.

Such scientific fecundity cannot be attributed in any way, shape or form to the patchwork pseudo-philosophizing that goes by the name of "Intelligent Design." The "theory" has not inspired a single scientific paper or experiment.

Friday, October 21, 2005

It's been way too long since I last cited the always excellent Victor Davis Hanson:

We are left only with the U.S. military. It is without much overt public support in Iraq, demonized in Europe, and feared and resented in the Arab world. And yet had American forces lost in Afghanistan, stumbled in Iraq, or given up on the democracy, there would now be no hope for the 50 million who voted in Afghanistan and Iraq.

So when this is all over — and it will be more quickly than we imagine — there will be a viable constitutional government in Iraq. But the achievement will be considered either a natural organic process, or adopted as a success by former critics only at its safe, penultimate stage.

Most of us tragically will forget many of the American soldiers who courageously fought, died, and gave the Middle East its freedom and us our security. Purple fingers, not overloaded American helicopters taking off from the embassy roof, is the future of Iraq.

Yes, the terrorists’ assault against the Iraqi democracy will end — as all failed insurrections do — not with a bang but with a whimper.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Hanna Rosin is covering the Dover case on "intelligent design" in the Public Schools.

And here is an excellent update on the status of Darwin's theory. One of the most dishonest things about the "intelligent" design crowd is their repeated insistence that there are "problems" with Darwin's theory.

What's next? Are the public schools supposed to teach students about the "problems" with Einstein's theory? With Newton's?

Thursday, October 13, 2005

After more than twenty years as one of the nicest restaurants up in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, The Clam Shell, is...well, there's no other way to put it—selling out to Walgreen's.

Sheesh. Now, it's a family owned restaurant, and hey, a good offer is a good offer. So, you can't blame them. But there are already two huge pharmacies, Brooks and RX up there, more than enough for a small town. Who needs another Walgreen's and where the hell are we starved-for-food-and-drink hikers supposed to go now?

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Rafat Ali:
@ We Media: Gore's A Blowhard: No, that's not me saying that, but everyone I spoke to after his speech this morning said so...someone said that now we know [why] he never won: he is boring as hell. Here's another one I heard: Gore to Web: TV rocks; Web to Gore: Drop Dead. Plus his point about TV being the dominant medium for the next decade didn't go down well with the converts here...
Like we didn't know this?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Physicist Sean Carroll has an excellent post about evolution being "just a theory", with good comments to boot.

Monday, September 19, 2005

On NPR's Science Friday for last week:
The [Dover, Pennsylvania] school district made headlines when the board voted to require that science teachers in the district teaching evolution read a statement dealing with the idea of 'intelligent design'—an idea that holds that the world's life forms are too complex to have been created without the aid of an intelligent designer. Critics of the idea say that it is merely creationism in another guise, and has no place in the science classroom. With the new academic year underway, another legal skirmish in the story is about to occur. We'll check in on the goings-on in Dover.
You can listen to the broadcast at the link above. This case represents the first public test of the "Intelligent Design" movement. Hopefully, it will also spell the beginning of it's end.

Friday, September 16, 2005

One of the greatest film directors of the last generation, Robert Wise, has died at the age of 91. He said one of his favorites was The Haunting (no, not the cheesy remake).

Thursday, September 15, 2005

A book seller in California has found a copy of my first novel, which I circulated in pod and pdf, and is selling it for... $69 (as if!).
Rafat Ali says:
Apple's iTunes Adds Video Podcasts [by rafat] : So says this WSJ story: Apple has quietly added video to its recently launched podcasting integration. It is allowing podcasters to submit video programs, in addition to audio, to the iTunes podcasting directory.

The latest version of Apple's iTunes software, released last week, allows users to subscribe to these video podcasts, just as they can with audio podcasts. When users subscribe to podcasts, iTunes automatically downloads the freshest shows when they become available.

Monday, September 12, 2005

But every one trying to crack the iPod's dominance is missing a really important point: Third Party Hardware Developers. The iPod has scads of hardware developers cranking out toys at a furious pace, the other guys have none. The reason for it is pretty obvious if you think about it. Developing for the iPod is dead simple compared to the other folks.

