Saturday, March 06, 2004

War Criminals in Canada

The Canadian newspaper National Post continues to work on Canadian immigration issues. Now the National Post reports that one of every six war criminals caught in Canada goes missing before they can be deported.
One was a militia commander responsible for systematic human rights abuses in Ghana. Another was a Sri Lankan soldier who buried torture victims in mass graves. Yet another was part of an Indian army unit that tortured and killed Sikhs.
The National Post has obtained a secret government list that names dozens of people wanted by Canadian authorities for their suspected involvement in war crimes. They were supposed to be deported, but never were.

This is the case that got me:
Jian Qui Chen was a security guard at two Chinese hospitals that performed forced abortions. Pregnant women were "dragged in to have abortions performed, kicking and screaming," according to his refugee file.
He was found to be complicit in crimes against humanity and was to be deported. He was supposed to show up to finalize the paperwork for his deportation in July, 2001. Instead, he disappeared and a warrant was issued.

So this guy knows he's going to be deported and they let him run around on his own. Why in the world wouldn't he vanish? What's the downside? If they recapture him, all they're going to do is deport him. Whatever made the court think he would show up? Were they relying on the honor of a man who dragged women kicking and screaming to a hospital bed to have their baby murdered inside their body? Well, thankfully they captured him two years later. And then an immigration judged ordered him set free. It's not clear from the article whether he was set free because the judged decided that this time they could rely on his honor, or if the judge decided that dragging women kicking and screaming to one of the worst violations imaginable isn't a crime against humanity.

Jian isn't the only one of these monsters who was released after it was a pretty sure thing he was going to be deported and then disapeared. I'm strongly in favor of laws that limit how long the government can hold someone, but deportation cases are different. If you are being held pending a deportation hearing, you can get out any time you want: just ask them to escort you to the nearest airport. This is much less of a burden than being held with no recourse.

Here's a related post.

Martha's travails

Hmm. It's interesting to see the reactions to Martha Stewart's conviction over at Eschaton, the left side of the left side of the left wing. As I understood it, Stewart was a big-contributer-in-good-standing of the Democratic party, yet her support among left-wingers seems considerably less (as a percentage of comments on the internet) among the left than the right. In fact, I don't think I've seen a single "Yea, prosecutor." or "take that, liberal b**ch" on right-wing blogs, but there are quite a few commenters with similar sentiments on this Eschaton thread.

In a way, this is encouraging. It suggests that people are going with their principles instead of with their team.

Friday, March 05, 2004

objective thinking

Todd Seavey has a really good article on objectivity --more specifically on how people fail to be objective. He gives a list of four reasons that people do not think objectively:

1. Epistemological Perversion -- people are attracted to weird ideas.
2. Intellectual Dishonesty -- people convince themselves to believe what they want to believe
3. Aversion to Changing One's Mind or, Worse, Having It Changed By Someone Else
4. Fear of the Unknown

Numbers 1, 2, and 4 are very good, but you can see in 3 how he lets his agenda take over. From the strange discrepancy between the section title and the section contents I get the feeling he changed his mind in mid-article on this one because he wanted a place to beat on some of his pet examples of non-objective thinking and couldn't find a way to make them seem non-objective. What he describes is not "aversion to changing one's mind", but "ontological profligacy". I'll explain that term in a minute, but first his own description:

In childhood, people tend to form very short, concrete lists of things that exist in the world, like so:


.. and so on. And people get bit frustrated if their lists start growing more and more complicated due to analysis that forces them to break down the tidy list of concretes into a longer list:

Domesticated doggies
Feral doggies
Wolf-dog hybrids...

He goes on at some length with the theory that people resist differentiating mental categories. This is not only false, but backward. People in general much prefer differentiating an old category to the work of creating an entirely new category. And when they do create a new category, it is usually only so that it can bring under it a host of different things, bringing organization from chaos. Bats were considered a kind of bird and dolphins a kind of fish regardless of their stark differences until someone came up with a better set of categories that could include all of the present animals under a pleasing organization.

Once someone comes up with a good set of categories, he tries to bring everything under that category. That's how the rocks and planets and air came to be viewed as physical objects, how real property and clocks and labor and bonds all came to be viewed as markets, how baseball and football and golf all came to be viewed as sports. The human mind has a marvelous organizing ability.

That's why I find Seavey's examples so forced. For example he writes

... it can produce a fear of thinking too deeply about whether souls are real things or mere metaphorical constructs...

The concept of a soul has no particular organizing value. It just sort of hangs out there as an irreducible, unrelated entity. This is the very sort of thing that our organizing minds reject, that we want to eliminate, to reduce. If there is any failure of objectivity here, it is when people who demand that we only believe what we can test, also insist that we should ignore some of the most repeatable tests we can make. I can, any time I choose, sense my own existence as a self. It only takes a moment of reflection. Yet Seavey would ask me to ignore this sense because it doesn't fit neatly into his categories.

