Elliot Temple on January 31, 2003 | Comments (0)
Some people never re-read books or re-watch movies. They pick up the plot the first time, and as long as they don't forget too much of it, they find little value in seeing the same thing again. That's because these people are paying attention to the plot, and little else. This is a poor approach.

Movies, TV series, books...stories are interesting on many levels. The plot. The cool visuals depicted in visual mediums. The cool visuals easily create-able in one's mind for written mediums. The writing style. How dialog and subtle actions are used to sketch out the personalities of different characters. The stereotypes invoked. How the characters compare to various archetypes. For a surprisingly large number of pieces, the (bad) attitudes to parenting and children. The cultural memes portrayed, intentionally or not. The hidden and not-so-hidden messages and propaganda.

The viewer/reader can analyse the morality of each situation and its resolution, and compare to what happens and the results. Can pick up the relationship mistakes the characters make, and consider what would have worked better. Can observe the characters and their personalities, because, well people and life are interesting.

And, of course, there is the sheer enjoyment of it all. How cool is it to see a cyborg, covert-ops agent go roof-jumping, then charge a gun-wielding baddie while not firing, dodge bullets and kick him, and then, as he jumps away to another building, fire to hit his ankle as he lands (Ghost in the Shell)? How cool is it to see a half-goblin run though an encampment, dodging guards, arrows, and spears, dive through a wall (break it, not by turning ethereal), grab a previous gem, jump right back through the roof to avoid more guards, speed away, then turn at the last second to see an arrow strike his chest, and be pinned against a tree (Inu Yasha)? Who wouldn't be curious what will happen next when: a young boy wakes a demon (the hot chic variety), she is angry about the 700 years she spent imprisoned and playfully (well, maybe...) attacks him, destroys his school, then accidentally gets her hand cut off, leaves ... and when the kid returns home, he finds her sleeping in his bed (Tenchi Muyo)?

BTW, anime is great. And now that I think of it, here's a kickass webcomic. And here's a computer nerd style one.

Elliot Temple on February 1, 2003 | Comments (0)
The best book ever is The Fabric of Reality by God David Deutsch. Go buy ten copies, read some, and give some away. The book even made it's own website and yahoogroup. (I think it's some kinda super book).

I also especially like:
all the Calvin and Hobbes comics
Selfish Gene
the Wheel of Time series
Machinery of Freedom
Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy series

Elliot Temple on February 2, 2003 | Comments (20)
Anti Theory

Anti movements are movements against something. They are destructive, not constructive. To be true, they must oppose a false idea. However, few false ideas are worth the effort of opposing, because false ideas rarely get highly popular or influential. Thus, all anti movements are inherently suspect.

There are two main ways to be against something. One can hate it, and be focussed on getting rid of it. This kind of person, upon success, will find life (or that bit of her/his life) empty. The other approach is to only be against something incidentally. This kind of person only hates, say, the voting age, not because "it's unfair" but because s/he wants to vote and it's in the way.

Real life anti movements are made up predominantly of anti people of the first, bad variety. Because they are based on poor motives, they tend to be corrupt, which is a word I'm using loosely. This applies even to true anti movements.

An example of a true, corrupt anti movement is atheism in the USA. Most US atheists are disillusioned theists; most are still mystics; most cannot even conceive of morality without God. Most vigorously oppose anything religious on principle, without any regard to its actual merit. Most cannot agree about very much -- this should be expected in the same way a group of people who rejected the theory "smoking is good for you" aren't likely to agree about much. "Agree about much" is relative to a control group of purely random people, and means they wouldn't agree about much more than this control. This no-agreement effect is because there are a zillion bad, false theories out there. Rejecting them may be true, but it's boring. We could spend our whole lives thinking of false theories to not hold, and we wouldn't get anywhere. What's far more telling about a person is which positive (I use positive/negative synonymous with constructive/destructive in this context) theories one holds.

More later. (mwahahaha, now you have to come back!)

Elliot Temple on February 2, 2003 | Comments (0)
When people write comments, I smile.

I thought maybe I should made some mechanism for putting titles on my blog entries, but then I realised that'd be a lot like subject lines on emails, and those always annoyed me, because I often didn't want to take a stance on what my post was about. So I'd just write really silly ones or really boring ones, usually. Here, I can make a title with bold really easily, and also leave it out even more easily. So I'm happy.

Elliot Temple on February 2, 2003 | Comment (1)
Just read an email by someone who thinks writing decently (in the moral sense) is somehow related to the number of curse words used. So if I write "fuck fuck fuck" this blog entry becomes indecent. Fuck that ^_~ (upright winking face). The guy even appealed to the moderator. Very absurd. This is an example of a false and corrupt anti-theory (anti-"naughty"-language). And success would not bring practioners of this theory any happiness, either; it'd just leave them with less to do.

Elliot Temple on February 2, 2003 | Comments (3)
I just read an article I found on LGF. It discusses the accidental Israeli attack on a US ship during the six day war in 1967. Basically, there was bad luck and mistakes on both sides, and some miscommunication; Israel thought it was an enemy ship, and attacked (and figured out its mistake and offered assistance without even sinking the ship). Bad stuff happens in war. Oh well v_v (sad face, like ^_^ but reversed).

Except, that's not the end of the story. Apparently, there are a lot of conspiracy theory loonies out there, including US government officials, who think Israel intentionally attacked the US ship. How absurd! Said loonies piss me off.

If anyone disagrees, please write a comment.

Elliot Temple on February 2, 2003 | Comments (3)
I watched some episodes of Everwood. [This line altered for, ummm, reasons]

Anyway, I wrote this really good and long blog entry on what I noticed in the show, and then my computer crashed, so ... *sigh*. All you poor readers are gonna miss out v_v

However, I'll redo 2 things:

It's amazing how many bad memes and stereotypes, especially parenting ones and school/teaching ones, can be crammed into 45 minutes.

This girl (Amy) told how she got her first crush (on Colin). Colin stole Amy's doll, and said she had to kiss him to get it back. She kicked him in the nuts. He screamed. Parents came. He blamed the doll for his pain and she didn't get in trouble. So she got a crush b/c he protected her from the parents (who would have wrongly punished her for her morally right self defense). This overlooks the way Colin had badly mistreated her seconds before, and the way Colin should have been the one getting in trouble. And so, I have to scream. (Nice-ish girls hooking up with jerks annoys me).

Elliot Temple on February 2, 2003 | Comments (2)
I wanted to put up more content yesterday, but I wrote 76 emails and got a bit burnt out. Today I'll probably mostly just watch anime, and write simple things, and answer comments.

I'm finding it a bit disturbing to learn how epistemologically unsophisticated most people are. Few seem to have any notion of what "objective" means, nor of how reality or morality could be objective. Most want to start discussion with definitions. Few understand evolution in its general form. I keep getting asked what perspective my statements are meant to be true from, and also getting laughed at, and also getting confronted with appeals to authority. It's a bit crazy-making.

*ahem* anyway, I'm now going to write something constructive:

"Moonlight Shadow" is a nice piece of music.

Sorry, here's something more useful:

The statement that "morality is relative" is a contradiction, because it says something about the objective nature of morality. The statement "morality is relative for me" similarly fails, because it implies that my morality is also relative, and that everyone's morality is relative, and is again a statement about the objective nature of morality for everyone.

Objective morality is also necessary to explain moral progress, which is a strikingly important part of history, without which most history is incomprehensible.

It is important that we can create true knowledge without certain or even true foundations. For example, even if I don't know what right and wrong mean, precisely, I can still correctly assess some things as right or wrong. If this was not true, there would never be any progress at all.

Here's my favorite Bush quote:


Some worry that it is somehow undiplomatic or impolite to speak the language of right and wrong. I disagree. Different circumstances require different methods, but not different moralities. Moral truth is the same in every culture, in every time, and in every place. Targeting innocent civilians for murder is always and everywhere wrong. Brutality against women is always and everywhere wrong. There can be no neutrality between justice and cruelty, between the innocent and the guilty. We are in a conflict between good and evil, and America will call evil by its name. By confronting evil and lawless regimes, we do not create a problem, we reveal a problem. And we will lead the world in opposing it.

Elliot Temple on February 3, 2003 | Comment (1)
curi: You should write a split personality post.
Elliot: No, that'd scare the readers.
curi: So?
Elliot: I like having readers.
curi: Maybe they like to be scared. Like a roller-coaster.
Isyn: Do you think I should sabatoge a roller-coaster, so the fear would be justified?
Everyone: NOOOOO!
Isyn: hmpf
Elliot: Go away guys, I need to write something serious. My blog is going to have real content.
curi: yeah, every 5th post.
Elliot: *jumps at curi*
curi: feh, you're a freaking human, you think you can catch me?
curi: *blinks out*
Ellliot: *crashes into the floor where curi had been sitting*
curi: *blinks in, relaxing on a sofa*
Elliot: grrrr
curi: Hahaha, now you look like a fool.
Elliot: I do not. It's no fair that you have magic powers! *whines*
curi: *giggles*
Isyn (soothing, enticing voice): Ya'know, Elliot, we could do something about that.
Elliot (angrily): NO DARK PACTS!!
Isyn: sheesh, I was just trying to help.
Lia (sweet voice): Isyn, there are other ways to help.
Isyn: But it's so much harder to do things the good way.
Lia: Righteousness is its own reward.
Isyn: *grumble, grumble*
curi: *still laughing*
Elliot: Shut up, curi, and you're coming off a total goof anyway
curi: As if I care.
Elliot: I know you like attention.
curi: yeah
Elliot: And I did name my blog for you.
curi: yeah
Elliot: So the more readers, the more attention you get
curi: hmmm, that's a good point
Elliot: hah!
curi: But wait! How do you know the readers want a serious blog?
Elliot: Content has value.
curi: So does fun.
Elliot: Are you contradicting me?
curi: Yes.
Elliot: I'd kick your ass, but, ummm, I can't.
curi: heheh
Elliot: *throws a fish at curi*
curi: *snaps fingers*
fish: *turns into sushi plate*
curi: *catches plate and starts eating*
Elliot: ohhhh! sushi! gimme some!
curi: What's the magic word?
Elliot: Bitch!
curi: bzzt
Elliot: Please please please!
curi: Well...
Elliot (slowly, despairingly): suuushiii....
curi: ok ok, you can have some.
curi: *snaps fingers*
giant plate full of sushi: *appears*
Elliot: mmmmmm *starts stuffing face*
Isyn: Why'd you make the sushi for him?
curi: He wanted it.
Isyn: So?
curi: It wasn't very hard...
Isyn: But why did you help him?
curi: *poses for the camera* I'm a good person.
Bribe Money: appears in reporter's pocket, with note to publicise this
Isyn: But why does helping others make you good? What use is being good?
curi: d00d, are you amoral or something?
Isyn: Oh, that's helpful...
Elliot: *still eating sushi*
Lia: *gives curi a look telling him to be serious*
curi: Morality is part of our explanatory framework.
Isyn: How do you know what it says?
curi: Start with some conjectures, criticise them, end up with tentative knowledge. Like other spheres.
Isyn: Well, why should helping be right? Why not hurting?
curi: Will you agree that views in beteween are inconsistent?
Isyn: Yes.
curi: So, you can choose between the pure-good .... I mean purely-helpful morality, or the purely hurtful one. I trust you'll do the right thing.
Isyn: Why should I?
curi: erm, well
Lia: Isyn, do you want to hurt me?
Isyn: err, no.
Lia: Well, then, it seems you've chosen. :-)
curi: Hey, that was brilliant, Lia.
Lia: It wouldn't have worked for you, anyway.
curi: pfft
Elliot: *finishes all the sushi*
Elliot: Hey, that was good. Thank you!
curi: See, he's happy. How cool is that?
Isyn: feh
Elliot: feh...that reminds me....I think I'm gonna watch Inu Yasha now.
curi: I thought you were writing a post.
Elliot: Some other time.
curi: Err, well, I may have saved you some trouble.
Elliot: What do you mean?
curi: See that camera?
Elliot: Yes
curi: Look closer
Camera View: Elliot lunges, reaches out, and things go black

Elliot Temple on February 3, 2003 | Comments (7)
Moonlight Shadow Moonlight Shadow Moonlight Shadow Moonlight Shadow Moonlight Shadow Moonlight Shadow *ahem* anywayz

Anti Theory
(Perhaps this is more Inverse Theory, but I associate the two)

There are three stable, complete moral views: the true one, the inverse of the true one, and the empty one. (If stable is confusing, think logically consistent).

Suppose one chooses a single theory, and holds it sacred; whenever it conflicts with another theory, it considered better. What will happen, in the limit, as this person acquires a complete view of morality? For a few cases like "nothing else is true" or "only 5 things are true", we get a mess. But for most statements, like "my bed is on the floor", the person will approach either the true or inverse view. (Not exactly, there are issues like how s/he will react to moral questions about holding views sacred).

The point is, if one is very very attached to a theory, and it is false, then, the more one bases her or his view around the theory, the more her or his view will approach the inverse view. And thus holding any theory dogmatically is very, very dangerous and wrong.

Bits of this can be observed in the world. Like the way people who deny that my door exists, virtually always hate Jews.

And suppose we do not hold a theory sacred, and do have a predominantly good view. Then, barring misfortune, we should expect our view to generally improve. And if our view is predominently bad, without help, .... I suppose it depends on specifics of how brains and creativity work, but I was going to say to expect it to get worse.

Elliot Temple on February 3, 2003 | Comments (2)
Inu Yasha is a really good anime series. *ahem* anywayz,

Relationship Theory

The word relationship is used to mean a number of different things. It can refer to the interactions between two people (I will use Jack and Jill). It can refer to said interactions, and the emergent properties of those interactions. It can refer to only the emergent properties. It can refer to an actual thing, that supposedly exists, and has consequences (I hold this view is false). If I say "relationships aren't things" or "relationships don't exist" that's what I'm referring to, though I try to be more clear than that.

Or sometimes people say "you should stick together, for the sake of the relationship." In this case, relationship is shorthand for the valuable knowledge of each other, convergence, incomplete joint-projects, and such that the people have.

Reductionist relationship is a good term for just the interactions. This would include physical specifications on body positions for the time Jack and Jill went to ... not "the pizza parlor" but some set of lattitude and longitude coordinates. And for everywhere else they had gone they met some specifications about proximity or sounds directed at each other or something. It would include what sounds they made, but not what the words meant.

Emergent relationship is a good term for talking about emergent properties of the reductionist relationship, without bringing up anything of the information in the reductionist description. This would include how Jack and Jill feel about each other, what they mean to each other, and Jack's obligation to show up at Jill's house at 8pm on Tuesday (because he said he would).

I consider "relationship" to mean both of these. Anyway, you will notice that all the emergent properties are direct results of various interactions between Jack and Jill. The term "relationship" simply refers to multiple things at once. It is not itself a thing, with properties. Why does this matter?

Some people claim that relationships bring about obligations or various other consequences, in and of themselves. Example obligations are: to stay together, to not fuck other people, to be nice, to be supportive, to not leave abruptly, or to take care of one's partner in times of need. This is false and harmful. (Or, one could make the case it's misleading, harmful, semi-true shorthand). [Some or all of the things mentioned may be implied by the morality of the situation in some relationships]

The reductionist view of relationships as various interactions and their emergent properties is valid, and I think useful for seeing certain things, but for many things is a bad idea. It makes a lot of calculations (like predicting whether there will be a breakup in the next 2 years) totally infeasible, and it can often obscure the morality of a situation. So, while I often use it to answer theory questions, it's not that useful for many real-life things.

Elliot Temple on February 3, 2003 | Comments (0)
I was tired yesterday and my last post had no thesis. I have two Relationship Theory posts I intend to write today.


Everyone knows that if you hit someone on the head, s/he won't turn into a democrat (assume s/he wasn't one). The chances of causing just the right brain damage to do that are on par with the chances of making her/him think s/he's a cow. This is because political affiliations are the result of many complex theories, and to affect them in just the right way to become a democrat would require an extraordinary ammount of information (or luck).

So why is it that people expect that some other physical effect, like faulty neurotransmitters or chemical imbalances, would be able to turn a happy person into a sad person? (Cause depression). How one is feeling is governed, just like political affilliation, by a large set of complex theories.

Or why do people think alcohol, which does not contain very much information, can change someone's personality?

The truth is that alcohol changes someone's environment (s/he gets different sense data while using it). Then, s/he reacts to this new environment according to her/his theories. And a lot of people have weird theories about how to act in alcohol-type environments. Depression works much the same.

Elliot Temple on February 4, 2003 | Comments (0)
David Deutsch

Posted to the TCSsociety email list, reproduced with permission.

1: "It is better that 100 murderers go free than that one innocent person is convicted."

2: "It is better that 100 tyrannical, bloodthirsty and aggressive states manufacture weapons of mass destruction than that one tyrannical, bloodthirsty and aggressive state without weapons of mass destruction is liberated."

Spot the difference.

-- David Deutsch

Elliot Temple on February 4, 2003 | Comments (0)
Relationship Theory

Setting The Stage: Jack and Jill see each other every few days, online if not IRL. They often chat, when something interests them both, and usually something does come up. They invite each other to do activities sometimes, and usually accept the offers, when they want to.

Thesis: Jack should not ask himself Do I like Jill? or Is Jill my girlfriend? and should not ask Jill Do you like me? or Why do you like me?.

Suppose Jack decides he does like Jill (romantically) -- what then? Won't he continue to do exactly what he had been doing before? And suppose he does not -- what then? Won't he continue to do exactly what he had been doing before? The same applies to girlfriend status.

Asking Why do you like me? has a bit of a different problem. Besides being useless, it forces Jill (if she answers -- she should refuse) to take a stance on what is good about Jack. Doing so can cause various problems. For example, if Jill gives reasons A, B, and C, Jack may become afraid to criticise those things about himself. Or Jack may be tempted to try and emphasise those aspects of his personality. Or Jack may become self-conscious about them. Or Jack may worry that they aren't all that good, and thus that Jill must not like him very much.

Before I close, I want to acknowledge that this isn't all completely true. Answering some of these questions can be useful for making (imprecise) long-term judgments for which the kind of approach I tend to recommend in the short-term is infeasible.

Elliot Temple on February 4, 2003 | Comments (0)
Relationship Theory

Parents often make their children say 'please' and 'thank you' and send thank-you cards. In effect, they make their children apply compliments mechanically. Certain politenesses are appropriate in certain situations, period. The merit of the people involved is irrelevant.

The same thing can be observed, say, on sports teams where players are told to cheer on their companions, and chastised if they do not, even if they didn't feel like it or considered the event unworthy.

Some people realise this mechanical approach is silly, and then reject compliments and saying nice things altogether. It's difficult to accuse such people of wrongdoing. They aren't hurting anyone. All they are doing is failing to take action to, possibly, help others in a somewhat minor way.

However, even if there is no burden on people to say nice things, they still should do it. It must be merit-based and applied when felt, to have meaning. But fanmail (even very short ala "nice post"), comments on blogs that say "keep up the good work" (hint hint), or telling a friend "I'm having fun," when deserved and true, is valuable. It is encouraging, and we should like to make our friends feel good.

One might not see why this is particularly important. However, one reason it comes up is that I am generally against, say, telling one's friend "I like you" (see previous post). So, in the absence of normal things like "you're my friend" and whatnot, it is especially important to be active in expressing genuine, useful information like "I'm glad we did X today" or "that thing you said was brilliant" or "you look beautiful today".

Elliot Temple on February 4, 2003 | Comment (1)
Warcraft 3 r0xx0r3z


We reject theories for being bad explanations (of reality), and accept theories for being good ones. How do we know which are which?

The following properties make theories better:
- says more (deeper)
- simpler
- explains what it purports to
- bold (exposes itself to refutation by all sorts of observations)
- supported by good arguments

The following properties make theories worse:
- contains unexplained complications
- is not consistent with some observation
- criticised by good arguments

Note the use of comparative words. There is no way to measure how good a theory is in absolute terms, only compared to its rivals.

I probably left out some important things, because I tend to do this very intuitively. Please comment on any glaring omission. (And yes I'm aware some items are a bit redundant -- redundancy doesn't hurt anything and can help.)

Elliot Temple on February 4, 2003 | Comments (3)

Does God exist? Are there faeries? We cannot have certainty in the matter, so we will evaluate postulating such entities as a good or bad explanation.

There are two important varieties of claims. One postulates an entity that does something. Santa is actually supposed to deliver presents, and to visit every house. These claims are uncommon because they can be falsified by observation (like watching bad parents fake Santa's visit). Some of these claims, like the tooth fairy, fail because they are refuted by observation. But some do not. One might see a burning Bush, and say that it is God's work. Upon observation, the bush behaves just as the believer has said it will. The problem here, is that the "God" being observed hasn't got any properties other than those observed ... He's acts just like a bit of fire on a bush. Or, the believer might say He's up in heaven, but the bush acts as if He were simply a bit of fire, and this brings us to the second variety of claim.

The second variety of claim involves attributing something to an entity that functions exactly as if the entity did not exist. This approach fails because it adds a complication (the entity) to our explanatory framework, without explaining this complication. For example, we might wonder where the universe came from. And we might want something better than is offered by modern physics. So, we might postulate that God made the world, because this seems to answer the question. However, all it does is deflect the question. Now we wonder where God came from. And if God is a complex enough entity to create the entire universe, then this question is even worse than the previous one (that we had before we postulated God), because we now have even more complexity to explain than before. It also violates the Unexplained Complication rule -- why should there be a God rather than not? This is unexplained.

One strategy that can be useful is to ask someone postulating such an entity, "How can I differentiate you from someone who made up an entity?" All the believer can really do is tell you to have faith, which is not a valid reason to think something true.

Elliot Temple on February 5, 2003 | Comments (0)
I noticed a parallel.

Taking a reductionist view is useful in Physics when people make things up. It is easy to characterise made-up things on a human level (like describing what elves look like), but not easy to give a description in terms of atoms (without making the elves easy to refute via observation).

Taking a reductionist view is useful in Relationship Theory when people make things up. It is easy to characterise made-up things on a human level (like describing the effects of a supposed obligation), but not easy to explain what specific event created the made-up obligation.

Elliot Temple on February 5, 2003 | Comments (0)
Cruel Intentions
The Princess Bride
American Beauty
South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut

Nonfiction Books:
The Fabric of Reality: The Science of Parallel Universes-And Its Implications
The Selfish Gene
The Machinery of Freedom: A Guide to Radical Capitalism

Fiction Books:
The Eye of the World (The Wheel of Time, Book 1)
A Wizard of Earthsea (Earthsea Trilogy, Book 1)
Dragons of Autumn Twilight (Dragonlance Chronicles, Book 1)
Time of the Twins (Dragonlance Legends, Book 1)
Scientific Progress Goes 'Boink'

Songs (this list is a bit random):
Around the World -- A Touch of Class
Moonlight Shadow -- Mike Oldfield
Semi-Charmed Life -- Third Eye Blind
Flavor Of The Week -- American Hi-Fi
Inside Out -- Eve 6
She's So High -- Tal Bachman

Elliot Temple on February 5, 2003 | Comments (3)

There is a very pernicious idea in epistemology, called induction. It's an imaginary, physically impossible process through which, supposedly, justified general theories are created from observations. It's still popular with some philosophers. Others realise it does not work (it was refuted by Hume hundreds of years ago), then wonder how we can know anything, and get stuck on the Problem of Induction (solved by Karl Popper, who should be super famous, but isn't). And, normal people hold many inductive ideas as common sense, too.

The primary claim of induction is that a finite set of observations can be generalised into a true predictive theory. However, any finite set of observations is compatible with an infinite number of predictive theories.

To see this, just imagine a paper with dots (observations) on it. We're going to draw a line from left to right (with the flow of time), and it has to connect the dots. The line is a predictive function, that gives values at all the points, not just the dots. So, how many ways could we draw this line? Infinitely many (go way up or down or zigzag between points). What inductivists do is pick one (whichever one feels intuitively right to them), and declare it is what will happen next. And people with similar intuitions often listen...

If you want a real-world example, think about the sun. We know it will rise tomorrow because it is a good explanation of reality (via our physics). Not because we saw it rise yesterday (and the day before).

I tried to write an entry that would be more helpful to people who don't understand, and it didn't go well. I have doubts about how helpful this will be to most people. I can answer stuff in the comments section.

Elliot Temple on February 6, 2003 | Comments (2)
My intuition claims Inverse and Anti theory are closely related, but I can't explain why it is, so they will get different titles for now.

Inverse Theory

Coercion is a state of enacting one theory while another active theory conflicts with it. All emotional pain, amounts to coercion.

People with one of the in the limit, stable, complete worldviews (empty, good, inverse), will never be coerced. Because they have no contradictions in their worldview, and no unanswered questions, they will always wholeheartedly go for some single course of action.

As people approach one of these complete, stable views, they will find it easier to avoid coercion, because they will be closer to having a unified, contradiction-free view. Which means that sufficiently bad people (near inverse view) will be difficult to coerce. Perhaps this helps to explain suicide attacks.

Elliot Temple on February 6, 2003 | Comments (2)
People twist their factual views to fit their moral views, not vice versa.


Some people don't value anything. (This is often associated with the left wing. Offense intended, but not to any particular person.)

These people often adopt pseudo-values to hide this, from themselves and others. Pseudo-values have an appearance of being values, but are not. One way to spot pseudo-values is they can be applied without thinking. An example is pacifism, which states that all violence is wrong, period.

Pacifists, of course, oppose a war on Iraq. In Iraq, every day, people are tortured, which pacifists must consider to be wrong. Yet they refuse to do anything about it. The problem is, if they did not turn a blind eye to such suffering, their "values" would fall apart. They would have to support a war, and could no longer be pacifists. But they also cannot be good people, who support freedom and liberty and such, because they do not value those things, or anything else, and do not understand how any else can either. And so they cling to their pseudo-values.

Here are some other "values" that are often (not always) shams:
- Save the environment
- Feed the hungry
- Equality for all
- Loving one's family (Notice how mechanical it is. Simply determine if someone is family to decide if there is love.)
- Collateral damage is always wrong, because it hurts people (A pacifism variant. Easy to apply mechanical, just determine if anyone will be hurt as a result of action X, then oppose X.)
- Guns kill people
- Raise school standards
- Won't someone please think of the children!?
- Save the sea snails from extinction!
- All actions have to be UN approved.
- Curse words are bad.
- TVs ruin our minds

Elliot Temple on February 6, 2003 | Comments (5)
Humans live by their creativity, not by devouring limited resources.

Elliot Temple on February 6, 2003 | Comments (3)

I was just considering posting some jokes as an entry. Many of the jokes I like are, to some people, offensive. Blonde jokes, dead baby jokes, religious jokes, racist jokes -- these don't go over well with everyone. And I want readers, lots of readers. So, unsurprisingly, it occurred to me that posting the jokes might be a bad idea. Of course, if I don't post anything that might be offensive, I'll never post anything interesting. So what should I do?

There is a moral principle that tells us, if we imagine some stone-age people, who want a society with lots of washing machines, their best bet is not to campaign for them, and try to invent them, but rather to become capitalists and try to act morally. Similarly, the Arab world, if it focussed more on acting morally than acquiring weapons, would have more weapons than it does (just like the US has lots). Of course, in that case, the Arab world also would not want to use them to kill civilians... Also similarly, if one wants to be happy, one should not focus on trying to become happy directly, but should try to act morally, and happiness will come as a side effect.

If I want readers, I should not focus on how to get readers, but rather on creating a good blog, which means writing what I want and like.

Even if we imagine in the limit cases with perfect foresight and calculation, a focus on morality would still be superior to a focus on readers. Either, they would be the same, or the readers approach would result in more readers ... at the cost of acting badly, and I certainly don't want readers that much.

As to jokes, as I'm ambivalent about posting them, I won't for now, but may later.

Elliot Temple on February 6, 2003 | Comments (20)

After a comment on the last entry, I will now work out a bit about numbers in base -2. To start, I'll convert a random number to base 10. 101 would mean: 1*(-2)^2 + 0*(-2)^1 + 1*(-2)^0 or 5. From right to left, putting a 1 instead of a 0 is worth 1 -2 4 -8 16 -32 64

So, to get the number 2, we have to write -10. It seems very confusing, on a human level, that using a minus sign has nothing to do with whether the number is negative or not. I guess a computer wouldn't care about that, except that we often work in positive numbers, and can use unsigned numbers to save space.

Now I'll count to 10 in base -2:

0001 -0010 0111 0100 0101 -1110 -1001 -1000 11001 -1010 which is really jumpy, and a total mess for humans, and it's very strange to need more digits to write 9 than 10. I think it would be slow for computers to do addition with this. In positive bases, using digits from 0 to base-minus-one, adding is nice, because you just increment the one's column repeatedly (and each time it overflows, reset it to zero, and increment the next column). There are tricks, like if you have two numbers in the same base, you can add various other columns directly to each others. There may be tricks with base -2 also, but I still bet it's inefficient, because you can't just increment the next column when one overflows.

Elliot Temple on February 6, 2003 | Comments (0)

In base 2, 19 is 10011. In base 1/2, 19 is 1.1001

In base 10, 19 is 19. In base 1/10, 19 is 9.1

The trick is to write the number in reverse, and in the fractional version, put a decimal point after the ones column. This is because decimals have negative exponents, so the fraction gets flipped.

Fractional bases that aren't 1/something seem like a real mess to use.

Also, I wanted to count in balanced base 3. I will use -, 0, and + for my digits.

+ +- +0 ++ +-- +-0 +-+ +0- +00 +0+

You'll notice that you *can* count be incrementing the one's column repeatedly. You just have to remember to reset things to - not 0, after they overflow.

Will count from -1 to -5 now:

- -+ -0 -- -++

Notice it's the same as positive, with the -'s and +'s reversed, and 0's untouched. And you can count by decrementing the one's column, and when it overflows, decrement the next column and reset things to a +. I guess I should point out that you can add as many leading zeroes as you want, which is how decrementing a column that doesn't exist works.

Elliot Temple on February 7, 2003 | Comments (0)

I hear there is a biology professor who won't write recommendations for creationist students. I wanted to comment in general:

If I ask Joe Dirt to write a recommendation letter for me, he is perfectly right to refuse. People needn't write letters for anyone they don't want to.

However, in a school setting, students are required to have these letters. And professors are expected to write them. Refusing to write students a letter hurts them. And such a blanket refusal is morally wrong.

Refusing letters over a student holding some theory, only makes sense if the theory directly interferes with the student's studies, and makes her/him significantly (meaning "enough to matter" not "lots") worse at them. This basically means refusing letters for incompetence (math major who thinks 2+2=5; politics major who thinks "democrat" is a type of fish).

So what about biology and creationism? Well, if you want to be a doctor, you learn how human beings are, and about medicine, and it doesn't matter. If you want to be a vet, and you disagree about why vestigial organs exist, but know the same facts about them, it again doesn't really matter. If you want to be a zoologist, and study the evolution of animals, it does matter.

So my view is, to be moral, the biology professor must refuse recommendations on a case by case basis, and only in very specific circumstances will refusal for belief in creationism be acceptable.

Elliot Temple on February 7, 2003 | Comments (0)

Reviled in Many Places Around the World, Americans Are Adored in Kosovo

"Two years ago, after a U.S. soldier's weapon accidentally killed a 6-year-old boy, the grieving father publicly forgave the soldier and said he considered him part of his family."

The father is a Muslim living in Kosovo. Although the accident is sad, it is very nice to see such reasonableness over a collateral damage issue, by the victim. And doubly nice to see a demonstration that Islam is perfectly compatible with morality.

Elliot Temple on February 7, 2003 | Comment (1)

Elliot Temple on February 7, 2003 | Comments (0)
Inverse Theory

One may wonder what view based on the theory "No other theories are true" approaches as it becomes a complete worldview. Prima facie, it cannot quite get to the empty view, because it, itself, will always remain. However, with no other supporting theories, it will be completely meaningless gibberish, because the person will not be able to understand it any longer. And so s/he will reach the empty view.

What about "No other theories but this one, and the ones necessary to understand this one, are true" (will refer to this as the flagship theory of a view)? This will include knowledge about not accepting false theories, and knowledge that truth exists, so it cannot go to the inverse or empty views. Can it go to the good view?

You may think it is not compatible with the good view, because the theory that the War on Terror is right isn't necessary to understand the flagship theory, only to avoid contradictions. Well ... knowledge is interrelated, so I'm going to take the position one couldn't claim full understanding without the complete good view.

Oh, also, for those people who like foundations: in physics we determine the truth of theories by how they conform to physical reality. In morality, we can now determine it by how they conform to the good moral worldview.

Elliot Temple on February 8, 2003 | Comments (0)
I learned a new HTML tag today.

Make that two.


There is a new yahoogroup called You Poor Dear. The purpose is comfort and support without problem solving, debate, or criticism. How will that work? Approximately like this:

You, my dear reader, are a brilliant person. You're good at everything you try, and always persevere through misfortune. You're witty and fun, and a pleasure to be around. If you have any problems right now, which seems unlikely, I'm sure they are nothing for one such as you. If you are in school, you have my sympathy.

Best Wishes,
Elliot Temple

If you're objecting that the above is rather meaningless, you're right. I don't have a clue who you are, I just made it all up. How will the list avoid this? Easy. The participants will give out personal information to a public internet forum. This is a safe way to meet people and make friends, and I highly recommend it extremely dangerous. The more personal information one gives out, the easier it is for the other posters to hurt her/him. (To hurt someone with words, one must know enough about the person to know which words will hurt. Also, giving out personal information tends to lead to being hurt accidentally, if people talk about what one does give out without knowing everything else, like one's sensitivities.)

Anyway, the group doesn't allow saying mean things anyway, only nice ones. So when people post support it will be genuine totally meaningless, because it was the only type of reply possible.

Elliot Temple on February 9, 2003 | Comments (6)
Personal Information

Sex: What are you, sexist?
Age: What are you, ageist?
Race: What are you, racist?
Sexual Orientation: You like me that much?
Location: Earth
Specific Location: What are you, a hitman?
Culture: When I say We will win the war on terror! I don't mean the terrorists will win.
Political Affiliation: Read my blog and find out.
Occupation: Secret Agent
Cover Occupation: Blog Writer
Blog Writing Pay: Zero
How Can A Cover That Doesn't Make Money Fool Anyone? You know too much and must die

Elliot Temple on February 9, 2003 | Comment (1)
Try to type to A Place For My Head by Linkin Park. I dare you.


Some people oppose governments on the principle that they are organised gangs of thugs. They consider the defining characteristic of governments to be that governments claim the right to initiate force ... and people listen (whereas most thieves don't pretend to be legitimate and aren't considered as such). They point out that they never agreed to pay taxes, and don't want to, and don't like most of the stuff the taxes pay for, and consider that QED.

Some of these people support the war on terrorism. They realise that terrorism is a large threat, and want it to be fought against. Terrorism is so bad that anyone at all fighting it is good. I suppose they must see the matter as a powerful pickpocket guild beating up a renegade gang of murderers. A "lesser of two evils" situation.

Some of these people, if given the option, would be happy to see the US government disappear tomorrow. The institution, the knowledge of how to run it, the taxes, the laws, etc This is absurd even within the pickpocket metaphor, as it means foregoing protection.

But there's more than that. The government does various things, some important. And it's not as if the spontaneous order of an anarcho-capitalist society will simply come into being. AnCap is not the natural state of affairs that once existed until it was destroyed when a bunch of evil thugs invented government and took over. It is, rather, a very advanced notion that requires lots of knowledge to implement. This knowledge must be created gradually, through the improvement of existing institutions. Government functions must not disappear over night, but slowly be replaced by private institutions that function better. We need good traditions, not a revolution.

What's good about government?

Governments create consent. Let us imagine a bunch of people living somewhere with no government, and little knowledge. Some will be bad, and will want to dominate over the others. So most people will form mutual defense pacts. And somewhere not too far off, some bad person will have taken over an empire, and formed an army, and thus our people will want to form one big defensive pact, instead of lots of scattered ones, so that they can fend off the entire army if need be. So they will form institutions to cooperate in regional defense, and small-scale defense against criminals. The small-scale defense may use a different system, or the two may be joined. Now, the people will need some system of deciding who is and is not a criminal. And the answer to this is not self-evident despite what some libertarians seem to think. There will be disagreements, and thus some way to resolve them will be needed.

One day, Joe's crop goes bad. He asks others for help. They form some food sharing institutions. They create rules to govern these. The people all value security, and thus put in provisions to help anyone who does not have enough.

One day they invent medicine. They realise that if they only pay the doctor when they are sick, he will starve in the mean time. And also that he will have no motivation to help prevent people from becoming sick. So everyone pays a low level all the time, and the doctor helps whoever needs help at recovery and prevention both. Some people disagree about who the doctor should be helping, saying he favours his friends, and they create institutions to resolve disputes of that nature.

What will all these institutions look like? Well, at first they will be very crude. The defensive agreement might simply state that all able-bodied men must fight when there is a war, or be put to death. The food agreement might allow anyone who is starving to take food from his neighbor, "as long as he made a genuine effort to create his own food." And the system of resolving disputes might be to ask the town elder.

And, over time, people will come up with better ideas. And after a while, and a lot of progress, something like our current government might form.

And, if this society uses a completely voluntary army, that will be an amazing advance. And if it has elected leaders who consent to step down when their term ends, that will be an amazing advance. And if criminals are presumed innocent until evidence is presented against them, that will be an amazing advance. And if there are property rights, and a system of consensual trade, that will be an amazing advance.

When we know how to do better than using government, we will. But we do not. And the path to better is not to rail against the government, but rather to acknowledge it for what it is -- an imperfect, evolving tradition. The path also involves raising the general level of morality of the world.

Elliot Temple on February 10, 2003 | Comments (0)

I just read this USS Clueless piece and wanted to comment on a few bits. Quotes in italics.

I simply don't believe that Germany and France would be willing to sustain, let alone cause, the kind of damage they have just for the sake of moral inhibitions.

and later

And they have now reached the point where they are seriously imperiling the process of creation of the European Union. I do not believe that they would have gone this far if their primary motivation was moral inhibition.

I agree they wouldn't do all this just to hold to pacifism. But pacifism is an absurd moral stance, that very few people take seriously. Perhaps it's really about some other moral stance, like anti-Americanism.

And Rumsfeld refers to their behavior as "beyond comprehension".

I don't like to believe that this may be the reason, but I can't think of any other explanation that makes any sense.

Let's examine the roots of anti-Americanism, and it's close relatives like Jew Hatred. As I'm not much on history, I'll do this in abstract:

Long ago, no one knew about morality, and success was mostly random. All cultures had some people who were good at things, and some who were not. But over time, one culture evolved some moral knowledge. It's members led better lives, and were more successful. And it wasn't just luck, they did this consistently.

The other people knew of no way to be consistently successful. They watched the moral culture, and could not figure out what the important differences were. As the moral knowledge was evolved, it couldn't simply be copied. So, they were faced with a few possible explanations. They could, while having almost no clue what morality even is, decide they were bad people. Of course, they did not. Alternatively, they could decide the successful culture was somehow cheating, and hate its members.

In a perverse way it makes sense: if we are fundamentally the same, with the same chances to excel at any given thing, and I always beat you, I must be cheating somehow. And that you do not know how, must make it even more infuriating.

So, over time, the immoral cultures evolve their own traditions. They learn to hate the successful, moral culture. Partly, they want to destroy it, because it is living proof of their own immorality. Partly, they want to bury their heads in the sand, and get on with life as it was before there were any moral people. Partly, they want to be successful, and are unable. And, above all, the very premise of the moral stance of the immoral cultures, is a denial that they are bad.

So, I feel the explanation that France and Germany are in the grips of an anti-American morality explains why they will go to such great lengths to oppose the US.

Elliot Temple on February 10, 2003 | Comments (0)
I've written comments about government in this Samizdata thread.

Elliot Temple on February 11, 2003 | Comments (0)
Here's two generalisations:

Right wing folk deny explicable, rationally discussable causes for human behavior.

Left wing folk do not value anything.

Elliot Temple on February 12, 2003 | Comments (0)

TCS is the true parenting theory. The primary ideas are:

- Fallibility (certain knowledge is impossible; people can be wrong)

- No Authorities (ideas must be judged on their merit, the source is irrelevant to truth content -- therefore children can be right and can't be dismissed)

- A state of coercion is one in which a person has two active theories that conflict, and is being forced to enact one prior to resolving the conflict.

- Coercion is bad for knowledge growth (I will write an entry giving the epistemic reasons for this in the future)

- Common Preferences, coercion-free solutions to problems, are always possible

- This means children don't do anything they don't want to

- What people want is subject to morality, and thus children won't want horrible things, as long as parents offer good moral theories

- Good ideas beat out bad ones in argument (and thus if parent's moral theories really are better than some alternative, parent won't lose argument)

- If your ideas are so great, have some faith in them to stand up to criticism

- Criticism Good

- Abandonment Parenting is morally wrong (parents have an obligation to help their children)

- Advice Advice Advice (parents should give children lots of advice, but children should be free to disagree)

- Don't Hurt Children (I can't say this enough)

Elliot Temple on February 12, 2003 | Comments (2)

Here are two generalisations (if you haven't already, read previous entry first):

Left-wing folk object to TCS because they view all sorts of things as coercive, and see parental coercion as miniscule in comparison, and a defense of children. For example, some lady got the word "gun" removed from her daughter's spelling test. One can imagine the reaction if her daughter wanted to get a gun, and write gun a bunch, and draw gun pictures. The justification? In essence "guns are coercive/bad". Another common one is "TVs are coercive/bad" and therefore must be kept from children to protect them. Also, not having a college education is coercive, and so are fatty foods, which justifies... Also coercive is capitalism, which justifies not letting children buy things (they'll be tricked into wanting more and being materialists).

Right-wing folk object to TCS because they don't understand causality in human behavior. Mindless causes are ok, but not rationally discussable ones. Hence, children have bad theories because kids are dumb, not because their parents mistreat them. And TCS is a waste of time, because children won't understand anyway. Children are dumb, you can see it if you just look around and watch some kids mess up. The solution is to discipline/spank them (notice this is a method that can be applied, unthinking, to any problem). Also, as behavior isn't caused in any rationally discussable way, people who say treating children as inferior messes up their theories can be ignored. Besides, do children even have any theories besides the ones we teach them..? And also, genes cause behavior and being naughty is human nature (but beatings can overcome human nature).

Thanks to Rachel Lucas for the gun link.

Elliot Temple on February 12, 2003 | Comments (0)

True and mutable is one of the wisest phrases I know. It means we should hold our best explanations true and act on them, not give in to relativism. Just because we may be wrong, does not mean any particular idea we have is wrong, or that we should not hold our ideas true. It also means that our ideas must be mutable -- they must be open to criticism and change and improvement. And being mutable does not make them less true.

When someone says something is true, s/he does not mean s/he's certain it is true. That, of course, would be absurd. So what does it mean to assert something is true? Simply that it is the best explanation.

There is a common fallacy that says fallibilism implies mistakes. The logic is that because we can't be certain, we are bound to make mistakes. The refutation is to look at a particular action or theory, and point out that, while it may be a mistake, fallibilism does not state it is, and all we can do is use our best explanations. So, fallibilism is not an argument against this specific thing. Then, we examine another action/theory. Then another. The point is, fallibilism does not imply any particular mistake, and cannot be used as an argument against the truth of any particular proposition.

Credit for the phrase true and mutable goes to Yehudit's LGF comment here.

Elliot Temple on February 12, 2003 | Comments (0)
Sociobiology is a very popular theory. It claims that genes (at least partially) control human behavior.

Now, in the general case, if we want to explain behavior, and we just attribute it to something random, like where the stars in the sky are, we will be laughed at. There is no explanation of how stars control behavior.

How's sociobiology different? It's not! There are studies that show correlations, but none that demonstrate causation. And there is no explanation of how genes cause the behavior, no more than there is of how stars do it. And there's a very compelling alternative explanation, that does include a mechanism: we act on our theories (worldview).

Now, you may know that animal behavior is determined by genes. And you may know that aspects of human bodies like eye colour and brain structure are (at least partially) controlled by genes. How can brain structure not (partially) determine behavior? Because the laws of computation state that universal computation is hardware independent.

In other words, universal computers -- ones that can do any calculation possible for computers -- all compute the same, no matter how you build them. Whatever the structure, if it's a universal computer, it won't give different results for the same input. It may have more or less storage space, and process slower, but, given adequate time and disks with extra memory, the results of all possible computations will come out the same.

So too with human brains. Any brain with the same input problem set, will give the same answer, because brains are universal computers. (Note that the input problem set includes all the theories [including memories] of the person).

Why is this different than with animals? Because animal brains are not universal computers. They cannot do all possible computations.

Elliot Temple on February 12, 2003 | Comments (0)
Premise: All use of force risks collateral damage
Premise: Self defense requires the use of force
Conclusion: Self defense involves risk of collateral damage

Premise: All use of force risks collateral damage
Premise: Fighting evil requires force
Conclusion: Fighting evil involves risk of collateral damage

Premise: Self defense and fighting evil involve risk of collateral damage
Premise: Some people object to war against Iraq on the basis that collateral damage is morally wrong
Conclusion: These people think that fighting evil and self defense are morally wrong or these people are inconsistent

Elliot Temple on February 13, 2003 | Comments (0)
On the ARR email list someone just asked about Viagra. So I thought I'd go over the different ways drugs could help with sex.

It's possible that arousal works like this: we have various theories that trigger various chemical releases, and then other theories about what to do in the sensory environment created by those chemicals. In this case, if the first set of theories (that trigger chemicals) were messed up, we could bypass them with drugs. If the problem was in the second set of theories, about what to do with the chemicals released already, drugs wouldn't help. (You could string in more layers if you liked, like 3 different chemicals triggering in a row, some mechanically, some based on theories)

It's possible that arousal is purely mental without intermediate chemical stuff (or perhaps not according to modern biology, I just mean abstractly conceivable). In this case, drugs wouldn't help, except with physical malfunctions, like messed up blood flow to important bits.

What's not conceivable is to take theories out of it, and declare that "when in a sexual situation" or some such, then chemicals control behavior. For one thing, how do the chemicals know what a sexual situation is? And for another, chemicals controlling behavior is absurd. And for another, people have been known to stop having sex in the middle. (Oh, sorry, the chemicals take *partial* control, which means, ummmm .... nothing coherent).

Elliot Temple on February 14, 2003 | Comment (1)
Anti Theory

Here's a relation between Anti Theory (about opposing things) and Inverse Theory (about the inverse moral view, the good view, and the empty view).

Inverse theory provides a strong reason that being focussed on anti theories is dangerous. If you're wrong, you approach the inverse view.

But what if you're right? Won't inverse theory predict you approach the good view? Technically, yes, as your worldview becomes complete, it will go to the good one. However, holding a theory sacred has no effect if the theory is never challenged. And it's not as if reasonable people are in danger of approaching the inverse view unless they grab hold of "people who think apples are the spawn of the devil are wrong" for dear life.

Focusing on theories and holding them strongly has the most effect on one's progression to a stable worldview when those theories come up a lot, and say a lot. So, holding some trivial falsehood wrong, won't matter much. But holding something true false, will matter quite a lot. Anytime the subject comes up, it will lead to lots of badness.

Elliot Temple on February 14, 2003 | Comment (1)
Here's a useful risk-minimisation strategy for matching tests:

If you get it down to two things, and you have no idea which answer goes to which question .... write the same answer twice! Then you get half credit.

Elliot Temple on February 16, 2003 | Comments (0)
Anti Theory

I generally don't like being against things. Here's an example:

Anti-semitism is quite evil. However, I am not anti-anti-semitism. Rather, I am pro-Jewish.

The difference is between fighting a cause, and simply living my life and recognising the value in good things, and supporting those things.

I do not consider incidental "opposition" (opposing things that get in the way of doing something nice) or explaining why something is wrong to try and help someone understand stuffz better to violate this principle.

Elliot Temple on February 16, 2003 | Comments (3)
Inverse Theory

Evolution requires truth to function. Evolution progresses towards truth. The inverse view may be complete and stable but it is not true by the normal use of the word.

The term inverse theory originally came from the following notion: an idiotarian is a person who needs an anti-idiotarian to tell her/him what white is, so s/he can call it black. I don't think this is the right definition for idiotarian, but I do think it's a useful idea and deserving of a word. Moral inverter is fitting.

(I've been using 'view' and 'moral view' interchangeably. I just used 'moral inverter' for someone who inverted a physical fact. Basically, I don't think there's any particular difference. Because people twist their factual theories according to their moral ones.)

If a moral inverter's view is not true, s/he cannot evolve it. So, to create it, s/he must find a true view to reverse.

But how can we reconcile this with the notion that someone holding on to a part of the inverse view, will, as s/he approaches a complete worldview, approach the inverse? Well, if an inverter has a bunch of inverse theories in a sphere, s/he can compare new ones to the preexisting ones for consistency, and to see how well the theories mesh in terms of explanation. However, when approaching a completely new issue, won't the inverter be at a loss?

In a sphere, to make very much progress, one needs to have some notion of what truth means. It doesn't need to be explicit (in a language with symbols and grammar). Without some notion, how can one evaluate theories? One cannot. Of course, in all objective spheres, every person alive does have such a notion. But sometimes the notion is only marginally better than none at all. I would offer up aesthetics as an example of a sphere where people do not have a good conception of truth. I would offer up science as one where people have a very good conception of truth -- true scientific ideas correspond to physical reality.

If a practitioner of the good view approaches a new sphere, s/he will create some notion of truth, and try to make progress. If a practitioner of the inverse view approaches a new sphere, I do not expect her/him to create an inverted notion of truth -- an inverse-epistemology -- and make progress towards it. This is because no one wants to be bad.

Talk to an inverter. Ask her/him about her/his view in some sphere s/he hasn't thought about much -- try to get her/him to create a view. In my experience, s/he will likely be at a loss. This is because s/he does not have any epistemology to work with in the sphere. However, if I present my view, the inverter will no longer be lost. Her/his worldview is very clear that I must be opposed, and thus s/he will chronically disagree with me, and set about creating the inverse view of mine.

The word 'true' generally refers to the good view. But the inverse view can have its own meaning for truth. But few or no people actually adopt the inverse meaning for truth explicitly. It is very difficult to adopt, because no one wants to be bad.

Elliot Temple on February 16, 2003 | Comments (9)

Some people believe that the truth is manifest for all to see, if only they would look. Under this view, anyone who does not see the truth, must be bad. So, if you ever hear someone arguing that their view is self-evident or obvious, be wary -- s/he either thinks you are intentionally bad or s/he is inconsistent.

Elliot Temple on February 16, 2003 | Comments (2)
Read this. IMAO is great! It's humour with a significant amount of truth in it, that expresses an important and generally ignored point.

Elliot Temple on February 17, 2003 | Comments (2)
curi: Write about me some more.
Elliot: What?
curi: I said I want attention, bitch!
Elliot: That's lovely.
curi: People pay attention to cursing, right?
Elliot: I dunno.
curi: Fuck you.
Elliot: -_-o [That's a sweatdrop. So is ^_^;]
Lia: Hey, I was just reading, and I found out people in Israel are killed like all the time. That's awful.
Elliot: You mean murdered.
Lia: Yes, you're right. That's an important distinction.
Isyn: This other piece says the Israelis are oppressive murderers, and their only casualties come from freedom fighters.
curi: Blood Libel!
Isyn: What?
curi: Not only are the Jews oppressive murderers, but they steal children in the night, because they need the blood of gentile children for their best pastry recipes.
Isyn: Really?
curi: -_-o No.
Isyn: Do you think baby blood tastes good?
Elliot, curi, Lia: *anime fall*
Isyn: I was just asking...
Elliot: One point of note is that, if Israelis are often murdered, then whatever force Israel is using to fight terrorists and murderers is insufficient.
curi: Only hippies don't like Israel, and they don't like self defense either, so that's a pointless point.
Lia: curi!
curi: What?
Lia: Just because hippies smell doesn't mean you should slander them all the time.
curi: It's not like they will defend themselves ;-p
Elliot: Yes they will. They aren't really pacifists. They just say that when it suits them. They don't seem to have any problem supporting mass murdering tyrants, when that suits them.
curi: If they defended themselves, and won, they would no longer be able to play the victim. And as they support the unsuccessful, they would have to take my side after beating me up.
Isyn: *goofy grin*
curi: What?
Isyn: I was just imagining you getting beat up by a couple of hippies.
curi: *whining* Hippies would not be able to beat me up! I would kick their asses.
Isyn: Sure ya would.
curi: Don't make me come over there.
Isyn: Are you saying you don't even have free will?
curi: That's it...
Elliot: -_-o Hey, Lia, hit that switch.
Lia: *flips switch*
Camera: *fades out as curi jumps Isyn*

Elliot Temple on February 18, 2003 | Comments (0)
I want to respond to Perry de Havilland's Samizdata piece, found here. It's in italics with comments interspersed.

Many of the anti-war protesters has been carrying placards with the slogan 'Not In My Name'. Well if you voted in the UK, regardless of whether it was for Labour or Conservative or LibDem, then you gave your consent to the system which taxes me without my consent,

Voting for someone does not make one responsible for what s/he does. Voting at all does not make one responsible for any injustices of the State. A vote for a candidate only means that the voter would prefer that candidate to the others.

so I suppose I am robbed in 'your' name.

One difference between taxes and robbery, is that reasonable people generally are coerced by robbery, and generally are not coerced by taxes.

I was disarmed (by a Tory government) and forbidden to effectively defend myself in 'your' name. My rights to own property and control my own labour and capital are abridged into meaninglessness in 'your' name.

There is no system under which knowing better is sufficient for a wise one's ideas to be implemented -- save a tyranny with that wise one in charge.

A libertarian utopia is not the natural state of affairs which government came along and destroyed. Rights are not self-evident. And it is folly to expect the same people who support policies to take away rights, [thinking they are not rights at all] to in the absence of government, respect those same rights.

So when you say say about a war against the Ba'athist socialists of Iraq "Not In My Name", please forgive me if I really do not give a damn if something gets done by the state that you do not like.

Suppose they were responsible for various bad things. Would that make them wrong about the war, or be reason to disregard their view of the war? No.

I do not think George Bush and Tony Blair want to topple Saddam Hussain due to an abiding concern for the Iraqi people, but frankly I really do not care why the statists who tax me are going to do it,

This retreat from explanation speaks volumes.

just that they do it.

So, if the war was done for utterly immoral reasons, Perry would support it just as much as if it was done for moral reasons.

Provided there is a net gain in liberty in Iraq, and it is hard to see how that could not be the case post-Saddam, then I am in favour of the violent and hopefully fatal removal of the Ba'athist thugs.

Thus Perry declares the total amount of liberty in the world the ultimate good, and prior to morality. I imagine some troops explaining to the Iraqi soldiers that their death will bring about a net gain in liberty, and is thus good. And also explaining that fighting back will reduce the total liberty in the world, as compared to dying peacefully, and is thus wrong of them.

Do it for 'Freedom for Iraq', do it 'because Saddam is a threat', do it 'because of links to Al-Qaeda', do it 'because the voices in my head told me to'... I do not care. Just do it!

You can even do it in my name if you like.

I imagine some troops carrying a banner that reads, "In the name of Perry de Havilland, on account of the voices our insane leader hears, death to Iraqis!"

Elliot Temple on February 18, 2003 | Comments (0)
Rachel Lucas wrote a poem for me :-)

A Poem for Elliot:

Faulkner wrote a book I like
About sadness and August and light
My favorite phrase
The question I raised
Elliot got it right

Elliot Temple on February 18, 2003 | Comments (0)
There are a number of words I don't use in the standard way. For example, I use 'theory' very broadly. In general, I hope my meaning will become clear from my writing in general. But I use a very precise definition for 'coerce', so I'll give that now. It's from the TCS Glossary. The entry gives:

The psychological state of enacting one idea or impulse while a conflicting impulse is still active in one's mind.

In general, when one has conflicting theories, one adopts some temporary theory to avoid coercion. For example, one might stop and think about it. Or do one thing, while keeping the ability to switch choices open. However, people have limited creativity and this sometimes fails. Also, certain external circumstances can facilitate failure. Like being shot. (Conflicting theories along the lines of "I don't want to die" and "I haven't got a choice, so the other theory is wrong".)

Oh, and if you get robbed, you'll probably be coerced because you'll want to not be robbed, and also know that's pointless of you. However, if you get taxed, you probably won't be coerced, because it's easier to see taxes have some purpose and/or aren't worth the effort to fight, and thus reject the "I don't want to be taxed" theory causing the coercion.

Elliot Temple on February 19, 2003 | Comment (1)
Article about the Nobel Peace Prize

Peace experts say that Americans like Ryan, Nunn or Lugar can probably forget 2003 because Carter won in 2002. The committee increasingly aims for an international scope.

"Two Americans in a row would be too much," said Irwin Abrams, an expert on the prize and professor emeritus at Antioch University, Ohio.

Fucking racists. (among other things)

Elliot Temple on February 19, 2003 | Comment (1)

Elliot Temple on February 19, 2003 | Comments (2)
Watch this about the peace protests.

Elliot Temple on February 19, 2003 | Comments (0)
The concept of minimum necessary force (MNF) is one which many libertarians accept, but few can defend. There is a right amount of force for a situation. In the limit, the minimum right amount, maximum right amount, and right amount are all the same. Not in the limit, MNF means erring on the side of using too little force. But why do that? Why not err on the side of too much force, to be sure we get the job done? Or better yet, not err either way.

And don't tell me MNF is right because it's self-evident, or I will have to WRITE BIG CAPITAL LETTERS AT YOU. mwahahaha!

Elliot Temple on February 20, 2003 | Comment (1)
The non-aggression principle (NAP) is one which many libertarians accept, but few can defend. It states that it is wrong to initiate force or threat of force. This is, for situations where it applies, meant to replace a moral analysis.

Morality is knowledge about making choices. It tells us which are right and wrong to make. It tends to be quite complex, and we certainly don't know everything about it.

Now, to assert the NAP requires some argument that, in all situations, the right choice is not to initiate force. Regardless of the details. I've never heard such an argument. Does anyone know it?

(I know some people like the spirit of the NAP, and don't actually pay attention to what it says. I don't think they should support it, but acknowledge they don't need the argument I request.)

And don't tell me the NAP is right because it's self-evident, or I will have to WRITE BIG CAPITAL LETTERS AT YOU. mwahahaha!

Elliot Temple on February 20, 2003 | Comments (0)

Elliot Temple on February 20, 2003 | Comments (2)
Anti Theory

Morality is more important than any other concerns. It should come first in our thinking. It should come last in our thinking. And it should dominate over our thinking.

(To avoid confusion, for many issues, like doing science, morality usually just says to use true epistemology and do a good job, or something rather minimal.)

Many people oppose the war. And virtually all of them do not temper this opposition with morality. First, the war is wrong and will be opposed. Then maybe later we can talk about little detailed bits of morality that pale in comparison to The Cause. This leads to the anti-war folk saying anything they can to oppose war, moral or not. And thus they say false things. And dishonest things. And meaningless things. And things that sound catchy. And things they don't understand. And demonstrate no intellectual integrity.

Of course, most of them deny morality exists, and few value anything. Many would claim morality is a matter of opinion, or that it's just a religious idea (as if the source of an idea could make it wrong). Why do I say they value nothing? Well, we know they don't value peace, happiness, liberty, non-violence, or getting their facts right. (Those tortures taking place in Iraq right now sure are peaceful...) They defend the unsuccessful, but I don't think they actually value failure. It's just an easy way to pretend.

Morality first applies to perfectly good people to, in realistically useful ways. Like I want hits. And if that was primary, I might be tempted to lie, or spam, or ... well I don't know, but if I was a bad person I'm sure I'd think of something. And throwing these out because of self-interest (well, if I spam, maybe that will annoy people and I'll get less hits) is not the way to go. Even if that calculation, in the limit, gets the same answers, it'd be wrong to waste that much computing resources on it.

Elliot Temple on February 20, 2003 | Comments (5)
Some people expect lots of collateral damage in the war on Iraq. They are wrong, but let's ignore that a moment. Would this actually be any reason to oppose the war?

Well, if the dead civilians come from immoral leaders ordering schools bombed .... yes, that's something to oppose.

But if it comes as part of the fight, as part of the unavoidable cost to defeating evil, then of course it is no reason to oppose war.

So, what we discover is, this "reason" has no substance. It depends on another claim. And it adds no useful information: we already know to oppose wars by murderous folk, and support wars by the righteous.

So, opposing the war based on too much collateral damage, is just judging the US to be morally bad, combined with hiding one's meaning behind a smokescreen.

Elliot Temple on February 21, 2003 | Comments (2)
The importance of morality in every day life is striking. For example, in team games of Warcraft 3. Players will be paired with people they don't know, and required to coordinate their forces and share their resources for victory. Teams that bitch at each other, and refuse to defend each other's bases, tend to lose badly. Teams that get along, prosper.

Or, compare these two scenarios:

I need 5 more gold to buy an item. I ask my partners for the money, and wait a while, and eventually they tell me they "need the money" because they are saving for something they'll get later. I explain I'll pay them back soon. After a long delay, and wasted time, I give up. I go kill stuff and get 5gp, walk back to town, and finally get my item.

Alternatively, a partner gives me 5gp right away. I get the item, use it to kill stuff faster, and then pay my partner back, and need not return to town.

(Not that paying each other back should be important, everyone should just give all their money to whoever happens to be at a store ... but that's just too much to expect of random people.)

Another way morality helps, is over the course of many games, moral people improve more. They are accustomed to solving problems, and when something goes wrong, they figure out how to do better next time. Alternatively, some people, upon failure, get mad and resentful.

Like, some people think advice is an insult, as if they aren't good enough. Well, truth is, they are not perfect, and their arrogance only makes them stay bad.

The effect of all this is so great, that simply by figuring out what to do, sharing gold, and coordinating our efforts, my friends and I can easily win with 2 or 3 players vs 5 players on certain maps.

Elliot Temple on February 21, 2003 | Comment (1)

curi: Yay! The camera's on! Look at me!
Others: -_-o
Isyn: I just read this. Help!
Elliot: Morality is knowledge about making choices.
Isyn: Uh huh.
Elliot: So what does that have to do with God?
Isyn: If God didn't decree which choices are better and worse, then who did?
curi: Me.
Elliot: No one did. Just like no one decreed that there is a keyboard in my lap. But it is there.
Isyn: So how do we know which choices are right?
Elliot: Well, ummmm, the thing is we don't really know that explicitly and fully.
Isyn: If you don't know what is right and wrong, how do you know right and wrong exist?
Elliot: Kill Lia.
Isyn: What? No!
Elliot: Why not?
Isyn: I don't want to.
Elliot: Why don't you want to?
Isyn: I don't know that explicitly.
Elliot: You prefer some things to others.
Isyn: Yes.
Elliot: So you act *as if* morality exists.
Isyn: What?
Elliot: If some choices (ie not killing Lia) are better than others, then morality exists.
Isyn: Oh. But isn't that just my self-interest?
Elliot: What does self-interest have to do with anything?
Isyn: Well, isn't it different from morality?
Elliot: They aren't mutually exclusive.
Isyn: I mean, what if I follow my self-interest instead of morality?
Elliot: Then, I'd say you have a moral theory along the lines of: whatever is in my self interest is morally right. But you don't have that theory.
Isyn: Where do you get off telling me what theories I hold?
Elliot: It's just interesting that a number of people *claim* to hold a self-interest based morality, but do not.
curi: You need a thesis.
Elliot: What?
curi: Just saying a bunch of random true things is confusing. And you don't expand them very much.
Elliot: How should I expand them?
curi: Like, explain them more clearly..?
Elliot: They are clear to me.
curi: Not to everyone.
Elliot: But I don't know what points others will miss.
curi: Oh.
Elliot: Yep. Not gonna spend my time slaying random false theories. Need good reason to think someone actually holds it and is listening. Or for it to come up in explanation of something true.
Elliot: Am gonna spend my time sleeping. Bye.
Lia: Sleep well.
curi: She finally said something.
Isyn: Shut up.
curi: Make me, bitch.
Elliot: shhhhh
curi: Are you trying to tell me what to do?
Elliot: Turn off the camera, now.
curi: *turns camera off*

Elliot Temple on February 21, 2003 | Comments (0)
Minimum Necessary Force

A certain variance *on either side* of the right amount of force is reasonable -- only people who use significantly more than the right amount should be prosecuted. Also, the right amount to aim for is more than the "necessary" amount, strictly speaking, because we shouldn't have to take undue risks. The minimum necessary force concept pulls against both these points, and is thus highly misleading.

Elliot Temple on February 21, 2003 | Comments (2)
On LGF, it said protest organisers estimated 200,000 thousand people at the one in San Francisco. Aerial photos show about 65,000 peak. (Source Here)

How should we explain the protestors ignoring the facts? I suggest my anti-theory explantion: because they are more focussed on their cause then on morality. And they think lying will further their cause.

And in a direct sense, it's hard to tell. Lying has advantages (because people will think the ideas are more popular than they are) and they disadvantages (because people will get annoyed with their exaggerations and stop listening). And thus, calculating whether to lie, based on how it furthers their cause, is at best, an expensive calculation prone to error. Not at best (and in reality), their approach is, even in the limit, divergent from morality aka wrong.

If we just look at the morality of the situation, though, it's easy. They are attempting to mislead and manipulate people. End of story.

Elliot Temple on February 21, 2003 | Comment (1)
Dale Amon of Samizdata writes:

I don't always agree with what SecDef Rumsfeld says and I find his statements on volunteer human shields to be particularly wrong:

"And I want to note, again, it is a violation of the law of armed conflict to use noncombatants as a means of shielding potential military targets -- even those people who may volunteer for this purpose. Iraqi actions to do so would not only violate this law but could be a -- could be considered a war crime in any conflict. Therefore, if death or serious injury to a noncombatant resulted from these efforts, the individuals responsible for deploying any innocent civilians as human shields could be guilty of grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions."

There is no such thing as a "voluntary human shield".

But there is. If I voluntarily use myself as a shield, I am one.

The words cancel each other out and leave... just another ordinary enemy combatant.

Not a combatant (no gun...), and not ordinary, but yes an enemy.

Any British, American, Australian or person of whatever nationality who makes a decision, of their own free will, to intentionally place themselves in harms way in defense of a combatant's facilities should be treated like any other member of that combatant's forces.

Rumsfeld is completely right. Their attack on America is to try and hurt the US politically, through immoral means. It's committing suicide and blaming the US. (Reminiscent of suicide attacks in Israel). So, it definitely should be a war crime, and they should not be treated like any other enemy combatant. You don't shoot people without guns without a damn good reason. And we won't go around killing these people. That'd be horribly immoral. They know that. That's the whole point of their attack: they want to remain in a position where they shouldn't be killed, while doing everything they can to provoke their own deaths. (Think Palestinians throwing stones at Israeli soldiers and tanks.) Rumsfeld is right that if some die because they get in the way, it's not our fault (morally), but that's true only as long as we don't intentionally kill them.

Elliot Temple on February 24, 2003 | Comments (0)
Here's an explanation for why, in some domains, women may find they need to work harder to prove themselves than men do (it works in reverse too, for other fields):

Parents (wrongly) gender-stereotype their children, and treat boys and girls differently. This results in boys and girls, on average, having different skill-sets. Employers and bosses know this.

Elliot Temple on February 24, 2003 | Comment (1)
By reader request, Asceticism

Ascetic is the opposite of hedonistic. It means scorning worldly desires and pleasures, and self-denial. It's sometimes thought to create spiritual discipline, or sometimes just someone's tendency.

The spiritual discipline version is on the same order of magnitude of absurdity as theism.

One common cause of ascetic qualities is arrogance. Another is anti-capitalism. TV is for the masses of capitalist drones, to keep them mindless. Products are a trap for lesser people, and I shall avoid them. Toys are for low brow kids; mine will enjoy nature and possibly some books and be free. Look at all those Joe Schmoes wasting the money they slaved away for at McDonald's for a few minutes of pleasure, they won't fool me. blah blah blah

Joy is a great thing.

I suppose there is an important distinction that needs to be made now: some ascetics don't value joy, others simply have trouble creating much.

Feh, this isn't going well. Write comments with questions, I'll just make this really simple.... To those who don't value joy: you're silly. To those who have trouble finding joy: I sympathise.

Elliot Temple on February 25, 2003 | Comments (11)
Relationship Theory

Some people like monogamy and marriage because it makes them feel safe. Their partner is not allowed to leave them, and not even allowed to look around for something better. And, if the partner does anyway, these people can now play victim, and most everyone will agree they were wronged. This is a bit perverse. For one thing, it seems to say "I'd rather you stay with me, than be as happy as possible, because I'm just that selfish."

Elliot Temple on February 25, 2003 | Comments (0)
Getting answers wrong isn't the only way to look an idiot. It's striking how effective asking the wrong questions can be.

"Is it invariably wrong to act selfish?"

"Is consequentialism or deontology right?"

"How certain does induction make us?"

"What's a certain statement?" (as in come up with one)

"What would make a good foundation for our knowledge?"

"What's more important, my joy, or starving children in Africa getting a meal?"

"Is love or happiness more important?"

"What if I have to go to the doctor, but my child doesn't want to wear his seatbelt, and I'm in a big hurry, then can I beat him?"

"Did you know that two thousand rain forest species go extinct every year?"

"Did you know that if we don't anchor Australia, a sea snail might be crushed?"

OK, some of these are kinda cheating, but some are incoherent philosophical garbage that a lot of otherwise reasonable people waste time thinking about.

(I don't think these examples are very good. As I don't spend my time on this kinda question, I'm not all that familiar with many of 'em. I tend to stop reading in disgust when I encounter them, and then forget about it.)

Elliot Temple on February 25, 2003 | Comment (1)
Just read this. I guess I agree that the government agency doing this stuff will probably get it all horribly wrong, and it's very abusable. But I was thinking, something similar could be right and good:

What if police see something suspicious, and just ask the guy what's up? I think our laws say you don't have to incriminate yourself or answer, and if you refuse, the police can't do anything. But a good person will recognise that what s/he did *was* a bit suspicious, and, taking into account privacy concerns, will want to tell the police some info to let them rest easy knowing s/he didn't do anything wrong. A good person will not say "I refuse to answer." At worst, a good person will think a bit and say "I really can't think of anything I can safely tell you b/c of privacy concerns, sorry." So, like, the general idea of trying to go after people who have all this nice shit and won't tell us where it came from and otherwise act like bad people, does make some sense.