First, let's look at cases. If you want to design cases for the iPod, it's really simple. If you started today, you'd have three cases to design for. (Four if you wanted to get the Mini crowd.) The case for the current iPod will work on pretty much every click-wheel version. if you had a lot of requests, you might consider the older versions, but it's not a pressing need. So, 3-4 templates, and you're set. You can download the engineering drawings of the iPod with ease from Apple, so you can get the specs with absolute accuracy. At that point, it's just color, pattern, and materials. Apple gives you everything you need to start making cases, you don't even have to join their developer program.
John Welch has more. (via Rafat Ali)
Glenn Reynolds has a nice piece (if I do say so myself) in the latest issue of Popular Mechanics on the DV revolution in independent movies. Yours truly gets a word in.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

"Why the hell is everyone cheering?" asked a guy in an Alex Rodriguez jersey,and it's a hell of a good question. We have grown used to the sound of Yankeesfans engineering hostile takeovers of Shea Stadium during Subway Series.We have even heard the occasional night in the Bronx when Mets fans can out-shoutthe natives.

But Red Sox fans? Here?

Next thing you know there'll be dogs and cats...living together...total chaos....

A stunned NY Sports writer.


Wednesday, September 07, 2005

This just in: Al Franken turns out to be...a liar.

Wow. What a surprise....

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Adam Kushner's thoughts on his home town:
The levee and flood-control system itself represents the city's losing battle with nature. It has been built in fits and starts since 1724, and it was still not done when Katrina struck. The cost has been immeasurable, and the failures innumerable. Moreover, the section that protects against hurricane surges--begun only 40 years ago--has sunk below the height designed to bulwark against a Category Three hurricane (Katrina was nearly a Five). For decades, models have shown that, if a Category Five were ever to crawl up the mouth of the Mississippi--a scenario known to New Orleanians as "the Big One"--it could lift 25 feet of water into the saucer and leave New Orleans submerged for months. This week's cruelest irony is that New Orleans survived something like the Big One only to succumb to shoddy engineering: The city was soused the day after the storm, when levee collapses dumped 20 feet of water into the city. It met its demise by an act of man, not an act of God.
Article here (registration required).
Contributing to Katrina. Fast and easy right here.
According to Peter Jackson:
"Piracy has the very real potential of tipping movies into becoming an unprofitable industry, especially big-event films. If that happens, they will stop being made," said Mr. Jackson in an e-mail message from New Zealand, where he is putting the final touches on his version of "King Kong." "No studio is going to finance a film if the point is reached where their possible profit margin goes straight into criminals' pockets."
I wonder if that would be the case if he was able to produce King Kong for $15 million instead of $150 million. In other words, maybe this high-tech, savvy digital piracy plague is really a wake-up call to Hollywood (along with its recent woes at the box office) that it is wasting too much money on super stars, ego projects, and remakes that provoke yawns even before they've opened at the box office.

Just a thought.

Monday, August 29, 2005

"You said there were WMDs in Iraq and that Saddam had friends in al Qaeda. . . . Blah, blah, pants on fire." I have had many opportunities to tire of this mantra. It takes ten seconds to intone the said mantra. It would take me, on my most eloquent C-SPAN day, at the very least five minutes to say that Abdul Rahman Yasin, who mixed the chemicals for the World Trade Center attack in 1993, subsequently sought and found refuge in Baghdad; that Dr. Mahdi Obeidi, Saddam's senior physicist, was able to lead American soldiers to nuclear centrifuge parts and a blueprint for a complete centrifuge (the crown jewel of nuclear physics) buried on the orders of Qusay Hussein; that Saddam's agents were in Damascus as late as February 2003, negotiating to purchase missiles off the shelf from North Korea; or that Rolf Ekeus, the great Swedish socialist who founded the inspection process in Iraq after 1991, has told me for the record that he was offered a $2 million bribe in a face-to-face meeting with Tariq Aziz. And these eye-catching examples would by no means exhaust my repertoire, or empty my quiver. Yes, it must be admitted that Bush and Blair made a hash of a good case, largely because they preferred to scare people rather than enlighten them or reason with them. Still, the only real strategy of deception has come from those who believe, or pretend, that Saddam Hussein was no problem.
Christopher Hitchens.

