Category Archives: Q-notes

quilter content

atheist outreach and hypocrite hilarity

check out this awesome overpass/sidewalk art at yonkis.com — you have to scroll all the way to the right, and it’s not a flip photo so do it slowly enough to notice the homo sapiens-like creatures … at the shortest point of the wall, at about the 75% mark (L-to-R).

The pointer came from pharyngula, where they’ve also been discussing atheist outreach. Elsewhere in the blogosphere people have been wondering if posting flyers on cars in church parking lots is a good way to reach out to the faithful (the “parking lot challenge”) and what kinds of flyers would be good. I posted some of my thoughts in a comment, but to sum up: (a) flyers can come in all kinds of different information, and if you’re willing for 90% or more to be thrown away you could save the life or sanity of some unhappy teenager who *wants* rationality but doesn’t know how to find it; (b) lots of other places are good to pass out tidbits of reason: bus and train ads, newspaper inserts, inserts in bookstore books, hotel bibles; (c) anybody ever do “you’re welcome for the good deed” card?; and (d) what do you say when someone says “god bless you” and you want to be polite and friendly and brief, but corrective?

… And speaking of religious people: The “abstinence-only” promoter in the Bush Administration’s foreign aid department (aka the “AIDS czar”) resigned in embarrassment after getting caught on DC madam Jeane Palfrey’s list of prominent johns. (See WPost 4/28 and ABC 4/27.) Ha ha. Oh, my anger at BS thinly-veiled with sanctimony is rarely so well matched by my pleasure at hypocrisy revealed. My cup runneth over, but I tell you — the Bush administration has produced so many of these kinds of things that it’s kinda hard to keep up.

I anticipate many more such juicy stories once her client list (which is in the hands of prosecutors and ABC?) is published, and we know more names of people who sought “massage and sexual fantasy from college-educated women”. The irony of the abstinence-only AIDS czar being one of the first to go is rich though. It is Good to start the day with hypocrites brought low. I am in a happy, happy mood.

Kent “Dino” Hovind arrested on tax fraud

Despite being firmly warned to not post on blogs this week but to focus on my deadline, I found this too delicious to not post:

On July 13, 2006, Kent Hovind was arrested and indicted in federal court on 58 charges. Of the charges filed, there is one count of corruptly endeavoring to obstruct and impede the due administration of the internal revenue laws, including falsifying bankruptcy documents, filing a false and frivolous lawsuit and complaints against the IRS, destroying records, and threatening to harm IRS investigators. 12 of the charges are for failing to pay employee-related taxes, totaling $473,818, and 45 charges of evading reporting requirements by making multiple cash withdrawals just under the $10,000 reporting requirement (smurfing). The withdrawals, totaling $430,500, were placed in 2001 and 2002.

Hovind has maintained his innocence. “I still don’t understand what I’m being charged for and who is charging me,” he said. [23] Magistrate Miles Davis asked Hovind if he wrote and spoke English, to which Hovind responded “To some degree”. Davis replied that the government adequately explained the allegations and the defendant understands the charges “whether you want to admit it or not.”[24] A September 5 trial date has been set for Kent Hovind and his co-defendant wife, Jo, who faces 44 charges. Hovind stated that he did not recognize the government’s right to try him on tax-fraud charges and entered a not guilty plea “under duress” when the judge offered to enter a plea for him.[25]

Alas it’s a forward of a forward so I don’t have the original cite. (update: apparently it’s from the latest updates to the wikipedia entry on Hovind)

crossposted @ sivacracy

what is rational: rationally angry about irrational decisions

NY’s Court of Appeals just handed down its no-same-sex-marriage decision, holding that denying marriage licenses on the basis of gender to same-sex partners does not violate New York’s Constitution. In my opinion, this is a big setback for equal protection and individual autonomy. We had a certain momentum going forward in terms of courts accepting the logic, and this decision slows that down. The decision is also remarkably retrograde in some of its reasoning.

Continue reading

Octavia Butler

I was deeply saddened early this week to learn that Octavia Butler had died. She exemplified the spirit of inquiry that makes science fiction truly the literature of ideas. Below I collect a number of resources about Octavia Butler.