Elliot Temple on February 25, 2003 | Comments (0)
I went outside, walked a few blocks, entered a building, asked for some food, handed over a piece of paper, was given hot, good food 2-3 minutes later, and left. I didn't bring ID, and I didn't give my name.

It's wonderful.

Sitting in the public area were bins with hot sauce packets, napkins, sporks, drink tops, straws, and a soda machine. No security.

My order was set on the counter. I walked up and took it. No one checked my receipt.

It's amazing how peaceful our society is.

Elliot Temple on February 25, 2003 | Comments (3)
From here:

Bartlett roams around the White House grousing at everyone, including the government representatives from Khundu, whom he chews out as if they were grade schoolers in the principle's [sic] office.


Elliot Temple on February 25, 2003 | Comments (0)
Please Steal Some Oil For Us

by Staff Writer

"French oil companies, unlike US ones, are actually government owned. Or to put that another way, the French government unlike the US one, is actually oil-owned," the anonymous tipster whispered. This was just the beginning of an interesting phone call.

A little work turned up some interesting facts. It turns out that France is very reliant on oil imports, especially from the Middle East, and has none of its own oil. If the oil stops flowing from the Middle East, France would have a serious problem. In fact, France has the most to gain of any Western country from the resumption of a cheap and stable oil supply under a docile Iraqi leader.

The Washington Post reported(1): "It's pretty straightforward," said former CIA director R. James Woolsey, who has been one of the leading advocates of forcing Hussein from power. "France and Russia have oil companies and interests in Iraq. They should be told that if they are of assistance in moving Iraq toward decent government, we'll do the best we can to ensure that the new government and American companies work closely with them." But he added: "If they throw in their lot with Saddam, it will be difficult to the point of impossible to persuade the new Iraqi government to work with them."

The French establishment, still bitter about the loss of their North African colonies to the Arabs, cares about Arab oil not the Arab people. My anonymous leak said the whole anti-American attitude by the French is a media facade. "We see eye-to-eye with the Americans on nearly everything. But we need Middle Eastern oil, so we are forced to maintain the public image that appeals to the Arabs. By controlling the oil, they control us." He told me that most of the populace disagrees with many of the articles in the French press, but is sophisticated enough to read between the lines.

Perhaps the most shocking revelation was a phone call my anonymous source overheard. "I was going to his office, and I didn't realize he was in the middle of an important phone call. He didn't see me, and I stood outside the door to wait." The man being overheard is a top French government official, though I cannot disclose his name or specific position. He was speaking to a US diplomat. The content of the phone call is really amazing: "Please steal some oil for us, when you attack Iraq. We really need it." My source could not believe his ears! This was so important he felt compelled to share the information with the American press.

To return to the introduction, although it may not be literally true, the oil companies do have significant influence in the highest levels of the French government. They very much need a war on Iraq, but at the same time must keep the right image so that the entire Middle East continues to sell oil to France. It is a tricky double-bind, but the French are handling it impressively. Indeed, they had me fooled...until I got a phone call yesterday.

(1) http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A18841-2002Sep14.html


If ya didn't get it, this is a joke. I wrote it September 2002. Ran into it again just now.

Elliot Temple on February 26, 2003 | Comments (2)
Here are some things that shouldn't be associated together, but often are:

Saddam staying in power and peace.

Capitalism and greed.

Commitment and sex.

Love and sex.

Morality and opposing kinky sex.

Morality and opposing "naughty" words.

Morality and God.

Leftists and caring.

"Disciplining" (read: hurting) children and love.

Spanking and learning.

Time-outs and learning.

School and learning.

USA and police state.

Israel and police state.

Tolerance and moral relativism.

Other Websites and Better Than Mine.

Elliot Temple on February 26, 2003 | Comments (2)
Just read a Den Beste piece here. It was going along nicely, getting stuff about right, and then out of nowhere came:

It's true that all powerful nations eventually decline

which just makes no sense at all. It seems to say that moral behavior will invariably self-destruct, which is to deny that morality exists. (Or I suppose it could deny that morality can lead to being powerful, which also basically means denying morality exists.)

Elliot Temple on February 26, 2003 | Comment (1)
Inspired by a comment on the last Relationship Theory thread:

Most of the time, I focus much much more on saying true things than saying a lot. There are notable exceptions, and it's important to try and say a lot when one wants to create new knowledge. But when explaining things I already know, or just talking randomly, my strong tendency is to be sure to get things right. One result is that, sometimes I say very little, or say things that seem trivial. "Horribly bad thing X, is awful, don't do it," or the like.

Anyway, the thing is, I think people often try to read a bit too much meaning into some of my writing. Really, most is not intended to be controversial. If you read my views on most issues, and go "duh" and agree, I'll be very happy, and you probably did not miss the point.

Also, sometimes I say things that are true, but often misused and abused in arguments for bad stuff. I know quite well that just because some people misuse a truth, doesn't make it any less true, and rely on this. Sadly, I'm often frustrated by people conflating the truth with the common assumptions about what it means. So, umm, don't do that (lol).

You may wonder about the use of a bunch of uncontroversial truths. One point is simply that although they really ought to be uncontroversial, and are among reasonable people, many aren't actually very popular :-/

The other is really a general approach to explaining things: start with simple, true statements to sketch out what the answer to some problem has to look like. Rule out the absurd and inconsistent, and maybe figure out on what continuum(s) and controversial "fact"(s) we must make a judgment on. So, basically, start with what we know. Then, look for a powerful explanation that fits with what we know (that will be controversial, and is what opponents ought to be arguing with).

Elliot Temple on February 26, 2003 | Comments (3)
About stains: if it won't come out, it won't come out *on you* and is thus nothing much to worry about. (Unless you go somewhere fancy.)

Elliot Temple on February 27, 2003 | Comments (0)
Replying to a comment by Sharon Ferguson from the thread about gender stereotypes:

I can tell none of you have children.

Just because some people choose to keep their personal lives, and especially their children's personal lives, private, does not mean they do not have children.

As to Authority of Experience, it's not valid. The truth of a statement, depends only on it's content. If an idiot says something true, it's still true. If an "authority" says something false, it's still false. How do we tell which is which? Argument about the subject matter, not about the speakers.

I knew I was having a girl. I painted her room BLUE.

Sounds perfectly reasonable. I like off-white myself.

One of her many gifts was a Tonka truck. For five years, it was kicked around her room, ignored. Finally was given to her baby boy cousin, who knew exactly what to do with it. My daughter always sneered at it.

The whole point of being a subtle, powerful, devious, gender stereo-type meme, is that you can overcome blue paint, and a few trucks. In fact, many gender stereo-type memes are so highly evolved, that they still win out vs. parents who intentionally try to go against the stereotypes.

My daughter loves to laugh and jump and play and climb. But she is particularly concerned when someone gets hurt or knocked down or when someone tries to bully her. Call it personality.

I will, thank you.

Call it genes.

Genes code for various things, including perhaps the structure of one's brain. However, just like many computers made of different parts, behave the same way, so too do human brains despite structural differences.

But babies in general know from the start what they like. And girls tend to like dolls. And boys tend to like trucks.

This is an assertion that I'm wrong, but not an argument.

I was what you consider a tomboy. I was thoroughly disinterested in barbie dolls. When I got older though I did want to collect porcelain dolls...look but dont play with them. I always felt silly trying to feed milk to an inanimate object. But I have never considered myself anything less than feminine.

The gender stereotyping thesis does not say that every last person will act according to the stereotypes. It says they are subtly and not-so-subtly encouraged (and sometimes forced, coerced, ordered) to do it, by parents and others.

I should say what needs to be looked for is MERIT. there are some things women CANT do...and some things men cant do.

There are differences in physical body makeup, but needn't be any in personality. I agree employers and bosses should look for merit.

Elliot Temple on February 27, 2003 | Comments (0)
Here we find a perfectly decent article on why anti-aging research and medicine are good. However, one bit stuck out at me. The author writes:

I seriously doubt that people granted longer lives will fritter away their extra time watching reruns of Gilligan's Island (though some might, and it would be their business). Instead, they may well engage in longer-run projects such as ecological restoration or space exploration.

The problem, is the parenthetical. The author considers it none of his business what people do in their private lives, to the point that he doesn't consider any options wrong.

There is a common idea, which asserts that the public domain is objective, but the private domain is subjective. It's wrong to rape people, to give speeches inciting murder, and to run a red light. But in your private life, anything goes. Watch whatever TV you want, in whatever amounts. Be productive, or not. It's a matter of taste.

Now, this idea has been fruitful. It allowed us to have law and order, without curse-word-police and productivity-police stationed within our homes, telling us to expand our vocabulary and sleep less, or perhaps to stop drinking beers, or whatever.

However, from a philosophical point of view, the idea is simply not true. Choices can be wrong. Whether they are in the public or private domain doesn't matter.

Returning to the article, the author was arguing against people who feared immoral behavior. And he told them that, in the private sphere, he endorses immoral behavior as everyone's right. And his best defense against the possibility of immorality is that he doubts anyone will do it. What he should have said is something like, "If watching Gilligan's Island is the wrong thing to do, why will people want to spend their time on it?"

More on this last bit in next entry.

Elliot Temple on February 27, 2003 | Comments (0)
premise: good values make their holder's life better
premise: people want nice lives
conclusion: people hold values they think are good

scenario: X thinks Y has bad values (X and Y are people)

Applying the conclusion to the scenario, we discover that: Y considers his values to be good

premise: X and Y have different values
premise: different values can't both be right
conclusion: X or Y (or both) are wrong

So, if Y knows at least one of them is wrong, and considers himself right, he must consider X's values to be wrong.

So we discover that when X declares that Y's values are wrong, what we are really looking at is a two-way dispute. X and Y are fallible. X does not have authority. So, to impose his values on Y, X needs more than to feel really sure. He needs some non-arbitrary explanation of why it's right for him to impose his values. And it must pass a simple test: it can't work in reverse. As X can claim authority, so can Y. As X can claim feeling sure, so can Y. As X can claim divine inspiration, so can Y. etc

(A non-reversible justification for value imposing is "he's attacking me" which gets us self-defense)

What does this have to do with the pro-death people objecting to TV reruns? Well, before they try to impose their anti-rerun values on others, they need a non-arbitrary, non-reversible justification. They don't have one.

Elliot Temple on February 27, 2003 | Comments (0)
Have faith in your values. Don't expect people to disagree. True ideas win arguments. True ideas win converts. True ideas get popular. Good values reward you. Bad values "reward" their holders (no need to do anything to them).

And as to "rewarding" holders of bad values -- it's a form of imposing one's values, and thus needs a non-arbitrary, non-reversible justification.

To explain "Don't expect people to disagree" this comes up a lot with parenting. Like people will ask "What if my child wants to commit murder?" Well, why the fuck would he want to do that? You're right that murder is wrong, aren't you? Yes, you are, so why expect child to disagree..? Comes up with the pro-death people too, who think it'd be wrong to waste extra life watching TV, but expect people to do it...

Elliot Temple on February 27, 2003 | Comments (0)
It was suggested that the US flag shouldn't be used as a pro-war symbol. The person who suggested this is explicitly pro-American and anti-war. So, if they don't have to go together, how can it be right to use the first to support the other?

The problem with this objection, thus far, is that it has no content!! For any two propositions A and B, using A to show support for B, could be objected to on the basis that someone could support A and not B. But we know that's not right because propositions can (via some explanation) support other ones.

So, to make the "don't use the flag to support the war case," what's needed is to demonstrate that the explanation connecting the two is wrong (not simply to have someone support the flag and not the war, because that person may be wrong/inconsistent).

Anyway, a simple reason that supporting America implies supporting the war, is that the war will make America safer (Iraq funds and supports terrorism). Or in reverse, the anti-war position of wanting Americans to die is not consistent with being pro-America.

Elliot Temple on February 28, 2003 | Comments (0)

Here is one of the best general theories about morality:

If a moral theory fails by its own standards, it is wrong.

Combined with some epistemology like "If two moral principles contradict, they can't both be right," we can reject many, many bad moral theories.

Elliot Temple on February 28, 2003 | Comments (2)

Elliot Temple on February 28, 2003 | Comments (0)
Numbers exist. My computer exists. I can touch my computer, but not a number. Prima facie, their must be at least two kinds of existence. I go with physical and explanatory.

A cave exists in both ways. There is the physical existence of various elementary particles at various points in space at a given time. And there is the explanation that it is a cave.

If Jack and Jill go to the park, there is the physical movement of their atoms to the park, and the explanation that friends are having a picnic. The physical description doesn't even know the location titled "park" is a public place with grass and trees. It just has coordinates in space.

Anyway, what this entry is really about is Relationship Theory:

Premise: "Relationship" is an explanatory term. It does not describe a physical event.

Obligations are explanatory. They also cannot be deduced from pure logic (because they depend on things in the real world). What they are, is when certain events happen, what is right to do changes; obligations are alternations in the moral landscape. For example, agreeing to meet David at the park, changes the moral landscape by making showing up at the park the right thing to do in scenarios where it otherwise would not have been.

Premise 2: To be true, explanations of why an obligation exists must, at least indirectly, refer to something physical.

Conclusion: Relationships, in and of themselves, do not create obligations.

Elliot Temple on March 2, 2003 | Comments (0)
Relationship Theory

Premise: Jack and Jill have a relationship.

Challenge: Name one obligation Jack has to Jill. "To act rightly," does not count, as all people should do that all the time anyway.

My Solution: Can't be done. Details of some physical events needed. (Comment if you have another...)

Conclusion: Relationships, in and of themselves, do not create obligations.

Elliot Temple on March 2, 2003 | Comment (1)

Imagine you traveled back in time and met Bob the Caveman. And imagine you tried to tell him about cars. "They're made out of metal...umm, it's like rock but harder, and they are empty inside, and they have wheels...these are like feet, and they go really fast and they are powered by fire. They can cover a day's walk in the time it takes to eat a meal." Bob might find this a bit far out, but it's within the realm of possibility.

Now, imagine you tried to tell him that people drive them around according to very strict rules, and though there are millions, going very fast, they rarely hit each other. Everyone follows little bits of paint on the ground -- that you have to look for to notice -- and obeys colored lights. Now Bob would laugh. How could so many people be so organised, with very little enforcement, just some signs, lights, and paint!? How can they, when two lanes merge, weave cars together one by one -- acting in unison with total strangers? How can they take turns at a stop sign, and let pedestrians walk in front of them? How does anyone ever manage to change lanes in heavy traffic? The amount of consent created over driving, is far more amazing than the cars themselves.

Elliot Temple on March 3, 2003 | Comment (1)
curi: Go to sleep.
Elliot: not tired
curi: write a blog then
Elliot: about..?
curi: i dunno
Elliot: brilliant
curi: hmpf, it's not my fault you're boring
Elliot: What, bitch?
curi: I called you boring.
Elliot: ...
curi: Go outside.
Elliot: It's cold outside.
curi: so wear some clothes
Elliot: gah, I hate you
curi: wow, i got skillz
Elliot: you're proud of this?
curi: can you do it?
Elliot: umm -_-o
curi: thought so
Isyn: I can
curi: no, when you say mean things you *mean it*
Isyn: your point being?
curi: that's no fun
Isyn: fuck you
curi: QED
Isyn: fuck you
Lia: umm, guys, you know you're on air?
Isyn: whatever
curi: what!?
Elliot: *^_^* yeah, I kinda thought I'd get a free blog off you people embarrassing yourselves
curi: *outraged, strides towards Elliot*
curi: embarrassing myself!?
curi: *trips on rug and falls on face*
Elliot: teehee
Isyn: you suck, curi
curi: sheesh, Isyn, can't you tell the difference?
Isyn: What are you talking about?
curi: *exaggerated sigh*
Lia: Isyn, he means that, while everyone knows he's a sweetie, and nothing he says is serious, you seem to be mean
curi: Me a sweetie? I think someone has a crush.
Isyn: (sounding all formal) For this grievous offense against my honour, I challenge you to mortal combat. Choose your weapon.
others: -_-o
Elliot: I wonder if my blog should be blood-free
curi: that'd be boring
curi: I mean moreso
Lia: Your blog is wonderful, Elliot
Elliot: *beams*
Isyn: Hello!?
curi: ok, ok. I pick, ummm, a spork.
Isyn: You're going to dual me with a spork?
curi: I will pwn you with my spork, bitch.
Elliot: (to camera) pwn is a stronger version of own. You weren't worth owning, so I pawned you... :-D
Isyn: Well, I choose a longsword.
curi: Hey, if I find a dragon named 'spork', could he fight for me?
others: -_-o
Isyn: Scared, are we?
curi: yeah, that's it...
curi: Hey, Elliot, I got an idea. you should make this a teaser, and then write the fight later.
Elliot: why?
curi: cause you don't have a clue what to write, and I was making an excuse for you. sheesh, dumbass.
Elliot: hmmm
Isyn: *prays*
Elliot's Living room: *fades out*
Grassy Field: *fades in*
Audience: holy shit, a prayer just worked?
Elliot: hmmm, maybe i should write char bios
Audience: ya think!?
Isyn: *draws longsword*
curi: *draws plastic spork*
Narrator: The noon sun beat down on the two combatants, shining off Isyn's chainmail, sword, and shield. curi was notably lacking in metal attire, but at least his spork was clean. Isyn had a murderous glint in his eye. curi looked amused. Elliot was busy hastily writing char bios. Lia appeared worried, but chose not to interfere.
curi: blah blah blah. what a terrible narration.
Narrator: Excuse me?
curi: *stabs the narrator in the neck with his spork*
Narrator: *dies messily*
curi: Alright, so, picture some dumbass decked out in heavy stuff, with a sword and a shield, but no helmet. Picture some grass, and some trees in the background, and a river off to the side that I intend to dump Isyn in (I hear it's fun to swim in armor, and I do want him to have a nice time). And picture me, handsome as can be, decked out with a bloody spork--
Isyn: (shouting) For Amilise! For Lia!
Isyn: *charges*
curi: How rude!
Elliot: *pauses time*
Elliot: More later. *waves*

Elliot Temple on March 4, 2003 | Comments (3)
Character Bios

Elliot: Me but virtually always serious.
curi: Me but less restrained.
Isyn: Dungeons and Dragons character. Grew up poor on farm; wanted power; joined cult and became priest of Amilise Siliv. Wants to learn arcane magic. Some semi-evil tendencies.
Lia: D&D character too. Real name is Caeli Melarn. Think of a paladin, but more holy and more rare. She's also a princess.
Amilise Siliv: A Goddess.
Other People: They don't matter much. *g*

UPDATE: Silly me, I totally forgot to explain that Lia and Isyn are romantically involved, which is why Isyn got mad when curi said Lia had a crush on curi.

Elliot Temple on March 4, 2003 | Comments (0)

Elliot Temple on March 4, 2003 | Comments (0)
Gil wrote in the Tentativity comments here:
I think that until there is consensus that the right thing to do is refrain from coercing other people, then people will use whatever wealth and power they have to try to do just that.

I replied: I think this statement is exactly what's wrong with mainstream libertarianism. It has both the conspiracy problem (the view that people with power, want to abuse it) and the non-coercion problem (the view that non-coercion is prior to morality and self-evident).

Elliot Temple on March 4, 2003 | Comments (2)
(I really do mean to update more. Internet access has been a bit sporadic. This should change in a few days.)

By reader request, Torture

curi: *pulls out a whip*
Elliot: no no, the idea is to write about it
curi: it's not very hard. i can't imagine someone too stupid to work out the basics actually capturing anyone.
Elliot: no no, like the morality of torturing people. like they caught a terrorist guy. should they torture him? is that kosher? etc
curi: can we do a skit for a visual aid?
Elliot: ummm, let's not
curi: how dull! *walks off*

So anyway, given that I don't care about the NAP, torture sounds just fine to me. It's not a good idea to hurt people for no reason, but torture *with a goal*, makes sense. Torture is pretty nasty, so it'd be best to only use in extreme cases. Terrorists qualify. Umm, questions?

Elliot Temple on March 6, 2003 | Comments (0)
It is a common practice at schools, to have debates and assign kids to each side. Defending a side one disagrees with, is supposed to be a good skill. What are they missing? Both that there is a truth of the matter, and that to argue against what one thinks true, means to say things one thinks false (or to avoid saying anything substantive, which I suppose is rather common). Fucking relativists.

Going to sleep. Mean to try and write curi/Isyn dual soon after I wake.

Elliot Temple on March 6, 2003 | Comments (2)
curi: And this one time, at bandit camp
Elliot: hey, it's kinda sunny out
Lia: yeah, it's pretty nice
curi: Hey!!! Pay attention to me!
Isyn: *running towards curi, brandishing longsword*
curi: eek! *starts running in circles to avoid Isyn*
Isyn: *stops chasing curi*
curi: heheh. armor sux.
Isyn: *begins chanting in the tongue of dragons*
curi: d00d, the audience has no clue what you're saying. how is this gonna entertain them?
curi: on second thought, you do sound a bit funny ;p
Isyn: *points at curi and intones a final, sharp word*
curi: *stops moving entirely*
Isyn: *walks slowly over to curi, savouring his victory*
Lia: Hey, errr, Isyn, I think you made your point. Want to stop this now?
Elliot: *tries to hide his smile*
Isyn: *grimly strides on*

curi, an unmoving figure, in a shiny silver cloak that contrasts strongly with the natural surroundings, remained frozen through Isyn's approach. He remained frozen as Isyn gripped his sword in two hands, and brought it back. He gave no reaction to Lia's increasingly frantic shouts of dismay. He did not seem to notice Elliot's stifled laughter.

leftist: Why is Elliot laughing? Obviously he's a warmonger and delights in blood.
Isyn: *swings sword*
Elliot: Maybe I just know more than you, dumbass. Go away 'fore I shoot you.
Sword: *passes through curi*
curi: fades out of existence as the sword hits him
Isyn: What!? *curses*
leftist: Shoot me!? Shoot me!?!?!? You really are bloody! If I know my history, and I think I do, there was someone else who liked shooting people. His name was Hitler.
Elliot: Whatever. *shoots leftist dead*
Elliot: *glances at Lia*
Lia: What? I don't mind. He was possessed by a demon anyway.
Elliot: Really!?
Lia: Wait, you shot him without knowing that?
Elliot: -_-o
Isyn: *looking around confused*
Isyn: *feels a pain in the back of his neck and spins 'round*
curi: teehee, I sporked you!
Isyn: (scowling) swings longsword
curi: *dances back*
Isyn: *presses forward, swinging artfully and masterfully, relying on training and muscle memory, while ignoring his emotions*
curi: *dodges each strike in the nick of time, moving inhumanly fast*
curi: (talking while dodging) It wasn't very nice to use magic on me.
curi: Not gonna answer me bitch? Well, it wasn't. I might even think you were trying to kill me or something.
Isyn: *does a feint, then lunges forward. it looks like there is no way curi could evade the coming blow*
curi: *wraps cloak around self, laughing*
sword: passes through curi as he fades out.
Isyn: *begins casting a divination to find curi's location*
curi: (putting an arm over Lia's shoulders) Didya know you're really hot when you're worried? :-D
Lia: (pushing curi's arm away) Shut up, curi >_<
curi: Hey, can I eat the leftist?
Elliot and Lia: -_-o
curi: What? I've never been a cannibal before.
Elliot: Go see if he's signed up for cryo. If not, enjoy.
Lia: Umm, aren't you forgetting something?
curi: Isyn? Whatever.
Isyn: *finishes divination*
Isyn: Aha, I've found you fiend. You shall not escape me again.
curi: d00d, I run faster than you. how ya gonna catch me?
Isyn: *starts taking off armor*
curi: *sneaks up while Isyn is pulling chainmail over head, and pokes him in the belly with spork*
Isyn: oww!
curi: heheh, bitch
Isyn: *gets armor off, grabs up sword, and starts attacking*
curi: *dodging about* This is getting old.
Elliot: yeah, I agree. and we wouldn't want bored readers. sum1 do sumtin fast.
Lia: curi, why don't you apologise?
curi: You want me to apologise? *jumps back* Sounds like someone is worried about my safety. *ducks a slash*
Lia: shut up, curi
Elliot: wait, that's a good idea. if you apologise, there is no stain on Isyn's honour.
curi: If Lia didn't like me, she'd be a freak. To take my comments back, would be an insult.
others: *anime fall*
Elliot: Why not apologise?
curi: I don't wanna
Elliot: you'd rather do all the work of avoiding that sword?
curi: it's rather easy
curi: *slips on some wet grass and falls on back*
Isyn: *grabs a pouch off his belt, and dumps the dust contained within on curi*
curi: *cough, sneeze*
Isyn: *stabs curi*
curi: *fades out*
Isyn: last time i buy anti-teleportation dust from a Used Potion Salesman
curi: I shouldn't have to apologise. I did nothing wrong.
Elliot: I suppose you'd also say you shouldn't be attacked, yes?
curi: yeah. Isyn is acting badly.
Elliot: And you know better, and know how to end this incident, but instead intentionally perpetuate his misbehavior. How right is that?
curi: it's fun, and he deserves it
Elliot: part of morality is wanting the right things
curi: I shouldn't want fun?
Elliot: specious
curi: so ya hold it's better ta just apologise than let this go on?
Elliot: indeed
curi: but what about *my* honour?
Elliot: what's dishonourable about doing the right thing?
curi: yo, Isyn-d00d, sorry 'bout hitting on your girl.
Elliot: Why'd you use a possessive?
Isyn: d00d? O_o;;
Lia: Poor, curi. Very poor.
curi: ok ok, sheesh
curi: *takes a knee* Isyn Kaitsol, Priest of Amilise, and Mage of Great Renown, I humbly beseech the, accept this conveyance of sorrow at the harm I have caused you and yours. I am but a simple fool, with many errors in my ways; I meant not to wrong you.

Elliot Temple on March 6, 2003 | Comments (0)
Here's an example of a moral theory that fails by it's own standards:

I'm going to spank my children, to help them develop good character.

Note this does not fail by pure logic. But it does fail by explanation. Our best explanations tell us, the basic effect of spanking, is fucking children up badly.

Elliot Temple on March 8, 2003 | Comments (0)
There are two bad philisophical ideas called Consequentialism and Deontology. The first means judging moral theories, based on their consequences. The second, means judging moral theories, based on principles.

One wonders how one is supposed to judge consequences without having any principles to judge them on.

And one wonders how one is supposed to decide what principles are good, without thinking about their consequences.

Also, in the limit, the two approaches are convergent. ("In the limit" is such a great phrase! Thanks Kolya ^_^)

Elliot Temple on March 9, 2003 | Comments (0)
Yet Another Problem With The NAP

At airports, they say if you leave your bag unattended, it will like get confiscated. (I'm sure you can get it back after it's checked, or sumtin). Is leaving a bag unattended using force? Not in standard English...

I know, I know, leaving it unattended is negligent and risks other people, but at some point of warping and twisting a phrase to mean things it doesn't say, we gotta give it up.

Elliot Temple on March 9, 2003 | Comments (0)

David Carr and many others (including myself) attack Blair for considering the adoption of a European Constitution. Its very existence is an affront to national sovereignty.

Saying something is wrong, because it's an afront to national sovereignty? That's statist. But this is coming from a libertarian, who if he's anything like the rest of the samizdata community, is normally rabidly anti-state.

Elliot Temple on March 9, 2003 | Comments (0)
Here's a theory: if two people mostly agree about epistemology, this will allow them to agree to a large extent in all other spheres.

They will be able to agree what should be uncontroversial, and about many forms of criticism. They will agree on what facts are reasonable to believe, even if they choose differently. When there is a continuum of positions on a subject, even if they do not agree about quite what the right spot is, they will be able to understand why the other is further in whatever direction, and agree that each is being reasonable, even if perhaps mistaken. Why reasonable, if wrong? Because they will know that their arguments for the specific place on the continuum, are not so uncontroversial and precise as to necessitate reasonable people to agree.

My current view is that the worst type to person to try and talk to about serious stuff, is not the one with some bad moral theories, but rather the one with bad epistemic theories. (Note that a certain minimum morality is required to hold a good epistemology, so moral inverters are not gonna pass my epistemic criterion. Mainly what's required for good epistemology, is valuing truth-seeking, or something along those lines. And note that valuing means people without values are out.)

Elliot Temple on March 12, 2003 | Comment (1)
I think smalltalk is only interesting with people one already has a deep relationship with, or sometimes for the sake of observing human behavior or some meta goal.

If the point of some way of interacting, is to let anyone get along, regardless of their merit, what the fuck good is that? (in the context of personal relationships and meeting people and hanging out and such -- obviously such a way would be nice for total strangers, as it'd mean no wars).

Elliot Temple on March 12, 2003 | Comments (0)
Sometimes, a bunch of independent groups, have the same goals in a field. How can this be explained?

Sometimes, each group is Good. People who are Right about a subject, will agree and want the same things to happen in that field. For example, the US, Israel, and Australia all want the same thing to happen in Iraq.

Another way it can happen, is for Logic Of Situation reasons. For example, "anti"-racist groups and secular humanist groups, both find the logic of their situation, as anti-American groups during a discussion of War on Iraq, to imply they should make asses of themselves opposing the war.

Of course, there is the conspiracy explanation, but this is generally a very bad one. This claims that they are secretly not independent groups. A real world example might be various terrorist organisations and various terrorist harbouring states. But you only call them independent, and think their links don't exist, if you are really silly.

There is the luck "explanation" which is true on rare occassions.

Elliot Temple on March 12, 2003 | Comment (1)
Parenting strategies that rely on parents being larger, cannot be right.

Parenting strategies that rely on children having bad memory, cannot be right.

Parenting strategies that rely on children always agreeing with the first idea a parent has, cannot be right.

In different situations, the answers to various questions that depend on the circumstances, can be different.

People who do not understand a proposition, can't know if it's horribly false or exceptionally true.

To live morally, requires creativity.

A mechanical parenting strategy, cannot be right.

People do not do things for no reason.

It cannot be right to ask someone to sacrifice infinately before retalliating.

It cannot be right to come kill me, for the purpose of going to the dentist.

To fully maximise the realisation of one's intentions, one must be willing to change one's intentions to ones that are better realisiable.

Statements like this are interesting due to their truth, and also can provide a framework for solving various problems. But what should we call them? I've been considering them epistemic. This is perhaps not ideal. I don't have a better idea. Normally, I don't care about categorisations such as this, but it seems valuable to me to be able to communicate the idea that I'm referring to statements like this.

Elliot Temple on March 12, 2003 | Comment (1)
Suppose an approach to answering moral questions is, in the limit, convergent with the truth, but the calculations involved are more complex -- require more computing resources. This would be, in the limit, a *wrong* approach. At the least, because wasting all these resources (as opposed to using the right approach) means less resources to avoid mistakes, create value, etc...

Well before the limit, this allows us to say the non-utopian versions of consequentialism and deontology may well be convergent with true morality, but are still wrong to hold or use.

Elliot Temple on March 13, 2003 | Comments (0)
People who think that all government documents are bad and evil, and attack laws on principle, and who also go to Bill of Rights rallies, are silly.

Anyone who reads too much into this, and tells me not all libertarians are like this, will be beaten severely.

Elliot Temple on March 14, 2003 | Comments (0)
I was asked what 'in the limit' means, so probably others wonder as well. 'In the relevant extreme case' is pretty close.

Elliot Temple on March 14, 2003 | Comments (0)
FYI, internet access has been and will continue to be, kinda flakey. This means less reading other websites, articles and blogs, thus less links and less ideas. And no mail program, means writing way less emails, and reading less, so less ideas. You get the idea. bleh.

Anyway, now that I'm done making excuses explaining my situation, here are some common examples of moral inversion:

Upon messing up, declare that you didn't.

Upon failing at something, blame someone else.

Upon having trouble, blame something else like a headache, lack of sleep, anger, passion, PMS, hunger, etc (Sometimes these are true, but often it's just denial).

Why is this so bad? Because good people welcome criticism, and want to improve, not pretend they are already good at things they are not.

more examples:

i'm bad at this --> it was too hard

these criticisms of me are interesting and useful --> this guy is out to get me

wow, TCS is so cool, I'm gonna try to internalise it --> wow, this is good....as I am good, I must have been it all along...I *am and was* TCS (and any differences btwn current behavior and TCS, rather than getting fixed, must now be denied)

I broke it --> they made it too flimsy

I dropped my drink --> stop making noise, it's so distracting, *you made me* drop my drink

i failed my quiz --> the quiz was biased

i'm no good at saying what i mean --> saying what one means is only for the simple-minded

i'd make a terrible soldier. i'm too wimpy --> being a solider is only for the uncouth and the inferior masses of brainwashed, stupid people

spiders scare me --> God shouldn't have made spiders

war scares me --> the reason i don't like war, is that it's wrong

Elliot Temple on March 14, 2003 | Comments (0)

My AIM screen name is curi42. Yesterday I spoke with sylvry79 and fr0ggetoad about TCS, and this chat contains useful explanations on myriad topics. Enjoy. (All smileys that iChat turned into graphical pictures have been lost.)

fr0ggetoad: sylvyr79: whatcha disagree with? [Talking about this article]
sylvyr79: ok, well first of all, there's something he said that i do agree with
sylvyr79: the fact that humans are complex, and one simple influence does not dictate how we behave
sylvyr79: u with me so far?
curi42: yeah
fr0ggetoad: sylvyr79: yes
sylvyr79: ok, but then he goes on to say that it's good to do what you want, including video games if that happens to be what you want
fr0ggetoad: indeed
sylvyr79: what you want is a simple influence, but it is by no means the only one acting on a person
curi42: haven't read the article recently. that's not quite true though.
curi42: you can do what you want............as long as you want the right things. morality first.
sylvyr79: well, he says it's right for a kid to do what they want, not for them to decide what they want first
sylvyr79: kids want to play video games regardless of whether it's a good idea, but he's saying it's good in any case
fr0ggetoad: why would it be bad to play video games?
curi42: well, it's pretty much always right
sylvyr79: there is a value to doing things you don't want to do
curi42: you mean to being coerced?
fr0ggetoad: if there is something that you want to do which has good value, and something you don't want to do
fr0ggetoad: which do you think you should choose?
sylvyr79: you can't generalize that question
curi42: you can ask the general question "Is it *ever* a good idea to coerce children for the sake of learning?"
sylvyr79: i'd say yes, sometimes
curi42: why/when?
sylvyr79: there are skills that people will not learn if they are left to their own devices
curi42: if the skill is important, why will the person not want to learn it?
fr0ggetoad: if something is valuable and has merit, then its likely a person will become more interested in it on their own terms than on someone else's
sylvyr79: what's important to one person is not the same as what's important in their environment
curi42: so we should do things we don't want to "for the sake of the environment" ?
sylvyr79: no, it's for the sake of being happier with yourself overall
sylvyr79: let me explain
curi42: if it will make ya happier, won't you want to do it? ...... ok
sylvyr79: in your immediate situation, you may not realize how your choices could affect your life in the future
sylvyr79: you can miss out on opportunities, and then have much less ability to be happy later on
curi42: yes, sometimes people are wrong.
curi42: but if someone does not know better, how can they take the theoretically better path? they cannot.
fr0ggetoad: your parents could also be mistaken in how they think doing or not doing something will effect your future life
sylvyr79: if a parent has experience and the child doesn't, the parent can help direct them on a good path
sylvyr79: there is no absolute right way to be a parent, so the sensible thing is just to do what you think is best
curi42: well, in general children listen to their parent's advice.
curi42: but when there is a disagreement, what right does the parent have to claim some sort of authority and make the child live out the parent's theories?
sylvyr79: the child is not necessarily acting on theories
curi42: on the stars then? ;-p
fr0ggetoad: lol
fr0ggetoad: people don't do things for no reason
sylvyr79: that's not entirely true
sylvyr79: what i mean to say is, not every action is the result of a reasoning thought process
fr0ggetoad: sure
fr0ggetoad: but we're talking about decisions here right?
curi42: heart beats aren't. and many are not explicit (in a language with symbols and grammar). but inexplicit theories do have a rhyme and reason to them.*
sylvyr79: i think an inexplicit theory is a case where someone doesn't finish the reasoning process, and just goes with what they have so far
curi42: "the reasoning process" ?
sylvyr79: of making a decision
curi42: no, i mean please tell me what this process entails
sylvyr79: considering the costs and benefits of your actions
curi42: that's how we make all decisions?
sylvyr79: yes
curi42: I propose that this theory is not a coherent explanation of all human behavior.
curi42: For example, it is lacking in explaining how we decide what is good and bad (a cost or a benefit).
fr0ggetoad: oh, good point curi
sylvyr79: sure, nothing is definite
sylvyr79: but if we have strong ideas of what's good and bad, we can use them for making decisions
fr0ggetoad: where do we *get* those ideas though?
fr0ggetoad: under your model of how we reason
sylvyr79: some of it is genetic, some is from learning from your surroundings
curi42: learning from surroundings how?
sylvyr79: what values your parents teach you, for instance
fr0ggetoad: how do they get them?
curi42: teach how?
sylvyr79: there are infinite ways to teach values
fr0ggetoad: sylvyr79, what is a mechanism for genes teaching you values?
sylvyr79: in primitive organisms, it's very simple
curi42: genes are expressed in body structure including brain structure
sylvyr79: basically, they give you tendencies to survive and reproduce
curi42: however, human brains are universal computers -- capable of doing any calculation that can be done (with enough time and memory storage)
sylvyr79: ok...
curi42: all running Intelligence software
sylvyr79: yes
curi42: structural differences may effect the speed, but not the function of our brains
curi42: and may effect the initial version of the intelligence software, but not it's subsequent form
sylvyr79: ok, there's a problem with that point
sylvyr79: true, with infinite time, brains could do any calculation
sylvyr79: but there is not infinite time, and different brains function differently in the time provided
fr0ggetoad: we're not saying anyone *will* complete a certain really long computation
fr0ggetoad: merely that if there was infinite time, it could
curi42: I hold brain speed is not a major factor in our lives. we know the speed is very fast, and it seems reasonable that our software is the bottleneck.
sylvyr79: are you saying all our software is essentially the same?
curi42: Here is a theory of human theories: The short of it is that we evolve our theories. By creating vast numbers of theories, most very similar with just slight differences, and then criticising them to eliminate the unreasonable ones, we are able to learn about any sphere. The survivors of criticism are held tentatively true, but may be criticised again in light of a new idea. It is notable that we need not start from any sort of true foundations, or good theories, but rather can start from any crap at all, hold it tentatively true, then criticise it and improve. One reason this is notable, is it means that it doesn't matter very much what initial state our brain software comes in, as long as it allows conjecture and criticism -- evolution -- because the initial state will be improved drastically and be unrecognisable in a short amount of time.
curi42: so, yes, our brain software has the same basic effect for everyone. that's what intelligence *is* -- the ability to learn, ala evolution.
sylvyr79: that makes sense
sylvyr79: but what is at the base of it?
sylvyr79: there has to be something to tell you which theories are good or bad
sylvyr79: whatever that is, it's different in different people
fr0ggetoad: criticism
curi42: well, you will have some sort of initial criticism.
curi42: theory of what it is
sylvyr79: ?
fr0ggetoad: curi, under your model do babies have theories when they are born?
curi42: and you can improve it. and either it will work, or it will not.
curi42: fr0ggetoad ..... probably, dunno. question for science.
sylvyr79: i think they have the tools to construct theories
fr0ggetoad: for sure ya
sylvyr79: and they have some basis for judging them
fr0ggetoad: well, babies left to themselves like won't get very far in that right
curi42: i think babies start with only very simple theories
sylvyr79: theories like "satisfying cravings is good"
curi42: and these are easy to criticise. like a baby might see something, and theorise that it will feel some way, and then touch it
curi42: and in touching, criticise (or not, if the theory was right) the sight-theory.
sylvyr79: that's all you need
curi42: yep
curi42: so, given all this, we can say that "children act on theories"
sylvyr79: ok
curi42: (note that we are not paying any attention that whether the theories are in English now. some will be, some won't. the distinction is useful for some conversations, but misleading in others)
sylvyr79: point taken
curi42: if a child has a theory that he should do X, and an adult has a theory that the child would be better off doing Y, what should happen?
curi42: well, first the adult will offer criticism of X, and the child will criticise the criticism and also perhaps criticise Y. suppose they can't figure out how to agree. then what?
curi42: well, i hold, it's the child's life, and it should be his own choice. the parent has no right to declare himself correct.
sylvyr79: the parent made an investment in this child....they have some right to protect it
curi42: how is trying to rule someone else's life, against his will, protection?
sylvyr79: the parent can consider more things, and has a better understanding of the way things work
fr0ggetoad: ok, so give the extra knowledge to the child
curi42: in general, yes. and thus we except children to usually agree with their parent's advice.
fr0ggetoad: by discussing it
curi42: but in this case, the parent has used all that extra experience to criticise the child's theory, and has been unpersuasive.
curi42: William Godwin: If a thing be really good, it can be shown to be such. If you cannot demonstrate its excellence, it may well be suspected that you are no proper judge of it. Why should not I be admitted to decide, upon that which is to be acquired by my labour?? ? The Enquirer (1797)
sylvyr79: you may not be able to explain it to the child if he doesn't have the background to grasp it
curi42: if it's a major choice, as you seem to be mostly concerned with, explain the background
sylvyr79: whatever experiences the child would need to see that what the parent is saying is actually true
curi42: experience just helps us form theories. communications can do the same thing.
curi42: the problem with this view, that the child does not understand the background, is that it is simply another way to say parent considers child wrong.
curi42: the child could try the same approach. he could say:
curi42: "mommy, i know you know a lot about most things, but about this particular thing, you don't know a lot.
sylvyr79: this is like the idea that you can't learn to ride a bicycle without actually getting on
curi42: in fact, you don't have the background required to understand why i am right about this"
curi42: you could, but that is infeasible
sylvyr79: you need to actually have the experience to be able to understand it
curi42: b/c physical theories about moving muscles are hard to talk about. you'd need some special machine.

[At this point, the chatroom died.]

sylvyr79: where were we?
curi42: i was saying that, the parent thinking child to "lack the right background to understand" is just another way to say the parent thinks he is right.
curi42: and the child could say the same thing. after all, if the decision is about the child's life.....
curi42: well, child has been living it for years, and knows details of own personality parent does not. details of what will work for him and make him happy.
sylvyr79: wait, i'm not sure about that first point
sylvyr79: the parent is not just saying "i think i'm right"
curi42: "you don't understand" == "you are wrong" as far as arguments go
sylvyr79: but the parent does have justification for what they're saying
curi42: your opponent will just say the same of you
curi42: the parent considers himself justified. the child considers parent wrong about that.
curi42: note: that the child also thinks he has justification, and the parent disagrees with that.
curi42: parent's aren't epistemically privileged
sylvyr79: there is a difference between a parent and a child
fr0ggetoad: yes there is
curi42: fr0ggetoad: he means a relevant one
curi42: so let's let him explain
sylvyr79: the parent has experience that he may be able to impart to the child only through coercion
sylvyr79: it's a substitute for actually giving the child that experience
curi42: well, the parent might be wrong. and then he will have wrongly hurt child, won't he?
sylvyr79: yes, but you don't avoid making decisions for fear that you might be wrong
sylvyr79: you act on your best theories
curi42: we generally do avoid making decisions *for other people when they disagree and want to live their own life*
curi42: you certainly wouldn't, say, prevent me from [censored for privacy].
sylvyr79: that's not in my power....
curi42: and if it was?
sylvyr79: it can't be...you're the only one who can make that decision
fr0ggetoad: but but
fr0ggetoad: um
fr0ggetoad: sylvyr79
sylvyr79: yes
curi42: but i have parents, sylvyr79
fr0ggetoad: like you're contradicting yourself
sylvyr79: no i'm not
fr0ggetoad: Elliot's parents have more life experience than he does, right?
sylvyr79: yes
fr0ggetoad: should they be able to make him [censored for privacy]?
fr0ggetoad: if they think that's best?
curi42: [question censored, I said ?nevermind? two seconds later anyway]
sylvyr79: there's too many unknowns, it's impossible to answer that question
fr0ggetoad: replace elliot with child
fr0ggetoad: and elliot's parents with the child's parents
curi42: yeah nevermind
curi42: when a parent thinks his child is making a mistake, he doesn't intervene *every single time* right?
sylvyr79: right
curi42: so, how does parent decide in which cases he should intervene?
sylvyr79: they decide with whatever tools they have to decide
curi42: well, surely it's not about how sure parent feels
curi42: what i mean is what parents *should* do, not what they really do.
sylvyr79: well, parents should use whatever theories they have come up with in their lifetime to try to shape things in such a way that a good result is likely to occur
curi42: good by child's standards, right?
sylvyr79: if we're talking about what the adult should do, then good by the adult's standards
curi42: "a good result is likely to occur"
curi42: parent should aim for child to grow up to be happy and successful *by own lights*, not by parent's. right?
curi42: no matter how much daddy values being a lawyer, if child is all into art instead, child should become an artist.
sylvyr79: yeah....
curi42: we can apply this to various other things
sylvyr79: this is assuming that the parent has declared happiness and success as ultimate values
curi42: when parent and child disagree about whether child should do A or B next, no matter how much parent values A, if child is into B instead, etc
curi42: oh, i didn't mean to say they were. you can fill in something else there. it's not important to the logic of the argument.
sylvyr79: a parent can recognize that other things are important to a child, and guide them to achieve what is important to the child
curi42: it's not clear if this "guiding" includes forcing or not.
sylvyr79: it does include forcing if the parent decides it's useful
curi42: and what criterion should parent use for when he should force?
sylvyr79: if they think there is something the child must do, that he will not do on his own
curi42: why must he?
sylvyr79: in order to keep opportunities open, perhaps
curi42: are these opportunities important to child?
curi42: (yes) then why doesn't he want to keep them open himself?
sylvyr79: he may not have the discipline to do it himself
curi42: "discipline" consists of?
sylvyr79: pushing yourself
curi42: so imagine a child who wants something, but is unable to push himself enough. how is parent going to use force to help matters?
sylvyr79: i'll give you an example
sylvyr79: i want to be a good runner, but i don't have the discipline to do it myself. Someone else pushes me to do it, and that gives me enough incentive to push myself harder
curi42: ok, but this "pushing you" won't involve force.
curi42: (consensual "force" does not count)
sylvyr79: it involves force in a sense
fr0ggetoad: i think what would actually be happening in that situation is that the person gets convinced that its worth it
sylvyr79: parts of my mind do rebel, it's not unanimous consent
curi42: that's bad
sylvyr79: how so?
curi42: because you are torn, and part of you is hurt.
fr0ggetoad: being in conflict with yourself
fr0ggetoad: is not a good thing
fr0ggetoad: right curi
sylvyr79: that's not a bad thing, that's how it always is
curi42: wouldn't it be better to act with the unanimous consent of your own personality?
fr0ggetoad: if you have the option of stopping when you want
fr0ggetoad: then its possible to run with unanimous consent within yourself
sylvyr79: it's never unanimous
fr0ggetoad: well if you have a theory that you should stop when you feel physical pain
sylvyr79: then you don't improve
fr0ggetoad: then you will become torn
fr0ggetoad: when you start to feel pain
fr0ggetoad: but pain is just a state of mind
fr0ggetoad: its input
sylvyr79: yes...
fr0ggetoad: do you agree that its possible to ignore pain then?
fr0ggetoad: by changing your state of mind?
sylvyr79: yes
fr0ggetoad: ok
fr0ggetoad: so then the conflict is being caused
fr0ggetoad: by the theory that pain is bad
fr0ggetoad: if you had a better theory that conflict wouldn't happen
fr0ggetoad: if someone could totally convince themselves of this then they wouldn't be coercing themselves (in respect to pain) when running
sylvyr79: if you could totally convince yourself, you would not be open to new ideas
curi42: no!
curi42: "true and mutable" -- our best ideas should be held true, and also open to criticism and thus change.
curi42: it's not a contradiction to, say, "be totally committed to being open to changing one's ideas"
curi42: even though being open may cause one to change this idea that one was (formerly) totally committed to
sylvyr79: you're saying "being totally committed" is a temporary state of mind
curi42: all theories are at a point in time.
curi42: at some other point in time, you will have different ones.
sylvyr79: yes, so you're never totally committed
curi42: sure you are
fr0ggetoad: sure you are
curi42: there is not a part of me (in this time) that is not committed to living morally, say
fr0ggetoad: you can be completely convinced of something
fr0ggetoad: and then see evidence to the contrary
fr0ggetoad: and get a better explanation
fr0ggetoad: and be totally convinced of that
sylvyr79: why call it completely convinced, if you can change it?
fr0ggetoad: because we know that we are fallible
curi42: because fallibility is not an obstacle to holding up things as true.
fr0ggetoad: knowing that people are fallible does not imply not trying to understand things
sylvyr79: i'm saying that your "completely convinced" is no different from any other idea you might have
curi42: not different from "tentatively held true" in any fundamental way
curi42: it is different from some i claim not to be very sure about.
sylvyr79: ok
curi42: the point is
curi42: fallibility says that we cannot know anything with certainty -- we can be wrong about anything
sylvyr79: yes
curi42: but it does not imply that we should be wrong about any particular proposition.
curi42: if i say some particular proposition is true, fallibility doesn't argue otherwise.
sylvyr79: granted
curi42: therefore, there is no contradiction between the possibility of being wrong (and thus having to change one's view) and saying that one is right (ie that one's view is true)
sylvyr79: this is not a contradiction...it's just, you act on your best theories until you have better ones
curi42: k

Kinda abrupt end, hope ya learned something, *waves*

Elliot Temple on March 15, 2003 | Comments (0)
Here's an idea: Our most basic/fundamental theories are the ones that, if changed, would create the most inconsistencies in our worldview.

Elliot Temple on March 16, 2003 | Comment (1)
I realised that the "What exists, and in what ways do these things exist?" question is a bad one. We have the word "exists", we don't really know what it means, we want to. I was just writing to an email list about how doing the same thing with "love" is a terrible idea. So here's a solution to the question of existance: regard things to exist, when it is epistemically necessary to explaining reality.

Elliot Temple on March 17, 2003 | Comments (2)
Google "rational chic" and you won't find anything. "Rational chick" has 4 junk hits. How dprzzing is that?

"Rational girls" comes up with 8. Here's one.

It begins: My mother used to tell me that if you sleep with covers on you'd have wild and vivid dreams. So every night I go sleep, I'm covered to my chin with bed sheets and covers, no matter the temperature, no matter the season, hoping the linens will surround my surreal self and keep those wonderful tales in my head. I sleep naked. Started doing it as a teenager, so beneath those warm and heavy sheets is my naked and sweating body. It's not like anyone will ever see my naked body. I sleep with the window open too. As if to tempt fate, hoping some young burglar will come in some night and have his way with me.

Damn lying mother. But anyway, what's up with this hope of a burglar in the night? Why would someone want to be abused? There are some really fucked up memes about sex in our culture.

Googling "rational girl" gets 88 hits. Lots seem to be books/fantasy or lesbians. *sigh*

Elliot Temple on March 18, 2003 | Comments (0)
Things that are "necessary to explaining reality" exist. To explain reality, we don't need to know if we like people. It's simply not necessary. We can do just fine answering questions like "Do I want to talk to her right now?" and "Do I want to learn more about her?" and "Do I want to spend time doing X with her?". So, liking *does not exist*.

However, there is something the notion does come in handy for. What if, instead of trying to explain the world, we want to *predict*. Then, it is useful. That's what "liking" really is -- an expectation to continue wanting [various things]. The various things including wanting to spend time together, wanting to fuck, etc

Elliot Temple on March 18, 2003 | Comments (0)
The war has started!

(If you don't know where to look for links/news, USS Clueless gives some ideas here.)
Another Problem with the NAP

Deterrence policies tell some person/group that actions in a certain category will be met with a certain response. The point is to prevent the deterred party from performing some evil action that would otherwise be performed, without the consequences. The consequences chosen will specifically be things that would be of questionable morality without the announced declaration, because otherwise they'd just be expected. (No need to tell thieves that if we catch them in the act, we won't allow them to continue.)

Two examples would be to tell Saddam that if he nukes Israel, we will kill every last member of his extended family, and a policy of sending every nuke we have at the USSR should it send a single nuke at the USA.

Are these specific policies justified? That's debatable. They have to be evaluated by how effective they will be, what they will prevent, and what we will have to do should they fail (to not follow up would make all future deterrence policies ineffective and is generally not an option).

But by the NAP, they involve initiating force against people who did not initiate force against us. Killing Saddam's family if Saddam attacks us, or blowing up Russian cities should the Russian military fire a nuke, respectively. The NAP cannot accommodate deterrence policies. Whether these specific ones are right or not, the NAP fails to include a general case argument why all deterrence policies that initiate force must be wrong, and is thus an unreasonable way to approach the issue.

Elliot Temple on March 20, 2003 | Comment (1)
Suppose you are a bad person. You get angry a lot, have trouble valuing much, aren’t very successful, blame others for your troubles, and hurt your children often. But, whatever, you’re life isn’t so bad. You get through it, enjoy a fair amount of it.

Now, suppose someone claims to be moral, and you notice the implication that you are not. And suppose this person lacks all your bad traits. This might well make you feel bad.

And then you might write a letter to the so-called moral person, attacking him. The content might be along the lines of (if you were exceptionally intelligent and clear, for a bad person): You bastard, fuck you. You’re totally wrong. Oh, and if you reply in kind you’re just like me, except also a liar. Nope, just sit there and take it, Mr. High and Mighty. Oh, and you can’t get resentful because that would violate your moral code, huh? But you are mad at me, aren’t you? Yep, you’re a hypocrite. Now stop implying I’m bad, and get back to your stupid, lucky life.

Elliot Temple on March 21, 2003 | Comments (0)
The more money you have, the more diminishing returns on getting value out of it. Hence, charities, which offer to do Great Things with your money. Most don't. But anyway, what is one to do to get high yield out of lozza money? One thing to do is give lots to one's kids. Friends are also a good target, if they are short on money -- you know your friends and can see if you give them money for a specific thing it really will be a worthy purchase. There's surely other good ideas, low excess creativity now though.

If you're rich and short on solutions, I can help *grin*, you know my email....... *waves*

Elliot Temple on March 21, 2003 | Comments (0)
I Am A Capitalist

(It's a joke, get it?)

[Credit to David SJ]

Elliot Temple on March 22, 2003 | Comments (0)
David Deutsch in a rare attempt at satire:

Rondo a la Turque

Turkish troops have reportedly entered northern Iraq
despite opposition from the US. Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said Turkish forces had moved across the border to prevent a flood of refugees.

According to Turkish military sources, more than 1,000 commandos crossed the border.

The Turkish military Saturday denied reports
that some 1,000 Turkish commandos crossed into northern Iraq, a military move that would likely increase tensions with Iraqi Kurds and Washington.

A military official said Friday that soldiers, in M-113 armored personnel carriers, rolled into northeastern Iraq from near the town of Cukurca, where the borders of Turkey, Iraq and Iran converge. He said the soldiers were reinforcing several thousand Turkish troops already on the Iraqi side of the border and were not ordered to go deeper into Iraq.

Similar reports were front-page news in Turkish newspapers Saturday and were carried on Turkish television stations throughout the night.

A spokesman for the Turkish General Staff denied the reports.

?Turkey has not entered northern Iraq,? the spokesman said, speaking on customary condition of anonymity. ?Such news is a lie.?

A dastardly lie! Turkey would never do a thing like that. They?re shocked. Shocked, do you hear?

With me so far? OK, next:
Germany said Saturday it would withdraw its crew members from NATO surveillance planes that are patrolling Turkish airspace if Turkey moves its troops into Iraq. The threat was announced by Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and Defense Minister Peter Struck following a meeting of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Security Cabinet.

They threatened to withdraw if Turkey moves troops into Iraq? Do they mean if Turkey moves more troops? BTW Turkish troops already were in Iraq -- they have been for years. Perhaps the Germans are confused, and think that incursions of up to 150 km are OK, but now they've moved to 180km. Or something.

Anyway -- good news everyone:
UN weapons inspector Hans Blix announced today from Ankara that a preliminary inspection of the city ?has revealed no evidence that Turkey has moved any troops into Iraq?. He said there is evidence of previous incursions, and the inspectors are ?vigorously pursuing the issue?, demanding that the Turkish government deliver ?credible evidence? that all the troops had been withdrawn in the mid-1990s. He praised the Turkish government's cooperation ?on process? and said he was confident that cooperation on substance would be forthcoming during the coming months. Meanwhile, inspections would continue. ?There are a lot of interesting restaurants in downtown Istanbul?, Mr. Blix remarked.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry at first issued the following statement:
Who is this idiot?

But later amended this to:
We reiterate that there are no, absolutely no, Turkish troops in Iraq. They are there for humanitarian reasons only, and the land they are seizing is not for territorial purposes. UN inspectors are welcome to search for them anywhere in Turkey.

Elliot Temple on March 23, 2003 | Comments (0)
Idiotiarian Roses are Red poem:

Roses are red,
violets are blue,
when my theories get disproven,
blame a cabal of Jews!

-- Justin, of Tentativity

Elliot Temple on March 24, 2003 | Comments (0)
Frank J, of IMAO, made a list of countries we shouldn't bomb: UK, Australia, and Israel. He says Israel never hurt anyone....that he cares about. Which, is just the point. Yes, Israel has killed people. But that's not actually an argument against Israel. What matters, is who Israel (or anyone) kills and why. Frank J, does not care about terrorists and other murderous types. He, unlike most, knows that such people are the only ones Israel targets.

You might think Frank just likes seeing civillians die. But if that's true, there are a number of other countries he ought to love[!]....

Elliot Temple on March 25, 2003 | Comments (0)
Such inane arguments as "well if we attack people preemptively, what if other people start attacking us preemptively" are so intellectually bankrupt I find it striking, and thus consider it to call out for explanation. How about this one: the people saying it, deny morality, and hold mechanical pseudo-values. Because the explanation of which preemptions are kosher does not follow a mechanical rule, they find it incomprehensible and so make up a mechanical rule and claim we are using it. Example mechanical rules include: all preemption is cool; no preemption is cool; all preemption that Noam Chomsky says is cool, is cool, and the rest is not; or somesuch.

Elliot Temple on March 25, 2003 | Comments (0)
Bad Joke

It's clear that people on blogs should swear more. How can someone let a whole entry go by and not use any "naughty" words? A blog entry is a great chance to break a taboo. And they aren't censored at all. And some people will probably get a guilty thrill from reading a curse word, so maybe you'll get more hits. So, in conclusion, I want to reiterate that you'd have to be really stupid to write a whole entry without swearing.

Elliot Temple on March 27, 2003 | Comments (0)
Ugh, just saw ad for center that's supposed to make kids like reading. It begins with parents hearing noises from kids, and mother says "I'll go" like neither wants to, but she has the energy atm (at the moment) to manage so father does not have to. Mother then tells kids to "stop goofing around" before seeing what they are doing, and only fails to make them go to sleep because they are reading. -sigh-

Elliot Temple on March 27, 2003 | Comments (0)
"I think you should drop out of school too, I've got enough money to support both of us, and desipte your intelligence, I think you'd make a great trophy wife." -- TV is funny

Elliot Temple on March 27, 2003 | Comments (0)
Update (dec 15, 2003): My blog has moved. It is now found here.

Okie, so I managed to write and then erase comments on McCarthy speech. So, take 2.... v_v At least it’ll be better this time.

Speech of Joseph McCarthy, Wheeling, West Virginia, February 9, 1950

This speech seems to be McCarthy’s most famous, but not positive. All the bold spots are my emphasis.

Ladies and gentlemen, tonight as we celebrate the one hundred forty-first birthday of one of the greatest men in American history, I would like to be able to talk about what a glorious day today is in the history of the world. As we celebrate the birth of this man who with his whole heart and soul hated war, I would like to be able to speak of peace in our time—of war being outlawed—and of world-wide disarmament. These would be truly appropriate things to be able to mention as we celebrate the birthday of Abraham Lincoln.

McCarthy’s reputation is, in short, horribly evil. I’ve heard he was quite bad with specific factual claims, but that some of his general points were mostly true. And I’ve heard that his recklessness was more harmful than helpful to the anti-commie movement. Like people could just brush off true accusations as McCarthyism. Anyway, his speech doesn’t start like a raving loon. Onward!

Five years after a world war has been won, men’s hearts should anticipate a long peace—and men’s minds should be free from the heavy weight that comes with war. But this is not such a period—for this is not a period of peace. This is a time of “the cold war.” This is a time when all the world is split into two vast, increasingly hostile armed camps—a time of a great armament race.

Perfectly reasonable.

Today we can almost physically hear the mutterings and rumblings of an invigorated god of war. You can see it, feel it, and hear it all the way from the Indochina hills, from the shores of Formosa, right over into the very heart of Europe itself.

McCarthy does not like complacency.

The one encouraging thing is that the “mad moment” has not yet arrived for the firing of the gun or the exploding of the bomb which will set civilization about the final task of destroying itself. There is still a hope for peace if we finally decide that no longer can we safely blind our eyes and close our ears to those facts which are shaping up more and more clearly . . . and that is that we are now engaged in a show-down fight . . . not the usual war between nations for land areas or other material gains, but a war between two diametrically opposed ideologies.

This part starts a little apocalyptic, but that does not recur, and is in fact immediately contradicted. McCarthy is still against complacency, and is now bringing up his next point.

The great difference between our western Christian world and the atheistic Communist world is not political, gentlemen, it is moral. For instance, the Marxian idea of confiscating the land and factories and running the entire economy as a single enterprise is momentous. Likewise, Lenin’s invention of the one-party police state as a way to make Marx’s idea work is hardly less momentous.

Absolutely superb! When reading the speech, be sure to swap the words ‘God’ and “Christian’ with ‘morality’ and ‘atheism’ with ‘immoral’. That’s what he really means. If you disagree, three points

- If you don’t swap, my comments will make no sense.
- I’ll write on the subject later.
- If you do swap, and you find that with the swap, the speech makes more sense than otherwise -- if you find the swap has a lot of explanatory power -- then you will have good reason to think it true.

By the way, I’m most definitely an atheist.

Stalin’s resolute putting across of these two ideas, of course, did much to divide the world. With only these differences, however, the east and the west could most certainly still live in peace.

This bit is rather moderate. Onward!

The real, basic difference, however, lies in the religion of immoralism . . . invented by Marx, preached feverishly by Lenin, and carried to unimaginable extremes by Stalin. This religion of immoralism, if the Red half of the world triumphs—and well it may, gentlemen—this religion of immoralism will more deeply wound and damage mankind than any conceivable economic or political system.

Well, we can see why a lot of people would hate McCarthy. But I rather like this part.

Karl Marx dismissed God as a hoax, and Lenin and Stalin have added in clear-cut, unmistakable language their resolve that no nation, no people who believe in a god, can exist side by side with their communistic state.

Swap ‘God’ with ‘morality’ and reread the paragraph.

Karl Marx, for example, expelled people from his Communist Party for mentioning such things as love, justice, humanity or morality. He called this “soulful ravings” and “sloppy sentimentality.” . . .

Wow! Fuck Marx.

Today we are engaged in a final, all-out battle between communistic atheism and Christianity. The modern champions of communism have selected this as the time, and ladies and gentlemen, the chips are down—they are truly down.

What comes to mind, is that in the present, a lot of people want to kill us. They say so. Saddam is not shy about it -- America is his enemy. Every friday, all over the Islamic world, Muslim holy men preach death to the Jews and Christians. Every day, are numerous attempted terror attacks in Israel. Iraqis even shoot at US citizens. They shoot guns at us. (No disrespect to Israel, which has put up with this for its entire history, intended. They shoot at you too, I know.)

And yet, people put their hand in the sand, and say that three months ago we lived in peace, and if only the US would stop playing the aggressor, and if only the damn Jews would stop whining and die, then everything would be fine and dandy. Some people think the chips are not down, there is no battle, nothing at all to worry about.

And today, these people are dead wrong. Thus far, I’ve every reason to think that they were dead wrong in McCarthy’s time too.

Lest there be any doubt that the time has been chosen, let us go directly to the leader of communism today—Joseph Stalin. Here is what he said—not back in 1928, not before the war, not during the war—but 2 years after the last war was ended: “To think that the Communist revolution can be carried out peacefully, within the framework of a Christian democracy, means one has either gone out of one’s mind and lost all normal understanding, or has grossly and openly repudiated the Communist revolution.” . . .

That’s pretty convincing, isn’t it? Stalin wanted us dead. McCarthy wanted to listen to him -- to take him at face value.

Ladies and gentlemen, can there be anyone tonight who is so blind as to say that the war is not on? Can there by anyone who fails to realize that the Communist world has said the time is now? . . . that this is the time for the show-down between the democratic Christian world and the communistic atheistic world?


Unless we face this fact, we shall pay the price that must be paid by those who wait too long.

I want to point out that, thus far, McCarthy seems to be a good speaker with good points, not a man deserving hatred.

Six years ago, . . . there was within the Soviet orbit, 180,000,000 people. Lined up on the antitotalitarian side there were in the world at that time, roughly 1,625,000,000 people. Today, only six years later, there are 80,000,000,000 people under the absolute domination of Soviet Russia—an increase of over 400 percent. On our side, the figure has shrunk to around 500,000. In other words, in less than six years, the odds have changed from 9 to 1 in our favor to 8 to 1 against us.

I don’t trust these numbers at all. The 80 billion must be a typo. But still, don’t trust the rest. I also don’t care much whether he got these numbers right. It doesn’t seem important.

This indicates the swiftness of the tempo of Communist victories and American defeats in the cold war. As one of our outstanding historical figures once said, “When a great democracy is destroyed, it will not be from enemies from without, but rather because of enemies from within.” . . .

McCarthy reveals another of his points: he is upset with anti-Americanism inside America.

The reason why we find ourselves in a position of impotency is not because our only powerful potential enemy has sent men to invade our shores . . . but rather because of the traitorous actions of those who have been treated so well by this Nation. It has not been the less fortunate, or members of minority groups who have been traitorous to this Nation, but rather those who have had all the benefits that the wealthiest Nation on earth has had to offer . . . the finest homes, the finest college education and the finest jobs in government we can give.

Today too, the colleges are full of idiotarians. The working class, far as I know, is much better grounded in reality.

This is glaringly true in the State Department. There the bright young men who are born with silver spoons in their mouths are the ones who have been most traitorous. . . .

I hear the State Department is full of idiotarians today. Seems reasonable to suppose it was in 1950, too.

I have here in my hand a list of 205 . . . a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department. . . .

I don’t trust his list one bit. Pretty sure it was never revealed. Seems like, in retrospect, a big mistake on McCarthy’s part. Must do more research.

As you know, very recently the Secretary of State proclaimed his loyalty to a man guilty of what has always been considered as the most abominable of all crimes—being a traitor to the people who gave him a position of great trust—high treason. . . .

Wow! I wonder if this is true. Must do more research.

He has lighted the spark which is resulting in a moral uprising and will end only when the whole sorry mess of twisted, warped thinkers are swept from the national scene so that we may have a new birth of honesty and decency in government.

Heroic sentiments, aren’t they? He wants to fight to get idiotarians out of government. Or so it sounds. Don’t actually know how many idiotarians there were in 1950. Have heard plenty, but must do more research.

So, to sum up, McCarthy was pro-morality (and Christianity), anti-commie, anti-complacency, didn’t like anti-Americanism at home, and had some suspect facts. And was blunt. So far...I like him.

Update (dec 15, 2003): My blog has moved. It is now found here.

Elliot Temple on March 29, 2003 | Comments (0)
I hadn't been to The Onion for a while. My memory said it was a good site. But I just went and it was covered in idiotarian crap. Now I'm sad v_v

Look here and it's just awful. 9 things on top, all crap. (Down a little is a funny bit....the top reason to oppose war is "I Support My Activist Girlfriend.")

Anyway, the 9 things are:
- claim war being treated like video game
- claim that bombs create terrorists
- claim we are gonna install dictatorship
- claim bush is a chickenhawk
- claim war will piss off the rest of the planet
- claim the pro-war ppl have not answered any anti-war debating poitns
- claim we don't understand the seriousness of war
- claim we're causing too much collateral damage
- claim the US didn't have support any in the UN, and that UN is cool and should be listened to

Damn them. Here's a better site

Elliot Temple on March 30, 2003 | Comments (0)
On the ifeminists@yahoogroups.com list I just noticed an email where someone had written that we should have waited until Saddam used a nuke on Israel, or even on the US (though she didnt like *that* possibility nearly as much), wherever he chose, so that we would have a stronger case for war.

And then someone wrote back to agree.

I have now unsubscribed...

It's especially telling that even these idiots realise Saddam's goal was to make nukes and kill good people.

Elliot Temple on March 30, 2003 | Comments (0)
I tried to post this to the TCS list, but it was rejected. -sigh- Anyway, enjoy:

The better you know someone, and the better they know you, the more intimate things it is safe to tell them. Which meshes amazingly well with a gradual approach to relationships, and extremely poorly with any sort of discontinuous jump.

By the way, this is important to parents who've messed up in the past, and now have an older child but little relationship. "Come tell me all about you, so we can catch up," would be just the wrong thing to say.

Elliot Temple on March 30, 2003 | Comments (5)
On an airplane, when the flight attendants ask people to sit down, they do. And they turn off their electronic equipment. And they ring the call button to provide change for a twenty. and no one hits each other. some ppl seem to think Saddam in power is peace, and it just means whether any states are fighting other states; I'd rather apply da word to a airplane flight. or to US society.

And when the plane stops, everyone on the isle rows gets up, and gets their stuff, and then the people in the front get off, and row by row everyone gets off. This goes rather smoothly, lozza consent, even tho it means the ppl in back have to wait a while 4 everyone in front of 'em to leave.

