Saturday, December 31, 2011

What do we do with public liars?

The Truth about Public Untruths : CJR
In the battle of public untruths versus fact checking, the forces of untruth have more money, more people, and, I would argue, much better expertise. They know how to birth and spread a lie better than we know how to debunk one. They are more creative about it, and, by the very nature of what they’re doing, they aren’t constrained by ethics or professional standards. Advantage, liars.
Proposal:

Every politician, pundit, press secretary, news analyst, talk show host, talk show guest, talk show guest host, etc. gets scored by an independent fact checking agency for the truth value of statements they make on TV, the radio, or in print when interviewed or in material they publish. (We can iron out the details of who oversees the agency, who works for it, how they are held accountable for their research and scoring ... they key thing is that they consider statements made by all public figures and media gatekeepers fairly and without political bias. If somebody says, "So-and-so never said any such thing," and So-and-So did, in fact, say such thing, then that person is marked as a liar, regardless of their affiliation, what was said, or by whom.)

The results of the scoring are then displayed as a badge or a banner that is digitally inserted next to their face and name whenever they appear on TV, in print next to their name when ever they are published in a newspaper or quoted, and plays before, during, after everything they say on the radio.

If someone is caught telling a lie, and they tell that same lie again, instead of just a badge showing their score, the words "Fucking Liar" will flash in bold over their face and next to their name. We could mix in phrases like "Mendacious Twat," "Unrepentant, Malicious Scumbag," and so on, as appropriate.

"Always On" accountability for pundits might look like this.


Now, some liars are very clever and merely shade the truth, misrepresent data, tap dance around direct questions with unrelated talking points, or use other means to disseminate misinformation without making bald-faced lies. These behaviors can be quantified, measured, and factored in as well.

It's also not always clear who stands to gain by advancing certain positions, "military analysts" who work for defense contractors, for example. These folks should also have the fact that they have a financial interested in one side or the other of debate made transparent.

Frankly, even labeling the pundits probably isn't enough, we probably should have our top scientists working on integrating speech recognition and search technology into broadcasting so we have the ability to flag lies and cite accurate information on the fly.

We can show player stats, digitally insert ads on the fences of baseball fields during live broadcasts ... heck, we even have eagle-eyed Redditors spotting giant North Koreans within hours of the release of a photo; you can't tell me we don't have the technology and talent to do all of the above.

Was this The Rude Pundit's best post of the year? Possibly.

The Rude Pundit | The Case for Using Predator Drone Strikes Against Wall Street Executives:





Since it is now the policy of our administration to target American citizens for killing by missiles delivered by Predator drone aircraft, I am proposing an expansion of the program to include targets beyond our ongoing conflict with al-Qaeda and its affiliates. I propose that we now target executives and others in the finance industry who so far have not been prosecuted for potential crimes that forced the economy of the United States into a long-term decline.

Varieties of irreligious experience

Jonathan Rée - Varieties of irreligious experience | New Humanist:


Image via NewHumanist.org.uk


Opponents of religion – anti-clericals, humanists, rationalists or whatever we want to call ourselves – ought to recognise that religion is a complicated box of tricks, containing much wisdom as well as folly, along with diversity, dynamism and disagreement. And we need to realise that many modern believers have moved a long way from the positions of their predecessors: as Mill once said, they may believe they are loyal to an old-time religion when in reality they have subjected it to “modifications amounting to an essential change of its character”. In particular, they may not accept the idea of God as an actually existing entity, so arguments for atheism will not disturb them; and they will be aware that there has always been more to religion than belief in God. The dividing lines between religiosity and secularism, or between belief and disenchantment, are not getting any clearer as time goes by, and if there has been a lot of traffic travelling from the camp of religion to the camp of disbelief in the past couple of centuries, it has followed many different paths, and is bound for many different destinations.

2011 The Year in Pictures (Boston.com)

The Year in Pictures: Part I - The Big Picture - Boston.com


Fun to watch ...

Lawrence O'Donnell taking the piss out of Dr. Ron Paul.



Dr. Paul bobs and weaves, dissembles and obfuscates, as best he can, but there's not much he can do apart from sitting there and getting schooled like the entitled prick that he is.

On a related note, Bret has a thought-provoking post up over at ABT about what Dr. Paul may signify for the future of the Republican party.

No enemies ...

Liu demonstrates a considerable amount of anger while retaining his Gandhian nonviolent spirit. Taken together, his essays offer the best analysis I have read of what’s wrong in the People’s Republic of China. Liu was the prime mover (although not the originator) of Charter 08, the petition signed by several thousand Chinese who demanded an accountable government and freedoms of speech, assembly, press and religion.

Friday, December 30, 2011

"I am a patient boy / I wait, I wait, I wait, I wait ... "

Fugazi Live Series: A to Z


The boundaries of justice still grow larger.