Action

Obituaries and Remembrances

Biographies

Octavia’s Words: Interviews & Essays

Octavia’s Words: Fiction

interesting things happening but also life

so, interesting things are going on right now that I have plenty of valuable, earth-shattering comments to make (google’s resistance of the DOJ subpoena, the new google 512 decision, siva’s latest article about google in the Chronicle, a recent discussion about personal releases & permissions culture, an exciting conference I just attended), but so is life. Blogging will have to wait.

Reader, I married fafblog.

It was the only thing to do, after such postings as:

There’s No “War” in “Warrant”1 (12/17):

So George Bush secretly authorized the NSA to spy on Americans without warrants or judicial oversight. Oh, it violates your civil liberties, oh, it illegally breaks the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, oh, that tape of you and your boyfriend having phone sex has been playing in the NSA break room for a month and a half. Well boo hoo hoo! Do you hear that sound, America? It is the world’s tiniest violin playing just for your civil liberties. You can hear it in excellent quality sound because it has been bugged by the NSA. …

“Oh but Giblets the president’s executive order is illegal” you say. That’s the kind of namby-pamby whining that would have the U.S. follow “international opinion” and “the Geneva conventions” and “U.S. law.”

Fafblog followed up on the no-FISA-needed Executive Order with The King of Freedom (12/23):

…How soon we forget the lessons of September 11th! Faced with a threat unlike any before, America can no longer afford its cumbersome system of unwieldy checks and balances. Instead it must nimbly respond to terror with a single, streamlined, omnipotent executive branch. Instead of waiting for critical domestic spying programs to pass through Congress, where bickering Senators can selfishly subject them to public scrutiny, an efficient White House can put them into practice so quickly the country doesn’t discover them for another four years.

All the usual suspects have begun ringing all the usual alarm bells, calling the president’s new powers unconstitutional or even dictatorial. This, of course, is absurd. There remain numerous checks on the president’s powers, such as God, who may override the president’s veto with a two-thirds vote, and the president himself, who may bring himself to justice should he find himself to have violated his oath of office. Nor have Congress and the courts been rendered powerless, as all three branches of government have vital roles to play: the executive branch to be the president, the legislative branch to support the president, and the judicial branch to tell the president he is constitutional….

Fafblog’s coverage of the war on terror is also must-read-blogging: (World Without a PATRIOT Act, 12/17):

So I’m browsin through my local library checkin out the latest developments in shelving technology when Osama bin Laden jumps outta the card catalogue an hijacks the reference section!

“Oh no!” says me. “Stop him before he misfiles that almanac!”
“Mwa-hahaha, you’re too late!” says the terrorist mastermind escapin into the periodicals. “Now nothing can stop me from researching the history of your hometown’s spicy marmalade festival!”
“He’s in the microfiche,” says the crusty ol librarian. “We’ll never catch im now!”

Oh John Ashcroft, where are you when we need you most!

And see The Central Front in the War on Facts (12/8):

The usual antiwar suspects have been up in arms for well over a week over the military’s planting of covert propaganda in Iraqi newspapers, caterwauling about the undermining of a fundamental tenet of Iraqi democracy. As always, their concerns are wildly misplaced. First, shouldn’t a pretend democracy have a pretend free press? Second, most of these pieces weren’t factually inaccurate, but mere “spin” – such as the article that spun an Iraqi general’s death under torture as death under not-torture. Third, propaganda is merely a weapon. America’s leaders would be foolhardy indeed to refuse a weapon in their arsenal, especially against an adverary as deadly as the truth.

While it may not be the ideal of journalism in a free society, is this planted, pro-military propaganda so different from the anti-military truthaganda published every day in the New York Times? While military propaganda shows a bias towards distortion, obfuscation, and outright lies in the service of the war effort, the baleful face of the Mainstream Media shows a clear bias towards reporting reality – and reality has always been America’s greatest enemy in Iraq.

