Sunday, October 30, 2005

The Need to Believe

Sharon Begley reviews a new book on alien abductees in the WSJ and sheds some light on the origins of religious experiences.

The first thing that struck Susan Clancy during the weekend she spent with people who had been abducted by extraterrestrials was that they weren't that much odder than the folks at her family reunions.

It's not that Dr. Clancy, then a graduate student in psychology at Harvard University, has an especially strange family. But as she was drawn deeper and deeper into the world of "abductees," she realized that they tend to be respectable, job-holding, functioning members of society, normal except for their belief that short beings with big eyes once scooped them up and took them to a spaceship. What makes abductees stand out is something that is so common in American society it's a wonder there aren't more of them: an inability to think scientifically.

Reading the title of Dr. Clancy's new book, "Abducted: How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens", millions of Americans probably figure the answer to the implicit question is obvious: People come to believe they were abducted by aliens because they were. Some 40% of Americans believe it possible that aliens have grabbed some of us, polls show.

Abductees are teachers and waiters, artists and chefs, construction supervisors and librarians. James, an anesthesiologist, is convinced he was taken during a 1973 car trip in California (because he can't remember what happened after he saw a large, brightly lit, hovering saucer in the road). Will, a massage therapist, was abducted repeatedly by aliens, he told Dr. Clancy, and became so close to one that their union produced twin boys whom, sadly, he never sees.

Numerous studies have found that abductees are not suffering from mental illness. They are unusually prone to false memories, she and colleagues found in a 2002 study, and tend to be unusually creative, fantasy-prone and imaginative, but so are lots of people who have never met a little green man.

Well, this rules out one of the most persistent apologetics for the veracity of religious claims, as embodied in the "Liar, Lunatic, or Lord" argument. People can be both sane and have false memories or experiences. Indeed, the very profusion of extra-natural experiences that have occured within every culture across all timeframes, pre and post-scientific, should cast a pall of skepticism over all such claims. Or, to be consistent, should make all such claims equally credible. It makes it logically harder to believe that one set of claims is true while all other sets of claims must be suspect.

Even the smartest abductees fall short, however, when it comes to scientific thinking. Dr. Clancy asked if they realize that memories elicited by hypnosis are unreliable. Yes, the abductees said, but they are really, really careful with hypnosis, so their recovered memories must be real. Do they understand that sleep paralysis, in which waking up during a dream causes the dream to leak into consciousness even while you remain unable to move, can mimic the weird visions and helplessness that abductees describe? Of course, they say, but that doesn't apply to them. As one abductee explained, she was taken not while she slept but when she was on the couch watching Letterman.

And do they understand that the most likely explanation of bad dreams, impotence, nosebleeds, loneliness, bruises or just waking up to find their pajamas on the floor does not involve aliens? Yes, they told Dr. Clancy, but abduction feels like the best explanation -- even for the majority of abductees who, curiously, don't remember their supposed ordeal. (Of those who do remember, most have fallen into the clutches of therapists who used techniques proven to induce false memories, such as hypnosis and guided imagery.)

Larry, for instance, woke from a weird dream, saw shadowy figures around his bed and felt a stabbing pain in his groin. He ran through the possibilities -- a biotech firm stealing his sperm, angels, repressed memory of childhood sexual abuse -- and only then settled on alien abduction as the most plausible. Sam blamed his impotence on aliens, not on his recent prostate surgery. He had read that stress can cause impotence, and alien abduction is stressful.

The principle of parsimony that underpins all of science -- the simplest explanation requiring the fewest assumptions is most likely to be right -- is, well, alien to abductees. So is the notion that "it feels right" doesn't make it so, and that exceptions to rules are, indeed, exceptions.

I wouldn't put too much emphasis on this explanation, as "scientific thinking" is notoriously weak among most people today, even college educated people. Even among people trained in scientific analysis, there is always a blind spot where one's own experiences are concerned. Often it is the most intellectually accomplished that fall prey to cults, as with the followers of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh.

What an inability to think scientifically does not explain, however, is why many people believe this one weird thing, not weird things in general. In other words, why ET?

"Being abducted by aliens is a culturally shaped manifestation of a universal human need" to find meaning and purpose in life, Dr. Clancy writes. That need is stronger and more basic than any attachment to empiricism, logic or objective reality.