The set of irreducible categories a person believes in is called his "ontology". For example, you might believe in matter, souls, and God. This means that you believe all three things exist and you don't believe any of them can be reduced to another. For example you don't believe that a soul is made up of matter or that God is just a particular soul. The dominant intellectual position of today is that there is only one irreducible category: matter (I'm glossing over some boring technicalities here), and that any other position is superstitious nonsense. I don't think much of this sort of reductionism, and I hope to find time to write more about it.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Ronald Reagan -- protogeek

When I was younger there was a big reprinting of Edgar Rice Burroughs books. He wrote Tarzan and several other series and I read every one I could find. So I was amazed, amused, and yes, a bit proud to read the following from a letter by Ronald Reagan:

I, of course, read all the books that a boy that age would like -- The Rover Boys; Frank Merriwell at Yale; Horatio Algier. I discovered Edgar Rice Burroughs and read all the Tarzan books. I am amazed at how few people I meet today know that Burroughs also provided an introduction to science fiction with John Carter of Mars and the other books that he wrote about john Carter and his frequent trips to the strange kingdoms to be found on the planet Mars. Then came all of Zane Grey, Mark Twain, and others.
From Reagan: A Life in Letters, pg 8.

Reagan is writing about his reading from the age of ten onward, and he had the same tastes in books that I did at that age. I loved the John Carter books. I mean, you have this great hero adventuring around a dying planet in flying boats rescuing beautiful naked red-skinned princesses. What's not to love? (Martians didn't go in much for clothing. Actually, many of the societies in Burroughs's books didn't go in much for clothing.)

But the real money quote is this one: "I am amazed at how few people I meet today know that Burroughs also provided an introduction to science fiction..." Do you realize what that means? Do you? Reagan couldn't have been amazed about people not knowing about Burroughs unless he what? What? He must have brought up the subject! That's right, Ronald Reagan, president of the United States, was the kind of geek who would talk science fiction with at least some regularity. That's enormous. It validates all my bad conversational habits. What will I learn next? Did Reagan enjoy discussing seventeenth century British Empiricism? I can hardly wait to find out.

political correctness

Atrios has finally said something I can agree with:

Can we stop calling people who are obviously total unapologetic racists "politically incorrect." Please?

The adjective "politically incorrect" should be reserved for principled positions that provoke slander from the left. Marge Schott wasn't raked over the coals for any principled positions, but for being a bigot. Some commenters predictably take this post as an opportunity to slander Republicans as racists for the ultimate political incorrectness --being Republican.

I really need one of these

This is a scale model of the Prince de Neufchatel from Steel, Chapman & Hutchinson Ltd. It's 88" long, 63" high, and it weighs 47 lbs with the ballast keel. It is armed with two 6 lb cannon and sixteen 18 lb carronades (short cannon that shoot larger projectiles at lower velocity). It has two radio-controlled servos, one for the sails and one for the rudder. The sail servo doesn't just turn the mast directly, it actually controls winches with lines to the sails. Is that cool or what? Obviously you don't just bend over and drop one of these in the water, they are too heavy and awkward, so the ships come with a launching cart.

The cannons don't fire yet, but they say they're working on simulated firing with synthesized sound and LED flashes. Personally, I'd prefer real black-powder. And real lead balls. Then you could try to sink the other model ships. Model naval warfare could become the next big thing.

Townhall meetup and sailing

I went to the Townhall meetup last night. I live in the San Francisco area, where four out of five voters prefer to hate any Republican that occupies the Whitehouse, so I'm used to having political discussions with people who make subtle arguments like "I hate Bush", "Bush is a liar", "Bush is the worst president in the history of the country", "Bushed lost eight billion jobs", "Bush is a war criminal", and "Bush sucks". And you know, it's not like I'm a big fan of Bush. I'd vote for just about any other Republican or libertarian over him, and a good number of Democrats, but I think he's an honorable man and all that constant slander and venom is annoying. That's why it is so nice to be able to get together at the Townhall meetup to talk to people who agree with me on the major issues. That lets us argue about other things, like how badly we've been betrayed by the Republicans in the federal government. I'm sort of at the extreme "throw all the conniving, bribe-taking RINO bastards out" end, while most of the other people at the meeting preferred to dwell on the good things they've done that Democrats would not have done.

But more importantly, I got to meet Jude Henson-Oliver from Steel, Chapman & Hutchinson Ltd., makers of radio controlled scale model sailing ships that actually sail. I want one of these so bad. Also, I've been working on a design for a radio-controlled hovercraft (not a scale model, though, I'm planning to exploit the physics of small scale), so this was especially interesting. He says I can visit the shop and when I do, I'll blog about it.

Monday, March 01, 2004

Canada: major tourorist destination

This link from my right-wing informant, James: The Canadian National Post has used their access-to-information laws to get a report from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. The report details how Canada has become one of the favorite bases for terrorist groups. This was completely predictable, of course. They have lax immigration laws, lax immigration law enforcement and light sentences, free medical coverage, all the most modern communications and financial services, and easy access to one of the terrorists's favorite targets. Canada is clearly the terrorist base of choice for the selective international terrorist group. Of course, except for the light sentences and free medical coverage, pretty much all of that applies to the US as well.