A revolutionary might look at this and go: "Wait, wait, I have a better idea!! Everyone on the isle, get up, grab your bags, and walk out. No one cut in front of these people and stop to get a bag from overheard, just let them walk out quickly. People in back of the line can come out cause they won't be in the way. This will be more efficient." (note this means front window seats leave last, not near first)

But truth is, trying to change the order, would be more trouble than it's worth, cause lots of chaos, make a big mess, and be totally not efficient. Me no like revolutionaries. they don't understand that traditions and evolution don't like big discontinuous jumps.

from another angle, when ya wanna persuade someone, ya gotta provide both a better view and a way to get to it, not just a better view. telling an anti-semite to be moral, without tons of details on how and why and such, just won't work.

Elliot Temple on April 1, 2003 | Comments (0)
Every time we tell someone personal details -- intimate information -- the person is in a better position to hurt us *unintentionally*. (I am not interested in intentional hurting or gossip or anyone else but the two people talking.) Imperfect people say imperfect things to each other all the time. And it is fairly common to make a joke that is taken badly; explain something person didn't want to know; criticise unhelpfully; or otherwise make some error. And, we are generally pretty good about not holding a grudge or even being coerced by the errors. If something weird is said, people often just say "nevermind" and forget it. Or change the subject. Or ignore it.

But anyway, these minor mishaps are there. And, sometimes, there are larger ones. Perhaps not as common or severe as romantic movies would have us believe, but they certainly happen and matter. Usually they get solved too, no apocalypse. Sometimes not. Whatever.

Now, what can we say about the ability of these mishaps to hurt us? Well, to be hurt, we must take them personally -- have some emotional stake. If we don't care about some domain, we won't get hurt in it. It's only when we care, that we are vulnerable.

And one thing that we are quite attached to, is our own personality. For good people, not all of it -- we may be totally open to criticism in some fields, and not at all attached -- but no one is all that near the limit in that direction. When our friends are upset with us, we care. When those we know well and like and respect, think us bad, it is not as nothing. If a troll rants and raves about how evil we are, we will not mind. The attacks will miss the mark without the most extraordinary of luck. We will be amazed at how badly he misread us. But if a close friend went for it...

So, I keep talking of friends and intimacy -- what's the defining characeristic of those? Knowing each other -- or to make alice happy -- having an understanding of each other's personalities. How does this normally come about? Hanging out, chatting, shared projects, etc

Now, as long as we are gradual in creating understanding of each other, things may go wrong, but I am not worried. There are dangers inherent in everything, no big. Our knowledge of the person, and of how not to hurt the person, will grow together. The second being pretty much totally inexplicit.

But the point is, what if we attempted to create lots of intimacy -- to share lots of personal knowledge -- discontinuously. What if we just met some random person, and started pouring our heart out, giving up all sorts of details? What will happen?

We'll end up with someone, making lots of mistakes, and not knowing what to say to us, and not really understanding us, but with access to our most sensitive spots. We'll be frustrated with criticism useless to us; and hurt by others that shouldn't have been said; and not hear useful ones because person misjudges which to say. We'll hear suggestions we've tried; suggestions that offend us; suggestions that are exactly wrong. And all sorts of things will be misunderstood. And what for? To what end? No good one.

Getting along well, must evolve.

Elliot Temple on April 1, 2003 | Comments (2)
On the previous entry, Pat McNerthney commented as follows:

Yes, it is true that the more of ourselves that we share, the greater we are exposed to potential harm, if even unintentional. However, we also expose ourselves to a greater potential of good, which outweighs the potential harm.

Sharing personal details is nothing more than growing knowledge. Are you really claiming that there is a "proper" growth rate to such knowledge growth?

It's not that there should be a particular rate (for any given couple in specific circumstances, there is a right rate, though). Rather, I'm against discontinuous jumps.

And so, against:
- declaring boyfriend/girlfriend status
- declaring patient/psychologist status

and any other sort of declaring a personal relationship that didn't exist the moment before the declaration. And (to a lesser degree) this applies to telling people intimate details early -- acting on a fantasty relationship. In all these cases of discotinuous jumps, the people sorta creation a relationship out of thin air, then try to act like it exists. Which is dangerous (highly conducive to making mistakes) and doesn't actually help further any real relationship.

Elliot Temple on April 2, 2003 | Comments (0)
On the previous entry, Gil commented as follows:

It seems to me that this is all just a long way of saying that you are personally risk-averse when it comes to relationships. You seem to exaggerate risks and discount benefits.

This is just a fancy way for Gil to say he thinks I'm wrong. It's also an odd criticism, because I haven't been evaluating specific actions. In fact, I said that the right rate of growing a relationship varies drastically with people and circumstance. I did not write anything like "people should be very cautious, because the world is scary" as someone who read only Gil's comment might think.

Pat's position seems right. Sharing personal information has risks, but they should be weighed fairly against reasonable expectations of costs and benefits.

Cost/benefit is not a very good approach to relationships. We need explanations of what is the right thing to do, not measurements or numbers.

Yes, giving all your personal information to a complete stranger is unwise; but giving some to a date or psychologist who comes highly recommended from a trusted friend might very well be worthwhile.

What could be the use of such a recommendation, in this discussion? It can't be trustworthiness in having good intentions and not gossiping, because I already wrote: I am not interested in intentional hurting or gossip or anyone else but the two people talking. That leaves the notion that our friends being right, is generally a better explanation of reality than otherwise. Except....right about what? About the person being of good character? Oops, I already specified I'm not invoking that argument. About the person being generally compatible with us, then? Errr, if that's the case we will discover it as we begin to talk anyway. So, what good is the recommendation?

(Recommendations are perfectly good for picking who to try meeting, btw.)

This continuous/discontinuous distinction seems weird to me. Why not say that one should take risks when they are reasonable, and admit that broad generalizations about when this will be the case for others are likely to be false?

Would it make sense to you, to say that good relationships require knowledge, and that this cannot be created by declaration, by want, by decision, by imagination, etc?

Here are two more examples of discontinuity:
- becoming "a man" at a certain age, despite no new knowledge coming into existance
- a Catholic child going to his first confession. the knowledge of how the priest can help the specific child, simply doesn't exist.

More on throwing privacy to the winds in particular tomorrow.

Elliot Temple on April 2, 2003 | Comments (0)

Elliot Temple on April 3, 2003 | Comment (1)
I read this USS Clueless entry. Den Beste writes:

Skokie is a suburb of Chicago, and in the 1970's it happens to have had a fairly large number of Jews living there, many of whom were either direct survivors of the Holocaust or had lost relatives in the Holocaust. A neo-Nazi group wanted to hold a parade there. They deliberately chose it because of its Jewish population, and the town refused to let them.

The American Civil Liberties Union is particularly interested in First Amendment cases, and faced a difficult choice. Most of its membership was liberal and leftist. However, this seemed to the ACLU to be a classic attempt to censor public speech based on the fact that it represented unpopular opinions (to say the least).

He goes on to tell us that the ACLU did take the case and won it, at the cost of some membership and donations. He considers this the right thing, because ACLU took a principled stand: to defend the right to free speech, as the organisation was intended.

However, the problem with this view, is that it ignores the morality of the situation. We have nazis... fucking NAZIS, who want to HARASS JEWS. That is morally wrong. It's totally reprehensible, and should be criminal. Den Beste's analysis, is that everyone has the right to unpopular speech, and this is important. But why should that be true? Rights are not self-evident or manifest or anything like that. They are approximations of morality. And we must keep our head on our shoulders when applying them. (Especially the libertarians.)


I would say the above is an example of someone taking a rights prior to morality view. A friend of mine recently criticised this, saying that people do not have two distinct structures in their brains/theories that we could call "morality" and "rights" and do not put one before the other. Of course, in what he says, he is right (there are not such structures), but he's missed the point of the rights before morality criticism. It's a high-level explanation of how people evaluate moral questions. Den Beste started his analysis with the well-known right to free speech. And considers this dominant, and that was the end of the story. I begin by asking about the morality of the situation: should Nazis be allowed to parade their hate speech in front of a bunch of Jews? My answer was no. And Den Beste knows this perfectly well -- he knows it's not a very nice thing for the Nazis to do, and in many ways objectionable. He knows the morality of being a Nazi. He must know, too, the morality of intentionally choosing a place with lots of Jews to hold a Nazi rally. But, despite this, he put the right to free speech ahead of morality in his conclusions.

Elliot Temple on April 3, 2003 | Comments (0)
If we accept that discontinuities in relationships are bad, because the knowledge to handle them does not exist, then what should we say about telling very intimate details to someone we've just met?

Premise: For two people, have some relationship, there is some order of what things are more or less private to tell each other.

Premise: The more private things are the most dangerous to tell.

OK, so how do we get the knowledge to make telling very private things safe? Intimacy (getting to know each other well -- creating knowledge of each other). The more intimacy, the more we can-safely/should tell.

So, what if people tell more than appropriate, and think they haven't messed up? It means, they think various knowledge exists that does not -- they have a fantasy relationship. By the fiat of their imagination, they've decided their partner has qualities partner doesn't. This bad.

What this got to do with discontinuity? Well, if there is an order of things to tell, and we need to create knowledge to tell later ones, then it makes sense to generally go in order (backtracking fine). A discontinuous jump from people talking about rather public things, straight to very private ones, rather than a gradual increase, indicates that a fantasy relationship has been created, or the people wouldn't think this safe.

Elliot Temple on April 3, 2003 | Comments (0)
What the fuck is with the term "non-conventional" weapons? They are not "in different taste" (in fact, as weapons to kill people, they make perfect sense). The difference, is they are generally *immoral* to use.

I guess it does say something nice that acting rightly is so conventional here that we built it into our language. But for some groups, using gas and bio and terror and suicide bombings and anything else to kill civillians and/or troops *is* the convention. And we shouldn't let them off the hook by calling them anything but evil murdering fucks.

Elliot Temple on April 4, 2003 | Comments (0)
On an email list, I was asked why effective communication is morally imperative (in the context of posting).

To see why, we must consider what posters are hoping to accomplish. If they want to communiate, discuss, argue, criticise, make sense, provide food for thought, ask questions, get help, make friends, have a nice time talking, or anything remotely normal like that, then they will need to communicate to accomplish their ends. In other words, failing to communicate effectively is inimical to their own intentions. And, as I've said before, life strategies that fail *by their own standards* are morally wrong.

Note especially that people don't do things for no reason, so saying posters haven't any goal won't suffice. And writing gibberish to annoy people, obviously won't do to defend the morality of ineffective communication.

Elliot Temple on April 4, 2003 | Comments (0)
Stephen Den Beste replied to my previous blog about the ACLU (quoted with permission):

I'm afraid I must deeply disagree with you. Our dedication to freedom absolutely must include defending the speech of those we hate. The entire point is that the protection of speech must indeed be moral neutral. If protection of speech becomes broadly related to the content of the speech and the extent to which it is approved by the general populace, then it ceases to be protected.

While it's true that we should not censor speech because it has content we do not like, there are certain types of speech that are unacceptable, such as yelling "Fire!!" in a movie theatre. Speech intended to intimidate or harass or frighten people, is also objectionable. I would say it is immoral. Someone more into rights, could simply say I don't agree with a right to intimidating speech.

You cannot come up to me and tell me I should be killed, and expect your "right" to harass me to be protected. Neither should you be able to go find a bunch of Jews and start talking about how Jews should die, or Hitler wasn't so bad (less direct, but same thing).

The entire point of it is that sometimes we need revolutionary ideas introduced into the political process, and that it is often the case that such ideas are found to be deeply offensive by many.

As a standalone, I agree with this bit. But it misses the point: my criterion is not to ban unpopular ideas, but intimidating and harassing ones.

If the idea is worthless or vile, it will fail in the "marketplace of ideas". But if it's unpopular but also important, then it must be given that chance.

Again, it's not that the ideas are bad, it's that speaking them hurts people.

Originally, the idea of giving women the vote was seen as radical, absurd, immoral. We now view it differently.

Going around saying "I think women should be allowed to vote" didn't harm men.

Nazism and bigotry are also immoral, and I want to make clear that I don't equate them with Women's Suffrage. But if we have confidence in our population, we defend ourselves against evil and harmful ideas by arguing against them, not by using the power of law to suppress them. The problem with use of censorship in that way is that it makes us stand on the edge of a precipice, where we can fall off. Once we start suppressing the Nazis, where do we stop?

My fear is definitely not that people would agree with the Nazis, and I agree censoring ideas for fear people might like them is wrong.

I do not agree with the Nazis. I despise what they stand for, and everything they advocate. And it is precisely because of this that I feel obligated to defend their right to express their point of view.

There are ways the Nazis could express their point of view that I would not object to. But finding some Jews to harass isn't one of them.

Would you feel safe walking through a crowd of Nazis with your children to spend some time at the park? Would there be police at the march? Why do you think they are there?

The point is precisely that law is not morality, and I do not think we should use the power of law to enforce morality.

I don't make distinctions about what it is and is not legitimate to make laws about. There is no system under which the vast majority of people think something is morally imperative, and then don't act on this. Regardless, laws certainly should be able to stop harassment as takes place at actual Nazi speeches (as opposed to the imaginary Utopian ones where they are all nice and friendly).

Morality enters into the situation in a different way. In the marketplace of ideas, it is public morality which will guarantee that the ideas of the Nazis will never become widespread. Since I have faith in the fundamental decency of the vast majority of my fellow citizens, I do not fear letting them be exposed to the ideas of groups like the Nazis, because I know they'll react to them the same way you and I do.

I too have such faith! That's really not my objection ^_^

Therefore, our nation and our system are not in peril because the Nazis are free to spout their hateful garbage. But if we start using the power of law to suppress those with whom we disagree, that actually creates the potential for a different peril in future which could end up endangering us all.

Letting the Nazis speak may be evil, but it is the lesser evil.

I understand concerns of a police state, but on the other end of the spectrum, are concerns of tolerance of evil, and moral relativism, and a society that doesn't stand up for right, which is also terrible. Thus "do everything possible to avoid a police state" would be the wrong strategy -- we must make judgments about what should be stopped.

So, to sum up, because Nazi rallies involve more than just communicating ideas (and this one in particular was intentionally targeted at a Jewish community), the ACLU need not and should not help them take place.

Elliot Temple on April 5, 2003 | Comments (4)
(see Gil's comments on last entry)

Police wanted to ban Nazi march b/c of threat to public safety.

Nazi march banned on basis of fear of violence. nazis march anyway.

Therefore, it seems odd the ACLU looks at Nazi marches as a "freedom of unpopular speech" issue, doesn't it? The issue is really how dangerous they are.

And about the Skokie/ACLU case in particular:

thousands fear him

For more than a year he terrorized the citizens of Skokie

and OMG look at this: The park district responded by informing Collin that he would be required to come up with a huge liability insurance policy to cover possible damages at the rally - a requirement the district knew he could not fulfill.

They wanted him to have insurance to cover the risks involved in the march, and knew he couldn't pay for that, so told him to go away. that's like QED

but that's not all: A simple recital of the events from April 27, 1977, to July 9, 1978, does not convey the mood that existed. Skokie's Jews were both terrified and infuriated at the prospect of Nazis marching in their midst.

Get it?

Elliot Temple on April 6, 2003 | Comments (0)

Elliot Temple on April 6, 2003 | Comments (0)
curi: Can I help?
Elliot: No.
curi: Why not?
Elliot: I said I'd write a real entry.
curi: Your point being?
Elliot: -_-o
curi: c'mon we can entertain the readers.
Elliot: If you want to be useful, think of ideas to blog about.
curi: Tell them the new Zelda game is out, that'll make their day.
Elliot: uh huh
curi: Fine then, tell them the war is going well and WMD have been found.
Elliot: I haven't been paying attention to the war, and plenty of people have and write that stuff. Just look at my sidebar.
curi: Yeah, but you're more interesting than those chumps. People want to hear your version.
Elliot: *^_^* I wouldn't know what to say about it anyway.
curi: You could tell them how cool a name Operation Wacky Iraqi Attacky is.
Elliot: IMAO is funny, I know that. That still doesn't give me anything to write.
curi: Write about something from an email list then.
Elliot: They all got boring and idiot-infested or something.
curi: Well aren't you just full of sunshine.
Elliot: feh
curi: Can I write your entry then? Please?
Elliot: Fine, whatever.

A Blog Entry By curi

Mwahahaha, I finally control they keyboard. It's mine, mine mine. What should I say first? I know: I hate Gil!!

Elliot: Wait a second
curi: What?
Elliot: You can't write that.
curi: Why the hell not?
Elliot: I don't hate Gil.
curi: So? What are you, a truth censor?
Elliot: Gah, fine, whatever.

OK, yay, so we hate Gil, and we also hate

Elliot: WAIT!
curi: What?
Elliot: What's this "we"?
curi: Elliot and curi, isn't it obvious?
Elliot: But you don't speak for me.
curi: I just did.
Elliot: Give me back the keyboard.
curi: Then you'll sit there and not write anything.
Elliot: Better than letting you piss everyone off.
curi: Oh, who cares.

So, we also hate Kevin Guess, and we hate everyone on the Rational Polyamory

Elliot: What the fuck!?

list except Justin and we hate the TCS Moderators and

Elliot: Give me that! *grabs at keyboard*

and we hate Saddam.... one second

curi: *kicks Elliot's ass*
Elliot: owww, that hurt
curi: shut up, bitch
Elliot: *cries*

teehee, ok, that's better. anyway, we also hate idiotarians and normals and people with bad epistemology and people with bad morality, and people who disagree with us.

weeeee, that was fun. ok, i think i'll answer some of Elliot's mail. he doesn't get anything but spam on the account he made for this blog *glares at readers*, so I'll skim email lists...

On the TCS list, Kevin Guess can see nothing to be gained by hating people. Keep in mind that we hate him. He also says from a Popperian perspective he has "almost no chance" of finding the complete truth of anything. My perspective is he shouldn't try to speak for Popper, especially if he wants to talk about the chance of getting something right. dumbfuck.

See, if you want to talk about what will happen in the future, you need to find good explanations. The best explanation is that someone like Kevin will not find anything near the truth. End of story. It's not "minimally likely" or anything that he'll find truth. No. It's just a bad explanation of reality that we won't adopt.

Next up, Kevin Guess wrote another post. He says if we hate moral relativists, and our children turn into moral relativists, we will have to hate our children, which is evil, and therefore we aren't allowed to hate moral relativists. Elliot already explained to Kevin that this "argument" has no content because it equally well objects to hating anything it is physically possible for our children to become. Kevin Guess, in idiotic fashion, repeated himself. Now it's my turn:

When creating Kevin Guess's children, we have to roll 17 times on the Majorly-Fucked-Up table, which gives an 83% chance of scoring Moral Relativist. So it makes sense Kevin would shy away from hating moral relativists (or fucked up kids). However, for good people, we don't have to roll on the Majorly-Fucked-Up table even once, so our kids can't be moral relativists. Hence we are safe to hate moral relativists.


OK, sorry about that everyone. I went to the bathroom and curi types really fast, so yeah.... it's all lies, and I'll email Kevin so he doesn't think I talked about him behind his back. And now I'll end this entry before it gets any worse...

Elliot Temple on April 7, 2003 | Comment (1)
This is amusing (actually lozza his other posts are *even better*, but whatever)

Elliot Temple on April 8, 2003 | Comments (0)
We have decided to answer some common misconceptions. They shouldn't be common. *sigh*

Guns hurt people, therefore they are bad

Elliot: ummm, guns can be used to defend people too, they're just a tool to help us further our intentions.

curi: Guns only hurt monkeys unless you have crap aim.

Dolphins are intelligent

Elliot: ummmm, so if they had hands, they would have built underwater cities already, right? The obstacle is simply being stuck in a really useless body....

curi: Me thinks dolphin researchers can't tell the difference between dolphins and themselves. Me thinks this comments more on the researchers than the dolphins.

We have to hurt children to prepare them for a life that won't always be happy

Elliot: What if we didn't do this, and when our children had problems, we helped them, and so they never found out that life sucks? Wouldn't it then be true that it doesn't?

curi: just b/c *your* life sucks...

Liberals mean well

Elliot: Hence they wanted the torture of children in Iraq to continue indefinitely

curi: Hence they wanted the torture of children in Iraq to continue indefinitely

Recycling will save the world

Elliot: Most recycling uses tons of energy, and takes lots of work to do, and is actually *inefficient*. And save the world? From what?

curi: I have a really good recipe for hippie soup, to put all those atoms to better use.

The Sky Is Falling

Elliot: I don't have any bumps on my head, and I don't see anything falling, and there aren't any pieces of sky on the ground. It seems a rather good explanation that the sky is not falling.

curi: Are you on crack?

The quest for Iraqi oil costs the lives of too many babies to be justified

Elliot: We aren't going to Iraq to steal oil, and we aren't shooting at babies either.

Isyn: Actually, at 17,400 barrels per baby, we are doing better than the minimal justification mark of 15,000 barrels per baby.

curi: Heh, I thought the Iraqi program to crack open baby heads in search of oil was a better kept secret.

curi: oh wait, better response: BLOOD LIBEL!!!!!!!

Elliot Temple on April 8, 2003 | Comments (0)
Personal advice means advice that is contingent on the advice-giver being right about part of the receiver's personality/worldview (if giver wrong, then the advice is rather worthless).

Or we can make it better, by realising that it's a continuum not boolean (boolean variables can only have two values: true or false).

The extent to which advice is personal, is the extent to which the value/truth of the advice is contingent on advice-giver being right about part of the receiver's personality/worldview.

Also there's a different continuum of note: how personal the advice is.

This depends on two things:

- the complexity of the relevant parts of advice-receivers personality. if giver only must get simple part right, it's not very personal.

- societal norms/taboos

The extent to which advice is personal, and how personal the advice is, usually go hand in hand (lots of one, lots of the other) but do not have to.

Elliot Temple on April 9, 2003 | Comments (0)
Ambiguity is fun. Like introduce a room: "Look, a room with mad chics."

(For the uninitiated: lots of; angry; insane)

Elliot Temple on April 9, 2003 | Comments (0)
OK, so I was watching Lizzie McGuire *pauses for mad cheering* and anyway, Gordo and Lizzie were lab partners in science class, but this ep Gordo got a gf (girlfriend) who wanted him so he ditched Lizzie and she had to work alone. Not very nice! He also "had to" (his own view!) wait for gf at her locker between classes and buy her lunches. Understandably, he broke up with her after 30 minutes *g*. Stupid stereotyped "romantic" relationships.

And also, Lizzie and Miranda spied on Gordo, and he was insulted and hurt....but also happy because it proved they cared about him. *ahem* Just like when your bf/gf is jealous, that just proves s/he cares...right?

Elliot Temple on April 10, 2003 | Comments (0)
I wrote this to the ARR list
Subject: Re: Too Close For Comfort

On Thursday, April 10, 2003, at 03:34 AM, Alice Bachini wrote:

XXXXXX wrote:

What if cutting one's own hair distresses long term friend?

As soon as one suspects that this might be the case, for example when one notices than one's friend starts crying whenever one mentions barbers', one should get sufficiently distant from one's friend that he no longer minds what one does to one's hair

Well, that is *one* approach (one can't help but notice the subject line, at this point). And it is true that with sufficient distance from everyone else, one will never have relationship problems. But this would be a lonely life.

There is another approach to relationships, which embraces intimacy instead of seeing it as a threat to autonomy. With this alternative approach, we will be wary of condemning our friends for hangups or even for moral wrongdoing. We will see joint problem solving, not as something to avoid via distance, but as an enjoyable venture conducive to more intimacy. We will not be frightened of "erosion of our personal domain" -- rather the opposite: we will welcome caring and closeness.

(presumably he is able to co-exist on the planet with others who cut their hair, it's only when he gets close that the problems start).

That certain problems only occur in close relationships, does not mean we should not have them. Certain problems only occur when you have kids, too. Or when you go out to dinner.

One should stay distant, and negotiate from there, until the problem is solved. If it remains unsolved, one should stay distant.

What if intimacy is conducive to solving problems of these sorts? It seems that the solution depends on detailed personal knowledge of each other.

But this reveals another divide: Is the goal to let the person with long hair do whatever she likes, or is it for the two friends to reach agreement? If we have the first goal, distance seems a good plan. But if we have the second -- if we find people caring about us to have value rather than be a burden -- then distance is not the right answer.

All this should happen before "long-term" has become one of the expectations of the friendship. People should not get involved with those who would impinge their basic freedoms against their will.

If one values these "basic freedoms" above all else, Alice is perfectly right. But that is not the only approach to life.

Note the "above all else" clause includes morality! For morality tells us that to get what we want -- to fully realise our intentions -- we must be open to changing those intentions to ones that are better realisable. And so, we cannot hold up rights as the be-all, end-all of everything. We must be willing to compromise them when doing so will help us.

When the wrongness is very ingrained, problems are very serious and it's simply too late to get away (distance) easily, gradually and carefully can sometimes work. Other times, bombs are required (laser-guided recommended).

Is the suggestion really that if we find our life intertwined with someone, and we find this person cares about our hair, we must destroy the relationship to get back our "freedom"?

Elliot Temple on April 10, 2003 | Comments (3)
Some may wonder about my recent post regarding a Fabric of Reality book review: Why was it a blood libel? Did I, perhaps, over exaggerate?

I would begin by pointing out that a review of a science book, is not really the place to attack the author's politics. I'd also mention I know someone who thinks Zionism is Naziism, wants to blow up the US government, and various other nasty things .... but I still acknowledge he is pro children's rights. To say someone who supports Israel and the US, must be against children, is completely dishonest.

Anyway, to see why it's a blood libel, I'll translate 5 bits:

At the same time he appears to be a supporter of forces that are today turning children into victims.

"Turning children into victims" means hurting and killing children. The forces, we soon discover, means mostly Israel and a little bit the US...

I speak of Palestinian teenagers who are used as human shields in Israeli military operations against a civilian population.

The Jews kidnap teens, treat them as sub-human, and get some killed, to further their operations to murder civilians.

I speak of the more than 20% of Palestinian children who, according to a UN report, are suffering from acute malnutrition.

The Jews starve Palestinian children (or maybe distribute pamphlets with false nutritional advice).

I think of the Palestinian teenager from Jenin who said on television: "I have never seen, in my whole life, a single good day."

The Jews make life as a Palestinian hell.

I speak of the 2000 excess deaths per week of children in Iraq as a result of our economic blockade.

The Americans murder over 2,000 Iraqi children per week.

Elliot Temple on April 11, 2003 | Comments (0)

Elliot Temple on April 11, 2003 | Comments (0)

Elliot Temple on April 11, 2003 | Comments (0)
One cool thing about knowledge-growing entities (people) vs other things, is that, while we can fully understand any specific thing, and so get bored with a toy, or a field of science, understanding a person *at a point in time* is not the end, b/c knowledge growth is not predictable, and person would soon be different.

Elliot Temple on April 13, 2003 | Comments (0)
Go read this piece, it's good.

Elliot Temple on April 14, 2003 | Comments (0)
Look, some junk science, of the Infuriatingly Evil variety (it hurts children)

These people ignore the simple fact that correlation does not imply causation. Then use correlations as an excuse to make up causes.

As to aspergers, here's a syllogism:

premise: Nick is perfectly normal.
premise: Nick *does* have the symptoms of asperger's
conclusion: the symptoms don't mean a fucking thing, they're just a list of common traits for "dorky" kids.

the real explanation of social ineptitude? parents who don't teach social skills. that simple.


Elliot Temple on April 20, 2003 | Comments (2)
Any given policy/law/institution, we know will, in the future, be different/better/obselete.

So, if governments are characterised by any specific thing, (like monopoly on initiating force [not that i concede that definition makes any sense]) that's the end of minarchy as a plausible concept.

Elliot Temple on April 22, 2003 | Comments (0)
talk about a worldview/vocabulary gap.

i wrote something about good intentions being fulfillable (i'd write realisable, but I was trying to be easy to read)

and i meant intentions that are good.

and some guy read it as people who subjectively mean well, instead.

Elliot Temple on April 23, 2003 | Comments (0)
i'm reading my old TCS posts. one esp cool feature, is rediscovering good ideas *of my own* that i'd forgotten. here's one:

Sometimes there are arguments about what things should be offered to kids. Some people acknowledge they should let their kids try things the kids might like, but then deny that kids might like ice cream, or chocolate, or whatever. And then people debate this. But doesn't the very fact that the item is worth debating, mean the kid *might* like it? By the very act of arguing about it, the anti-ice cream people lose the argument.

Elliot Temple on April 25, 2003 | Comments (0)
okie, 'nother old idea i like.

p: if ya constrain sum1's choices, ur responsible for making the constraint not hurt person
p: having a kid, constrains kid's choices b/c "not be born" is out, ie ya make person live
c: parents r responsible for making being born not hurt kid

Elliot Temple on April 25, 2003 | Comments (4)
Den Beste's worst blog is kinda shockingly evil. *sigh*

all the rest of the non-tcs-affilliated right-wing warblogs do it too, and most more often than Den Beste.

UPDATE: sum1 suggested it's Den Worste blog. *g*

and i just noticed i didn't say what "it" was outloud. AGEISM. demeaning children. slandering babies. comparing youth and evil via metaphor.

Elliot Temple on April 26, 2003 | Comments (0)
looking at more old TCS posts. here's an important idea, though not one I'd forgotten about:

Fallibillity, does not imply any particular mistake. No real-life failure can ever be blamed on fallibility. which may sound kinda "duh". but ppl ignore this quite often.

for example, sum1 might mention hitting his kid once, and say he was taken over by passion (a diff error) and that mistakes happen (bingo). the fact that mistakes happen, in no way excuses this particular one, whihc was avoidable.

the problem with the passion excuse is all the passion means is that he was in the right environment to act on a facet of his personality that he usually doesn't.

Elliot Temple on April 28, 2003 | Comments (0)
I'm now the top google hit for Elliot Temple, with or without quotes. :-D

Elliot Temple on April 29, 2003 | Comments (0)
The generalisation that all generalisations are wrong, is self-contradictory and therefore false. An example of the relevance of this truism can be found in the comments on this blog entry.

Elliot Temple on April 30, 2003 | Comments (0)
An Unsealed Room posted a response completely missing the point.

I've Just Been Accused of Child Abuse

No, cruelty to children. Child Abuse has connotations of doing something illegal, and getting children sent to a foster home by CPS (Child Protective Services in US) and such. Child abuse usually involves hitting children, or neglecting to feed them, or raping them or the like. Trying to paint my claims as absurd by changing them, is wrong.

Why? Because I have the audacity to complain about the schools being on strike on the heels of a 19-day vacation. (And it looks as if this strike could stretch beyond a week.)

Well, no. I wasn't supporting the strike. I was upset that Allison finds having her children home from school insane-making. And would deny them the pleasure they get from holidays.

[short snip]

Elliot Temple left the following comment: Doesn't it seem a bit perverse for a parent to moan and groan that he or she "has to" (gets to!) spend more time with his or her children? And don't you know how much children tend to like breaks from school?

I sure did. And though Allison knows every word I used, she still hasn't understood a sentence of it. (She doesn't find my comment worthy of a reply, either.)

Now he has ceremoniously delinked me from his blog because of my "cruelty to children." (he also didn't like that I let my son go on a field trip without a gas mask after the fall of Baghdad, but before the official "all clear" sign was given.)

No, my objection wasn't that she "let" her son go without the mask, (what is he a dog that you let run off leash...sometimes?) it's rather that her son *wanted* the mask, and she refused to stand up for him to the trip supervisor. She only does that if he's really hurt. Not merely distressed (coerced).

Anyone who would like to support me in the position that a month away from school is not something that a working parent who cares about their child's education should celebrate is welcome to do so....

It's notable that she appeals to the parental conspiracy for support. It's also notable that her appeal lies about what the issue is. She must know perfectly well my objection is not "children shouldn't learn".

Elliot Temple on April 30, 2003 | Comments (0)
To be clear, every non-TCS blog I link to would find itself delinked if it wrote about children often enough. And don't tell me, "they're normal, get over it." Normal people are cruel to children, and I want to remain outraged by it.

Elliot Temple on May 1, 2003 | Comments (0)
this *should be* uncontroversial:

The choice "shooting at a terrorist" is not the choice "killing an innocent" even tho ppl sometimes miss. Morality comes down to choices, not results.

Elliot Temple on May 4, 2003 | Comments (0)
on Dawson's Creek this guy wanted his gf back, and gave a speech (over a loudspeaker at an airport, weeeeee) but anyway, nothing in his speech was contingent on the girl ('sides her name *g*). she's amazing. rocks his world. he loves her. he's sorry. he wants things to work out. he's sure they will. etc It's striking how little actual content the lives of any of the ppl on Dawson's Creek have (or many other similar shows too). But I suppose it is orders of magnitude harder to write the details, and might not actually be good for ratings either.

the lack of consent secured before attempting to kiss people also never ceases to amaze me.

Elliot Temple on May 5, 2003 | Comments (0)
Steven Den Beste, a mechanist atheist, writes:

And even among mechanists there's no particular consensus about such things as ethics, because the basic axiom of mechanistic atheism (that the only thing which exists is the material universe and the matter within it, which interacts according to the laws of physics) doesn't provide any kind of guidance in those areas.

Actually, mechanist atheism as defined here, does give guidance about ethics: it states that ethics (and more generally, explanations) do not exist. This comes from the simple premise that ethics are neither matter nor laws of physics.

A much better way to approach existence, is to consider things to exist if they are necessary to explaining reality. This still includes the laws of physics, and all the matter in the "material universe" and still fails to include God or faeries, but this time does include explanations.

Elliot Temple on May 6, 2003 | Comments (0)
A friend thinks it's an important implication of mechanist atheism (rightly construed) that we should not go looking for moral explanations in the supernatural. I kinda thought that was a bit "duh" to write. We shouldn't look for *any* explanations in the supernatural.

But I guess it *is* true that lots of atheists think morality is a religious concept, and cannot exist otherwise. *sigh*


As David Deutsch points out:

That last sentence there is a special case of a more general thing, namely that religious people and scientistic people have this great area of agreement, namely that reason cannot reach beyond math and science. In fact, beyond mathematical proof or scientific prediction, most of them would say.

Elliot Temple on May 6, 2003 | Comments (0)
Thanks to Elegance Against Ignorance for linking this Lord of the Rings themed Chomsky parody.

Elliot Temple on May 6, 2003 | Comments (0)
Here's a good demonstration that asking the wrong questions is just as much a cause of mental masturbation as being a dolt. No offence to the author is intended, but this particular piece is mostly a waste of time, because it focuses on pointless questions (at least the bits I read -_-o).

See, it worries about whether atheism is *proveable* and other stuff about proof. But fallibility tells us that certainty isn't possible (and that this isn't not an obstacle to knowledge or truth). What matters is what the best explantion of reality is, and that's what a discussion of the truth of atheism ought to focus on.

Note that "fallibility tells us" is no more than arguing in terms of high-level concepts; it is *not* any sort of appeal to the authority of the principle of fallibility, and *not* an unsupported assertion.


read a bit more. look at this "Within mechanistic atheism, you have people who think that atheism is somehow scientific and actually can be proved, and others who understand that atheism is a religious belief which is no more susceptible to actual proof than any other religious belief." *sigh*

and i should mention the focus on proof isn't the only manifestation of asking the wrong questions causing the piece to be mostly pointless. and also that it does have some truth in it anyway.

Elliot Temple on May 7, 2003 | Comment (1)
Remembered a nice line about atheism: "When you understand why you don't believe in every logically possible God, you'll understand why I don't believe in yours."

Elliot Temple on May 7, 2003 | Comments (0)
Posted to the TCSsociety yahoogroup (which you should join):

Taxes go to help an (imperfect) tradition do Good Things(TM) that *can't be done any other way*, but should be done. And also, that tradition is open to criticism, and thus improvement, and is actually the only feasible path currently available to a good, tax-free society. Now, being coerced by taxes requires an active "I don't want to pay taxes" theory while paying them. But one shouldn't have such a theory, because taxes are good. And thus taxes only coerce (in the TCS sense) people with hangups.

Laws are to create consent, just like rules in boardgames. Consent over what? What society should be like. And why should society be like anything, instead of just every doing what they like? The same reason that a chess board is more fun with rules. Because autonomy of action is pretty damn worthless; creating and realising good purposes is valuable.

Elliot Temple on May 9, 2003 | Comments (0)

Elliot Temple on May 11, 2003 | Comments (0)
someone said the US is less free than Switzerland b/c in Switzerland tax evasion isn't criminal. are these people on crack or something?

Elliot Temple on May 13, 2003 | Comments (0)
if you like D&D, go here

Elliot Temple on May 16, 2003 | Comments (0)
Rachel Lucas wrote something bad :-/

note esp this quote "the prof is super cool and just likes to see how stupid college kids are."

it is wrong for teachers to take joy in ridiculing students, in feeling their students to be inferior, or in harassing students (like they want this).

it's also wrong to put off-topic stuff on tests for credit.

btw, as trivia, ne1 wanna put the answers in comments? *g*

Elliot Temple on May 16, 2003 | Comments (0)
bloody hell. now den beste thinks evidence against atheism is physically possible. link

UPDATE: to be clearer, evidence like observations not philosophical arguments. no sensory input will make my a mystic. there are no faeries. even if we discover small pink winged things we name fairies. there is no God, even if we find some guy who ruins our ideas of physics, and call him god.

and no i'm not just being stubborn in the face of proof atheism is crap. the notions of God and faeries contain untestable bad (and by bad, i mean unspeakably horrific) explanations. when atheists say there is no god, (at least sane ones), it means the one that can't be criticised by any possible observation. and thanks to this shield, can't be confirmed either. he's just silly, like the invisible, ethereal (yet able to push) angel explanation of gravity.

Elliot Temple on May 21, 2003 | Comments (0)

Algorithmic Animal Behavior

If studied closely, animals can be seen (at least in some cases like these examples) to follow simplistic, algorithmic behavior patterns (like software where the designer didn't think about some potential cases).


The digger wasp, for instance, seems to display highly intelligent brood-tending behavior. Having dug a nest, it flies off in search of a caterpillar, overpowers and kills it, drags it into the nest, and lays eggs on it. The emerging young are thereby provided with the nourishment they need and find protection in the nest, which the wasp seals. Interrupt the sequence of partactions, however, and it soon becomes clear that no form of intelligence is at work here. Returning to its hole with the caterpillar, the wasp first deposits it in the entrance and inspects the interior, then reappears at the entrance, head foremost, and drags its quarry inside. If, while the wasp is inspecting its hole, the caterpillar is removed and deposited some distance away, the wasp will continue to search until it has rediscovered the caterpillar and then will drag it to the entrance again, whereupon the whole cycle-depositing, inspecting, etc. – begins all over again. Take away the caterpillar ten or twenty times, and the wasp will still deposit it at the entrance and embark on a tour of the hole, with which it is thoroughly familiar by this time. The insect continues to be guided by the same commands, in computer fashion, and evidently finds it hard to make any change in the overall sequence. Only after thirty or forty repetitions will the wasp finally drag the caterpillar into its nest without further inspection. Yet the digger wasp shows a great aptitude for learning where other procedures are concerned. While in flight, it memorizes the route which it must take on the ground when returning to the nest with its prey – a very considerable feat of learning. On the other hand, the burial of its prey is an instinctive action and, thus, strongly programmed. The wasp is almost incapable of influencing or altering this part of its behavior by learning, because it is controlled by an innate and extremely incorrigible mechanism.


Once stimulated, whole cycles of action can proceed by themselves. In the squirrel, food storing consists of the following part-actions: scraping away soil, depositing the nut, tamping it down with the muzzle, covering it over, and pressing down the soil. A squirrel reared indoors will still perform these actions in full, even in the absence of soil. It carries the nut into a corner, where it starts to dig, deposits the nut in the (nonexistent) hole, rams it home with its muzzle (even though it merely rolls away in the process), covers up the imaginary hole, and presses down the nonexistent soil. And the squirrel still does all these things even when scrupulous care has been taken to ensure that it has never set eyes on a nut before or been given an opportunity to dig or conceal objects.

Elliot Temple on May 21, 2003 | Comments (0)
Instapundit says, talking about an explosion at Yale: "The obvious explanation, though -- a student trying to stop an exam -- seems very unlikely at Yale" (and then gives sensible reasons about Yale).

Isn't it amazing that people know, and generally accept, (part of) what schools do to kids? How much stress, pressure, despair, and anguish they cause? A bomb to stop a fucking test isn't far fetched -- it's the obvious explanation. but will this lead Glenn to question schools? no.

Elliot Temple on May 21, 2003 | Comments (0)
Gil told a funny joke: It's not the school that I hate; it's the principal of the thing!

Elliot Temple on May 21, 2003 | Comments (0)

Elliot Temple on May 26, 2003 | Comments (0)
read this article on Israel's use of assassination to fight terror. and, (this goes without saying) for the love of God (or the love of yourself, or whatever) read the short history of Israel on The World.

Elliot Temple on May 29, 2003 | Comments (0)

Elliot Temple on May 30, 2003 | Comments (0)
Your search - "competent epistemology" - did not match any documents. (on Google)

Elliot Temple on May 30, 2003 | Comments (2)
lookie, a real entry!! ^^

CPs are *not* a ritual. CP = non-coercion.

(sane) libertarians *like* democracy.

using voting to make decisions and thinking you've set up the same thing as the US government is a cargo cult approach

rules are important even for good people because functioning without them is harder, and we have limited energy

deduction doesn't create certain knowledge

every choice you make, excludes choosing otherwise.

Elliot Temple on June 1, 2003 | Comments (0)
a reader pointed out not all readers know what CP is.

CP = common preference. common preference = a solution to a problem that all parties prefer. Not a compromise, but everyone getting what they want. This doesn't mean what they initially want, but allows for changing what is wanted.

the reason that CP is the same as non-coercion, is that in all cases where no one is coerced -- where everyone enacts one theory that has no active rivals -- then a CP happened, b/c everyone's prefered theory happens. and in all cases where someone was coerced, no CP was found, b/c someone did not prefer what happeneed.

Elliot Temple on June 1, 2003 | Comments (0)
Just read a romantic (supposedly) sex story.

What's striking is the lack of contingent (on the people involved) details. The guy is a rugby star. The girl, ummm, uhhhh, oh she's hot. They meet. He's inept, she's amused. They meet again, talk, and kiss. They write each other often. Though they converse often, we know not what about. (They both go to not-co-ed, strict boarding schools and thus can't meet much). Winter break comes. They get to see each other now. They fuck. He says he loves her. And then it says they're still together 30 years later.

For one thing, the power of these stereotypes (memes) is demonstrated. The people don't matter. They control countless lives of all different sorts. Truly amazing in a kind of morbid way.

For another, just story wise, contingent details are what give a story life. What make the characters interesting. It's rather dull when the protagonists don't have personalities -- when they are fungible not unique. Sadly, IME, this story is one of the *better* ones of the genre. Perhaps I'd have better luck with pulped dead tree format. (If that doesn't ring a bell, go read Exploitation Now already.)

Elliot Temple on June 2, 2003 | Comments (0)
ok started reading another but i got all the way to the 2nd paragraph and just had to bitch about it!

It would be their first time alone together, without a group of friends around. Jane's heart raced as she realized what it meant to be on a real date with Eric. For so long, they had just been friends, and she wasn't sure how she should act.

You can't just change a relationship by fiat (declaring that you are dating).

Interactions are interactions, again declaring one to be different doesn't work.

Although if we take "date" as a codeword for "now we're allowed to fuck" I suppose it makes sense. Even the bit about not being sure how to act.

For fun, go around asking dating couples if by dating they mean "allowed to fuck". heheh, ask some no-premarital-sex Christians why they are dating. maybe to be allowed to kiss -_-o

Joe: I want a girlfriend
curi: you're horny?
Joe: *gets offended* lonely!
curi: so you want a friend?
Joe: that's a girl
curi: why a girl?
Joe: not attracted to guys
curi: what difference does that make? you said this isn't a horny thing.
Joe: erm, uhhh
curi: you make no sense
Joe: Yo, Dianne, will you go out with me?
Dianne: yes
curi: why'd you agree?
Dianne: i wanna date, and no one else asked
curi: you slut!
Dianne: excuse me? i'm a total prude!
curi: so you just want some free meals?
Dianne: nooooo
curi: you'll kiss him in return?
Dianne: noooooo
curi: fine, you explain it
Dianne: he'll buy me stuff, and then we might fall in love. Isn't that romantic?
curi: what if he doesn't wanna pay?
Dianne: i'm new agey. i might allow it.
curi: how kind!
Dianne: aren't I, though?
curi: so anyway, if you two were friends, who didn't date, you might fall in love, right?
Dianne: I guess
curi: so what's the point of dating?
Dianne: how else would i meet my soul mate?
curi: you think going out with one person at a time, who you pick by who asks you, is a good way to find a soul mate?
Dianne: Joe, help!
Joe: *punches curi*
curi: *falls over*

Elliot Temple on June 2, 2003 | Comments (0)
(same story as last entry) "It was so hard to tell what Jane was thinking most of the time. It was frustrating, but oddly attractive."

he doesn't know her -- this is attractive
la de da

ok, after reading the rest of the story, it was so inspiring, that i'm now writing my own Worst Romance Story Ever. look forward to it, lolz

Elliot Temple on June 2, 2003 | Comments (0)

Elliot Temple on June 2, 2003 | Comments (3)

Worst Romance Story Ever

Eric and Jane had been friends for as long as they could remember -- which wasn't very long given the amount of pot they smoked. Eric and Jane were always at the same parties, 'cause they had the same group of friends. One day, Eric got up the courage to ask Jane out. He'd had a crush on her for six months.

Jane liked Eric too, but she never said anything. She secretly hoped he would ask her out. Then, one day, he did, totally out of the blue. Jane went weak in the knees and said yes. They would go out Friday night, just the two of them.

Eric couldn't wait for Friday to come, he was so excited. Soon he would be with Jane alone! But on Thursday Eric got nervous. He worried he wouldn't be a stud and Jane would dump him. He worried Jane might forget the date. As a precaution, Eric didn't smoke pot all week. Except twice.

Jane did forget the date. But fortunately on Thursday Eric's friend reminded her. She was so happy, again! That night she dreamed that Eric would give her a rose and buy her a nice dinner, and they would talk, and then they would go to the beach and walk in the moonlight, and then Eric would kiss her. Then Jane woke up, a little embarrassed.

When the time came to pick Jane up, Eric was scared. But he liked her a lot, so he went. Jane looked beautiful, and Eric said so. Jane blushed and smiled. When they got to the restaurant, they were nervous. Eric said if only they were high, this would be easier, because he would be more relaxed and right now he was nervous. Jane was nervous too, but Eric's comment broke the tension. After that they relaxed and talked and had a nice meal.

Jane felt so comfortable with Eric that she completely trusted him and was really happy. Eric felt like he never had before. The date was going so well. The waiter even made a comment about young love, and Jane blushed, and Eric stammered for him to go away. But the incident only brought the young couple closer together.

After they finished eating, Eric stared at Jane for a while. And Jane stared at Eric. They wanted things to continue. Eventually, Eric got up the courage to ask Jane to go walk on the beach with him. In the moonlight, the beach was really pretty. Jane remembered her dream, and also she liked the beach, so she smiled and Eric smiled back. They held hands and walked and talked.

After they walked a while, they sat down on a big piece of driftwood. It was cold, so Eric put his arm around Jane. Jane snuggled closer to Eric. They felt like they were in heaven. Jane said she was so happy Eric had asked her out. Eric was encouraged and kissed Jane. The kiss was magical. It was even better than being high.

Eric looked into Jane's eyes. They were so pretty. Eric said so. Jane smiled and kissed Eric. She was happy he liked her. Jane said she liked Eric. Eric said he liked her too. They kissed again and Jane noticed Eric was hard. She touched the bulge in his pants. Eric took Jane's other hand in his and squeezed encouragingly. Soon Jane opened the fly and took out Eric's dick. Eric groaned happily.

Jane had never seen a dick before in the flesh. Eric had never had anyone else touch his dick. Next Eric took off Jane's shirt and caressed her breasts. Jane got wet and enjoyed the sensations. Eric rubbed Jane down there, and true bliss was known to Jane. It wasn't long before the couple was naked. Jane begged Eric to enter her. Eric was only too happy to oblige.

Fortunately Jane's hymen was broken doing gymnastics, so Eric entered smoothly. Jane's sweet love-hole felt so good around Eric's dick, he was in heaven. Jane got really hot, and her breathing came quickly. She had never felt like this before! Soon, she had an explosion of pleasure, and briefly lost touch with reality as she orgasmed. Eric orgasmed too, and it was so good it blew away masturbation. Eric told Jane she made him feel so good, and Jane said the same to Eric.

They lay on the beach, and looked at the stars, and held each other in their arms, enjoying the moment. Eric turned to Jane and said "I love you, Jane." Jane said "I love you too, Eric." And they drifted off to sleep together, in the moonlight.

Eric and Jane loved each other so much, that they stopped smoking pot, because they wanted to remember that special night for all their lives. Thirty years later, they still remembered, and still loved each other. And they lived happily ever after, in love.


Worst Political Thriller Ever

Eric and Bill were diplomats from different countries. They had been colleagues for as long as they could remember. They were always at the same international conferences, because they had specialised in the same sub-field of international relations. One day, Eric got up the courage to sound Bill out as a possible agent. He'd had been considering the possibility of such an approach for six months.

Bill respected Eric too, but he never said anything. He secretly hoped Eric would sound him out. Then, one day, Eric did, totally out of the blue. Bill secretly congratulated himself and said yes. They would meet at a secure location on Friday night, without even their interpreters present.

Eric couldn't wait for Friday to come, he was so excited. Soon he would be negotiating for a new agent in person! But on Thursday Eric got nervous. He worried he wouldn't convey sufficient authority and Bill would not wish to negotiate with him.

Bill dreamed that Eric would give him some important piece of intelligence as a mark of good faith, and they would discuss their speciality together, and then Eric would recruit him as an agent. Then Bill woke up, a little ashamed.

When the time came to go to the secure location, Eric was scared. But he had to trust his judgement, so he went. Bill looked serious, and Eric said so. Bill smiled enigmatically. At first they were nervous. After that they relaxed and talked business.

Eric told Bill an important piece of intelligence as a mark of good faith. Then Bill told Eric one, from his country. Then Eric told Bill another piece of intelligence. Then Bill told Eric one. Then Eric told Bill one. Then Bill told Eric one. Then Eric told Bill one. Then Bill told Eric one. Then Eric told Bill one. Then Bill told Eric one. Then Eric told Bill one. Then Bill told Eric one. Then Eric told Bill one. Then Bill told Eric one. Then Eric told Bill one. Then Bill told Eric one. Then Eric told Bill one. Then Bill told Eric one. Then Eric told Bill one. Then Bill told Eric one. Then Eric told Bill one. Then Bill told Eric one. Then Eric told Bill one. Then Bill told Eric one. Then Eric told Bill one. Then Bill told Eric one. Then Eric told Bill one. Then Bill told Eric one. Then Eric told Bill one. Then Bill told Eric one. Then Eric told Bill one.

Eric and Bill formed an excellent working relationship. Bill became Eric's agent and Eric was Bill's handler and the arrangement they had together was mutually profitable for over thirty years.

Elliot Temple on June 3, 2003 | Comments (2)
I posted about children on LGF here.

Elliot Temple on June 3, 2003 | Comments (0)
I wrote a comment in this thread on The World. Actually several, but I mean the one at the bottom (right now, hopefully not forever) on the fungibility of human copies.

Elliot Temple on June 3, 2003 | Comments (0)
I took a quiz ^^

You're Perfect ^^
-Perfect- You're the perfect girlfriend. Which
means you're rare or that you cheated :P You're
the kind of chick that can hang out with your
boyfriend's friends and be silly. You don't
care about presents or about going to fancy
places. Hell, just hang out. You're just happy
being around your boyfriend.

What Kind of Girlfriend Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

To start, I think the Mercurial mark on the pic is a bit scary. The perfect gf is moody!? I'll translate loving to caring so it's fine, and wait on tomboyish.

It's also scary that the description isn't pretty normal. Many people (more than half for sure) ought to be able to hang out with their SO's (significant other's) friends, at least a fair bit, because most people have similar tastes to SO. Getting all hung up on presents, fancy places ..... can we say annoying hangups? Happy being around SO .... well that better be true!

WRT tomboyish, I have a theory that the stereotypes boys are supposed to follow are better (morally) than the ones for girls. Not all of them, and not in all spheres, but yeah...... I'm not going to defend this right now. I think I'll go look for online journals.

Elliot Temple on June 4, 2003 | Comments (0)
omfg (anti-Americanism)

Elliot Temple on June 4, 2003 | Comments (0)

Elliot Temple on June 4, 2003 | Comments (26)
Reading an article on blogging I ran into the phrase, "the thrill of teaching a child to spell." That ought to be the thrill of a child learning to spell, and parents ought not try to take the credit.

Elliot Temple on June 4, 2003 | Comments (0)
Andrew Sullivan writes: One reason I find some of the grand-standing over WMDs increasingly preposterous is that it comes from people who really want to avoid the obvious: more and more it's clear that the liberation of Iraq was a moral obligation under any circumstances. People say to this argument that if we depose one dictator for these kinds of abuses, where will we stop? But the truth is: very few dictators have resorted to imprisonment or mass killing of children. Saddam's evil was on a world-historical scale. Ending it was one of the most prgressive things the United States and Britain and their allies have ever done.

Not that he's wrong, per se, but there's a better answer to when we will stop removing evil dictators from power: we won't! This isn't a slippery slope to something bad, it's a slippery slope to no more evil dictators. The only thing stopping us is what we *can* do, not what we'd like to.

Elliot Temple on June 5, 2003 | Comments (2)
Feels like I have't linked IMAO enough.

Elliot Temple on June 5, 2003 | Comments (0)
I read somewhere about the incompatible pairs problem where you have a list of things, and a list of pairs that are incompatible (ie you can't pick both from a pair). You have to pick a certain number from the list w/out violating any of the incompatible pairs. It said solving with brute force (construct all possible answer lists ignoring the pairs, then go through and test them all) takes too much computing resources to be feasible (except with very small list and pair list). If you have to pick x things from n options with p incompatible pairs, brute force would take n! / ( x! * (n-x)! ) to get our lists and then *2px for worst case (our lists are size x and we gotta check p pairs and the simplest way is to scan list to find one half the of the pair, then scan for the other half ... not efficient but whatever). anyway, the important thing is that n!. factorial is evil and owns all the other numbers.

Anyway, I can do it using 2^p lists in the worst case, which is loads better usually (big n and not-insanely-big p), but still exponential resources use. my technique reminds me of MWI ^^ ok, start with 2 copies of the list of items. now take the first incompatible pair (1, 2) for any 1 and 2, and scratch 1 off one list, and scratch 2 off the other list, so they become differentiated. next up, take another pair, and for each list we have, differentiate it into 2 and mark off 1 on one list and 2 on the other. if a list has 1 or 2 missing, you don't have to split it this step, so we're not actually gonna use the full 2^p lists. not sure how to approximate how many we really will use. anyway, after you go through all the pairs, you'll have lots of lists with various amounts of items remaining. take all the ones with enough items, and for the ones with extra, use some combinatorics to get all the possible ways to pick x things out of them if you want. another way to save resources is if a list ever gets too small just delete it and never split it again.

anyway, anyone know a better way or another cool problem?

oh, umm, an example of an incompatible pairs problem: you have an apartment complex with space for x people and you want it full, a list of n applicants, and a list of p pairs of applicants who fight and thus you can't have both.

Elliot Temple on June 7, 2003 | Comments (0)
from comments, woty wrote: A person has a sibling. What are the chances that the sibling is the same gender as they are? (it's not 50%)

and Gil gave this answer: MF FM FF and MM are the possiblities, we'll go with boys, so FF is out, and MM is once of the 3 options, so 1/3 chance. this is a well-known answer.

anyway, that's WRONG

it *is* 50%. the above answer does not take into account anything about the possibility of meeting either sibling. the MM option is really *two* options, meeting *either* the younger or older sibling.

another way to put it, is: if you've met the older sibling, the options are FM and MM which is 50/50 either way. and if you met the younger sibling, the options are MF and MM which is also 5/50 either way.

Elliot Temple on June 8, 2003 | Comments (0)
Two troubled turtles trotted to the temple. There they told the templekeeper their troubles. Twice they'd tried, twice trashed: transforming tricky tensors too tough. The templekeeper told them to travel to the true temple to try the tenfold tensor trial there. Three trials of transforming tensors, three tribulations to triple tempo, two to try triangulating, then turning ten tridecagons to two tensors, then throwing trigons through the target. Temple trial taken, tempo tripled, tensor transforming totally terrific, the two turtles travelled to the terrible trap: two tests Thursday.

If you want to continue the story, you can in comments. You could do a diff letter if you wanted. I might later, if I feel like it.

Elliot Temple on June 10, 2003 | Comments (0)
Elliot: David Carr wrote:
I keep thinking of the 350,000 or so British and Commonwealth citizens who sacrificed their lives in World War II. If only they could have known just how wickedly the freedom they died defending was going to be betrayed, they would have stayed in bed.
Elliot: *sigh*
curi: It's been betrayed now?? Hell, this always happens! I don't watch the news for one day, and the Nazis seize power!
curi: When was this? And is Blair alive?
Elliot: lol

Elliot Temple on June 10, 2003 | Comments (0)

Elliot Temple on June 12, 2003 | Comments (0)
Emailed To: Glenn Reynolds of InstaPundit
Subject: If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever.

Dear Glenn Reynolds,

You wrote: "I felt sorry for the poor students in the Bar Review course -- I well remember that studying for the bar combined stress and excruciating boredom in a fashion that nothing else has equalled."

I found your characterisation of what the students are currently experiencing quite moving, and I have no doubt that it is accurate. But I wonder, have you considered why such suffering still need exist in the most advanced civilisation ever? One would think much creativity would be devoted to reduce this suffering. But it is not. Do you know why?

-- Elliot Temple

UPDATE: If ya didn't know, the quote for a subject line is from 1984 by George Orwell. I hope Glenn knows.... *g*

Elliot Temple on June 12, 2003 | Comments (0)
Elliot: is the EU funding hamas?
curi: Heh. Not directly. but EU money has been flowing into Hamas by various routes. The EU Commission has just instituted a "study" to try to prevent EU money from reaching Hamas.
Elliot: -_-o
curi: 'Not giving them any' is of course ruled out as a method. That would be simplisme.
Elliot: LOL

Elliot Temple on June 13, 2003 | Comments (0)
Was reading Seduction Strategies and one said to "win his/her trust" which is strikingly different from being trustworthy.

Elliot Temple on June 14, 2003 | Comment (1)
Some think the path to happiness is to get what one wants. And parallel to this, is the theory that with enough money, to buy whatever one likes, happiness will come.

Some think the path to happiness is to want what one has. And parallel to this, is the theory that money and things are distractions and obstacles to true happiness.

Both extremes are false. We must both seek to get what we want (more generally, do what we intend) but we must also seek to want the right things (have (morally) good intentions).

Elliot Temple on June 14, 2003 | Comments (0)

Elliot Temple on June 14, 2003 | Comments (0)
Look at this!

To tutor kids for the SATs, you need a fucking BA. The SATs cover algebra 1 and half a year of geometry, if ya didn't know. Equally "hard" lit stuffz. so silly

Elliot Temple on June 14, 2003 | Comment (1)
Did you like this piece on The World? Here's more answers:

Christians: We will be holding a prayer session this evening at 8pm.

TCSers: We blame her parents.

Hans Blix: I believe she was hiding Saddam's WMD.

Psychiatrists: We believe she had a traumatic incident in a canal during her childhood.

Her Husband: That traitorous bitch had a girl on purpose!

Gun Nut: We need a gun in every Egyptian household.

TCS Gun Nut: At least arm the six little girls!

Feminist: The wrong person is dead.

Socialist: This is the inevitable result of Egypt's capitalist economy.

Socialist: The State should have redistributed some of the female children to other families and given them a boy instead.

Socialist: The solution is a state-sponsered GDP or Gender Redistribution Program. We consider this a higher priority than a traditional GDP.

Social Worker: If only the US hadn't cut food aid to Egypt by 43.2% this year, this never would have happened.

Social Worker: The US increased food aid to Egypt 200% this year, but there was so much we haven't been able to distribute it all yet. It is the responsibility of the West to feed the hungry, and when the West fails, they are responsible for the consequences.

Elliot Temple on June 15, 2003 | Comments (0)
Stupid French

At least they're funny:

De Villepin also urged Hamas to make more efforts in ending terrorist acts from Palestinian militants. "We call on Hamas to demonstrate that they are against all terrorist activities," he said.

Elliot Temple on June 16, 2003 | Comments (0)
All this D&D info is free and online: SRD!

It's like the open content anyone can use if they wanna make d20 products, but it basically has almost all the rules/stats in all 3 core books, sans flavor text, examples, etc... And unlike pdfs of the books, this is legal.

Elliot Temple on June 18, 2003 | Comments (0)
IMAO writes:

* The symptoms of monkey pox are fever and itchy rashes. It's not much fun, but, if you're young, I'd say it's worth it to skip a couple days of school.

Elliot Temple on June 19, 2003 | Comments (0)
You can't do 'precision' with a sufficiently young person. because, being good Popperians, they only use as much precision as is needed for their problem situation.

Elliot Temple on June 20, 2003 | Comments (0)
okie, time to reply to Virtue Pure

but first, heheh, i wanna link to this other new blog: Virtual Purity. it's commentary on Virtue Pure.

anyway, Mr Virtue Hat (sorry! couldn't resist) gave the following sum up:

- Few of the posts have much content, but some are very good.
- Elliot likes to post jokes, especially ones that contain arguments.
- Elliot extends posting jokes, to posting amusing, off-topic things.
- Elliot also posts other off-topic things he is interested in, even though his readers may not be.
- Elliot rarely bothers with the form of his blog. This is striking in his capitalisation and abbreviations, although, excepting words that are intentionally misspelled or abbreviated, his spelling is pretty good.
- Elliot often makes cryptic statements, or obscure references, with no explanation.
- Even Elliot's lucid views are sometimes found without explanation or argument.
- Almost all of Elliot's posts are short, and I get the impression he spends very little time on each.
- Elliot is sometimes offensive. Some of it is intentional; he likes to ridicule positions he deems worthy of such treatment. But some of it appears to be poor judgment.

okie, as far as capitalisation, i say he's just over-picky. u can totally read uncapitalised words. abbreviations too. *thinks of The Simpsons* Bart was writing on the chalkboard "I will not use abbrevs" over and over. heheh. umm, as for on-topic, it's my damn blog, and if I like video games, they're on topic. if you don't like it, go away!! (wait, stop, i didn't mean it!)

i understand the criticisms about incomplete or missing explanations, but insist there are other relevant factors. however, they're private... the same factors apply to form and topics issues, too, btw.

as for being offensive, i don't know what the fuck that asshole is talking about. *ahem* I mean I challenge him to find any instances of impropriety to back up that wild accusation.

PS i know i owe an explanation of the Worst Romance Story Ever and a post on static memes.

Elliot Temple on June 20, 2003 | Comments (0)
i used to work for a store
it was such a bore
now i'm a whore
i get paid more

I'm such the poet!

Elliot Temple on June 21, 2003 | Comments (0)
so i was reading this newspaper article on economics, and it was ok, a little scary how stupid it says most ppl are, but anyway, it mentions the broken window fallacy (if you break a window, it creates a job to fix the window, so you helped the economy *ahem*). and it just has to give the example this way: "Some teenagers, being the little beasts they are, toss a brick through a bakery window." grrrrr

Elliot Temple on June 24, 2003 | Comments (0)
IMAO quotes Jonah Goldberg who says:

"Affirmative action is based upon the assumption that blacks cannot compete with whites. But if I say that blacks can't compete with whites, I'm a racist."


Elliot Temple on June 25, 2003 | Comments (0)
okie, worst romance story ever explanation. here's a link to the entry for reference

here's some correspondence from when i wrote it, to someone who liked the story(!)

the real goal was to give the characters absolutely no personality of any sort. the exception being the pot thing. i give no motivations for them liking each other, refuse to detail what they talk about, and just appeal to stereotypes for everything.

Another point is I wrote the entire story without planning ahead, and with no intention to have a plot. Just following stereotypes. I think that's a bit scary.

pot was important cause it made the story less boring to write. this was removed from the political thriller, which is otherwise *exactly the same story* except in a diff genre and w/ 2 guys. the political story is intended to demonstrate to someone who thinks the romance story wasn't bad, that the content of the story really was.

btw this is not to say that the events the story detailed were a bad thing in the romance story. (note they obviuosly aren't bad in the "thriller"). on the whole, i'd say the events were good for eric and jane. but that doesn't redeem the *story*; it still has no contingent details or anything else of interest. oh also, although i took this to a greater extreme than any stories i've read, many stories are super super light on contingent details. now i admit they are hard to write, but i also claim they are what make stories good. just as we shouldn't live out stereotypes, reading them shouldn't be interesting as a story (although it could be to learn about them, Know Thy Enemy kinda deal).

btw i'm a big roleplaying fan. and i'm perfectly willing to roleplay stereotypes, cause it's a great way to learn more about them. however, i of course can't RP the same stereotype too much w/out getting totally bored. similarly, reading too many stereotype only stories ought to be hella dull. ought to....

oh also one use of stereotypes is to facilliate ppl interacting smoothly w/out knowing each other well. just follow some stereotype roles u both know and *boom* u get along. can be good for RPing heroes that work 2gether (in games where the main focus is no inter-party interaction). however, in real life, this no way to conduct relationships (where the focus *is* interacting with the other *person*, not interacting w/ a stereotype) (this is one of the bad things the story illustrates). i suppose u could legitly use stereotyped interactions IRL if u had some other goal, like if u wanna be on a sports team, and get along w/ ppl despite being anti-social, so u can get ppl to warm-up w/ u and give u advice, u might try a stereotyped personality, since it's easier than designing one and u already have lozza experience w/ various stereotypes.

given this entry is a bit lacking in the thesis/direction part, ummm, feel free to bug me to expand on some point or other.

Elliot Temple on June 25, 2003 | Comments (0)
you might find the articles here interesting. they're mostly about education but by a computer science guy and with comp sci themes.

Elliot Temple on June 28, 2003 | Comments (0)
i can't remember if i linked this poem before. reading it again won't hurt you anyway. it's very good.

Elliot Temple on June 29, 2003 | Comments (0)

Elliot Temple on July 3, 2003 | Comments (0)
Blizzard North (smaller half of Blizzard, made Diablo) has 3 fully stocked kitchens including lozza "junk food". they also buy several copies of every computer game that comes out, and employees can even take them home to use. companies treating employees like people is cool ^^ (economically sound too).

sources: 1 and 2

Elliot Temple on July 4, 2003 | Comments (0)
Scrappleface is a bastard

Senator John Kerry, a professional Vietnam veteran, dressed in full camo and slung a semi-automatic rifle over his shoulder. His wife, Teresa Heinz, gave him two weeks allowance, and kissed his forehead.

it really is possible to be funny w/out being anti-children every few days. if u haven't figured out why this is anti-kids, it's b/c John Kerry is being treated like a child (btw children shouldn't be treated like that) and this is supposed to be insulting to him. feh

Elliot Temple on July 4, 2003 | Comments (0)
Ali G ownz, here's some interview transcripts:

Ali G with: Madonna

John Barnes

Elton John


Alejandro A. Alonso (some guy who knows about gangs in Los Angeles) [this one has an mp3 at the bottom of an article]

Victoria Peckham aka Posh Spice

Protester: 'Well, violence doesn't solve anything, does it?

Ali G: 'No, it does.'

Protester: 'Not really'In what situation?'

Ali G: 'In a violent one.'

Elliot Temple on July 4, 2003 | Comments (0)

Elliot Temple on July 4, 2003 | Comments (0)

Elliot Temple on July 4, 2003 | Comments (0)
*Wanders around room full of people dressed far too nicely, clearly looking for someone, spots him and approaches*

curi: So why do you want to see all the Jews die?
RD: Pardon?
curi: So why do you want to see all the Jews die?
RD: I don't want that.
curi: Oh, sorry, I must have mixed that up. So you want all the Jews to live then?
RD: Yes, of course.
curi: So you'd support helping them live, right?
RD: Yes.
curi: Like giving them money and defensive weapons?
RD: There's no such thing as a defensive weapon!
curi: What if you came at me with a knife and I shot you?
RD: Are you threatening me?
curi: Is it 'cause I'm Jewish?
RD: What?
curi: Do you attack all Jewish people with knives?
RD: No, I don't attack anyone with knives.
curi: So your knives are purely defensive?
RD: No, they aren't weapons.
curi: So if I only shoot a gun at targets, would that not be a weapon?
RD: I guess you could classify it as sports equipment if it was only for target shooting.
curi: So can we send Israel some of those?
RD: No, I think they consider Palestinians 'targets' over there. *laughs to self*
curi: Yeah, I know. It's crazy. They just keep running at you, trying to get to the next cafeteria or pizzaria or whatever, and you have to take out each wave. If you miss even one you lose!
RD: Only because they're opressed. They live in the most horrible conditions.
curi: Oh totally, I wouldn't want to live somewhere with no cafes or pizza joints either. But then why do they blow them up?
RD: No, they don't blow up their own cafes, only the Jewish ones.

Elliot Temple on July 4, 2003 | Comments (0)
was looking at Trinity, Bill Whittle's newest essay. he devotes quite a lot of space to why creating instead of just redistributing wealth exists. here's an explanation i like:

would you rather have a truck on the curb outside McDonalds full of hamberger components, or something to eat?

Elliot Temple on July 5, 2003 | Comments (0)
they said "we're such the perfect couple" on TV. /me likes 'such the' constructions

and later

girl mad she thinks boy thinks she has big feet. boy: "no, big feet are good, they make you stable and hard to knock over" girl: *pushes boy over* boy: "yep, see, i have small feet"

Elliot Temple on July 19, 2003 | Comments (0)
i thought i should blog something. rather than 5 hits yesterday i got 42. i don't know why but whatever, i'll try to give you *something* new to read, i guess.