Most important, perhaps, is that alien abduction feels, to abductees, like the best explanation for their feelings and memories. It is transformative, giving their life meaning, reassuring them of their own significance. Will, the twins' dad, is happy he was "chosen," saying the abduction showed him there is "something out there much bigger, more important than we are." Through his twins, he can "have a part in it."

Dr. Clancy, raised as a Catholic, is aware of the human needs that religion fills -- and how belief in alien abduction fills them, too. "People get from their abduction beliefs the same things that millions of people the world over derive from their religions," she writes: "meaning, reassurance, mystical revelation, spirituality, transformation."

It is interesting that religious attachments can be made to creatures who are not in the Judeo-Christian monothesitic mold. Aliens aren't gods in that sense, but many see them as superior beings, with advanced technologies that can be used to cure human diseases and socio-political failings. Neither were the pagan gods of old, or the spirits of the animist faiths. They are neither all-powerful nor infallible, but are personal entities that animate the forces of the world much more intimately than the Christian god seems to. Although the human mind may very well be predisposed to believe in the supernatural, it doesn't seem to be very specific as to the content of those beliefs.

I've been Splogged!!

Many of you faithful Daily Duck readers may have noticed an increase in spam in the comments section. Well, here's the straight dope on this new and annoying phenomenon from Wired:

At first glance, it seems like a regular blog. But look closer and you'll see there's something very odd about the blog's content: It's very familiar. Too familiar.

That's because you wrote it, six months ago, on your own blog. The rest of the content doesn't make sense: The same word repeated over and over again. There are ads all over the sidebar for products like Viagra and mortgage loans.

The phenomenon hit an all-time high recently, when Google's blog-hosting service, Blogger, was inundated with more than 13,000 fake blogs spawned by a script (all have since been taken down).

Splog topics are often so nonsensical and wide-ranging they can be hard to pinpoint. Scott Beale of Laughing Squid said some really strange splogs have shown up on his watch list, everything from "Phish Rocks, Dude" to "Geeks Meet Greeks."

Rest assured, faithful readers, the Duck will do everything within his power to eradicate this scourge from the DD. It is on my "To Do" list. Right up there with "get rid of funny smell in basement".

Friday, October 21, 2005

And Now for Something Completely Different

Hardcore !!

Man Stops Carjacking With Hot Coffee

BLUFFTON, S.C. (Oct. 20) - A would-be carjacker got quite a jolt when he picked the wrong car to try to steal, Jasper County deputies say. The suspect tapped the window of the car Wednesday morning with a gun and motioned the driver to get out, Chief Deputy Roy Hughes said.

The driver of the car had just bought a cup of hot coffee. So he slammed his door into the carjacker's legs, threw the coffee on him possibly burning the suspect's neck and face, and wrestled him to the ground, Hughes said.

A shot was fired during the scuffle, but no one was hurt. The driver managed to get the gun from the suspect and point it at him, Hughes said.

The suspect ran into the wood behind the store.
Deputies are looking for the would-be carjacker along with two people believed to be with him who drove off while the fight was going on.

Not necessarily smart, but definitely hardcore.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

More Good News from The City Below the Sea™

According to John Pardue, an environmental engineer who took water samples from Lake New Orleans after Katrina, the floodwaters were no more dangerous than the city's normal storm runoff. (Which is not to say "safe", just acceptable and normal).

Reporting in the Environmental Science and Technology journal, Mr. Pardue speculates that the slow rate of the flooding caused few ruptures of storage facilities holding toxic substances, and that the huge water volume diluted any that did occur.

Divine Command Morality, as interpreted by the former "leadership" of the Catholic Church

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles released summaries of its confidential files, which document how local church leaders for decades responded to accusations that priests were sexually molesting children - they moved suspected priests to new assignments without notifying parishioners.
(Or the cops).

Good job.
Is that how Christ would have handled the situation ?

This is, of course, nothing that we didn't know before, but every time that the Catholic Church is forced to officially reveal more evidence of their incompetence and malfeasance, (which went all the way up to Rome), I get outraged again by their COMPLETE and TOTAL lack of regard for the members of their faith, as well as gobsmacked by how willing the Catholic bureaucracy was to let Satan run the place.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Get your program! Can't tell your insurgents from your rebels without your program!

