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Archive for June, 2006

A victory for tolerance

June 29, 2006 Leave a comment

Arkansas court backs gay foster parents

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Arkansas cannot ban homosexuals from becoming foster parents because there is no link between their sexual orientation and a child’s well-being, the state’s high court ruled Thursday.

The court agreed with a lower court judge that the state’s child welfare board had improperly tried to regulate public morality. The ban also violated the separation of powers doctrine, the justices said.

The board instituted the ban in 1999, saying children should be in traditional two-parent homes because they would be more likely to thrive.

Good for Arkansas. Now, if only they’d stop allowing discrimination on the basis of religion in custody cases.

Categories: Social issues

YAMB!

June 27, 2006 2 comments

I guess I should point out that we have a new Bozeman blogger as of a couple days ago: Rebels Are We. I don’t know how much blogging he’ll be doing in the near future, but I thought I’d point that out.

Categories: Blogging, Montana

Road trip?

June 27, 2006 4 comments

It seems that An Inconvenient Truth is in Helena and Missoula this Saturday. Maybe I should check it out.

Is anyone else from around here going (I ask that knowing full well I quite possibly have only one Bozeman reader)?

UPDATE: Well, as Sheena points out in the comments, it’s actually playing here on Friday and Saturday. Cool.

Categories: Montana, Personal

Net neutrality

June 26, 2006 4 comments

I’ve haven’t had much to say about this. And I haven’t been paying much attention to the issue. After arguing with Budge over a fairly insignificant side argument about government impact on the Internet, I became a little more interested.

There are a couple issues here, for me. One is the effect on the sort of tiered pricing schemes people have been talking about will be. The other is that if necessary, can we regulate this effectively.

There’s possibly an issue 0 here, too. It’s hardly in the spirit of the Internet for telcos or ISPs to decide that Google should pay more than Yahoo! for faster service. The free exchange of information is one of the things that makes the Internet so great. And makes it not cable, too (among other things). It’s also not like there’s any basis for such a pricing scheme either. Companies like Amazon pay according to bandwidth. There’s no reason for one company to pay more than the other for the same services.

Anyway, onward. Effects? It seems like if we’re forcing smaller startups who can’t afford to pay for top tier service to the bottom of the barrel, we’re stifling innovation. This Reason article cites the possibility of stifling innovation we can’t forsee, but I’m going to weigh the paths I can see being stifled over the ones I can’t. Combined with the fact that very few smart people who know a lot about the Internet seem to be worried about that, I see effects as more negative than possibly positive. That said, I’m not entirely sure the effects are going to be that big of a deal. The Reason article makes this point:

Let’s assume that The New Republic’s worst fear of a fast-loading foxnews.com page comes true, even for those of us who prefer other, even more fair-and-balanced, less-comical news sources such as, say, The Onion. What are you likely to do in such a situation? Lump it or leave the company that delivers your broadband (as The Washington Post has reported, more than 60 percent of U.S. ZIP codes are served by four or more high-speed providers, a figure that will only continue to increase)? At the very least, you’ll bitch and moan to your provider, which is known to have some beneficial effects, even with near-monopolists. Remember what happened to the biggest ISP of them all, AOL, during its rise to dominance a decade or more ago? Originally a closed system, it had to allow its users to email with non-AOL customers, then it had to allow its customers full access to the Internet, then it had to go to flat-rate pricing, then it had to woo subscribers with ever-increasing free hours, giveaways, and the like. AOL still regularly upgrades its system and its services not because it wants to, but because it has to.

I’m not sure that’s a great argument, however. I think, though I could be wrong, many ISPs use other telcos’ pipes, leaving the choices available more restricted than they appear. Something about that sounds sketchy, but I’m sure someone can correct me if I’m wrong. The state of competition for companies involved in different phases of the Internet is not all that great, as far as I know, so it seems to me that we’re going to see more of an effect than what Gillespie thinks.

That said, is the effect all that bad? Companies probably won’t be denying you access to part of the Internet, nor will they probably charge you an arm and a leg to get to some obscure site. Then again, maybe they will.

The second issue is can we regulate this effectively. Given that 3/4 of Congress are certifiable morons, I don’t have a lot of hope for them to understand the distinction between prioritizing content type and discriminating against content source/ownership. This is the issue I need to think more about (and read the legislation in question, too).

That’s my two cents, anyway.

Categories: Congress, Tech

A couple of related thoughts

June 24, 2006 2 comments

I’m tired of this right brain-left brain talk. You know, the left side of your brain is the logical, calculating part and the right is the creative, emotional part. I realize most people use it as more of a harmless analogy, but it’s not an accurate one:

Many a myth has grown up around the brain’s asymmetry. The left cerebral hemisphere is supposed to be the coldly logical, verbal and dominant half of the brain, while the right developed a reputation as the imaginative side, emotional, spatially aware but suppressed. Two personalities in one head, Yin and Yang, hero and villain.

