Intel Dump

Wow, quite the weekend! Saturday saw the FUNHL hold it's first waiver draft of the year, and the unbiased will no doubt note that my team is vastly improved and destined for total victory.

The biased (you haters) will still be forced to note this truth, but will unfortunately suggest that victory will be by much smaller margin.

Can't please em' all.

It was also an interesting week and weekend for the CIA.


Well for two reasons, first they admitted that they have destroyed the recordings of CIA operatives torturing prisoners. Despite having previously denied these tapes existed, and despite being ordered to produce them, and despite being ordered not to destroy them, they did anyway. Oops! Maybe nobody will care? Actually, I suspect they are counting on it.

Here's a round up of reactions to the revelation;

In a completely unconnected vein, the CIA were part of the release of the National Intelligence Estimate, a document which notes that despite the aggressive drum beating for war by many in the Bush administration ("if you want world war three"...., etc.), the Iranians have in fact suspended their nuclear program. Indeed, they had done so a couple of years back. Oops!

Bush of course denies that anybody actually told him either of these facts, and goes on acting like the US doesn't torture people, as well as pretending that the Iranians need a good bombing right away. Why pretend he cares about the truth now?

So the CIA giveth and the CIA taketh away, and nobody who matters pays any attention at all.

Anyway, with that depressing news out of the way, here is a link-o-rama of some things I've been reading of late - enjoy!


- Wanna know how life got so complex? Wired magazine tells us the answer might be... Poop!

"Photosynthesizing plankton produced some oxygen, but it was consumed by bacteria and offset by slow-sinking carbon. The arrival of multicellular organisms changed all that: they competed with bacteria for plankton, and their carbon-rich feces dropped quickly to the ocean floor. Bacteria dwindled; oxygen levels rose, especially in sunlit upper waters; and the ecological gates were thrown wide-open to the parade of animals that soon followed."

- For those interested in speculative philosophy, "what happens if we can explain consciousness?"

"While there's a lot of complex discussion in this area, I think it partly comes down to whether you're relaxed about the idea that science might one day be able to explain the essence of human experience. For many people, I think this is an extremely uncomfortable thought. What Keats, talking of Newton's findings, refers to as a fear of 'unweaving the rainbow' - the fear that explaining something might somehow reduce the magic of it - is very real."

He points in the right direction but doesn't put a name to the fear - Cartesian dualism. The concerned are those that worry neuro-science and philosophy will eventually replace the notion we have some invisible soul or mind at the core of our conscious experience. The rest of us aren't so much concerned as cheerleading the neuro-scientists on!

- Sticking with neuroscience, here's an article from Reason on the neuroscience of moral philosophy.

- Staying with the emerging theme of science puzzles, how did dinosaurs survive at the poles?

"Polar dinosaurs, as they are known, also had to endure prolonged darkness—up to six months each winter. "The moon would be out more than the sun, and it would be tough making a living," says paleontologist David Weishampel of Johns Hopkins University.

The evidence that dinosaurs braved the cold—and maybe scrunched through snow and slid on ice—challenges what scientists know about how the animals survived. Although Rich wasn't the first to unearth polar dinosaurs, he and a few other paleontologists are filling in the picture of how these animals lived and what their environments were like. Recent research might also shed light on two of the most disputed questions in paleontology: Were dinosaurs warmblooded? And what killed them off?"

- Moving along in the same groove, here's the genetic story of how cavefish lost their eyes.

- Backing away from the microscopes and bunsen burners, my favourite movie reviewer has a take on one of my favourite movies - yup, Criterion Contraption does John Woo's 'The Killer'. Sweet

- One of the places where politics and religion intersect: the GOP nomination process! Chris Hitchens kicks the living piss out of Mitt Romney for his lame imitation of JFK's 'Catholic' speach. Ouch!

Meanwhile, the normally reliable Larry Arnhart (from 'Darwinian Conservative') offers him something of a defense.

First, here's Hitch throwing down the gauntlet;

"Trying to raise himself above this swamp of nonsense—the existence of which is his responsibility, not mine—the governor mainly treated us to evasion and a rather shifty attempt to change the subject and rewrite the historical record."

Here's a sample of Larry's defense;

"Romney's recent speech at Texas A & M University was his attempt to lay out his position on the political role of religion. It is a remarkably reasonable statement on the American tradition of religious liberty. He endorses Abraham Lincoln's declaration in his Lyceum speech that obedience to law and the Constitution is the "political religion" of the nation. Romney goes on to argue that the Constitution's provision for "no religious test" for public office shows that there must be no political imposition of any particular religious beliefs."

Unfortunately, (though not very as I have no horse in the GOP race and whoever the candidate ends up being is the inevitable sacrificial lamb on the alter of Bush's policies and likely double digit loser to the Dems candidate), Romney was quite specific in his speech that it's still an 'us against them' situation;

"Freedom requires religion, just as religion requires freedom" - Romney

The 'us' being the religious and faithful (can't we all just get along and face the real enemy?) while Romney's 'them' is atheists and secularists. Oops. Unlike Kennedy whose speech was meant to reassure the public that his first duty was to the US constitution and not to Rome, Romney's speech was s sop to the evangelicals of his party and a call to wage a culture war with the atheists.

I'll let Hitch make the fundamental point;

"If an atheist was running against him, would Romney make nothing of the fact? His stupid unease on this point is shown by his demagogic attack on the straw man "religion of secularism," when, actually, his main and most cynical critic is a moon-faced true believer and anti-Darwin pulpit-puncher from Arkansas (Huckabee) who doesn't seem to know the difference between being born again and born yesterday."