Mark Steyn has the radical idea of naming names in the War on Terror, or as the MSM would have us believe, multiple unrelated insurgencies for which we are probably to blame in some way or another.

From Thursday's New York Times: ''Nalchik, Russia -- Insurgents launched a series of raids today in this southern Russian city, striking the area's main airport and several police and security buildings in large-scale, daytime attacks that left at least 85 people dead.''

"Insurgents," eh?

From Agence France Presse:

"Nalchik, Russia: More than 60 people were killed as scores of militants launched simultaneous attacks on police and government buildings . . ."

"Militants," you say?

From the Scotsman:

"Rebel forces battled Russian troops for control of a provincial capital in the Caucasus yesterday . . ."

"Rebel forces,'' huh?

From Toronto's Globe & Mail:

"Nalchik, Russia -- Scores of rebels launched simultaneous attacks on police and government buildings . . ."

"Rebels," by the score. But why were they rebelling? What were they insurging over? You had to pick up the Globe & Mail's rival, the Toronto Star, to read exactly the same Associated Press dispatch but with one subtle difference:

''Nalchik, Russia -- Scores of Islamic militants launched simultaneous attacks on police and government buildings . . ."

Ah, "Islamic militants." So that's what the rebels were insurging over. In the geopolitical Hogwart's, Islamic "militants" are the new Voldemort, the enemy whose name it's best never to utter. In fairness to the New York Times, they did use the I-word in paragraph seven. And Agence France Presse got around to mentioning Islam in paragraph 22. And NPR's "All Things Considered" had one of those bland interviews between one of its unperturbable anchorettes and some Russian geopolitical academic type in which they chitchatted through every conceivable aspect of the situation and finally got around to kinda sorta revealing the identity of the perpetrators in the very last word of the geopolitical expert's very last sentence.

Read the whole article, it is classic Steyn; simultaneously hilarious and gravely serious. I would add some commentary, but Steyn has said it all.

Well Done

Word Up, Arizona

[A public service] campaign is aimed at reducing the rate of teenage pregnancies in Arizona, which is the second highest in the country behind only Mississippi. The advertising, sponsored by the Arizona Department of Health Services, is aimed at teenage girls and their sex partners as well as parents. [...]

The campaign is unusual for a couple of reasons. One is that the ads present their message - "Abstain or use a condom" - in the form of what is known as spoken-word poetry, as it is performed in competitions called poetry slams. [...]A major part of the campaign, which ran through the summer, was centered on a contest asking members of the target audience to submit their own spoken-word poems.

The other reason the campaign is unusual is its extensive use of nontraditional media, which includes cellphone text messaging, e-mail messages and the Internet in addition to more conventional media like television, radio, posters and billboards. Such media are, of course, mainstays of the teenagers at whom the campaign is aimed. [...]

The commercials have been produced in Spanish also, to reflect the large Hispanic population of Arizona as well as the fact that, according to research by the agency, Hispanic adolescents in the state have the highest birth rates for teenage mothers.

The campaign is aimed at not only the teenage girls most at risk for becoming pregnant, but at a somewhat broader male audience, ages 16 to 25. That reflects data, the agency says, showing that 51 percent of the fathers of babies by teenage girls are in their 20's.

The ads addressed to parents are inspired by research indicating that teenagers rank their parents No.1 in influencing their decisions about having sex.

The commercials feature girls and boys, separately and together, who recite the salient points of the campaign in the cadences of spoken word. In the TV spots [...] the words appear on screen in handwriting as they are voiced. [...]

The spoken-word contest took place during July and August on a hip-hop radio station in Phoenix [...] The station, known as "Power 92," is particularly popular with the campaign's intended audience. Listeners were invited to enter by submitting audio files through e-mail messages or recording their poetry over the telephone. A local poetry rap artist named Divine Essence chose weekly finalists in the contest and posted audio files on a Web site ( [...]The winner of the contest was determined by which entry was downloaded the most, on computers or cellphones, as audio files or ring tones. There were a total of 11,155 downloads...

- By STUART ELLIOTT for the NYTimes [all emph. add.]