Friday, August 26, 2005

And now for some news...
No, Fallujah doesn't rival Jamaica as a vacation resort. But last year at this time it was the epicenter of Iraq terrorism, filled with decapitators and bomb-makers. If progress can be made there, it can be made anywhere in Iraq. Don't listen to the "quagmire" crowd. This war is being won.
From a reporter who is actually over there.
As Jay Fitzgerald reports, the utter disgrace of David Bradley's "ownership" of the Atlantic Monthly takes another predictable turn.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Do you suppose stories like this have anything to do with the reason why circulation for "news" papers like the New York Times and the Boston Globe is in decline?

Just a thought.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Gee, I wonder if anyone at the Boston Globe has seen this:

* Every one of the Army's 10 divisions — its key combat organizations — has exceeded its re-enlistment goal for the year to date. Those with the most intense experience in Iraq have the best rates. The 1st Cavalry Division is at 136 percent of its target, the 3rd Infantry Division at 117 percent.

Among separate combat brigades, the figures are even more startling, with the 2nd Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division at 178 percent of its goal and the 3rd Brigade of the 4th Mech right behind at 174 percent of its re-enlistment target.

This is unprecedented in wartime. Even in World War II, we needed the draft. Where are the headlines?

* What about first-time enlistment rates, since that was the issue last spring? The Army is running at 108 percent of its needs. Guess not every young American despises his or her country and our president.

* The Army Reserve is a tougher sell, given that it takes men and women away from their families and careers on short notice. Well, Reserve recruitment stands at 102 percent of requirements.

* And then there's the Army National Guard. We've been told for two years that the Guard was in free-fall. Really? Guard recruitment and retention comes out to 106 percent of its requirements as of June 30. (I've even heard a rumor that Al Franken and Tim Robbins signed up — but let's wait for confirmation on that.)

Monday, August 22, 2005

This is cool.
Today's must-read from Michael Barone:
Two generations ago, Americans, at the cost of hundreds of thousands of deaths, changed minds in Germany and Japan. The Pew Global Project Attitude's metrics give us reason to believe that today's Americans, at far lower cost, are changing minds in the Muslim world.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Christopher Hitchens on Cindy Sheehan:

"What do these people imagine that they are demanding? Would they like a referendum to be held, among the relatives of the fallen in Iraq, to determine the future conduct of the war? I think I can promise them that they would heavily lose such a vote. But what if the right wing were also to demand such a vote and the "absolute moral authority" that supposedly goes with it?

"One of three things could then happen. The ultra-right anti-Zionist forces of David Duke and Patrick J. Buchanan, both of whom approvingly speak of Ms. Sheehan's popular groundswell, would still lose the vote. So would the media fools who semi-automatically identify Sheehan and her LaRouche-like drivel with the "left" or "progressive" forces. This would leave us with a random pseudo-majority, made up of veterans and their relatives. Who wants this to be the group that decides? One might as well live in a populist, jingoist banana republic. Never mind the Constitution, or even the War Powers Act. Only victims and martyrs can decide! Get ready to gather under the balcony of a leader who speaks rotundly of such glory."

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

In the long run, though, intelligent design will probably prove a political boon to liberals, and a poisoned chalice for conservatives. Like the evolution wars in the early part of the last century, the design debate offers liberals the opportunity to portray every scientific battle--today, stem-cell research, "therapeutic" cloning, and end-of-life issues; tomorrow, perhaps, large-scale genetic engineering--as a face-off between scientific rigor and religious fundamentalism. There's already a public perception, nurtured by the media and by scientists themselves, that conservatives oppose the "scientific" position on most bioethical issues. Once intelligent design runs out of steam, leaving its conservative defenders marooned in a dinner-theater version of Inherit the Wind, this liberal advantage is likely to swell considerably.
That pretty much sums it up....
Michael Shermer seems to be the only one to get it right on Bush's recent remarks about the controversy surrounding intelligent design:

On Monday, August 1, Bush gave an interview at the White House to a group of Texas newspaper reporters in which he said that when he was governor of Texas “I felt like both sides ought to be properly taught.” When a reporter asked for his position today on whether ID should be taught alongside the theory of evolution, Bush replied that he did “so people can understand what the debate is about.” But when pressed as to his opinion on whether ID is a legitimate scientific alternative to the theory of evolution, Bush wisely equivocated:

I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought. You’re asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, and the answer is yes.

