Monday, July 26

Autistic girl expresses intelligence

This video wildly exaggerates the suddenness, Carly was trained to read and write at a gradual pace. But it's not facilitated communication.

Friday, July 23

NYC tourist lane

"First time I had sex"

Well played, Sir.

Thursday, July 22

The hell known as internet screening services

Do you think your job is bad? Some websites outsource their moderation to firms where every work day, all work day, workers do nothing but sift through depravity after depravity. '"You have 20-year-old kids who get hired to do content review, and who get excited because they think they are going to see adult porn," said Hemanshu Nigam, the former chief security officer at MySpace. "They have no idea that some of the despicable and illegal images they will see can haunt them for the rest of their lives."' Some places only do year-long contracts, and have counseling services and staff psychologists, because of the psychological issues caused by this kind of work. One psychologist 'reached some unsettling conclusions in her interviews with content moderators. She said they were likely to become depressed or angry, have trouble forming relationships and suffer from decreased sexual appetites. Small percentages said they had reacted to unpleasant images by vomiting or crying. "The images interfere with their thinking processes. It messes up the way you react to your partner," Ms. Laperal said. "If you work with garbage, you will get dirty."'

Wednesday, July 21

Monday, July 19


Number of birds killed by the BP oil spill: at least 2,188 and counting.

Number of birds killed by wind farms: 10,000-40,000 annually.

Number of birds killed by cars: 80 million annually.

Number of birds killed by cats: Hundreds of millions to 1 billion annually.

Don't worry there is some good news.

Number of birds killed by fisheries: tens to hundreds of thousands annually (fortunately for the birds, some of these fisheries are now shut down).

Wednesday, July 14

"The re-education of Rand Paul"

National Review:
“After the primary, I really wanted to jump right into the national debate,” he says. His civil-rights remarks, he admits, “have made doing that a little more difficult.” However, “No one [in the GOP] is forcing me to do anything. I do exactly what I want, but I am also realistic about what it takes to run a campaign and get elected.” For instance, instead of calling for the elimination of many federal departments — as his father, Ron Paul, the libertarian Republican congressman and former presidential candidate, regularly does — Paul says he is trying to “nibble around the edges,” to “not be the person who says he will eliminate every department in the federal government. My dad freely will say that, that he would eliminate at least half of the departments, but he is just more forthright.”
"just more forthright"! Basically this is an admission that he's become cagey for electoral purposes. Huzzah for meta-candor.

The future is now

Ladies and gentlemen, the Wöhr Multiparker 730 (video)

Friday, July 9

Terrorism suspects arrested in Norway and Germany

Matt Yglesias:
As ever with these things it’ll take several days to figure out what, if anything, was really going on here but the Norwegian Police Security Service says it’s busted a terrorist cell in cooperation with American, British, and German agencies and arrested three men, two in Norway one in Germany:
She added, “‘We believe this group has had links to people abroad who can be linked to Al Qaeda, and to people who are involved in investigations in other countries, among others the United States and Britain.”

One of the men arrested was a 39-year-old Norwegian citizen of Chinese origin who belonged to the Muslim Uighur group, she said. Another was a 37-year-old Iraqi citizen who came to Norway in 1999 and has permanent residency.

The third man was a 31-year-old Uzbek citizen who also has permanent residency in Norway.
I think this once again underscores a couple of important points. One is that for all the disparagement of the “law enforcement and intelligence” approach to counterterrorism from the right, this is all we’ve got. International terrorists aren’t the same as average criminals, but the basic methods involved in apprehending them are similar. An aircraft carrier doesn’t help, and soldiers don’t have the right training. The other is that the most dangerous “safe havens” are inside western cities and not in remote areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. There’s no way to perpetrate a terrorist attack on a western target if you’re in Peshawar, still less if you’re in the mountains somewhere. If you’re in Oslo with a Norwegian passport, you can hop on a plane and go anywhere. And yet somehow we’re debating a $37 billion supplemental appropriation for a war in Afghanistan while the total FBI budget is around $7 billion. I’m not saying we should necessarily go out and triple the FBI’s counterterrorism budget, but if you want to think about spending lots of money on catching terrorists that seems like the smart place to do it.

Tuesday, July 6

A little economic realism?

David Brooks seems to make some sense.

Paul Krugman is predictably horrified, as are Steve Benen and someone at Balloon Juice.

Dean Baker goes into detail with a response that seems particularly well argued.

Monday, July 5

Miracles, deism, and the existence of God

A friend of mine was asked on a social media site:
How do miracles and other experiences that are beyond reason fit int this? How can deists "reason" that a supreme being created the Universe when there is no reason or proof that a supreme being even exists?
His response:
Although I would not absolutely rule out miracles, I would have to say that, after decades of paying (and praying) very close attention to purported miracles in churches that I went to and participated in, I gradually found it almost impossible to believe that a true miracle actually occurred in any of the situations to which I was party or witness. So while I wouldn’t theoretically rule them out, I would say that experience has taught me (and only after much resistance on my part) to hold in suspicion any purported supernatural cause. I say this in regard to things such as purported miracles of divine healings, supernatural revelations etc. but do reserve a stronger possibility of genuine miracles when it comes to personal prayer—i.e. I have had many experiences in prayer that seemed at the time to convey some sort of supernatural or preternatural knowledge. However, having the little knowledge I do about the nature of probability, I am somewhat inclined to attribute these personal prayer experiences to [chance] rather than to some supernatural agency.

In general I have found a natural approach to questions to yield far more fruit than a supernatural. Indeed I think this is the fundamental shift in the modern from the medieval era. While the later was quick to seek for supernatural causes behind things, the former seeks for natural causation. To cite a couple of simplistic examples:

-when seeking to know about the origins of the universe, I would consult the known scientific data rather than the book of Genesis.

-when seeking to understand some psychological malady, I would seek the advice of a psychiatrist over that of an exorcist.

I certainly wouldn’t dogmatically limit my horizon to the purely natural world—indeed I hope there is a supernatural cause behind and end to all things. But it just seems that A. The Universe operates mostly (if not entirely) under natural laws and B. All purported supernatural agencies (the Bible, the Church, a miracle worker etc) when closely examined are found wanting.

As to how a deist can argue for the existence of God, I suspect most would appeal to the same sorts of arguments made by other theists (i.e. Christians, Jews, and Pantheists etc.)—namely, from causality, morality, beauty, religious experience & teleology etc. However, at least for myself, I would state all of these things more as probable indicators or reasons for hoping rather than as proofs of God’s existence. In other words, while I hold to the hope that God exists, of eternal life and happiness for all etc. I don’t personally have the sort of knowledge to state my hope as a firm conviction beyond the ability to doubt.

In short I would disagree with the statement that there is “no reason” to believe a supreme being exists (for I can think of many reasons to believe) but would agree that there is “no proof”—if by proof, one means to prove beyond reasonable doubt.

While such a view of things will probably result in the loss of some (perhaps of most) dogma, I see no compelling reason why it should necessitate the loss of faith, hope and love and do hope this note finds you abounding in all three!

Sunday, July 4

Saturday, July 3

The trajectory of tolerance

Will Wilkinson gathers two heartening pieces of news, and shares this map: