Nov 10th, 2011 by ravi
Return of the blah-blahg

I expect to start posting to this blog more regularly. I leave it to you (is there still a you out there? If so, post a comment for my gratification!) to decide whether that’s a good thing. Some of this material will be stuff migrated from my Posterous site, but will likely be new to you.


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Sep 1st, 2010 by ravi
PETA | The Faces of Animal Testing

Bite Back Magazine has posted all of the images on its website.
Primate Products

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Aug 29th, 2010 by ravi
Hamas, the I.R.A. and Us – NYT

Both the Irish and Middle Eastern conflicts figure prominently in American domestic politics — yet both have played out in very different ways. The United States allowed the Irish-American lobby to help steer policy toward the weaker side: the Irish government in Dublin and Sinn Fein and other nationalist parties in the north. At times, the United States put intense pressure on the British government, leveling the field so that negotiations could result in an agreement with broad support. By contrast, the American government let the Israel lobby shift the balance of United States support toward the stronger of the two parties: Israel.

This disparity has not gone unnoticed by those with firsthand knowledge of the Irish talks. In a 2009 letter to The Times of London, several British and Irish negotiators, including John Hume, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize for the Belfast Agreement, criticized the one-sided demands imposed solely on Hamas. “Engaging Hamas,” the negotiators wrote, “does not amount to condoning terrorism or attacks on civilians. In fact, it is a precondition for security and for brokering a workable agreement.”

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Aug 24th, 2010 by ravi
SciAm: How Much Is Left? The Limits of Earth’s Resources, Made Interactive
What’s Left?

Powered by Ergo:Ux

My friends on the Left do not like to speak much of the impact of human behaviour on our own future, since to them it smacks of Malthusianism and denial of resources to the poor (the rich not only consume more on average but also have the power to keep doing so). However, it may be time to start seeing that human exploitation of nature equally (and equally disproportionately) harms the poor and working classes.

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Aug 17th, 2010 by ravi
Terrorist Tapes Found Under CIA Desk : NPR

The CIA has tapes of 9/11 plotter Ramzi Binalshibh being interrogated in a secret overseas prison. Discovered under a desk, the recordings could provide an unparalleled look at how foreign governments aided the U.S. in holding and questioning suspected terrorists.

The two videotapes and one audiotape are believed to be the only remaining recordings made within the clandestine prison system.

The tapes depict Binalshibh’s interrogation sessions at a Moroccan-run facility the CIA used near Rabat in 2002, several current and former U.S. officials told The Associated Press. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because the recordings remain a closely guarded secret.

When the CIA destroyed its cache of 92 videos of two other al-Qaida operatives, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Nashiri, being waterboarded in 2005, officials believed they had wiped away all of the agency’s interrogation footage. But in 2007, a staffer discovered a box tucked under a desk in the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center and pulled out the Binalshibh tapes.

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Aug 9th, 2010 by ravi
Nothing is good enough for Democrats

To be sure, the president has seen both his nominees to the Supreme Court approved with little suspense. But the Senate has yet to allow a vote on most of the 85 nominees he has sent up for federal judgeships at the district and appeals court levels.

Same old partisan story? Not quite. The last five presidents, three of them Republicans, have seen four out of five of their appointments confirmed.

Democrats under Majority Leader Harry Reid have not been willing to call the minority’s bluff on this tactic by demanding real-time filibusters with all-night sessions and cots in the lobbies. No one wants the delay, the drama or the indignity.

Back in 2000, when a few principled human beings supported the candidacy of Ralph Nader, they (and their candidate) were accused of being “spoilers” and of enabling the election of George Bush and the consequences. After the election of their dream candidate, Barack Obama, these same Democrats have remained mostly silent as their man continues many of the wicked politics of his predecessor. In their silence, they present not some worldly pragmatism; they merely echo the pusillanimity of the leaders they wish us to join them in electing. The opposition suffers from no such timidity.