Well of course, but that’s a different question.

So, the claim by IDers and several Christian groups, along with complaints by liberals that President Bush endorses ID, is exaggerated. In fact, Bush’s science adviser, John H. Marburger 3rd, said in a telephone interview with the New York Times that “evolution is the cornerstone of modern biology” and “intelligent design is not a scientific concept.” He added that the president’s comments should be interpreted to mean that ID be discussed not as science but as part of the “social context” in science classes, and that it would be “over-interpreting” Bush’s remarks to conclude that the president believes that ID and the theory of evolution should be given equal treatment in public school science courses.
From his latest E-Skeptic newsletter.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Wise advice from Lebanon: "To stop a man who wants to oppress you is not a case of you oppressing him."

Anyone on the extreme Right or extreme Left listening?

(via Instapundit.com)

Friday, August 12, 2005

I had thought, in my Judaic innocence, that Aquinas had gloriously secured natural causality for the Church once and for all.
Leon Wieseltier, in an excellent piece (registration required) on the sudden "occasionalism" of Catholics bewitched by the empty rhetoric of "intelligent design."

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

There may be much to appreciate in the work of Edmund Wilson. But I've always suspected deep down he was a narrow-minded blowhard. This article in the New Yorker does nothing to dispel that, I'm afraid....

Monday, August 08, 2005


The US study, published in Science, took the same theory and applied it to a more everyday example.

They used electrodes placed inside the skull to monitor the responses of brain cells in the auditory cortex of two surgical patients as they watched a clip of "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly".

Aw, come on! And they don't even tell you which scene??! What a rip-off....

("I almost forgot. He gave me a thousand. I think his intention was that I kill you.")

There's good news and bad news for podcasters (and that means me and other independent producers).

On the whole, though, I think the whole new delivery system is exciting.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Rafat Ali says Flash 8 is on the way with enhanced video capabilities:
Macromedia plans to unveil its Flash 8 software early next month with an emphasis on enhanced video capabilities that some think could become a strong alternative to the present trinity in the market. The company has promised big changes in Flash 8, and many of them center on its video capabilities. Flash 8 boasts a new codec, On2 Technologies' VP6, that it claim will provide dramatically improved quality over the Flash 7 video codec. Flash 8 also supports alpha transparency, which lets authors combine Flash video with text, vector graphics and other Flash elements. Also, as always, Flash's cross-platform appeal...
Full article on Flash 8.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Steve Jobs has been demurring about the next evolution of the iPod, but things are happening.

Today’s a scoop bonanza on Apple’s rumored upcoming video iPods. No sooner did I post an item earlier today on Apple’s plans to make music videos available through iTunes than my fellow B2.0 editor-at-large Paul Sloan shoots me an e-mail saying that he’s confirmed exactly the same thing. But my man Sloan, who wrote our April cover story predicting the video iPod and other upcoming Apple products, says that the content for the video iPod could be more than just music videos. According to him:
Steve Jobs has spoken with Disney President and soon-to-be CEO Bob Iger about ways to license various Disney content for a video iPod, according to an internal Disney email I have obtained. That could include anything from clips from ESPN and ABC News to short cartoons.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Biologist Kenneth Miller has an eloquent response to Cardinal Schoenborn's recent and rather ill-conceived op-ed on the Church and Evolution (linked to in Miller's article).

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Superb summary of the 'debate' between creationists and evolutionists.
On the polemical creationist side, the sin is intellectual dishonesty. It begins innocently as a wise recognition that faith must precede reason, even if the faith is only in reason itself (as Gödel showed, reason cannot prove its own validity). But under pressure from a contemptuous academic elite the appeal to faith rapidly becomes anti-intellectualism and what Socrates identified as a great sin, "misologic" or treason against the Logos, against reason itself -- in religious terms, a sin against the Holy Spirit. Under further pressure it resorts to rhetorical dishonesty and hypocrisy, to an attempt to appropriate the garments of science and reason, and so we get "creation science", the misuse of the term "intelligent design", the whole grotesque solemn sham of pseudoscientific periodicals and conferences on creation science, and a lame parade of scientific titles and degrees. A lie repeated often enough convinces the liar, and many creationists may now have forgotten that they are lying at all.