In politics, a lot of discussion has gone to answer this question: Who should rule? Should it be the strongest? The smartest? The most popular? The divinely blessed? The oldest? And each generation should we pick again, or go be heredity?

That last question may have given it away. It implies that our leader should remain leader for his whole life! But we have term limits on presidents for a reason... See, the point is that 'Who should rule?' is entirely the wrong question. Any answer at all, doesn't matter who you pick, is a recipe for tyranny -- for one leader who's policies, bad or good, rule our lives. And yes, if you put a lot of energy into selection, maybe you can find a benevolent dictator who will have mostly good policies, and few bad ones. But that is still tyranny, and the hope of only having to live with "a few" bad policies by my King is just not that inspiring.

The answer to the question is to instead focus on: How can we set up our government so that bad leaders and policies get corrected? And that -- having a system open to criticism and change -- is the answer to tyranny. Picking the right tyrant in the first place is *not*. (unless it's curi)

Elliot Temple on July 22, 2003 | Comments (0)
curi: haha, no comments after that last post, u suck
Elliot: -_-o
curi: seriously, ur readers must hate u or something
Elliot: uh huh. then why would they read me?
curi: morbid curiosity
Elliot: I suppose Jerry Springer is popular......
Elliot: erm, I mean I protest!
Elliot: yeah, that's it. i protest! your accusation is totally false. this is a highly intellectual blog that attracts only the elite.
curi: now you're an elitist?
Elliot: along with 2 million Diablo II h4x0rZ ;p
Elliot: I mean, No!
curi: [interrupting] good argument!
Elliot: fuck you
curi: [in best come hither voice] k
Elliot: *anime fall*
curi: do you think you'll win readers with injokes?
Elliot: no
curi: ...
Elliot: ahhhhh, this is what happens when you start an entry with nothing more than the worst joke in the piece in mind... *thinks*
curi: *waits*
Elliot: *thinks*
curi: *waits*
Elliot: *thinks*
curi: alright, i'm bored
Elliot: stop distracting me, I've almost got it
curi: no monkey non-sequiturs [editor: *hint hint, nudge nudge*]
Elliot: damn you
curi: you can't
Elliot: ?
curi: do you know how to curse someone?
Elliot: fuck you, biatch!
curi: *anime fall*
Elliot: curses don't exist, it's just an expression
curi: *curses Elliot*
Elliot: *sprouts a green party tatoo*
Elliot: hey!
curi: *giggles*
Elliot: you giggle like a girl
curi: sexist!
Elliot: girl!
curi: takes one to know one
Elliot: brilliant guy!
curi: sure am :-D
Elliot: you know I was just saying that because it would reflect well on me, right?
curi: no it doesn't, it implies you took 'takes one to know one' seriously
Elliot: you're the one who said it
curi: *shrug*
Elliot: reductio ad absurdum is a perfectly good form of argument
curi: uh huh, you've reduced your skillz to absurdity! congratz
Elliot: takes one to know one!
curi: -_-o
Elliot: *whispers to curi*
curi: *grin*
curi: *whispers back*
Elliot: We regret to announce that we are breaking here. The continuation will be posted presently, so check back soon.
curi: *stiffles giggles* Yeah, check back real soon, we're *bound* to post
curi: *falls over*
Elliot: dumbass, you ruined it
curi: whatever *pulls plug*

Elliot Temple on July 23, 2003 | Comments (0)
Imagine you are a child, interacting with your mother. Your mother is doing things to hurt you. And you say, "Mommy, stop hurting me! You can be my mommy without hurting me." And just imagine if your mother said "no".

Your claim, notably, is the same claim as TCS makes -- that it is possible and desirable to parent without hurting our children. And the mother's "no" is any position that contradicts the TCS claim.

Elliot Temple on July 29, 2003 | Comments (0)
idiotarians are ppl who side with evil without having evil intentions. another way to put this is they have good motives but bad ideas. the whole point of this is that we do not attribute bad motives to those who disagree with us -- quite the contrary, we think most people who disagree with us have good motives. only a few are actually evil.

there is nothing analogous in how they treat us...

Elliot Temple on July 29, 2003 | Comments (0)
oh the irony!

skim this then think about this quote from it:

"This intolerance of ambiguity can lead people to cling to the familiar, to arrive at premature conclusions, and to impose simplistic cliches and stereotypes, the researchers advised."

Elliot Temple on July 31, 2003 | Comments (0)
hmm i keep going "it's late, i won't bother eating, i'll eat 2moro" and then i go "blah, it's morning, i don't like eating so early, i'll eat later"

Elliot Temple on August 2, 2003 | Comments (0)
it occurred to me that you guys deserve a post

Elliot Temple on August 6, 2003 | Comments (0)
Elliot: Go rocks!
curi: They're called stones.

Elliot Temple on August 10, 2003 | Comments (0)
Isn't it great that we live in a society where a strip of paper-thin orange plastic can stop a car? And one where this claim doesn't evoke the question, "They make plastic as strong as steel now?"

Elliot Temple on August 13, 2003 | Comments (0)
One thing about people that are intimidating b/c of being "elite" somehow, is if they really are so elite, then all the stuff you may be worrying about, they should probably have solved already, so you don't actually need to worry about it. (or if they haven't solved it, and are so elite, well it's a hard issue, and they won't be expecting you to have a solution either.)

Elliot Temple on August 15, 2003 | Comments (0)
Jack and Jill, who are partners in parenting, have sex sometimes, and are not convinced of the sanctity of monogamy. Jill wants sex more often; Jack doesn't. Jack suggests that Jill can seek out other people to have sex with if she wants more. Just like Jill often plays chess with others. Jack thinks this stance is sufficient and that should be the end of the issue.

But Jack is wrong. What he has missed is that Jill doesn't want more sex *with anyone*, she wants more sex with him. Whether this desire of Jill's is rational, is an open question I won't go into. But suffice it to say that Jill does have this preference. And the solution almost undoubtedly is not for Jill to want less sex to the level Jack currently wants. Rather it is probably more like: Jack will want a little more because he cares about Jill; Jill will want a little less because she cares about Jack; maybe or maybe not Jill will get some sex elsewhere; and Jack and Jill will looks for ways to make sex more interesting/enjoyable for Jack.

In theory, this can apply to chess too. But caring about who one plays chess with is not very common in our society. With sex, it is common to care about that.

Elliot Temple on August 16, 2003 | Comments (0)
Sarah Fitz-Claridge has taken to deleting comments i post on takingchildrenseriously.com, including this one (see end of post for Henry's comment and my now-deleted reply). why? she says "no meta" and won't give any more details, like pointing out what bit of the comment is allegedly meta. also she says this rule applies to everyone. so maybe i'll point out various other posts with meta to her and see if she deletes them...

I was also put on moderation so comments I write on that site have to be approved to be posted. However, anonymous posts are not moderated. So, like, what the fuck? I logged out, have to type my sig myself now, and will have a harder time finding new comments to read without using the feature that tags new ones for me. Umm, great, she's wasted some of my time, for no reason. *sigh*

UPDATE: all anonymous posts now get moderated too. lovely. if you make a new account you can post with that unmoderated, though.

anyway, henry's comment and my now-deleted reply (judge for yourself how worthy of deletion my reply is, i suppose):

Common Preference is a flawed idea

I certainly like what TCS stands for. Quite literally, actually. I think Taking Children Seriously is a great name, and it really sums up nicely how I think we should treat children: simply take them seriously, just as we take adults seriously. I agree with TCS's most important themes, which I consider to be: don't coerce your kids (well, I think there are rare exceptions where it's good to coerce kids or adults), be creative at solving problems (generally work from the assumption that there is a solution), be skeptical about traditional education, use argument and advice rather than force, look for common decisions which make all involved happy. I attended a lecture once by Sarah Fitz-Claridge about TCS, and she has really good and, I believe, true things to say about how to deal with children. So I much appreciate her insights and analysis of the mistakes so many people make in dealing with children. Mostly boiling down to not taking them seriously and using coercion instead of reason.

But ironically, while I broadly agree with most of the TCS conclusions, it strikes me that the way it is typically philosophically defended is logically flawed on several issues. Some other time perhaps I will argue that TCS'ers are somewhat mistaken about the link between TCS and fallibilism. Here I wish to argue that the TCS notion of common preferences is thoroughly confused. This is evidenced by my analysis of two articles on this site showing that the following three different and incompatible definitions of "common preference" are used interchangeably:

1.A common policy that improves the position of everyone.
2.A common policy that everyone involved prefers to all alternatives considered.
3.A common policy that everyone is satisfied with.

Definitions 1 and 2 follow from the first sentence of the article above:

"Common preferences are policies that all parties after a successfully resolved disagreement prefer to their initial positions: everyone gets what they want."

It is clear that the first part of the sentence implies definition 1. The second part ("everyone gets what they want") seems to suggest definition 2, but this is less clear. However, the following sentences clearly does suggests definition 2:

"To put it simply, you keep making bold conjectures and subjecting them to criticism until you have a solution that everyone involved wholeheartedly prefers to any other candidate solutions any of you can think of at the time. (We call that a common preference, the preference you have in common.)".

This is from the article Introduction to Taking Children Seriously (TCS) . Another except from that article:

" 'Does it have to be a question of being right? Am I actually wrong for wanting to go to a Chinese restaurant, or is that just my taste?' countered Wendy. It is not the fact that you like Chinese food that is the problem, it is that you are not taking into account the fact that the smell of Chinese food makes me feel physically sick. Let me put it another way: if neither of us changes our mind and we don't resolve the disagreement, is it not the case that at least one of us is going to get hurt?"

Apparently the aim here is to find something that everyone can agree to without anybody feeling hurt. This implies definition 3. Now let's go through these definitions.

It's often easy to find a common policy in accordance with 1. Suppose we are all very hungry. I prefer to go to a Chinese restaurant, while my friend doesn't like Chinese food. But since she is very hungry, having a Chinese dinner still does improve her situation, since she'd rather eat something she doesn't like than stay hungry. So we eat Chinese. According to the definition this is a common preference. But of course this is a totally useless definition, because defined this way a common preference isn't a good result at all. Although both our positions have improved, going to a Greek restaurant, say, would have been a much better choice if my friend really loves Greek food and I like it only slightly less than Chinese food.

Definition 2 is obviously ludicrous in the context of how TCS'ers use the term. It's not ludicrous in the sense that such a common preference is impossible. Sometimes it does happen that, say, all in a group prefer to go to the same restaurant. That's a true common preference. But what makes this definition ludicrous is the fact that it is inconsistent with the TCS idea that one can find a common preference in general. This is obviously untrue, a case of wishful thinking. If I prefer Chinese food and my friend prefers Greek food we have different preferences not a common one. The fact that we may be mistaken about our own preferences is irrelevant, for it remains that there is no logical reason to assume people generally have the same preference.

Definition 3 is the most realistic definition. And in practice that indeed seems to be the TCS attitude. Try to find a policy that everyone is happy with, taking into account everybody's preferences. Though I slightly prefer Chinese food to Greek food, I will be quite happy if we go to the Greek restaurant, because I still like Greek food, and I want my dinner partner to be happy as well. So, the idea is good: if there is disagreement try to be rational, creative, loving, etc. and come up with a solution that everyone can live with. Normal people call this a compromise. TCS'ers call this a common preference. But that term is, of course, quite wrong. Agreeing to a solution other than your own preference, to make others happy, is not a preference, much less a common preference. This may sound horrible, but TCS'ers live in the same world as normal people, and therefore they too regularly make group decisions via compromise, voting or whatever. Their third way exists only in Alice in Wonderland. Unless you redefine the word preference to mean a preference for maximum utility for the group, in which case all would have the same preference if they can agree on all individual utilities for all alternatives. But that is not what the word preference normally means. But, again, the attitude is good. In their illogical search for a common preference I imagine TCS'ers will tend to find the best and wisest compromises, making everybody happy. And that's good.

A last comment. One thing I'm missing in TCS is the idea that everybody doesn't have to do the same thing. If you're in a group you don't always have to find a "common preference" (compromise). If the majority very much wants to do one thing and one person has a very different preference, that individual can simply choose not to join and let the rest of the group do what it wants. Or the group can split into two groups, or whatever. This may be much better in many cases than looking for a single "common preference" for the whole group.

by Henry Sturman on 2003/08/22 - 11:19 GMT | reply to this comment

Re: Common Preference is a flawed idea

Henry Sturman,

Definition 1 is, I agree, basically useless. Definition 3 is ambiguous, and hinges on what 'satisfied' means. I agree it could easily be interpreted to include compromises, which should not be deemed common preferences. so i'd throw definition 3 out too, and chastise any TCSers who write like it's true.

Before I continue, I want to caution you against paying attention to things like 'how most TCSers tend to use the term.' Most TCSers are usually fairly imprecise. And most of them don't get the all subtle or deep bits of TCS either. Even many of the articles on this site are not precise at all (I happen to think this policy is bad.) So anyway, I suggest instead of paying attention to the general attitude of TCSers towards a subject, you should look for the most precise and best couple things you can find, and analyse those.

Definition 2 is basically the TCS one. An alternative way to explain what a common preference is, is: a solution to a dispute in which no parties are coerced.

The point of a common preference is not that everyone orders lemon chicken (and thus has a preference for lemon chicken in common). Rather, it is more likely we will both prefer that you order lemon chicken while I order broccoli beef (or whatever it is we like). This is a common preference even though we order different things, because we each prefer that is how ordering should happen.

So in the case of one person splitting off from a group to do something else, that often is a common preference. the group may well prefer the person to split, while it continues. and the person may well prefer to split, while the group continues. (possible stumbling points would be if the group needed all its members for some reason, or the person didn't want to do his thing alone, in which case it'd take more creativity to solve).

or with Jack who wants greek food, and Jill who wants chinese, various common preferences could be:

- they each go eat alone (this is what people who aren't good friends might do)


- they each care about each other, and want to eat together, and also don't want the other to be happy, and thus agree to:
- get greek now (and maybe chinese next time). this could be a CP if Jill doesn't want to eat alone, and doesn't want to drag jack to chinese, and doesn't think ill of greek food, and basically prefers this to all rival plans.
- same as last, but with them getting chinese b/c they determine food choice is more important to jill than jack
- get takeout from one or both places
- stay home if they decide the food's not worth the hassle, and plan to each get the kind of food they like some time the other is busy.

BTW friends do this *all the time*. initially they want to go different places or otherwise do different things, and then they come to agree on one plan. it is this plan about what should happen (which includes what everyone involved should do, and takes into account everyone's preferences) that becomes common in a common preferences. (and before i sound like a socialist, i should emphasise that far and away the most prevalent kind of CP, that happens all the time, is for people to decide to both do their own thing, individually. like i'm working on my computer while someone else is downstairs, doing something else, and we're both fine with this state of affairs)

-- Elliot Temple

by Elliot Temple on 2003/08/22 - 18:50 GMT | reply to this comment

Elliot Temple on August 24, 2003 | Comments (0)
On the last post, the following comments were made (and at the bottom I reply). I wanted to draw some extra attention to them. The discussion, if you like it, will continue in the comments on this post. BTW the italics on quoted stuff I've added now myself. anywayz:

Pat writes:
"and chastise any TCSers who write like it's true."


"Before I continue, I want to caution you against paying attention to things like 'how most TCSers tend to use the term.' Most TCSers are usually fairly imprecise. And most of them don't get the all subtle or deep bits of TCS either. Even many of the articles on this site are not precise at all (I happen to think this policy is bad.) So anyway, I suggest instead of paying attention to the general attitude of TCSers towards a subject, you should look for the most precise and best couple things you can find, and analyse those."

An entire paragraph of meta.

The rest of your post has some good information, too bad you included the meta to prevent it from being removed.


I replied:
"and chastise any TCSers who write like it's true."

this is the object point that you should not write like it's true.

the paragraph addresses specific misconceptions the poster has, that are a legitimate philosophical topic. i could have written the same thing not about TCSers. using an example to make your point doesn't make something meta.

An anonymous poster added:

Quit it. It's not "meta" you object to. It's discussing the TCS community. Stop lying about what it is Elliot is (in your view) doing wrong.

Technically "I think X" is meta (what the poster thinks is not what's at issue, what's true is). Meta is a stupid distinction, and not one that is actually enforced, except selectively, for the purpose of enforcing other rules while lying about what the rule is.

Pat replied:
"'and chastise any TCSers who write like it's true.'

this is the object point that you should not write like it's true."

No, I read the object point as being to chastise a person for their views. I suppose this is probably more precisely an incitement to post meta, rather than meta itself.

The second paragraph contains, as our Anonymous Coward points out, a discussion of the attributes of the TCS community, rather than limiting it to a criticism of the views themselves.

I think this is indicative of the problems your writing style Elliot. You have a tendency to include attacks on the holder of the view. As soon as you do this, any criticisms of the view itself is lost.

Now, here's my new reply to Pat:

"No, I read the object point as being to chastise a person for their views. I suppose this is probably more precisely an incitement to post meta, rather than meta itself."

If you prefer, the object point could be considered a claim that certain behavior is worthy of being chastised, which is a point about morality.

As for incitement to post meta. Well ponder this: for any set of imperfect rules, posting a perfect treatise on morality would be 'incitement to break the rules'.

Also, any writing that criticises/disagrees-with the rules is 'incitement' in the same way mine is (technically, the fact a rule is wrong, doesn't imply we should break it, so not all criticism of rules implies we should break them.....but that saving grace applies to my post too).

"The second paragraph contains, as our Anonymous Coward points out, a discussion of the attributes of the TCS community, rather than limiting it to a criticism of the views themselves."

No topic is always meta. That sort of discussion is meta-level relative to certain discussions, but can also be an object level discussion in its own right. And complex discussions where posters quote various different things and reply to each, can be looked at as multiple discussions about different things. So I'd say, among other discussions, we were having an object level one about TCS community issues. Which included points about morality and how to take views on certain matters.

"I think this is indicative of the problems your writing style Elliot. You have a tendency to include attacks on the holder of the view. As soon as you do this, any criticisms of the view itself is lost."

Notice the first sentence is ad hominem meta against me (attacks my style), the second sentence says I have a tendency to write ad hominem meta (that's more ad hominem meta, and also hypocritical, because Pat is busy saying we shouldn't write ad hominem meta). And the third sentences goes on to attack what Pat just did some more. (This paragraph, using the hidden premise that inconsistent views are false, is the object point that what Pat said is false.)

And as to the content, how is writing about the TCS community an attack on Henry Sturman? I did not reply to Henry by attacking his views. And, I have to say, I never argue with ad hominems. Ever. That's just a vile slander. (The vile slander comment is meta, not an argument, and thus not hypocritical.)

I want to point out that even a discussion like "Why are Jack and Jill such assholes" could be an object discussion between, say, Pat and I. Discussing that as a discussion in its own right, instead of as a reply to some stuff Jack and Jill wrote, would not be meta. It would be ad hominem (calls people assholes) but would not be the ad hominem argument fallacy, because it wouldn't be used as an argument. So I freely admit I say things against people, just I don't do it as a specious argument.

Elliot Temple on August 25, 2003 | Comments (2)
In comments, Pat wrote:
"just you" as in I am not aware of a general pattern of Sarah ignoring people as you claim she is you.

FWIW, I am aware of such a pattern, although the details are private/confidential.

"Are you trying to say [Sarah] views me as a single loony not worth talking to?"

I suppose that is a possible explanation of the behavior you are describing, although I can surmise others.

How about, your logic is so tight and irrefutable that the only what TCS in it's current form is going to survive is to ignore you and hope your reasoning doesn't see the light of day.

Well, if my logic is right, TCS should not want to remain in its current form. Though you've made it sound kinda dire. I don't see why changing the posting guidelines, especially the anti-meta stuff, would be so giant.

Or maybe, it is your style. If someone you knew was just plain harsh and mean and generally not any fun for you to converse with, and that person has repeatedly indicated that they were not interested in changing that aspect of themselves, how would you deal with such a person?

I would ignore the harshness, and interact anyway, if I had some reason to (such as the person being interesting, including uniquely wrong).

And to answer the implied comments about me: I am open to changing any part of my style if persuaded that I ought to. Umm, some people don't think I'm fun to talk to, but I know plenty do, and I don't know a reason to think I have some special status in that regard. I deny being mean. I think being harsh to ideas is sometimes called for.
Has anyone, including those that generally agree with you, ever complained about your presentation being abrasive? If so, did you indicate that you would seriously consider their suggestions or did you indicate that you thought you were and still are justified in such a presentation?

Can't I indicate both? I think I'm right and I'm open to being persuaded otherwise. True and mutable.
Or maybe it is something else, I don't know. I am purely speculating based on the information you have provided so far.

Since you have access to much more information about the interactions between you and Sarah than I, why do you think she is not engaging you?

I don't know why. Wish I did.

Elliot Temple on August 26, 2003 | Comments (2)
Take two abstract countries, and take it for granted each wants to destroy and dominate the other. They're at war. Ignore concerns like other pro-peace countries putting pressure for a truce. Now, for the goal of winning the war, why might these two countries take a truce? Well, they must think a temporary reprieve will help them more than their enemy. But if they both think that, one of them is wrong, and should have declined the truce and continued the war. And thus, with sufficiently good intelligence info, there would never be any truces.

Optionally, some people might think a truce is good for the world, because it will be better for the world if both countries have some time to prosper and create without constantly destroying stuff. But in any truce for that reason, one country is sacrificing its own war aims, and hurting its chance of winning, for the good of the world. And if that country thinks its winning the war is very important to the fate of the world, because its values are good, and the rival countries values are bad, then this kind of truce is incoherent. Sure, you get to prosper, but so too does the enemy grow stronger.

And countries are analogous to rival worldviews. Oh! And this only applies in the limit of taking your own side seriously.

Another point is, if it's say capitalists and commies, truces help capitalists, cause they have a better economy and stuff -- in peace they prosper a lot, and commies don't. Hence consistent commies should not accept peace. Nor should consistent Islamofacists. They'll only accept peace if they're confused enough to think they're the ones with the dynamic, productive society, and the capitalists are the ones on the verge of collapse, or something like that.

Elliot Temple on August 27, 2003 | Comments (0)
I read an article on Sarah's TCS Site, and have comments:
Though many parents may be convinced of TCS in theory, they often want practical advice on how to resolve real problems; yet, as TCS parents come to learn, there is no one solution to any given problem just as there is no one kind of child or parent.

This is ambiguous. The passage could mean that because finding a common preference does not depend on solving one particular problem, but rather any of many, there are many ways to find common preferences. But the passage could also mean that single problems have multiple best answers -- that truth is pluralistic (I won't go into my objections to relativism here, but I will suggest that TCS follows Popper in opposing it, and so should TCS writing).

Additionally, in my interpretations lies a mistake! They use the hidden premise that the passage means something logically coherent. there's no particular reason to assume this. a better theory is that it's supposed to mean some combination of my two suggestions, and some other stuff as well, and that these meanings aren't all that consistent
Unlike most approaches to parenting, TCS does not and cannot offer formulas or methods for dealing with specific problems. This is because finding common preferences involves discovering what is most preferred by the very unique individuals involved.

The first sentence is misleading. Although there is a school of TCS thought concerned with constraints on how to parent, it is certainly not true that TCSers cannot or should not make tentative conjectures about specific things to do with either their children or most children. In other words, although TCS does not have a list of The Golden Methods that all parents must use, it is also not true that whenever TCS parents find methods of dealing with things they go "oh my god! a method! i better not use it!"

to get a sense of methods... washing the counters first and mopping the floor second is a method of cleaning. and rather a good one, cause of drips. now, TCS doesn't say all people must clean this way. maybe someone will figure out a better way later, or whatever. but a parent who uses this method is not barred from being TCS.

The second sentence is, to the extent the first is true, not the reason for that as it claims (note word 'because'). Additionally, finding common preferences does not require finding 'most preferred' things. Nor even is finding what people want a main part of CP finding. Generally, we have some idea of what we want, and CPs are found by a combination of figuring out how to get what we want and figuring out how to change what we want. Although sometimes we'll have what we want wrong, and find analysis in that direction helpful, it isn't part of the general method of CP finding.

Calling the individuals involved 'very unique' and the rest of the sentence gives the impression that the world works something like: there are different people, each unique, each special, each important. To live in harmony, we must find the natural, most perfect things for each to want and do. And by getting in touch with our inner selves like this can we solve most/all problems. This vision is wrong.
That's a hard truth for new TCS parents.


and followed by more meta and then three scenarios. the scenarios are riddled with errors. but i can't be bothered to point them all out without a stronger conviction that anyone cares. if any readers really want to find some of the errors, and try themselves, and don't see them, feel free to ask questions in comments. preferably fairly specific ones.

Elliot Temple on September 1, 2003 | Comments (0)
thought: Doesn't wanting to live forever violate the notion that we should be concerned with what theories and values triumph rather than who triumphs? I mean, we think our values and theories are the right ones, fine, but we also know they aren't perfect, and will have to be changed in the future. And who's to say we'll be the best ones to adapt to the values of the future? Even today all of us find entrenched theories we aren't sure how to fix. And the more time passes, the more the world will change, and the more we will find that not just the denotation of our worldview needs changing, but even the constraints and meta-knowledge in it must also be changed. As a striking example of the difficulty of doing that, just look at how much control we have over our emotions.

counter: As the world improves this much, well why the fuck can't we stick around? It's not like there isn't gonna be plenty of housing, food, stuff. Even if we were basically totally useless, we could subsist on negligible charity (in reality, creative people, even with hangups, aren't useless). And also, the above is kinda revolutionary. As if we should just get rid of imperfect worldviews and replace them with more-perfect new ones. (even replace here implies we have to make room for the new ones, ie limited space, which isn't right). but it isn't going to be like that, with an old generation of useless people and a new generation of useful people. the distinctions will be much more blurred. ok, now i concede there will be people who feel they can't keep up, and want to die. fine. but the people who do have the conviction that they want to live forever ... well in wanting to live forever they aren't giving up, rather they press on and try every day. and that itself is enough.

Elliot Temple on September 1, 2003 | Comments (4)
so i was watching Dr Phil (*puke*), and he said something like "i've been doing this 30 years, and i've never run into a kid where finding the right lever to control his behavior didn't work". and what's worse is I believe him. *shudder* (lever as in something child cares about to use to blackmail/manipulate with punishment and/or reward)

Elliot Temple on September 2, 2003 | Comments (0)
There is less agreement about what uncommon words mean than about common ones. This is part of why pretty, arcane-word-riddled writing tends to be more confusing. Also note this effect: words sometimes become less common because people don't agree on their use.

Elliot Temple on September 2, 2003 | Comments (0)
if you screw a palestinian, you risk the screw killing a jew as shrapnel later

Elliot Temple on September 3, 2003 | Comments (2)
one thing about questions is: if the person has all this knowledge you don't (ie what you're trying to ask about) they're prolly good at figuring out the point of questions even if the questions are badly flawed

this applies to like generally wise people, who are smart at lozza stuff, not one-sphere-wonders.

Elliot Temple on September 4, 2003 | Comments (0)
What is sarah on?

"The way to create new knowledge is to resolve the disagreement by finding a proposal that each person prefers ' a common preference." (source)

CPs are for not hurting each other. they aren't the method by which we create knowledge. (new knowledge? wtf does that mean?) we create knowledge via conjectures and refutations. as written, it sounds like "we create new knowledge by agreeing on stuff". (finding a proposal each person prefers = finding a single proposal about what everyone does that everyone agrees-on/consents-to)

Elliot Temple on September 7, 2003 | Comments (0)
"Formal education is so flawed a blind man picking scrabble pieces in the dark could write a true argument against it." -- curi

Elliot Temple on September 8, 2003 | Comments (0)
dan posts a nice point about radio stations giving gifts on 9/11. namely that if WTC was a symbol of capitalism, we shouldn't give stuff away in its memory.

UPDATE: Gil commented on Dan's blog that giving stuff away is promotion and *makes money* or they wouldn't be doing it. He's right.

Elliot Temple on September 11, 2003 | Comments (0)
So my friend and I go to the park a bit after midnight and play frisbee for a bit, but it's kinda too dark, so we get tired of it. But then some cops come and shine a really bright light on us (the park was closed, but the gate was open, so *shrug*). So my friend is like, "Hey, we have light now, lets play frisbee more!" I think that's one of the most brilliant ideas I've ever heard. So we did play more frisbee....for about 30 seconds. Then the cops used a loudspeaker to tell us to leave. So then we start leaving, and the cops drive over to us and want to ask us for ID and stuff. Then one asks why we started playing frisbee in the light. So we told them because we could see the frisbee! Then they looked at us funny. Cops are amusing.

Elliot Temple on September 13, 2003 | Comments (0)
ok so me and toad would go to the park to play frisbee. and come from a certain side, cause that's where the water fountain is. and man, water rocks when you just biked a few miles and ur about to play frisbee, and you know the bottles of water you carried will run out and you'll have to make trips back to the water fountain, and yeah....

ok, but anyway, when ur both hella thirsty, it takes a while to drink enough water. and also, it's good to like drink a bunch, wait a few seconds, and drink more. so what you do is one person drinks some, then takes a break, and you take multiple turns on one visit. ok, still so far, so good.

now, one day we made a discovery. there's *two* water fountains! joy of joys! when we arrive there's like a closer one. now we can drink water sooner! w00t!

but not only that, we do it like this: first person drinks from first water fountain while other waits. then bikes to the second water fountain while second person drinks from first fountain. then second person follows and arrives at the second fountain as the first person is finishing up there. and, boom, less waiting, more drinking, and some waiting becomes biking to the next fountain, which is like on the way. w00t! we're all efficient.

but the thing is. say i wasn't with toad. someone else. pretty much anyone else. if they're fairly good, we'll probably alternate drinking in a single visit instead of just waiting for the other to completely finish. but if i tried to bike off to the second fountain? they'd be like "hey, why are you ditching me?" and I'd be like "d00d, I'm going to the other fountain" and they'd be like "Why? There's water right here!" and I'd be like "umm, yeah, but you're using it" and they'd be like "umm, so are you coming back after? isn't that kinda far to go? just wait!" and I'd be like "no, look, you follow me after you're done drinking here, and it's more efficient" and they'll be like "umm, this is sure a lot of work for such a tiny improvement. almost seems *inefficient* to me!" and I'll just get bored and wander off to the next fountain, and yeah......

ok, so why does it matter that the organisational costs would be way higher with most people? and why does it matter that most people would resist such a small improvement? isn't it negligible?

Well, the thing is, the way we improve stuff is piecemeal. Bit by bit. We don't improve our lives by making one giant step forward every couple months. No no. We inch forward day by day. It's small, gradual improvement over time that gets somewhere. Improvement is not negligible. It's improvement. It's better. resisting small improvements is exactly the wrong thing to do.

and there's more. having a worldview where the cost of implementing a small improvement is high, is a very very bad thing. having one where the cost is small, is a very very good thing. if someone says "eh, we shouldn't bother with that, cause it's too much work for the benefit," even if they're right, well why's it so damn much work to *improve* things? only cause people have perverse WVs in the first place!

Elliot Temple on September 14, 2003 | Comments (0)
IMAO is back and posting again. Including this gem of an In My World entry.

Elliot Temple on September 15, 2003 | Comments (0)
I heard about this philosophy called Dynamic Living. It sure sounds better than not moving...

Part of it is supposed to be about balancing the different parts of your life. I figure to work towards that, I'll try to watch anime as much as I sleep.

Elliot Temple on September 15, 2003 | Comments (0)
This new security system called Watchdog is super sweet. it says dogs have 50,000 times better smelling and 20,000 times better hearing than people, and better night vision, and so they're pretty good at noticing intruders and stuff. and it uses some computer algorithm to moniter dogs for security purposes. coolness.

Elliot Temple on September 15, 2003 | Comments (0)
i thought i should post. then i wondered what. i thought maybe a rant would be good. i haven't really been reading enough blogs lately to post about those. a rant about what? well, prolly whatever pisses me off a lot would work well. so lessee how this goes.

the idea that sex should be taboo for young people pisses me off. there's just no god damn reason young people cannot or should not learn about sex. in fact, there's the opposite: lots of good reasons they should. sex is important to our culture, so everyone will want to learn a fair bit about it, and many people will want extensive knowledge. why try to make people wait years and years and years to start learning? it's stupid. and the result is people do learn younger, but get embarrassed about it, and learn from worse sources than they might otherwise. like, my god, i hear some girls really think you can't get pregnant your first time. and many people worry masturbation is unhealthy or immoral. *sigh*

the anti-cussing taboos are annoying too. i don't see what the big fucking deal is. curse words are just words. sheesh.

anti-racists piss me off too. i just don't care about race. fuck it. whatever. they, on the other hand, paint all sorts of stuff on racial lines. isn't that racism? sure seems like it to me. god, some of them are so "anti"-racist they ban white people from their seminars. no joke. or, my god, support affirmative action (which means, however you slice it, discriminating college admissions on the basis of race).

there's a cool southpark ep where the southpark flag is 4 white ppl hanging a nigger (*ahem* black d00d). (btw did u notice the black guy on the show is named Token? he's such a token effort at racial balance that it's funny) anyway, the anti-racists wanna change the flag. and some ppl say the flag is tradition. the kids have to debate the issue. stan and kyle take the side of keeping it the same and get called racists a lot. anyway, they give their debate speech, and it goes something like "killing has been around forever. it's natural. animals kill each other all the time. we don't see what the big deal is with depicting killing on the flag." and the anti-racists are like "but it's white people killing a black guy" and the kids are like "OHHHHHH!". they never noticed. i hate anti-racists :) btw in the ep they fixed the flag by making it a white guy, and black guy, a yellow guy, and a red (mebbe, not sure) guy hanging a black guy. heh heh

speaking of animals, they're really ridiculous. they don't even speak English. what kind of dipshit can't speak english? heheh

umm, good enuf, i spose. *wanders off*

Elliot Temple on September 27, 2003 | Comments (0)
oh wait, i thought of something, i thought of something! yay me!

at low-precision the NAP and non-coercion are not misleading. they are right-leading. it's generally a good idea not to attack people outside self defense, and generally not a good idea to coerce your children. duh. they hold at low precision easy.

what about at high precision? well, at high precision I think they're true (well non-coercion moreso, the NAP has to be reworded and stuff). high precision defense of the truth of the statements, involves various points that one might think misleading, and involves so many catches and subtle little stuff, that one might wonder how they can be useful things to say. well, i deny that misleading is a meanful criticism at high-precision. i think at high precision the claim "how can the truth be misleading?" holds. am not purporting to be saying more than the truth; am not purporting to lead ya anywhere.

btw it's possible to use truisms misleadingly, if you answer a question with a truism about one side of the issue and scorn the other. but that misleadingness is not inherent in the truism.

Elliot Temple on September 29, 2003 | Comments (0)
everyone organises their room. just some people use different organisational schemes. it's a travesty that one particular type of scheme (empty floor, stuff in rows where it's nice to look at and hard to use, not much dust, etc) has a monopoly on being called organised or orderly. esp when it's not even all that great a setup. it's pretty impractical.

on the flipside of the coin, a lot of children could have better-organised rooms, and would enjoy it that way. but the solution isn't to go in there and move stuff around (mess it up even more), it's to not instill cleaning hangups in your kids.

Elliot Temple on September 29, 2003 | Comments (2)
In armies, it used to be that almost the entire army was fighters, with only a few support people like dedicated cooks, squires, medics, hunters or whores. Soldiers could cook and hunt themselves, and there barely were any medics. And only a few people got squires. I suppose horse troops got some servants to take care of horses and stuff, and leaders got some, but the vast majority of footmen had like no support. Oh I forgot supply lines, which are support. But still a small number of people compared to the army.

Over the years, this has changed. A smaller and smaller proportion of armies does the fighting, and a larger and larger proportion does support work. Now we have supply lines, medics, coordinator people in headquarters with radios (or maybe satellite communicators or whatever), trainers (used to be the trainers were all fighters too), advisors, mechanics, translators, etc etc etc

Anyway, the point is combat troops down, support troops up, and this makes the combat troops way more effective, makes them take lower casualty rates, and works better.

OK, this morning I was lying in bed, thinking about stuff, fairly randomly, and it occurred to me that I have a relatively (very) high amount of time into structure, support, and organisational stuff of my WV, and (relatively) low amount into doing actual content. And I believe this is a really, really good thing.

A few random examples, besides time relaxing/thinking, are that I've spent way more time reading war3 strategy and watching replays than playing the game. Spent more time reading Magic strategy than playing magic. spend very high amounts of time planning how to make my character/party in computer games. and if the game is dull, i'll quit and not consider it time wasted. I even start over if I mess up, often, to get it right. not because I think I can't win with an imperfect party (most games are designed so someone not very good can win eventually, and someone really good could win with a large handicap). but because it's important to test my conjectures of what the right party is by actually using it. and it's boring to play with a refuted party. (though if you get too far, re-doing stuff too often is boring, so it can be better to press on, for the sake of seeing the later parts of the game, which can be cool).

another example is i'll often spend a bunch of time deciding what to do, instead of doing something. other people might say, "you have three good-enough ideas, roll some dice and do one". and if I took their approach, a while later I'd have done something ok, or maybe even the right thing for a while. my way, what'll I have to show for my time? well, I'll have learned about how to decided what to do, and every time in the future i'll be better able to decide. there's less point doing an activity before you have a conjecture about which to do to test. and the activity will be richer when it has the two-fold meaning of the activity, and of testing the conjecture about what to do.

Elliot Temple on September 30, 2003 | Comments (0)
my fucking god. lookat this:

"Which, I finally have to inform you, I've decided not to do. I'm sick of being your whipping-boy, the lightning conductor for all your self-disgust. It's like having a million teenage children, all sulking and slamming their bedroom doors, and Cherie and I have had enough. It's Gordon's turn. Good luck to him." (source)

Elliot Temple on September 30, 2003 | Comments (0)
so i've been reading A Song of Ice and Fire, which is totally TEH r0xx0r. but anyhow, I've got a morality question:

Arya is a highborn girl; an important person. And not just any highborn girl, but one of the most important half dozen houses in the realm. She ends up captured by enemies, but is dirty enough to be mistaken for a boy. Even cleaned, she isn't recognised. She's put to work cleaning on the cleaning staff at a castle, basically slave labor until the war is over (and after, the ones who really are lowborn won't have anywhere to go or anyway to leave, so they'll stay, and work, to keep getting fed).

After a while a hundred prisoner's from Arya's brother's army (her father died) come to the castle dungeons, and the enemy army leaves, except for maybe a hundred guards and some hired mercenaries. Arya manages to free the prisoners who take over the castle (the hired people all change sides). However, Arya doesn't trust anyone, so she doesn't tell them who she is, and keeps doing work. One day it is announced her brother's bannermen will soon leave, and she discovers she would remain and the hired mercenaries would rule the castle. They are *nasty* people. Really fucking nasty. Arya does *not* want to be in their power. So she decides to escape. She steals some horses and swords (two friends come with her) and food. The stealing seems perfectly moral to me. But anyway, after that, there's one thing standing between her and escape: the man at the gate. (She goes to a small gate with only one guard.) Arya kills him. One of her brother's soldiers, who did no wrong. Was this murder wrong?

I do have my own answer, but I won't give it until enough people comment. I do have one piece of advice though: I would suggest considering morality to be that which helps promote human flourishing, whether it's true or not in the limit, won't help at all here. Killing the guard is good for Arya's flourishing and bad for the guard's flourishing. Ho hum.

Elliot Temple on October 8, 2003 | Comments (0)
wow a whole post, go me!

curi42 (6:42:25 PM): hmm i think there is an attitude where people make some choices, in effect about what values to have and about vast swathes of future choices. (and make most of these choices based on what they're supposed to do, etc)
curi42 (6:42:58 PM): then sort of coast along, being little more than a robot enacting these pre-decided things, and making trivial choices (what should i eat today?)
curi42 (6:43:13 PM): ok, technically, they still keep making big choices all the time, but it's so ingrained to make them one way, they never even notice
curi42 (6:43:42 PM): 2 points: A) telling them they must stop and think, could be rather disturbing
curi42 (6:44:04 PM): B) our view, where we are constantly making choices, could be rather foreign and not understandable
curi42 (6:44:05 PM): like
curi42 (6:44:50 PM): in relationships, ppl seem to think 'ok, i'm jack's gf now, so i'll do that' and the only real choices are 'keep going' and 'quit'. as long as it's keep-going mode they just coast coast coast.
curi42 (6:45:09 PM): whereas, a better view is, every day.....every hour, we must keep deciding what we want to do next, and next, and next. the future isn't set
curi42 (6:45:24 PM): under the second view, multiple friends becomes a non-issue
curi42 (6:45:51 PM): that sound good? should i change much b4 posting?
curi42 (6:46:17 PM): [mwahahaha, you can't read what I said here]
Other_Person (6:48:06 PM): seems ok, though it is perhaps too harsh a judgement on people
curi42 (6:48:25 PM): on ppl in general?
Other_Person (6:48:31 PM): yes
curi42 (6:48:39 PM): they don't do it WRT all things
Other_Person (6:49:00 PM): being conservative is a good policy in general, since the world is very complex and innovation is risky
Other_Person (6:49:24 PM): coasting = pejorative word for 'being conservative'
curi42 (6:49:43 PM): no
curi42 (6:49:53 PM): it's a perjorative word for not noticing ur making choices
curi42 (6:49:59 PM): being conservative *on purpose* is one thing
Other_Person (6:52:28 PM): ok
Other_Person (6:52:32 PM): well, say that too
curi42 (6:52:37 PM): k

Elliot Temple on October 12, 2003 | Comments (9)
IMAO has the bestest set of readers ever. I wish mine were as cool as his. Look at this poll he ran:

What is the best way to defeat terrorism?
By living our lives as normal - 6 votes (1%)
By attacking the root causes that breeds terrorism - 35 votes (6%)
By being more engaged in the world and better respecting the opinions of other countries - 12 votes (2%)
Kill all terrorists; if people complain about our harsh tactics, kill them too - 535 votes (91%)

Elliot Temple on October 15, 2003 | Comments (0)
i don't usually bother linking IMAO posts, because basically they are all so good i figure you must already read them all. and it'd get boring to be like "here's an IMAO post, read it" and then like "here's another" and then like "look, IMAO posted again." i mean i already tried that with virtue pure and eh it got boring, and IMAO posts waaaaaaaay more often too.

however, fuck it. here's an IMAO post to read

and read this one too

and look, another one. (here's part 2 of that one)

Elliot Temple on October 22, 2003 | Comments (0)
so i was just reading from The Myth of the Framework (by Karl Popper), and what struck me is that Popper will go on for pages and pages to make some point that seems to me to be very simple. he is careful to answer all sorts of objections someone might have, that I would assume my reader will not have, because the objections are stupid. he repeats himself over and over and over. also, he repeats himself, which is really annoying. i wish he wouldn't repeat himself so much. (actually a real objection is i didn't encounter a single joke yet) *ahem* anywayz,

so he goes on for pages about what seems to me a sentence or two of content. so it's kinda dull to read cause it's all like "duh, i've been taking that practically for granted long as i remember".

ok, but anyway, here's the point. i happen to know Popper's work is in large part not understood or accepted. get it?

to put it more plainly: imagine you read the works of some scientist from the 1500's or some similarly old work, and he was going "wow, i have this new idea, maybe the world is like a sphere" or maybe you read "i posit that really big stuff attracts other stuff with a pull. i'll call this gravity." now imagine that the author of this book you were reading was a heretic, and his ideas were generally rejected. dear god, how you would scream, and pull out your hair, and grind your teeth into dust.

(i'm aware if people had the wrong idea of *physics* that might not be so terrible to live with (depends on details), but my example was just meant to illustrate the concept. the subjects Popper wrote on had to do with how to have a discussion, and how to argue, and basic epistemology and morality. if people do *that* wrong, WRT to the things Popper speaks of, it *is* extremely frustrating and bad and stuff.)


oh yeah and i forgot to mention: so even if i learned to write more like Popper: to be more thorough and make everything obvious, and even if i found the patience to be much less telegraphed, well even then would it be wise to expect to be understood or liked much? no.

Elliot Temple on October 23, 2003 | Comment (1)
i've read most of chapters 2 and 3 of The Myth of the Framework by Karl Popper. a few things that struck me are:

- Popper's writing is extremely clear and simple. and if you open up to practically any page, and start reading in the middle of a paragraph, what he's saying will still make sense.

- Popper uses a lot of examples from history. esp old philosophers.

- Popper puts a lot of effort into refuting common misconceptions, often repetitively

the thesis of the book is basically about this:

the myth of the framework, in one sentence says "A rational and fruitful discussion is impossible unless the participants share a common framework of basic assumptions or, at least, unless they have agreed on such a framework for the purpose of the discussion." this is the myth popper criticises in the book.

here's another example of the myth: "Those who believe this, and those who do not, have no common ground of discussion, but in view of their opinions must of necessity scorn each other." - Plato


in the author's note at the start, it says the essays in the book were mostly collected from various lectures to non-specialist audiences. that's why they repeat lots of Popper's main philosophical ideas so often.

Elliot Temple on October 23, 2003 | Comments (0)
oh my god. read this now. seriously. it's a short personal story about encountering jew hatred.

Elliot Temple on October 23, 2003 | Comments (0)
if ur wondering whether kolya and his anti-TCS followers have a point, you might take note of how bonkers some of their actual positions are. like look at this by leonor. (no permalinks, but the date is: 10/26/2003 09:08:49 AM)

notice how she says "I'd argue that fiction [can't] actually help people form any good values about the real world, as it consists of fake information, of lies. I don't believe metaphors and allegories are a good way to explain the world, they are used to trick people." and also doesn't think ppl learn about "the real world" from video games.

Elliot Temple on October 26, 2003 | Comments (0)
"Coercion is the state of two or more personality strands being expressed in different options of a single choice so that one cannot see a way to choose without forsaking some part of his personality."

Coercion --> Immorality
personality strands --> intentions
personality --> set of intentions

"Immorality is the state of two or more intentions being expressed in different options of a single choice so that one cannot see a way to choose without forsaking some part of his set of intentions."


Elliot Temple on October 28, 2003 | Comments (12)
Bob owes Joe $5,000. one day they're walking down the street, and both have lots of cash on them. they get mugged. before the robbers take their money, Bob asks "can you at least let me pay joe here back the 5 grand i owe him first, before you rob us?"

Elliot Temple on October 31, 2003 | Comment (1)

fucking biased media


it's a news article by Reuters. the headline is "Hamas Sets Truce Terms, Israel Demands Crackdown"

but what does that mean?

well by truce they mean, "The Islamic group Hamas ruled out on Monday halting militancy in a three-year-old Palestinian revolt but said it could limit attacks to Israeli soldiers and settlers if the Jewish state stopped harming Palestinian civilians."

in plain English, Hamas offers to only attack soldiers and certain civilians especially the more vulnerable ones who live on settlements, but not all civilians. and this is only if Israel agrees not to shoot at terrorists who use human shields (among other things). that's a "truce" offer.

and by crackdown they mean, "Israel insists on an anti-militant crackdown by the Palestinian Authority as required by the road map, a move rejected by Palestinian officials as a recipe for civil war."

in plain English, Israel insists that the PA keep its word. that's a "crackdown".

Elliot Temple on November 2, 2003 | Comments (0)

What's a WMD?

a friend went to a college halloween party, with a costume that was a shirt that said "WMD" on it. was he mobbed by the foaming-at-the-mouth liberals which inhabit all college campuses? was he studiously ignored because the liberals were in the habit of turning a blind eye to WMD?

nope! rather, he was asked what WMD are. people didn't know. and I thought *I* didn't read much news. ah, the warped perspective of a blogger...

this is especially notable after reading this piece on The World. the piece suggests one of the evils that the Nazis did was force many people to learn about war and death and killing, when they would rather have just lived their lives. and so too is it wrong of the terrorists to make us learn about the morality of terrorism. who the hell wants to take a stance on whether we should bomb a terrorist who's in the same building as a baby?

well, apparently plenty of people still haven't taken such stances. I admit probably some of them ought to learn about this stuff, because these issues really are important today, no matter how much we'd like them not to be. but on the other hand, it's nice to hear that not everyone worries about this stuff; some people still get to go on with their lives as usual.

oh, and speaking of learning about these issues. i'd like to express my appreciation of all the US soldiers in Iraq, who deal with them so not all of us have to (or have to much less).

Elliot Temple on November 2, 2003 | Comments (0)

Battle Cry

A Little Boy Lost
by William Blake

'Nought loves another as itself,
   Nor venerates another so,
Nor is it possible to thought
   A greater than itself to know.

'And, father, how can I love you
   Or any of my brothers more?
I love you like the little bird
   That picks up crumbs around the door.'

The Priest sat by and heard the child;
   In trembling zeal he seized his hair,
He led him by his little coat,
   And all admired his priestly care.

And standing on the altar high,
   'Lo, what a fiend is here!' said he:
'One who sets reason up for judge
   Of our most holy mystery.'

The weeping child could not be heard,
   The weeping parents wept in vain:
They stripped him to his little shirt,
   And bound him in an iron chain,

And burned him in a holy place
   Where many had been burned before;
The weeping parents wept in vain.
   Are such things done on Albion's shore?

This is my favorite poem, and I've added it to my sidebar. But what do you think of it? What does the poem mean? Is it right? Why is it important? Is it important? Please discuss.

Elliot Temple on November 3, 2003 | Comments (0)

Government Is Good (Despite What Some Libertarians Say)

One Perspective On Government

Some libertarians oppose governments on the principle that they are organised gangs of thugs. They consider the defining characteristic of governments to be that governments claim the right to initiate force ... and people listen (whereas most thieves don't pretend to be legitimate and aren't considered as such). They point out that they never agreed to pay taxes, and don't want to, and don't like most of the stuff that taxes pay for, and consider that conclusive.

Some of these libertarians support the war on terrorism. They realise that terrorism is a great threat, and to wish see it fought against. Terrorism is so bad that anyone at all fighting it is good. I suppose they must see the matter as a powerful pickpocket guild beating up a renegade gang of murderers. A "lesser of two evils" situation.

(Some libertarians would oppose the war on terror, either because they figure "If we leave them alone, they'll leave us alone, and nevermind Israel," or "No collateral damage is ever acceptable, under any circumstances, for any purpose, even if it is only caused because the enemy is using human shields." But I won't go into how silly I think those approaches are right now.)

Some of these libertarians, if given the option, would be happy to see the US government disappear tomorrow. The institution, the knowledge of how to run it, the taxes, the laws, etc... This is absurd, notably, even within the pickpocket metaphor, as it means foregoing protection.

But there's more than that; there are good reasons to like our government and support it besides self-defense. Our government does various things, some important. Now, the libertarians will insist that all these functions could, in theory, be done by private companies. Well, yes, I agree. But so what? I don't see these companies. They don't exist (yet).

It's not as if an anarcho-capitalist society (in short: free market capitalism with all government functions replaced by private companies and taxes replaced by user fees for people who want the services) would simply come into being without our government. Anarcho-capitalism is not the natural state of affairs that once existed until it was destroyed when a group of evil thugs invented government and took over. It is, rather, a very advanced notion that requires lots of knowledge to implement. This knowledge must be created gradually, through the improvement of existing institutions. Government functions must not disappear overnight, but instead slowly be replaced by private institutions that function better. We need good traditions, not a revolution.

Why Government Is Good

Governments create consent. That's the reason in a nutshell, but of course it needs an explanation.

Let's imagine a group of people living somewhere with no government, and little knowledge. Some will be bad, and will want to dominate over the others. So most people will form mutual defense pacts. And somewhere not too far off, some bad person will have conquered an empire, and formed an army, and thus our people will want to form one big defensive pact, instead of lots of scattered ones, so that they can fend off the entire army if need be. So they will form institutions to cooperate in regional defense. When an invasion looms, there may be disagreements about how many soldiers are needed to fight it off, and who must become a soldier, and where their equipment will come from. Thus, a system to resolve these issues is needed.

And these people will also set up institutions for small-scale defense against criminals. And they will need some system of deciding who is and is not a criminal. The answer to this is not self-evident despite what some libertarians seem to think. There will be disagreements, and thus some way to resolve them will be needed.

One day, Joe's crop goes bad. He asks others for help. They form some food-sharing institutions. They create rules to govern these. The people all value security, and thus put in provisions to help anyone who does not have enough.

One day they invent medicine. They realise that if they only pay the doctor when they are sick, he will starve in the mean time. And also that he will have no motivation to help prevent people from becoming sick. So everyone pays a low price all the time, and the doctor helps whoever needs help at recovery and prevention both. Some people disagree about who the doctor should be helping, saying he favours his friends, and they create institutions to resolve disputes of that nature.

What will all these institutions look like? Well, at first they will be very crude. The defensive agreement might simply state that all able-bodied men must fight when there is a war, or be put to death. The food agreement might allow anyone who is starving to take food from his neighbor, "as long as he made a genuine effort to create his own food." And the system of resolving disputes might be to ask the town elder.

And, over time, people will come up with better ideas. And after a while, and a lot of progress, something like our current government and courts might form.

If this society (that we've imagined) progresses to use a completely voluntary army, that will be an amazing advance. And if it has elected leaders who consent to voluntarily step down when their term ends, that will be an amazing advance. And if criminals are presumed innocent until evidence is presented against them, that will be an amazing advance. And if there are property rights defended by law, and a system of consensual trade, that will be an amazing advance.

When we know how to do better than using government for these things, we will. But we do not. The path to a better society is not to rail against our government, but rather to acknowledge it for what it is: an imperfect, evolving tradition and a great force for good.

Elliot Temple on November 3, 2003 | Comments (31)

split post

curi looks about 15, skinny, goes barefoot with shorts and a t-shirt in any weather, and moves unnaturally fast. He's standing in front of a bridge over a small, calm river. A long line of people are crossing in silence.

curi: "Salutations! Welcome to my domain!"
Elliot (no description ;p): hmpf
curi: *Waves at people* "What?"
Elliot: They're so quiet.
curi: Hah! Watch this.
curi: *Jumps up and down shouting* Hey everyone! Speak or I'll fire this machine gun *holds up machinegun* into the crowd!
crowd: *stops walking, cowers and cringes*
two bold souls: *shouting* Please don't shoot.
Elliot: ...
curi: see, they talked
Elliot: ...
curi: I'll give you sushi to cheer up.
Elliot: ...
crowd: *trudges on again*
curi: *rolls eyes* Fine, fuck you.
Elliot: no
curi: Now introducing...
curi: *pauses*
curi: Virtue Pure!
Virtue Pure (an adult, dressed classy, and always illuminated by a personal beam of light from the heavens that follows him): Hi everyone. I'm so happy to be here.
Elliot: Why?
Virtue Pure: It's really an honor to be invited. I'm ecstatic just to be in your presence, Elliot. You're brilliant, ya know?
Elliot: You mean bored.
Virtue Pure: No I don't.
Elliot: Are you contradicting me? I thought I was the brilliant one. ;p
Virtue Pure: I meant no offense. I'll try to help you with your boredom.
Elliot: ...
Virtue Pure: Well, give me a moment to think.
curi: you people suck. well at least if I add more it'll make a good orgy...
Elliot: Worst. Pun. Ever.
curi: whatever. now introducing: Isyn Kaitsol.

Isyn Kaitsol is 18, tall, and fairly strong. He wears chainmail under a black robe, and a longsword on his belt. He is a priest of Amilise Siliv, and hopes to one day master arcane magiks as well. He has a bit of an evil problem.

Isyn: Hi! Hi! Glad to be here. Now, you may be thinking, "I know him. He worships an evil Goddess, and would ritually sacrifice children to gain ancient magiks." But I wanted to assure you that Amilise is very beautiful.
Elliot: Oh. Great. I'll sleep easy then.
curi: Hey, stop using sarcasm, that's part of my domain.
Elliot: yeah, sure...
Isyn: Hey, I resent this suspicion. I wasn't even the one who killed Myrdin.
curi: Speaking of killing Myrdin, here's Caeli (also known as Lia)!

Caeli approaches in a polished, steel breastplate with gold inlays, with a longsword on her belt. She stands up straight and seems tall despite being 5'7". Confidence and determination show in her blue eyes. She seems to radiate light, and her pale gold hair flies freely behind her in the light wind. But as she approaches Isyn, the light around her dims and her hair darkens and becomes mixed with brown.

Caeli: *strides up to stand beside Isyn* Myrdin was a traitor that deserved to die. He would have killed us in our sleep if I had not stopped him.
Isyn: *intones* Death comes for us all.
curi: riiiiiiight, *ahem*, so, let's not bring *that* incident up. who wants icecream?
Elliot: not me
Virtue Pure: icecream sounds nice

Tirin Veil, 14, small, quick, and wearing leather armor and a white cape comes running up carrying staff with a sword on his belt. He is an air mage, but unskilled in that art. However, he is skilled with sword and staff.

Tirin: Hi, I thought there just wasn't enough of a crowd, so I'd join in. But fear not, I'm sure I won't get in the way or be a nuisance. In fact, I'll even sing for you. *starts singing Lucky by Britney Spears* "Early morning, she wakes up..."
curi: ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, turn him off, turn him off! i thought i didn't invite him!
Elliot: who made you boss?
curi: i did.
Elliot: oh....
Isyn: *slips up next to curi and nudges him* "So tell me about this becoming boss thing. what's the trick to it?"
Tirin: *singing* She's so lucky, she's a star. But she cry, cry, cries in her lonely heart...
curi: well, first you have to not suck. then not be evil. then be as cool as me. and *then*, maybe learn how to alter reality at will.
Isyn: You can alter reality at will?
curi: *snaps fingers*

A hail of peeled bananas rains down on Virtue Pure.

Isyn: *drools*
curi: You like bananas that much? I'll make you some.
Isyn: Fool.
Tirin: *sings* "Lost in an image, in a dream. But there's no one there to wake her up..."
Elliot: ya know, so many people is really a mess. what were you thinking? you should introduce new characters more slowly. and only when you have some idea for what they might do that'll be entertaining or interesting.
curi: whatever.
Virtue Pure: This is important. What about the poor readers who have to endure this mess? Don't you care about them? Wouldn't the moral thing to do be to try and make a good skit, with some content or at least jokes?
curi: this is easier
Virtue Pure: The path of ease and the path of virtue sometimes go in different directions.
curi: yeah, that's why i picked one....
Caeli: You departed from the path of virtue intentionally? What kind of foul demon are you? *draws sword, which has a slight blue-white radiance* Draw your sword and meet your maker!
curi: you're on, bitch. *draws sword out of nowhere* (curi didn't have a sword until just now)
Isyn: Save his heart, I think I could use it in a ritual.
Tirin: *sings* "Best actress, and the winner is…Lucky!" "I'm Roger Johnson for Pop News standing...
Elliot: argh! stop fighting! can we please have a serious discussion?
curi: hey, no sweat, I can multi-task. *lunges at Caeli*
Caeli: *deflects curi's blow easily and tries to counter*
curi: *blinks out before Caeli's blow cuts him, and appears behind her*
Isyn: What dark sorcery is this? *draws sword and mumbles a prayer*

The sky turns dark, and rain begins to fall. Thunder booms and lightning strikes. Strong winds blow away everyone in the crowd except the main characters (did you even remember the crowd? heh), and the river turns into turbulent rapids. The beam of light from the heavens on Virtue Pure goes out, and Caeli's aura of light flickers with black. Isyn's muscles bulge, and his sword burns with a red-black fire.

curi: hah! I'll take you both on, bitches. Even with your curses.
Isyn: That was a blessing! I'm blessed now!
curi: uh huh
Tirin: *sings* If there's nothing missing in her life, Why do tears come at night?
Virtue Pure: I'm not sure this violence is conducive to flourishing. Maybe we should talk things out.
Elliot: Fuck you all. I'm leaving.

Elliot beings to walk off. Rain pelts his face. He trudges along slowly, looking down but not seeing and thus stumbling on every rock and rut. Virtue Pure chases after him.

Elliot: Leave me alone.
Virtue Pure: But I want to help.
Elliot: I'm not the one who needs help, baka. They're the ones who can't talk about anything and just get in sword fights or invoke dark powers.
Virtue Pure: Erm, but.....
Elliot: Go bug them, goodie goodie.
Virtue Pure: *hesitates*
Elliot: *runs off*

Meanwhile, Tirin finishes singing Lucky, as curi melees with Caeli and Isyn.

To Be Continued...

Translation Note: Baka means idiot in Japanese.

Elliot Temple on November 6, 2003 | Comments (4)

Elliot Temple on November 6, 2003 | Comments (0)

Elliot Temple on November 6, 2003 | Comments (0)

Ageism Watch


"I've learned that 99% of the time when something isn't working in your house, one of your kids did it."

Elliot Temple on November 7, 2003 | Comment (1)

Elliot Temple on November 7, 2003 | Comments (0)

i wonder if anyone is listening

Dan is a bit confused about democracy

if you had an "ideal" democracy in the really absurd and stupid sense that everyone votes on every issue, and everyone's vote counts (and yes, if you're thinking that isn't coherent, you're right), well what would happen is, most things that got voted on....well you'd have 7% for one policy, 4% for another, 3% for another, etc...

So then what? We could just have the highest thing win. Then 93% of the people get screwed I suppose (though they'll form parties, coalitions, and voting blocks so that won't happen as much in the future).

Or you could do run-offs. This slowly forces minority opinions to pick a more popular opinion to support, too. similar effect to parties/coalitions/voting-blocks

What we couldn't have is a mixed law that incorporates the ideas of every single voter. it wouldn't come out to have a coherent meaning. cause different people will support contradictory ideas.

so we discover the reality of our system is very similar to the real effects of a so-called "ideal" democracy (and also that you have to make some tough choices to have a workable democracy, and can't just rely on the "ideal" notion that everyone has a voice). and truth is there are very good reasons for a two party system. ok, i admit that point is debatable, but saying the US isn't a democracy is absurd (BTW I'm aware that there are technically other parties, but stuff *is* setup for only two parties to be powerful at a time).

Elliot Temple on November 7, 2003 | Comments (10)

Elliot Temple on November 7, 2003 | Comment (1)

Elliot Temple on November 7, 2003 | Comment (1)

gogo morality

some people wonder something like, "How can anarcho-capitalism work? What if the people running the police/army kinda companies decided to stop playing nice, and take over?"

well, it seems to me this question is absurd. what if President Bush decided to stop playing nice and take over? there aren't even competing armies in the US! what would stop him?

well our society! he would be disobeyed at every level of the chain of command. his generals wouldn't do it. and no common soldiers would either. no one would.

if we evolved to an anarcho-capitalist society, we'd still have a country of good people who wouldn't obey orders to become conquerers.

Elliot Temple on November 7, 2003 | Comments (0)

gogo thinking

I got positive feedback on this email to the Philosophy Now yahoogroup, so I thought I'd share it more widely:

On Saturday, November 8, 2003, at 01:27 AM, nowhere man wrote:

Can someone please explain to me why these type of discusion groups inevitably end up with people being rude and insulting? I was unaware that in order to make a comment about a subject one had to be pompous and demonstrate the very worse in psuedo-intellectual skills. Hell, I thought these discussions were simply meant to be a bit of fun.
It's not so much inevitable as common.  There are some generally accepted ideas in our society that say things like, "For certain subjects, if you aren't well-read, you can't say anything intelligent, or at least can't come up with any good ideas, or any new ideas."  And for other subjects, you're supposed to need a PhD.  Philosophy is one of the worst in this respect.  Most academic philosophers spend their time worrying about dead people, and seems under the impression that even if you study the dead people extensively, it's still very difficult to come up with an actual new idea.  They're also very good at sounding pompous and being hard to read, and most people seem to have accepted that's what philosophy is *supposed to be like*.  So, then, untrained philosophers tend not to sound like that, and thus get dismissed.  (That style is, in actuality, bad.  And a few notable philosophers did rebel against it.  Like Karl Popper, who was very concerned with writing clearly and understandably, and good at it too.)

Elliot Temple on November 8, 2003 | Comments (0)

roleplaying is surprisingly fundamental

page 342 of Fabric says Thomas Kuhn thinks we can't comprehend two paradigms (ways of looking at the world) at once (and thus having one blinds us). i wonder what he thinks roleplayers do. ho hum.

Elliot Temple on November 9, 2003 | Comments (0)

pasting from aim is easy :-)

curi42 (9:25:42 AM): there's 2 main approaches (plus a mixture is possible too): 1) absolutely ignore everything false or stupid the person says, and just write about better ideas and better ways to think and live. hopefully he'll see the good in them, like them, adopt some, and eventually he'll realise he doesn't act on his old, crap theories any longer (or maybe he *won't* ever notice the change, but will act good)
curi42 (9:27:01 AM): 2) criticism! i'm sure we could make a nice list of 50 reasons his ideas don't work. the premises are flawed in lots of ways. even if the premises were true, his conclusions still wouldn't follow. he contradicts hismelf repeatedly. etc etc etc
curi42 (9:27:40 AM): style 2 seems to have bad results with most people (though perhaps something similar to style 2, that somehow takes into account detailed knowledge of the person, would work very well)
curi42 (9:27:59 AM): but style 1 is easy to ignore.

Elliot Temple on November 9, 2003 | Comments (2)


on a more interesting note, here's an email i just wrote:

I'm going to layout what I think bad is. I'm aware my answer doesn't tell us everything we'd like to know.

To start, we need to examine what a stable worldview is. A worldview can be said to be stable if new conjectures, new observations, new criticisms and arguments, won't send it off in new directions or otherwise cause it to change. A perfectly stable worldview would have to be entirely consistent, and entirely complete, otherwise it could be changed by new ideas.

Next, we ask what sort of stable worldviews can exist. I propose that there are three. The true, inverse, and null ones (alternatively: good, bad, and empty). The true one is stable because it's right about everything, and understands everything. The inverse one is stable because it's exactly the opposite of the true one, and persistently misinterprets all new ideas in the opposite of the true way, so that they are consistent with the inverse of the truth. The null worldview is stable because not only does it not say anything, but it can't learn anything either. It never hears of a new idea.

None of these perfectly stable worldviews exist (unless you feel like saying rocks qualify for the null view). They aren't real. But they can be approached. In practice, good ideas approach the true view, evil approaches the inverse view, and nihilism and relativism approach the null view.

Anyway, what is bad? Well, the ultimate in bad is the complete inverse worldview. And also, there can be lesser versions (ones with inconsistencies, and ones that don't yet deal with all subjects).

Elliot Temple on November 9, 2003 | Comment (1)

Battle Cry Explained

As no one answered my post about the poem A Little Boy Lost (featured on my sidebar), I've decided to explain my take on it.

In the first two stanzas, the boy questions God and Christianity. In the first, he doesn't see how he could know about or understand God, when all he has to work with are his lesser (compared to God) thoughts. In the second, the boy proposes that he should love all of God's creations equally, which all share the Earth with him. Thus, he cannot love the Priest more than a bird.

In the third stanza, the Priest grabs the boy, angry at his blasphemy. Questioning the faith is not looked upon favorably. But there's something else here too: the observers, the other members of the church, do not see the Priest as attacking the boy, but only as helping him. Even when the Priest uses physical force, nothing seems amiss to the faithful.

The fourth stanza is the money stanza. Here, the Priest declares the boy a fiend, and spells out his offense. His offense was using reason to examine and judge church doctrine. The Priest considers his doctrine a "holy mystery" which is not supposed to be explained or thought about rationally.

The final two stanzas describe the brutal punishment of the boy. It's not clear if he's literally burned to death, or only metaphorically. But it is clear that he is badly hurt, and that the church turns a blind eye to the boy's parents' tears. Also note that Albion is England.

The final line is a very powerful one. Everything up to this point tells a tragic story where the Priest is clearly wrong (I suppose this may not be so clear to everyone; feel free to discuss that in the comments). Phrasing the line as a question is very important. There are no accusations to deny. There are no claims to refute. There's nothing to argue with. There's just a question to ponder. Are such horrid things done in England? Certainly they have been. And certainly some people still trumpet faith over reason. Maybe they don't burn blasphemers any longer, but how different are the suppressions of reason in favour of faith that do take place?

Elliot Temple on November 10, 2003 | Comment (1)

Structural Epistemology Introduction Part 1

Imagine you are handed a black box. You can't open it, but on one side is an input mechanism, and on the other side is an output mechanism. For example, the input mechanism might be a keyboard, and the output a display screen. The box, somehow (you don't know the inner workings) maps inputs to outputs. That means if you give it an input, it figures out what output to give back, according to its inner workings. And for simplicity, assume the box is in no way random. For a given input, it always gives the same output.

Now, imagine someone gives you a second black box. And you test both out, and discover that for any input, both boxes give the same output. You test every single allowed input, and they always give the same answer. (The word I will use for this is: the two boxes have the same denotation). Now, the question is: do the boxes do the same thing? Do they contain the same knowledge?

Well, of course it's possible that they do. They might be the same inside. But can we be sure? Just because they always answer the same way, can we tell they definitely do the same thing? And either way, can we say they definitely have the same knowledge?

I'd like to apologise to non-programmers now. The following examples will probably look like gibberish to you. But read the English around them, and I think my point should still make sense.

Here are three different ways to do a multiply function. They all accurately multiply any integers. They have the exact same domain (allowed input), the same range (possible outputs), and they map (relate) the same elements of the domain (inputs) to the same elements of the range (outputs).

// iterative multiplication
int multiply(int a, int b)
    int total = 0;
    if (b > 0)
        for(int j=0; j<b; j++)
            total += a;
    if (b < 0)
        for(int j=0; j>b; j--)
            total -= a;
    return total;

// recursive multiplication
int multiply(int a, int b)
    if(b == 0)
        return 0;
    if(b > 0)
        return (a + multiply(a, b-1));
    if(b < 0)
        return ( (0 - a) + multiply(a, b+1));

// multiplication using a built-in function
int multiply(int a, int b)
    return a*b;

As you can see, even if you don't understand the code, all three are written differently. I assure you, however, they do give the same answers. Now, remember the black box I talked about? Well, lets say you have three that all do integer multiplication. The inner workings could be the three functions I just showed.