And the ongoing coverage of the torture?-we-don’t-torture-but-we-need-to-be-able-to-torture-(even-though-we-don’t-torture) story was as good as it gets; most recently with Let a Thousand Bad Apples Bloom (12/17) (“Rest assured, from this day forth, the detainees tortured in American military prisons will only be tortured by accident or happenstance, or by dozens of rogue soldiers acting in simultaneously and of their own accord.”)

And on domestic issues, Fafblog also nailed it with Nature’s Harmonious Money Cycle” (12/8):

So you can’t afford to heat your house and somebody went and cut your Medicaid and food stamps. “Oh no!” you say burnin a spare child for warmth. “Whatever will I do.”

… and righteously chastised us all about dangerous support for the HPV vaccine (God Bless the Plague, 11/17):

God created death and disease to provide a divine disincentive against soul-sullying sin. Can America afford to innoculate its children, insure its poor, and make peace with its neighbors if it means not living in fear of an insane, invisible overseer in the sky who barks at his creation in a series of mad, contradictory myths? Absolutely not. God bless the plague!

In conclusion, I highly recommend daily conjugal visits with fafblog (the worlds only source for fafblog).

not fundamentalist hijackers after all

My friend badgerbag was hanging out & making pastry with various kids, including her own, when one of the kids started acting up. There followed this exchange:

Oh and at some point Moomin went, “Besides, Sophie… Jesus says you should be kind and love other people.” WHAAAAAT? I freaked out! What what what? I mean, okay, sure, but… attempted elaborate casualness not fooling anyone as I froze and hissed “oh how INteresting – who told you that?” It turns out that fundamentalist xtians have NOT hijacked my child’s mind but instead Rook had given a stab at explaining what xmas was about. Whew. (But wait, wait, I’m not ready to deal with this level of discussion….)

Chortle.

changed hosts!

I’ve changed hosts for this website & blog, to dreamhost. We’ll see how it goes. It can’t be any worse than my former server, with its outsourced-to-a-FSU* tech support and its 90% uptime.

Already I like the way dreamhost sets up administration for multiple domains. It seems very logical & straightforward to me. It’s open source (linux/apache) based software. Shell access, running scripts, and the like, all seem pretty straightforward. The bells and whistles are also available.

Tech support is not outsourced — which I appreciate both practically and politically.

I also like the option for referral discounts. I’m looking into setting it up such that referral discounts end up getting (at least partially) donated to public interest tech/IP groups (EFF, Public Knowledge, Creative Commons, EPIC, public interest law clinics, and the like). Theoretically, anyway, I should be able to split the discount between people who want to join Dreamhost, the charities, and other purposes (supporting the project’s domain, for instance).

So so far, so good.

There may yet be little things not working that were working previously on the websites or the blog — for instance I discovered that some of the image files for this blog for some reason didn’t transfer correctly. That’s fixed now, but I anticipate a few other minor problems migrating. If anybody sees something not working the way it should be sure to let me know.

update 12/18 3:30 pm Referral codes. Okay, I *think* I have this figured out. If you use this link to go to dreamhost and then sign up, you are doing so using rewards.cgi?lquilter, which will then “credit” my account with a referral if you sign up. The referral is $97.00. Likewise, if you just go to dreamhost and sign up, and during the signup process list lquilter or lquilter.net as your referrer, then I get the $97 referral credit.

Alternatively, I have now created a discount referral code that does what I was looking for when I was trying to sign up. This code, DERIVATIVESWORK, gives the new sign-up 50% of the total available discount. The other 50% is credited to me, and I will donate half of it (25% of the total available discount) to public interest tech/IP groups. My first inclination is to donate in $100 batches to EFF, Public Knowledge, Creative Commons, EPIC, Samuelson Law Technology & Public Policy Clinic (Boalt Hall UC Berkeley) in that order. The other 25% I’ll use to support this blog. If anything comes in beyond the server costs of this blog I’ll probably funnel them back into donations. (But I reserve the right to change my mind about that.) Whatever I do I’ll post it publicly on this blog with an accounting, and if any funds actually come through this system, then I’ll account for them publicly as well. Something for everyone that way, I guess.