Hitch couldn't write a boring sentence if he tried.

So despite not having a horse in the race, I'm now pulling for Romney to get his head handed to him.

Vote Ron Paul!

- Here's something you don't see very often, economists arguing FOR rent control! It must be the end times.

- Unless you've been living in a cave or perhaps trapped for a few months under something heavy, you know the greatest movie ever made is being re-released in a new definitive, final directors cut edition.

Total Dick-Head has the goods with his review of the newest version of 'Bladerunner'. (spoilers)

I literally shiver with anticipation. Best. Movie. Ever.

- I was speaking with a friend of mine about the unparalleled joy of listening to podcasts when they countered that they simply didn't have the time required to get into them. For them (and anyone else interested) here is Open Culture's list of 60 Second Lectures.
- From Discover magazine comes this awesome graphic on 'how the mammals took over'

- Defending freedom of speech means defending the rights of racist douchebags to be racist douchebags.

- Here's a sign of the new cyber-times we live in - consider this case of a rape in cyberspace. Why is this interesting? For several reasons;

* The clear and unambiguous reality that something bad really did happen

* The strain with which everybody involved struggled to come to grips with how to think about,
adjudicate, and eventually punish the perpetrator.

* The messiness (and occasionally the total idiocy) of anarchy

Thought provoking and highly recommended

- I once recall a debate I had with a Mormon friend at the University of Calgary where he challenged me with;

"You think you are so smart, but only God can create life"

Not only did I prove him wrong by bringing Oliver into the world (with some help from my wife) but in a less trivial way, these guys (from U of C no less!) are part of the new science of designer life.

So yeah, (20 years late) I do think we're pretty smart. Clever monkeys all.

- Let's say you are feeling really good, your on top of the world, your job is going well, maybe you even got laid recently. Nice. So you need to come down a bit, maybe shed a tear, or even have a full blown cry.

For you impenetrably cheerful, here's a time-line of Bush's greatest hits to the US Constitution.

Bring a box of hankies, it's sadder then that kiddie classic 'Lassie vs. the cement truck'.

- Ok, so that was a downer, here's something to cheer you up. What could be better than listening to professional hot-air blower (and now Rudy Giuliani foreign policy and speech-writing stooge) David Frum get a beat-down from Israeli treaty negotiator Daniel Levy? Every myth, every half-lie, every historical inaccuracy, every neo-con Republican talking point, is punctured, deflated and handed back to Frum on a silver plate. I wept with joy.

- Heroes Season 2; why it sucked, why it rocked (spoilers - obviously)

- Why should we invest in a wicked awesome Space program? "It's the energy, stupid"

- While we're traipsing the void, here's a review of 'my favourite launch platforms'. That photon thruster makes me hard.

- Moving sideways, here's a guy dedicated to bringing you only the best in Star Wars tattoos

- Speaking of tattoos, here's my new favourite blog, called cheekily enough 'sans everything', and one of it's authors Jeet Heer pontificating on the cultural significance - or lack thereof, in modern body art.

No direct link to the article is available to the article, so visit Heer's site, click on 'culture at large' and select 'tattoos'.

If that wasn't awesome enough, check out this elucidation of how comic books evolved from monsters to superheroes. Low culture was never so high-brow.

- This is by far the best video explaining the evils of marijuana I've ever seen. Must see;

- Oh yeah, I guess it's that season again. Bah Humbug.

- Sticking with the bah humbug X-mas theme, here's a Canadian economist pointing out the X-mas market failure.

- I haven't mentioned any of the three Andrews yet, so here is monsieur Coyne learning to love the soaring loonie.

- I'm going to have to dig further into this (because you can't believe anything you read on Beliefnet without corroboration), but they are making the case that the National Geographic faked conclusions they reached about the Judas Gospel. Stay tuned.

- Here's a list of the top ten cheesiest Star Trek (the original series) monsters and aliens. Mmmmm cheese!

Seriously though, Landru isn't cheesy!

He's a ruthless machine presiding over a religious cult that brainwashes billions and erases all feeling and culture. That isn't cheesy, that's Republicanism. Even the comb-over hair screams Republican!

- Finally, here's the story of how a genuine genius of philosophy is brought low by age, and unscrupulous parasites. Antony Flew's 'conversion' is little short of a tragedy.


Picture of the Day

Actually, I have three pics of the day (it's been a good day)

1st up:

The Vanuatu Flying Fox
Lifted from the NY Times Science section


A map showing the distribution of blondes in Europe. What's going on in the Baltic?
From the very cool Strange Maps website. Natch.

3rd: From the marvelously cheeky 'Indexed';


A Nativity Scene that speaks to my people!

My stomach hurts from laughing so hard.

There are about a dozen utterly classic lines in this and is worth the repeated viewings!


Quote of the Day

Proof that Sid Meier isn't as involved as he used to be....

"After being asked whether or not Meier thought CivIV`s overhauled interface would turn-off some hardcore fans, Master of Orion III was brought up as an unfavourable subject of comparison. The PCGP crew asks the Firaxis representative if his company learned anything from seeing MoO3 just kind of flop... because [its] interface was just really cluttered. When Meier responds that he has not played MoO3 at all, one of the show`s co-host retorts that you didn`t miss anything"

- Apolyton Civilization