Update: Meanwhile, some Catholic scientists are asking the new Pope for clarification.

Whenever creationism pops up among Catholics, I think of Saint Augustine's warning (in his commentary on Genesis--I had mistakenly thought it was City of God). Christians can't afford to be stupid about science. It only exposes the faith to ridicule.

Like we need that....

Monday, July 11, 2005

You know, I understand that journalists are busy people. But if this is the best (registration required) that such leading lights of conservative commentary can do when it comes to evolution (and thank God at least there's Charles Krauthammer)...then I have seriously over-estimated how well read they are.

Disappointing to say the least.
This looks like good news for me and other independent film producers.
The acquisition of CustomFlix could give independent filmmakers a broader venue for selling their work. Amazon already sells CustomFlix titles, but a spokeswoman for the online retailer said that they would be "better integrated" into the company's catalog and eligible for promotions that CustomFlix titles currently aren't.
CustomFlix already distributes Everyman, and will be handling Bag of Knees for me as well. Hopefully both films will get even more exposure now...
Peter Broderick, a consultant in Santa Monica who advises filmmakers on distribution, said that it remained to be seen whether many consumers would be able to find CustomFlix videos on Amazon but that he was excited about the potential.
I can tell Mr. Broderick personally that based on my sales records for Everyman thus far, the answer is an unequivocal yes.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Why We Fight Dept. Christopher Hitchens uncovers the shallow ignorance of another knee-jerk appeasement-monger....

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

There's nothing like a false dichotomy to delude yourself into signing on to a subscription service:
Bottom line: To fill an MP3 player with music today - and variety is what I want - I could spend $1000 for 1000 songs over at iTunes, or $15 per month at Napster. I'm going with Napster.
Speculist doesn't get it. I mean, who's filling their iPods right away with 1,000 songs? Who isn't downloading more of their songs from CDs they already own than going to iTunes?

Count me less than impressed with subscription based anything these days. I already have monthly payments I have to make on a house, utilities, cable, ISP, etc. That's the big turn off with things like Napster. I don't want another friggin' monthly bill.

Apple gets it. Napster doesn't.
Rafat Ali on the challenge that Podcasting presents for advertisers:

Podcasting Presents Ad Challenge: The same portability that makes podcasting appealing makes it difficult to track with meaningful metrics beyond the number of downloads. That's one of the obstacles podcasters will have to overcome to take podcasting to a level of advertising beyond experimentation. Pheedo CMO Bill Flitter told ClickZ some advertisers are trying custom 800 numbers or offer codes to get a handle on the response rate from podcasts. Pheedo has a 30-podcast ad network that has drawn six advertisers so far. FeedBurner is trying the same technology it uses to track RSS feed readership.

Still, what's most likely to push podcasting as an ad medium are the moves into the space by Apple and other major companies.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Like it or not, even though it's far from the first or only podcast directory, Apple's version quickly leaps to the top of the power charts. Inclusion there can put a podcast in front of millions of potential listeners, many -- maybe most -- of whom won't take the time to look anywhere else. That inclusion could make a podcast more valuable to advertisers. Public radio station KCRW, for instance, featured prominently at iTMS, just signed a six-figure, 26-week deal with Lexus to sponsor its podcasts. According to AdAge.com (reg. req.), the deal starts in October. As Ad Age notes, KCRW notched 25,000 downloads the week it started podcasting 22 shows. That number tripled after Steve Jobs mentioned the station. Expect it to go up again with membership in the directory. Lexus will be paying on a CPM basis—by the download.

Rafat Ali, on Apple's strategy with podcasting.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

And you thought it was just a movie:

SCIENTISTS have created eerie zombie dogs, reanimating the canines after several hours of clinical death in attempts to develop suspended animation for humans.

US scientists have succeeded in reviving the dogs after three hours of clinical death, paving the way for trials on humans within years.

Pittsburgh's Safar Centre for Resuscitation Research has developed a technique in which subject's veins are drained of blood and filled with an ice-cold salt solution.

