Friday, October 31, 2008

Curiouser and curiouser!

After a recent talk here at CAPPE on virtual friendships, I have been a little interested in the various questions and concerns raised by having internet only friends. One of the problems that people find with virtual friendships is that they remove the need for social interaction, thus reducing contact with real in-flesh'd humans, leading to less ability to socialise etc etc.

And then I read this article: Japanese Man Petitions To Marry Comic-Book Character.

Edited highlights include:

A Japanese man has enlisted hundreds of people in a campaign to allow marriages between humans and cartoon characters, saying he feels more at ease in the "two-dimensional world."...Taichi Takashita launched an online petition aiming for one million signatures to present to the government to establish a law on marriages with cartoon characters..."I am no longer interested in three dimensions. I would even like to become a resident of the two-dimensional world," he wrote..."However, that seems impossible with present-day technology. Therefore, at the very least, would it be possible to legally authorise marriage with a two-dimensional character?"

Now, am I being a stupid old-fart here, and not being up-to-date, hip-wit-da-kidz and down-with-it or has this guy completely lost the plot?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

McCain = Yesterday's Hero

Though one doesn't want to count chickens before the egg, it looks more and more likely that in the U.S. Presidential election, McCain is going to lose badly, and Obama may win really really big. So much so that the Republican strategy is less surge and more retreat with damage control. The news media in the U.S. are trying to 'maintain suspense' about the outcome.

Now again, this is not a forgone conclusion, and a number things can happen in the next week, but it looks more and more like Obama will win. Who cares, you may ask. Well, given the mess that the world economy is in, potentially leading to a massive destabilisation in many many countries, as a result of many things not the least being that incompetent twit 'W', the spectre of McCain and his moronic side-kick Palin, many many people will suffer under 4 more years of Republican incompetence, stupidity, greed and moral bankrupty. So I hope, with the deepest sincerity that I can muster, that the Republicans are not returned, and that the Democrats do something tangible and worthwhile if they get in.

This from today's Age gives me reason to hope:

"Senator McCain attracted several hundred to his indoor rallies in Iowa while Senator Obama was speaking to 100,000 at the Denver rally and to 45,000 at a rally in Fort Collins, Colorado."

Monday, October 20, 2008

John McCain = Human Garbage

As part of his last ditch attempts to fool people into not voting for Obama, John 'I'm a Maverick' McCain has gleefully descended into into the human filth that seems to compose the Republican party.
The focus of his campaign now seems to be scare voters away from Obama. In their final debate McCain pitifully bleated that a voter enrolment group, ACORN (associated with Obama) "is now on the verge of maybe perpetuating one the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, MAYBE DESTROYING THE FABRIC OF DEMOCRACY." (My emphasis)
Now, these are serious claims, and they certainly warrant investigation and explanation. Yet the political import McCain's pig-screams cannot be understated. Democrat Congressman John Conyers raises the issue of the FBI leaks about the ACORN investigation. The concern here is that the leaks from a supposedly independent arm of the government were intended to influence the outcome of this year's election.

But, to my main point, how can John McCain say this crap and maintain his dignity as a human? Let me repeat his words - "maybe destroying the fabric of democracy'. My response to that consists of three words (and one letter) George W Bush President? This is the party who, through electoral fraud, stole the 2000 election. Stole? Yes. Whether it was the erasing of racial minorities from voter rolls, the collusion of the conservative dominated media in swinging the Florida vote or the role that Republican judges played in deciding that George W was the president, to name but a few examples, the 2000 election made a sham of democracy.

Well, that was just once, a one off, one might say. Wrong. The 2004 election was again plagued by Republican manipulation. And now, the same process is being repeated. Now, maybe I am simply a commie, blinded by my liberal bleeding heart, deliberately searching for facts to match my bias. But these examples seem factually accurate, and display the Republican party as willing to sacrifice democracy to keep their talons on the position of the president.

Over reaction? Perhaps. But when one reads that some republicans are attempting to prevent voters from voting in this election, because the banks have foreclosed on their home, one finds the bile rises to throat quicker than you can say 'democracy is the right to equal representation'.

No, John McCain, the ACORN situation is not a threat to the fabric of democracy. The Republican Party tore that fabric up years ago, wiped their arse with it, and now you want to jam that stinking rag in the face of U.S. voters? You sir, are garbage.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Basic Human Rights in the U.S. Election.