The discount in case one is curious is: $25 discount (plus $25 referral credit that I will split up) on a monthly L1 plan, $30 discount (plus $30 referral credit that I will split up) on a monthly L2 plan, $40 discount (plus $40 referral credit that I will split up) on a monthly L3 plan, and $48.50 discount (plus $48.50 referral credit that I will split up) on all the other plans (yearly, two-year, and monthly L4 plans).

So we’ll see what happens!

update 2006/11/1: donations report


* FSU = former Soviet Union republic

good reading [november edition]

okay, i’ve been very sporadically having a couple of spare hours to catch up, and i do a lot of reading, and noting articles i’d like to comment on, but you know what? it’s just not going to happen. so here is some of the stuff that’s caught my eye this month, relatively uncommented-upon and in no particular order:

(11/29: I couldn’t help it. I went back & ordered them in reverse chronological, by my dates — when I was reading it.)

  • 11/6 – 11/29: Katha Pollitt tears up Maureen Dowd. [link from sideshow] But why stop there? Because Maureen Dowd is but the tip of the iceberg on the NYT’s history of writing stupid articles about rich white women who choose to give up careers for the “mommy track”. See pink feminist hellcat for a wrapup that links to a lot of the relevant coverage. Then see Salon’s Broadsheet on some ugly correspondence they’ve gotten about the strawfeminist. (A handy phrase I first saw on Pandagon.)

  • 11/29: ann bartow @ sivacracy links to a “christian underground” site where they get tough about prayer & the persecution of Christians in modern USA. The challenging young woman (very grrrl power) says “I will pray when I want where I want – School Work The Street The Mall – Persecute me at your own peril.” I’m resisting the urge to sarcasm here. Instead I will merely note that, contrary to Christian talking points, Christians and anyone else can pretty much pray at school whenever they like. Like before a test, for instance. These “they took God out of the schools” folks love to conflate the question of whether teachers can lead students in prayer, with whether students can pray for themselves. Pray away. Heck, pray the whole entire school day and to and from school, too. No school can stop an individual’s private silent prayer. That’s wholly distinct from asking for publicly monies to pay teachers to lead you in prayer or employing the power of the state to coerce others to pray.

  • 11/28: feministe takes on the pro-rape — really — commenters at vox populi. [link from badgerbag]

  • 11/28: SJ Mercury (11/28) profiling a new lawsuit against a UC Berkeley website on evolution. The claim? That the scientists provide information about evolution as if it were factually true & as if evolution were not necessarily in conflict with religion. As if!

  • 11/22: John Rendon clarifies the technical difficulties with embedded reporters:

    […]

    Indeed, Rendon is already thinking ahead. Last year, he attended a conference on information operations in London, where he offered an assessment on the Pentagon’s efforts to manipulate the media. According to those present, Rendon applauded the practice of embedding journalists with American forces. “He said the embedded idea was great,” says an Air Force colonel who attended the talk. “It worked as they had found in the test. It was the war version of reality television, and for the most part they did not lose control of the story.” But Rendon also cautioned that individual news organizations were often able to “take control of the story,” shaping the news before the Pentagon asserted its spin on the day’s events.

    “We lost control of the context,” Rendon warned. “That has to be fixed for the next war.”

    [link from sideshow who pointed to amygdalagf who quoted Rendon from an article in rolling stone]

  • 11/13: Pretty good breakdown of spousal notification from frogs & ravens [link from sivacracy’s Ann Bartow who also linked to the same redneck mother posting i was reading]

  • 11/13: Very pleased to see Ann Bartow taking note of the gender imbalance at a current Yale conference on public interest IP/tech issues. I was drafting a rant, but she did it so well …. Go, Ann!

  • 11/10: Women get a bigger buzz from cartoons according to New Scientist

  • 11/6: not a baby machine: an excellent rant on the realities of women’s pregnancies and the folly of trying to regulate women based on a mechanistic view of pregnancy.

    Long ago I promised a rant about how a mechanistic view of women’s bodies and reproduction misinforms attempts to legislate control of women. At the time I was writing about a Virginia legislator who wanted to force women to call the cops if they had a miscarriage while not under a doctor’s care. But the rolling shitstorm of pharmacy zealots, other ridiculous bills and Alito’s track record has me thinking about women as baby-machines again. This phrase from the Virginia debacle, carried over from an earlier bill, stuck in my craw:

    If a fetal death occurs in a moving conveyance, a fetal death report shall be filed in the registration district in which the fetus was first removed from such conveyance.