Night of the Living Dead...Dogs?

Hoax, anyone?

Monday, June 27, 2005

Friday, June 24, 2005

I love my i-Pod (okay, who doesn't) but, I can't help the uneasy feeling they could in the long run be contributing to A.D.D.

I've got two daughters: ages 4 and 2, and they've already essentially co-opted my i-Pod. We go in the car anywhere, "Daddy, mussssiiiccc!"

So, I've got about 51 favorites in my Chillin' with John playlist, in shuffle mode, because I like the order to be different every time I plug in. Here's the breakdown so far for the girls:

Two-year-old's favorites:
Peter Gabriel: Solsbury Hill
Tom Petty: Learning to Fly
Billy Joel: Allentown
Christopher Cross: Ride like the Wind

(anything by Sinead Lohan, Sheryl Crow, Sinead O'Connor and, oh yeah, Constant Craving by k.d. lang)

That means anything else that comes on, meaning that Daddy likes, gets this chorus from the back seat:

"NEXT!!"—and I have to hit the Next button.

...Sarah McLaughlin comes on—

...Fleetwood Mac—

...Goo-goo Dolls—


...and so on...y'get the general idea.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Nobody puts it better:
I am now forced to wonder: Who is there who does not know that the Bush administration decided after September 2001 to change the balance of power in the region and to enforce the Iraq Liberation Act, passed unanimously by the Senate in 1998, which made it overt American policy to change the government of Iraq? This was a fairly open conspiracy, and an open secret. Given that everyone from Hans Blix to Jacques Chirac believed that Saddam was hiding weapons from inspectors, it made legal sense to advance this case under the banner of international law and to treat Saddam "as if" (and how else?) his strategy of concealment and deception were prima facie proof. The British attorney general—who has no jurisdiction in these 50 states—was worried that "regime change" alone would not be a sufficient legal basis. One appreciates his concern. But the existence of the Saddam regime was itself a defiance of all known international laws, and we had before us the consequences of previous failures to act, in Bosnia and Rwanda, where action would have been another word for "regime change."
Christopher Hitchens in Slate.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

I'd sign up for this.

"The Bush administration is going to make a terrible mistake if it does not let the American people get involved in this war. Austin, we need a war bond drive. This matters, because this is what it will take."

She was right then, and she's right now.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Flattered Dept. Glenn Reynolds gives me a nice plug in his posting on science fiction. He's right about Larry Niven, too. Ringworld is still a blast to re-read, even after 35 years. There just aren't that many SF novels you can say that about. Most barely survive one reading....

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

According to the latest Publisher's Lunch:
Viacom to Split; Simon & Schuster Goes to CBS--for Now
The Viacom board announced their approval of splitting the company in two yesterday, with the "growth" assets retaining the Viacom name and the "mature" assets--including CBS, Paramount TV and King World, Infinity Broadcasting, Showtime, the outdoor advertising group and, yes, Simon & Schuster--going under the moniker of CBS Corp., run by Les Moonves. (Please note, if you rely on the NYT for your news, they get the Simon & Schuster story wrong today.) Viacom will announce more specific details over "the next several weeks."

Speaking from personal experience, chairman Sumner Redstone quipped, "Sometimes divorce is better than marriage. In this case, one and one will make three." He also reaffirmed his interest in selling Simon & Schuster entirely: "We've had a lot of unsolicited interest in the theme parks, which is not growing at a pace we would like for the new companies," Redstone said. "Neither is Simon & Schuster, which I would be sad to lose, but it doesn't grow the way I want these companies to grow. So at the right price we would consider looking at (selling) Simon & Schuster."
Redstone in Reuters

Friday, June 10, 2005

Superimposing maps of prevalence of AIDS on prevalence of Catholicism is enough to sink the link between the Catholic Church and AIDS. In the hospice which is Swaziland nowadays, only about 5 per cent of the population is Catholic. In Botswana, where 37 per cent of the adult population is HIV infected, only 4 per cent of the population is Catholic. In South Africa, 22 per cent of the population is HIV infected, and only 6 per cent is Catholic. But in Uganda, with 43 per cent of the population Catholic, the proportion of HIV infected adults is 4 per cent.
You don't have to be a member of the Catholic Church's Rear Guard to realize that the kind of people who believe the Church is responsible for the spread of AIDS in Africa...must be idiots.
Victor Davis Hanson:
As nations come to know the Chinese, and as a ripe Europe increasingly cannot or will not defend itself, the old maligned United States will begin to look pretty good again. More important, America will not be the world’s easily caricatured sole power, but more likely the sole democratic superpower that factors in morality in addition to national interest in its treatment of others.