Do each of the black boxes do the same thing? No. Each uses a different procedure to find its answer. Like if you wanted to get from California to New York, you might go through Canada, through Mexico, or stay in the US the whole way. Each trip would start and end in the same place, but they'd certainly be different trips.

But the key question is whether each black box, or each multiply function, which has the exact same denotation, has the same knowledge.

I propose they do not. While they have the same denotation, I would say they have different knowledge structure. And to see why this matters, and makes a great difference: Alright, the boxes have the same functionality (namely multiplication) now, but what if we want to alter them? If we want to change their denotation, even just a little bit, then knowledge structure makes all the difference.

To be continued...

PS: I'm aware that I'm not using 'denotation' in the standard, dictionary way.

Note: David Deutsch explained much of what I know about structural epistemology to me. Kolya Wolf explained some too, and also Kolya originally thought of the idea.

Part 2

Elliot Temple on November 10, 2003 | Comments (6)

On Charity

A common point of disagreement in political discussions is about human nature. Some people say that men should make their own choices, and control their own money. And believe that only good will come of freedom. Others would retort that the rich will have more choices, and abuse them to gain more power. Or at least assert that some people will be left behind without help through sheer bad luck (or not having a level playing field). And that generosity is not natural, so the government must step in to help.

Roughly, right wing people take the first view, and favour free markets, small government, and people deciding for themselves how charitable to be. And, roughly, left wing people don't trust humans to be charitable or fair without being controlled by government.

So when a right winger says he isn't against helping people, he just wants to decide how best to do it, and make sure his charity is effective (the government, he will say, is wasteful and spends charity money badly), a left winger will likely scoff. The left winger will think this is just a trick to get out of giving any charity at all. Because the left winger trusts his government to do everything right, he will see any attempt to pay less taxes or avoid forced charity as, clearly, a selfish attempt to get out of paying one's fair share or to get out of helping other people.

So, who's right?

Well, I've got a way to find out. Despite high tax levels (paid by both left and right wing), it is commonplace to give additional money, by choice, to charities. Now, if the left is correct, we should observe that the greedy right wingers donate very little to charity. But if the right is telling the truth that they are happy to give money to charity, as long as they pick which charity, and give money in ways they feel are effective, then we will observe, despite taxes, that right wingers do choose to donate significant amounts of money to charity.

The following table ranks each state by how generous it is. This was determined by taking into account the amount of money donated to charitable organisations, and also how rich the people in that state are. In other words, one gets a high ranking by giving a large portion of what he has. The states are color-coded. Red states voted for Bush in the 2000 election (they're, to decent precision, right wing). Blue states voted for Gore. I believe the table speaks for itself. (Thanks to The Rantblogger for the table.)

  1. Mississippi
  2. Arkansas
  3. South Dakota
  4. Oklahoma
  5. Alabama
  6. Tennessee
  7. Louisiana
  8. Utah
  9. South Carolina
  10. Idaho
  11. North Dakota
  12. Wyoming
  13. Texas
  14. West Virginia
  15. Nebraska
  16. North Carolina
  17. Florida
  18. Kansas
  19. Missouri
  20. Georgia
  21. New Mexico
  22. Montana
  23. Kentucky
  24. Alaska
  25. New York
  1. Indiana
  2. Iowa
  3. Ohio
  4. California
  5. Washington
  6. Maine
  7. Maryland
  8. Hawaii
  9. Delaware
  10. Illinois
  11. Pennsylvania
  12. Connecticut
  13. Vermont
  14. Virginia
  15. Oregon
  16. Colorado
  17. Arizona
  18. Michigan
  19. Nevada
  20. Wisconsin
  21. Minnesota
  22. Massachusetts
  23. New Jersey
  24. Rhode Island
  25. New Hampshire

Elliot Temple on November 10, 2003 | Comments (17)

I wonder if the category should be epistemology or morality

Tom Robinson is now officialy my coolest reader. He commented as follows WRT inverse theory:

I'm slightly fuzzy about this inverse world view. Is it wrong about everything, or just some things, or just incoming morally-weighted facts? I mean, The Emperor knows that 0+1=1, so if he starts with no Death Star and then builds one new Death Star, then he'll end up with ... a Death Star. He knows this to be true despite being the epitome of evil.
To start, I deny The Emperor actually is the epitome of evil, or even all that close. But anyway, I would say if we have propositions A, B, and C, and A and B are consistent with each other. And C contradicts A. This implies that C and B somehow contradict. There aren't multiple ways to hold B and be consistent, so if A really is consistent with B and inconsistent with C, then B must be inconsistent with C. This follows directly from the idea that there is one truth.

To put in real propositions, B states 0+1=1. A states that we shouldn't murder Jews. I propose A and B are consistent. C states that we should murder Jews. I propose A and C are inconsistent. I conclude that B and C are inconsistent -- that wanting to murder Jews and doing math right contradict. This works with any form of being evil and math.

It is hard to see what the inverse worldview looks like. It is foreign to us, and most of its twisted logic beyond our worst nightmares. We get glimpses in the bad people of our world, but they are nowhere near the limits of evil.

Good people are succesful and flourish. Bad people, therefore, are unsucessful and do not flourish objectively, even if they think they do (or perhaps they think flourishing is bad, and think they do not flourish). I believe, in the limit, evil people would be unable to eat meals, or otherwise manage to even stay alive.

My explanation of why the bad people of our world manage to eat, and even manage to use creativity to plan nasty attacks, is that they are inconsistent. Much of their worldviews are true. They use the true bits to function. But they also have a significant, inverse portion, from which they take many of their goals and motives.

Notably, it is this inconsistent combination that allows them to be truly dangerious. An evil person who uses some true ideas to get what he wants is more threatening than an evil person who's own evil has rendered him impotent.

Elliot Temple on November 13, 2003 | Comment (1)

example for previous entry

just read this about Soros, a billionaire who's giving away money trying make Bush lose the 2004 election.

if a democrat was consistent with his ideals, he'd be poor-ish. cause his ideals include misunderstanding economics, opposing business, and wasting money. but Soros is rich. how'd that happen? well, he's inconsistent.

if all democrats were consistent they'd be a crappy political force. but they manage to find people who somehow, inconsistently, are democrats who are good at this or that thing that the rest of the democrats can't manage. and this way they can end up with some rich supporters despite their ideology, and thus be more dangerous.

Elliot Temple on November 14, 2003 | Comments (5)

Elliot Temple on November 16, 2003 | Comments (0)

on skool

Teacher: A person who talks in other people's sleep.

What's long and hard and fucks little girls? Elementary school.

Elliot Temple on November 16, 2003 | Comments (5)

Popper Is Fallible

(If the quotes don't have a blue background, hit refresh. If they still don't, go here, refresh that, and then come back and try again.)

I just read a little of The Myth of the Framework by Karl Popper. I noticed two oversights I thought were worth pointing out. Both quotes are from page 175, and the first immediately precedes the second.

If we eliminate from language ambiguous terms like 'yesterday', a term which today means something different from what it will mean tomorrow, and if we take some further similar precautions, then it follows from Tarski's theory that every statement in this purified language will be either true or false, with no third possibility.

The issue Popper is worried about is evaluating whether the statement "Yesterday was Sunday." is true. He thinks this will be ambiguous, because it depends on what day we evaluate it. And his solution is to purify our language by removing all terms with variable meaning (presumably all pronouns too).

But this is very silly. All we have to do to decide if "Yesterday was Sunday." is true is to substitute in referenced concepts before saving the sentence for later evaluation when the references might not work any longer. What I mean is here 'yesterday' means 'the day before November 17, 2003'. The day before November 17, 2003 will always be Sunday whenever we evaluate the sentence. (And even if our calendar system should change, the meaning and truth of the sentence will not.) So, no purified language is necessary, if we will only bother to pay attention to the actual content of the sentence (alternatively, we could keep the form of the sentence exactly the same, but save with it all relevant data, such as in this case the date it was written).

Moreover, we can have an operation of negation in our language such that if a proposition is not true, then its negation is true.
This shows that of all propositions one half will be true and the other half false. So we can be sure that there will be lots of true propositions, even though we may have great trouble in finding out which they are.

I think this is actually quite funny. Yeah, there are lots of true propositions when you include the negation of false propositions... But most of them are things like, "I did not go to England yesterday," and "My house is not painted red," and "My name is not Fred." In reality, it makes sense to say there are a lot more ways to be wrong than to be right.

Elliot Temple on November 17, 2003 | Comments (0)

Structural Epistemology Introduction Part 2

Part 1

Last time I alluded to the most important aspect of knowledge structure: some structures are more or less resistant to being changed to have some other function (denotation). Additionally, whether a structure is easy to change to some new problem is not simply a matter of luck. Rather, some structures are better than others, because they contain more knowledge. Now I will give some illustrations.

First, let's reexamine the multiply function. What if the situation changed and we suddenly had to rewrite our multiply function with a special constraint? Such as, what if the built-in multiplication function in our programming language was no longer available? Or what if user-defined function calls suddenly became very slow and expensive? Or what if there was a problem with assignment, and we couldn't use that (basically, no equal sign allowed).

It turns out each of these problems would break one of the multiply functions so badly we would be better off starting over from scratch than trying to salvage it, and the other two wouldn't need even a single change. (If you're wondering, no built-in multiplication ruins the third multiply; no assignment ruins the iterative version; and user-defined function calls being expensive ruins the recursive version.) This demonstrates that structure makes a difference. But so far none are obviously better than others.

Next, lets imagine we were writing a program that played some game, and a few dozen times in the program we needed to refer to the number of actions each player gets per turn. And lets suppose it's 8 now, but possible this may change in future versions of the game. One thing we could do is everywhere we need to refer to the number of actions per turn, put an 8. The program will run just fine. But if we have to change the number of actions per turn later (or perhaps we'd just like to try out a different number to see how it works, to see if changing it might be a good idea at all), then we will have to go through our whole program and alter a few dozen lines of code! That's a pain, and there's a better way.

What we should do is define a constant variable, int ACTIONS_PER_TURN = 8, and then write ACTIONS_PER_TURN instead of 8 throughout our program. Then, we could very easily change the number of actions per turn by altering a single line of code. This new program using a constant variable has exactly the same denotation as the original one with 8 everywhere -- someone playing the game will never know the difference. But not only is the structure different using a constant variable, it's better because it allows significant advantages in ways it can be changed, with no disadvantage at all(1). One way to put the difference is it contains the knowledge that each of the dozens of 8's in the program is really the same thing, thus allowing them to be changed as a group.

Another example of trying to change a program, is if we had our multiply programs and wanted to do exponentiation (assume there is no built-in function for that). In that case, the program that relied on built-in multiplication is absolutely useless. Just as it would be useless to change to anything at all that wasn't built in. This reveals its structure has very little knowledge in it. On the other hand, the recursive and iterative multiply programs could both be changed to do exponentiation fairly easily. They could also be altered to do a host of other things, because each has a knowledge-laden structure. In effect, they are both set up to do work (in a certain way), and only need to be told what type. (It's not clear which one has more structural knowledge. I believe the recursive one does, but they are useful in different ways.)

So, to sum up, if we wish to change a program to do something else, depending on its structure, we may have an easy time of it, or may be totally out of luck. And furthermore, some structures are better than others, because they contain more knowledge.

(1) It will run negligibly slower, or compile negligibly slower in a compiled language. And I mean negligibly.

PS I understand that if you knew that, for what you were doing, certain structural knowledge was entirely unnecessary, and never would be useful, you might intentionally leave it out, and say this was a better design. However this is very rare on anything but the most trivial project, and does not ruin the idea of better structures. It's just like, if I was trying to learn physics, I might not need an economics lecture. But we can still say economics has useful, true knowledge, and that there is better and worse economic knowledge.

To be clearer, the objection I fear goes, "Constants are nice, if you're going to change them, but if you aren't, using them is a waste of time, therefore which structure is better depends entirely on the problem at hand, and thus better is only a relative term for knowledge structures." This is wrong. It is equivalent to saying, "The laws of supply and demand are nice, if you're learning about economics, but if you aren't, learning them is a waste of time, therefore whether hearing the laws of supply and demand or nothing is better depends entirely on the problem at hand, and thus better is only a relative term for economic theories." In both cases the 'and thus' clause simply does not follow. Just because we might not want a bit of knowledge this instant does not make it equivalent to no knowledge, or make its value relative.

PPS Mad props to David Deutsch, 'cause he's cool.

Elliot Temple on November 17, 2003 | Comments (2)

I Hate Jew Hatred

Frank J (a Catholic) got anti-semitic hatemail. Emperor Misha commented:

We're ALL Jews now.

I agree. (Misha also says more here.)

I very much like the sentiments that if people are going to target Jews, we should stand up with the Jews. Neutrality is useful if you see two gangs of barbarians fighting; there is no point in getting yourself killed over that. Who cares who wins? But when two groups clash, and one is good, and one is bad, neutrality just won't cut it. What truly good person could abandon the side of good?

But there's more to it than just that we should stand with the Jews. Why do they confuse us with Jews? Well, we agree with Jews a lot. We think Israel should exist (more than that: that it is one of the most moral countries on the planet). We oppose Arab terrorism. No excuses. It's wrong, horrid, and evil. And we use Jew logic. Which says things like you don't win discussions by authority; rather we should look for good arguments. And that we should hold our ideas true and mutable (tentatively true, if you prefer). And, heh, that 2+2 is 4. The Jews in America are not outsiders. Or more like, it's easy to confuse Americans with Jews. It's not just that we stand with Jews (far less than we should), it's that through the eyes of The Enemy, we look and act as if we are Jews.

And if you think talking about good and evil is too simplistic and therefore false, I pray you spend a lot of time around fire and brimstone. And, yes, I am an avowed atheist. But that won't save you from hell >:-D

PS In general when I write 'we' I am including Jews, but not in this piece.

Elliot Temple on November 17, 2003 | Comments (10)

i've got issues

Scrappleface thinks that birth control is evil. his reasoning is that it lets young girls have sex without horrid consequences. and we can't have that!

I replied: cause actually sex is evil, unless you get a wizard to perform a "marriage ritual" spell, which makes it ok.

thus far all I got back was someone replying that I have issues. good argument! ho hum.

Elliot Temple on November 17, 2003 | Comments (3)

email is fun

On Sunday, November 23, 2003, at 08:37 AM, A Poster wrote:

Subject Line: shouldn't TCS be questioned?

Yes, of course. It even says so, does it not? Now, some people seem to have the idea that TCS holds itself up infallible, but reality seems to be against them. For example, I no longer use the "official" TCS definition of coercion.

(Of course, one should not make such a change haphazardly, or on a whim, but rather after deep understanding of the official definition, and its strengths. And one should be careful the new version really is an improvement. etc)

What happens to all those families out there who find that, according to their own lights, TCS seems like a really bad, dangerous idea?

Well, until they give some good reason (an argument), I will consider their lights wrong. But I won't hunt them down; all that *happens* (in my view) is they have worse lives than they might.

Even if some of it has changed their lives for the better? But that certain aspects of - say - hardcore rationalism, dogged belief in the TCS 'way', an abiding faith in the TV as a *good thing*, ditto eating what you feel like....all have and continue to.... feel a bit unnatural?

well i think you've misunderstood TCS here. while i will insist that TV shows are, in principle, great things, just like books, I will also concede that there are both many bad books and many bad TV shows. Personally I don't watch tons of TV. mostly japanese anime and movies and southpark oh and The OC. lots of other stuff is great if you have the right problem situation for it, and many people are too negative about TV, but for some problem situations not watching a whole lot of TV would make sense.

as to eating, well we should eat what we want, and we should want to eat the right things to eat. true and changeable. favorite and changeable. you need *both* sides of that coin. the solution to bad eating habits is not to eat what you don't want to. that's just hurting yourself. the solution is to find some good arguments about what is right to eat, and then want to eat that way because you really do believe it's right.

personally, i eat almost no candy and desert fairly rarely, and have a general distaste for too much sugar. i think i'm weird about that, but *shrug*. i *also* don't like salad much.

What if believing in these things starts to make parent feel totally duped and like he doesn't have enough faith in his own good ideas?

You should not hold ideas true because someone said so, not even Elliot Temple nor David Deutsch. You've got to act on your best theories, which means only arguments that you find make sense. Even if some theory is true, if you don't understand it, it's no good to you (though maybe it will be later). And if you do this, faith in your own ideas should not be an issue, because you would know of none you consider better.

Isn't this TCS working against itself? That would be a good thing, right? But then if the TCS parent turns off the TV because he wants to, and does the things he wants to do, because he strongly believes those things to be better for his children - and,yeah, he 'could be wrong, but so what? - he would be said to be reacting to his coerced and unhappy former way of life (and was possibly evil according to some of the TCS inner circle)?

Well, as to making choices for your children, it's not just that you could be wrong, but also that it isn't your choice to make. Children are people with their own lives. You should decide if you want to watch TV, and if someone says you should, you can decline their advice and not watch. And if your children want to watch, and you advise against it, it's still their call.

Just as TCSers will not rule any parent's life by force, parents should not rule their children's lives by force.

Isn't all this a bit fucked up? Maybe the parent should just go and get a life, take his children seriously the way it makes sense to him, be willing to question himself constantly, be aware of his fallibility, but forget all about the harm done to his home by the less desirable aspects of TCS

I want to point out that your understanding of TCS is fallible, so even if hypothetically TCS was perfect, sometimes your understanding of TCS would be wrong, and you would be right to act contrary to it when you thought you knew better. This is manifest in the way most of what you think TCS is wrong about, I think you've simply misunderstood.

Don't let "I think TCS says X" pressure you into doing X. Maybe it doesn't even.

Sometimes he can't work out which is worse, but maybe it doesn't matter,

Well, I can tell you that how you parent *does* matter to your children. So this stuff is important.

-- Elliot Temple

Elliot Temple on November 23, 2003 | Comments (2)

In-The-Limit Worldview Theory

If we start with some worldview, it will have inconsistencies (internal contradictions) and it will not be aware of all facts and won't have stances on everything. However, over time, we can make it more consistent, and take stances on more issues (make it more complete), then in the limit, it would be perfectly consistent and have stances on all possible issues. Such that no matter what someone told you, you'd never need to change your worldview anymore.

In the limit means in the extreme case. Like if you kept making your worldview more complete and more consistent until you couldn't anymore that'd be the limit

I posit there are three different perfectly consistent complete worldviews that you could have reached. One is commonly called true. But there's actually 2 others that are consistent and complete.

One is empty or null. When asked questions it .... doesn't answer. On the way there I suppose adherents would deny stuff matters. But in the limit, I don't think they could speak or move. They'd be dead. They would have no theories and not be able to learn or get new ones.

And the last is the inverse/false/evil/opposite/bad whatever view. None of the three worldviews share any common points of agreement. But unlike the null view, this one does say stuff about the world ... but none of it true. It has some sort of twisted logic whereby false statements are made to all come out consistent. I don't know the details of it. But I think it is possible to be consistent about opposing truth/goodness.

One consequence of this is: people complain that logic alone can't tell us about morality. It can tell us what contradicts what, but how's it to say what is good? Well, if we accept these three in-the-limit views, we can speak about statements approaching one of them, or being a member of one of them. Now logic can do everything but one single value judgment of comparing the three WVs. And I believe the value judgment is pretty easy. One view says life doesn't matter. One says life is bad. One says life is good...

You may object that logic alone can't tell us everything, because, for example, physics isn't determined by logic. Nor is which house my friend lives in. Well, of course contingent questions depend on contingent details (contingent means not necessary means not implied by logic). But that's not the point. I'm not saying we should figure everything out by pure logic. As stated, first we would need to know everything (have all three views laid out) and then we could answer all moral questions with logic (well actually we could say which of the three worldviews various ideas were part of). (Actually some statements aren't part of any. We'd identify those separately as simply inconsistent ideas.)

The point was simply that this is theoretically possible (well not with perfection, but with arbitrarily high accuracy). Which means if someone says "morality is a matter of taste" ... Well, logically, the matter of taste is between three choices, one of which says life is bad and one says life doesn't matter.... This retort is useful and important.

The three worldviews share no common points of agreement. So if we determine a proposition is in one (say: Jews shouldn't die is in the good one), then contradictory theories (Jews should die) are not in the good one.

We do need independent (from what I've said here) arguments about which propositions go in which worldview. But if you can argue that a proposition is in one of the worldviews, then you can refer to the in the limit consequences it, and of its rivals, which is powerful.

PS This is my entirely original theory. Just saying. :-)

Elliot Temple on November 24, 2003 | Comments (12)

repost from tcsblog 1

Alice comments:

For some sensible discussion of the issues, rather than just Dan and Elliot fighting with each other, see the TCS list

Excuse me, but that's extremely insulting. If you disagree with me, argue it. If you agree, then acknowledge I'm making important points relevant to growing TCS (if I'm right, then what I'm saying is important), rather than belittling my ideas.

The tendency to see a disagreement and then declare that both sides are wrong because they are fighting, is perverse. The most well known example is WRT Israel and terrorists. People decide both sides *must* have done lots wrong, and must both be guilty, simply because there is a large-scale disagreement and there are arguments put forward on either side of the issue (not necessarily true, but just attempts). Nevermind that one side could be right, and the arguments against it wrong. Nevermind that condemning the right side would be a great moral failure.

Here, too, Alice sees a disagreement, labels it a "fight", then refuses to pay attention to who's right, and just takes the stance, in effect, that all fighting is bad therefore we're both wrong. Hello? That's moral relativism. (Incidentally, moral relativism is one of Dan's qualities that I don't hold with.)

Elliot Temple on November 24, 2003 | Comments (6)

Repost from tcsblog 2

What Alice should have written, if she valued moral clarity more, was something like, "I object to the title "Fuck Dan in the ass" written by Elliot, because it's a personal attack. I consider that immoral.

Then I imagine a conversation something like this:

Elliot: Would you consider "fuck Michael Moore in the ass" a personal attack?
Alice: huh?
Elliot: well it's nothing personal, i just think his worldview is evil, right?
Alice: ok, not a personal attack
Elliot: so the title about Dan wasn't a "personal attack" either
Alice: huh?
Elliot: cause i just think Dan's worldview, like Michael Moore's, is immoral. i'm condemning a worldview. that's a perfectly legitimate thing to do.
Alice: ok, it's not a "personal" attack but it's still wrong?
Elliot: Why?

Alice would then give ad hoc (made up on the spot) reasons to object. No one would be surprised when they were bad and easily refuted. Alice would then not acknowledge this, and insist the title was immoral, because her feelings tell her so. When accused of not acting rationally she would deny it.

Notably I am aware of other reasons to object to the title. It's even fairly likely Alice would try some of those too before resorting to ad hoc arguments. But besides knowing them, I've worked out answers to them (in advance, mind you).

I'll go through one example. Some might say the title will offend readers and thus reduce readership (some will leave angrily) and thus inhibit the spread of TCS and thus make the world worse. They might suggest the solution is to refrain from writing stuff that might offend people (perhaps, "unless it was really important, but that title wasn't important"). The problem here though, is that we should stand up for our values, which allow for profanity and condemnation of bad people (at least I hope those are our values). Compromising our values to get more readers compromises our message. I mean, if we really wanted more readers, and to avoid offending people, we should probably be recommending "friendly punishments" of children or something. Of course that is a bad road to go down. We must stand firm in our beliefs, and if people don't like them, that doesn't mean we should back down or compromise in search of friends.

Elliot Temple on November 24, 2003 | Comments (13)

Alice the censorship queen

Alice deleted 2 posts (reposted right below this entry here) of mine from TCS blog because she was offended. she says she isn't a libertarian on that issue. *ahem*

notably, my convo was wrong. what really happened is she told me it was a personal attack, i asked hadn't i refuted that, and then gave a more complete version of the argument, and she said that probably it was a personal attack but i just didn't know, and wouldn't argue the subject. lovely.

also note she didn't save copies when deleting them, despite the fact I would have had no reason to have saved a copy. (fortunately i left a browser window open, and checked AIM before i hit refresh, which would have lost them, but that's only blind luck)

more later, leaving though

update: more here

Elliot Temple on November 24, 2003 | Comments (6)

jew praise

there's a lot of incoherent hatred of jews out there. i decided to conjecture that maybe they know something i don't -- maybe somehow being kinda incoherent gets followers.

so i wanted to give map props to all the jews out there for making the world a better place. i especially appreciate how they want to live in peace with non-jews. i don't go to sleep at night wondering if a jew will kill me before i wake up. and not being terrorists, man that's really good of you. and killing terrorists for me, that's cool too. i'm just no soldier. man, if it weren't for the jews, there would be lots more evil for'ners still alive who wanted to kill me. and i don't even own a big gun. so all the jews shooting guns for me, thanks a lot.

also, i wish i was a jew. then i'd be rich, i think. jews are so good at making the economy better. well, at least i'm richer thanks to them, even if i'm not jewish enough to be rich. one day if i'm really lucky maybe there will be so many jews that even I can be super rich. i'd like to be rich. and it'd all be thanks to the jews, who work so hard to make our economy so strong.

the jews have contributed so much to science it really blows the mind. do you know how many great scientists were jews? lots of them! man, even David Deutsch is a jew. what if some stupid terrorist had killed him? man, my life would be so much worse. it's a good thing the jews killed so many terrorists that that didn't happen.

you know who i really hate? the nazis. know why? they killed jews. man, if they hadn't done that, maybe europe wouldn't suck ass. i mean, if you kill everyone cool, you end up with a bunch of dorks. it's just logic. i wish the jews had killed all the nazis. that would have been super sweet. i can just imagine a big jew with a pair of axes going around hacking nazis down left and right. and then when he was done he'd probably sell the axes like a good capitalist. i bet he would. then someone else could use them, and we'd all be richer.

so, yeah, mad props to the jews. thanks for keeping it real and stuff. ^_^

Elliot Temple on November 25, 2003 | Comments (2)

Praising Jews

I wanted to ask all my readers who have blogs to write an entry praising Jews. The goal here is not to put forward arguments againt anti-semitism, nor to denying hating Jews. It is simply to show moral clarity on the issue of praising Jews.

It is commonplace to say things like, "That movie rocked." But most people will refuse to say "Jews rock." I think this is perverse, and we should stand up for our values.

Leave a comment or email me if you do it, and I'll keep a list.

PS Jews rock.

Elliot Temple on November 25, 2003 | Comments (24)


" I don't know how Socrates did it. Having these discussions day in, day out." (link)

this after like 5 posts by him.

me: 11 emails/day average for over a year, plus forum posts and blog commenting, plus realtime chat (irc, aim). lots of realtime. more time on that than email including reading email (read maybe 5-10 emails for every post, hard to say exactly, and i would read pretty much everything very thoroughly at the time, too). this was b4 my blog. it only stopped cause i couldn't find enough new people worth talking to, and got bored of most of the old ones.

i changed my views too often to count. i don't anymore. because new arguments i haven't heard a dozen times are harder and harder to come by.

it used to be people complained that one day we'd argue, then by the next time we ran into each other to speak again, they would have come up with a new reason my view was wrong ... but i would have already changed it before they could use their argument. some people thought i didn't take my current views seriously enough, and were annoyed they couldn't seem to prove me wrong because i'd always switch views first.

now the consensus (same people, mostly, mind you) is that i'm arrogant and never consider that i could be wrong. "when was the last time you backed down in an argument?" they say. "when was the last time i heard a new one in public?" i retort. but they shrug and hate me. and if i mention that when talking to cool people (in private nearly always) i do change my views reasonably often, even today, they just take me for delusional if not a liar.

Elliot Temple on November 26, 2003 | Comments (7)

A Conversation On Israel

I wrote this conversation to show what it's like talking to a certain type of person. I won't label that type of person, but I hope this piece should make it clear.

(One thing I changed is: I made Isyn speak very clearly. Do not expect this in real life. Rather, expect to decode cryptic, confusing, contradictory claims heavy on noise.)

Isyn: Down with Israel! Oppression is wrong!
curi: erm
Isyn: Bush lied, people died!
curi: What's wrong with Israel again?
Isyn: Just because the Palestinians are defenseless doesn't make it alright to kill them.
curi: You'd kill me if I dropped my guard.
Isyn: That's different. You were, ummm, eyeing my woman.
curi: Well, Israel doesn't murder Palestinians.
Isyn: Look here, at this news article. Israeli Defense Forces troops fired guns and Palestinians died. QED.
curi: Those were terrorists.
Isyn: Not all. Some were just standing near the terrorists throwing rocks. Is throwing rocks a crime? Maybe. But what kind of evil country punishes it by death? And even the terrorists should have been arrested not murdered. Sure terrorism is wrong, but that doesn't justify murder.
curi: Israel is a democracy and the Arab states around it are tyrannies that want to destroy Israel. Israel has repeatedly offered peace to the nations around it and to the Palestinian terrorists (who have deliberately broken the peace agreements every single time). Israel wants a Palestinian state, and the Palestinian terrorists want the Israelis dead.
Isyn: How is that supposed to justify murder? And besides that's only what neo-con historians write. If you read more accurate sources, you'll see that's not the whole story.
curi: Are you aware of even one of the wars in which the Arab nations around Israel tried to destroy Israel?
Isyn: It wasn't quite like that. You can't prove that happened.
curi: So whatever I say about the facts of the matter, you will dismiss, even if I cite a half dozen sources for each claim? On the basis that my sources are all biased or imperfect.
Isyn: Right.
curi: Argh! Fine then, new approach. Do you agree with self-defense?
Isyn: How is murdering people self-defense?
curi: Well, if someone tries to kill you, and you kill him first to save your own life, that's self-defense. This is right, whereas the alternative of dying would just plain suck.
Isyn: He started it, she started it. It's easy to point fingers. But we won't make any progress until both sides admit what they did wrong. Sometimes the Palestinians start it; sometimes the IDF does. And sometimes some innocents Palestinians die in the crossfire to IDF bullets.
curi: What if, hypothetically, we imagined a conflict where one side was wrong and one side was right. Can you imagine that?
Isyn: I guess, in the abstract, I could imagine a black and white picture, but the world is full not only of shades of grey, but of colours too. So it's more complicated than that.
curi: In this hypothetical black and white picture, lets say the whites were good and the blacks were evil, and in every fight the blacks were at fault. With me so far?
Isyn: So far I can see that you're a racist. Blacks are full people.
curi: Argh! Okay, lets rename them. We'll have the elves are good and the orcs are bad. And every conflict the orcs are at fault. With me so far?
Isyn: I don't think the Lord of the Rings was such a simple matter of good versus evil. The elves had faults, and the orcs had bad situations to cope with.
curi: Yeah, but, I'm not talking about the Lord of the Rings. This is a hypothetical about two abstract groups of people, only named elves and orcs. So, can you imagine them with me, please?
Isyn: Okay, what's next?
curi: Great. So, the orcs start a lot of fights with the elves, trying to steal their stuff, and kill them. The elves are good with bows, but not perfect. So when orc raiders come a bunch of elves will go up on the roofs and shoot at orcs. Some of the elves stay on the ground and have the dangerous job of facing the orcs directly. Sometimes, by accident, a stray arrow that was aimed at an orc, misses and hits an elven defender. Also, sometimes some orcs will chase some elven civilians, and the archers shooting at them might miss and accidentally hit a civilian. With me?
Isyn: I see a great battle.
curi: And the orcs are trying to rape and pillage and murder the elves.
Isyn: Right. And the elves are trying to kill the orcs too.
curi: Because the orcs attacked them. It's in self-defense.
Isyn: If the elves aren't bloodthirsty, why do they shoot their own?
curi: They are shooting at orcs but don't have perfect aim.
Isyn: Well if they can't hit what they aim at, maybe they should stop firing. They're just killing indiscriminately.
curi: No, they have really good aim, and almost always hit their mark, and if they stopped firing they would all be massacred, but sometimes, now and then, they do miss.
Isyn: Well they should practice more.
curi: They already practice as much as they possibly can.
Isyn: Do they ever read books?
curi: Yes.
Isyn: Well they could stop reading books to practice more to save lives. Reading books, in this case, proves the elves' murderous intentions. They don't mind causing collateral damage.
curi: Yes they do mind. But you can't ask them to spend their entire lives practicing with bow. They have other important things to do. They must balance their time reasonably.
Isyn: How is not killing their own unworthy of more time?
curi: Well they need to grow food. And build houses. And raise their children. And spend time thinking to make sure they fight for truly good causes. That's all necessary.
Isyn: Maybe they could save time by not having children.
curi: You want to see the elves die out?
Isyn: I don't like to see elves murder elves and anyway if there were no elves there would be no war either. Don't you care about World Peace?
curi: Argh! You hate the elves more than the orcs.
Isyn: I just think you should stop pretending the elves are flawless.
curi: They are very good by definition. That was a premise.
Isyn: Then why do they murder each other?
curi: I heard in World War II 10% of casualties were friendly fire.
Isyn: What an indiscriminate blood bath!
curi: Argh! You twist everything. You'll probably deny my door exists next.
Isyn: How do you know you have a door?
curi: It's that thing I open to get into my room.
Isyn: Your senses, like the elves' bows, aren't perfect. Maybe you're wrong. Aren't you a fallibilist?
curi: Fallibility does not preclude tentatively holding theories to be objectively true.
Isyn: Prove it.
curi: Of course I can't. No certain proofs exist. Aren't you a fallibilist?
Isyn: You can't prove I'm not. And about the door, you might be lying or trying to trick me. I haven't even seen your supposed door myself.
curi: Your life sounds lonely.
Isyn: What?
curi: Well, you spend all your time making up criticism of good ideas (there are an infinity of false criticisms for every truth). But do you ever take a chance and conjecture that something might be true or good? Do you ever have trust in anyone or anything? Do you value anything?
Isyn: Stop changing the subject. That's an ad hominem argument.
curi: I'm not arguing anymore. I tired of it. I concede that you really can avoid listening as long as you want (though that does not make you right).
Isyn: If you're not arguing, what are you doing?
curi: Trying to help you?
Isyn: I'm not interested in help from someone who condones murder. I think you need help.
curi: Do you recall the first thing you said today?
Isyn: Remind me.
curi: "Down with Israel!" If Israel fell, what do you think would happen? Didn't you condone murder?
Isyn: Death, but only of murderers. Don't you agree that killing murderers isn't murder?
curi: So, to be clear, in your view: if Israelis kill Palestinians, that's murder, because the Israelis are in the wrong. But if Palestinians kill Israelis, that's not murder, because the Palestinians are in the right.

----- Ending One: Sad But True -----
Isyn: No, that's not what I said. Stop accusing me of taking sides. I'm not like you.
curi: Ummm, yeah, whatever, bye. *wanders off*
----- Ending Two: Wishful Thinking -----
Isyn: Yeah, I guess you got it. You cornered me. That's my view. I wasn't so sure at first, but this discussion helped me see it more clearly.
curi: And, the arguments you use -- the style and content both -- the whole approach to the issue really: would you say other people using them have the same view as you?
Isyn: They better. The arguments prove my view. Anyone using them who didn't take my view would be inconsistent. And probably a liar. Anyone who understood the arguments would take my view. But lying would be understandable, because people who speak the truth as I do are persecuted by the neo-cons like you.
curi: And your view, again, is that the Israelis are murderers, correct?
Isyn: Yeah. Well, it's the Jews really. There are some Arab Israelis who are innocent.
curi: Point noted.

Elliot Temple on December 1, 2003 | Comments (5)

Elliot Temple on December 2, 2003 | Comments (0)

political cartoon

French guy says to US: what do you mean you can't hand over power in iraq within 30 days? we handed power over to the nazis faster than that.

Elliot Temple on December 2, 2003 | Comments (2)

Elliot Temple on December 3, 2003 | Comments (0)

must write posts

my hit counter went up. i do want hits. know what that means? pressure! ahhhhhhhh *runs around screaming* or at least it means i'd rather not post nothing much for like a week or however long it's been. here's 2 sayings by *me*:

Humans live by their creativity, not by devouring limited resources.

People twist their factual views to fit their moral views, not vice versa.

Elliot Temple on December 5, 2003 | Comment (1)


I know! Since I have hits I should post about parenting. For the good of The Children.

TCS (Taking Children Seriously) is the true parenting theory. Its primary ideas are:

- Fallibility (certain knowledge is impossible; people can be wrong)

- No Authorities (ideas must be judged on their merit, not their source; therefore, children can be right and can't be automatically dismissed)

- Coercion is the state of two or more personality strands being expressed in different options of a single choice so that one cannot see a way to choose without forsaking some part of his personality.

- Coercion is bad for knowledge growth, and quite simply hurts people, including children

- Common Preferences, coercion-free solutions to problems, are always possible

- This means, quite literally, that there is a possible way of parenting in which children do not do anything against their own will

- An important part of getting what one wants is changing what one wants to better desires, including more relisable ones

- Once we realise changing what we want to better wants is good, we no longer need fear always getting what we want as being spoiled or immoral -- as long as we improve our desires sufficiently it would only be good

- What people want is subject to morality, and thus children won't want horrible things, as long as parents offer sufficiently good moral theories

- Good ideas beat out bad ones in argument (and thus if parent's moral theories really are better than their rivals, parent won't lose argument)

- If your ideas are so great, have some faith in them to stand up to criticism!

- Criticism is good. Criticism is a gift. Cherish criticism

- Abandonment Parenting is morally wrong (parents have an obligation to help their children)

- Advice Advice Advice (parents should give children lots of advice, but children should be free to disagree)

- Don't Hurt Children (I can't say this enough)

- And most importantly: send all children to Hebrew School (joking)

Elliot Temple on December 5, 2003 | Comment (1)

Jew Praise Followup

I recently asked bloggers to post praise of Jews. There are three takers:

Evangelical Outpost (well close enough)

Elegance Against Ignorance (who also write this)

fr0ggE (who updates like never)

The general response, as seen in comments, and here were far more negative. In short, people were outraged.

This is exactly what I expected. I made the request after being shocked by the inability of a few people to praise Jews. And true to conjecture, the scary trend continued.

People make all sorts of excuses. Commonly they try to draw a distinction between individuals and groups. But sheesh, we say people rock when we know perfectly well those people consist of a group of theories, some good, and some bad. But it's not symmetric. Just because someone is part good, part bad, does not make him morally neutral. He could be predominantly good, and then it would make perfect sense to say he rocked. So too with Jews.

Another trend was an appeal to moral relativism. Yeah, Jews rock, and so do Palestinians, and so do North Koreans. And sure Jews die, but people in Africa starve to death too. Hello? Since when is being murdered morally equivalent to starving? If I walk down the street and see someone hungry, I need not give him my money. (If you think I should feed him, and his children, let me ask: The more children he chooses to have, the more food I owe him? Or what?) But if I walk down the street and murder someone, this is an outrage, and there should be a public outcry, leading to the use of force against me. Murderers should be stopped. Anyone resistant to this is wicked.

Anyhow, anti-semitism really disgusts me. But I think you've caught that already, so I've give it a rest for the moment.

Elliot Temple on December 8, 2003 | Comments (15)

The Hedge Knight

The Hedge Knight is a short story by George RR Martin. It's set in his A Song of Ice and Fire world, which is simply the best fantasy I know of. Anyway, this entry is about morality, but I do need to summarise the plot first (spoiler warning, if you care).

Dunk is a poorly trained knight, but a good person. A wicked prince attacks a commoner girl because she did a puppet show that involved a dragon being slain, and the royal family's sigil is a dragon. Dunk (who is large) kicked the prince to the dirt to rescue the girl. But attacking a prince is illegal. The punishment is to lose his hand and a foot.

However, Dunk has a second option: trial by combat, in which it is supposed that the Gods will favour the righteous. Dunk goes for combat, but the prince insists on a Trial of Seven (there are seven Gods). This means a seven versus seven battle, until all the accusers or all the accused are vanquished. If either side can't get a full seven men behind their cause, they are considered wrong. (If the cause is just, why will no one fight for it?)

Minutes before the combat, Dunk is one man short. But then another prince, a good one, joins his side (against three of the royal family, and three of the royal guard, on the other side!). In the combat, two of Dunk's companions plus the kind prince are slain before Dunk forces the wicked prince to yield (Dunk does not kill him).

The kind prince was young, first in line for the throne, a good man, and would have been a good king. Dunk, to all appearances, was a nobody. What are Dunk's hand and foot worth against the life of such a great man, and two other fine knights beside? Wouldn't it have been better if Dunk had refused the Trial of Seven? And wasn't it foolish for six good men to risk their lives for Dunk's sake?

Dunk suggests that perhaps the Gods will twist fate such that in the future he will turn out more important than the prince who died for him. But I think this is unlikely and insufficient. What's important here is the moral issue: Dunk's companions weren't fighting for Dunk personally. Doing so really would have been foolish. Rather, they were fighting for the cause of justice. They were fighting for right.

What sort of world would it be where bad men hurt whoever they feel like, and maim any who would stand up to them? And how much worse if those who saw the injustice for what it was stood by and watched? The principle of the matter really is worth fighting, and dying, for.

To a good person, it should be a simple matter. No great intellectual arguments are needed. Dunk was defending the weak against the cruel. Of course his is the side of right. Of course we should throw our lot in with Dunk, take his side, and mean it. It's not a question of expedience or short-term gain. There are rival values being enacted in the world, and failing to take seriously the ones we care about is simply damning.

Besides, what good will come of standing by? What about the next time? Stand by again? And again? There's no point in delaying standing up for right. Either we should or we shouldn't. We should. (Yes, picking battles can be important, but that's just nuances.)

One major side-note is that a utilitarian would be totally blind to this analysis. He would see a prince who would have ruled justly and made the world better for many dying to help one. He would see six good men risking their lives for one. That utilitarianism cannot explain this matter (or perhaps: this issue is far less simple to a utilitarian), is a crushing criticism.

Elliot Temple on December 8, 2003 | Comments (3)

marxists writing clearly

i'm not joking. (link) i read like half of it so far, and they say what they mean, and are being fairly intellectually honest so far. they supported Operation Iraqi Freedom. here's a quote:

But how is it possible for us to call ourselves Marxists and support a war waged by a coalition of rich western liberal democracies against the government of a poor “Third World” country? We would turn the question round: how it is possible that Marxism has been so corrupted and distorted that “Marxists” prefer to see thousands more Iraqis die in the torture chambers of the Ba’ath, and millions more suffer under the iniquities excused (not caused) by the UN sanctions, rather than admit that socialists not only can but must support even the worst bourgeois democracy against even the least bad tyranny?

Elliot Temple on December 8, 2003 | Comments (0)

Elliot Temple on December 10, 2003 | Comment (1)

mmmm good comment

Tom comments:

sufficiently good values will make one an outcast. (unless he also knows how to fake worse values, and enjoy doing so, which is I consider kinda perverse). being an outcast *isn't* all that fun

Howcome they are good values then? Surely faking worse values isn't the only way to win respect. The majority of people admire courage, for example. Upholding good values takes courage, among other qualities. Why be a hermit, a Ben Kenobi? All hermits go a little bit crazy in the end, even those with lightsabers and/or broadband.

So it's hard to be good and popular. But whoever said that virtue doesn't require cunning? (And good PR)

PR helps of course, but I posit it can only take you so far. there are limits to how much of a worldview gap PR alone can bridge. after that you need to either act on different values or change society.

a simple example is people who find it natural that criticism is a gift to be cherished, may find it hard to get along with those who find it scary. yes, this particular issue isn't that hard to fake -- just don't criticise people who won't like it. but it's not very easy to enjoy faking it.

update: also, ppl who think criticism is scary, probably won't give you any useful criticism. lovely.

Elliot Temple on December 10, 2003 | Comments (5)


Frank J writes:

Al Gore decided to support Howard Dean when he found out that Liberman is a Joooo!

Read the whole post here.

Elliot Temple on December 10, 2003 | Comments (0)

i'm not being sarcastic. really.

so i hear sum ppl think The Americans murder Innocent Iraqis.

damn. they caught us. out of saddam's torture chambers into our death camps. we invaded cause saddam was too much of a pussy to do it right.

Elliot Temple on December 11, 2003 | Comments (0)

my fucking god

Andrew Sullivan found this

At a debate, the Hamas candidate asked the Fatah candidate: "Hamas activists in this university killed 135 Zionists. How many did Fatah activists from Bir Zeit kill?"

Elliot Temple on December 11, 2003 | Comments (0)

Elliot Temple on December 13, 2003 | Comments (0)

Elliot Temple on December 14, 2003 | Comments (0)

It's Tough Being Good

Suppose you are a bad person. You get angry a lot, have trouble valuing much, aren’t very successful, blame others for your troubles, and hurt your children often. But, whatever, you’re life isn’t so bad. You get through it, enjoy a fair amount of it.

Now, suppose someone claims to be moral, and you notice the implication that you are not. And suppose this person lacks all your bad traits. This might well make you feel bad.

And then you might write a letter to the so-called moral person, attacking him. The content might be along the lines of (if you were exceptionally intelligent and clear, for a bad person): You bastard, fuck you. You’re totally wrong. Oh, and if you reply in kind you’re just like me, except also a liar. Nope, just sit there and take it, Mr. High and Mighty. Oh, and you can’t get resentful because that would violate your moral code, huh? But you are mad at me, aren’t you? Yep, you’re a hypocrite. Now stop implying I’m bad, and get back to your stupid, lucky life.

Elliot Temple on December 15, 2003 | Comments (5)

Jews Done Right

If you want to see some heartfelt praise of Jews, and some moral clarity, look at this Little Green Footballs thread. It made me smile.

Elliot Temple on December 15, 2003 | Comments (0)

Reply To Alice

Alice Bachini commented below:

What is your definition of "good"?

Notice how it all starts with an epistemic error. I guess I need to go over this subject even more often. Suffice it for now that arguing semantics misses the point in a discussion.

100% morally perfect/ mostly morally correct/ has the best available world-view available at the current time in history?

We both know perfectly well that no one is 100% morally perfect, and that that criterion is absurd. So is having the best "available" worldview. And 'mostly right' just won't cut it either, because it's not a numbers game.

Rather, good is an explanation, and we must actually think to use the word, not just apply mechanical criteria.

Does your definition of "good" take into account people's inexplicit moral theories, as well as their explicit ones?

[sarcasm]No. Of course not. Why would I do that?[/sarcasm]

[different sarcasm]What, did you think I'm stupid?[/sarcasm]

Seriously if you want to talk to me, think about who you are talking to as you write. Feels like next you'll be asking, "Do you think maybe, just possibly, Popper might have gotten something right?" or "Do you think maybe, just possibly, Popper might have gotten something wrong?" Yes, of course, duh.

Does it take into account the degree of *activeness* with which the person exercises their goodness?

If such a thing exists, I take it into account imperfectly and inexplicitly. But I don't think it does. Is 'inactive good' the Nazi guard who has some reservations floating around in his head while he stops a jailbreak?

I expect to be told something like 'active good means actually doing good things'. But seems to me that just means living in a good way. But if active good is living well, then I don't see how inactive good could exist, as it would imply living wrongly, and thus not be good. If inactive good doesn't exist, then taking into account 'the degree of *activeness*' of someone's good is incoherent.

I'm not convinced that how tough your life is is principally characterised by how good you are (if that is what you are implying).

I didn't say that at all here. I gave ways being more good can make your life harder elsewhere, but of course I did not claim that's the only or main factor.

Here, I simply gave ways a bad person could fuck with a good person.

It seems to me that the toughness of one's life depends on factors such as being skilled at dealing with the problems one chooses for oneself, being flexible and good at acquiring new knowledge when needed, and so on.

Superficially that seems plausible. But we don't choose what problems to have directly. Mostly, they just happen to us. The car breaks down. Or we don't understand something. Or the son wants something. Or the boss wants something. Even choosing a hobby, say, means picking which problem to work on, not what problems exist. (It is possible to create interesting problems by designing games or puzzles, and other ways. But that's not important to this.)

Before I continue I want to clarify what the statement really says, behind the pretty words. It simply means that the way to get through life best is to A) choose the right problems to have in your life B) Deal with problems rightly (And a few aspects of how to do this are listed)

Well, A) is wrong, and B) is kinda obvious (It's just a form of "we should act rightly"). Anyhow, if we can't control the problems we face directly, and we are doing our best to solve them, is that all we can do?

No! A focus on dealing only with current and foreseeable problems is damning. We must add into this an analysis of morality, and act rightly even if we cannot see the benefit. This means putting aside any petty notions about aiming for an easy life, or putting happiness above all, and accepting any (moral, but otherwise too) argument that seems true, like it or not.

Good knowledge of the practical details required to live by one's theories, perhaps.

No, knowledge of one's theories is required to live by one's theories. That simple. Well, that and theories you can do. Theories that ask you to do things you don't know how to are just idiotic (as opposed to ones that tell you to learn, then do it).

Plus a good deal of luck, like being in the right place at the right time.

[sarcasm]Yeah, let's blame our problems on luck, chance, and maybe the heavens.[/sarcasm]

Sometimes people get picked on for being good. Sometimes they get picked on for being fat or wearing glasses or being a child.

Dear god, is this really an equivocation between being good and wearing glasses? Does it really imply that attacking goodness and attacking fatness are equally bad?

Adults getting picked on for being good can develop a wide range of strategies for dealing with it, so they don't experience it as coercive, and don't mind it at all, even find it amusing, in most cases, except where they're being arrested and tortured in unfree countries, maybe.

They can develop a wide range of strategies for dealing with it, but "so they don't experience it as coercive" is not the point of all of them. It's only the point of the ones favoured by the commenter.

The sentiments seem to be that if we can find a way not to mind badness, then the problem is solved. Of course, if held consistently, this view should apply to being arrested and tortured too.

The right view is more like: badness is not bad "because it might coerce good people" and the solution is not "to find states of mind more defended against coercion." Rather, we must not let bad people try to hurt us in the first place. A successful defense requires using offense -- we must fight evil, not just try to cope with it.

Some good adults find those skills harder to develop than others: I think it depends on their entrenchments, their meta-knowledge, luck, and other variables.

Or in plain and more accurate English: it depends on their worldview and their situation (and luck, or so it's claimed).

[sarcasm]Really? Wow! I never would have thought of that! I'm glad you told me.[/sarcasm]

Elliot Temple on December 15, 2003 | Comments (6)

Elliot Temple on December 15, 2003 | Comment (1)

Elliot Temple on December 17, 2003 | Comment (1)


abandoners tend to have trouble seeing the difference between help and authoritative control. (what is advice if not just a form of getting people to do what you say?)

authorities tend to have trouble seeing the difference between freedom and abandonment. (what is freedom if not leaving the authority's jurisdiction?)

but we can have freedom and help both, without the bad stuff.

Elliot Temple on December 17, 2003 | Comments (0)

when in doubt about what to post

just google news for: israel palestine

and soon you will read stuff like

"Fact is, Israel is a damn near theocracy, for goodness sake." and be inspired to post. sheesh. post coming soon, and adding LGF to perm links, cause i ought to read it more, and it totally rocks.

Elliot Temple on December 19, 2003 | Comments (0)

new category :-)

The Wall: Sharon's Long-planned Land Grab


By Christopher Bollyn
American Free Press

Methinks it's a good thing for him he's right about that 'free press' comment....

Here's the source. Linking sources is something Chris (the author) doesn't bother with, but I still think is important.

The Israeli "separation barrier" is the realization of Ariel Sharon-s long-planned settlement scheme to appropriate vast amounts of Palestinian land and water resources by isolating and impoverishing the Holy Land's Christian and Moslem population. It is a racist wall, according to its critics, designed to cause the expulsion of the native population by denying Palestinians access to their land and water.

It's amusing how Chris disavows some of his claims by blaming them on other people. For example, "It is a racist wall, according to its critics". If you're willing to just repeat what some Hamas spokesman dreamed last night, you can write an article saying virtually anything against Israel, without having to make a claim yourself. This way if anyone disagrees, you can refer them to Hamas to argue with :-)

Also of note is how the j000s aren't just racist against Palestinians. Oh no, now they're stealing land from Christians too. I guess this is because the US has a lot of Christians that Chris would like to convert to his cause.

And if you're thinking, "sheesh, Elliot, you didn't even refute his claims, this is just ad hominem BS." I'd just like to point out Chris didn't bother source any of them. They really are just made up, far as I can tell.

I'd also like to refer you to Honest Reporting's take on the fence.

Bethlehem and its Christian holy site has become an open-air prison, like the Gaza Strip, surrounded by an Israeli-built electrified wall v an "atrocity" paid for and supported by the U.S. government.

Does Chris really think he can turn US Christians against Israel this easily? Even in the midst of his own rhetoric he shies away from saying strong words like 'atrocity' himself and has to quote them. What a whiny bitch.

Depicted by the pro-Zionist mass media as a "self-defense" measure required to foil Palestinian terror attacks, the wall is actually the beginning of the final phase of the long-planned appropriation of Palestinian land and water resources begun decades ago by the current Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon.

Riiiiight. The mass media is full of Jews, except lonely Chris fighting the good fight. He might even have had a point...if it wasn't for the fact that every other media outlet says the same damn thing. That's right, media outlets are all lone beacons of sanity surrounded by j0000s. You'd think we didn't even have the telegraph yet or something, the way they communicate.

The real objective of the wall is the de facto annexation of Palestinian land to Israel and the forced expulsion of the native population from their homes and land

You'll never guess how Chris found that out.

according to Stop the Wall, a Palestinian "anti-apartheid" organization.

Yup, that's right, a Hamas spokesman told him.

Nearly all of the illegal Israeli settlements built in the occupied territory will be included in the annexed areas of the West Bank. 98 percent of the settler population will be on the Israeli side of the wall, according to Stop the Wall. Actions, such as Jewish settlements, which affect the demography of an occupied territory are clear violations of international law.

I had to scroll a long ways to find this. Chris spent many paragraphs going on about unsourced "facts" that he says the Palestinian something-or-other organisation told him.

Anyway, I'll answer with a Bush quote (which I will actually source, too!):

Mr Schroeder says international law must apply to the awarding of the lucrative contracts.

"This is the task for all people, for all of us, and because it is for everyone we don't need to discuss exactly who individually is participating in the economical side of reconstruction here, international law must apply and must help the cause," he said.

But President Bush has brushed that aside.

"International law? I better call my lawyer. He didn't bring that up to me," he said.

(emphasis mine)

Anyway, that's enough of Chris. I'm gonna do something else now.

Elliot Temple on December 19, 2003 | Comments (4)

CNN belives in ghosts

and so does half its readers.

link and check out the quick poll results. currently 18k ppl say hoax, 15k say ghost.

Elliot Temple on December 19, 2003 | Comments (7)

Entry #100

ok so i google newsed for israel palestine again, and found this at the top. it's some chinese diplomat saying the way to create peace in the middle east is international support for peace. ho hum.

but it gets worse. the entire thing has zero moral judgments.

but it gets even worse. it does have this:

He called on the United Nations to continue its efforts to resolve the dispute, and urged the international community to giveassistance to programs benefiting Palestinians.

There was no equivalent statement urging anyone to help Israelis. Also, if you stop and think about what many Palestinian organisations actually do with money (kill Jews) ... *cough*

To try and appear fair and balanced, the article does bother to quote an Israeli once. However, they managed to find one who opposes Sharon. *sweatdrop*

Zehava Galon, a member of Israel's Knesset, said the Geneva Initiative, launched on Dec. 1 by groups in Palestine and Israel, had the best chance of success, and the international community should make joint efforts to promote it.

Here's what Sharon says, which makes rather a lot of sense:

"Geneva is an attempt to do something only a government can do. Only a government can conduct political negotiations and sign an agreement," he said.

"It is damaging and embarrassing for Israel, it's a mistake to put on such a show and at the same time jeopardize a program which is the only one that can bring a solution," Sharon argued, in reference to the roadmap.

BTW the article i got that quote from is HEAVILY biased, but I noticed the islam-online URL so I won't bother criticising it bit by bit.

Elliot Temple on December 20, 2003 | Comments (0)

lying bastards

Just read this.

U.S. Leaders Support New Israel-Palestine Peace Initiatives, Geneva Initiative

The thing is, if you read the article, it's *former* US officials. sheesh.

And this article, like all the others I've seen so far, tries to portray the Geneva Initiative as a joint Palestinian-Israeli venture, and a big step towards cooperation and peace, even though it's opposed by the Israeli government, and only left-wing loonies are cooperating on it.

Elliot Temple on December 20, 2003 | Comments (0)

Elliot Temple on December 20, 2003 | Comments (0)

not just a new category, but my new favorite ^^

back to google news. found this. safe-looking URL and says it's an associated press story, so off we go:

Sharon said Thursday that if the Palestinians did not make serious peace moves in the next few months, Israel would impose its own boundary on them. Palestinians say only a negotiated agreement can bring peace.

Doesn't this mean that if Israel simply tries to defend itself and doesn't make enough concessions at the bargaining table, Palestinians will continue trying to exterminate Israel (ie not have peace).

Peace doesn't come from words, it comes from refraining from murder and attempted murder.

They are worried that unilateral Israeli action would leave them with far less land than they want for a future state.

Oh how horrid. They're clearly oppressed -- they won't get as much land as they'd like unless they stop trying to murder jews.

Qureia has said he would agree to the meeting only if Sharon showed a willingness to compromise on a series of contentious issues, including the construction of a security barrier that dips deep into the West Bank.

Deep, eh? Ever look at a map? Dipshit.

And the Qureia guy will only consider fighting terrorism if Sharon gives him stuff? My God, Sharon ought to give him a beating.

Sharon has refused to stop building the barrier, but has said Israel planned to ease closings, curfews and other restrictions on Palestinians.

Know why? Because the fence makes them unnecssary. Credit should go where it's due; this is a pretty serious distortion.

Soldiers shot tear gas into a girls school in the camp, just outside the West Bank town of Nablus, witnesses said. The military denied firing tear gas and said the incursion was routine in search of militants and weapons.

Do you know why the IDF searches girls' schools for terrorists and weapons? Because they hide them there! Scum.

Did you notice how the reporter didn't bother to find out what happened, and just repeated some made-up lies about the IDF? Then tries to paint it like a coverup when he cites the IDF.

anyway, it's sunday, so i better write some frontpage stuff, so probably no more posts here today. cya

Elliot Temple on December 21, 2003 | Comments (0)

just had to quote this

Saddam watches a lot of videos. He reads a lot of thrillers. And he watches a lot of TV: not only Iraqi but especially CNN, BBC and al-Jazeera.


Elliot Temple on December 21, 2003 | Comments (0)

Sadly the USA isn't Perfect

(If you don't see quotes in both blue and red backgrounds, hit refresh.)

Four days ago Sharon gave a speech that Woty and I thought was good. But what did the US government think?

I've found two articles to analyse with very different takes. Quotes from this one by the BBC will appear with a light red background. Quotes from this one by the JPost will appear with a light blue background. (Note: Both articles came out the same day.)

US warns Israel over 'separation'

The United States has warned Israel against taking any unilateral measures to separate itself from Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

White House 'very pleased' with PM's speech

Oh dear, that's quite a difference. Either someone is pretty damn biased, or the US is sending mixed messages (which would be bad).

I'm going to go through the JPost article first.

"We were very pleased with the overall speech," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said regarding Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's remarks at the Herzliya Conference.

The White House on Friday modified its appraisal of the speech, offsetting published accounts that focused on McClellan's admonition Thursday that Sharon should not try to impose a settlement on the Palestinians without negotiations.

The State Department echoed the White House praise, although deputy spokesman Adam Ereli also cautioned Israel against acting without consulting the Palestinians on issues that ought to be resolved through negotiations.

So far it sounds like the White House is sending mixed messages. Dammit.

Sharon said that while Israel is interested in conducting direct negotiations, it will not be held hostage by the Palestinians. "I have already said we will not wait for them indefinitely," he said.

The JPost article quotes Sharon's speech heavily. Skimming to find more about the US reaction now.

Sharon defined the goals of disengagement as reducing terrorism as much as possible and granting Israelis maximum security to improve the quality of life and strengthen the economy. He stressed that the unilateral steps will be fully coordinated with the US.

"We must not harm our strategic coordination with the US," he said.

Sounds good, but is it true?

Also, 'unilateral steps ... coordinated with the US'. Heh.

Sharon began his speech, which was shown to the US administration before delivery, by pledging his allegiance to the road map and President George W. Bush's vision of a two-state solution.

Wait a second. We saw the speech first! Does anyone really think they showed us the speech, we said we hated it, then they read it including claims about cooperation with the US? If we'd found the speech unacceptable, at the least it would have dropped claims of US support and coordination, if not changed more drastically.

What, then, is the BBC talking about? Well, let's see:

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had outlined a "disengagement plan" in case the roadmap peace plan failed.

But the White House said the US was committed to a negotiated settlement between the two sides under the American-backed roadmap.

I loath the BBC. They twist everything. First, the "disengagement plan" does not signify the roadmap has failed; it is a temporary, reversible measure to improve security until Palestinians do their part of the roadmap. It protects Israelis from Palestinian foot-dragging.

Next, the BBC tries to play this as if Sharon was contradicting the White House ('but'), and even against a negotiated settlement. But if you read Sharon's speech this is clearly false.

This doesn't yet reveal anything about the US reaction to the speech, but it does reveal BBC bias.

Palestinians and Jewish settlers have denounced Mr Sharon's proposed steps.

Fuckers! There's really nothing else to say. They try to paint Sharon as a lone figure denounced by Palestinians and Israelis alike. But this is just Jewish settlers who are mad that Sharon is willing to dismantle any settlements at all. In other words, the Jewish settlers' opposition to Sharon (which is of the disapprove of one policy sort not the the man is thoroughly evil sort) is because he is too moderate and too willing to make concessions for peace .... which is the exact thing the BBC complains Sharon isn't.

The United States "would oppose any unilateral steps that block the road towards negotiations under the roadmap that leads to the two-state vision," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

"A settlement must be negotiated and we would oppose any Israeli effort to impose a settlement," he said.

Notably these statements don't actually contradict anything Sharon said in his speech. (Unilateral withdrawal is entirely different from imposing a settlement on the Palestinians.) But then why is the US saying them?

In a long-awaited speech on Thursday evening, Mr Sharon said Israel would take the initiative if the Palestinians did not begin disbanding militant groups as required by the roadmap plan.

(Emphasis mine)

Is that really what the Sharon said? To get rid of militants?

Well, telling Safari to find the words 'militant' or 'militants' in Sharon's speech comes up with nothing. Damn liars.

Mr Sharon said Israel "will greatly accelerate" building a controversial barrier in the West Bank, which Israel says is vital to stop Palestinian militants crossing into Israel to carry out attacks.

But in the speech it actually says, "Israel will greatly accelerate the construction of the security fence." Notice how the BBC closed their quote after three words and filled in the rest with their own words that were not a fair paraphrase of what Sharon said. Damn liars.

Palestinians condemned Mr Sharon's speech as unacceptable.

"I am disappointed that he is threatening the Palestinians," said Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei.

"We are committed to the roadmap," he added.

LOL. Sure. And why does the BBC repeat such lies, when it doesn't even like to quote Sharon for more than three words?

Nabil Abu Rudeina, an advisor to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, said Mr Sharon was trying to tear up the roadmap.

"These declarations represent nothing new and amount to a rejection of the roadmap.

This is worse than the previous one, but don't think it's over yet. Next the BBC asked what Hamas thought. Literally.

Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the spiritual leader of the Islamic militant group Hamas, called Mr Sharon's plan "a delusion to fool the world".

I can't help but wonder every time a Hamas spiritual leader is quoted: if they were close enough to ask him questions, couldn't they have shot him?

"Sharon is asking Palestinians to raise white flags, to surrender. This is totally rejected by our people. We will not surrender and our people will defend themselves," he said.

And Yassin says Sharon is delusional...

Anyway, despite the titles, neither article focussed on the US reaction all that much. From what I can tell, the US did send some mixed messages, as agreed in both articles. This is bad. The US ought to be supporting Israel unequivocally.

The JPost acknowledged the US ambiguity and pointed out the positive bits of the US reaction too, and pointed out that the US saw the speech before it was given. Mostly it just quoted Sharon, who actually gave the speech. So I'd say the JPost article was pretty fair.

On the other hand, the BBC article was biased through and through. It had nothing positive to say, mostly quoted anyone willing to say something bad about Sharon, and lied. Which isn't the biggest surprise in the world, but still... sheesh

If you liked this piece, go here for more of my thoughts about Israel (it's a category archive).

Elliot Temple on December 22, 2003 | Comments (2)

UNobserver.com about as principled as UN

Another day, another google news search. Top one was this.

According to a new report released today by B'Tselem and Physicians for Human Rights, the IDF violates the right of residents of the Occupied Territories to obtain medical treatment. The security claims cited to justify this violation are dubious.

Well that sounds pretty bad. Let's see if it's true.

Dozens of staffed checkpoints and some 600 physical roadblocks have been set up within the West Bank in the framework of Israel's siege policy.

"siege policy" -- LOL. so biased.

These obstacles to movement restricts the access of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to medical treatment.

ok if that's their case, they are official dipshits.

International law is unequivocal on matters relating to the protection of medical teams. Medical personnel are not to be unnecessarily delayed or harmed, unless they participate in military activity. In effect, the IDF is collectively punishing hundreds of thousands of civilians by preventing access to basic medical treatment.

Wait just a second. I seem to recall that Palestinian terrorists use ambulances to transport weapons and personel. They would also pretend to be sick if that'd get them past security. So being careful with ambulances and people who claim to be sick isn't unnecessary.

Any use of ambulances for non-medical purposes is a grave violation of international law.

While the IDF justifies routine delays of ambulances based on the claim that Palestinians use them for military purposes, they have only presented one such incident. Regardless, individual cases of misuse of ambulances does not justify the sweeping policy described in this report.

It doesn't? What are they supposed to do? Only screen some ambulances?

And only one incident? Let's check that out. Google for: palestinian ambulance terrorism

The top hit is Explosives Found in Palestinian Ambulance (Note: incident was March 27, 2002)

One down, one to go.

How about this from June 11, 2002:

Yesterday afternoon security forces stopped a Palestinian ambulance traveling on the main road between Gaza and Khan Yunis for a routine check and arrested a Palestinian fugitive inside pretending to be a patient.

OK, they're already filthy liars, but of course there is plenty more. Like this from April 21, 2002:

"There was no situation where we did not allow people to get into the hospital. Every ambulance that wanted to get into the hospital could go every time. We did check the ambulances. The reason was that the hospital was used to hide highly wanted terrorists. On one occasion one of our doctors checked one of the ambulances. According to what the Palestinian doctor said, there was one severely sick person lying inside. And then we looked at him -- there wasn't a scratch on him, he just had an intravenous, just taped to his shirt, not even inserted in his veins. And this was one of the highly wanted terrorists...

back to the article:

B'Tselem and Physicians for Human Rights call on the security forces to:

· Remove all the siege checkpoints;

· Allow Palestinians to receive medical treatment quickly and without delay;

· Refrain from humiliating or abusing medical personnel.

Translated, they are asking the IDF to let terrorists murder Jews more often.

Oh dear, after that they link to Al Jazeera complaining about Jenin.

Here's info on Jenin.

Elliot Temple on December 22, 2003 | Comments (3)

Why I Oppose Porn

I saw some interesting arguments in favour of porn, but what are the arguments against porn?

- Of course, as we all know, pornographers killed Jesus.

- Porn is inappropriate for adults who already know how to have sex.

- Porn is inappropriate for children who don't need to know how to have sex yet.

- Porn encourages masturbating, and there's the classic discovery that masturbating makes your palms hairy. We should cut that problem off at the source and ban porn before anyone gets aroused alone.

- Speaking of cutting things off, porn makes it four times more likely that you accidentally cut off your penis.

- Banning porn gives the government something to do. You wouldn't want bored cops without a stash of confiscated porn wandering around the streets, would you?

- Porn is demeaning to men, because most of it is made for men as if to say, "we know it's only men who have trouble getting laid".

- Gay porn is a minority, which makes gays feel like a minority, which is hurtful.

- Porn encourages people to wear out their dicks at an early age with excessive masturbation.

- Porn provides loud orgasms which keep the neighbors up.

- Porn disrupts the process of sexual fantasising by replacing individual, creative, personal fantasies with store-bought, mass-produced, stereotyped ones.

- Most people are stupid. Most people like porn. Therefore porn is obviously stupid.

- Porn can be shocking, which increases the risk of heart attack.

- It's a fact that 93.2% of porn stars are 87.4% more likely to use illegal drugs.

- It's a fact that if 98.1% of them weren't porn stars, they'd be too poor to buy drugs.

- And lastly: Porn depicts sex, which is gross.

So get out there and join an activist group to stop porn before it's too late!

Elliot Temple on December 23, 2003 | Comments (8)

Elliot Temple on December 23, 2003 | Comments (0)

title here

Read this:

Another element that I must tell you about how the terrorists used people, used children. A few days after the battle ended, we saw a 6-year-old child with a little bag going in the camp. One of the soldiers asked him, "Listen, what do you have there in the bag?" and so he dropped it and ran away. The bag included three booby-traps. Six years old. Now obviously this child went back to his family or wherever. A six year old cannot understand a lot, but obviously he understood it was not a good thing to do, but it is unbelievable the use of children.

The other experience that we had was with two old women and one man. At every house that was in the end destroyed, we called upon the people, once and twice and three times, to come out - the ones who do not want to fight. We said, "Please come out". Obviously in some cases some people came out, and in one case two old women and one man came out of a house, with their hands up. Just behind them there was a terrorist who shot at the soldiers and afterwards detonated explosions. So you know, people talk here about all kinds of moral elements, accusing the Israeli army. I am very proud of the moral values of every specific soldier, the most simple soldier in our army.

and this (same source):

I will tell you about one case. There was one house in this very area, in this area from which about ten terrorists were shooting at us. This whole house was basically booby-trapped - it was like a minefield. We sent two of our very special units to explode the booby-trapped front of this house, because it was impossible in any other way from a military point of view, to overcome these terrorists. When our two soldiers from the very special unit came close to the house, they saw that there were one woman and two children, and they did not put the explosives under the house, and did not blow up the house. While they were withdrawing back to their forces, one of them was seriously wounded, the other not very seriously.

