America speaking with one voice is un-American: An interesting article about the EFF, its history and opposition to the sweeping expansion of surveillance of recent times. Bravo to the EFF; we need people like them in these days.
Via Stumblings in the Dark: Monty Python's Terry Jones on the War on Terrorism, in a critique that's at once Pythonesque and insightful:
However, finally the 'War on Terrorism' is achieving its policy objectives. Osama bin Laden is looking haggard. We may not have caught him or brought him to justice but, at the cost of thousands of innocent Afghan lives, billions of dollars of US citizens' money and the civil liberties of the Free World, we have got him looking haggard.
(And that was the sound of the USA's cable-TV networks cancelling Monty Python reruns.)
An interesting interview with Richard Dawkins, in which he asserts that the tendency towards group identity (and, as an example of such, religion) is to blame for war, terrorism and other such things:
There does seem to be a strong biological tendency in humans to identify with a team or group to fight against another team or group. This is one thing that religion does, even in cases like Northern Ireland, where the hostility is not actually about theological disagreement. I mean, when a Protestant terrorist throws a bomb into a Catholic pub they are not saying, "Take that you transubstantiating, nationalist Tridentine bastards."
I think that Sept. 11 has cleared the minds of people like me who had hitherto been against religion, but nevertheless polite and respectful (toward it). I now no longer feel polite and respectful. I think it has (steered me toward) the direction of wanting to come out into the open and be actively hostile to religion.
I am not surprised, and that is another aspect of the situation. In America, they held various days of prayer, which actually made me quite sick. It seemed to me that, on both sides, the same evil was being revered with neither side realizing that this kind of faith was fundamentally responsible for the attack in the first place.
McRadio: A look inside the commercial radio industry in the US, and how programming formats are manufactured and automated. In other words, why commercial radio will invariably be machine-regurgitated lowest-common-denominator crap, and why you're unlikely to hear anything that's actually interesting on it:
"High concept" and "cool" do not sell ads. While listeners profess to hanker for cutting-edge esoterica and diverse programming, advertisers don't buy into this. There are numbers in safety, if you will. Consider B-101, the station that actually advertises that it plays such mainstreamers as Celine Dion and Michael Bolton. Last year, that station - a locally owned independent - generated an estimated $26 million in ad sales; it is far and away the top-rated music station in Philadelphia. "People gravitate toward hit music," Milkman says. "This is broad-casting."
Green energy: A wind farm planned for off the coast of Ireland will generate 10% of the country's power, and be three times the size of all other existing wind farms put together.
The Jewish Museum of New York has courted controversy with an exhibit of Holocaust-related art; the exhibit consists not of reverent memorial pieces, but of pieces exploring the ideas of evil and consumerist popular culture; they include Zbigniew Libera's Lego concentration camp sets, and images of emaciated concentration camp inmates with product placements for Coke digitally added. Holocaust survivors' groups are not amused.
A US congressman has introduced a bill banning space-based mind-control weapons. Rep. Dennis Kucinich's Space Preservation Act of 2001 (H.R. 2977) proscribes a wide range of space-based weapons, including "psychotronic" devices "directed at individual persons or targeted populations for the purpose of ... mood management, or mind control." The bill has been hailed by a group of victims of mind-control experiments.
(I can't see it passing though, in the current mood; especially how useful the future ability to rain Death From Above on recalcitrant oil-rich states would be to stability and the preservation of the non-negotiable American lifestyle. (For examples of the utility of space-based weapons, see Ken MacLeod, The Star Fraction.))
2001: the consensus was that it was an awful year, an annus horribilis, mostly because of That Thing. But it was also an uncommonly weird year; the Fortean Times' Weirdness Index went off the scale, with everything from religious cults to frogfalls to weird creature sightings going up. Hail Eris!
Ah yes, the BloggerCode thingy: I'm B7 d t++ k s+ u f i o x e- l c, or approximately that. (I blog between several times a day and less than once a day, for example, depending on whether I've got something to blog.)
The youngest of the late Princess Diana's children, Prince Harry, has been committed to a drug rehabilitation clinic, after it emerged that not only had he drunk alcohol on several occasions, but had also smoked the evil weed Marihuana.
It was hoped he would meet heroin addicts and get a glimpse of the dangers of drugs.
Yes, of course. Marijuana is a gateway drug, and those who do it are likely to go on to harder drugs such as heroin. Also, masturbation causes blindness, and the hair of a seventh son cures warts. I'm sorry, but that has been debunked, and nobody other than William Bennett believes that anymore. Though, then again, we're talking about the Royal Family here...
(Then again, if you were in his shoes, wouldn't you be getting smashed regularly?)
The World Wizarding Foundation Magical Smackdown: Gandalf vs. Dumbledore. Gandalf wins, as you might expect, with a nod to Ursula LeGuin's Ged (about whom I haven't read, though perhaps it's one of those things I should read if I could fork() into an unlimited number of selves and be done with prioritising things). (via Making Light)