Someone Else’s Children by Christopher Benfey | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books:


Whitman ministered to the needs of wounded soldiers while also keeping a careful visual record of everything he saw, “this other freight of helpless worn and wounded youth,” as he wrote to Emerson. “Doctors sawed arms & legs off from morning till night,” he reported in his journal. He was dismayed to see “a heap of feet, arms, legs, etc., under a tree in front of a hospital.” As he moved from bed to bed in the overcrowded wards, he was shocked by the youth of the victims. “Charles Miller, bed 19, company D, 53rd Pennsylvania, is only sixteen years of age, very bright, courageous boy, left leg amputated below the knee.”
I wonder if images like the ones above (from a war fought on American soil involving so much greater a proportion of American lives than the wars our troops are fighting today) were more readily available, even if they were the legs and feet of Afghans or Iraqis, would there be more anger about the last decade of ill-advised, illegally waged war?

Sadly, probably not. That's why I cringe when I read knuckleheads who, defending Texas's education budget cuts, opine that schools waste too much time on mushy liberal arts stuff (like history, civics, and philosophy) and should just focus on football (I'm not kidding), math and science. (In Texas, one fears, "science" means "Creation Science.")

We need more study of Whitman, Hume, Twain, Locke, Dickinson, Hobbes, Carson, Thoreau, Mill, Kant, Rawls, Heidegger, Popper, Marx, Goldman, Debs, Dworkin, etc. in our public schools, not less. I'm not suggesting these should come at the expense of geometry, trigonometry, calculus, physics, chemistry, biology, industrial arts, or home economics; if anything, they should come at the expense of overlong summer vacations. A populace well-read in those I've mentioned, I'd argue, would not tolerate the cavalier indifference to truth, civil liberties, and human life itself evinced by the last few Presidential administrations (not excluding the current).


Bo Xilai, a name to watch for in Chinese politics.

The new face of China? | Prospect Magazine:


Former Dalian mayor, Bo Xilai


Jiang Weiping, a journalist, was the northeast bureau chief for Wenweipo, a pro-party tabloid. In the 1990s, China’s northeast was booming, its prosperity fuelled by vast deposits of petroleum, iron and coal. The boom made a few select men breathtakingly rich. Shrouded in a Dickensian soot, Dalian was a riot of neon-lit karaoke bars, cheap prostitutes and greedy officials. The region was also racked by violence as tycoons and corrupt bureaucrats vied for riches. Bribery, kidnappings and contract killings were common. Arrests were not.
I bookmarked this article before my trip to China but only just read it. I wish I'd been more on top of reading list so I could have asked my colleagues in Dalian (though they might all be too young to recall his term as mayor) what they thought of Bo Xilai.

Dalian has sweepers constantly at work keeping soot of the sidewalks, but it's still a smoggy, riotously lit up city. I was warned about pick-pockets on the city bus and in the subways, but neither experienced nor saw any real evidence of endemic violence. If there were any kidnappings or murders while I was there, I don't know how I would've learned of them given the state of their television news, internet, and newspapers.

Hume and the Boundaries Of Justice

Amartya Sen: The Boundaries Of Justice | The New Republic:
The overarching concern in the idea of justice is the need to have just relations with others—and even to have appropriate sentiments about others; and what motivates the search is the diagnosis of injustice in ongoing arrangements. In some cases, this might demand the need to change an existing boundary of sovereignty—a concern that motivated Hume’s staunchly anti-colonial position. (He once remarked, “Oh! How I long to see America and the East Indies revolted totally & finally.”) Or it might relate to the Humean recognition that as we expand trade and other relations with foreign countries, our sentiments as well as our reasoning have to take note of the recognition that “the boundaries of justice still grow larger,” without the necessity to place all the people involved in our conception of justice within the confines of one sovereign state.

The Best Sherlock Holmes “Ah-ha!” Moments

Elementary, Dear Reader: The Best Sherlock Holmes “Ah-ha!” Moments | Tor.com:



After visiting the Cooper Beaches out near Winchester, Holmes notices a number of oddities, culminating in the realization that the floor plan of the house does not correspond with its size. Meaning? There is a secret room! Inside the secret room? Mr. Ruscaslte’s daughter, a woman with a striking resembles to Violet Hunter! It was all a plot to make a suitor of Ruscastle’s daughter think she was truly not interested, but still alive. Rucastle is a serious bastard, and also possesses a mean and nasty mastiff, which he threatens to sick on pretty much everybody. Famously Watson “blows its brains out” in the final scenes of the story. Whoa John Watson! Cold blooded badass. 
Big revelation: If someone asks you to cut your awesome hair it probably means they want you to impersonate someone from afar.

Sauce for the Goose (redux)

Daily Kos: Partisan civil liberties disorder

See the rest at DailyKos
These things matter. They were shameful, immoral, and disgusting when the last administration did them; they are still all three now.

The change we can believe in won't come from Ds or Rs. Count on it.

The Green Party is still out there.

The Socialist Party is still out there.

They may be marginalized and unable to win now, but votes and involvement could change that.

Best Springfield Punx I've seen in a while: Peter Davison's 5th.

Springfield Punx: Doctor Who - the 5th!

Libraries didn't make schools obsolete ...

The Kindle as classroom-killer?