Well. Its about time someone stood up and offered some words of truth in this U.S. Election. Finally, 'Joe-The-Plumber' a.k.a. Joe-SixPack a.k.a. Average Joe has put the voice of common people into the mouths of those talking man shaped puppets, Obama and McCain.

Observe the wisdom of Our Joe, quoted in today's Australian: “Because you're successful, you have to pay more than everybody else? We all live in this country. It's a basic right,” he added. “And Obama wants to take that basic right and penalise me for it, is what it comes down to.

“That's a socialist view and it's incredibly wrong. I mean, 250,000 dollars now. What if he decides, 150,000 dollars and, you're pretty rich too. Let's lower it again. It's a slippery slope. When's it going to stop?”

I think its about time that we, as philosophers and ethicists pulled ourselves down from ivory towers and confronted 'the battler'. Yes, being successful is a basic human right. Much more so than eduction, healthcare, fair and equal representation, partner choice in marriage, blah blah blah. All these things that bleeding heart lefties yabber about day in day out.
As for slippery slopes, well, Our Joe has really found his mark as a philosopher there. What starts at taxing 250,000 dollars could end up with poor students like ourselves having our money theived from us, by a Socialist Government. Castro would be laughing in his grave (if we had been allowed the right to 'ventilate' him like Che Guevera, John Lennon and JFK).

I think its high time that human rights and slippery slopes were brought to the front of this election campaign, to show us what real applied philosophy is like. When Obama (who is clearly a commie-monster-in-waiting)says things like "its time to share the wealth around" we all know it is time to arm our bears.

The tyranny of words

A joke to lighten the mood...

A monk joins an abbey ready to dedicate his
life to copying ancient books by hand. After the first
day though, he reports to the head priest. He’s
concerned that all the monks have been copying
from copies made from still more copies.
“If someone makes a mistake,” he points out.
“It would be impossible to detect. Even worse the
error would continue to be made.”
A bit startled, the priest decides that he better
check their latest effort against the original which
is kept in a vault beneath the abbey. A place only he
has access to.
Well two days, then three days pass without the
priest resurfacing. Finally the new monk decides to
see if the old guy’s alright. When he gets down there
though, he discovers the priest hunched over both a
newly copied book and the ancient original text. He
is sobbing and by the look of things has been
sobbing for a long time.
“Father?” the monk whispers.
“Oh Lord Jesus,” the priest wails. “The word is

…taken from a book I’m currently reading

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Moral Radar

Test your Intuitions -- this test presents you with moral dilemmas, so that you might judge each one. It kind of reminds me of the talk at the AAP by Rob Sparrow about human enhancement.


The Ethics of Ethics

So it's a bit mean of me to pick on the Ticking time bomb argument (TTBA) in any of its forms, because it gets so much bad press. As it stands, I'm not really going after the conceptual problems with the TTBA, but more the practical realities of some of the empirical presuppositions I think it reast on.

Today's news article that brings all this up was on the cover of the wikinews site, which I use because its often a cross-referenced amalgam of a number of news sources, which I find intuitively somewhat more promising. At the very least it provides a convenient dump site for the big reports on the same issue across the massive news industry that sprawls the length and breadth of Interwebia.

The article, stating that Secret memos reveal Bush administration endorsed torture made me a touch cross. The kicker was when apparently Condeleezza rice, in all her obvious care and compassion, had questioned whether or not waterboarding was legal or not.


wait for it.



Honestly! How can these people live with themselves? How can they be so STUPID!? Legal? Did anyone stop to even look up what Waterboarding was? Who cares if its allowed (which I'm pretty sure its not, Condie)? TORTURE!

And yet, philosophers and lawyers alike persist in constructing scenarios which could give these people a foothold for legitimacy? I mean, we worry about the scientists doing the research to give the technology to build the weapons, but the ethicists are creating and legitimising the tools by which corrupt administrations will attempt to vindicate themselves! Should we be analysing the ethics of giving these logical tools? Its worse than guns, we're giving these people the tools to send our sense of decency back to a place that even cavepeople would look and go "Grarg? (translation: What the F***?)"