China is strong without morality; Europe is impotent in its ethical smugness. The buffer United States, in contrast, believes morality is not mere good intentions but the willingness and ability to translate easy idealism into hard and messy practice.
Complete article.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Another superb overview of so-called Intelligent Design theory:

And that's the problem with ID: it's simplistic. To argue that complex biological phenomena are "irreducibly complex" is to abandon the scientific quest. As Richard Dawkins, who boasts the bold professional title of Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University, explains in The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design,

To explain the origin of the DNA/protein machine by invoking a supernatural Designer is to explain precisely nothing, for it leaves unexplained the origin of the Designer. You have to say something like "God was always there," and if you allow yourself that kind of lazy way out, you might as well just say "DNA was always there," or "Life was always there," and be done with it.

By James Pinkerton at Tech Central.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Apparently portable media players are not breaking through the way media toy producers had hoped.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Well, this is definitely news. According to OsViews:
MacDailyNews has an editorial which summarizes reports from various research groups that analyzed the number of computer users affected by viruses. The conclusion was that 16 percent of all computer users are not affected by viruses because they use Macs. The lack of viruses on a Mac is commonly known, but the interesting thing is the fact that the results finally provide the first set of conclusive numbers which illustrate the Macintosh's install-base (emphasis added).

So far only "market-share" statistics are commonly published for the public and do not convey install base. (If for example 2 people are using computers and one replaces his 2x in a 3 year period and the other only does once, market-share dynamics dictate that one demographic has 75% market share while the other has only 25% -- even though install base is still 50/50.) Many tech journalists incorrectly use Apple's 4-5% market share demographic to depict Apple's (now known) 16% install-base.

Friday, June 03, 2005

For the first time I can remember, Apple's QuickTime is underwhelming its fan base.
The latest novels by critical darlings Margaret Atwood and Kazuo Ishiguro are science fiction tales. Why the literary interest in this low-brow genre? Join us for a discussion about literature and science fiction.

Airing today--and archived here for later listening.

Friday, May 27, 2005

One more thing before we get off Allen's case. Back when he had a sense of humor, he made that disconnect with attractive women a source of laughs (and intentional squirms). But by his later movies, his celebrity had fogged his brain. He just acted entitled.
David Edelstein gets it right about Woody Allen.
H. Allen Orr on why Intelligent Design...isn't.

Another problem with Dembski’s arguments concerns the N.F.L. theorems. Recent work shows that these theorems don’t hold in the case of co-evolution, when two or more species evolve in response to one another. And most evolution is surely co-evolution. Organisms do not spend most of their time adapting to rocks; they are perpetually challenged by, and adapting to, a rapidly changing suite of viruses, parasites, predators, and prey. A theorem that doesn’t apply to these situations is a theorem whose relevance to biology is unclear. As it happens, David Wolpert, one of the authors of the N.F.L. theorems, recently denounced Dembski’s use of those theorems as “fatally informal and imprecise.” Dembski’s apparent response has been a tactical retreat. In 2002, Dembski triumphantly proclaimed, “The No Free Lunch theorems dash any hope of generating specified complexity via evolutionary algorithms.” Now he says, “I certainly never argued that the N.F.L. theorems provide a direct refutation of Darwinism.”
What's interesting (and ironic) is that the ID movement should be having more political success in front of dim-witted school boards even as its proponents are continuously forced to admit the fallacies in their "theory".
Salon ("Never Say Die") is approaching profitability based on its hybrid approach to maying for online content.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

News about your digital self:
The wealthy will be able to download their consciousness into computers by 2050 - the not so well off by "2075 or 2080", claims futurologist Dr. Ian Pearson, head of the Futurology unit at BT.
Um, aren't there some unspoken assumptions here? So it's been proven that a. we know in scientifically meaningful (i.e. testable) terms what the consciousness is? And b. it can be quantified?