It's nice to see an effective advocacy ad - most preach to the choir, and are a completely useless waste of time and money. Anti-smoking and anti-choice groups are the worst offenders that I've seen, in terms of producing bad ads.
Here, you have the ads in the right languages, delivered in a way that's popular with the target audience, and the contest part is genius. It gets the target audience to buy in, and to work to improve the message.
Plus, the target audience decided which was the winning entry, not a panel of well-meaning but probably out-of-touch judges.The fact that there were 11,000 "votes" indicates some measure of success.

It's great that parents are the #1 influence on kids' sexual behavior.
It's horrible that half of the guys knocking up teen girls are ADULTS, even if only barely.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Get your program! Can't tell your Prophets from your Apostles without your program!

Rich Lowry believes that it is time to fill the Bible gap with a program of court approved Bible education in public schools:

It's time to get the Bible back in public schools. And not through the back door of creationism disguised as Intelligent Design.

America is a Bible-soaked nation, from the Puritans to Abraham Lincoln to Martin Luther King Jr. Without a basic grasp of the Bible, it is impossible to understand the well springs of our country and the basis of Western civilization. Which is why it is a scandal that Bible education has been chased out of the schools and why the work of the Bible Literacy Project to put it back there is so admirable.

The nonpartisan, Virginia-based Bible Literacy Project has set out methodically to return Bible education to the schools by answering the questions: Is it legal? Is it needed? How can it be done? "The Bible and Its Influence," a just-published textbook for use in grades 9-12, is the culmination of this effort. Rarely is a textbook an occasion for celebration or anything but moaning on the part of students, but this substantial, gorgeously produced, thoroughly vetted volume is an emphatic exception.

A few years ago, the Bible Literacy Project published together with the First Amendment Center a guide on how to teach the Bible in schools. The list of groups that have endorsed this consensus statement reads like a who's who from the clashing sides in the culture war, with People For the American Way Foundation on the one hand and National Association of Evangelicals on the other. In 1963, the guide notes, the Supreme Court struck down devotional Bible reading in schools as unconstitutional. But the court said schools may teach the Bible as long as it is "presented objectively as part of a secular program of education" — a message lost on most lawsuit-averse school boards.

So, Bible education is legal, but is it necessary? Well, only if you want to be educated. By one count, there are 1,300 biblical references in Shakespeare's plays, working out to an average of 40 per play. Bible literacy will lead to a deeper understanding of authors from Herman Melville to Charles Dickens, from William Faulkner to Toni Morrison. The Bible has inspired the world's greatest poets, painters and composers, some of its most influential reformers, and the founding of a great nation (ours).

But only 8 percent of public-school teenagers report that their school offers the Bible or religion as part of the curriculum. A Gallup survey of high-school students found that large numbers know the very basics (Adam and Eve, etc.), but not much more. Two-thirds of teens couldn't correctly identify, given four options, a quotation from the Sermon on the Mount. They didn't know what happened on the road to Damascus. About ten percent think Moses was one of the Twelve Apostles.

Don't you find it odd for a Bible-soaked nation to have such a low level of Biblical literacy among its youth? Where are the catechism classes and Sunday schools? If they are not able to keep their charges from daydreaming while they try to explain for the umpteenth time the difference between Jeroboam and Rehoboam, how much success do they think a public school teacher will have?

One of the reasons for this surprising lack of Biblical awareness is precisely because of the overwhelming religious hegemony that Christianity enjoys in American culture. Young people grow up in a society where the tenets of Christianity are a given, just as Newtonian physics are. There isn't a lot of curiosity about the inner workings of Christianity because it is so uncontroversial. Just as Americans can drive cars and enjoy cable TV without knowing anything about the principles of their design, a Christian can carry around an abbreviated version of Christian theology in their head, knowing that they are covered in the afterlife. They take these things on the authority of their elders and betters, and then go on to more interesting pursuits.

Which is probably just fine for most of the churchmen and pastors. I can see a lot of opposition to letting a secular, public school teach the Bible in a neutral, non-authoritative, historical manner, and not being present to answer their young parishoner's questions in a theologically correct manner. All kind of mischief and wrong thinking about the Bible can creep into a young mind in this kind of setting.