Maybe I should start another dissertation on dual-use ethics. Because sure, its a nice little set of thought experiments, but its like the bright idea of whoever it was to give George W. Bush the words "just" and "war." Should we as philosophers be culpable for giving evil people the tools to try and justify atrocities?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A bit of a rant.

So this girl that went missing in Croatia, since found dead and decomposing? Her family seem to have the complain dial set to 11.  Fair enough, some might say. However, comments such as this, from today's front page report on the Sydney Morning Herald website:

Ms Lapthorne's father, Dale, in Dubrovnik, said he was frustrated and upset by the lack of information in the report, which he called almost "childish" in its content. It provided only a description of the state of her body.

"It is purely descriptive and it says there is no visible sign of an act of death of how she might have died because the body is in such poor condition," he said.

"It is a false statement. The body is in such a bad state of decomposition that it cannot be determined whether foul play was involved or not. It didn't say that there is no evidence of foul play, of course there is no evidence of foul play. The body is in such a poor state that nothing can be determined from it without scientific testing or forensic evidence and that hasn't been undertaken at all."

So this is the failing of the modern media and entertainment industry. There is no super-attractive Temperance Brennan, who, with a glint in her startling eyes and a flick of her fantastic hair will suddenly find that a subtle change in the rings on the bone marrow in a chip on the girl's jaw means that at 9pm she was in a Croatian 7-11 the night before she went missing. This is science. When a body washes up after a week in the water, its not going to be much help. Its unfortunate, yes. But don't blame the coroner. Sue God for creating such damn inconvenient principles under which bodies decay in saline solutions filled with all sorts of bacteria who love the taste of human flesh. "Scientific Testing"? "Forensic Evidence"? get with the program people. There is no "cause of death" machine. And to start with calling it purely descriptive, then asserting it is a false statement because it doesn't tell you what you want, and then stating that all it tells you is exactly what they said it told you (which, presumably, makes it a true statement) is just bizarre.

It isn't this guys fault. he's obviously wrecked up. But it seems just a little bit of review-grubbing emotional chain-jerking to keep on labouring this point. Especially the last point about the judge taking a swim in the bay where she was found. how does that reflect anything about her case handling?

Hey media, grow some integrity. When Milton and mill signed off on an all access pass on your behalf, they did it in the name of a certain set of laudable ideals, not so you can go about being pants-on-heads idiots about what is a tragic situation that you are milking well past even your normally poor sense of decency.

Demo-kratos and other lovely concepts.

One of my favourite authors, Patrick Rothfuss, wrote an interesting blog post today. Rothfuss, author of The Name of the Wind (which I heartily recommend you all read) describes in his self-styled Public Service Announcement why Americans should not vote. That's right, not vote. Let's take what I think is one of the funnier parts of the open letter to the American public (i.e. the interwebbers who watch his blog) is this:

For example, I was eating dinner the other day at a local restaurant and I heard someone at a nearby table say, "I'm voting for McCain. I heard Obama's into gun control. Nobody's taking away my guns." I'm not making this up. I'm not exaggerating or paraphrasing. These words have been echoing around in my head for weeks, and it's entirely possible that I will never be rid of them. If this sounds like something that might come out of your mouth, you need to realize that you are not very smart. I'm not saying you're a bad person. I'm not saying you're evil. What I'm asking is that you consider the very real possibility that you might not be capable of casting an intelligent vote. Let repeat myself just for clarity's sake. If you're willing to throw in with one candidate based on senseless fear and "something you heard" you are not well-informed, and you shouldn't vote. Again, I'm not saying you're a bad person. What I am saying is that the fate of the nation is probably too complicated for you to deal with properly. You should stay home on election night and watch some Nascar instead. That's right. Nice, comforting Nascar.
It raises what I think is one of the most interesting problems of democracy, or with any normatively significant practice: when rights or freedoms become duties or obligations. I'm a big fan of a view towards democracy that goes like so: every citizen has a right to vote. This right is given under a certain set of expectations, namely that such a citizen has the obligation to vote, and under an expectation that they will vote in an informed manner. Unfortunately, as with most of my beliefs, this is somewhat too good to be true. It seems that of the 224 countries who have universal voting processes, only 19 of them enforce compulsory voting. And, as Pat wishes to point out, maybe that's for the best. Whether or not compulsory voting leads to more extreme political stances is an empirical question, and one I'd love to have answered. It seems that the standard intuitive response is to the affirmative, that to allow voluntary voting within a western, developed, media-dominated democratic nation does lead to a more extreme stance by those who do turn out to vote. But I'm not really sure what this means: is this skewed towards one end of the spectrum or the other? I'm not a big fan of left or right extremism, and i don't think that the answer is so simple as one lovely blogite seems to imply, that if such an extremism is symmetrical than they cancel each other out. Please people, learn to math. These are vector sums at their simplest, although I'd suspect we'd need some pretty sophisticated, high ranking Tensors to sort that shamozzle out.