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Aug 4th, 2010 by ravi
Analogies about the WTC Islamic Centre and the ADL

More than one writer has criticised the Anti Defamation League’s stance against the proposed Islamic Center near “Ground Zero” in Manhattan, using analogies such as the below from Peter Beinart:

The ADL’s rationale for opposing the Ground Zero mosque is that “building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain—unnecessarily—and that is not right.” Huh? What if white victims of African-American crime protested the building of a black church in their neighborhood? Or gentile victims of Bernie Madoff protested the building of a synagogue?

These analogies are erroneous, and I believe the error is non-trivial. African-American crime is not committed in the name of “African-Americanism”. Similarly Bernie Madoff did not scam his clients as a claimed act of Judaism. However, if I recall correctly, the attackers on 9/11 did (among other claims) consider their act to be on behalf of Islam; and the act was masterminded by an Islamic organisation or entity. The oft-repeated caution that these individuals do not represent Islam is the point that is missing in the analogies. A better analogy, that brings out this point, would be:

What if a Unitarian church was proposed near the location of the Stonewall Riots (or another location where homosexuals where victims of an attack)? Given the virulent homophobia of the Westboro Baptist Church, a Christian entity, does it make sense to ban the Unitarian church in order to spare pain to the harmed community?

Aside: someone like Christopher Hitchens might argue that given that any form of religion, even a progressive, inclusive one like the Unitarian Universalists, are the root cause of a good part of the violence and terrorism we see around the world, due to their basis in irrationality.

Update: as Allogenes points out in the comments, the Unitarian Universalist do not identify themselves as christians, so my analogy is as flawed as the one I criticise. Just desserts! The reader is encouraged to substitute a mild, tolerant denomination (the Episcopalians?) for the UU, in the above.

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Jul 21st, 2010 by ravi
Richard Posner on Chief Justice John Roberts

Richard Posner, himself a conservative judge, recently wrote that four of the five most conservative justices since 1937 are together on the Court now: Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, and Samuel Alito. Many lawyers believe it would have been better had Roberts and Alito been forced to disclose their real substantive intentions in their hearings because they would not have been confirmed if they had. Posner said of Roberts: “The tension between what he said at his confirmation hearing and what he is doing as a Justice is a blow to Roberts’s reputation for candor and further debasement of the already debased currency of the testimony of nominees at judicial confirmation hearings.

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Jul 1st, 2010 by ravi
Lefty Cartoons on our national relationship with Keynes


A cartoon that was inspired by Paul Krugman’s article “How Did Economists Get It So Wrong?”

(Thanks to Massimo Pigliucci for pointing me to this cartoon blog)

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Jun 29th, 2010 by ravi
More on poverty and relief

Karelis argues that being poor is defined by having to deal with a multitude of problems: One doesn’t have enough money to pay rent or car insurance or credit card bills or day care or sometimes even food. Even if one works hard enough to pay off half of those costs, some fairly imposing ones still remain, which creates a large disincentive to bestir oneself to work at all.

“The core of the problem has not been self-discipline or a lack of opportunity,” Karelis says. “My argument is that the cause of poverty has been poverty.”

The upshot of this for policy makers, Karelis believes, is that they don’t need to fret so much about the fragility of the work ethic among the poor. In recent decades, experts and policy makers all along the ideological spectrum have worried that the more aid the government gives the poor, the less likely they are to work to provide for themselves. David Ellwood, an economist and the dean of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, has called this “the helping conundrum.” It was this concern that drove the Clinton administration’s welfare reform efforts.

But, according to Karelis, that argument is exactly backward. Reducing the number of economic hardships that the poor have to deal with actually make them more, not less, likely to work, just as repairing most of the dents on a car makes the owner more likely to fix the last couple on his own. Simply giving the poor money with no strings attached, rather than using it, as federal and state governments do now, to try to encourage specific behaviors – food stamps to make sure money doesn’t get spent on drugs or non-necessities, education grants to encourage schooling, time limits on benefits to encourage recipients to look for work – would be just as effective, and with far less bureaucracy.

With apologies for the repost: this block of the article is more central than the one I posted before.

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