That is why the medieval church became very nervous once printing technology appeared in the 15th century and Bibles in the local language became more readily available to the literate middle classes. And they were right to worry so, for the Reformation occured in the wake of this development. Children in these public school classes will get a taste of different views and different interpretation on God and the Bible, and the result will tend to be a blurring of sectarian distinctions in their minds. Which is the direction that religion has been taking for the current generation.

I think that this kind of education is a good thing, as long as it is carried out in a non-devotional manner. But don't be surprised if opposition for it comes from people who aren't the usual suspects in the religion in public school disputes.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Modern secular rationalists of the world, unite!

(and be slightly more pushy than you were before, though still taking care not to offend anyone, of course)

From The Bright Stuff, by Daniel C. Dennett.

The time has come for us brights to come out of the closet. What is a bright? A bright is a person with a naturalist as opposed to a supernaturalist world view. We brights don't believe in ghosts or elves or the Easter Bunny — or God. We disagree about many things, and hold a variety of views about morality, politics and the meaning of life, but we share a disbelief in black magic — and life after death.

The term "bright" is a recent coinage by two brights in Sacramento, Calif., who thought our social group — which has a history stretching back to the Enlightenment, if not before — could stand an image-buffing and that a fresh name might help. Don't confuse the noun with the adjective: "I'm a bright" is not a boast but a proud avowal of an inquisitive world view.

You may well be a bright. If not, you certainly deal with brights daily. That's because we are all around you: we're doctors, nurses, police officers, schoolteachers, crossing guards and men and women serving in the military. We are your sons and daughters, your brothers and sisters. Our colleges and universities teem with brights. Among scientists, we are a commanding majority.

Wanting to preserve and transmit a great culture, we even teach Sunday school and Hebrew classes. Many of the nation's clergy members are closet brights, I suspect. We are, in fact, the moral backbone of the nation: brights take their civic duties seriously precisely because they don't trust God to save humanity from its follies.
A 2002 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life suggests that 27 million Americans are atheist or agnostic or have no religious preference. That figure may well be too low, since many nonbelievers are reluctant to admit that their religious
observance is more a civic or social duty than a religious one — more a matter of protective coloration than conviction. Most brights don't play the "aggressive atheist" role. We don't want to turn every conversation into a debate about religion, and we don't want to offend our friends and neighbors, and so we maintain a diplomatic silence.

But the price is political impotence. Politicians don't think they even have to pay us lip service, and leaders who wouldn't be caught dead making religious or ethnic slurs don't hesitate to disparage the "godless" among us.

From the White House down, bright-bashing is seen as a low-risk vote-getter. And, of course, the assault isn't only rhetorical: the Bush administration has advocated changes in government rules and policies to increase the role of religious organizations in daily life, a serious subversion of the Constitution. It is time to halt this erosion and to take a stand: the United States is not a religious state, it is a secular state that tolerates all religions and — yes — all manner of
nonreligious ethical beliefs as well.
I am neither gay nor African-American, but nobody can use a slur against blacks or homosexuals in my hearing and get away with it. Whatever your theology, you can firmly object when you hear family or friends sneer at atheists or agnostics or other godless folk.

And you can ask your political candidates these questions: Would you vote for an otherwise qualified candidate for public office who was a bright? Would you support a nominee for the Supreme Court who was a bright? Do you think brights should be allowed to be high school teachers? Or chiefs of police?

Let's get America's candidates thinking about how to respond to a swelling chorus of brights. With any luck, we'll soon hear some squirming politician trying to get off the hot seat with the feeble comment that "some of my best friends are brights."

Here’s a gift for the cynical theists on the Duck. This essay by Daniel Dennett is taken from

The ‘Brights’ are a movement – though a polite, weekend hobby sort of movement rather than a dynamic revolution, as far as I can tell – to promote a more positive view of secularism. Their number include such luminaries as Stephen Pinker (whose book The Language Instinct incidentally, is one of the most thought-provoking I’ve ever read – highly recommended); the inevitable Richard Dawkins, and, bizarrely, the TV magicians Penn and Teller.

Now, I can understand where these people are coming from in one respect.

Like the Brights, I do occasionally get weary of having to respect other people’s religious views, which frequently strike me as utterly insane, and of forcing myself to keep my mouth shut for fear of offending in dinner table discussions, while they can be as rude as they like to non-believers and their supposed lack of ‘soul’ or ‘deeper understanding of mystery’.