Also, it should probably be made clear that democracy does not presuppose libertarian views: some reasonably rudimentary history should settle that. Go look up some wikipedia, Indian Times opinion piece guy. If we are going to take the tack that we seriously want a liberal democracy , than maybe we want to say that one of these rights we've concocted to give people is that of voting, and right does not imply obligation, etc. Maybe so. Such arguments usually rest on some pretty boring and awful construal of everyone's favourite piece of philosophical cheap shots, The Harm principle. A whole swag of dead Afghanis and Iraqis, a crushed economy, and a streak of rights defacement beg to differ with how you use your vote, people. And as the right to vote does nothing to tell us when we shouldn't exercise such a right, maybe (don't faint, libertarians) we should be empowering voters to make the decision to vote or not. That means education, which may mean government involvement. Ha! Who would have thought that in order to live free of a restrictive government in a fashion which would allow for maximum preference satisfaction, we'd need some government involvement? Aaaah, Irony.  As my good friend Adam related though, democracy is not the right to decide how you live your life, but the right to ruin how others live theirs.

Ah, a bit of a convoluted post.  I've been away too long from the blogosphere.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Palin into insignificance

I just red some leftist propaganda about my sweet love, Sarah 'I-can-see-Russia' Palin.

Supposedly, McCain's (i.e. Palin's boss) support among women is far behind that of Obama. One poll puts 55% of women backing Obama, while 38% back McCain. I must admit, I am a little bamboozled. She is a women, a pretty one too. Isn't this enough for women to support her? Why are they so stupid. She is a women and so are other women. Women should vote for her, that's how it works. (Ignore her failings as a politician, her inexperience, her jarring ignorance and general ineptitude and vote her in dammit!)

Tonight Sarah Palin gets to go toe to toe with Joe Biden tonight. Fairness dictates that no-one will ask her any questions that she cannot answer. It will be telling to see how the heartless baby-murdering democrap sympathisers show their hands by asking questions that they know she cannot answer. I mean, sure, she may not know much about foreign policy, economics, health care, but she was a beauty queen. And as George W has shown, a lack knowledge of foreign policy, economics and health care is certainly no impediment to a successful presidency.

iViva Life!

Best Book Review Ever

I've always admired AC Grayling, but this book review of his takes the cake.

Some choice excerpts:

It is sometimes hard to know whether books that strike one as silly and irresponsible, like Dissent over Descent, the latest book from Steve Fuller, are the product of a desire to strike a pose and appear outrageous (the John Gray syndrome), or really do represent that cancer of the contemporary intellect, post-modernism.

And in the next paragraph:

[...] at the end of these nearly 300 pages of wasted forest he tells us what science needs in order to justify its continuation (oh dear, poor science, eh?) and what Intelligent Design, a theory he defended before a US Federal Court in the 2005 Dover Trial, needs to “realise its full potential in the public debate” – that is: how a theory trying to bend the facts to prove its antecedent conviction that Fred (or any arbitrary and itself unexplained conscious agency) designed and created the world and all in it, can attain its full potential in the public debate. This, note, from a professor at a proper British university. Well: if this is not proof of the efficacy of Jesuit educational methods, nothing is.

It just gets better from there.

Of course, it gets particularly interesting when Steve Fuller responds.

I wish I could repay AC Grayling’s compliment by naming an exotic mental pathology after him, but regrettably his review of Dissent over Descent displays disorders of a much more mundane kind: he has merely failed to read the book properly and does not know what he is talking about.

And then Grayling has the last word:

Steve Fuller complains, as do all authors whose books are panned, that I did not read his book properly (or at all). Alas, I did.

...OR IS IT?

(Thanks to OTF Wank for drawing my attention to this.)