To most neuroscientists, of course, these notions are seen as simplistic at best and nonsense at worst. So there was general satisfaction when, a couple of years ago, a simple brain scanner test appeared to reveal the true story about one of neurology’s greatest puzzles: exactly what is the difference between the two sides of the human brain? Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you like your theories, the big picture revealed by that work is proving far less romantic than the logical-creative split, intriguingly complex and tough to prove.

That’s a New Scientist article, by the way, not something written by some crackpot, like a lot of Rense.com.

Moving on, I’ve recently encountered something known as Psycho-Geometrics. Apparently, you can discern someone’s personality by what shape appeals to them. The shapes are circle, square, rectangle, triangle, and squiggle (not really a shape, I guess). This is the order I put them in:

1. Circle
2. Square
3. Rectangle
4. Triangle
5. Squiggle

So, as a circle, what should I be?

• friendly
• nurturing
• persuasive
• empathic
• generous
• stabilizing
• reflective
• overpersonal
• melancholy
• manipulative
• gossipy
• self-blaming
• apolitical
• indecisive
• lazy

Some fit, others don’t (apolitical?). As one person said, it’s like a horoscope. You fit in some in each category. Perhaps you tend to one personality type represented by a shape. It all seems rather simple of course. The Enneagram is a much better one, but I really don’t care about these things at all. I am sort of interested in the idea that liking a shape is a reflection of one of these simplified personality types. I can find nothing the in databases I have access to through MSU (they haven’t cut me off yet). This is as close as I can get:

Another more recent study I pursued for this report is PsychoGeometrics, the Science of Understanding People, and the Art of Communicating With Them. The derivation of Psycho Geometrics came from Dr. Carl Jung. The study deals with the human personality (the thinkers, feelers, sensors, intuitors of previous studies), and the brain function which affects the way that personality type might communicate. This is a very interesting approach to apply to the art of effective communicating. Susan Dellinger, Ph.D. introduced the Psycho Geometrics system and she is a very dynamic trainer on the system. Her study focuses on evaluating personality types by putting them into shapes. This study incorporates a lot of the information many people already know about which side of the brain is dominant in different people and how that brain dominance affects their personalities.

Dr. Jung stressed that left hemisphere people are linear thinkers who like order. Right hemisphere people are non-linear, abstract thinkers who can live in a messy world. Susan Dellinger’s approach puts the differences in people into five immediately recognizable shapes for easy discussion and identification. Left hemisphere people are the squares, triangles, and rectangles. (Note all the straight lines in those shapes.) Right hemisphere people are the circles and squiggles.

I’m tempted to dismiss the whole thing, as it seems to be based on the idea of right and left brainedness that has been mostly discredited. Still, it looks I can’t quite do that.

Aside from one paper calling it dubious and two complimentary articles from Door and Hardware and some magazine about veterinary medicine from the Netherlands, I can find essentially no scientific information on this.

Overall, though, it seems pretty simplistic. Why would shape preference indicate personality? Four of the five shaps seem orderly and logical (if you can call a shape that) to me. It seemed obvious right away that the squiggle was supposed to symbolize the disorganized, creative personalities. In any case, I wish there were some studies I could look at. Given that this fits right in with the cesspool of psuedoscience that is the self help industry, I doubt there are any.

Categories: Skepticism

MT GOP misleads on estate tax

June 22, 2006 1 comment

No surprise there, eh? Here’s a bit from the E-brief:

Repealing The Death Tax Is Important To Montana Farmers And Small Businesses

“Only 30 Percent Of Family Businesses Make It To The Second Generation And 13 Percent Survive To The Third.” (Op/Ed, Dick Patten, “Estate Tax Hurts Family Businesses,” Seattle Post – Intelligencer, July 28, 2005)

This is the only real statistic in the section. The other points are quotes from people saying the estate tax is bad, but without any evidence.

It’s an interesting statistic, isn’t it? What does it have to do with the estate tax? Nothing. No one has been able to find a small business or family farm that had to be sold to pay estate taxes. Very few even pay any estate taxes. The MT GOP is trying to insinuate that the estate tax is somehow responsible for this stat, but that’s all they can do. It’s bullshit and they know it.

Categories: Domestic Policy, Montana

A quick point

June 22, 2006 2 comments

The Marianas story is connected to the Abramoff scandal, but it doesn’t depend on it. Corruption is an excuse for Burns’s behavior. If you want to argue that the donation he received didn’t affect his vote, you’re arguing that Burns has put a devotion to money in general (rather than a devotion to getting more money for himself) ahead of basic human morality. I find corruption to be more forgivable, as it’s a basic and common human failing. To make an objective decision to value a small negative effect on the economy over sex slavery and forced abortions is incomprehensible. Either way, voting for Burns is something that no one should be able to bring themselves to do out of basic human decency.