I must have missed who discovered that, and when they got the Nobel prize. (File under Einstein's "The Man of Science is a Poor Philosopher" dept.)
Bummer. Another promising means of space travel bites the dust.

Monday, May 23, 2005

The Derb:
I have given up reading emails about [Intelligent Design]. Same applies, btw, to emails about flying saucers, Martian canals, the hollow earth, Atlantis, telepathy, dianetics, unicorns, phrenology, astrology, orgonomy, alien abductions, Bridey Murphy, the location of Noah's ark, the fate of the Marie Celeste's crew, and whether or not the bishops of the Church of England should open Joanna Southcott's box. I do not wish to know any more than I currently know about any of these topics. If you believe in one, many, or all of them, I'm fine with it, and wish you joy of your belief -- just don't try to enlist me. And please don't try to dump any of this stuff into my kids' school science curriculum.

Time weighs in with it's picks for the 100 best movies of all time....

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Great news for writers who have been left high and dry by the retreat of once great short story markets like The Atlantic.
Anthony Lane in his merciless appraisal of the new Star Wars movie:

The young Obi-Wan Kenobi is not, I hasten to add, the most nauseating figure onscreen; nor is R2-D2 or even C-3PO, although I still fail to understand why I should have been expected to waste twenty-five years of my life following the progress of a beeping trash can and a gay, gold-plated Jeeves. No, the one who gets me is Yoda.

May I take the opportunity to enter a brief plea in favor of his extermination? Any educated moviegoer would know what to do, having watched that helpful sequence in “Gremlins” when a small, sage-colored beastie is fed into an electric blender. A fittingly frantic end, I feel, for the faux-pensive stillness on which the Yoda legend has hung.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Britons described them as "chauvinists, stubborn, nannied and humourless". However, the French may be more shocked by the views of other nations.

For the Germans, the French are "pretentious, offhand and frivolous". The Dutch describe them as "agitated, talkative and shallow." The Spanish see them as "cold, distant, vain and impolite" and the Portuguese as "preaching". In Italy they come across as "snobs, arrogant, flesh-loving, righteous and self-obsessed" and the Greeks find them "not very with it, egocentric bons vivants".

Interestingly, the Swedes consider them "disobedient, immoral, disorganised, neo-colonialist and dirty".

But the knockout punch to French pride came in the way the poll was conducted. People were not asked what they hated in the French, just what they thought of them.

Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Tech Central gets to the heart of why Star Trek truly mattered:

Star Trek didn't just offer the illimitable joys of William Shatner tumbling out of his chair every time the camera shook, or yet another sermon from the pen of Gene Roddenberry about how organized religion is a childish superstition. It offered a world. It offered a place that dreamers could call their own; a place where wonky, right-leaning dreams of rugged space exploration and pioneering could sit comfortably next to hippy-dippy dreams of world peace and universal brotherhood. It was a kind of home, and home is no place for shrewd critical judgments.
Complete article.

"Newsweek Lied. People died." Going to be hearing this a lot more in the coming days and weeks...

Saturday, May 14, 2005

89% and dropping. Microsoft's share of the browser market, that is, according to CNN.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Astronomers photographed a cosmic event this morning which they believe is the birth of a black hole, SPACE.com has learned.

A faint visible-light flash moments after a high-energy gamma-ray burst likely heralds the merger of two dense neutron stars to create a relatively low-mass black hole, said Neil Gehrels of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. It is the first time an optical counterpart to a very short-duration gamma-ray burst has ever been detected.


Update: Sean Carroll has more details.

Can it really be happening? Is the truth actually catching up with Arianna Huffington?

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The legacy of Richard the Second continues. This, from Publisher's Lunch newsletter:
Lisa Beth Kovetz's novel, about four women - a rich debutante; a scandalous but insightful, young secretary; a lonely and pregnant wife; and a brilliant, friendless lawyer - who meet on their lunch breaks to read erotic stories they have written, to Hillel Black of Sourcebooks, at auction, by Adam Chromy at Artists and Artisans.
Lisa played Scroop and was part of the ensemble in the movie and now writes children's books and produces CDs out in LA. Talk about you've come a long way, baby!