    When I first read it, I thought, fetal death usually occurs in the mother’s body. Why does the conveyance matter? If you lose a pregnancy while rolling down the hall in your office chair or going over your fields in your combine harvester, the state needs to know?

    This requirement, my friends, is a flashing red light signaling ignorance. It’s based on the notion that pregnant women are simple machines that pop out babies. If the pregnancy ends, the machine must surely just spit out the failed product, right? Won’t you smell a fan belt burning or something? You’re up in your hot-air balloon, your pregnancy fails, it’ll be over in a matter of minutes, all nice and neat and ready for the police report?

    No. A woman will not automatically know if her pregnancy is over just because she starts bleeding on the bus. Bleeding might go on for hours before the pregnancy ends. Bleeding might go on for hours before the pregnancy continues. Some women seem to have their period while pregnant. The pregnancy might end with no symptoms at all, making removing the fetus from its death car challenging at best. Sometimes just getting it out of the woman is a nightmare. It depends.

potential evidence for intelligent design

questionable authority reviews a pro-‘intelligent design theory’ entry that describes a future history of the fabulous medical and scientific breakthroughs generated by ‘intelligent design theory’ and the abandonment of ‘Darwinism’. While the whole post is highly recommended, it was one of the commentors who really tickled my fancy. Responding to the future history’s assertion that ‘Darwinist’ scientists ignore ‘junk DNA’*, commentator Stephen Stralka adds:

It also occurs to me that no matter how much functionality we ultimately discover in junk DNA, none of it will be any better evidence for ID than what we currently know about DNA.

The kind of thing that would be evidence of design would be if the junk DNA turned out to contain stuff like copyright notices and license agreements.

Or copy protection. DRM-protected genomes that prevent unauthorized replications, derivative works, jumping genes & species hopping diseases? Or maybe when you have a baby, a rootkit installs itself on the parents’ reproductive organs, preventing them from further replications. I do indeed see a great future for ‘intelligent design theory’.

(Another commenter followed up:

Oh, man. “If you agree to the terms of this pregnancy, click Agree. Otherwise, click Abort.”

Except that he’s missing about 5 screens’ worth of finely printed legal verbiage about restrictions on the pregnancy and abortion process. Luckily Frontline has got it covered.)


* According to the ‘future history of intelligent design’, ‘Darwinian’ scientists don’t do research on ‘junk DNA’. really? in this future history, will my partner’s dissertation & ongoing postdoc work on various aspects of gene regulation turn out to have all just been a terrible and poorly-compensated decade-long dream?

david leheny on dan brown

I don’t know how to sum up Dan Brown’s contributions to American literature any better than to say that the first “word” of praise on his website is “Unputdownable.”

Plus Harry Reid, David Brooks, and William Safire. Read the whole thing.

sunday morning reading

  • Forbes apparently publishes an annual list of the top-earning dead celebrities and creators. They note that Shakespeare would be way up there:

    [Forbes] calculated what the Bard’s heirs might collect each year if he were still under copyright and estimated it at $15 million with over 5,000 performances of his plays and hundreds of thousands of books sold in the last year.

  • the medium lobster has the highest respect for slate columnist michael kinsey, who can’t understand the plame scandal, because it’s very confusing:

    True, the Plame scandal is simple enough to be summarized in one sentence,[1] but the devil is in the details.

    footnote 1. “White House staffers leaked a covert CIA agent’s name to the press in an attempt to discredit a critic of the flawed intelligence used to support the Iraq War.”

    The problem really boils down to the fact that the plame scandal is very confusing and Not Very Sexy:

    Outing CIA agents, silencing war critics, covering for the false pretext of a false war – it’s all too cerebral to have the kind of mass entertainment value that is the raison d’être of the American criminal justice system. Where’s the heart, the soul, the semen-stained dress?