And also like the Brights, I don’t really like the term ‘atheist’. There are two reasons for this:

Firstly, I don’t believe in lots of things, but I don’t label myself by reference to that disbelief. I don’t call myself an “a-ghostist” or an “a-Santa Clausist”. Essentially, in day-to-day life, my lack of a theological conviction simply doesn’t impinge on my consciousness very much, so I don’t see why this absence, which I don’t miss in any way, should form part of my ‘identity’.

Secondly, and possibly more importantly for the Brights, are the negative connotations that pop into the heads of many people when they hear the word ‘atheist’. Do a word-association with ‘atheist’ and you might get things like “rebel”, “diabolical” “evil genius”, or “communist”. Some prefer the term “humanist” because the word associations are more touchy-feely. So I can see why these fellows might want to spread the name ‘bright’ as an alternative.

‘Bright’ is not a purely negative term in the way that “atheist” is. ‘Brights’ don’t believe in God or the supernatural, but they do believe in lots of other things. So they prefer to be characterised by what they do believe, rather than what they are sceptical about.

So I do have some sympathy for the idea.

But in another way, I find it ever so slightly cringeworthy.

Maybe there are so many ‘brights’ (including a lot of dim ones) in Britain that it’s not really an issue in the way it is in the States.

Maybe I instinctively distrust labels and movements, and find this one a little worthy and over-zealous. It has a slight tang of the earnest schoolboy setting up his own ‘Society for Clever People – No Girls Allowed.’

Or maybe I’m just not much of a joiner.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Blog Format Changes

I've added a category on the sidebar for ongoing discussion threads. This will hold those topics that spur widespread, impassioned, ongoing debate like Brit's brilliant "The Story of the Moral". That way it will be easier for Daily Duck regulars to get at the thread after it scrolls off the bottom of the front page.

Quack on!

Sunday, October 09, 2005

We're the UN, and we're here to help

Grab your guns, and bolt the door. The UN wants to take control of the Internet:

Kofi Annan, Coming to a Computer Near You! The Internet's long run as a global cyberzone of freedom--where governments take a "hands off" approach--is in jeopardy. Preparing for next month's U.N.-sponsored World Summit on the Information Society (or WSIS) in Tunisia, the European Union and others are moving aggressively to set the stage for an as-yet unspecified U.N. body to assert control over Internet operations and policies now largely under the purview of the U.S. In recent meetings, for an example, an EU spokesman asserted that no single country should have final authority over this "global resource."

To his credit, the U.S. State Department's David Gross bristled back: "We will not agree to the U.N. taking over management of the Internet." That stands to reason. The Internet was developed in the U.S. (as are upgrades like Internet 2) and is not a collective "global resource." It is an evolving technology, largely privately owned and operated, and it should stay that way.

Nevertheless the "U.N. for the Internet" crowd say they want to "resolve" who should have authority over Internet traffic and domain-name management; how to close the global "digital divide"; and how to "harness the potential of information" for the world's impoverished. Also on the table: how much protection free speech and expression should receive online.

While WSIS conferees have agreed to retain language enshrining free speech (despite the disapproval of countries that clearly oppose it) this is not a battle we've comfortably won. Some of the countries clamoring for regulation under the auspices of the U.N.--such as China and Iran--are among the most egregious violators of human rights.

Meanwhile, regulators across the globe have long lobbied for greater control over Internet commerce and content. A French court has attempted to force Yahoo! to block the sale of offensive Nazi materials to French citizens. An Australian court has ruled that the online edition of Barron's (published by Dow Jones, parent company of The Wall Street Journal and this Web site), could be subjected to Aussie libel laws--which, following the British example, is much more intolerant of free speech than our own law. Chinese officials--with examples too numerous for this space--continue to seek to censor Internet search engines.

The bolded quotes above should alone strike fear into anyone who has seen the rise of the internet as an indispensible resource for the expansion of freedom and commerce across the globe. Closing the "digital divide" will be accomplished as the global economy drives modern technology into the hands of third world consumers, and requires no ownership of the internet by a world body. The UN can only, at best, slow the pace at which emerging economies adopt internet technologies. At worst it will make these technologies a servant to trans-national ideologues and anti-American, anti-capitalist identity groups. "Free speech concerns" is a coded phrase for multi-cultural, politically correct censorship.