Neither will kindles and iPads. However, they are powerful tools for kids whose public libraries are inaccessible or have been ravaged by budget cuts.


Nobody said it was going to be easy, Fatty.

NYT: The Fat Trap

Nobody credible.


On a related note, the 600-lb. woman changing careers should know what she's gotten herself into.


More likely they'll start playing Angry Birds ...

Apes 'may video chat' on iPads


Will they be disappointed when they find out the a Facebook poke doesn't tickle?


Thursday, December 29, 2011

There is stiff competition for the title ...

Congo dino?

It's the season of year end lists ...

Here's one to tide me over until GITM's comes out:

Andrew Osborne’s Best of 2011: Film

Rondroids, Assemble!

Ron Paul’s Young Iowa Volunteers Clean Up for the Cause - NYTimes.com:


Dr. Paul instructs a young follower to, "lose the sideburns."
(Image via Masters of WAR)


“No tats,” another volunteer, Rocco Lucente, said as he ticked off the rules after arriving at the airport Tuesday night. No liquor, no drugs and, he said, no “fraternizing in the dorms, nothing like that.”

He said the standard expected of volunteers was: “What would Ron Paul do?”

Would President Ron Paul take issue with a state passing legislation making it legal to execute its LGBT population? (Hey, at least they'd be willing to let bygones be bygones and only execute the actively gay.)

Death Penalty For Gays: Ron Paul Courts The Religious Fringe In Iowa | TPM2012:




While he said he and Paul disagree on gay rights, noting that Paul recently voted for repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, he supported the campaign because he believed Paul’s federalist take on the Constitution would allow states more latitude to implement fundamentalist law. Especially since under Kayser’s own interpretation of the Constitution there is no separation of Church and State. 

“Under a Ron Paul presidency, states would be freed up to not have political correctness imposed on them, but obviously some state would follow what’s politically correct,” he said. “What he’s trying to do, whether he agrees with the Constitution’s position or not, is restrict himself to the Constitution. That is something I very much appreciate.”

For every homicidal lunatic that support some Republican, I'm sure there's some nutter that supports a Democrat. Well, maybe it's a ratio of something like 10:1 but my point is you can't blame the candidate for everything every supporter says or does. That said, you can look at how closely the candidate associates with his most demented supporters, how aggressively he courts their support, and whether or not he takes issue with any of their extremist positions.

Dan Savage doesn't seem to have a problem with Ron Paul's attitudes towards gays, apparently concluding Paul's hatred of government trumps his hatred of homosexuals in any decision-making process, therefore homosexuals would be safe with President Paul not having problem with church-state fundies wanting to pass state laws making it legal to burn them at the stake, because at least he wouldn't order it from the White House.

Savage is probably correct to fear Paul less than, say, Rick Santorum. However, Paul's old newsletters appeal to some pretty sick fucks (if you think Paul wasn't aware of -- and writing some of -- that shit, you're a sucker) and maybe we'd all be safer with a President who wasn't a favorite of the Bircher/KKK crowd?


Monday, December 26, 2011

Leaving your kindle on will not take down the plane.

Tests Cast Doubt on F.A.A. Restrictions on Kindle and iPad - NYTimes.com:



The Federal Aviation Administration has its reasons for preventing passengers from reading from their Kindles and iPads during takeoff and landing. But they just don’t add up. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

China, December 2011

Friendship Square from a cabBrian's big beerThe ride from Shangri La to DLSPFriendship Square by dayDalian like Times SquareDalian's peaks
Tian Tian SeafoodAnother street at night.Here there be sea worms.Fresh seafoodFuzzy view of the approach to Friendship SquareXinHai Square
The view from Rudrajit's apartmentBig billboards and lots of lightsAt the supermarketBuying some Green TeaShopping for booksDalian at night
Nighttime in DalianAbby & JasonDinner with the FMR teamInfosys buildingInfosys view of a development zone.Tiananmen Gate & Square

China, December 2011, a set on Flickr.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time in China and hope that I get to travel there again. I'd love to see Xian, Shanghai, or Hong Kong on the next trip.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Unable to access Blogger, but posting from Beijing anyways ...

Enjoying a can of Yan Jing beer as I wait for the 5:30AM (local time) wake up call. Slept some on the flight over, so even though it's the middle of the night, I'm still wide awake here.

Don't have much in the way of first impressions of China yet, have only been from airport to hotel, but so far so good. Even though my Chinese is limited to ni hao and xie-xie, we managed to arrange a ride to a hotel with the help of some friendly airport staff.  

One thing I will say by way of first impressions, is everyone here that's working seems awfully young. From the uniformed security officers at the airport (military?) to  the hotel staff, all baby-faced kids. 

I didn't think it was possible to mispronounce the name of our next city too badly, Dalian, but apparently all three of us were saying it so oddly to the Chinese ear that when the hotel front desk clerks finally figured out what we were talking about, they had a good laugh. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Google plus being put to good use.

Next post will be from ... China?

Not sure about how much time I'll have or what internet connectivity will be like while I'm there; but, if nothing else, some pictures and notes from the trip when I return.

Off to practice my ni hao ...
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