The IDF is not just humane. It's too humane. They should have killed them, not aborted the mission. Or better yet just bombed the house in the first place without going too near. It had ten terrorists shooting from it for crying outloud.

PS sheesh

An IDF video disproves incriminating media claims from the day before, yet many outlets ignore or bury the new information

Read the source, which is itself sourced, if you don't believe it.

Elliot Temple on December 23, 2003 | Comments (3)

it may be xmas eve, but the jews are still controlling the content of my blog

ok found another israel/palestine article (man I'm good). link

Uganda still supports Palestine despite opposing two UN resolutions condemning Israel, Minister of State for International Affairs Tom Butime clarified yesterday.

The world is strange.

On December 4 the United Nations took its annual vote on seven resolutions concerning Israel. Eight countries voted against and 155 voted for a resolution on Jerusalem, declaring that Israeli actions to impose laws, jurisdiction and administration on the Holy City are "illegal and therefore null and void and have no validity whatsoever."

I suppose this means it's not illegal to assault visiting Egyptians.

The resolution criticised governments that have set up diplomatic missions in Jerusalem and called for international actions to guarantee freedom of religion and access by all people and nationalities to the holy city.

Sound strange? I thought so too. But then I set my crack team of researchers on the matter. (Didn't you know all right-wing blogs are supplied with crack teams of researchers by the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy?)

They discovered that a 1947 UN resolution internationalised Jerusalem. So Jews have no right to be there -- even in the Western half. Hence, no one puts their embassies in Jerusalem. (Except a couple rogue countries.)

They further found out the US doesn't have an embassy in Jerusalem even though Congress mandated one and Bush promised one in his election campaign.

The eight countries that voted against were the United States, Israel, Palau, Nauru, Costa Rica, Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Uganda.

I notice the list doesn't include: Britain, Australia, New Zealand.

Uganda also abstained on another resolution to refer Israel's construction of a security wall in the West Bank to the International Court in The Hague. Eight countries voted against the proposal while 74 abstained and 90 voted in favour.

Send the security fence [I can change words too, not just the BBC :-)] issue to the International Court in The Hague? LOL. Good luck with that.

"On some resolutions that are straightforward, we voted for them, like the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people," said Butime.

Such as the rights to own and use machine guns, to move around at night with no questions asked, to incite violence freely, and to transport terrorists in ambulances.

Elliot Temple on December 24, 2003 | Comments (0)

Merry Christmas

So what am I gonna do on Christmas? That's easy! I'm going to link to Setting The World To Rights.

Why, you ask? Well, to anyone who doesn't already read it, you can take this as a great gift. (A Christmas gift, even.) The site is simply fantastic, and now you shall enjoy it too.

What, you ask, is so special about The World? Well unlike most blogs, there are not glaring gaps in The World's understanding of the world. Obviously all left-wing blogs don't get something or other, but the right-wing ones mess up too. They commonly oppose contraception or abortion, endorse ageism, endorse anthropomorphism, take an anti-rational approach to the question of religion, appeal to authority, or commit various other errors on issues that are understood by many people today. The World doesn't do any of this. It gets all these issues right, and many more.

Here are a few recent posts:

- The World invents amusing conspiracy theories -- why should the loonies have all the fun?

- The World understands environmentalism.

- The World understands the difference between animals and humans.

- The World understands political correctness.

- The World understands the history of Israel. (And also supports Israel, but not in the history, which is written without moral judgment.)

Oh yeah, one more thing. I comment at The World, and you wouldn't want to miss out on that ;-)

Elliot Temple on December 25, 2003 | Comments (0)

In My World (Not IMAO's world, dammit, *mine*)

UN condemns Jews

The UN condemned the Jews today for putting a strain on the Palestinian economy. "Bombs and bullets are expensive, and martyrs never work again," said a UN official. "If only the Jews didn't have to be blown up, or if they were less resistant (making the process cheaper), then the Palestinians could be truly prosperous."

Elliot Temple on December 25, 2003 | Comments (0)

asshat alert

ok found an article.

Our taxes fund injustice and apartheid

by Mazin Qumsiyeh

Sounds just lovely.

I was a bit disturbed that few Hispanic or African Americans attended my son's school in an economically "upper-class" part of Connecticut. We clearly have work to do to protect civil rights and challenge socioeconomic apartheid.

The fact that some group tends to be poorer does not prove they are oppressed, that civil rights protection is lacking, or that there is any socioeconomic apartheid. It could simply be that group tends to be less moral.

The left always tries to say bad people have no choice, and blame their circumstances. It's not their fault they taught their children to fail; they didn't know any better! But this abdication from responsibility is exactly what we don't need -- if people took more personal responsibility they could solve these problems and it wouldn't be "the unavoidable consequence of X environment" anymore. The victimhood mentality can create problems just as easily as actually being a victim.

There are schools for Palestinians and schools for Israeli Jews.

I wonder why. Maybe cause it's not safe to let Palestinians into Jewish schools. Now I'm not saying every Palestinian schoolkid is a murderer, but enough are, and many of the rest are terrorist sympathisers. When their culture comprehensively and unequivocally rejects terrorism and murder, the school setup will change.

Israelis get 6 times more water per person than Palestinians.

Well that's ok, because my anonymous source says that Palestinians produce four times the air pollution, and seven times the water pollution, but only pay one tenth the cleanup costs! And not only that, they use ninty percent of the soap and eighty percent of the carrots. Greedy bastards!

9 million Palestinians in the world, over 5 million are refugees or "displaced persons."

Yeah, that's what happens when you refuse your own state (in 1948, and many times since), and instead declare war, and lose.

Under the road map, Palestinians would remain dispersed and those remaining are left with no control of their natural resources or even their lives.

See what I mean about how the left thinks people in bad situations aren't responsible for what they do?

You'll also commonly hear leftists say "If I were in that situation, I'd become a terrorist too." They are trying to say anyone would do it. The truth is anyone wicked would do it. If you ask a right-wing person what they'd do if they were poor and lived in crappy circumstances, they'd probably just answer "I'd get a job," and possibly add, "and pray for the best." Spot the difference.

They would remain surrounded by Israeli army and colonies and now with huge walls being built around their towns.

Huge walls, eh? Actually most of the security fence will be chain link fence. 3% will be stone.

Israel's share of our foreign aid budget is 30% while its population is about 0.1% of world population.

Wow, great! I would have guessed we wasted a lot more money on other countries than that.

Except for persistent attempts by some in the US media to shield Americans from facts, the whole world opposes the Israel-inspired and Bush-led attack on human rights and international law.

Well if enough people say something, they must be right. It's just logic.

And I thought I remembered US media mostly opposing the War on Terror. Hum, I must be getting old or something.

The violence of resistance is dwarfed by the violence of the occupation and colonization.

Let me translate:

Killing Jews is ok because the Jews rule the world, and are thus to blame for all suffereing anywhere.
Four times more Palestinian civilians were killed than Israeli civilians.

The solution, of course, is for Israel to stop fighting back.

Rachel Corrie, a 23 year old American member of the International Solidarity movement, was killed by an Israeli soldier driving an American made Caterpillar. As I reflect on my son's graduation, I weep with the family of this student and the families of over 800 Palestinian students killed by Israeli forces. I also reflect on and I am saddened by the continuing injustices supported by our taxes. But then I think of the idealism and wonderful words of Rachel and all the conscientious students she left behind. They will lead us to a world with no walls and a world of justice and equality.

A world of no walls, eh? Sounds like he's advocating that Israel stop defending itself. Just pointing it out again in case you'd missed the theme.

Notice how he fails to mention anything about the circumstances of Rachel Corrie's death. He just sort of implies she was murdered, but won't say it directly cause he's too much of a pussy. Here's a nice thread about her. If you want more details, go here.

Elliot Temple on December 27, 2003 | Comments (0)

ai yori aoshi rocks

So I was just watching Ai Yori Aoshi, which btw rocks, and anywayz, there's the main char Kaoru and then a bunch of girls who fight over him but are generally too embarassed to do anything about liking him (shut up, it's better than it sounds). anyway, so they go to a beach and meet a new char (chika) who also likes kaoru (surprise, surprise). anyhow, the girls fight over kaoru but get nowhere with him for 2 eps at the beach, and then when they're leaving (without chika), chika runs up and kisses kaoru on the cheek. the other girls get mad, of course, but IMO basically chika owned them.

anyhow, the point is the observation that this was a socially acceptable thing to do. but if it was a bunch of guys after one girl (already sounds potentially kinda bad), and one *ran up and kissed her* on his own initiative without obvious consent, that is very much *not* socially acceptable.

Elliot Temple on December 27, 2003 | Comments (0)

Elliot Temple on December 27, 2003 | Comments (0)

The Dangers Of Curiosity

I knew it was wax. It looked like wax. It felt like wax. I said, "It's wax." I tasted it anyway. It was wax.

Elliot Temple on December 27, 2003 | Comment (1)

The Cycle of Violence

hum was running out of new articles so have changed google news search to just 'Israel'. found this.

Palestinians assassinated in Gaza by Israel; Palestinian groups vow that Israeli civilians are targets

It's nice how they call the IDF 'assassins' and paint the Palestinian terrorists as just out for justice.

The military wing for both the Islamic resistance movement, Hamas, and the Islamic Jihad, and the Democratic Front For Liberation of Palestine, vowed to retaliate operations conducted by the occupation forces against the Palestinians, stressing that these crimes will not go unpunished, and that escalating resistance will be the only answer for the occupation practices.

See, Hamas isn't evil, they're just part of Allah's Divine Retribution department, an honoured post. And besides, it's the Jews' fault that Hamas tries to kill Jews; they bring it on themselves. They should stop resisting and accept Allah's will. They're just making this process more painful than it has to be.

The leading figure in the Islamic Jihad Movement, Khaled al-Batish, said that his movement will not be ready to avoid what is known "Israeli civilians" as long as Israel does not do the same under commitments and guarantees.

One wonders, if he thinks the Jews are so despicable, why he would want to copy what he says their behavior is. If he's so righteous, why doesn't he take the high road?

Meantime, more than 20,000 Palestinians took part in the funeral of the five Palestinians who were killed in the Israeli raid in Gaza

20,000, eh? Good thing you counted, I would have never known it was so many. *ahem*

Anyway, what he's trying to say is that many, many or most Palestinians are aligned with the five who died, and aligned against Israel. The thing is, I believe him on that point...

Oh, and BTW who were these victims of Israeli aggression?

and that resulted in killing five Palestinians, including three members of Saraya al-Quds ( al-Quds group), the military wing of the Islamic Jihad, one of them being Muqallid Hameed, the commander of the group in the north of Gaza, amid slogans vowing revenge.

Members of the "militant" wing of Islamic Jihad? *sweatdrop*

On the other hand, Palestinian medical sources said that one Palestinian died yesterday because of his wounds he had on Thursday by the bullets of the occupation forces, in Khan Younis camp for the Palestinian refugees, to the south of Gaza.

Hmm, so the only information is the IDF felt this guy was worthy of shooting at. We're supposed to assume they were wrong, just because they're the IDF. My approach is more the opposite: I figure if the IDF thinks someone is worth shooting at, I probably ought to want to see him dead. So all I've got to say is:


Meantime, an Israeli military source said that one Qassam missile was fired from Gaza and exploded in fields of the Israeli settlements, to the south of Israel yesterday. No casualties were reported.

It's a very good thing indeed that terrorists can't aim worth shit.

It's a scary thing that the ones who don't die are bound to get better at it.

In the West Bank, the occupation forces yesterday invaded Balatah Camp to the East of Nablus. News repots said that hundreds of Israeli soldiers broke into the camp and several houses in it, after they had imposed curfew on the area.

The occupation forces got out men and young men and gathered them in the public squares, and machine-gun fire was heard from the place.

Notice how they try to make it sound like there was a massacre. More likely the machine-gun fire (if there was any) was some friendly "militants" greeting the "occupation forces".

The German foreign minister Yushka Fischer yesterday called on the Israelis and the Palestinians to spare no efforts so as not to return back away from the cycle of violence.

The Cycle of Violence is one of Hamas's most treasured artifacts. Sources say it was first ridden by Muhammed (who says they didn't know how to make bicycles back then? The Jews and Christians didn't know how, but Muhammed did.) In recent years, it has been used in at least forty Jihad missions. Astoundingly, it has passed through these ordeals unscathed. Even more astoundingly, it boasts a stellar 10% success rate on missions it's a part of. For there to be peace in the Middle East, we must capture and destroy Hamas' Cycle of Violence.

Elliot Temple on December 27, 2003 | Comment (1)


I'm a San Jose Sharks (ice hockey) fan. The team is very much lite on stars, but they do well anyway.

One thing you may have noticed about ice hockey (and this has been becoming more true in other sports too) is that on a good day, any team can beat any other team. This is because the minimum skill level -- the ability of the worst players in the league -- is very high (much higher than it used to be). Everyone is good. Everyone can shoot. Almost everyone can shoot well in ways their position doesn't usually require (defense doing up-close shots; forwards doing slapshots from far away).

It's a rarity for the best forward to get past anyone at all. Even a forward stuck playing defense alone. Completely tricking a defender pretty much doesn't happen. At best a forward can hope to get a few feet or a half second to shoot with, or get a passing lane.

The defense is more organised and more disciplined than ever. The players understand their job (in most situations) is to worry about the man they're guarding and not the puck (which is why it's so hard to get past a defender). They know in 2-on-1 rushes, they should guard the pass and let the goalie deal with the shot. But that rarely comes up -- there are only a handful of odd-man rushes per game now.

The offense knows it has to pass a lot to score. The star scorers -- the ones with a killer shot, great hands, maybe great speed, and the best chance to beat a defender -- are all star passers. Just as they can shoot at a tiny opening in the net, they've learned to pass through a tiny lane to give someone else a shot.

So, suppose you want a winning hockey team. The old approach was approximately to get some star players and watch them carry you. But this is less and less effective. Fewer goals are scored, and fewer of them from individual effort.

The best way to win now, is to be the most organised and disciplined team. To play as a team, and always make the smart play, and avoid breakdowns. You don't have to have a brilliant offense anymore. If your defense is solid enough, just a couple goals will win the game.

This doesn't mean a slow, boring style of play. Being cautious and solid is entirely different from slow. For example, the way to be cautious when you're the last guy back and you're taking a shot, is to shoot HARD. So even if the shot is blocked, the other team will have a hard time controlling it.

Lingering with the puck in your own end is dangerous, and shouldn't be overdone, and no one can keep the puck safely anywhere for too long without passing. But once you're at midice, low-percentage plays are perfectly acceptable as long as they're safe (don't do something risky if you're the last man back, or something that risks an odd-man rush). It is hard to score, so slim chances are worthwhile. Basically, get it out of your own end, then you can try whatever you want. So the game can and should still be fast-paced and aggressive; the defense just needs to be organised very quickly. In fact, in a fast game, which team really is better organised tends to show up more, because errors are more common.

Elliot Temple on December 27, 2003 | Comments (0)

Anti-semitism In Israel

I read a scary JPost article (do sign up, it's worthwhile).

Column one: Of intellectual bondage By CAROLINE GLICK

"How could you report the war in Iraq if you sided with the Americans?"

"How can you say that George Bush is better than Saddam Hussein?"

These are some of the milder questions I received from an audience of some 150 undergraduate students from Tel Aviv University's Political Science Department. The occasion was a guest lecture I gave last month on my experiences as an embedded reporter with the US Army's 3rd Infantry Division during the Iraq war.

Tel Aviv, if you didn't know, is one of Israel's major cities. Yes, that's right, these questions are coming out of Israel.

Many of the students were visibly jolted by my assertion that the patriotism of American soldiers was inspirational. The vocal ones among them were appalled when I argued that journalists must be able to make moral distinctions between good and evil, when such distinctions exist, if they wish to provide their readership with an accurate picture of the events they describe in their reports.

"Who are you to make moral judgments? What you say is good may well be bad for someone else."

"I am a sane human being capable of distinguishing good from evil, just like every other sane human being," I answered. "As criminal law states, you are criminally insane if you can't distinguish between good and evil. Unless you are crazy, you should be able to tell the difference."

I quoted that in full because Caroline is saying something important very eloquently here, using an argument I hadn't heard before.

"How can you support America when the US is a totalitarian state?" [asked a college girl with a heavy Russian accent]

"Did you learn that in Russia?" I asked.

"No, here," she said.

"Here at Tel Aviv University?"

"Yes, that is what my professors say," she said.

I don't know what to add yet. It speaks for itself, and I'm pretty speechless both.

The article goes on to mention that Western Universities are known for radical leftism, but she thought in Israel of all places it would be better, as all the students had served in the IDF (it's required by law -- apparently for girls too, though I hadn't known that).

It then complains about the influence of the radical left in the ranks of Professors.

It is an open secret that many of the most prominent Israeli academics and professors are also identified with the radical leftist fringes of the Israeli political spectrum.

And points out some Israeli Professors have signed petitions to boycott Israel (sheesh!). One Professor wrote a refusal to serve letter for some military people.

A year ago, I discussed the issue, as well as the rampant anti-Semitism on European campuses ,with the president of the University of Paris. He told me, 'What do you want from us? All we are doing is repeating what we hear from Israeli professors.'"

*gasp* *gulp*

[A survey] discovered that not only were the professors overwhelmingly self-identified with far left and Arab political parties, most also expressed absolute intolerance for the notion that professors with right-wing or even centrist views should be allowed to teach in their departments. "Over my dead body," said one.


A survey carried out by the left-wing Israel Democracy Institute on Israeli attitudes toward the state was published on Thursday in Haaretz. According to the findings, a mere 58% of Israelis are proud of being Israeli, while 97% of Americans and Poles are proud of their national identity.

Do go read the rest of the article; the whole thing is good.

OK one flaw in the analysis is that it overestimates the ability of teacher's to teach students. Few enough ever learn math, and most of those more in spite of their teachers than because. Why should it be different with politics?

I'm reminded of a southpark episode, where Kyle goes to Jewbilee, a camp for Jews. Rabbis from all the various sects of Judaism are present ... including one from the anti-semitic sect. He proceeds to try to summon a demon or something like that.

Oh well, I suppose all I have to say is that identifying problems is an important step towards solving them, and that I posted this because I want everyone to know about this problem.

Elliot Temple on December 29, 2003 | Comments (6)

Human Nature

When people say "X is human nature" or "human nature makes people do X" they mean exactly the same thing as people who say "X is the way God made us."

Elliot Temple on December 29, 2003 | Comments (3)

The Concepts of Good and Evil are Comprehensible

I don't believe in Good and Evil, so unless you're willing to get real and talk about things that mean something to me, or at least define your terms in a way that makes sense to me, I won't know what on earth you think you're talking about.

Sound like a reasonable objection? At first glance it might. It seems to be asking me to speak more understandably using just words we both understand.

But hold up a moment. How does this similar objection sound?

I don't believe in God, so unless you're willing to get real and talk about things that mean something to me, or at least define your terms in a way that makes sense to me, I won't know what on earth you think you're talking about.

It's absurd, isn't it? I may be an atheist, but of course I can talk to theists, and understand much of what they say about God. I can even talk about God myself, and sometimes do. (I dare you to say, "Oh my God! You're such a hypocrite.)

And furthermore, suppose I had no notion what God meant, and couldn't understand anything to do with him. On what basis, then, could I assert that God did not exist? Don't I need to understand what God is to be sure he's not real?

Well, everything I've just said about God makes a perfect parallel for the Good and Evil case.

Elliot Temple on December 29, 2003 | Comments (2)

heh heh

Israel's first Arab Cabinet minister convicted of corruption

A court on Monday convicted the first Arab to serve as an Israeli Cabinet minister on charges of trying to bribe an official to grant Israeli citizenship to a Palestinian businessman, a court official said.


[The businessman] had previously been refused citizenship because of a criminal record, the report said.

Elliot Temple on December 29, 2003 | Comments (0)

*grinds teeth*

ok found an NY Times article. (i want to do more from major US media sources. and less with obviously biased URLs)

Israel Orders the Evacuation of Four Unauthorized Outposts

hum, they try to make the outposts sound bad, but umm since when is buying land and living there a crime? sigh

The Israeli government ordered the evacuation of four unauthorized Israeli outposts in the West Bank on Sunday, circumventing for the first time lengthy legal procedures that in the past have complicated government efforts to reverse the incremental spread of Jewish settlements.

I can't say I'm in love with the idea of tearing Israelis from their homes, but I know Israel does not take this step lightly, and cares more for peace and security than preventing a few injustices today.

But judging from the size of one of the outposts, on a hilltop near here, the move is mostly symbolic: the West Bat Ayin Maarav outpost consists of two steel shipping containers that local residents say have sat empty for years.

But of course no concessions are enough for the NY Times, which I believe insists on nothing less than a full evacuation of Israel.

Though Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's aides called the order signed on Sunday a historic move, there is little evidence yet that the government is committed to more than gradual steps in clearing the West Bank of the dozens of larger outposts that have sprung up on the sun-baked hilltops since Mr. Sharon came to power.

Amazing! Here Israel is kicking citizens out of their homes, and the NY Times takes this opportunity to blame settlements on Sharon and say he's not doing enough.

And should the government of Israel be "committed to more than gradual steps in clearing the West Back of [settlements]"? No! Phase one of the roadmap requires the Palestinians to oppose terrorism. When they won't do that, Israel shouldn't be committed to doing it's reciprocal bits. Rather, Israel should be willing if the roadmap can progress, but otherwise shouldn't make concessions.

Many people in Israel took the latest order as evidence that the government had decided for now not to touch larger, more heavily populated outposts like Bat Ayin Maarav or the even larger Migron, home to 150-odd settlers north of Jerusalem.

Any attempt to raze such established communities would trigger a coordinated, possibly violent response from the highly politicized, well-organized settlers and further polarize Israel's already faction-ridden society.

My fucking God. Yeah, taking small steps proves they aren't willing to take big ones. *cough* And remember they have no reason to take big steps along these lines until the Palestinians oppose terrorism.

Then they have the nerve to allege the Israeli settlers are a murderous bunch.

The article then goes on for three more paragraphs to say Israelis actions were insignificant, and generally poo poo them.

But Mr. Sharon's office defended the move as a step toward fulfilling the government's commitment under the American-supported peace plan known as the road map, which has been stalled since earlier this year. Washington has pressed Mr. Sharon to follow through on its commitments under the plan, which includes removing dozens of unauthorized outposts.

Erm, not quite. Phase one requires the Palestinians to oppose terrorism. Get it? It's not that compliated. PHASE ONE SAYS STOP TRYING TO KILL JEWS. if they won't do that, they shouldn't get a bloody thing, and aren't entitled to anything from the roadmap.

and notice how the articles goes:

1) israel did something to help the roadmap along, but not enough
2) israel is obligated to do stuff for the roadmap, and this little step is along those lines, but definitely not enough
3) the roadmap has been stalled for a while.


Since agreeing to the peace plan in June, Mr. Sharon has dismantled more than 20 outposts, according to Peace Now, an anti-settlement organization that monitors developments in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. But almost all of those outposts were uninhabited, and only a few were of significant size. Peace Now says there are still at more than 50 inhabited outposts slated for immediate removal under the peace plan. The government says there are 40.

They always do this. they find some organisation saying something, say it, then cite the Israeli Government contradicting it, and don't support the Israeli government's contradiction in any way. why? to make the Government of Israel look like a bunch of habitual liars.

and, btw, 20 outposts dismantled? sounds to me like israel is taking concrete steps, even though the palestinians haven't done their part. sheesh.

Still, critics say the government could have picked more significant outposts if it was serious about rolling back the settlements to their pre-Sharon configuration as demanded by the peace plan.

sigh. on and on the whining goes. you almost get the impression the NY Times thinks Israel is the bad guy here.

the article goes on for 5 more paragraphs, and it's just more of the same. weeeeeeee

Elliot Temple on December 29, 2003 | Comments (0)

i don't like to eat when i'm full

who came up with the idea that we need to force young children to eat more? how can something so idiotic be the cause of constant struggles and strife in families? sheesh

Elliot Temple on December 29, 2003 | Comments (8)

Please Read This

This is from MEMRI, an organisation that translates Arabic news and sermons into English. It really helps illuminate who we are fighting and why. If you read it, you'll hear Palestinian Khatibs (preachers) who are paid by the Palestinian Authority (PA) give sermons on PA TV, from PA controlled mosques, looking for the destruction of the USA, and Israel, and Britain.

They call us crusaders and want us dead. Get it?

update: link moved here.

Elliot Temple on December 30, 2003 | Comments (2)

title...title...title...dunno... Yet Another Israel Entry

Found an article. from Christian Science Monitor.

Amid new peace bids, Israel stays tough

Well, the title is clearly intended to make Israel sound bad. Forgive me if I'm skeptical.

Israel has announced a new $56-million program to double the number of settlers in the Golan Heights.

Later it says Israel annexed the Goaln Heights in 1981. That means the Golan Heights is part of Israel. And it's not West Bank or Gaza, so has nothing to do with roadmap agreement against settlements. Hell, even calling these "settlements" seems a bit biased. Why not call new houses in Tel Aviv settlements?

Whether it was a message to Syria alone, or to the Arab world as a whole, it was not intended to be subtle.

They're implying that Israel is giving the finger to the Arab world. By ... building some houses and living in them. I mean, I guess I understand many Arabs are opposed to live Jews, but is the Christian Science Monitor? sheesh

Just weeks after Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad called for an unconditional resumption of peace talks with Israel, Israel has responded with plans for its biggest settlement drive ever in the occupied Golan Heights.

Yeah, that's it, the Syrians are peace-loving but the damn Jews just insist on conflict. Their way of insisting on conflict is to respond to peace negotations by building houses. I suppose if Israel were truly commited to peace, that money would have been redirected away from houses and into birth control. *cough*

"The idea is that Assad will see from his own window the Israeli Golan Heights thriving and flowering," said Yisrael Katz,

Right. Jews thriving and flowering IS OFFENSIVE TO SYRIA.

The rebuff to Syria, the ruling out of new negotiating concessions in the West Bank, and official statements point up that despite Israel's strategic bonanza from the United States occupation of Iraq, and resulting winds of change in the region, Israel is adhering to a view of itself as surrounded by a threatening environment. And it remains averse to ceding land.

Israel should make or considering making concessions to Syria about the West Bank why?

Israel isn't threatened by people who find new Jesish houses offensive?

And Israel remains averse to ceding land? Since when? Ever heard of Oslo? Israel has offered up land over and over. And if Israel was averse to ceding land, where would the borders be? Instead of little buffer zones, Israel would have kept all land it captured anywhere ever.

Critics say the posture is misguided, and potentially perilous.

And Hamas says the Jews should all die. But news agencies shouldn't just be proxy Hamas spokesmen. Nor should they repeat lame criticism from anonymous sources that they're too craven to say themselves.

How come articles never read, "Anonymous Sharon supporters say the posture is well thought out and moral."?

"There is no real enemy anymore, but unfortunately the strategic thinking has not changed," says Tel Aviv University political scientist Reuven Pedhazur.

Notice how a Professor from Tel Aviv is anti-Israel.

If anything, Israel today faces a greater "existential threat" than ever before, according to Mossad chief Meir Dagan, because Iran, he said recently, is close to "the point of no return" in developing nuclear arms.

Dore Gold, an adviser to Sharon, says Israel is not interested in Assad's statements but rather in Syria acting against the Lebanese Hizbullah organization and shut down radical Palestinian groups in its territory.

Damn straight.

Anyhow, before I close I just want to point out: Why would Israel want to keep the Golan Heights away from Syria? Maybe cause they are a high place perfect for shelling part of Israel from. Combine that with the fact that Syria sponsers terrorism...

Elliot Temple on December 31, 2003 | Comments (2)

NY Times Worse Than I Thought

Maybe I'm naive, but I really wasn't expecting the NY Times to be this bad.

I'm going to try out a new approach. I will just give quotes, and bold key bits, and let them tell the story. Try reading through only the bold bits. I'm going to keep more than the key bits for context though. I also use italics once to point out a lie (yes, to point out the lie, all I have to do is highlight part of their own article). UPDATE: sigh, not a lie. just enough of a trick to fool me. I thought they'd said Israel used live ammo in that specific incident, but they hadn't. they just slyly insinuated it. damn them.

oh btw, amusingly, i spell-checked and the only error was in one of the NY Times quotes (they spelled occurence wrong).

Israel plans a major expansion of Jewish settlements in the Golan Heights, the government confirmed Wednesday. The announcement angered Syria, from which Israel seized the territory in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
The plan, approved two weeks ago, comes just two months after the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, called for renewed peace talks between his country and Israel.
[Israeli] Government officials said the expansion plan had been in the works for months and denied that its approval was intended as a response to Mr. Assad's vague proposal
But the Israeli agriculture minister, Yisrael Katz, who heads the government's settlement committee, told Israeli radio and television on Wednesday that the plan was meant to send Mr. Assad the message that "the Golan is an inseparable part of the State of Israel, and we have no intention to give up our hold."
In October Israel attacked what it described as a terrorist training camp in Syria.
The new settlers would increase the number of Israelis in the thinly populated highland by about a quarter.
The plan drew a quick and angry response from Damascus, where the official Syrian Arab News Agency quoted a government spokesman as saying the [Israeli] move would "block the way to any inclination or initiative to push matters in the direction of achieving a just and comprehensive peace in the region."
In France, a Foreign Ministry spokesman urged Israel not to implement [Israel's] plan, saying it could compromise the search for peace.
Revelation of the plan comes when Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's government is already under pressure to curb Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, two other territories occupied by Israel in 1967. Government figures show that the number of settlers in those regions has continued to grow during the nearly three years that Mr. Sharon has been prime minister.
Mr. Sharon, a longtime advocate of the settlements, has accepted an American-backed peace plan that calls for the removal of unauthorized Jewish outposts in Palestinian territory, but [Sharon] has been slow to act on that commitment.
Most recently, he has suggested that Israel may seal itself off from the Palestinian territories with a barrier it is building and [Israel may] disengage from the peace process until the Palestinian authorities can exert better control over their people.
Mr. Sharon has responded coolly to Mr. Assad's suggestions about talks, saying only that they would have to begin from scratch rather than picking up where negotiations left off three years ago, as Mr. Assad said he would like.
The issue of the barrier arose again in Israel on Wednesday, when [Israeli] troops shot and wounded 10 Palestinians and an Israeli who were demonstrating against the concrete and chain-link fence. Last week troops wounded an Israeli protester in an incident that roused a national debate about the [Israeli] military's use of live ammunition against unarmed civilians, an almost daily occurrance against Palestinians.
The army used tear gas and rubber bullets in Wednesday's action.
Israeli military officials have said the [Israeli] army is considering changing its rules of engagement as a result of last week's incident.
Also on Wednesday, the army said it had arrested an Israeli soldier in the shooting of an unarmed British peace activist on April 11 in the Gaza Strip. The Briton, Tom Hurndall, was shot in the head [by Israel] when he went to the aid of some Palestinian children. He was pronounced brain dead and is now in a London hospital.
Mr. Hurndall is one of several members of the International Solidarity Movement who have been killed or wounded while trying to protect Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. In March, an army bulldozer crushed to death a 23-year-old American member of the group, Rachel Corrie.
The army took no disciplinary action in that case, though, like Mr. Hurndall, Ms. Corrie wore a fluorescent orange vest to identify herself as a member of the group.

Elliot Temple on January 1, 2004 | Comments (0)

The Whole World Is Insane (ok minus four-ish countries)

this is entirely unremarkable. it's easy to find dozens like it. meanwhile there's kind of a lack of non-insane articles. weeeeeee.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat lights a makeshift torch to mark the 39th anniversary of the Fatah movement at his compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah, December 31, 2003. Arafat charged in a speech on the occasion that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon did not want to achieve peace. AFP

yeah, the anniversary of the Fatah movement is a good time to say *other people* are opposed to peace. *cough*

if you know nothing about Fatah, the short summary is: they are terrorists.

the other summary is: google will easily find you plenty about them, like this about them trying to blow up a Jewish holy site, and bitching (the article, not Fatah) about how The World (not Setting The World To Rights, but rather the set of all countries) doesn't care.

here's more info. it seems to think that since Yasser Arafat renounced terrorism *cough* Fatah's been clean, at least "officially" whatever that means. weird.

The Palestinians and Syria on Wednesday accused Israel of turning its back on peace after it tried to assassinate a top Hamas militant in Gaza and moved ahead with plans to build hundreds of new homes in the occupied Golan Heights.

killing terrorists = turning back on peace. therefore peace = terrorists operating in peace, i guess. *cough*

Elliot Temple on January 2, 2004 | Comment (1)


ever hear Israelis use 6 times as much water per person as Palestinians?

ever hear Israel is stealing Palestinian water?

ever hear Israel is wasteful of water and greedy?

ever hear Israel violates international law with its water policies?

ever just wonder about Israel and water?

if so, this'll set you straight

Elliot Temple on January 2, 2004 | Comments (0)

i wrote a story; be impressed

once upon a time there was a physicist and a lion.

the lion said to the physicist: I'm going to eat you.
the physicist said: Have you ever heard a fable about fishing?
the lion said no.
the physicist said: i wish i hadn't been so focussed on physics. i don't know it either.

then the lion ate the physicist.

Elliot Temple on January 2, 2004 | Comment (1)

amusing is one of my favorite words

off west wing (which is good).

so this guy lives by the river. and he's highly religious. anyway, he here's a radio report that the river is gonna flood, so he should leave. but he says he's a religious man, who loves God, and prays, and stuffz, so God will save him, and he stays.

so the river starts flooding. the town is being filled with water. and this boat comes by, and they guys yell at him to get in the boat, and they will rescue him from the flood. but he says no, he has faith in God, so he doesn't need their help. and he stays.

later he's on the roof of his house, cause the water is that high, and a helicopter comes, and throws him a rope ladder, and yell at him to climb it. but he says no he is a religious man, who does as God asks him, loves God, and prays, so God will save him, and he stays.

so then he drowns and goes to heaven. and at the gates, he demands an audience with God. and he asks God, "I'm a good man, I did all the things you asked of men, I loved you and prayed to you, why didn't you save me?"

God says, "I sent you a radio report, a boat, and a helicopter. What the fuck are you doing here?"

Elliot Temple on January 2, 2004 | Comments (0)

man i'm glad i voted for the BBC

just read this article. sheesh.

ok the message, near as i can tell is:

some palestinians were shot. israel says its soldiers were defending themselves. the palestinians say it was murder.

the BBC has no evidence except the word of some palestinians, but it's convinced israel is lying.

Elliot Temple on January 3, 2004 | Comments (0)

guess what this post is about


The New Year, and the good resolutions that go with it, make most people's thoughts turn to peace and friendship. But not in the case of Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon.

heh. not bad on the rhetoric scale.

His latest policy speech shows that he has every intention of continuing with his hardline approach towards the Palestinians despite advice to the contrary from key ally, America .

heh. invoking the US against Israel. yeah, we really hate Israel. you can tell b/c pro-palestinian ppl like to complain: A) 87.4335% of the US foreign aid budget goes to israel. B) the US is controlled by j00000s C) the US only likes Israel because Sharon and Bush are lovers. notice how (C) admits the US likes Israel.

Many in Israel now realise that Mr Sharon's harsh policies have only made Israel more vulnerable to suicide bombings and other terrorist acts. The situation in Iraq too will have a bearing on Israel-Palestine relations.

no bias here. move along. he's not saying the jews bring their deaths upon themselves. nothing of the sort.

The inglorious capture of Saddam Hussein, who has been a strong advocate of the Palestinian cause, has generated yet more anger and resentment in the West Bank and Gaza .

with friends like that...

Elliot Temple on January 4, 2004 | Comments (3)


so watcha up2 elliot?

well, i'm glad you asked! you see, mostly i'm working on a Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne map. and i needed an excuse to plug THE BEST GAME EVER.

what's a map?

anything with "USA" in large letters in the middle.

oh, wait, that was terrible. anyhow, to play warcraft you need the game and also a map. it loads the map, and then what happens depends what the map says. of course the game comes with a bunch of maps. but you can make or download more too.

the main elements of a map are: terrain (like basic landforms). doodads (like decorations). units. a map script (think programming telling it what to do).

also war3 is fully 3D and you can put cameras anywhere, and play pretty movies. and you can put sounds in a map.

ok but you still don't really know what a game is like. cause my description of a map is too general. but, that's part of the magic. maps are such a general construct that you can make drastically different types! some of the main types of maps are:

Standard maps -- these maps have no special programming and let you play the game the official way. you start with a town hall and 5 workers, and harvest gold and wood and use it to build more buildings and purchase units (from your buildings) and fight your opponent. this is similar to warcraft 2, starcraft, command and conquer, age of empires, etc (war2 and starcraft actually had custom map editors too. no idea if CandC or AoE did)

gonna take timeout to mention one cool war3 feature: hero units. they get xp, can carry 6 items, and get 4 spells which they level up as they gain levels. they have 3 ability stats.

RPG maps -- the basic idea is you get to control a custom-modified hero, and so do a few or your friends, and you go around killing pre-placed monsters. possible there is a plot with cut-scenes. there's probably a town (or a few) where you can get supplies and heal.

Open RPGs -- either some game masters use special commands to drop monsters then other ppl fight them, or everyone can use special commands and you're supposed to set stuff up then make your own heroes to fight it. i think they're kinda a bad idea, and it'd be better to just make a map with stuff on it. b/c to get a good map you need to balance test, not fight what took you 10 minutes to place.

cinema maps -- just sit back and watch a movie. :-)

tower defenses -- waves of monsters try to get past you. build towers (which can attack but not move) to stop them. sounds simple but can be quite complex.

aos maps -- the name is just the abbreviation of the name of the poster map of this type (Aeon of Strife). anyway, there are 2 computer-controlled towns that constant spawn waves of monsters and send them against each other. both sides are equally powerful and cancel out. players each get a hero and try to turn the tide of battle. there are also 3-way versions.

vampire hunters -- really there's only one map of this type, but it's awesome. the vampire team wins be destroying the main human city in the middle of the map within 7 days. the human team (hunters) wins by defending that long or by killing the vampires often enough. every player has a hero. to aid them, vampires can collect souls from villagers around the map. hunters try to chase them off and save the villages. vampires have a free teleporter system to get to any corner of the map from any other corner. hunters can only teleport from anywhere to the middle, and that costs them money.

single player campaign -- the game comes with some single player maps that are kinda a mix btwn standard and rpg elements. they're well done.

hero arenas -- fight it out! i think they're dumb.

micro wars -- do you have the skill to beat someone fighting a small num of units vs a small num of units? even if they're the exact same units? it's amazing to see even with the exact same units, the guy with better strategy can win often with half his guys alive.

anyway, my map is an RPG, with custom scripted spells (when certain spells are cast, i programmed it to add certain extra effects), and cinemas, and pretty terrain, and a kinda lame plot, but lots of subquests anyway.

oh and i forgot the best part! battle.net! blizzard's *free* online game servers. all you need is an internet connection and you have access to many thousands of war3 players to play with. if you make a crappy map and host a game, you'll probably get joiners immediately. i certain have no trouble finding ppl to beta test my map. the wait time for ladder (standard games for a ranking system based on how much you win/lose) is like 30 seconds.

also good about battle.net is you could play with *me*! think about it :-)

Elliot Temple on January 4, 2004 | Comments (0)

Elliot Temple on January 4, 2004 | Comments (0)

Conscription And Indoctrination Are Both Bad, But Not Equally

Apparently Palestinians are good at something ... brainwashing their children.

Israel is good at something too. It managed not to jail any concientous objectors since 1980 until yesterday despite the fact the law requires everyone to serve. Of course the media seems more interested in calling Israel fascist. Ho hum.

I do, by the way, oppose conscription. It should be phased out. If that left the IDF understaffed, then the IDF should be paid more in terms of money, honour, working conditions, etc. If that's hard to pay for, then they have too many social programs :-)

Having anti-Israel cranks in the IDF doesn't help anyone.

Loads more about Israel here

Elliot Temple on January 5, 2004 | Comments (0)

Relationships Alone Do Not Create Obligations

Premise: Jack and Jill have a relationship.

Challenge: Name one obligation Jack has to Jill.

The point is that I have thus proven relationships, in and of themselves, do not create or entail obligations.

Note: "to act rightly towards Jill" does not count, because all people should act rightly towards all people already.

Elliot Temple on January 5, 2004 | Comments (14)

not posting much cause obsessed with my buggy warcraft map

Not Real Life: Israelis have dismissed Palestine's latest list of zero terrorist groups to be dismantled under the roadmap as inadequate and deceptive.

Real life: Palestinians have dismissed Israel’s latest list of 28 settlement outposts to be dismantled under a peace plan as inadequate and deceptive.

The world is strange.

Elliot Temple on January 6, 2004 | Comments (0)

i'm amused

For myself, calling someone irrational is irrational.

If i call you irrational, would you say we're both irrational, or just me?

Elliot Temple on January 7, 2004 | Comment (1)

i took the time to post; you should be thanking me


Two leading Israeli cabinet ministers have said Israel should resume peace negotiations with Syria.

Really? Do they? I thought Sharon was opposed to the thing, so that's a bit odd.

Former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu

Oh. The BBC is lying again. "leading cabinet minsters"!? yeah, and Jimmy Carter is a leading US President.

update: fuck. apparently he's a former something *and* a current something. but still, he's not a leading part of sharon's government. israel has a proportional representation system. so sharon is in charge, but there are ppl in government from the other parties too. this is like finding a democrat who'll say bush sucks, and calling that news. and then saying the democrat was a leading part of bush's government b/c he was in congress or something. ok actually i'm told guy is from same party as sharon, but opposite faction. so it's like finding Tracy (a libertarian i know) and getting him to criticise me. (sorry, that's only amusing if u know tracy)

oh, and before i go on, there's a nice picture of a BULLDOZER with a caption saying Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in 1967. From the picture, you'd think Israel just built stuff there and took it, and maybe knocked down the homes of the peace-loving Syrians who lived there. did the BBC forget about the six days WAR? fought not with bulldozers, but with bullets. i know they both start with 'bull', but they really are different things.

[Successful peace talks with Syria] would mean Israel withdrawing from nearly all of the Golan Heights, which were captured from Syria in 1967.


fuck you BBC

The Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz, for example, has said publicly that he does not think Syria is serious, and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has shown little interest in the proposal so far.

Mr Mofaz wants the Syrians to end support for radical Palestinians and for the militant group Hezbollah, before Israel thinks about resuming negotiations.

Amazing how all the people "totally serious about peace with Israel" want concessions before they give even their word to fight anti-Jew terrorism.

There have also been contacts between Israeli and Libyan officials in recent weeks, but both sides have been alarmed that news of the meetings leaked out.

heh heh. well thanks for telling me. *sweatdrop*

PS West Wing rocks

PPS go read IMAO

Elliot Temple on January 8, 2004 | Comments (2)

Elliot Temple on January 8, 2004 | Comments (0)

programmers only

Here's an example of terrible structure, but fine denotation:

global int i, j;
for(j=0; j < 10; j++)
    i = j;
    for(j=0; < 10; j++)
        print( my_array[i][j] )
    j = i;

Elliot Temple on January 10, 2004 | Comment (1)

Elliot Temple on January 10, 2004 | Comments (0)

hex editors

So i needed a hex editor. (for war3 modding stuffz) (modding is modifying). but i didn't know that. see, someone had the bright idea of naming it a hex editor. hex means six. hex editors, i knew, had something to do with hexidecimal (base 16). i wanted to edit raw data. ya know, 1s and 0s. aka binary, not hex.

once you use one, the name does make sense. 1s and 0s are generally arranged into blocks of 8 with 256 possible values. you can write 256 possible values in 2 digits of hexidecimal. so displaying binary files in hex makes sense (they show the binary versions too) (and the ASCII aka text version too) (and various other versions like what integer the selected bit would be, if it was representing an integer).

anyway, hex editors are cool. cause now i can, for example, open a war3map.w3e file and find the integer near the start saying how many tiles the map has (which is written as a string of 32 1s and 0s), and change it to 16 (well, the 1s and 0s that mean 16). this could not be done with a text editor. this means i can do something really important to my map without using someone else's buggy program that i'm very afraid might break other stuff.

oh hey, wanna see specs on war3 files? no? well, here they are.

PS there's quite a lack of ez to find hex tutorials on google. feh

Elliot Temple on January 11, 2004 | Comments (0)

good info (amateur level)


have i ever mentioned my knowledge of programming has random gaps that are sometimes a bitch to fill in? most of the day stuff that looked like 0x0400 or 0xA447F was being really confusing. wtf is that!? yes i can see the second half looks like hex, but it still appears kinda random. well turns out 0x is a special code in C that means the numbers after it are in hexidecimal. that's it. so those are really saying HEX0040 and HEXA447F. oh. and now it makes perfect sense.

Elliot Temple on January 11, 2004 | Comments (0)

Israel Is Interesting

The BBC writes

[Sharon] said he believed Syria was still helping agents of the Lebanese group, Hezbollah, which is accused of involvement in attacks on Israel.

Just accused? Not blatantly guilty? Of "attacks on Israel"? Are you sure Sharon didn't accuse them of being filthy, murdering terrorist scum?

"Israel is ready and willing to negotiate once Syria stops its help to terror," [Sharon] said.

I'm sure Sharon said 'attack on Israel' the first time and changed his language later, though. The BBC wouldn't tamper with something as important as that, because doing so would be wrong.

Anyway, moving on: Qassam rocket lands in Israel, close to border with Gaza

A Qassam rocket fired from the Gaza Strip landed inside Israel on Monday, in a community close to the Israel-Gaza border.

Of course, if they had their own state, unpoliced by the IDF, they'd never shoot rockets, and Israel would be safe. But Sharon doesn't want that; he needs rockets to be fired at Israel so he can have a good career, since he's a military kinda guy, and they do well during war time. *sweatdrop*

Earlier Monday, Palestinian gunmen opened fire on an Israel Defense Forces outpost, close to the Israel-Egypt border, Israel Radio reported. The were no injuries in the incident.

On the upside their aim is as bad as ever. On the downside they're still alive.

On Sunday, a suicide bomber blew himself up in the northern West Bank, causing no other injuries. In a separate incident, an 18-year-old Palestinian was killed Sunday by Israel Defense Forces soldiers.

The bomber blew himself up because he was caught well before getting there. The other one was shot because he was gonna throw a Molotov cocktail at IDF soldiers while he was part of a clash with the IDF by Palestinian villagers (wtf? They can screw with the IDF and not be massacred? That's not what the BBC would have me think.)

Moving on. The Biased Media would have me think Israel is divided on the issue of peace talks with Syria between those who want peace, and a few nuts in charge who like blood. But listen to one of the actual arguments against Sharon's stance:

Justice Minister Yosef Lapid said that Israel is creating for itself the image of a nation that refuses to make peace.

"Once again we are in danger of losing the battle for world public opinion, because the impression is created that we are trying to avoid negotiating with the Syrians," he said. "The government should announce unequivocally that it is in favor of peace negotiations, and afterward say it is conditional on Syria ending its support for terrorism."

So apparently there is reasoned debate going on. Surprise, surprise. I guess the media and self-proclaimed leftie intellectuals don't have a monopoly on thinking after all.

Notice also how the disagreement here isn't all that devisive, and is not over what the BBC says it's over. The BBC keeps trying to play it as a conflict between Sharon's crazy view and people who say "no no, peace instead". But, duh, Sharon wants peace. He just doesn't want to be played for a fool while Syria uses the talks as diplomatic cover for terrorist activities. (e.g. "Syria's not evil, or illegitimate, it's talking with Israel even as we speak.")

And the opposition (by reasonable people; of course there is some nuts opposition too) isn't that Sharon is wrong per se, but merely that his approach isn't ideal for PR, and he should change his emphasis slightly while keeping the same basic stance.

I still agree with Sharon.

"Just as we demand that the Palestinians dismantle terrorism before beginning diplomatic negotiations, that is also the situation with Syria," [Sharon] said. "Notwithstanding our strong desire for peace, this is an interest we will defend."

Sharon said that while it is clear that Israel is interested in peace with Syria, "as the head of military intelligence answered me last week, we need to remember that Syria still supports terrorism against Israel."

I bet the BBC has better sources on the Syrian terrorism issue than Israeli military intelligence though. LOL

PS this is interesting: Will Israel Become an Arab State?

Elliot Temple on January 12, 2004 | Comments (0)

format shmormat

curi42 (2:42:51 PM): this senator wants ammendment to give $47mil to fight autism. he starts giving reasons fighting autism is important. ur josh listening. imagine agreeing was politically ok (happens to not be ok to have more ammendments on bill, but forget taht)
curi42 (2:43:22 PM): ok fighting autism is good. but should the money go to that, or to something else that's also good? how could josh tell? HE COULDN"T!
curi42 (2:44:03 PM): this is why government taking everyone's money into a big pool then trying to divy it up for everything is a bad idea. he doesn't have the information for where it should go, and there's no easy or good way to get it in that system.
curi42 (2:45:16 PM): whereas if the ppl kept their money this problem wouldn't exist. they'd do stuff they knew about, comparing only the things they know about. and overall it'd avg out just fine. (or sometimes there'd be common misconceptions and it wouldn't; but messing up common misconceptions beats messing up all of josh's)

curi42 (2:48:46 PM): it just struck me when the guy was trying to sell josh on the idea that ppl argue "u should spend money on my cause b/c my cause is good" whihc *completely misses the point*
curi42 (2:48:53 PM): there are lots of good things.
AnonymousPerson (2:51:23 PM): Like with the risk thingy, before i let Josh decide a thing like how much money autism research should get, I want him to tell me, within two orders of magnitude, how many ball bearings are needed this year.

curi42 (2:57:21 PM): turns out he was asking b/c he had an autistic grandson
curi42 (2:57:31 PM): now *that's* a good way to decide where to spend money
curi42 (2:58:29 PM): there are things where you want a unified policy. but choosing btwn autism research and cancer research isn't one. everyone should go their own way on those, so we'll get some of each.
curi42 (3:02:39 PM): nooooooooooooooooooooooooo wtf
curi42 (3:03:24 PM): ok the guy is doing fillibuster and gonna drop soon but screwing them up. but they realise he can safely yield floor for a question and still get it back.
curi42 (3:03:45 PM): so i figure they will ask "is it true you're only doing this b/c u have a grandson with autism?" or something to embarass him to shut him up
curi42 (3:04:27 PM): instead the question is 22 parts (and from a grandfather) so he can rest, then other ppl ask questions. they decided b/c he was doing it for grandson that they should help him.
curi42 (3:04:37 PM): do leftists really think that's being humane, and i'm an evil bastard?
curi42 (3:04:43 PM): cause if so, they should be shot :)

Elliot Temple on January 13, 2004 | Comments (0)

my logical conclusions

IMAO who is usually right and often very funny, writes:

As Opinion Journal pointed out, this poll shows that the average Republican knows more about the Democrat presidential nominees than the average Democrat, even though there ain't a way in God's name we'd ever vote for them. And I remember seeing some article arguing that we're the party of the dumb. It's a fact that, if someone closely follows politics, odds are he or she is a Republican. Draw your own logical conclusion from that.

well, sorry, but the implied argument is not valid.

the implied argument is that paying attention to politics causes people to be Republican, and that we know this because the poll correlated paying attention to politics with being a Republican (and i expect other polls have too).

BTW I happen to think the conclusion is true: I do think paying attention causes people to become Republican. I just don't think we can say this is true *because* of the poll.

the problem is CORRELATION DOES NOT IMPLY CAUSATION (which i've never ever once had someone even try to disagree with). see, from the poll all we get is correlation. the causation could be something else entirely besides the one IMAO picked. like maybe something about being a Republican in the first place makes you more inclined to watch the news. or maybe Republicans tend to go to Church more, and Churches tend to promote political thinking (erm, maybe not that one). or maybe religious people care more. or it could be any cause, for all the poll tells us.


A) Frank J visited *my blog* (see comments). i belive that makes my blog famous by association, so you should visit more often now, and make your friends visit, and stuff.

B) Frank did not intend the argument I said he implied. My apologies for the error. I think he could have been clearer, but he's right that he didn't actually say anything wrong, I just falsely assumed he meant something bad.

C) I'll leave this up because other, lesser people than Frank J might argue that way on purpose (maybe a liberal) so the correction would be important then.

Elliot Temple on January 14, 2004 | Comments (4)

aim rocks

Camille (1:54:54 PM): I happen to enjoy physical comedy
curi42 (1:55:49 PM): so if i kick you, you'll laugh?
Camille (1:56:07 PM): only after I kick you back
curi42 (1:56:14 PM): LOL

Elliot Temple on January 15, 2004 | Comments (0)

Elliot Temple on January 16, 2004 | Comment (1)

damn title field

curi42 (2:24:59 PM): boredom is when a cow eats your keyboard
Anonymous (2:27:17 PM): Then don't have a cow, man.

Elliot Temple on January 16, 2004 | Comments (0)

Elliot Temple on January 16, 2004 | Comments (10)

neat cs trick

found here

u might not follow that explanation though, so i'll write it simpler:

computer data is often stored in arrays (basically a bunch of stuff in a row). arrays have a fixed size in memory. sometimes they get full. the basic solution is you make a new, larger array, and copy all the old data into it.

in comp sci classes they generally teach (or maybe only used to, dunno) that you should make the new array double the size of the old. you want to try not to waste too much memory by making it bigger than needed, but also increase the size enough not to have to do this very often, because copying over all the data is expensive.

anyhow, if your array takes up 1 unit of memory, and you double, the new one takes 2 units of memory, with a gap of 1 empty unit behind you. next doubling, your array takes 4 with a gap of 3. then takes 8 with a gap of 7.

see the problem? the array never fits into the gap.

if you increase the array by a factor of 1.5 instead, it will fit into the gap.

actually works pretty fast. 1.5 with 1 gap. then 2.5 gap and array is 1.5*1.5=2.25 ... already fits.

anyway, it's a neat improvement.

Elliot Temple on January 16, 2004 | Comments (4)

BBC Nonsense

they'll just randomly report that the 2nd law of thermodynamics is wrong with no apparent case.

FYI microscopic laws being 'time reversible' means that a movie of the events played backwards does not violate the microscopic laws. (the article uses the term but doesn't say what it means)

Elliot Temple on January 16, 2004 | Comments (0)

The Jacksonian Tradition is Largely Good

This is a very good essay about the Jacksonian tradition in the USA.

Although on the whole it's good, it does have an error I'd like to complain about. Basically the author doesn't understand libertarianism. So he writes:

Jacksonians are civil libertarians

But Jacksonians are not civil libertarians, unless libertarians suddenly took a liking to MEDICARE and no one told me...

Suspicious of untrammeled federal power (Waco), skeptical about the prospects for domestic and foreign do-gooding (welfare at home, foreign aid abroad), opposed to federal taxes but obstinately fond of federal programs seen as primarily helping the middle class (Social Security and Medicare, mortgage interest subsidies), Jacksonians constitute a large political interest.


Elliot Temple on January 19, 2004 | Comments (7)

Hockey Is Great

so guess what i did on saturday? that's right! i watched ice hockey on tivo (TV with fastforwarded commercials). san jose sharks vs colorado avalanche (i live near san jose, FYI).

anyway, to understand the avalanche, try this statement, "their whole entire team is made up of stars." it sounds odd at first. but they have far more stars than any other team. maybe not actually 4 offensive lines full, but more than 2 (you get 20 players per game, usually 4 groups of 3 forwards, 3 groups of 2 defenders, and 2 goalies. the groups are called lines.) (and if your coach likes, you can keep the 4th line almost entirely off the ice)

colorado simply has significantly more individual skill than any other team out there. btw for this game colorado was missing it's best player, but the sharks were missing three(!). (top scorer, a second center forward, and a defender)

when you watch the game, you can see the insane skill by colorado players. they get the advantage in most 1 on 1 skirmishes. they make space for themselves in the offensive zone sooooo well. they all shoot like gods. they're fast and deadly on a breakaway. etc etc

the sharks are fast too, but honestly most of their team does not have a brilliant shot. sure they can shoot it hard at the net, and pretty much anyone in the NHL can hit the corners if there's no one in the way, but they aren't nearly as dangerous as the colorado players. if a colorado guy gets a few moments alone with the puck in the offensive zone, you're in big trouble. if it's near the net, expect a goal. most shark players will do something useful, but...

most of the shark offensive players won't even try to screw around by themselves. they usually don't make space, they just pass it off to someone else.

hum, digression. if you skate fast, the defender will back up quickly (hockey players skate backwards almost as fast as they skate forwards). if you try to go past him, he will get in front of you but to the center of the ice, and push you to the outside away from the goal. if you stop, he'll stop, and then he'll come forward into you. but you have a few moments after you stop before he can get to you, which is space. the other main way to get space is to pass it, move away from your defender, then get it passed back to you. but there's another way, and it's called insane individual skill. if you can threaten to skate somewhere important enough, the defender will have to worry about that, and you can get some space elsewhere. if you're good enough with the puck, and fast enough, you can try to avoid the defender when he comes for you, and get away (it's generally hard to skate near someone and keep the puck on your stick, cause they just hit your stick with theirs, and off it goes. you have to dodge their stick with not just the puck, but also your stick. this usually requires letting the puck off your stick a while, but then you have to worry about it hitting a skate, getting away from you, or you not being able to chase after it b/c the defender runs into you)

so what advantages did the sharks have? well, their goalie was totally Player of the Game (the backup goalie played, too! sharks have the best goalie coach around, and ended up with lots of top quality goalies (they traded some off too)) and the sharks were a bit more unified as a team, especially on defense. ok sure the avalanche could make space, pass all around the shark's zone, and score if they got a moment alone in front of the net. but they never got a moment alone anywhere. ever. there was no missed coverage (there were, *ahem*, a pair of 2-on-1 breaks though).

in a 2-on-1 the defender guards the pass, and the goalie deals with the shot. so our goalie rocked them, and that was that :-)

so anyhow, it's great fun to watch all these super skilled players going around, with the amazing ability to keep the puck for long periods of time even in the offensive zone, but everywhere they go, a shark follows, maybe not quick enough to steal the puck or even check the guy (run into him and knock him away from puck, or at least stop him from skating around by pinning him to the boards (edge of rink)). and eventually our teamwork would keep them from getting anything too dangerous, and we'd get the puck.

the avalanche scored once. a defender shot it from far away, and there were a bunch of guys in front of our goalie, so he never saw the shot coming. the sharks scored twice, both times off turnovers by the avalanche in their defensive zone (the sharks didn't do that). and that was that.

update: here is a game summary

Elliot Temple on January 19, 2004 | Comment (1)


Stereotypes never fit anyone perfectly. So using them for interactions will cause subtle errors. But in close relationships ... the closer a relationship is, the smaller the errors that are tolerated. So in a sufficiently close relationship, those 'subtle errors' will seem large and intolerable (and 'subtle' will take on a new meaning, which we might have called 'minute' before). Therefore we should avoid stereotypes in close relationships.

By the way, not using stereotypes, when you don't know someone well, is bound to create errors too, because you don't know the person well enough to act error-freely towards him. In this sort of situation, stereotyping can be considered an error reduction strategy! (Of course the stereotypes must always be held tentatively.)

This logic works in close relationships too. We don't know people perfectly, so there will be error. Why, then, are stereotypes bad in close relationships? Well if there were literally 2 billion of them, with slightly different shades of meaning, and we used those, it might be ok even in very close relationships (but there would be a point at which 2 billion was too few). But as it is, we only have fairly general stereotypes, which will cause a high error rate in close relationships where people ought to know more detail than that.

Elliot Temple on January 19, 2004 | Comments (2)

The Washington Post Sucks

The Washington Post thinks that:

And that brings him back to Wolfowitz and his neoconservative allies as the root of the problem. "I don't know where the neocons came from -- that wasn't the platform they ran on," he says. "Somehow, the neocons captured the president. They captured the vice president."

The j0000000s jumped out of the shadows and planted a mindcontrol device on Bush. And Cheney too. ho hum

Elliot Temple on January 19, 2004 | Comments (6)

mmmm movies

curi42 (5:02:35 PM): we put mail outside, and leave it there for hours. and no one steals it. not even if it's bright red and says NETFLIX on it.
WotyFree (5:02:52 PM): that's cool
curi42 (5:02:56 PM): yeah

Elliot Temple on January 19, 2004 | Comments (2)


I just beat Exile: Escape From The Pit (Mac Version | PC Version)

There are three ways to win, actually. I finished all of them today. I'm proud. :-)

Elliot Temple on January 20, 2004 | Comments (2)

*bites tongue*

Israel, (a theocracy), in a confusing move, has dismantled a synagogue. Military analysts are theorising that Sharon was drunk and hit the wrong button when inputting what he wanted destroyed. Probably Tapuah West synagogue was right next to The West Bank.

Elliot Temple on January 21, 2004 | Comments (0)


The Daily Star claims to be the largest circulation newspaper in Bangladesh (they didn't bother to tell me where Bangladesh is, though). They go on about how they are not biased and how their broad appeal gets them lots of readership, blah blah blah.

Here is one of their articles:

'Greater Israel' through expulsion of Palestinians?


The so-called targeted assassinations of Palestinian militants and leaders and the daily repression that has claimed some 3,000 Palestinian lives in three years, are not blueprint primarily for security, but are rather aimed at the systematic expropriation of the Palestinian people. Sharon and his right-wing Zionist allies are determined to sabotage any possibility of creating an independent Palestinian state and remain committed to achieving a "greater Israel" through the expulsion of Palestinians from their land.


Hanadi Jaradat, was identified as the Haifa suicide bomber. A 29-year-old woman from the West Bank town of Jenin who was studying to be a lawyer saw her own brother and cousin killed by Israeli troops outside their home in June last year, the Israeli military occupied the town, subjecting civilian homes to tank fire and killing or wounding civilians. In the backwash of the Haifa bombing, Israeli tanks moved back into Jenin, imposing a curfew on the population and razing the home of Jaradat's family.

and that's enough of that.

Elliot Temple on January 21, 2004 | Comments (0)

I could tell antiwar.com would rock cause of the URL

ho hum

Israel Versus Free Speech

In vandalizing a Stockholm art exhibit, Israel's ambassador to Sweden showed the true face of his government

and it gets worse, not better...

When Israel's ambassador to Sweden vandalized a work of art that he found offensive on exhibition at Sweden's Museum of National Antiquities, Zvi Mazel did the world a service: he opened our eyes to Israel's descent into barbarism. Just as Israeli tanks bulldoze entire blocks of Palestinian homes , so her ambassador seeks to bulldoze the rising tide of protest against Israeli government policies in the West.

well i'm sure if we go to somewhere else, it'll get better.

how about The Boston Globe

Prime Minister Sharon gave a tired knee-jerk reaction, supporting Mazel's act as a response to "mounting anti-Semitism."

As usual, the ideologues are using this undiplomatic diplomatic gaffe and the brutal "Snow White" as grist for their respective mills.

lovely equivocation there. preceded by anti-Sharon sentiment...

Elliot Temple on January 21, 2004 | Comments (0)

spidweb software has r0xx0r customer service

spiderweb software makes the exile games. i originally registered exile 2 and 3 for windows. i wrote them 2day asking for mac registration codes. 71 minutes later they sent them, no questions asked, no hassle. and this is for a very old game (if it was a big company, they'd probably have discontinued everything to do with it by now). so i wanted to share how cool they are and encourage you to buy their games (well at least the exile ones -- i don't like the others so much)

Elliot Temple on January 22, 2004 | Comments (0)

Elliot Temple on January 23, 2004 | Comments (0)

Elliot Temple on January 23, 2004 | Comments (0)

Elliot Temple on January 23, 2004 | Comment (1)

Bush Will Be President Again

I've never worried about Bush being reelected. I think he will. I thought he would before I knew all the Democratic candidates sucked (apart from being Democrats in the first place). It's not a complex thing. He's a good person, and he's doing good, and I can tell. And I have faith that enough of my country can tell, too. So they will elect him again.

A new poll says that Kerry would beat Bush if the election was held today.

I just wanted to say two things:

When (if) Bush does win, like I say, will the people who deny morality is an issue here rethink their position? If not, am I a prophet? How else would I know what's going to happen if my methods of prediction don't exist?

Second, polls have a high non-response rate. This means the people answering the questions are fairly self-selected. Do the type of people who like to answer polls have certain political leanings? Undoubtedly. Now, if you have experience doing polls, you can see how far off you were last time and adjust, to try and overcome the self-selection issue. You can make models for what non-respondants are like, and what respondants are like, and blah blah blah. But the point is polls only work well when the pollsters understand what they're doing, and only work when their models of what voters are like actually have something to do with voters.

But on 9/11 the electorate changed. We don't vote the way we used to. So, I suggest not putting too much faith in the polls.

edit 26.01.2004 3pm: removed a bad joke

Elliot Temple on January 26, 2004 | Comments (26)


(Picture by Dakan. A member of Crimson Creations.)

This picture is particularly impressive. But not for its appearance in absolute terms. There are prettier paintings and photographs out there.

But this wasn't made with a graphics program, or with paint. Rather, it was done with the Warcraft 3 level editor.

The way the editor works is you can assign various tiles (terrain types like grass, ice, snow, dirt) to vertices on the map (which is a square grid). You can place units (monsters, heroes, items, buildings), and doodads (scenary, gates, bridges). And you can do programming stuff.

There's also cliffs (including adding water) and raise/lower. Raise/lower changes the height of vertices on the map. Cliffs are generally kinda ugly and you can't have a sheer face more than 2 cliff levels high. If you try for more you'll get a pyramid (you can have cliffs on cliffs, just not more than 2 levels right on the edge). Pyramids don't make impressive mountains.

So the point is the warcraft editor is very limited in what it can do. To make something pretty you can basically put down a landscape, change the height of the vertices (which, btw, you have to hack if you want slopes over 50 degrees), and place some doodads from the maybe 700 or so premade models. That's it.

(Keep in mind those models include the ones for snowy areas, for grassy areas, for tropical areas, for castles, for cities, for dungeons, for caverns, and for deserts ... so for any given type of location only a small fraction are appropriate.)

The result is that most maps are kinda ugly. No offense to the creators, but they look like large patches of dirt with a few rocks placed on them, then a patch of grass with some trees on it, etc... Which is just what you'd expect given the way map creation works.

However, there are a few maps that don't look that way. So that's the first reason the picture is impressive: it makes superb use of a highly limited set of tools.

Changing focus, imagine playing a computer game that looked as pretty as the picture everywhere you went. And imagine it wasn't just like that with one pre-made story. But rather, anyone could create more scenes with different art of equal quality, without having to be any good at art.

It's (relatively) easy to draw one pretty picture. And it's (relatively) easy to draw some simple, reusable pictures. But pretty pictures tend not to be very reusable. Like this picture for example. It could be the background artwork in one scene in a game, but if you just had the image, there'd be no way to reuse it well. Its beauty is it's entirely made up of reusable pieces.

It's not just a picture. As a picture it's OK. It's a warcraft map with specifications for where different warcraft components should go, and from the specifications emerges a picture.

And the last impressive part is that the picture represents a playable area of a map. Warcraft heroes could walk around in it as is.

Elliot Temple on January 26, 2004 | Comment (1)

Elliot Temple on January 27, 2004 | Comments (48)

children don't want to be fat

it's true!

most parents in the US seem to think if they simply allow children to have nice foods (including buying the foods child asks for), child will become fat.

but it actually takes a huge effort including beating children and making them cry to make them fat. ... well that or appropriate mind-fucking.

Elliot Temple on January 27, 2004 | Comments (2)

Title Here

curi42 (7:14:17 PM): well i think pet projects shouldn't be allowed if author doesn't know how many ball bearings we used last year.

curi42 (7:14:47 PM): how does he know we need his pet project more than extra ball bearing production?

curi42 (7:15:04 PM): his project being *good* isn't enough. it needs to be better than alternate uses of the funding.

this is a major reason taxes suck. if they just left us our money, we'd get the stuff we thought was important. and all our combined knowledge about what was important would go into money distribution. but instead a few people who've only even heard of a few ways to spend money get to spend giant sums on their pet projects.

Elliot Temple on January 27, 2004 | Comments (0)


i think people get persuaded of stuff all the time, but generally not by design. also they tend to hide it. also people tend to discuss certain major key issues, which they are inconsistent and irrational and entrenched about. they then don't persuade each other on those issues, and fail to notice all the progress on varied other stuff.

Elliot Temple on January 28, 2004 | Comments (3)

Elliot Temple on January 28, 2004 | Comments (0)

ap and unschooling

lets start with unschooling. is it any good? will it fail to be negligent? front and center on unschooling.com we find:

"I am beginning to suspect all elaborate and special systems of education. They seem to me to be built upon the supposition that every child is a kind of idiot who must be taught to think. Whereas, if the child is left to himself, he will think more and better, if less showily. Let him go and come freely, let him touch real things and combine his impressions for himself, instead of sitting indoors at a little round table, while a sweet-voiced teacher suggests that he build a stone wall with his wooden blocks, or make a rainbow out of strips of coloured paper, or plant straw trees in bead flower-pots. Such teaching fills the mind with artificial associations that must be got rid of, before the child can develop independent ideas out of actual experience." -- Anne Sullivan

leave child to self. add water. mix. instant better child.

but that's not all. being outside causes people to be smarter. so does handcrafts instead of technology. we must oppose anything artificial!

ok next is AP. front and center we find:

“If we are to reach real peace in this world and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with children; and if they will grow up in their natural innocence, we won’t have to struggle; we won’t have to pass fruitless idle resolutions, but we shall go from love to love and peace to peace, until at last all the corners of the world are covered with that peace and love for which consciously or unconsciously the whole world is hungering. -Mahatma Gandhi

So first off children are tools for a political end. Next they are supposed to grow up ignorant -- this must be preserved at all costs. If they grow up ignorant, we won't have to struggle with them, they won't know anything but what we told them, so they'll act just like we always wanted. PS it's all about peace and love! (PPS if you've ever seen Trigun... lol)

But ok that's not quite as damning as the other one. Let's find another. Off to the What is AP? page written by the founders.