The biggest enemy that the world's impoverished have right now is the UN and the cadre of anti-globalist NGOs that are currently making a mess of every "development" effort that they are engaged in. Ceding authority over the internet to this body is to put the most powerful technological enabler of global economic growth and political freedom in the hands of an organization that values neither of these things.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005


Court Denies Bail for Convicted Former Tyco Executives


NEW YORK (Oct. 3) - A state appeals court Monday refused to allow bail for former Tyco International executives L. Dennis Kozlowski and Mark Swartz while they appeal their convictions on charges of stealing some $600 million from the company. [...]

Kozlowski, 58, and Swartz, 45, have been custody since they were sentenced Sept. 19 to eight and one-third to 25 years in prison. They were convicted in June on first-degree grand larceny and other charges related to accusations they stole $180 million outright and improperly made some $430 million by manipulating Tyco's stock value. [...]

Kozlowski and Swartz were each convicted in June on 22 counts of grand larceny, securities fraud, falsifying business records and conspiracy after a four-month second trial. Their first ended in a mistrial after one juror received a menacing communication.During the trials, prosecutors accused Tyco's two former top executives of giving themselves illegal bonuses and forgiving loans to themselves worth up to $180 million, while also manipulating Tyco's stock price by lying about the company's finances.

Kozlowski should die in prison.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Boomers May Change Society - Again

When We're All 64


[All emph. add.] [S]ome people may give up the idea of a house entirely. Geriatrician Lee Lindquist found through a study last fall that living on a cruise ship would cost about the same as in an assisted-living facility: $33,260 for a year-round cruise versus $28,689 for a year at the average assisted-living facility. (A high-end facility would cost $48,000 or more.) The cruise would provide essentially the same services, including escorts to meals, dining, help with medicine and housekeeping -- plus "look at how much more you're getting on a cruise ship -- the midnight buffet, the pools, and you're treated as a customer, not a patient," Dr. Lindquist says.

She got the idea while on a cruise to the Caribbean with her parents. A few of the other older travelers on the ship said they had been on 20 cruises in the past year -- meaning they were living on a boat about every other week. Boomers she has interviewed say they like the notion. "Part of the appeal is that they wouldn't be with all older people," Dr. Lindquist says. "They'd be mixed in with the frat boys and newlyweds, so they would feel less like it was a nursing home." [...]


One start-up company, Posit Science Corp. of San Francisco, already [has tested] memory-building computer games in Bay area retirement communities. The company claims that the hundreds of older people using its software in preliminary tests have the mental acuity of someone five to 10 years younger. Posit plans to have home versions of the games out by next year. [...]

Intel's team of social scientists is developing computerized memory aids, too. [...] One gadget, tested in two dozen households in Las Vegas and Portland, Ore., was designed to help people ease their fears of not recognizing a face or voice when answering the door or telephone. Intel used wireless sensor networks to collect data for four months about who visited, called and emailed the participants, and how often. The data were used to create a "solar-system display" on a TV or computer screen. Circles representing friends and family orbit around you; when you move the mouse over those circles, you see photos of the people they represent, along with the last time you spoke to them and what you talked about.
Similarly, Intel developed what designers dubbed "caller ID on steroids." When the phone rings, a nearby digital photo frame displays a picture of the caller and lists what you talked about during your last call.

The "presence lamp" was also a big hit among test subjects. One of these lights is placed in the parent's house, one in the child's. When the child returns home after a visit, the light automatically goes on in the parent's house, and vice versa. The gadget lowered depression among the older adults with Alzheimer's disease by showing them their kids had gotten home safely. It also alerted a few boomers when their parents got lost on the drive home after they had dinner together. "It was in crude prototype, and needed a lot of baby-sitting by our engineers," says Mr. Dishman. But when the trial was over, "the people said, 'No, don't take this away from me.' " Now Intel hopes that the computer makers that buy its chips will bring these products to market.


The enhanced caller ID seems like a great idea for anyone, elderly or not.
Most cellphones can already display a picture or other graphic unique to each identified caller.