    Also,

    Mr. Kinsley is also troubled by the impossible paradox of press freedom the Plame scandal presents. Should reporter-source privelege be an implied contract in which a journalist protects her source’s identity in exchange for reliable information, or should it be an absolutist right wantonly abused by state officials to disinform the populace, crush their critics, and commit crimes from beyond the veil of a shield law? Mr. Kinsley can’t quite decide.

morning tea reading

  • The Rude Pundit tears it up on comparisons between the Clinton Whitewater-MonicaGate scandal, and the Bush-Cheney Fraudulently-Induced-Then-Bungled-Iraq-War-PlameGate scandal. [link from sideshow]

  • debate over intelligent design: the abstract factory points out that intelligent design advocates, like pretty much every other human being, work within a science-based framework when it really matters to them personally. [link from sideshow]

  • Fafblog: damn you grover norquist, for accepting money from the gays:

    Yes, as all right-thinking Gibletsians know, gays are not merely plotting to destroy the family. They are plotting to corrupt the global economy with mass monetary queerosity! Even now they are introducing creeping fruitism into our proudly heterosexual stock market and pansying up our once-butch interest rate! They even handle the same money we do, getting microscopic particles of gay all over our precious national currency! Did Abraham Lincoln just wink at Giblets from the five dollar bill? Get away from me, Honest Abe! Giblets doesn’t need your mincey forfathery leering and your log cabin jokes!

lemony snicket copyright

The copyright notice in Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography (2002):

No part of this book may be used, reproduced, destroyed, tampered with, or eaten without written permission except in the case of brief, possibly coded quotations embodied in critical articles, reviews, and subpoenas. Allegedly printed in the United States of America. For information address HarperCollins Children’s Books, a division of HarperCollins Publishers, 1350 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019, although the people at this publishing house have no idea where the documents enclosed in this book came from. If you recognize yourself in any of the photographs or illustrations in this book you may find yourself in Very Frightening Danger and/or slightly embarrassed but there is nothing you can do about it. Please note that the author has been called a fraud, a criminal, a bestseller, a corpse, a fictional character, an unreliable narrator, an objective flaneur, an embattled gentleman, a magnetic field, an arsonist, and late for dinner by an odd number of dubious authorities. Send help at once. All rights reserved. Wouldn’t you rather read about ponies?

jonathan kozol on education & no child left behind

DS: You also suggest that our current system of locally financed schools be abolished, claiming that it perpetuates inequality by allowing suburbs like Scarsdale or Manhasset to spend twice as much on each student as less affluent cities do.

JK: Schooling should not be left to the whim or wealth of village elders. I believe that we should fund all schools in the U.S. with our national resources. All these kids are being educated to be Americans, not citizens of Minneapolis or San Francisco.

DS: Isn’t that why President Bush enacted No Child Left Behind, to narrow the achievement gap between white students and minorities?

JK: I would hesitate to try to navigate the thought processes of that sophisticated, well-educated product of Andover.

DS: Seriously, why would Republicans, who have traditionally opposed big government, encumber schools with the testing requirements attached to No Child Left Behind?

JK: The kind of testing we are doing today is sociopathic in its repetitive and punitive nature. Its driving motive is to highlight failure in inner-city schools as dramatically as possible in order to create a ground swell of support for private vouchers or other privatizing schemes.

“School Monitor: Questions for Jonathan Kozol”. Interview by DEBORAH SOLOMON. NYT Magazine, 2005 Sept. 4.

chortle: atheist meetings

Pharyngula tears up a Christian apologetic, which was fine and entertaining, but it was the commenter Oneiros Dreaming who made me laugh out loud:

pharyngula: Personally, I’m a little bit miffed about this frequent assertion that atheists are just that way because they want free sex. I’m an atheist, and I never got to take advantage of all that free lovin’ hedonism; all of the atheists I know seem to live rather ordinary, conventional lives. I got married, have been faithful ever since, have had three atheist children who haven’t bothered to shoot up their school or muck up their lives with drugs, and as far as I know, my freethinker wife hasn’t been participating in any Black Masses behind my back. Is it all the other atheists who have wild and degenerate private lives?

Comment #35656 Oneiros Dreaming: Dude, you really have to start going to the meetings.