Whether you're new to Attachment Parenting (AP) philosophy or not, you've probably experienced that living in our culture can be confusing at best and very difficult at worst. All the popular childrearing books on the market today seem to negate each other--"Don't pick up your baby every time she cries, you'll spoil her"... "Babies can never be spoiled by picking them up" ... or "Babies need to learn to comfort themselves or they'll never learn!" New parents are quickly overwhelmed. The beauty of Attachment Parenting is that it is so simple! AP teaches parents that it's ok to listen to their baby and listen to their own hearts. It's a way of parenting that helps parents see the world through their child's eyes, a world of innocence, a world of unknowns, a world with so much to learn and a world that requires love in order to live. Even when parents feel confident in practicing AP they often have to weather criticism from well-meaning family and friends. Ours is a non-nurturing, no-touch culture against which AP runs counter. The pressure can place a lot of strain on parents. API was born out of these concerns and a desire to support all parents.

so let's see. they hate our culture. they think if we just "listen to our hearts" everything will be ok. now, you're supposed to listen to child too. ... unless you're heart overrides him. hell, even the most abusive parent will listen to child unless he doesn't feel like it. also the main problem with parenting today is failing to hug, "nurture", and love children enough. so do that. also don't stress out. if you're too stressed we have forums where people will say you're doing a good job and mean people are banned. and if you're really stressed, we recommend you just take a break for a while, to nurture yourself. as long as your heart says it's ok.

in conclusion i maintain left-wing parenting sucks. and although right-wing parenting also sucks, i think it's slightly better. mainly because i hate negligence so much.

Elliot Temple on January 29, 2004 | Comments (10)

BBC can't count

Greg Dyke today admitted he didn't want to leave the BBC asmore than 1,000 staff walked out to stage protests outside BBC buildings in London and elsewhere in the country including Swindon, Cardiff and Belfast.

Between 700 and 900 walked out of BBC TV Centre in White City.


Elliot Temple on January 29, 2004 | Comments (0)

and it gets worse

same source as last entry.

curi42 (1:23:54 PM): "We got very badly criticised by the Hutton report. Whether that's fair or not is for another time. But if you are that badly criticised it is right for the director general to go."
curi42 (1:24:15 PM): oh dear. no wonder they think bush should go. he's been criticised. whether the criticism is true can wait until after he resigns.

Elliot Temple on January 29, 2004 | Comment (1)

saudia arabia is worse than you understood

read this

a few things to note:

casual mention that in Egypt nearly everyone knows someone who was illegally arrested. arrested means they disappear, get tortured, threatened, killed, whatever

fire at a girl's school. girls try to escape. religious police get in the way. send some back into burning building to get their fucking abaya's (black dress/robe kinda thing that covers their body completely). girls sent back in mostly burned to death.

this one city needed a sewage system. so the govt gives this guy a bunch of money to do it. he keeps it and builds himself a palace instead. gets away with it. so then this city has no sewage system. then to make matters worse some prince wants to tax sewage trucks that collect sewage. and the companies try to force their drivers to pay the tax, but many drivers can't or don't. so no sewage gets collected for a while! people's houses get flooded. disease, mosquitos, etc the beaches aren't safe. fish dying. and there is this lake full of sewage above the city on a fault line. one earthquake of magnitude like 5 on richter scale and city will be 1.5 feet deep in sewage.

free press? haha. NO

westerners get assassinated.

religious police go around terrorising people. and get paid for each arrest!

omg the segregation of the sexes!

so there's a hajj festival thing and 400 people die. some of natural causes, some (30 or 50 or something) get trampled to death, one swallowed by sand while sleeping, etc etc and this is *no big deal*. so routine not to be noticed.

and it goes on and on and on

Elliot Temple on January 29, 2004 | Comments (4)

i hate commies

green leftist commie types are inclined to "knit their own pasta" ROFL

courtesy of emma in comments

Elliot Temple on January 30, 2004 | Comment (1)

curi's blocks

UPDATE: this entry is old. go here if you want my tetris.

i wrote a tetris clone is python using pygame. started 24hours 20min ago

the source code comes in 2 files:


you wanna run tetris with blocks in the same folder. but first you need to have python and pygame installed.

NOTE: you have to right-click save-target-as to get the files, then name them correctly (tetris.py and blocks.py) because if you just click you'll open them in your browser. this will remain until someone explains to me how to put them up right.

get python here

get pygame here

the game isn't documented yet, but:


B = redraw the screen. a debugging function. should never do anything. if it does there was a bug. tell me.

also there are some constants at the top of the blocks file you can change with a text editor. you can change the size of the blocks in pixels, the number of rows and columns the game uses, and the minimum brightness of blocks (they get a random color). changing anything but those 4 is highly NOT recommended unless you're a programmer.

if you find a bug please tell me. hopefully stupid, large bugs, if any, will be found before monday.


version 1.1 now. a redraw bug fixed. rotation keys swapped. arrow keys added. b key added. game a little faster now. your score displays while you play. keypad 0 drops


pausing (p key). game will get faster relative to your score up to a max speed. controls to send piece all the way left or right with one keypress (7,9,c,v keys). you currently can't slide a piece after hitting drop. i might change that. no guarantees (you can if you wait for it to fall)

NOT intended features: seeing next piece and a key to make piece drop faster but not instantly while held down, custom keybindings in-game. music. just play your own.

suggestions welcome, including extra keybindings

Elliot Temple on January 31, 2004 | Comment (1)

Alias is r0xx0r despite my complaints



ok so anyway, my thesis is: Sydney isn't hardcore enough!

For one thing, have you ever seen 24? Did you notice Jack? Jack is hardcore! Sydney's just not. One of Jack's best qualities is the way he shoots people. Sydney almost never shoots people. So that's my first two points: Sydney should be more like Jack, and should shoot people more often. Also, when she shoots people, she should use bullets, and shoot to kill, instead of using tranquiliser darts.

Oh, my other thesis is the show has kinda bad morality. Far worse than say 24 or West Wing or Buffy or even worse than most anime (anime is from *Japan* so the morality is a bit lacking and addressed at a different problem situation. Like they worry about pacifism and have trouble justifying using force ever. The majority of Americans don't have that issue. Though apparently the media does. *ahem* anyway)

so like when Vaughn wanted to report Sydney's dad for being a KGB agent (before they knew about her mother) ... to get him punished. wtf. regardless of his past he (Jack Bristow) is now a double agent working for the US government and a really valuable asset towards like saving the world. and Vaughn would give that up because long ago in the past Jack did bad things? b/c he should be punished? what for? how does punishing him help anything? it doesn't!

so then sydney said no b/c ... he's her dad. her argument was like he shouldn't be punished b/c A) she cares about him and B) she shares genes with him. it's such a bad defense you almost want to see him punished. except nah, cause he's far more hardcore than Sydney, almost like a mini Jack Bauer. ok rather different, but he's still cool.


and they were pissy about sacrificing (via framing) that SD6 agent to save sydney. but sheesh. jack saved an important double agent who routinely makes the world a better place. at the "cost" of getting a bad guy killed. one who'd done some pretty horrible stuff. and sydney gets pissy b/c somone died. oh how sad. *cough*

and then later she decided "i would have done the same thing, to save someone i cared about" which was supposed to mean it was acceptable to her. nevermind that right isn't in terms of what I (or whoever is wondering) would have done. and nevermind the issue shouldn't be decided by who we care about more -- this was an issue of national security and life and death. it needed an objective answer about the real and major effects each option would have on the world.

and sydney handcuffed anna esperanza (sp) instead of killing her one time. and shot her handbag instead of her one time. etc keeps running away while beingt shot at rather than fighting effectively. (in season 2 sydney fires a machine gun a few times which is cool)

like there was the scene where they (sydney and anna) are trying to climb up a rope ladder at same time, and fighting. everytime one gets advantage they try to climb more, and get grabbed from behind. when obvious thing to do is first throw other person off then climb peacefully.

and Alias uses some unrealistic crap to avoid some hard but right decisions. like when sydney and her father are both captured in cuba (sydney went there to help father, who was supposed to assassinate anini hasan (sp) the weapons dealer), and Hasan wants Jack to shoot Sydney. then he shoots the guards and they win the fight unharmed. what weak sauce guards!!!

He should have shot her irl, i think. assuming guards weren't that lame. cause alternative was them both dying.

update: just saw an ep where sydney knocks this badguy out instead of killing him, then a few minutes later he wakes up, gets a gun, and comes after her. easy victory turned into barely getting through alive.

this is a fairly common theme. sydney always leaves a trail of live enemies behind her. she shouldn't.

Elliot Temple on February 2, 2004 | Comments (0)


I wrote a tetris clone named curi's blocks in python! It took a little over 2 days. It's free unless you really like it. If you really like it you're absolutely required to give me lots of money. My paypal email addy is curi[at]curi[dot]us.

Download it in a here: curi's blocks.zip

It comes with a readme with instructions to run it and key controls and such. But I'll repeat one thing here: you need python and pygame installed to play. Get them here:



I tried to make a standalone windows executable version using py2exe and it actually ran but pausing or losing would crash it. So sorry, source code only. If anyone clueful wants to make an exe or app that'd be cool (hint hint).

Oh also, post your highscores in comments!

Elliot Temple on February 2, 2004 | Comments (7)


how is it that TV and movie writers, who i believe are not generally particularly above average people (certainly some are, and some suck too, but on the whole i figure the group is fairly normal morally), anyway, how is it they consistently create characters that are far more likable and more moral than most people, including themselves?

i don't really know if this happens with written stories, cause i rarely read present day stories, and it's pretty hard to judge characters from different eras WRT the morality of ppl in the US today.

i'm not giving examples cause it would be futile. if i gave a dozen examples to try and "prove my point" or something, someone would just give a dozen examples of bad ppl in movies. there are so many movies and tv shows that it'd be pretty trivial to come up with thousands of examples for both sides, so counting examples simply can't be the way to judge the proportion.

Elliot Temple on February 2, 2004 | Comments (0)

Wild Things

just watched Wild Things. quite good. nice plot twists.

now you may be thinking "isn't that the movie with the kinda infamous sex scene?" yup. but it was good apart from that too. as i said plot twists. also v nice atmosphere.

you might also be thinking "what's so great about a sex scene in a movie when porn is easy to come by?" (ok you probably weren't thinking that)

i suppose the answer parallels the difference between one night stands and sex as part of an intimate, longterm relationship.

sex completely out of context seems boring. motion and nerve impulses. much like walking, swimming, or typing.

or compare these:

- touching molecules
- touching flesh
- touching a girl
- touching the girl you care about

( If you're a female reader and feeling alienated, you're too sensitive ;p )

( If you're a gay guy and feeling especially alienated now, good. I hate you. )

all of them could have been the exact same event! but each has a different meaning.

porn is notorious for its bad plots and lack of character development (when there is any token effort made at all). but this doesn't just make the porn worse by some snobby, artistic standards. it makes the sex scenes worse!

if we identify with, care about, or feel attracted to the characters it makes all the difference. hollywood movies often achieve this. porn doesn't.

also putting sex into everyday life makes the fantasy more accessible (ok not quite everyday life, but closer than cheesy porn flicks)

i'd also like to point out that i explained this *without mysticism*. many people would say one night stands and porn is "soulless sex" or lacking in "spiritual energy" or that somehow the marriage ritual makes all the difference. but when there is an explanation that makes sense and uses meaningful terms instead of fuzzy, mystic ones, we ought to prefer it.


on the sex scene being infamous. it overshadowed the plot in a lot of ppl's minds. here's a comment:

Ask yourself at the start of the movie what you want to get out of it. Are you looking for a smart thriller that will leave you breathless or are you looking for a couple of sexy moments where gorgeous girls get naked and kiss each other? If you want the former then `The Usual Suspects' is probably still available at your local video store. If you want the latter then this will suit you down to the ground.

now i agree The Usual Suspects was great, and had a strong plot, and was more of a thriller/drama. but Wild Things had a good plot too, dammit.

and down a bit more the commenter asks my question! (but comes up with a different answer)

The sexy stuff is good however but if you want that then why not just rent a soft porn title instead?

also got asked to clarify what attracted to, care about, and identify with mean, nonmystically.

identify with = shared values

care about = care about ...? like it matters to you what happens to the person, even though s/he isn't you.

attracted to = person satisfies your criteria for attraction. these are sometimes (always?) kinda irrational and/or arbitrary. and probably very strongly entrenched and not worth fighting with or worrying about either. *shrug*

Elliot Temple on February 3, 2004 | Comments (4)

more alias (no spoilers)

good guys point guns at bad guys. bad guys point guns back and explain "we have a team watching us. if anything goes wrong they will detonate the bombs we placed here which will destroy a whole city block."

ok so the good guys have 2 choices. defiance or appeasement. now i don't want to take anything away from the defiance option, but in the specific case i believe it was credible that if they let bad guys leave, they would not detonate bomb anyway. also it was pretty credible that defiance meant boom.

and of course since Alias is kinda wussy, appeasement it is. so you expect bad guys to back out while still being aimed at. but instead bad guys demand good guys drop guns or boom.

ok now again defiance or appeasement. but now if you say no, bad guys have nothing to gain from boom. they aren't facing death or death. they have the choice between killing themselves or leaving. and all they have to do is endure having guns pointed at them a little longer. so defiance looks like the good bet.

but of course since Alias is a kinda wussy show, they went with appeasement. good guys dropped their guns. this is idiocy. now bad guys can shoot whoever they like before leaving. and in fact in the show after good guys dropped guns, bad guys decided to take one hostage and bring her with them. that wouldn't have happened if good guys kept their guns.

Elliot Temple on February 3, 2004 | Comments (0)

MPAA silly

rated PG for "mild thematic elements" and brief language. *wonders what themes are objectionable and why they don't say which one(s) it is* as it is, it kinda sounds like they object to movies with themes. heh.

Elliot Temple on February 4, 2004 | Comments (0)


the lucky stars bit at the end of this scrappleface post is brilliant. fucking atheists will rot in hell :-)

the rest of the post is pretty funny too, though opposed to gay marriage.

Elliot Temple on February 4, 2004 | Comments (0)

rofl @ scott ort

"Accountability is everything in a democratic republic," said an unnamed senior White House official.


Elliot Temple on February 4, 2004 | Comments (0)

Elliot Temple on February 7, 2004 | Comments (0)

Elliot Temple on February 7, 2004 | Comments (0)

rt insight

say your fairly new to sexual relationships and not too sure how to act. what should you do? well one technique is to copy behavior you've seen elsewhere -- movies, tv, books, friends, strangers in public, even parents, whatever. ok at first that sounds like a bad idea. and of course you don't want to act exactly like James Bond or any other fictional character. you don't even want to act exactly like a real person, not even a cool one. everyone is different! but that doesn't mean you can't model specific behaviors after the stuff you've seen, at least as a temporary measure to do *something* since otherwise you wouldn't know what to do.

now, obviously this is error prone. but that's ok. how we get our first generation of theories on a subject, and how good they are, *isn't very important*. what's gonna matter is how good and how fast our error correction is. ok sure we start with some highly stereotyped actions, and it's ok at first, but we should probably develop our own more personal behaviors soon, and try to fix as many problems as we can with the archetypes.

anyway, in that context, here's my observation:

in any except the very closest and most open relationships, it's very difficult to move away from stereotyped behaviors once they are started. why? well, are you suddenly going to act differently sexually towards your new girlfriend because you decided your old theories weren't the best? without telling her? just out of the blue? maybe very gradually, but i rather doubt it.

ok can you talk about it, then change your behavior? well in theory you could. of course it's possible. but how many people are that close to their girlfriend? a few. what about that close to a girlfriend they haven't known for years? pretty much no one.

why is talking about such a change so hard?

well, explicitly talking about sex is fairly taboo.

explicitly talking about *philosophy* is often even worse. most people are instantly turned off. or will go into mumbo jumbo mode because they think that's what philosophy is supposed to be like since historically most philosophers really were incoherent.

and what about explicitly talking about *relationship theory*? hah! it's generally not acknowledged that such a thing even exists...

and of course there is the obvious embarrassment. for you *or* your partner, or probably both. not just for the previous reasons, but more so because:

it's generally accepted that sex requires justification. this is why, for example, people can find kissing someone for the first time really scary. yeah there's the fear of rejection or doing it wrong, but it's more than that. touching lips physically isn't a big deal. it's just that kissing is sexual. strangers aren't supposed to kiss. it's supposed to be intimate. and justified by an appropriate relationship. it's often the case that people want to kiss each other, they *both* do, but they wonder if it's appropriate (ie justified). this happens all the time. ok our society is pretty liberal so this is less a big deal with kissing, but sex is the same just way more so.

so in that context, why might discussing such behavioral changes as i was talking about be embarrassing? well, how many people feel confident about how much sexual activity their relationship justifies? how many people feel confident they are on the same page about that as their partner? not many.

what if someone worried that suggesting a certain behavioral change might be interpreted as asking for more sexual activity? wouldn't such worries mess up about half of any potential behavior changes? people have a hard enough time asking for that nonverbally.

and what about the other half of behavioral changes, that mean less sexual activity? well those don't work either! how many people are good at saying no to *new* sexual activities? what about retroactively deciding no to old ones? without making your partner feel rejected or hurt?

so to sum up: people new to sexual relationships will begin with some probably-stereotyped and regardless highly error prone behaviors. it will then be difficult to change the behavior even when they come up with improvements.

unless they dump their partner and get a new one. then they can make all the changes they want by starting out the new way.

Elliot Temple on February 8, 2004 | Comments (5)

Words of Wisdom

Words of Wisdom:

Social people interact breadth first. Anti-social people interact depth first.

Every choice you make excludes choosing otherwise.

Humans live by their creativity, not by devouring limited resources.

People twist their factual views to fit their moral views, not vice versa.

Children are people.

Young people are people.

A Few Consequences:

Anti-social people waste less time.

Trying not to exclude any options is absurd. Trying not to exclude some specific options isn't. "Trying to keep your options open," without the context of refering to some specific options, means keeping the ones that society cares about open. For example "You should go to highschool to keep your options open" means that highschool is helpful on the standard paths through life (it helps get into college and helps you get hired with or without college). Keeping options open in that sense, as a goal, is not a good way to live, because we should seek our own path, not choose between stereotypes ones.

We shouldn't ration our raw materials to last for 50,000 years. Not even for 1,000 years. How long exactly, then? Well, hard to say, but the market knows. The market knows because prices reflect supply.

It's not all that surprising that presenting, say, an anti-semite with a factual history of Israel, is ineffective.


Elliot Temple on February 9, 2004 | Comments (3)

Elliot Temple on February 13, 2004 | Comment (1)

Elliot Temple on February 13, 2004 | Comments (0)

a frustrating trend

"24 is sometimes bad but never boring" (i forget the source on that observation).

and what's even stranger than this apparently nonsensical comment, is that it only looks nonsensical if you think about it. the truth is, we understand exactly what it means. somehow, in our culture, the criteria for a good TV show is not whether it is entertaining, exciting, and generally something we would want to watch. instead, there is a special criteria for what TV shows are called good or bad that is different from the criteria we use to decide which to watch. (more commonly instead of calling shows bad we call them trashy or junk TV or a B movie something like that).

the criteria for "quality" movies, which we are all familiar with, is approximately whether it is something elitist leftist intellectuals (think of a PhD Professor of Woman's Studies) would like. it's not generally explained this clearly, but there it is.

what's notable is that *we* often use the criteria too. our society speaks in their terms, but then decides what to watch on its own terms. isn't that hypocrisy?

i think it's more like: no one wants to argue with elitist intellectuals. so they don't. they just say "fine, you're right, whatever" and then continue on as they were.

so i don't think this is hypocritical. but i *do* think it's bad. we ought to stand up to these people and say "no, i don't agree with you, and you're a jerk so i won't argue with you either, and i won't use your terminology as if you were right" or equivalent.

and also there is a distaste not just for arguing with leftist intellectuals in our society, but for any arguing. also for philosophy and being an intellectual. just because a few idiots associated themselves with those things and thus tainted them. too many people believe that's really what arguments and philosophy and being an intellectual really are, and thus think they are actually bad things. *sigh*

Elliot Temple on February 14, 2004 | Comments (3)

Christian and proud of it

if the US isn't a unified, *Christian* country, why haven't the multi-cultis shut up yet?


in other words:

That the multi-cultis have something to whine about proves the US is a unified, *Christian* country. If it was more diverse in that regard they'd shut up (because they'd have won).

Elliot Temple on February 14, 2004 | Comments (8)

Elliot Temple on February 14, 2004 | Comments (0)

so very not PC

synagogues burn in the Europe but not in the US. both places have plenty of "tolerance". so that can't be the difference. what could the difference be then? dare I suggest Christianity?

Elliot Temple on February 15, 2004 | Comment (1)


if you want to start from self-interest based morality and fix/understand/expand it, ask: should i care if other people die (not by my hand, and not everyone, but a bunch)? if the answer is no, i think you have larger problems than worrying about whether you should hurt people for your gain (which you might have been sidetracked on, as in the link). because your morality is anti-human.

Elliot Temple on February 15, 2004 | Comments (0)

Apparently Attacking TCS Is Fun

foo commented on this post:

[Elliot] said:

An important part of getting what one wants is changing what one wants to better desires, including more relisable (sic) ones

How could you knowingly tell the difference between changing what you want to better desires, and coercing yourself toward them?

Rational thought? You may think that's a non-answer, but what would you say if I asked you, "How can you knowingly tell the difference between disagreeing with me because you hate me and disagreeing with me because I'm wrong?"

How could you tell the difference between changing what you want to better desires and having been coerced?

Well a good start is checking whether you feel distressed. Or if you feel conflicted. And consider why you changed your view. Again, it's just a matter of rational thought.

You say give advice. Advice is good. Then you say "children SHOULD BE free to disagree."

Does this "should" mean what it normally means? "Should" is coercive, in normal English language.

It means that's the way the world should be. You could swap in "ought to" if you like. It's just a statement about morality -- if children are free to disagree this is a morally good state, and if children are not that is a morally bad state.

1 archaic a : will have to : MUST b : will be able to : CAN 2 a -- used to express a command or exhortation b -- used in laws, regulations, or directives to express what is mandatory

That's coercive? Next you'll be telling me my inability to walk through doors is coercive. And gravity too. And all competitive sports. Just because you can't do anything at all doesn't mean you ought to be coerced; it's irrational to want impossible desires. And it's immoral to desire to do things you should not do. If you want it anyway and end up coerced that was your own wrongdoing at fault, not shoulds in general.

So, you intend to force children to follow their own advice?

No, I was just not going to discourage or punish disagreement.

Or merely have them consider that your advice isn't good? How can they tell the difference, as children, between following your advice to make you happy and following your advice because they want to?

I dunno; how can you tell? (the difference between following my advice to make me happy, or because you want to)

How can they tell the difference between following your advice because it makes them feel safer and doing so because they want to?

How do those even contradict? Someone might want to feel safe.

How can they tell the difference between not following your advice because they should be able not to and being free to not accept your advice?

You're worried people will go against my advice for the sole purpose of exercising their freedom? Why would anyone do that if he was never under my thumb in the first place?

How come coercion is bad for knowledge growth, as a statement, but parents are obligated! to not abandon/help their children?

Erm, the existence of obligations is not coercive. Next you'll be telling me not to make plans to meet someone somewhere. That's an obligation after all.

Aren't you coercing them help/not to abandon their children?

I'm pointing out they should want that, and if they don't they are immoral.

Why is this okay for adults, but not for kids? Is coercion only painful to children?

No, for all people.

Or is it simply that children didn't have a choice about being brought into the world, so it's unfair to force them to do things, but the adult DID have a choice, and in doing so, put themselves into indentured servitude to the child?

Well, yes, bringing a child into this world does give a parent some responsibility. If a potential parent will not want to help his child, he should not have a child.

Common preferences are not always possible. If you are in love with me, so much so that you want to marry me, and I cannot stand you, and never want to see you again, then there is no common preference here for future action.

If I love you so much why don't I want to be accommodating to you?

You can say "but someone will change their mind because they will want to have a "better" desire" but when people are in love, many times they cannot imagine that falling out of love is a better desire. there is no solution to this. No consensus can be reached. Recognizing that sometimes, no consensus can be reached is necessary. Obviously in extreme cases like rape there is no consensus that will be reached, either. Some situations have no solution. To think otherwise is to be utopian.

Common preferences are not possible when I insist on making unreasonable demands of others. As long as I do that, I won't find any. But what if I stopped?

No common preference is reached in a rape because one of the parties is intentionally malicious. That is not the situation when parenting.

Elliot Temple on February 16, 2004 | Comments (16)

This Isn't Directed At foo In Particular

In the preface of The Fabric of Reality, David Deutsch writes,

For this book is not primarily a defense of these theories: it is an investigation of what the fabric of reality would be like if they were true.

This seems to me to be a very good approach. If we spent all our time defending the theories we have, we wouldn't have time to come up with even better ones.

But look at my previous post. It's devoted to defending TCS! What gives?

Well of course defending theories sometimes is fine, and I could try to write it off as just a coincidence. But it's not; virtually all my interaction with readers comes in the form of attacks on my ideas and my defense of them.

Now, I could ignore these attacks, and sometimes I do, perhaps I should more often, but I think this line of thought misses a more important issue:

Aren't my readers doing something wrong?

Why not, instead of attack, try to understand? Asking questions is a good way to learn about something. So where are the non-hostile questions? Shouldn't they far outnumber attacks? I think there's a moral failing here.

To be very clear, the point is not "don't criticise" but rather "don't focus on criticising something you don't understand". How can you tell it's bad if you don't understand it?

And what's especially frustrating is this flaw is exactly one I find myself often accused of. Even by the very people who commit it here. This is frustrating because anyone who understands the flaw enough to accuse me of it, ought to consider it a flaw and not do it.

As to the accusations, dare I defend myself? Hum. I don't do it. Stop underestimating how much I know and how fast I learn. That is all.


At the risk of offending Dan, here's an example:

When the quality of objections deteriorates to the level of stuff like:

- demeaning the importance of winning WWI or the Cold War
- saying the Soviets weren't much of a threat
- attacking the importance of Israel not being destroyed as just making one little part of the world a bit better

then maybe it's time to tentatively accept some new ideas to try out.

And notice that even if I slightly overestimated the importance of those things ... so what? That wouldn't ruin the logic of any of my arguments. So attacking that point is kinda an irrelevant distraction that doesn't further understanding the issues.

Elliot Temple on February 16, 2004 | Comments (22)

For Reference

Coercion is the state of two or more personality strands being expressed in different options of a single choice such that one cannot see a way to choose without forsaking some part of his personality.

Elliot Temple on February 17, 2004 | Comments (0)

Christians Freed The Slaves

Dan thinks we should mostly credit atheists not Christians with liberalisation in the US. let's see about that. lets start with the biggest, greatest, most important bit of liberalisation: freeing the slaves.

a quick google search and here's some info

The word "slave" was never used to describe a legitimate condition in the Hebrew Bible. Instead, to describe the immoral thing it is, terms such as "made . . . to serve with rigor" and "hard bondage" (Exodus 1:13-14) were used to describe the concept

Hmm, apparently there were religious arguments against slavery. I wonder who made them...

Pursuant to English and U.S. constitutional and criminal law, slavery was illegal and unconstitutional. Kidnaping, murder, robbery, and rape (the basic features of slavery as it existed) were illegal. Some religious Northerners said that slavery was therefore a sin. A number of men had written books, articles, and even set up newspapers to oppose it, and get it abolished. But they were not having success, as most Northerners felt unaffected by slavery. Any sin, it wasn't them doing it.

So sounds like most Northerns thought it was a sin. Anyone who thinks it's a sin is A) religious B) pro-liberalisation on this issue

in 1850, slave holders had Congress pass a law (the Fugitive Slave Act) making following those biblical principles a crime, "aiding and abetting" escapes. This law made Northerners such as Mrs. Stowe feel that they were now being forced to participate in the sin. So the law was widely defied as unbiblical and unchristian.

pro-slavery laws were opposed because they were unbiblical and unchristian. QED?

Elliot Temple on February 18, 2004 | Comments (6)

Elliot Temple on February 18, 2004 | Comments (12)

Elliot Temple on February 18, 2004 | Comments (0)

Making Use Of Flawed Ideas

General rules, even ones that are flawed, facilitate behaving rightly, because they allow a low-resolution look at morality with very minimal effort.

Let's pretend moral propositions are dots on a 2-D graph, and rules are lines (infinitely long). To keep it simple, rules only run horizontally or vertically. And the way to analyse the morality of a proposition (a point) is to figure out the closest rules in each direction (above, below, left, right) and which side of each of the rules the point falls on.

So if we wanted to analyse the moral proposition (3,6) we'd just go in each of the four cardinal directions from (3,6) and figure out which 4 moral rules we ran into, and which side of them we're on.

But moral rules aren't perfect! Some are even highly inaccurate. So how can these rules be a good idea? Well the point is if we're analysing (3,6) and we're checking for vertical lines and find them at X=1 and X=66, we know even if the X=66 line was so flawed as to be accurate within plus or minus 40, we'd still be left of it. On the other hand, we can see we're very close to the X=1 line, so even if it's highly accurate, we still need to use a more accurate technique to check the morality of that issue.

Many propositions fall significantly distant from all lines (moral rules), and thus can be analysed purely from a quick, low-resolution look that's quite accurate even with faulty rules.

Elliot Temple on February 23, 2004 | Comments (0)


What's an obligation? Well, it's something you have to do. So is not killing George Bush an obligation of mine? No, that's just morality. Why isn't it an obligation? Nothing you did makes it wrong to kill Bush; it always is. But that's not true! We can imagine some life I could have led where it would be right for me to kill Bush. (Am taking the liberty of having Bush have done some things differently in the counter-factual, but that's necessary regardless because what if the new life for me involved talking to him.)

Alright, let's try again. What's an obligation? Obligations are changes or differences in the moral landscape. The idea here is no one alive is justified to kill Bush, so my not being justified in killing him is not a change or difference. But if I agree to meet someone at the park Sunday, that is an obligation because the requirement to show up is different from what other people have to do Sunday. Sound good?

Sorry, nope, that one is incoherent too. Additionally, it's ambiguous, so I'll go over both possibilites.

One possibility is obligations are changes in the moral landscape compared to the average person in our society (can't be compared to everyone, because on any issue where there isn't total agreement of every last person (that isn't us), we couldn't compare). But what's an average person? Mean, median, or mode? Well mean (add all values, divide by total number of values added) is right out. You can't just mix views and expect a coherent result. The mode (whatever value comes up the most) won't work either, because all worldviews are unique. And the median (arrange data on a number-line, count in from both sides at equal speed, and thus find the middle one) won't work either because we can't just line theories on a number-line -- they don't compare that way.

Alright, so we're not comparing obligations to some sort of average in our society. The other possibility is we are comparing to the default. By default, it's wrong to kill George Bush; this is always true unless something happens to change it. Sound good?

Sorry, no. Here we are picking one moral landscape (named "default") to compare everyone to. Any differences are obligations. But society has changed drastically in the last 2,000 years. Could we really have used the same default then as now? How could the 2,000 year old one have mentioned not to kill Bush?

Well, it can't. It would have to say something more like "By default, don't kill innocents." But then to determine obligations, we can't just compare with the default moral landscape, because it doesn't have answers to all propositions. It doesn't have {Kill-Bush=No, Kill-Nader=No, Kill-IMAO=No, etc}

But it's worse than that. Is the default moral landscape supposed to correspond to a default life? If not, How would we decide what goes in it? But if so, what's a default life? The truth is there's no such thing. There are as many ways to approach life as there are people.

Anyway, the point is obligations are incoherent. Not just a little fuzzy and misunderstood, but incoherent beyond rescue. They make no bloody sense. They don't exist.

This doesn't mean you can now cheat on your girlfriend. It just means technically what's stopping you is contained in morality and your choices, not in an "obligation".

But wait, Elliot. What if you agree to meet a friend at the park Sunday, then another calls and wants to do something else Sunday? What do you tell him? Wouldn't you say you had to do something else. (Yes.) And isn't "I have to do something else" equivalent to "I'm obligated to do something else." (Yes, again.) So what are you doing talking in incoherent terms like obligations?

Well I figured out what they're good for! They can be used to express (emphasise if you like) a difference between your view of a moral landscape and that of the person you're talking to. In my view, it's right for me to go meet the first friend at the park. But the second friend doesn't. Thus I say there is an obligation to express the difference in our views.

A close variant is that obligations can actually be used to express the difference between your view any other you choose. For example you might acknowledge an obligation not to cheat on your girlfriend. This is expressing a difference between your view and any view from the class that does allow for cheating.

So to sum up, speaking of obligations is useful to express or emphasise the difference between two moral landscapes (or worldviews, or problem situations, same difference). But obligations don't exist anymore than "bigger" exists.

Elliot Temple on February 23, 2004 | Comments (8)

i'll kill you good

Frank (IMAO) joked that Rachel Lucas was dead. He then asked if he'd gone over the line. In comments, Emperor Misha I said in effect: Frank should not have made the joke because it distressed me. Even though I knew it wasn't true, I care about Rachel, so it was distressing to imagine her hurt.

The problem with this analysis is that it just assumes Misha's distress was right. But was it? He shouldn't find it distressing when he knows it's not true. That's irrational!

And if the distress was irrational, then we can't blame Frank. And if Frank's not at fault, then the whole basis for objecting falls away.

PS Note that Frank's joke was a *cause* of the distress, but was not responsible for it.

PPS Note that the word "responsible" refers to morality.

update: I misinterpreted Misha. See comments.

Elliot Temple on February 23, 2004 | Comments (6)

this is important

joe: [civil comment]
bob: [uncivil response]
joe: [uncivil response]

symmetry or no? they both said something uncivil to each other.

answer is no. none at all. bob responded to something civil with something uncivil. joe just responded in kind.

example dialog:

joe: nice weather, isn't it?
bob: what would a fucking jew know about weather?
joe: fuck you

see? joe's uncivil comment is totally justified by bob's which isn't justified. "who started it" makes all the difference (no matter what some leftists and teachers would have us think) (not to imply that more than 1% of teachers aren't leftists)

note also that joe doesn't "lose the moral highground" or "lower himself to bob's level" when he says something uncivil. doesn't lose highground b/c he's acting just fine and bob is acting badly. not lowering himself b/c what he did is diff than what bob did. the misconception there is the bad thing is uncivil comments. it's not. it's using them at inappropriate times, for example in response to a perfectly civil comment. shouldn't be an ass to someone who's being friendly. being an ass is fine other times.

Elliot Temple on February 24, 2004 | Comment (1)

amusing even if false

A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury.

Elliot Temple on February 25, 2004 | Comments (0)

Elliot Temple on February 25, 2004 | Comments (5)


If you hate someone, try walking a mile in his shoes. That way you will be a mile away from him and have his shoes.

Elliot Temple on February 28, 2004 | Comments (5)

Elliot Temple on March 1, 2004 | Comments (0)

I don't want to choose a title because this post is about multiple things.

Calculating your ability to understand writing is not a matter of comparing how smart you are with how confusing the writing is. Rather, it's mainly an issue of comparing what sort of writing it is with your skill at reading that particular type of writing. Anyone can read and understand any sort of writing if he knows how. And if he doesn't he can learn.

The sorts of writing commonly thought to be confusing and arcane by our society are mostly the unpopular ones that few people are skilled with. Notice that all new and valuable forms of writing will, at first, seem confusing and arcane to most people because no one is used to them.

(Actually this isn't the whole story. Some writing is more complicated because it says more. And there are various other factors too.)

Anyhow, long ago Kolya began posting to the ARR list. At first I found his writing very difficult to read. It now feels perfectly natural. Here I'm going to go through one of his emails (his first) and explain it.

But first, to make my point about the difficulty, here is the entire email without any explanation. If you get frustrated or bored with it feel free to scroll to the bottom as my point will be made. (Scroll to the first non-quoted text or search for the word "Alright".)

From: "Kolya" To: Sent: Thursday, April 25, 2002 3:57 PM Subject: The role of pluralism in personal relationships

One of the most fundamental issues in all of philosophy (especially epistemology and moral philosophy) is the question of monism versus pluralism: Is a given domain in principle unitary or irreducibly multifaceted.

Which way you jump on this issue, essentially determines whether you are a realist/objectivist (nothing to do with Ayn Rand), or a relativist/subjectivist, with respect to the given domain. If some aspect of the world is fundamentally incapable of being described by a single consistent theory, there can be no *right answers*, no *objective truth* of the matter.

I, for one, assume that ontologically speaking the world is unitary. But, as Popper has taught us, methodologically speaking we must all be pluralists. There is only one truth, but no royal road to finding it.

Getting the relationship right between these seemingly paradoxical features of the world is of paramount importance. Almost everybody gets it wrong. Creationists and moral dogmatists let their ontological monism spill over into their methodology, leading them to believe not only in objective truth but also in the existence of authoritative sources of truth. Structuralists, post-modernists, and relativists of every ilk let their methodological pluralism spill over into their ontology, leading them to repudiate not only authoritative sources of truth, but also the very existence of objective truth.

Classical liberals, libertarians, and ARR-advocates fall into a category of their own. They rightly recognise that we need both monism and pluralism, but they get the relationship between the two wrong, in a very interesting and fruitful way. Instead of seeing the crucial divide as being between ontology and methodology, they draw it between the collective domain and the individual domain.

The "collective" they treat as *both* ontologically and methodologically unitary e.g., Nozick: "Individuals have rights, and there are things that no person or group may do to them (without violating their rights)". This is methodological (as well as ontological) monism because Nozick and company regard the rights in question as authoritatively given (presumably by reason).

The "individual" they treat as *both* ontologically and methodologically plural. This is inherent in the widespread libertarian belief that rights are philosophically prior to morality. In other words, whereas rights are universal, morality is a matter of individual choice. This was also inherent in Locke (who started this ball rolling with his separation of state and religion): "It is plain, in fact, that human reason unassisted failed men in its great and proper business of morality." In other words, whereas reason tells us that the state has no business dictating morality (collective ontological and methodological monism), reason cannot tell us what is morally right (individual ontological and methodological pluralism).

Now this Lockean way of slicing life into an objective/monistic public domain and a subjective/pluralist private domain is one of the most brilliant and worthwhile fudges in the history of philosophy. In fact, I would rank it second only to the the invention of monotheism which has almost single-handedly transmitted moral and physical realism (albeit in a dogmatic wrapper) through 3000 years of human history.

But a fudge it remains. Because morality (both collective and individual) is ontologically monistic, and our search for it (both collective and individual) must be pluralistic.

What has all this to do with relationships?

Well, the ARR conception of relationships is fundamentally Lockean. The relational cake is sliced into a public tier, which has jurisdiction over individual rights within the relationship (such as the right to do what one likes in other relationships, so long as it does not harm the first relationship); and a private tier, which is nobody else's business.

As with the political version of the Lockean fudge, this is an immensely wise and valuable rule of thumb. But, philosophically speaking, a fudge it remains; for the reasons given above.

Both in politics and in personal relationships there can be no *fundamental* division between the public/collective sphere and the private/individual sphere. The status of this division is purely that of a pragmatic device -- an approximation to the truth -- which simplifies decision making by obviating the need to go back to first principles for every decision.

However, and this is the crux of the issue, the division is not some moral absolute from which we can deduce what is right and wrong. It is a handy line of demarcation which we shift hither and thither as our understanding or morality improves. Put more directly:

Rights (such as those defining the separation of the collective and individual spheres) are not fundamental moral concepts. They are pragmatic guidelines derived in the course of our search for moral understanding.

Therefore the fact that a person questions a particular version of the Lockean fudge does not necessarily make them irrational or coercive. It may just mean that they have found a problem whose solution is being impeded by the prevailing Lockean heuristic.

Of course, many relationships are founded on a shared understanding of a given set of rights. Most friendships are of this kind. Friends don't normally think they have to consult each other about where they live or what they spend their money on.

But states and families ought not be limited by any immutable definition of their members' rights. They ought to be free to alter their rules as their problem set evolves and their knowledge improves. Methodologically speaking, nothing ought be sacrosanct.

I think a good way to crystallise this idea is to bring together the concepts of autonomy and sovereignty. We often speak of autonomy as if it were a self-evident good whose meaning is manifest. But by itself that is not a coherent idea. Properly understood, autonomy must be seen as the maximal devolution of decision-making freedom that is compatible with the sovereignty of the collective entity of which the autonomous entity is part. Because fractured sovereignty, necessarily results in insoluble problems.

In this sense, the ARR paradigm views the family as a federation of sovereign entities. That is a legitimate arrangement. But, I suggest, that epistemology tells us that the higher up you can push the nexus of sovereignty (while of course always striving to push down the loci of autonomy) the more problems you can solve, and the more common preferences you can discover.

So, I say, to maximise human creativity, sovereignty must lie with the family (or state), not with its individual members. This in no way precludes ARR-style "open" relationships. But it changes the default assumptions about the rules that should regulate the "opening up" of a family relationship.

In the ARR paradigm starting a new relationship is like admitting a new member to a federation. In the "sovereign family" paradigm starting a new relationship is like two sovereign entities embarking upon a union into a single sovereign entity. The latter is not impossible, but only rarely is it actually a good idea -- i.e. conducive to increasing human creativity -- even in principle; and hardly ever is it feasible in practice.

- Kolya

Alright, welcome back. Now to go through piece by piece.

One of the most fundamental issues in all of philosophy (especially epistemology and moral philosophy) is the question of monism versus pluralism: Is a given domain in principle unitary or irreducibly multifaceted.

Monism and unitary both mean one. Pluralism and multifaceted both mean more than one. Epistemology is about the nature of knowledge. These aren't the most common words, but they are actually quite important to the subject material.

All Kolya has said so far is that whether stuff is one or many is an important question. He hasn't even explained what that means yet.

Which way you jump on this issue, essentially determines whether you are a realist/objectivist (nothing to do with Ayn Rand), or a relativist/subjectivist, with respect to the given domain. If some aspect of the world is fundamentally incapable of being described by a single consistent theory, there can be no *right answers*, no *objective truth* of the matter.

Here Kolya is telling us that if something is exactly one way, then realism/objectivism is true about that something. On the other hand, if it cannot by fully described by just one theory, and rather multiple theories are needed, that's relativism/subjctivism.

For example if the world was whatever way we thought it was, and this applied to all people at once, then we'd need a theory about how the world is for each person in order to capture all the details. They couldn't be combined into one grand theory because they are not consistent with each other (maybe Bob's world is all blue and Jill's is all red).

I, for one, assume that ontologically speaking the world is unitary. But, as Popper has taught us, methodologically speaking we must all be pluralists. There is only one truth, but no royal road to finding it.

If you thought the many-theory conception of the world made no sense, you're absolutely right! Ontology has to do with what exists. Kolya is saying the world only exists one way. However, our method for figuring out what exists must involve many different conflicting theories or guesses about what exists.

Getting the relationship right between these seemingly paradoxical features of the world is of paramount importance. Almost everybody gets it wrong. Creationists and moral dogmatists let their ontological monism spill over into their methodology, leading them to believe not only in objective truth but also in the existence of authoritative sources of truth. Structuralists, post-modernists, and relativists of every ilk let their methodological pluralism spill over into their ontology, leading them to repudiate not only authoritative sources of truth, but also the very existence of objective truth.

The seeming paradox is that the world is only one way, but rather than just say what way it is, we must tentatively try out many different guesses, even though we know that all the guesses but one must be wrong (and they could also all be wrong).

Applying monism (one) to one's method of exploring the world means only looking for the truth one way and assuming that way is right (for example deciding the Bible is literal truth). This is a mistake.

Seeing that a pluralist (many) approach to finding theories works well, some might think in effect that all these theories must have something to them (that is, some truth). This is also a mistake.

Classical liberals, libertarians, and ARR-advocates fall into a category of their own. They rightly recognise that we need both monism and pluralism, but they get the relationship between the two wrong, in a very interesting and fruitful way. Instead of seeing the crucial divide as being between ontology and methodology, they draw it between the collective domain and the individual domain.

He's saying classical liberals, libertarians, and ARR-advocates make a different mistake than the errors he just went over.

The previous mistakes involved people who were mono WRT (with regard to) existence and method, or plural WRT existence and method (whereas the correct approach is mono WRT existence and plural WRT method). This mistake involves making up a new distinction (between collective and individual) and ... well he hasn't told us the error yet.

The "collective" they treat as *both* ontologically and methodologically unitary e.g., Nozick: "Individuals have rights, and there are things that no person or group may do to them (without violating their rights)". This is methodological (as well as ontological) monism because Nozick and company regard the rights in question as authoritatively given (presumably by reason).

They make the double-monism (for existence and method) mistake to collective stuff.

The "individual" they treat as *both* ontologically and methodologically plural. This is inherent in the widespread libertarian belief that rights are philosophically prior to morality. In other words, whereas rights are universal, morality is a matter of individual choice. This was also inherent in Locke (who started this ball rolling with his separation of state and religion): "It is plain, in fact, that human reason unassisted failed men in its great and proper business of morality." In other words, whereas reason tells us that the state has no business dictating morality (collective ontological and methodological monism), reason cannot tell us what is morally right (individual ontological and methodological pluralism).

They make the double-pluralism (for existence and method) mistake to individual stuff.

Now this Lockean way of slicing life into an objective/monistic public domain and a subjective/pluralist private domain is one of the most brilliant and worthwhile fudges in the history of philosophy. In fact, I would rank it second only to the the invention of monotheism which has almost single-handedly transmitted moral and physical realism (albeit in a dogmatic wrapper) through 3000 years of human history.

Kolya appreciates the value in this approach even if it's an error.

But a fudge it remains. Because morality (both collective and individual) is ontologically monistic, and our search for it (both collective and individual) must be pluralistic.

However, he insists that it really is an error.

What has all this to do with relationships?

Well, the ARR conception of relationships is fundamentally Lockean. The relational cake is sliced into a public tier, which has jurisdiction over individual rights within the relationship (such as the right to do what one likes in other relationships, so long as it does not harm the first relationship); and a private tier, which is nobody else's business.

What Kolya means about private tier is that an ARR person with relationships with Jack and Jill would see no problem keeping the details of his relationship with Jack private from Jill, and vice versa.

However, declaring something "nobody else's business" is a veiled reference to pluralist (many) truth. Because through this approach we could all deal with our private sphere's differently, and consider everyone in our society to be doing it right.

As with the political version of the Lockean fudge, this is an immensely wise and valuable rule of thumb. But, philosophically speaking, a fudge it remains; for the reasons given above.

Kolya sees the value in this approach, but insists it is mistaken.

Both in politics and in personal relationships there can be no *fundamental* division between the public/collective sphere and the private/individual sphere. The status of this division is purely that of a pragmatic device -- an approximation to the truth -- which simplifies decision making by obviating the need to go back to first principles for every decision.

Kolya repeats that the real division is between matters of existence (one) and method (many) not between matters of collective and individual.

He says the division makes life easier because it allows us to argue by referring to the division instead of arguing from scratch. There is a mistake here. Kolya gives the alternative to this fudge as having to go back to first principles in all arguments. But it's perfectly possible to refer to higher level concepts that aren't errors or fudges. It's also perfectly possible to argue by referring to emergent properties (in fact we always do), which again makes Kolya's alternative-case (having to argue from first principles) incorrect.

However, and this is the crux of the issue, the division is not some moral absolute from which we can deduce what is right and wrong. It is a handy line of demarcation which we shift hither and thither as our understanding or morality improves. Put more directly:

Rights (such as those defining the separation of the collective and individual spheres) are not fundamental moral concepts. They are pragmatic guidelines derived in the course of our search for moral understanding.

Rights are low-precision guidelines that help us get imperfect answers easily.

Therefore the fact that a person questions a particular version of the Lockean fudge does not necessarily make them irrational or coercive. It may just mean that they have found a problem whose solution is being impeded by the prevailing Lockean heuristic.

Since rights are not perfect, it's only natural that sometimes someone will have a situation where rights give the wrong answer. In such a case, the rational thing to do would be to question the right. Some people who question our rights are wicked. But some people who do are perfectly reasonable.

Of course, many relationships are founded on a shared understanding of a given set of rights. Most friendships are of this kind. Friends don't normally think they have to consult each other about where they live or what they spend their money on.

Basically, friends tend to consider each other free to live their own lives when apart without (much) regard for the friendship. For example I might sign up for an art class without worrying about whether my friend would want to hang out during that time. I would likely only worry about losing time to hangout if I myself wanted to hang out more. Saying "Sorry, I'm busy," to a friend is generally considered legitimate regardless of why one is busy (with some rare exceptions). This is a fudge for the same reasons having a private life is. We take this conception of friendship for granted, but Kolya is saying it outloud.

But states and families ought not be limited by any immutable definition of their members' rights. They ought to be free to alter their rules as their problem set evolves and their knowledge improves. Methodologically speaking, nothing ought be sacrosanct.

Sacrosanct is yet another way of saying one. Kolya is saying that our conception of rights should be mutable (changeable), not sacrosanct. This is because we should seek the truth with a plural not monistic method.

I think a good way to crystallise this idea is to bring together the concepts of autonomy and sovereignty. We often speak of autonomy as if it were a self-evident good whose meaning is manifest. But by itself that is not a coherent idea. Properly understood, autonomy must be seen as the maximal devolution of decision-making freedom that is compatible with the sovereignty of the collective entity of which the autonomous entity is part. Because fractured sovereignty, necessarily results in insoluble problems.

Kolya fails to explain what he means by sovereignty. This makes the rest of his piece extra hard to follow. A sovereign is a ruler.

He says autonomy is not a coherent idea. His reasons for this aren't clear here, and I'd rather skip them as they aren't all that important to this piece.

Fractured sovereignty necessarily results in insoluble problems is also unexplained. The reason for this is because separate entities (think people) are different. So of course they will disagree. The only ways they could get along are if they both decide to submit to one single something or other (like a code of rules) or if they agree about something. But we can't agree about everything (if we did we'd be the same person). And submitting to something is another way of saying that something is sovereign. Fractured sovereignty would mean not going that route. And the other route can't solve all problems. So it follows that fractured sovereignty will result in some problems.

Backing up a sentence (Kolya put a conclusion before the reason for it, so I skipped ahead), Kolya says that individual freedom (he writes 'autonomy', but means individual freedom or self-directedness) must be limited to be compatible with sovereignty, because without sovereignty we would get insoluble problems.

To see how sovereignty works, look at the US. The government is sovereign (it rules over us) but we still have a lot of individual freedom, especially in day-to-day life. Without one government ruling over us, we would have insoluble disputes (for example if there were a number of conflicting legal codes, people following different codes would not be able to resolve their problems).

Kolya thinks our personal lives should be like this too, and that they should be organised with families analogous to states.

In this sense, the ARR paradigm views the family as a federation of sovereign entities. That is a legitimate arrangement. But, I suggest, that epistemology tells us that the higher up you can push the nexus of sovereignty (while of course always striving to push down the loci of autonomy) the more problems you can solve, and the more common preferences you can discover.

ARR views families like alliances of people who rule themselves. Just like the US and England were allies in the Iraq conflict, but are still individual states with separate governments.

This is not a wicked arrangement. But Kolya suggests it is not the best one.

In the army there is a command structure with some guys on top, then some lower officers, then slightly lower, and so and and so forth down to people who lead groups in the field, and actual basic soldiers who don't lead anyone. The more freedom lower officers have, the more powerful the army is, because they can make local adjustments to the overall orders to fit their exact situation. But also, if every sergeant had his own battle plan the army would not function (that would be an exampled of fractured sovereignty).

Another example is pathing in computer games. A common strategy is divide the world into a large grid and keep track of connections between each section. Then if a character needs to walk a long distance, the computer only needs to calculate which sections of the large grid the character should walk through to reach the correct section. Small obstacles within each large grid area can be navigated around separately when the character is in that area. In this example there is one overall path, but for each section of the path, the character is free to find the best way to walk through that section. Thus the pathing algorithm distributes some autonomy to the character to make it work better (trying to figure out the exact path over very long distances is really expensive to calculate).

So Kolya is trying to say that what my examples illustrate is a generally principle: lower-level individual freedom and higher-level unified sovereignty both increase problem-solving capabilities.

So, I say, to maximise human creativity, sovereignty must lie with the family (or state), not with its individual members. This in no way precludes ARR-style "open" relationships. But it changes the default assumptions about the rules that should regulate the "opening up" of a family relationship.

Families (or states) are higher level things than individual people (they consist of many people). So if they could be sovereign, there would be less fractured sovereignty issues.

By open Kolya means open to admitting new members.

In the ARR paradigm starting a new relationship is like admitting a new member to a federation. In the "sovereign family" paradigm starting a new relationship is like two sovereign entities embarking upon a union into a single sovereign entity. The latter is not impossible, but only rarely is it actually a good idea -- i.e. conducive to increasing human creativity -- even in principle; and hardly ever is it feasible in practice.

Federation means alliance. Paradigm means point of view. So in the alliance approach, a new relationship is like Poland joining the coalition to free Iraq. In the "sovereign family" approach a new relationship is like the US and England trying to unite under one government.

However, Kolya has made an error here. He seems to assume that relationships come into being fully formed. Rather, they begin small and tentative and slowly grow/evolve into greater things. But if they have a chance to evolve, then it is feasible for them to evolve to satisfy some very difficult niches (problem sets, or a simpler word would be situations).

Anyway, I hope Kolya's view makes sense now, and that you'll have an easier time reading similarly confusing philosophy in the future.

For the curious, I do agree with almost all of what Kolya says, but not everything, especially not the two places I said he was mistaken.

Elliot Temple on March 1, 2004 | Comments (5)

Elliot Temple on March 4, 2004 | Comments (0)

if u haven't been reading IMAO u suck

the anti-american bloody nut who hatemails frank J hates Christianity and says religion = mad. he likes harvard which he recognises as a bastion of leftism. see! he knows his enemies and his friends. and thus reveals them to any of his enemies who care to listen. Christianity makes people better.

Elliot Temple on March 5, 2004 | Comments (2)

stupid liberals

What is the meanest most low-down thing a person can do during a kid's soccer game?

conservative: cheat
liberal: keep score


Elliot Temple on March 5, 2004 | Comments (7)


dependency means if the person died 2moro you'd be screwed and your life would fall apart b/c you wouldn't be able to solve various problems alone that you'd now have to.

this is a very bad idea even if you don't have children, and unacceptable if you do.

Elliot Temple on March 8, 2004 | Comments (10)

More Kolya ARR

From: "Kolya"
Sent: Monday, May 27, 2002 4:21 PM Subject: A brief word on "Morality"

I think I have just understood something important about the critics of commitment:


It took me a while to find another post to go over. Many of Kolya's posts, especially earlier ones, were replies to Alice. Sadly, her contributions demonstrate she didn't know what Kolya was talking about; in other words he was talking over her head (or past her, if you prefer). I mean no offense to Alice in particular; I don't think anyone understood Kolya's posts at the time (his on-list supporters most definitely included.) Anyhow, none of those posts seemed appropriate. Then I got distracted reading David Deutsch posts. They all have the enjoyable quality of being true (though, yes, they don't always try to say as much as possible; they are conservative).

BTW the way his posts are conservative but still not listened to and even written off as wild new crazy-talk is a bit crazy-making (same thing happens with many of my posts, though I vary my style more.)

But anyway, this post is both amusing and confusing. It's packed full of references meant to belittle none other than me, Alice, and a few others. So let's get clear on just what it actually says.

Oh, and before I forget, what Kolya means here is that we believe the purpose of morality is that people found immoral can be justifiably coerced. That's sorta what law is for, though. Kolya knows this. So if we go a bit further, he's saying we believe morality doesn't exist, and people talking about it are really just trying to make laws about our personal lives.

Only now can I understand why I was being routinely accused of advocating coercion, when, actually, I have not done so.

I can field that one. Kolya was accused of advocating coercion because he declared various things immoral and failed to say what should be done about it. People filled in the gaps with whatever seemed obvious. For some people that wasn't "nothing" or "we're not talking about that right now, we'll deal with it later". Does their choice of coercion denote a character flaw? Kolya thinks so. Ho hum.

All my morally-laden arguments have come across to the commit-nots as a thinly camouflaged bear trap for catching unwary autonomy-respecting individuals who make the unfortunate mistake of agreeing to enter into a committed relationship. If ever these put-upon individuals loose interest in the relationship -- and lets face it, what rational person would not? -- the trap is sprung. If they decide to stay in, they must self-sacrifice; if they decide to come out, they are liable to being stoned to death for their immoral conduct.

The question about what rational person wouldn't lose interest is sarcasm, which is notable because it's rare coming from Kolya.

Kolya is describing morality as being, in the perspective of ARRers, a trap to force people to self-sacrifice to stay in relationships or immorally leave.

Thanks to everybody whose criticism helped me reach this insight. The world makes sense again. To show my appreciation, I would very much like to return the favour in some way. Perhaps the best I can do is to offer you this vignette from my travels in far away lands, in the hope that it may amuse you.

By appreciation he means disdain. By return the favour he means he's resentful that we didn't understand him and agree with him. However, the bit about his world making sense again seems to be a bit of truth thrown in with the sarcasm. While there's an argument with an uncertain outcome going on, or at least one where he can't figure out why his opponent's say what they do, there's a bit of a hole in Kolya's worldview. But now by classifying our mental illness, Kolya can be at ease again, happily ignoring the ARRers who don't matter or count because of their mental illness.

When Push Comes to Shove ------------------------ In the remote uplands of the Autonomous Republic of Relatestan, there live two neighbouring tribes known respectively as the "Moral Positivists" and the "Moral Realists". Both tribes are very hot on being moral. However they differ radically in what this means to them.

Positivists thought that all statements not describing or predicting observations were meaningless. In simpler but less accurate terms, it's only real if you can touch (measure) it. Quite the insult, especially in context of a bunch of TCSers talking, since TCS is supposed to be from Popperian epistemology, and thus everyone present ought to know better.

The Positivists are a very hard-headed, rational people, whose founding credo is: "If you can't touch it, it ain't real". Another of their mottos is: "Spare me an inner conflict, or give me death". (Note to cultural anthropologists: A regional variant of the above, is: "Spare me moral criticism, or give me death".)

The first credo just reinforces the positivism, which was previously just a label. The other makes them highly immoral. Kolya is thinking of libertarians as much as ARRers here (though I suppose all ARRers are libertarians, but not vice versa).

Now, as behoves a hard-headed, rational people, the Positivist live by an admirably consistent moral code: "Do what you like, but don't push me". By the use of this one rule, they have succeeded in eliminating all inner conflict, all self-doubt, all feelings of guilt and shame, all human trust and commitment, and last but not least, all of moral philosophy. Quite an achievement for eight little words!

Don't push me is just a new version of the libertarian non-aggression principle which reads "Thou shalt not initiate force or threat of force." Kolya left out the bit about not threatening to push people, but it's not hard to argue that's implied. As you can see, Kolya is rather not a fan of libertarianism. Here he seems to say the point of libertarianism is to do away with morality and replace it with a mechanical rule.

In the very rare event of a dispute arising among them, they need only call to session their Positive Court of Inquiry, to rapidly ascertain who pushed whom first. The ethos of these proceedings is elegantly captured by the legend inscribed above the main entrance to the court. It reads: "Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged".

I guess "judge" means morally, like judging someone's character or whether what they did was good or bad. It does not mean deciding whether someone pushed or not, which obviously has to be an acceptable thing for the court to do.

It is difficult to convey the culture shock that awaits the unaware traveller, who ventures across the rarely trodden Autonomous Republic of Relatestan Listing bridge -- the origins of whose name seem lost in antiquity -- to the land of the Moral Realists.

The origins of the name Listing aren't so lost. ARR is an email list. The culture shock thing is Kolya's way of saying our differences are large, possibly incommensurable. (I'm pretty sure I've only heard Kolya use that word, and people replying to Kolya). Commensurable means having something in common. Incommensurable means not having anything in common. But the point of the word is actually to say we'll never come to agree (which actually is an implied if we truly have precisely *nothing* in common). (I don't believe this; I'm implying Kolya might.) My guess Kolya might is emphasised by the way he imagined a bridge. These are different lands with a whole uncrossable river between them. The only possible way to cross in on the rarely-used bridge.

Of course we do have things in common, like being on Earth, and living in the same reality.

For the Realists rate wisdom above logic, merging above separating, trusting above maintaining one's guard, goodness of character above a value-free character, and wadding knee-deep through personal commitments above gingerly avoiding one's nearest and dearest for fear of being bumped into.

Kolya doesn't bother to argue that merging is better than separating (there's no obvious reason either should be generally better). He just throws it into good company (good character is better than valueless character? well duh!). It's hard to explain what Kolya means by wisdom, but just assume it's clearly a better thing than logic (though it's also a different kind of thing, and there is no tradeoff between having one or the other). Trust vs. maintaining one's guard is a bit of a cheap shot like merging vs. separating. We shouldn't trust blindly; we must have a careful balance.

But the most striking difference is that, quite unlike the Positivists, the Realists live with one foot in the physical world and one in the -- no less real or complex -- world of moral concerns. Where the Positivists' idea of heaven is to spend hours debating whether a nudge constitutes a push; the Realists are never happier than when brushing against the meaning of life, in the act of pulling themselves up by their bootstraps to become morally better people.

- Kolya

I wonder what Kolya thinks I do all day. *sigh*

This isn't to say he isn't mostly right (though exaggerated) in his judgment of many libertarians. Even if he is, though, that wouldn't mean libertarian theory is bad or useless. It'd just mean it's a bad idea to try to base your life around it with nothing else. Bits, like what it has to say about economics, are very useful.

PS Kolya, if you read this, I feel no malice towards you, I simply tried to write what I thought this stuff meant. Even if I think you're flawed in 500 ways, that doesn't imply I will dismiss your other ideas.

Elliot Temple on March 8, 2004 | Comments (6)

not exactly fp material

"Once a philosopher, twice a pervert."

So I ran into that saying, and tried to figure out how that works. I think it goes something like this:

day 1:
curi: so, d00d, what do you think about incest?
Bob: I think it's kinda gross, don't you?
curi: oh, yeah, yeah, totally gross, ewww
Bob: it's especially gross cause like my sister is ugly
curi: oh, yeah yeah, and also there's something about lethal recessive genes, too.
Bob: yeah, incest makes you dumb or something
curi: yeah
Bob: wow that was a pretty philosophical discussion
curi: yeah totally, good thing we analysed that and really learned about abstract ideas

day 2:
curi: so, i was thinking about incest some more
Bob: you pervert!

anyway, cool saying, nice gem of truth in it

Elliot Temple on March 15, 2004 | Comments (0)

Damn Press

Israel steps up targeted killings

Lovely title, eh? The main theme in this part of current events is that Israel is killing more people now. *cough*

Israeli helicopters attacked two suspected Hamas weapons workshops in Gaza City

Suspected? Huh? Are these weapons workshops suspected of being owned and used by Hamas? If so, then should the suspicion be wrong, it doesn't matter, Israel was still blowing up weapons workshops. Or, were the buildings blown up only suspected of being weapons workshops? The author seems to be trying to cast doubt. But if it turned out to be a dorito factory this would have been noticed after the bombing, right? And then there is no chance at all they would have failed to state very clearly that Israel blew up the wrong thing. So I have to conclude it *was* a weapons workshop, possibly run by Hamas, and that the author sucks.

early Monday and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called off a summit with his Palestinian counterpart — a first response to a double suicide bombing that killed 10 Israelis in a heavily guarded Israeli seaport.

So why wasn't the headline: Suicide Murderers Stall Peace Process ?

Oh, I know why: because the Associated Press (this is an AP article) hates Israel, and wants to blame everything on Israel.

Israel will also intensify targeted killings of Palestinian militants in retaliation for Sunday’s bombing in Ashdod port, the first deadly attack on a strategic target in Israel in more than three years of fighting, a senior official said. He suggested that leaders of militant groups, occasionally targeted in the past, will not be immune.

So what happened here? Bad terrorist people killed Jews, and Israel is going to kill the bad people in self-defense. Huzzah!

But what's AP say happened? AP says Israel is going to kill *militants*. Israel is killing them *in retaliation*. Israel is out for revenge not self-defense. Israel hasn't been attacked in an important way for 3 years. Israel has nothing to bitch about. Attacks on Palestinian soil by the IDF happen all the time (Palestinians have soil now? heh). Both sides have been trying to kill each other for over three years, proving they are both war-like or someone would have stopped by now. The Palestinians, being poor, have an excuse for being war-like. Also Israel is now planning to assissinate Palestinians leaders.

The bombers, 17-year-old high school students from a Gaza refugee camp, managed to slip into Israel despite a heavily patrolled fence ringing the strip; one of their handlers said he believed they crawled through a tunnel. The assailants also evaded tight security at the port and used high- grade plastic explosives.

What does this prove? It proves that more security just won't work alone, and the only possible way to be safe is to kill terrorists.

What does AP think this proves? That security fences don't work, so any fence Israel builds is really to steal land.

One wonders where the poor Palestinians get high-grade plastic explosives. Ho hum.

Elliot Temple on March 15, 2004 | Comments (0)

how to cook like a god

step 1: get a blender, some bananas (fresh), some orange juice (not from concentrate recommended), some frozen raspberries, and some frozen blueberries. optionally some frozen strawberries. also optionally you can add sugar. try making it with no sugar but then putting some in a small cup and mixing in sugar to see the difference.

step 2: put everything that isn't the blender inside the blender. turn blender on. (about 1.25 cups OJ, 4 medium sizeds bananas, 1/2 bag raspberies, 1/4 bag blueberries (the blueberry bags seem to be much more stuffed. but also u want less blueberry than raspberry) seems to work for me. if u have stawberries u can use less raspberries)

step 3: find cups and serve (if u do it right you'll need at least 2 big cups to fit all of it)

PS some ppl add yogurt but they're weird. don't mess your smoothie up.

recipe 2:

put some refried beans in a small bowl and microwave. then add a bunch of hot sauce and stir. (extra hot recommended so u don't use a whole bottle in 3 gos)

get some tortillas and put some cheese on them. i prefer white cheese for this.

cook it. if u use a microwave, then small tortillas are recommended cause the center will heat unevenly. put the thinner pieces of cheese there. cooking on the stove is harder but u might like it better.

fold tortilla in half and squish cheese from middle outward so it's more even. tear tortilla into pieces. dip in the beans.

optionally, put chicken or steak on the tortilla with the cheese. yum

note: make sure to heat beans first then quesadilla. they stay hot a lot longer.

Elliot Temple on March 19, 2004 | Comments (2)

Israel Is Too Kind To Bad People

Haaretz Article

"[Someone] asked him to carry through a bag...and left," the officer said. "[The boy] just wanted to make money. We will release him. He's just a poor kid." The boy said he was offered a large sum of money to transfer the bags, and he was released after it became clear that he was not aware that the bags he was carrying contained explosives.

Skim the rest of the article too. Anyway, boy carries bag of explosives through checkpoint. It has wires sticking out of it. He's caught and stopped. Then he's set free!

Why was he set free? Because Israel treats bad people (and especially children) too well. Rather than being the oppressive conquerors the media claims, Israel is too friendly for its own good.

The boy was criminally negligent thrice over. First, he carried a bag through a checkpoint for a stranger without checking what was in it or telling anyone. Second, it had wires sticking out. Sheesh! And third, he got paid lots of money to do it. Why would he get paid all that money? He should have been suspicious about it. (If he took the money then told authorities I'm sure he would have gotten to keep it.)

The boy is a bad person who nearly got some perfectly good people murdered. But what does Israel see? A poor, uneducated boy to pity and not blame for his criminal negligence.

Not only would the world almost definitely be better off without that boy (he is morally bad enough to be dangerous), but some of his friends might be scared out of doing the same thing if Israel punished him (or encouraged if there is no punishment. same idea) (public execution sounds nice to me, but I suppose it'd be a short jail sentence, because Israel is such a cruel country). *sigh*

Oh, and to people who think Israel intentionally targets children. (Jews hate children or something? Makes no sense in the first place.) Fuck you!

Elliot Temple on March 22, 2004 | Comments (0)

the twisted mentality of (some) authorities

"if u break a rule openly, this does not prove you have nothing to hide and weren't trying to sneak one past us. rather, it proves that A) you broke a rule and must be punished and B) to break a rule openly proves you do not have the proper respect for authority, and thus must be punished extra"

Elliot Temple on March 25, 2004 | Comments (0)

leave the lights on

lets say u wanna turn lights off to save power. is it worth the bother?

let's estimate it takes 15 seconds, and you save the light being on for 1 hour on average

100 watt bulb, 10 cents per kilowatt hour. that means 15 seconds is worth 1 cent.

multiply a bit. a min is 4 cents. an hour is 240 cents.

so, who wants $2.40, and who wants an extra hour of sleep?

or an extra hour of work, which will generate more than $2.40

and this neglects the human costs of people having to devote thought to remembering to turn the lights off, and such. which actually dwarf both the time and money amounts in question.

i suppose i should concede that for someone who obsessively turns lights off, trying not to will probably be costly. however, getting into such a state is bad.

oh here's a source on prices. looks like it's less than 10 cents.

Elliot Temple on March 25, 2004 | Comments (8)

A Political Platform

Announcer: Hello, and welcome to the Presidential Debates. There's been a slight change this year. Elliot is going to speak because he's so cool. Bush and maybe Kerry can speak if there is extra time.


Before I begin with my positions, I want to address two issues. The first is Statism. The other candidates here are Statists, and that's something you have to watch out for. What that means is they attribute mystical, magical powers to States. For example they think States can solve problems that ordinary people can't. But this doesn't make much sense, because who makes up a government? Just people like you and me.

The second is some people might say my ideas are too simplistic to work. But that's a misunderstanding. They only seem simple because our whole society is smart! We understand a lot of things. When candidates want to avoid ideas that seem simple and true in favour of complex ones, that just means they want to use their own pet theory that, when explained, is confusing not persuasive. But good ideas are something everyone can understand!

Now, I've been asked to go over a number of key issues: taxes, schools, welfare and social programs, the military, immigration, gun control, and abortion, so that's what I'll do.

Now, I'm just going to go over the general ideas for each one. We don't need to talk about the exact numbers involved. We have experts to figure those out. What's important in a leader is having a good plan, not figuring out every detail, which should be a team effort.