Now IU Day by Day is claiming the reactionary blog that so exercised Atrios was a stunt, part of a contest to see who could get the most hits. Like I said in my update, I got suspicious after I read the whole blog, so I'm inclined to believe him that it was mostly a hoax.

I wonder if this is going to become a serious problem for the blog world. The cost of playing a practical joke like this is just a few hours of your time. You can write something that will predictably outrage some major blogger, get lots of links and attention, and then brag about how smart you are (to be fair to IU Day By Day, he probably was doing a class assignment and he isn't being obnoxious about it). If it goes far enough, this could seriously reduce value of the internet as a discussion forum because you could never know whether you were arguing against an actual position or against a caricature.

quarters are for the birds

Here's one that's hard to believe. A gang of birds stealing over $4000. Yes, that's birds, as in feathered flying animals.

Sorry about the title. I really ought to show better taste.

I really need one of these

This is the Springtail by Trek Aerospace, a one-man VTOL craft. Cool. Actually, this is one of those really cool inventions I'm content to watch from the sidelines. Not that I'm afraid of heights or anything... OK, I am afraid of heights. This company has been around a while and they're probably trying to market to the military, which might explain the sparse web site. Or maybe they just haven't moved into the 21st century yet.

rhetorical incompetence

Here's a fun article. PZ Myers is one of those people who frames every debate in terms of the stupidity of the other side. There can't be legitimate disagreements, differences on how to view the available information, contrasting epistemic positions. No, there is only the smart, objective, subtle, scientific side and the stupid, subjective, crude, superstitious side. Then he quotes with approval this embarrassing argument from Archy.

Try this out next week. The first time a wingnut friend/coworker/relative goes off on the San Francisco marriages, tell them Rush thinks they're just like a public display of the Ten Commandments. You can even directly quote Rush. The title of his piece was "San Francisco Doing Exactly What Judge Roy Moore Did." Demand the same consistency from them that Rush is demanding from the liberal media elite. If you condemn the marriages, you must condemn Roy's Commandments (heck, throw in school prayer, football invocations, and "under God" just for good measure). If you approve of religion in state sponsored public spaces, you have to approve of gay marriage. The only relevant issue is civil disobedience.

Of course this is a rather artless example of changing the subject in the middle of the argument. Rush argued that the leftist media is hypocritical for pretending to view Judge Moore's civil disobedience with alarm while ignoring or supporting the civil disobedience in San Francisco. Rush was comparing the acts of civil disobedience, as Archy clearly understood from the rest of the article quoted. Yet Archy side-steps from that to the issues underlying the civil disobedience in a pathetically transparent ploy. I don't know anything about Archy, maybe this is typical of him, but it's a clear and obvious example of the super-objective PZ Myers letting his emotions pick his arguments for him.

Sunday, February 29, 2004

Evil Conservatives

Atrios has managed to find a blog that is as embarrassing to the right as Eschaton ought to be to the left. Atrios is shocked, of course, as are all his readers. On the other hand, as embarrassing as IU Day by Day is, at least the young man doesn't seem to be suffused with hatred and spite the way Atrios and his readers are. Atrios implies that this is the direction of the conservative movement, but when blogs like this start being as popular as the hate-filled Eschaton is, then maybe they have something to actually worry about.

What's funny about this is that it shows how even the denizens of Eschaton don't actually believe the leftist propaganda about how conservatives want to "take us back to the days when women were property", because several of them suggested that this site is a satire. For all their hyperventilating about right-wing nuts who want to enslave women, they doubt anyone would actually be so right-wing as to question the wisdom of Suffrage.

Personally, I think this site is not a satire. Nor, I think, is the writer a part of Modern Conservatism. Rather I think he is a radical in the same sense as the sixties hippies were. He is dissatisfied with the status quo and reacts against it in an irrational outburst, as young people, especially young men often do. He is reacting (well, over-reacting) against an established that is biased against men and contemptuous of maleness.

Oh, and congratulations to Jonah Goldberg for being promoted to the leader of Modern Conservativism.

UPDATE: One of my loyal readers has pointed out that I had the wrong blog name. Fixed. Also, I'm re-thinking whether this is a hoax. The reason I didn't think it was is because there have been lots of young men who believed more outrageous things, and a lot of them like to write things that they know are controversial. Also, the spelling mistakes are real (but it could be that this is just a poorly-spelled hoax). What makes me wonder is the way he deliberately covers all the leftist mythology about what conservatives believe.

that's right, baby

I just got this fortune from a fortune cookie:

You are imaginative in using your skills.

Combined with my custom for reading fortune cookies, it would make for a memorable but no doubt unsuccessful pickup line.

Yowza. He was serious.

Back of the Envelope has this description of his blog:

An Evangelical, Republican Electrical Engineer on religion, politics, and quantum computation.

I thought he was kidding about the quantum computation part, but he wasn't.