Categories: 2006 elections, Montana

Give it up

June 21, 2006 Leave a comment

WND seems to think we’ve found WMDs in Iraq:

The U.S. has located some 500 chemical weapons in Iraq since 2003 with more likely to be found, according to two Republican members of Congress trumpeting a newly declassified portion of a government report.

“We have found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, chemical weapons,” Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., said at an afternoon news conference.

Shocking! The next paragraph gives us the details:

Santorum read from a declassified portion of a report by the National Ground Intelligence Center, a Defense Department intelligence unit, which noted: “Since 2003, coalition forces have recovered approximately 500 weapons munitions which contain degraded mustard or sarin nerve agent. Despite many efforts to locate and destroy Iraq’s pre-Gulf War chemical munitions, filled and unfilled pre-Gulf War chemical munitions are assessed to still exist.”

Oh. Well then.

“I never doubted for a second that this day would come because we knew [Saddam Hussein] had them,” said host Sean Hannity on “Hannity & Colmes.” “It’s funny to watch liberals [who complain], ‘Bush lied! He hyped! He misled!’ … How about liberals now apologize to the country?”

How about Hannity comes back to reality first?

WND then debunks their own article:

“These are not the weapons that we went to war over,” Democrat strategist Laura Schwartz responded. “It does not tell us that Saddam Husssein had an ongoing, active weapons program.”

One senior Defense Department official told Fox News the chemical weapons were not in useable conditions.

“This does not reflect a capacity that was built up after 1991,” the official said, adding the munitions “are not the WMDs this country and the rest of the world believed Iraq had, and not the WMDs for which this country went to war.”

Which, of course, was obvious after reading any part of the declassified section of the document. I can only interpret the next couple paragraphs as an attempt to rebut the previous ones:

Also appearing on Fox News was former U.N. weapons inspector Tim Trevan, who said some of the weapons could still have posed a danger, even in a deteriorated state.

“Sarin could be a danger,” he said. “The mustard, the problem is when it sits in the munition for a very long time in these high temperatures, it polymerizes. It goes from a liquid to a gooey mass.”

Pretty weak.

So, we have another false stir in the conservative circles due to poor reading comprehension skills. Who’d a thought?

Categories: Iraq

A few links

June 20, 2006 Leave a comment

A nice quote:

As evidence of my sincerity, consider that recitation of the Pledge is not mandatory. If we atheists really hated America, we wouldn’t care what the Pledge said, because we wouldn’t say it anyway. On the contrary, Newdow’s lawsuit must betoken a deep and abiding love for his country, because only a real and heartfelt desire to say the Pledge, matched only by a desire to do so sincerely, without compromising one’s ideals, would lead one to go to such effort. Michael Newdow is not an unintelligent man, and must have foreseen the backlash that would occur against him for filing this lawsuit. Why else would he go to the effort? Just to stir up trouble, to be the bomb-throwing provocateur of the religious? That is a strawman of the religious right – such people do not exist.

A debate between Alan Dershowitz and Alan Keyes. Gee, I wonder who won that one? The smart guy or the insane guy? P.Z. picks a great quote out:

In North America today, according to a recent census, there are 27 million people who are not religious and a million and a half avowed atheists. There is no evidence to suggest they are less moral than those who go to synagogue, mosque, and church everyday. Indeed, it is my contention that a truly moral person, who acts morally–not out of fear of damnation or out of promise of reward, but because it’s the right thing–if anything, is more moral. More moral. The atheist or the agnostic who throws himself in front of an oncoming bus to save a child, knowing that there is no eternal promise, that there is nothing but the grave that awaits him, is more moral than Sir Thomas More who made a cost/benefit analysis as to whether or not to face eternal damnation by disobeying the pope or face instantaneous death by disobeying the king.

Stupid quote of the day: “if they’re going to take the Bible and prayer out of schools and let the occult in with total liberty, that is wrong — and it’s a violation of our rights.” She’s talking about Harry Potter being in a school library.

When Cheney says nobody, he obviously means nobody in the circle of blinkered ideologues who drove the Iraq policy of this administration. You see, everybody outside of that group is an apologist for terrorism.

Mr. “I support the candidate running ads attacking the haircut of his opponent” seems to think Democrats don’t have any issues to run on. Of course, the issues he thinks are important are making sure we all know that icky gay people support Tester.

All about the issues

June 19, 2006 Leave a comment

Saw a new anti-Tester ad today. It’s another version of the haircut ad, which I guess we’ve seen three of so far. This one chides Tester for not supporting the gay marriage ban and “thinking flag burning is alright.” Pretty pathetic. I guess the issues Burns wants this campaign to be about are demonizing gay people and how he doesn’t understand the concept of free speech.

Think Montana is going to buy it? I guess we’ll see.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention, if the batshit insane people who run and comment (in the interest of fairness, there are exceptions in both of those categories) on WRIM, it will work. Thankfully, I don’t think that’s the case.

Categories: 2006 elections
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