As for taxes, I'm going to lower them. Why? Because I think you are competent to spend your own money well. I don't want to redistribute it with central planning because I'm not a Statist -- I don't think that the State is better at planning than ordinary people. And not only that, each of you only has a little money (compared to the wealth of the whole country), and will pay a lot of attention to your own money. But if the government tries to distribute wealth, it will have a small number of employees trying to deal with the money from many, many people. So, we would have more bureaucrats (with salaries) doing a worse job than you would do. We don't need that.

As for schools, I support vouchers, and I will cut funding to public schools to pay for it. Why? Because the public school system doesn't work! They keep telling us if we just give them more money, then it will work. But we've tried that. And it failed. So I say, let the market take care of it. If parents have money to spend on a good school, then capitalists will create those good schools. Teaching the next generation is not the place of government.

As for welfare and social programs, I'm against those. I know charity is important, but I just don't think central planning is the way to do it. I know you are all good people, and you'll give any extra money you can to people who need it. I trust you to decide how much money you can spare, not the tax collector.

As for the military, I'm going to increase funding. Why? Because I want to be safe. There is evil in the world. There are bad people who want to kill us. And I won't hide my head in the sand and pretend they aren't out there. Rather, I'm going to face facts, stand tall, and fight them off. And I'm not scared of them either; we can beat them. We just have to put some effort into it.

As for immigration, I say if someone wants to live here, great! People are not locusts. They won't ravage our country and destroy our resources. Most immigrants will just get jobs and help create more wealth for everyone. Now, I understand that if there were a lot of welfare programs, then immigrants would be expensive. But under my leadership, those will be replaced with personal charity. So you don't have to worry about your tax dollars going to immigrants; they will earn their keep.

As for gun control, I like guns. They are a great tool. It used to be a strong man could intimidate a small man. But guns are the great equaliser. When everyone is armed, no one wants to start a fight. I want everyone to be able to defend themselves, so that's why I'm against gun control.

Abortion is a contentious issue. A lot of well-meaning people disagree. On the one hand, some of you think it's murder. On the other hand, some people say it's free choice. Now, I don't see how freedom could excuse murder. So I think the left is wrong about this. But what about an abortion before the fetus has a working brain? How could that be murder? I respect everyone's right to believe in souls, but I don't want to make laws about them.

So in conclusion, if you like personal freedom and a responsible government, not central planning or a nanny state, then vote for me. If you like ideas too confusing for a politician to explain to you, vote for a socialist.

Thank you, God bless you, and good night.


Elliot Temple on March 29, 2004 | Comments (23)

a large part of what's wrong with libertarians


it's a samizdata piece by Perry. genital piercings got banned in Georgia.

now, if i heard that, i'd think it was an annoying hangup as there's nothing morally wrong with genital piercings.

but that's not how Perry reacts. he is mad that something he sees as a freedom *can* be banned. he thinks that you own your genetalia, therefore all laws about them are invalid. this view is significantly *worse* than the original mistake. the original mistake of thinking genital piercings are bad is just one mistaken judgment. Perry's view is a recipie to get an unlimited number of issues wrong.

in comments, someone whines that the authors of the law consider themselves fiscal conservatives. either he thinks fiscal conservatives must oppose all new laws that would cost money (absurd), or he thinks they must oppose all frivilous laws. but the authors of the law don't consider it frivilous (duh). they probably *are* fiscal conservatives.

also in comments apparently the law was aimed at genital mutilation and nailed piercing too b/c the authors didn't know consentual piercing even existed. so this is even less bad than it originally seemed.

but how does Perry take the news?

The fact a bunch of ignorant jackasses can make something consensual illegal just like that is the problem.

so Perry thinks everything consentual should be legal. period. wife burning? spanking? ok in a perfect society (with better notions of what consent is and better mechanisms to prevent systematic coercion) they should be legal. in a bad enough society you couldn't set up institutions that care about consent anyways. but they should not be legal, unconditionally, in all imaginable societies. and more to the point, in the real world, there are lots of examples of illegal consentual things that should be illegal.

for example the story of british ppl going to india and banning wife burning. the natives say "but it's our custom" and the brits say "we have a custom too. when someone burns his wife we hang him". (this story could be a myth, dunno, but it doesn't matter). banning wife burning was important and good in that situation.

banning spanking in the US is arguably a good idea. even if it's not, it probably will be in the nearish future. (doing it would change the situation for many abused children in positive ways) saying there can be no debate b/c of Libertarian Principles would be rather lame. pretending the laws against assault and battery can protect children today would umm ... well it doesn't.


besides this, what is and isn't consent is non-obvious. can i download music? well in one analysis, this is consentual b/c the only ppl in the equation are me and the person i'm getting it from, and we both consent. in another, the creator of the music has to consent too, and doesn't, so it's not. (who has to consent must always be decided b/c it can't be the whole universe, it has to be the *relevant* people. who's relevant?). thus Perry's analysis (consentual stuff should always be legal) wouldn't even tell us what should be legal. pretending his statement supports one meaning of consent over another (his in particular) would be invalid.

Elliot Temple on March 31, 2004 | Comments (4)


oh also perry's title was "you do not own your own genetalia". of course you do. it's that property rights are not absolute (if they were, for example, there couldn't even be a discussion about downloading music, the case would be closed already. "you can put music you own up for download because you own it" would be the end. it's absurd to try to solve complex moral issues this way.). but Perry apparently can't even imagine the idea of non-absolute property rights, so concludes an absurdity instead.

Elliot Temple on April 1, 2004 | Comment (1)

Being High Rated Is Fun

How To Manipulate Internet Chess Ratings (works for lots of kinds of ratings where you can choose who to play):

When you're having a bad day, play your friend. Lose a ton of rating points. Now your friend is overrated. Have him refuse to play anyone. Next, play normally until you have some good days and your rating gets back to normal. Your friend is still overrated though. Play him and split up the extra points.

BTW if you want to play chess online for free, go to FICS. I mostly play on USCL.

Elliot Temple on April 5, 2004 | Comments (0)

Rope, Tree, Criminal Immigrant (Some Assembly Required)

curi: I *told* you that you have to spend more than 20 minutes making a political platform!
Elliot: oh shut up
curi: You completely messed up immigration.
Elliot: Not because of the time spent though.
curi: oops *hides in corner*
Elliot: besides i can fix it now:

An anarchist approach to immigration has the following problems besides welfare issues:

- Enemy soldiers can claim to be immigrants.
- Some immigrant populations might aid invading enemy soldiers, by giving them shelter or food or whatever.
- Some immigrant populations would distort political debate in the country be giving a voice to bad ideas. For example, do we want to waste time debating what Allah says about invading Iraq?
- If immigrants can vote, unassimilated ones may mechanically vote for whatever candidate offers them more stuff.
- There are a lot of public government services besides welfare. Like roads and parks.
- Our prisons are a better place to live than many countries.

What's the answer? Unlimited immigration for rich white people :-) Immigration for more problematic groups can be increased slowly and carefully.

Also a solution to the prison problem is the death penalty. And don't tell me the death penalty is expensive. It's not if you use a rope (or gun). Also, eventually for-profit prisons could accommodate many people.

PS The title is stolen from inspired by Misha

Elliot Temple on April 5, 2004 | Comments (9)

Why People Don't Believe In Evolution

Well, why should you believe in evolution? Because it helps explain reality better.

But what if you didn't understand evolution at all? Then it wouldn't help you explain reality better. This is how most Christians avoid believing in it (of the ones who don't). Their understanding is so poor that it does not seem any better an explanation than God.

They reveal this when they say things that equate evolution with man being created by chance, or when they say atheists think time, in large enough quantities, can do anything. Or when they say that lions and tigers can't make fertile offspring (ie that species exist) and think that proves their point. Or when you point out that two *slightly different* lions can have fertile offspring, and they think that has nothing to do with evolution.

Notice how under this explanation, creationists are not wicked or even horribly flawed, just a bit ignorant. And ignorant of something that won't really help them much in their lives anyway.

Elliot Temple on April 5, 2004 | Comments (6)


What does 'good' mean? I do know, (and so does the questioner!), but I won't try to answer. One person suggested it means beneficial. Even if this is accurate, it's rather useless. Because what does beneficial mean?

Have you ever noticed that a dictionary defines each word in terms of other words? There are not foundational words with God-given meanings that all new words are defined in terms of (at least indirectly). Rather, if you tried to find out what a word meant by looking up each word in it's definition, and looked up each word in each of those definitions, you would only have a longer and longer list of words to look up, and never finish. And not only that, you'd find yourself looking up the same words over and over. You'd have an impossible task involving looking up an infinite number of words.

So three points. Trying to say "good" or any other idea is meaningless or less meaningful because it can't be defined (without an infinite regress) is specious because this applies to all words equally. And even the approach of focusing on definitions of words is simply a bad idea, because you won't get anywhere. But knowledge *is* possible, so an approach that doesn't get anywhere can't be right. And also, no sorts of foundations are needed to have perfectly valid, useful, true, non-arbitrary knowledge.

Elliot Temple on April 12, 2004 | Comments (0)

Living Forever

Someone once suggested (not sure if s/he wants credit for the idea; will change this if s/he does) that an infinite life-span would not be very useful. Why? Because the way our knowledge is structured would become so out-dated that it would both be much easier to start over (teach a blank mind from scratch) and also too difficult to be worthwhile to fix current, old people. Now, in the future there will be all sorts of great technologies to help fix people with bad ideas, and a whole profession of people very good at helping with this sort of thing, so what was meant was not that it'd just be a bit too expensive, but rather that it would be a virtually impossible or actually impossible task. So difficult that in millions of years of progress it would still seem impossible.

How could this be? Sure, I may have some hangups (I hate eggs and math textbooks, for example), but I'm sure a hundred years with no pressures, lots of friends, and various nice futurey things could cure me. And if it couldn't, the next thousand years might. As it is, I already like math in certain forms, and have come to like some foods I used to hate. So there's nothing remotely impossible here.

OK let's try something else. What if I grew up thinking the world was flat? Would that be a problem? Well, certainly for many people this was a misconception they never really dealt with during their natural life-spans. But some people did solve it. And I don't see why the rest couldn't get over it eventually. They could circle around the world, then go into space and look at it, so they could see for themselves that "scientists" weren't just playing a prank. And they could learn more physics than we know today, and see how well it works.

Now some people might be tempted to, by now, say the idea of infinite life-spans being useless is nuts (if they didn't decide that much earlier). But this would be immoral. For we've still shown absolutely no understanding of what was meant! Now, we could assume nothing remotely sensible was meant. But that's just no way to discuss philosophy. We should either say we don't know and aren't interested, or look to understand the subject.

Thus far we've looked at hangups and misconceptions that can be expressed in English. But only the simplest hangups and misconceptions can be. Anything that we can put into English, our entire society already has some understanding of.

But try to imagine. We are very young, and we begin to encounter various problems. We try to conjecture the answers. But randomly conjecturing answers with no constraints on what we think of is unlikely to solve many problems. It'd be like if the answer was 8 and we rolled a die with an infinite number of sides, trying to find that answer. So what we do is make conjectures about what sort of answers we are looking for. For example in the dice analogy we might conjecture that useful answers are mostly under 1,000,000,000. And now for many sorts of problems (the ones where our conjecture is about right) we will find the answers much more easily.

Next up, we might notice that for certain classes of problems, more specific constraints are useful. Problems about wood are mostly between 1-3 million. Problems about sand 7-10 million. Now we might solve most problems more accurately and faster (as long as our constraints are good). Of course some constraints will turn out wrong, but we can change them. At least at first. But what if we have a system 200 layers deep. Is it about earth? ok < 1,000,000,000,000 Is it about sand? no, ok not btwn 7-10 mil. Is it about water? yes, ok look between 44-999 mil. is the water cold? yes, ok, look at odd numbers only. etc etc

Of course real constraints are much more complex, because answers do not lie on a number-line. Anyhow, imagine our first 10 layers have not changed since we were 5. The next 80 have not changed since we were 20. Now go forward in time thousands of years. Our problem situation is very, very different than it was when we were growing up. And instead of 200 layers, we have 2 million. But, our situation is very, very different now than it was as we grew up. And half our layers are dead wrong, including the 3rd and 9th ones. Is it really feasible to fix this? Without becoming a new person?

And it gets worse. At the thousand year mark, when we moved to a new planet, our system of constraints started to fail a bit. So we added some new modifications to fix things on top of the whole system. These increased our problem solving abilities and kept us functional. And going through just a couple more layers was so negligibly inefficient as not to be a problem. But they were only ad hoc modifications, so after some time started to function poorly. So we added more. And more. And after living a million years, it's quite possible we've been making things progressively worse for most of that time. Sure we've been learning new things the whole time, but to fix the actual heart of our problems, we would have to change some of our most basic ideas that have become more and more distant from our latest modifications.

Now, I'm currently unconvinced this analysis actually implies the conclusions we were looking for (that an infinite life-span would not be valuable). But it's not an unreasonable conjecture either, and certainly not nuts, even though prima facie it does sound a bit nuts. And extensive further argument would be required to reject it.

Oh, just for fun, count how many life extentionists have ever gone through this analysis. I don't think you'll need your toes.

Elliot Temple on April 12, 2004 | Comments (3)

Elliot Temple on April 13, 2004 | Comments (0)

bush rocks

read bush's speech from yesterday. if you haven't read one for a while, and doubt was creeping into your mind ... well basically everything he says is exactly right.

Elliot Temple on April 14, 2004 | Comments (4)

Elliot Temple on April 15, 2004 | Comments (0)


To be very clear, when I say "atheist" I mean US atheist, and when I say "Christianity" I mean the American version. There are a number of significantly different versions of Christianity and atheism in the world, and sometimes they need to be discussed separately. I'll come back to this at the end.

I'll start with a quick outline of my argument, to make it easier to follow:

- Christianity is somewhat mystical.
- Atheists are mystical too. It's an aspect of our society.
- People say that atheists are atheists because God is a mystical idea, but this is rarely the real reason (as most atheists still are mystics anyway).
- Christian values are largely good.
- Atheists are not simply non-religious, they oppose religion. In the US, this mostly means opposing Christianity.
- So (most) atheists are opposing something largely good for little reason.
- Doing so is wrong. We should praise good things, and certainly never oppose them.

Christianity is somewhat mystical

Err, well, they believe in God, some believe in creationism, and there's heaven too. Given my audience, I don't think I need to go into any detail here. So moving on...

Atheists are mystical too. It's an aspect of our society.

So we were driving along in New Mexico, and [an atheist] turns to me and comments, about the landscape, that Mother Nature used a big scalpel. And then goes on to describe various details of the terrain. And I sit quietly and imagine driving with a Christian, who says God used a big scalpel, and I really don't see the difference. They seem equally mystical to me.

You may say talking about mother nature is just an expression. But often so is using God! Often these people probably aren't thinking too much about what they are saying, and don't really mean it literally. This is a good defense, but it applies to atheists and Christians equally.

If you watch much modern-genre anime, you may observe the characters being highly superstitious (by US standards). It's portrayed as generally accepted (often brought up; never really questioned). Fortune tellers are also quite common and are taken seriously. I take from this that US culture is actually not that bad on mysticism. I don't believe I know anyone very superstitious.

The US has some silly things like psychic hotlines (which apparently make money). I don't know any reason to think Christians are more likely to believe in psychics, though. The Bible doesn't say to believe in them, and actually the fairly common excuse that they are communing with spirits is distinctly non-Christian (one God, says Christianity).

People say that atheists are atheists because God is a mystical idea, but this is rarely the real reason (as most atheists still are mystics anyway).

The common claim is that people usually reject Christianity because they reject mysticism. This is not borne out by the many spiritual atheists, agnostics, various oddball religions like Wicca, Satanism, Paganism, eastern religions with reincarnation, karma, or whatever, etc etc etc And especially not borne out by my point above about atheists mostly being just as mystical.

And also, there are plenty of Christians who dislike mysticism, but somehow don't see their religion that way. In other words, most people who reject mysticism manage to reconcile this rejection with their religion.

So, in the vast majority of cases, I believe we must look for some other reasons for the rejection of Christianity.

Christian values are largely good.

Certain Christian hangups get a lot of attention. Such as opposing abortion or homophobia. Some people then conclude that Christianity is a silly, out-dated idea that has begun to cause more harm than good (if they think it was ever good -- some think people just didn't know better before, and ought to now).

But, well, here's a simple argument:

- The USA is very good. It fights for freedom, solves problems well (as evidenced by its great successes at science, at producing stuff to make life better, at living peacefully), and doesn't listen to the specious authority of the majority of countries of the world (you know, the ones always passing UN resolutions about how evil the Jews are Israel is).
- The USA also doesn't go in for appeasement (something most of Europe apparently didn't figure out with Hitler), or pacifism. Self-defense is important.
- So, how do we explain the US being good? Well, it has to be made up of good people. Which means people with highly moral values.
- Atheism is more popular in Europe, thus demonstrating we do not get our good values from atheism. (Not to mention that not believing in God isn't a value system).
- On the other hand, the US is full of, surprise surprise, Christians. The US represents Christian values. Our current President is even open and explicit about this, and willing to mention God in his speeches.
- Therefore, as the US is very good, and as its policies are mostly based on Christian values, we must conclude there is something very good in Christianity.

To try to see the difference, imagine saying each of the following things to a crowd of atheists or a crowd of Christians, and imagine the reactions you would get.

"There is Evil in the world, and we must fight it, not pretend it's only a difference of culture. Some things are always and everywhere Evil, such as to oppress women or murder innocents."

"Certain things, like freedom and democracy, are Good. They are not for some people. They are not a matter of taste. Some people believe that Arabs or Muslims can't handle democracy. I say God made all people, not just white people, to want freedom, and to flourish with it."

"The Jews in Israel are on the side of Right, and we will stand with them, whatever Evil may come. Their enemies, who preach death every Friday, and dance in the street with joy at each terrorist atrocity, are our enemies too."

Atheists are not simply non-religious, they oppose religion. In the US, this mostly means opposing Christianity.

More (proportionally) atheists than Christians becomes environmentalists. More become socialists. More feel solidarity with Palestinian suicide murderers. More are willing to overlook the suffering caused by tyrants in the Islamic world. More are so committed to causes like getting rid of DDT that they will overlook the millions of people their policy kills.

This is not a matter of being factually confused. There is nothing in atheism that causes people to read less, or choose worse sources to read. Rather, this is a moral issue. And specifically, it shows moral inferiority by atheists. They read more (on average, I expect) but still tend to come out with worse views. This means they twist and distort facts to conform to a bad view of the world.


Christianity is not really about there being one God, but rather about there being one morality. Most atheists throw this out, and become, at least explicitly, amoral or a moral relativist. They can no longer speak in the "simplistic" language of Good and Evil, Right and Wrong, because they see those as religious concepts (and mystical, usually). And so they flounder around with very silly psuedo-values like "hurting nature is wrong" (Why? Unknown. And you thought religions were lite on justifications.) Or mechanical values like to reduce the amount of suffering in the world, with suffering defined as hunger, disease, injuries, and length of work day. But such an analysis will always be blind to, for example, who is right in a conflict. It will just side with whichever side got hurt more (i.e., was less successful). Which is usually the side in the wrong (bad people tend to be less successful).


In the distant future, the superstitions of today will be gone. There will be no psychic hotlines. A TV show about speaking to the dead would flop, unless shown on the history channel. There will be no religions. No one will believe in God. But so too will there be no atheists. Because once there are no religions to oppose, it will be a meaningless thing to be. Just like today being an a-leprechaunist (someone who believes there are no leprechauns) is absurd.

And furthermore, why be an atheist even today? Why care? Why not just live your life without believing in God? Why does it matter to you if other people are theists? Well, there are lots of reasons, but they all involve things like theism hurting you, not getting along well with Christians, rebelling against Christianity, or a strong desire to convert people to your worldview. (The last is bad because, while it's great to take your own ideas seriously, and wish to help people, we must keep in mind that we may be wrong, and thus not force our ideas on others. Though it's not very bad. At least it indicates a belief in one objective morality.)

So to sum up, people mostly become atheists because they oppose Christianity, mostly identify themselves as atheists because they oppose Christianity, and would identify themselves as non-religious and shrug and not care if this wasn't true.

So (most) atheists are opposing something largely good for little reason.

Not much to say here, expect that opposing good things is terrible, and even if something good has flaws, it still shouldn't be opposed, only criticised in hopes of improving it. And it can still be identified with, for the great good it has.

Doing so is wrong. We should praise good things, and certainly never oppose them.

To conclude, I want to give a short, different version of my argument, that acknowledges Christianity is different in other places.

- The US is good
- Atheists tend to oppose whatever religion they are around, or were former members of.
- So atheists in Pakistan would mostly be pro-American, because their atheism is to oppose the religion there, not here.
- Atheists in the US tend to be less patriotic and, well, less American.
- So opposing American Christianity tends to make people here worse.
- Now, can we conclude that because opposing something makes people worse, the thing is good? Well, logically, we cannot deduce it. There could be some other factor we don't know about. However, American Christianity being good would explain why people opposing it become worse. So, unless someone can think of a persuasive rival explanation, we have a very strong argument.

Elliot Temple on April 19, 2004 | Comments (3)

palestinian living conditions better than lots of places

i did some research on life expectancy and infant mortality for palestine and uganda and somalia. if you think those are unfair indicators, feel free to suggest some other ones.

from the CIA world factbook for Uganda http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/print/ug.html

Infant mortality rate:
total: 87.9 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 80.17 deaths/1,000 live births (2003 est.)
male: 95.41 deaths/1,000 live births

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 44.88 years
male: 43.42 years
female: 46.38 years (2003 est.)

for somalia http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/print/so.html

Infant mortality rate:
total: 120.34 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 110.56 deaths/1,000 live births (2003 est.)
male: 129.84 deaths/1,000 live births

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 47.34 years
male: 45.67 years
female: 49.05 years (2003 est.)

now for palestinians, i'll get 3 sources.


infant mortality 32 in 1990 and 22 in 2000.
life expectancy 72.1 in 2000

infant mortality 20 for west bank and gaza. 37 for middle east and north africa.
life expectancy 73 for west bank and gaza. 69 for middle east and north africa

and a 3rd source just to make sure: http://www.undp.org/hdr2003/indicator/cty_f_PSE.html

infant mortality in 1992 says 42, but in 2001 down to 21
life expectancy for 2001 = 72.1

oh also here's some nice comparison charts with loads of countries:

infant mortality: http://www.undp.org/hdr2003/indicator/indic_289.html

life expectancy: http://www.undp.org/hdr2003/indicator/indic_1_1_1.html

Elliot Temple on April 20, 2004 | Comments (0)

weapons caches in iraq

i was told i was silly for believing in a 50 mile long weapons cache in iraq. let's see about that:

120 x 360 = 36000 + 7200 = 43,200 (sq feet of football field)

if iraq has 1mil man army, and 10,000 sq feet of supplies per guy, that's 10,bil sq feet or about 10bil/25mil = in sq miles = 400 sq miles = 20 miles by 20 miles, or 400 miles by 1 mile

10,000 sq feet per person means about 4 ppl to a football field (a fraction of a person more would fit).

ok that sounds like a lot of space per person at first. but it's not. first u have to take into account roads, buildings, and large gaps so if something is blown up u don't lose everything. so the actual amount of space used to store stuff, in weapons caches, is more like 1/2 or 1/3 of the total space. i'll just estimate 40%. 10bil * 40% makes 4bil sq feet of stuff.

so 1/10 of a football field of actual stuff packed reasonably tightly per person. sound too small? maybe it is, but anyway i'll just try to support that much.


Over the last three years, we have tripled the output of small caliber ammunition. We boosted production from 350,000 rounds per year to 1.2 billion rounds, almost all of it coming from the government-owned, contractor-operated plant in Missouri, the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant. We recently awarded contracts to Olin Corporation and to Israeli Military Industries, and we plan to expand the production capacity at Lake City. The increased consumption of ammunition, is a result of the Army's decision to better train all Soldiers in marksmanship. Industry's response has once again been exceptional

notice that one factory can handle most of that increase. ie make nearly 1bil rounds/year.

this is the US, and the US army is not all that reliant on small arms. only a very small proportion of our soldiers are in many small arms fights. also notice that it sounds like most of that increase is just from *training*. imagine how much more a huge army in constant small arms fights must use (that also must be trained). now keep in mind iraq needed stockpiles that could last them through many years of sanctions with no resupply. lets say they aimed at a lowly 10 years. so for the US that'd be 12bil rounds. but for iraq multiply by 5 and guess 60bil, which seems way too low to me.

ok so these can be stored in boxes, which can be stacked. lets say boxes hold 1k rounds, are stacked 3 deep, and are 3ft by 2ft = 6sq feet. 3k rnds in 6sq feet or 1k rnds in 2 sq feet. we need 60bil rounds so that's 2sq feet * 60mil = 120mil sq feet. we're trying to fill 4bil sq feet. so that's 30mil out of a bil, or 3%. just for the ammo for small guns. while, i think, intentionally underestimating.

they also need a vehicle for every few ppl, machine guns, mortars, artillery, tanks, planes, helicopters, SPARE PARTS, FUEL, food, tents, landmines, RPGs, TNT (they use TNT), knives, wire, missiles, spare guns, missile shooting systems (these are big), ammo for all these things, and a zillion other things. all in tremendous quantities.



Anarchy that engulfed Albania in 1997, as a result of the collapse of political system, led to looting of about 650,000 pieces of small arms and light weapons and over 1,5 billion rounds of ammunition from military warehouses.

1.5 bil rounds looted. in Albania. albania is puny. iraq is large. and iraq wanted enough supplies to last a long time without getting more. so, i have to think my estimates b4 were low.



Between 1980 and the summer of 1990 Saddam boosted the number of troops in the Iraqi military from 180,000 to 900,000, creating the fourth-largest army in the world. With mobilization, Iraq could raise this to 2 million men under arms--fully 75% of all Iraqi men between ages 18 and 34.

so they needed supplies for 2mil man army, not 1mil. so if there's only 400 sq miles of weapons caches as i was trying to support, about 6% not 3% has to be just ammo for small guns. which sounds far too high to me, meaning there's are prolly more than 400 sq miles of weapons caches.



In strategic sections of Iraq, just about every school, hospital or Baath Party building that U.S. forces come across is stacked high with ammunition, according to Gen. John Abizaid, overall commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. The number of sites is a logistical nightmare for the coalition, which can't remove the arms fast enough and lacks manpower to guard all the caches.

Abizaid's military command estimates it will take five years to destroy all the explosives already confiscated.

5 years to blow up just the stuff we already *confiscated*.

"There is more ammunition in Iraq than any place I've ever been in my life, and it is all not securable," Abizaid told senators

and it just goes on and on

In just the sector of central Iraq patrolled by the Army's 4th Infantry Division, more than 3,000 arms caches that must be destroyed, moved or guarded have been found, Abizaid said. And there is much more yet to be found, he said.


Arms experts estimate there are enough guns to arm each of Iraq's 25 million people.

so 60bil rounds would only be a bit over 2,000 per gun. including training, that's no where near enough ammo per gun. but apparently there's no shortage:

Despite crackdowns, confiscations and raids, the black-market trade in small arms is flourishing: Iraqis can buy an AK-47 for as little as $10, along with all the ammunition they can carry.


The coalition estimates Saddam Hussein amassed 600,000 tons of ammunition,

ok more math. if a ton of stuff takes 500 sq feet (50 feet by 10 feet, not that big)), we have 300mil sq feet of ammo. compared with teh 4bil sq feet target, that's 7.5%, or significantly more than my earlier estimate


ok going to the CIA World Factbook

albania is 27,748 km sq
iraq is 437,072 km sq

just to help you compare WRT the looted ammo thing

new source

In the past inspectors have had to make three or four visits to a single location before weapons were found. One weapons site was described as a "military compound the size of Paris".

ok, and just in case you thought i was wasting my time ........ yup (nah joking, this was interesting)


Hussein left behind 130 known ammunition dumps measuring 50 square miles and containing 600,000 tons of artillery shells, rockets, aviation bombs and other ordnance. Kay and his team believe unmarked chemical weapons may be hidden in these dumps. So far, they have only inspected 10 of the 130.

ok so 50 sq miles, not 50 miles long. oh well, close enough. and my estimates were off by a factor of 8ish i guess. which is small. and this is *known* weapons dumps, so could be less than factor of 8 off.

Elliot Temple on April 20, 2004 | Comments (0)

iraq weapons supply planning

ok suppose ur one of the guys in charge of buying guns and stuff to supply saddam's army. and lets imagine you don't buy enough guns and after 20 years of wars and sanctions, they run out. then he kills you and your family painfully for failing him.

but suppose you buy 5 times as many guns as needed. then he has plenty of guns, and can boast about how many guns he has, and such. the only risk is your budget (if you use too much money you get to die again). but saddam wouldn't be paying attention to details of costs for everything, so you could probably get a decent budget. so you would end up buying much more stuff than needed, just cause it's safer.

Elliot Temple on April 20, 2004 | Comments (0)

oil 4 food

WRT the oil for food program by UN 4 iraq

doesn't anyone have a clue what 'money is fungible' means?


(even if it was for food, ok so now with their other money, they need to buy less food, and can use it for evil)

Elliot Temple on April 22, 2004 | Comment (1)


What is coercion?

The original: The psychological state of enacting one idea or impulse while a conflicting impulse is still active in one's mind.

An improvement: Coercion is the state of two or more personality strands being expressed in different options of a single choice such that one cannot see a way to choose without forsaking some part of his personality.

If you're wondering what the use of all this is, coercion captures ideas like mental pain and distress precisely. It explains just what they really are.

And now, a whole new way to look at it:

First off, we need to think of a worldview (personality) as having various parts (strands, groups of theories) that are approximately autonomous. The argument that they are goes as follows:

Is Buffy the series or Buffy the movie better? Most Buffy fans would say the series. In this way they are alike. There are various other questions about Buffy we could ask to also get the same answers.

Now, each Buffy fan has a different worldview, and some different ideas. But when asked about Buffy they can generally give the same answer. This shows that the alike, Buffy part of their personalities does not consult with the rest of their personality. If it did, they would answer differently.

Of course this isn't a perfection distinction. If you ask complex enough questions the answers Buffy fans give will vary more. And part of someone's personality can't be entirely autonomous. But it acts approximately autonomous.

Alright, so the point is we have various different separate parts of our personality. Now, suppose we have to make a choice. Most of our personality won't have anything to say about the choice. Say it's what to eat for dinner. The Buffy part will have no view. Nor the math part. Nor the hockey part. Only a few parts of our personality will be relevant for any given choice.

Alright, so there is some choice to be made, and some parts of our personality give input on what we choose. For each relevant part of our personality, there is a set of options for how to choose that are consistent with it (this set exists abstractly -- I'm not saying all these options are in our mind). When asked if Buffy is cool, we could choose to say "yeah", or "yes", or "yup", or "totally", or many other things, without contradicting our views on Buffy. On the other hand, there are some ways to respond that would not work, such as to say "no" when we actually do think Buffy is cool. So, the point is, there's a set of options (ways to choose) that work with any given personality strand, and all options not in that set would constitute acting contrary to our own personality.

Alright, so now we get to the key new idea: the set of non-coercive options is the intersection of the sets of choices for each part of our personality.

(Intersection of sets means only the things in all of them.)

And, also, the only possible way to change the set of possible non-coercive options (for example to make it bigger) is to change our personality. By altering a part so that it is consistent with a different set of options. (Or by removing a part, like a bad hangup.)

Elliot Temple on April 26, 2004 | Comments (9)

In Favour Of Theism

At least as far as morality goes, the US (I think the entire world) is full of foundationalists. People want to know what the basis of morality is. (This is a philosophical mistake.) And worse still, people who cannot find a basis are liable to think morality does not exist at all.

Religious people say the basis of morality is God. Now, this is kind of meaningless. It doesn't tell us anything about morality, except so far as we have ideas about the nature of God. But those tend to be pretty vague. God is all-good, all-powerful, all-knowing or whatever. Alright, so b/c of this foundation religious people will probably make the horrible mistake of concluding morality is good and true. Oh wait, it is...

Or another way, morality "based on God" can be any morality at all. Thus, belief in some meaningless God could totally nullify the ill effects of moral foundationalism. (In fact, for this purpose, the more meaningless the God the better.)

Anyway, now lets contrast with atheists. Of the ones who manage to believe in morality, there are two main supposed foundations for morality. There is "self-interest", and there is the libertarian non-aggression principle (thou shalt not initiate force or threat of force). Both of these, if taken seriously as the foundation for morality, unlike some vague God, do tend to lead people to some conclusions about what morality says. They are not consistent with just any morality, but only a few. And these few are wrong.

Thus it is that for a foundationalist, failure to believe in God, so that God can *meaninglessly* (not entirely, but the closer the better) get lip-service as the foundation of morality, directly leads to significant moral errors.

This can also be flipped around. Suppose you're a foundationalist who first and foremost believes in morality, and doesn't want to fuck it up by accepting some crap like that the basis of morality is self-interest. Then you would refuse to stop believing in God. Mysticism be damned. Morality is more important.

Elliot Temple on April 26, 2004 | Comment (1)

they cheer for this crap!

the below is a log from a chess server where some liberals could not give reasons for the Iraq war that would be endorsed by conservatives, but I gave reasons against the war that they cheered for. thus demonstrating i understand their position, and have an informed view, while they don't have a clue what my position is, and thus can't compare it with their own position to see which is better. also, i was called a liar, which is amusing as it's a stereotyped liberal way to "argue" and he did it... (he thought i got my speech from an email, but I made it up on the spot)

here is my anti-war speech in italics first, then the full log. so u can skip the log if you want. (keep in mind this took like 5-10min, and of course i could make it nicer if i edited it now)

The problems with a war in Iraq are many-fold. First and foremost, the war is not justified. It will take the lives of many innocent Iraqis, most of whom do not want the US there. They know the US invasion won't help them but only make their lives worse. But aside from this clear moral problem, it gets worse. Bush has not only lied about the reasons for war, but given unacceptable ones.

He says the war is over weapons of mass destruction, except Saddam problably doesn't even have any, and both the US and Israel do. He says Saddam supports terrorism, but the link with Al Queada has never materialised. He says Saddam violated UN resolutions, but he doesn't even have the UN on his side.

And his real reasons for war are much worse. He seeks revenge for his father, but that's simply no reason to start a war and kill innocents. He wants oil, and to secure contracts for his friends, but again that's a horrible reason for a war. And he wants to exercise military power in the name of Christian values, but we shouldn't be ruled by magalomaniac religious delusions.

And then there's the political ramifications of war. Very few other countries support the war, except mostly the ones the has leverage over. Why does Bush suddenly think Europe doesn't matter? He shouldn't try to oppose the whole world.

i suppose i forgot to mention faulty intelligence. that should be in there too.

curi42: Artificer(4): lol curiosity has been gone for a while. probably on google
\ searching for reasons
t 4 am not. i'm looking for an old email ;p
Curiosity(4): am not. i'm looking for an old email ;p
(told 122 players in channel 4 "Chat")
Artificer(4): ...so you're not doing it from memory like me then
curi42: Artificer(4): if your original point curiosity was to prove that i know
\ nothing of your arguments from memory (without consulting a source), then
\ you just failed miserably.
curi42: Curiosity(4): fine you want me to do it from memory?
(told 124 players in channel 4 "Chat")
Artificer(4): i bet curiosity just finished reading the e-mail
t 4 i didn't find it
Curiosity(4): i didn't find it
(told 124 players in channel 4 "Chat")
Artificer(4): what a joke.
Artificer(4): sure i believe you. hahahaha
t 4 if you think i'm lying i can stop talking to you
Curiosity(4): if you think i'm lying i can stop talking to you
curi42: Artificer(4): ignore me if you want curiosity. you've been doing so for the
\ last few sentences anyway.
, huh?
Curiosity(4): huh?
(told 125 players in channel 4 "Chat")
ZZSpence(4): I agree with Rumsfeld, why resign because a few politically
\ motivated fruitcakes want him to resign....perhaps they should start at
\ the UN where billiuons has been pocketed by those who opposed forcing
\ Saddam to cooperate with the UN.....
, i did not find the email. i didn't google anything. if you think i'm lying about this, we probably shouldn't talk about this. otherwise, i'll be happy to continue, from memory.
Curiosity(4): i did not find the email. i didn't google anything. if you
\ think i'm lying about this, we probably shouldn't talk about this.
\ otherwise, i'll be happy to continue, from memory.
(told 127 players in channel 4 "Chat")
ZZSpence(4): When Kofian rersigns and goes to Washington to kiss Bush's
\ behind....then I'll consider Rumsfeld resigning.
apestyles(4): shake it shake it shake sha shake it shake it like a polaroid
\ picture...
Artificer(4): curiosity: think about it if you were in the reverse position.
\ naturally you would not trust me either.
papovik(CA)(4): curio, you deny that what we say is what you think, yet you
\ have to go and read what you think because you can't remember it
t 4 you've had just as much time to google something if you wanted to
Curiosity(4): you've had just as much time to google something if you wanted
\ to
(told 127 players in channel 4 "Chat")
Artificer(4): i responded within seconds.
t 4 and got it wrong :-)
Curiosity(4): and got it wrong :-)

curi42: landocorn(4): why is it difficult for some on the right to call to scumbags
\ who tortured those poor prisoners what they are!
Artificer(4): lol pminear
apestyles(4): viva revolucion
Artificer(4): not really curiosity
pminear(4): wait I'm not sure if I got that entirely correct
pminear(4): but whatever
Game notification: acdc (2123) vs. pminear (2183) rated wild/8 3 0: Game 48
ZZSpence(4): I love it when you can't find a liberal who can support the
\ hypocracy of their beliefs.
Artificer(4): you guys act as if "liberals" are one whole group.
Artificer(4): political ignorance.
ZZSpence(4): game....set ...match
Notification: JATorres has departed.
Artificer(4): exactly
Notification: JATorres has arrived.
apestyles(4): i love it, i cant find a conservative who can argue his point
\ without being obnxiously arrogant about it
tsgarp(*)(4): lol
landocorn(4): that is their substitue for reason
ZZSpence(4): When Kofian resigns we can move to whether or not we hold Donald
\ Rumsfeld responsible for what some dumb soldiers did in an Iraqi prison.
Artificer(4): i know plenty of liberals who don't support abortion; i know
\ plenty of conservatives who refuse to vote bush. why treat it as if there
\ are clear lines?
apestyles(4): but really, im no better when i get into personal attacks either

curi42: Curiosity(4): The problems with a war in Iraq are many-fold. First and
\ foremost, the war is not justified. It will take the lives of many
\ innocent Iraqis, most of whom do not want the US there. They know the US
\ invasion won't help them but only make their lives worse. But aside from
\ this clear moral problem, it gets worse. Bush has not only lied about the
\ reasons for war, but given unacceptable ones.
(told 126 players in channel 4 "Chat")
MprJohn(*)(TM)(4): you cant find a `anybody passionate about politics` who can
\ argue his point without being obnxiously arrogant about it
ZZSpence(4): It is justified
apestyles(4): true enough
Artificer(4): true curiosity, but as i said, it took a bit too long.
landocorn(4): hear, hear, old chap
Artificer(4): he's not supporting us landocorn
ZZSpence(4): Bush didn't lie...the U.N. lied and stole billions
papovik(CA)(4): why don't you explain why you espouse the war curio instead of
\ reasons why you wouldn't
ZZSpence(4): We're suppose to listen to those crooks?

curi42: Curiosity(4): He says the war is over weapons of mass destruction, except
\ Saddam problably doesn't even have any, and both the US and Israel do. He
\ says Saddam supports terrorism, but the link with Al Queada has never
\ materialised. He says Saddam violated UN resolutions, but he doesn't even
\ have the UN on his side.
(told 126 players in channel 4 "Chat")
Artificer(4): interesting... i told you guys taht there are no clear lines.
\ curiosity and ZZspence are btoh conservative, and even they disagree with
\ one another.
ZZSpence(4): Naahhhhhhh
MprJohn(*)(TM)(58): 2-0 pistons :-)
Notification: JATorres has departed.
Notification: JATorres has arrived.
Artificer(4): in fact, i don't know why people came up with the terms
\ "liberal" and "conservative" anyway. it's like as if you believe there is
\ a clear "endgame" or "middlegame" in chess.
Artificer(4): wow, managed to relate politics to chess, i rule. :-I
:Notification: alrightnow(*)(TM), the COO, has arrived.
apestyles(4): well, why dont we just do away with categories in general and
\ live in state of absolute confusion

curi42: Curiosity(4): And his real reasons for war are much worse. He seeks revenge
\ for his father, but that's simply no reason to start a war and kill
\ innocents. He wants oil, and to secure contracts for his friends, but
\ again that's a horrible reason for a war. And he wants to exercise
\ military power in the name of Christian values, but we shouldn't be ruled
\ by magalomaniac religious delusions.
(told 126 players in channel 4 "Chat")
ChugiakCharlie(4): anarchy rules
Artificer(4): that's an interesting irony
ZZSpence(4): Call for Kofian to resign....call for Bush to resign because a
\ White House guard urinated on the White House lawn during Bush's
\ watch....you should listen to the hypocracy of the left wing
\ fruitcakes....they are hypocrites that wouldn't admit the sky was blue if
\ it meant no power.
apestyles(4): i can dig it curisoity
apestyles(4): *curiosity
MprJohn(*)(TM)(4): have the oil in my driveway.. plenty there :-D
landocorn(4): i recently met a couple who ardently believe that some of our
\ senators wish to abolish our constitution so the UN can rule us.
Artificer(4): Curiosity: thanks for demonstrating you can read e-mails. :-)
ZZSpence(4): Rubbish....Curiosity

curi42: apestyles(4): zzspence, please provide a reasonable argument with a point
\ rather than a personal attack with no real point
Curiosity(4): And then there's the political ramifications of war. Very few
\ other countries support the war, except mostly the ones the has leverage
\ over. Why does Bush suddenly think Europe doesn't matter? He shouldn't
\ try to oppose the whole world.
(told 128 players in channel 4 "Chat")
ZZSpence(4): total...drivel
t 4 how's that artificer?
Curiosity(4): how's that artificer?
(told 128 players in channel 4 "Chat")
ZZSpence(4): whin ing
t 4 i suppose i forgot to mention faulty intelligence. that should be in there too.
Curiosity(4): i suppose i forgot to mention faulty intelligence. that should
\ be in there too.

curi42: some junk. then:
curi42: apestyles(4): no, i didnt really agree w/ your argument... thought it was a
\ bit on the hysterical side
curi42: i spent a while trying to explain to zzspence that i didn't believe the argument i'd given. heh
curi42: now artificer is trying to get out of giving pro-war reasons by saying that pro-war people are different.
curi42: Curiosity(4): can any of you liberals give pro-war reasons that an average
\ Christian conservative would endorse?
(told 125 players in channel 4 "Chat")
Artificer(4): curiosity your question is as invalid as asking "why is the sky
\ green?"

Elliot Temple on May 7, 2004 | Comments (3)

atheists oppose religion

atheists oppose religion

Here it is suggested (last question) that religious people figure stuff out and come to their views using, "fantasy, intuition, and tradition". Obviously using fantasy to inform your worldview would be bad, so this is a huge slander. On the other hand, tradition is very useful and important, and so is intuition, so this is revealing of atheists generally having the wrong approach to thought, and having it because they oppose any methods they associate with religion (yes it could go the other way. first they made a mistake about philosophy, then this caused them to oppose religion. that wouldn't make atheists any better though). (They would not put stuff in an introductory FAQ that was controversial. Especially not an FAQ designed to make atheism very inclusive by welcoming agnostics.)

At American Atheists, the frontpage currently has a news release that's pretty rabid about separation of church and state. basically they don't want Bush to be allowed to pray. He could write a book on why Satanism is great, and that would be free speech (to atheists), but if the president seems to support Christianity in public they get mad. If they were really indifferent to religion, they would care just as much as if the president endorsed hockey.

And here's what the American Atheists think is a good essay on morality without God. To start, it suggests life wasn't worse 2000 years ago. Then it calls Christian morality unsophisticated, which is pretty damn persuasive *cough*. And it continues to go downhill:

The behavior of Atheists is subject to the same rules of sociology, psychology, and neurophysiology that govern the behavior of all members of our species, religionists included. Moreover, despite protestations to the contrary, we may assert as a general rule that when religionists practice ethical behavior, it isn't really due to their fear of hell-fire and damnation, nor is it due to their hopes of heaven. Ethical behavior - regardless of who the practitioner may be - results always from the same causes and is regulated by the same forces, and has nothing to do with the presence or absence of religious belief. The nature of these causes and forces is the subject of this essay.

Hum, my behavior is subject to psychological rules? Sociolological? Well I'll wait until he expands on that to yell and scream, I guess. Saying "religionists" helps expose his anti-religion stance.

And then his argument here, umm, doesn't work. First he calls Christians liars, and then he declares human behavior is *entirely* regulated by certain non-religious things. Which would make religion ENTIRELY IRRELEVANT, which we all agree its not.

As human beings, we are social animals. Our sociality is the result of evolution, not choice. Natural selection has equipped us with nervous systems which are peculiarly sensitive to the emotional status of our fellows. Among our kind, emotions are contagious, and it is only the rare psychopathic mutants among us who can be happy in the midst of a sad society. It is in our nature to be happy in the midst of happiness, sad in the midst of sadness. It is in our nature, fortunately, to seek happiness for our fellows at the same time as we seek it for ourselves. Our happiness is greater when it is shared.

Oh dear God! OK I'm done with this essay. And this website. Except to suggest nature is his God.

this guy freely admits he spends time thinking of arguments against Christianity. also against other religious, but mostly christianity, b/c he knows more about christianity, and was raised catholic.

Look at this

A theist may study the human digestive system and marvel, "Surely something so elegant and complex must have been designed by God!" An atheist, on the other hand, might ask, "Why did God create tapeworms?" To an atheist, this thorny problem of a benevolent creator giving humanity the gift of parasites is evidence (though hardly proof) that he or she is correct in doubting the existence of God.

mmm hmm. and to a keen observer this atheist is spending quite a lot of time thinking about God. would someone who really didn't give a shit about God relate tapeworms to God?

here an atheist site gives the main reasons ppl become atheists:

1) contact with other religions. this doesn't make sense though. if the other one was persuasive, they'd convert not become an atheist.

2) bad experiences with religion

3) b/c of science, no longer need religion -- except religion's are full of *moral* content, so anyone replacing religion with science is totally fucked.

4) idiotic, entirely misconceived philosophical arguments

and 5) atheism, they claim, is the default position b/c ppl aren't born believing in God. this is no good. by that logic not walking is the default. any sense in which not walking is the "default" is a rather pointless sense though, huh? babies have no position on theism b/c they aren't even aware of it yet. better to look at an adult who has chosen theism or atheism. among adults, who have chosen, neither position can be sensibly called the "default" and given automatic priority, nor can the burden of proof be put on the other side b/c of some default status. sorry, no good, it just begs the question.


Why are you an theist?

someone starts to answer: "What caused me to reject not only religion, but also belief in the existence of any gods?"

down a little more they admit many atheists think atheism=rationality and theism=irationality.

and ok i'm bored with this.

Elliot Temple on May 10, 2004 | Comments (4)

Criticism Scary?

Criticism is scary because:

Even with a very good structure, there are some costs to changing one's theories (effort. but the point is it's not automatic). And with an average structure and a load of hangups, for all sorts of topics, the costs are quite high.

Criticism is scary when you do not have confidence that you will be able to fix your theories (due to being attached to them).

Maybe it's easier to see the other way around: the reason criticism doesn't scare me is if some of my theories are bad, I will simply change them. So the criticism, even if it's true when given, won't be for very long. It's just a tool to become better.

Also, if I don't change my theories because I don't understand the criticism, I won't feel bad. I wouldn't even know if the criticism was true. But people with less confidence, who trust in appeals to authority, might have trouble with that situation.

Also, even if you are told some of your theories are bad, and the criticism makes sense to you, and you find yourself unable to change them (yet -- of course you always might figure it out later). It doesn't rationally follow that you must feel bad about this, or be coerced. But suffice it to say that's quite a common response today.

Elliot Temple on May 17, 2004 | Comments (0)

Cultural Relativism

a friend had a philosophy class 2day (at UC Berkeley). i snuck in out of curiosity. omg!

the teacher talked for like 2 hours about a 10 page section in the book that i skimmed in 20min while listening. and one girl raised her had to ask how you could say that nazi death camps were worse than interning japanese. another guy asked how can their be objective truth if we might all be hallucinating? (ummm, then the objective truth is we are all hallucinating. duh. any question of the form "What's the objective truth of the matter if X?" is easily answered by "X, duh")

and apparently some time after i stopped listening (had manga), the teacher endorsed individual relativism (the topic had been cultural relativism, which she did not endorse. presumably b/c it meant she couldn't criticise israel)

the entire piece on cultural relativism in the book was basically 1) explains what it is 2) explains some reason you might be uncomfortable adopting it. nothing on truth or falsity. also seemed to endorse a quotation saying everyone thinks their own society is the best (which is obviously false. immigrants. and ummm anti-American protestors in america too)

also the teacher said if anything was a moral imperative, it was saving a baby on the street drowning in a puddle. she gave no reason why. just thought it was obvious.

she also asked some questions that revealed her view of taxes was something like: what's the best way to redistribute wealth?

for a decent argument against cultural relativism, try:

People immigrate. And not randomly. There are some countries that many people think are great, and wish to move to. While others have almost no immigrants. How can a cultural relativist explain this? (Answer: His theory can't account for this very well, thus making it a bad explanation of reality.)

A friend suggests cultural relativists might say people go to get jobs.

That one's easy. It implies jobs are better than no jobs. Thus cultures that create enough jobs are better than ones that don't.

My friend says they will say jobs are not better. Umm, yeah. But then why do people want them more than no jobs? I suppose it must be because people like money. But wait, wouldn't that make cultures that create more money better? etc etc cultural relativists are dumb.

anyway, after that i bought a book on munchkin gaming. it's amusing ^^ one good joke is:

player: alright, i wanna cast a fireball on the orcs
DM: you're mixed in with the orcs. it'll hit you too.
player: that's ok, i have an amulet of fire resistance.
DM: it will still kill the other players
player: ohhh ... so do I get experience for them?

Elliot Temple on May 24, 2004 | Comment (1)

skool is evil

there's something else i forgot to mention. it's so normal it just doesn't stand out in memory very well.

20 minutes into class. the teacher has said about 5 sentences of content. she's written each one on the chalkboard. I look around. Everyone was taking notes. Everyone. (2 ppl or so i couldn't tell. has to be over 9/10 though)

the teacher writes worthless crap on the board. they copy it down. copy. maybe a few weren't copying, but the general note taking strategy is to copy everything. not understand it, and jot down a couple memory-triggers. not put the arguments in ur own words (ie, as u understand them). not figure out which parts are important and just write those. but just plain copy down everything.

it's horrid

Elliot Temple on May 24, 2004 | Comments (3)

Elliot Temple on May 26, 2004 | Comments (0)

bush died; i lied

on the one hand, Bush gets accused of doing nothing before 9/11.

on the other, he gets accused of planning from the very beginning to change foreign policy and/or invade iraq and/or support preemption.

ho hum.

Elliot Temple on May 27, 2004 | Comments (0)

sociobiology is worse than rape -- a proof

Fun With Sophistry

curi: ok you can't rape an animal, right?
curi2: yeah
curi: ok, so if you dehumanise someone enough, in your mind, you can't rape him
curi2: yeah
curi: so, dehumanising people must be worse than rape, because it's as bad as rape *plus* you think of the person as less than human.
curi2: yeah
curi: the theory that people behave like animals, controlled by their genes (sociobiology) is dehumanising
curi2: sure
curi: therefore sociobiology is WORSE THAN RAPE
curi2: brilliant deduction!

Elliot Temple on May 27, 2004 | Comments (0)

I Don't Feel Like Waiting Until Monday

Jack is very late for first date with Jill. Bob runs into Jill. They chat a little, then Jack shows up. Bob says something nasty to Jack about being late so that Jill will defend Jack. Jill does defend Jack, and they are both mad at Bob, but go on their date and quickly forget about him.

Two points:

1) if Bob did this intentionally to deflect Jill's anger so the date would be more fun, it's entirely different from if Bob is just a jackass who's mean to everyone in sight, even though it's the exact same physical action.

2) Bob does something apparently nasty, and must pretend to mean it for it to work (until the next day, when he could explain if they are still mad at him), but it seems to me a good thing to do.

BTW this situation is from the anime Kare Kano (His and Her Circumstances) which I quite like.

Elliot Temple on May 28, 2004 | Comments (0)


Isyn: When you said "a friend" in that blog entry, was it Jack?
curi: *flat voice* I don't wanna answer that.
Isyn: So it *was* Jack?
curi: No. Shut up.
Isyn: Aha. So it was Bill then?
curi: *sounding distressed* Stop it. This is private.
Isyn: Private, eh? That means it must have been a girl. Was it Jill?
curi: No. Erm, I mean, that's none of your business.
Isyn: Not Jill. OK, that only leaves Karen.
curi: *blush* No!
Isyn: I see your face. It was totally Karen. You can't hide it.
curi: *sigh* Please don't tell anyone.

I watched a Dawson's Creek episode yesterday (1x06) with a Truth Or Dare game that was much worse. But this doesn't just happen on TV. It's quite common. Perhaps usually more subtle, but sometimes not even.


99/100 rape cases don't involve physical force.

Rape is non-consentual sex where the rapist should reasonably have been aware that there wasn't consent. So if a girl says no weakly a few times ... well there's a fairly common things where girls say no and mean yes. But it's also fairly common to say no and mean no. All the later cases constitute rape (albeit not nearly so bad as the physical force variety).

How do these non-physical-force rapes happen?

Girl says no. guy says yes. girl says no again. guy says yes again. girl says no again. guy says yes again. and someone runs out of arguments, confidence, assertiveness, willpower, or whatever, and can't keep it up. (each "yes" or "no" isn't just literally the word, but rather something that means it, from a 3 paragraph argument to a look).

The form of this interaction is not specific to sex. Another situation it works with is telling a secret. Secret-holder says no. Secret-wanter says yes. etc Then someone gives in.

Forcing a secret out of someone like this is, out of the context of our society, morally equivalent to rape (the non-physical-force variety). (In the context of our society, people are better at coping with their secrets getting out than with sex, so the sex tends to be worse. But we could imagine a society where the are equally bad, or sex is less bad.)


I've observed that something really ingrained in the TCS culture is when people say "nevermind" the subject tends to get dropped. Outside TCS culture, IME (in my experience), it rarely gets dropped at the first nevermind. Saying nevermind often seems to even make people *more* curious and insistent.

Does this nevermind thing matter? What does it mean?

I think we could reasonably say it's the difference between being a rapist or not.


Rape is when you actually get the sex or secret or whatever out of the person. But also: the more times the person says no, and you ask again, the closer you get.

it's often quite subtle. i'm assertive. i could refuse sex easily. but sometimes i don't want to explain something or talk about something and i *don't* say "i don't wanna talk about that". it's not always so easy. usually i will say nevermind, or not answer. sometimes change subject. (saying "i don't wanna talk about that" has a pretty good success rate when you can say it, but isn't at all foolproof. you might just be asked "Why?" among other things.)

these are easy to do the first time. they tend to get a bit harder to do repeatedly though. it's awkward to say "nevermind" three times in a row, when you know perfectly well it's not answering the person's questions (which may keep varying a bit, or ask about meta issues, or all sorts of things).

you may feel unspoken pressure to be friendly or not be rude. or that might even be explicit. you may care about the other person, and want to make friends or be nice. it might be your boss who you can't offend. it might be your friend's friend, who your friend wants you to get along with. there are many sorts of pressures to make this difficult.

Anyway, this is a serious moral issue that our society doesn't really acknowledge even exists.

Oh, and to return to the start, the dialog is, as you've probably figured out, an example meant to be morally equivalent to rape sans context. (less harmful in our society, but still quite a big deal)

Elliot Temple on May 31, 2004 | Comment (1)


Things you contradict you do not endorse.
Things you endorse you do not contradict.

When people write they mention all sorts of things, but are usually only trying to express a few things. I call these things they mean to communicate the substance or main point(s) or the thrust or gist. So, when I say something is the main point, that does not mean it's objectively more fundamental, it simply means it's what the speaker's main point is.

there are two rivals approaches to human interaction that I want to discuss. to illustrate, I'll use Caeli and Isyn.

First, here's:

Caeli's Description Of Both Styles

Caeli, when presented with some theory, first tries to find truth or value in it. She skims over mistakes to try to get the complete idea. And if the idea seems right to her, she doesn't care how many premises are messed up.

Isyn believes that if a theory is criticised, and the criticism is true, then the theory is refuted. He doesn't want to waste his time on false theories, so he always looks for errors. If he sees any, that's that. The theory is false. If he doesn't find errors on the first pass, then he'll evaluate the merit of the theory.

Caeli believes theories are not simply true or false, but rather they are truer or less true. She knows that all progress in human knowledge can be thought of as going from one misconception to another less misconceived one. And so it doesn't seem important to her if a theory has errors, as long as they don't entirely ruin what's being proposed. One common example is statements of the form, "X because Y" where Y seems to be false. Caeli would ignore Y, and consider whether X had merit. Just because the person presenting the theory explicitly claims X has something to do with Y, doesn't mean they actually need to be considered together.

Isyn doesn't want to endorse errors. So he contradicts them. He certainly doesn't want to add errors to his worldview, so he won't add theories with errors in them. When he argues, you can't persuade him if he can find any errors in your suggestion. Even if you find some flaws in his current view, he will sooner take no stance than adopt your faulty new idea.

When you talk to Caeli about one of your new ideas, you generally find yourself discussing just the ideas you were interested in. On the occassions where Caeli insists on going over some side point, Caeli always does it to explain something you will find interesting and relevant. You can make all the errors you want while expressing yourself. From grammar and clumsy terminology, that she doesn't think is best, to appealing to blatantly false theories because they were the best way you could think of immediately to explain what you wanted to, or even because you don't know they're false. Caeli thinks of "not best" as "less true" and won't contradict unless it seems very urgent.

Isyn believes his worldview has no known flaws. Sure, he's fallible, but he's reconciled his worldview with every criticism he's ever encountered. He considers ideas different from his to be criticism, and so discussions with him always revolve around who should change his view to match the other's.

Caeli only criticses your suggestions when she believes you will enjoy the criticism. Usually this is when she believes the criticism is very important to understanding the issue being discussed better, but if she knows you well, she can judge what side issues you will like to hear about also.

Isyn believes everyone either wants to improve *all* their views, or ought to. He doesn't really care about bad people (those who ought to, but don't, want to improve all their views). And so Isyn believes criticism on any subject where you're wrong will help you, unless you are bad.

Caeli looks for ways to improve the ideas you suggest to her. Isyn doesn't bother if he sees any flaws, unless he happens to be in a mood where doing so seems entertaining.

When you argue with Isyn, you almost never discuss what you wanted to. First you argue over terminology and semantics. If yours are different than his, he will not understand what you're talking about, and will only hear what he sees as your semantic misconceptions. And he won't try your semantics out unless you can win that argument with him.

Caeli you don't even have to ask. If you say something she finds strange, she will just quietly find an interpretation that seems to be what you meant. If she can't understand, then she'll ask you to explain what you mean further.

If Isyn can't understand, he'll tell you you don't make sense, and you're therefore wrong.

Next, to argue with Isyn, you have to go over every last premise you give until he's satisfied with them. You might be tempted to not bother with premises, but then Isyn will ask why he ought to think your idea is true. If you say it is just an attempt to explain some part of reality, and its explanatory power seems to you to speak for itself (but only when used...), Isyn will think you're begging the question (assuming your conclusion is right, an invalid way to argue).

Even if you do get the topic to your main point, you won't stay there. First Isyn will tell you every reason that comes to his mind that you're wrong. Then when you defend each criticism, he will tell you every reason that each one of your defenses is wrong. And when you defend those criticisms, he will criticise your newest set of defenses. And so on. This has quite a possibility of continuing on long past the original topic being forgotten. Only when Isyn runs out of criticism at every level will he finally look at the merits of your suggestion.

Isyn is easily distracted. All topics seem to him about equally interesting. When the subject changes, he hardly notices.

Caeli notices when discussions drift, and often tries to bring them back. She knows that arguments thrice removed don't actually have much bearing on what's at issue. Because their relation is as the foundations, or the premises. Such things don't actually exist though. Caeli follows Popper in thinking we don't need verification of our theories (arguments that they are true). And not only that, but we cannot get verification anyway. So no matter how many reasons X is true are refuted ... well X never needed any in the first place. We only give them because it's a good way to explain what we mean by X better.

Isyn gets bored quickly talking to anyone not like Isyn, because, as he sees it, if they don't have the same interest in true theories, they're kinda useless anyway.

Caeli only gets bored talking to people like Isyn, because he rarely says anything she enjoys, and makes Caeli explain all sorts of things that neither of them cares about much (When Isyn offers fifty criticisms, and you defend 48, he won't care about those defenses (except to find flaws in them), and will instead focus on the two criticisms still standing.)

When someone mentions tons of wrong things, caeli tries to ignore it. when caeli understands the substance, and considers it importantly flawed, she is willing to criticise. and also, if someone mentions all sorts of right things, and generally seems brilliant, but then messes up the substance, caeli will be equally willing to criticise it. if someone like Isyn (but a little less extreme) encountered these two situations, he would find the first person mostly/almost-entirely wrong, and the second mostly right.


Isyn's Rebuttal

Caeli forgot to capitalise her name once, thus her theory is false. QED

That's a joke, but you wouldn't know from the way Caeli describes Isyn.

Anyway, there are lots of idiots in the world. Lots. And bad ideas outnumber idiots a hundred to one (more actually). If Caeli really gives every idiot, complete with his hundred bad ideas, a serious hearing, trying to make sense of his crap instead of point out it sucks and move on, well where did she find time to write anything? Seriously, you *can't* give *everyone* that much opportunity to babble at you, or you'll die of old age before you hear three good ideas.

Isyn's approach is to listen until it's clear the guy is dumb, then give him a few reasons he's dumb. If he has some good responses to them, then he's interesting, so Isyn will chat more. If he has crappy responses to the first wave of criticism, then bye. he's done. not wasting any more time. this very first screening actually gets rid of nine out of ten idiots, thus saving tons of time for the people actually worth talking to.

Caeli thinks Isyn just throws criticisms out there, but learns nothing from the ones that are refuted. This isn't true at all. Just because Isyn is smart enough to think of lots of criticism, and smart enough to come up with new ones when some of his fail, and smart enough to find flaws in defenses of criticisms ... well why on earth should that mean when some of his criticisms do fail, he just erases that from memory? Of course he keeps careful track, and won't use the same failed criticism again unless he comes up with an improvement.

Caeli says Isyn strays off topic down long chains of criticism never to return. That's not true. Isyn keeps careful track of what criticisms are pending with regard to what proposed theories. If the people he's talking to can't remember, and can't be bothered to reread (Isyn generally converses in text...) things they forget, and can't keep track of what they are proposing is true, then fuck them, they aren't taking the conversation seriously enough.

Caeli says Isyn doesn't notice topic changes. Well, it's true he doesn't make a big deal about them, and they don't bother him, but he does notice. It's just that Isyn finds almost everything interesting.

Caeli's approach, on the other hand, is seriously flawed. She isn't careful to avoid adopting false ideas. She isn't very discerning about what she finds persuasive. She doesn't aggressively hunt down even her own flaws to correct them. And she certainly isn't helpful enough to find other people's flaws for them. Who would want to talk with her, if all she ever says is that your ideas are pretty nice, although not the best? That's boring. She should point out the flaws she sees, and if she sees none, then be bold and take a stance that the idea is good.

When people are half wrong, they ought to fix their view. Isyn wants to help them do that, and knows good people will be grateful. Caeli, on the other hand, will focus on the little bit the guy gets right, and praise him, and then he'll never improve.

Elliot Temple on June 7, 2004 | Comments (3)

physical attraction

when you're born, you aren't physically attracted to anyone.

to be physically attracted to someone, requires some theories about why that person is physically attractive.

we learn these as we grow up. we figure out why certain things are physically attractive.

most guys seem to be physically attracted to woman of all races (at least in movies and in California). even though they look totally different. and also, if they saw a woman of a new race (still human), they would see her as physically attractive right away. (assume she's not fat or ugly)

this means the guys are physically attracted to some qualities common to all women. so, they see these qualities in the new girl, and the racial differences don't change them, so she's hot.

obvious candidate qualities include: breasts, ass, pussy, height, hair style (women of diff races can have same hair style, to a large extent), being skinny, and anyway you get the idea.

what if someone was not quite so indoctrinated as to find anything human shaped with breasts automatically hot?

well, for one thing he would focus on personality more. but lets ignore that. lets say he grows up around only white people. probably, he will find at least some of them hot. but for his own reasons.

now, say he meets some asians. it's totally possible the reasons he found the white people hot will be something asians are physically different about.

for example, if you were making up hotness criteria on your own, you might end up finding certain face types hot. asian faces look a bit different than white ones. it may seem subtle, but it wouldn't if you were really focussed on it.

after some time, our test subject could create some theories about asians being hot too, and become attracted to asians. but these would likely be something exclusive to asians (because if whites had them, he already would have theories about them).

and then if he met some blacks, but they aren't attractive at first. etc

i wonder if this person would be accused of racism. i wonder how many people warp their views on what's physically attractive to avoid being "racist". and i wonder how much sense it makes to find something everyone has very attractive.

Elliot Temple on June 11, 2004 | Comments (8)


If you're worried that attraction for reasons we create is arbitrary and therefore meaningless:

We created the rules of chess. And of all sports and games. But they are not a waste of time, nor meaningless.

Elliot Temple on June 12, 2004 | Comments (2)

Den Beste Criticism


Please don't waste your time trying to talk me out of my atheism. You won't do it. Believe me, I've heard all the arguments before.

I've always felt that it was rude and presumptuous for someone to try to convert someone else who has strong convictions unless they ask for help and guidance. (And I definitely do not want any.)

ummm, lessee. he says his atheism is immune to criticsm. he claims to know all arguments that exist against atheism.

is it presumptuous to criticise someone with strong convictions? more like the reverse. it's presumptuous to think you're so perfect that no one has any useful criticism of you.

I do understand that he gets lots of mail and it makes sense to try and get less mail on a subject where the mail tends to be really bad. But why doesn't he write, "If I don't know you, please don't send me email about atheism. I won't read it because I'm busy with other stuff."? Instead he goes off saying all sorts of crap and never even mentions this. In fact, this defense of his position may not be true. Maybe he skims all his email and doesn't mind the time -- enjoys doing it. We don't know.

Den Beste asks If I suffer amnesia, did I die?

This is a question of the form: if word 1, then does that mean word 2?

This is semantics.

I can divine what issues he's confused about from this question. But from almost everyone he'd get much better quality responses if he managed not to ask about semantics. Because a respondent needs to be |337 (elite) enough to totally ignore his explicit question (and probably explain why when Den Beste tries to insist on discussing semantics).

The issue he's actually interested in is what is important about a person. The answer is his worldview. Amnesia thus destroys the person if it's permanent. If it's potentially temporary, then the information is still there, and we could say the worldview is in stasis or something like that.

Notice i didn't mention death. Because death is strongly associated with bodies. It'd be standard to say someone who had amnesia did not die. What happened to him? Amnesia, which is equivalent to destruction of what's important about him, but not his body. Notice how this paragraph is really boring and pretty damn useless WRT his question. That's b/c it talks about semantics.

PS I criticise Den Beste in particular not because it's the dumbest thing I ran into lately. Rather, because his blog is one of the best. So the ideas ought to be more interesting to people with |337 worldviews than if I pointed out, again, why headlines like "Israel Puts An Explosive Stop To Peace By Blowing People Up" are wicked. You can always go read LGF anyway.

Elliot Temple on June 14, 2004 | Comment (1)


this is a draft i wrote a few hours ago. if i were to write it again, i'd change lots of stuff. i consider it flawed. however, i think most of the improvements i'd make wouldn't really make the ideas much more interesting. i'll get more right next time. *shrug*

Christians generally don't argue very well explicitly. From all their "scientific" evidence against evolution, to resorting to defending the existence of God by appeal to faith. From thinking that beatings can teach people, and often thus not being interested in coming up with arguments to use on that set of people who should be beaten, to appealing to the authority of priests, God, or holy books. From "you can't prove God doesn't exist" to "we hold these truths *self-evident*". (If you think any of these are done by, say, less than 20% of US Christians, lemme know.)

However, despite all this, these people have a lot of good, true ideas to offer, especially with regard to morality. The Christian tradition has 2,000 years of monotheism ("One God from Whom comes morality" they might say. But the key is they believe there exists is only one morality for all people.)

Now, combine good, valuable ideas with bad arguing. Who learns these ideas from them? Only people who want to. And it's not a matter of just deciding you'd like to know what they do, and reading a few books. The only known way to reliably learn these things is to identify with the tradition, and to honestly enjoy it. And then, one day, after sufficient interaction, most of their claims that they treat as manifest truth, will *feel* true to you, even though they were never *argued* persuasively to you.

Anyone who did this, who really cared about the Christian tradition, would not want to identify themselves as an atheist. (This is why it's hard to find many people who call themselves atheists in the US.) People who do call themselves atheists either oppose the Christian tradition (learned and then rejected the stuff), or are ignorant of it.

And that's why atheists are frowned on so much. Wicked or ignorant, take your pick.

You can read Samizdata and USS Clueless until your eyes fall out, but the moral content won't be there. Do they *ever* assert that we are the good guys, or that certain people are the bad guys? Nah, that's simplisme. On the other hand, if you read IMAO or Scrappleface or The Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler, you will find moral claims (albeit unargued) all over the place. And for members of the tradition, who understand why these claims are considered true, that the arguments aren't repeated everytime simply doesn't matter.

Elliot Temple on June 14, 2004 | Comments (7)

Elliot Temple on June 14, 2