Sunday, August 31, 2008

Where is the Outrage?

I'd like to ask you to use your imagination for just a moment. Imagine a typical house of college aged American kids. There might be band posters up on the walls of some of their rooms. There's probably the remains of a pizza and a six pack of beer in the fridge. There's an Xbox in the living room. These kids pay their rent. They are nice to their neighbors. They don't cause trouble.

Now imagine that the kids who live in this house are politically active. They are attached to certain political causes, and they are planning to peacably assemble to protest on behalf of those causes. Maybe they are sitting in the living room excitedly planning out their protest. Maybe they are on the floor with poster board and markers, making up signs.

Now imagine that the police, along with the FBI, show up to this typical house of college kids and break the door down. With weapons drawn, they force our typical American kids down on the floor and bind their hands behind their backs with handcuffs. The kids ask to see a warrant, but the police refuse. They proceed to search the house. After completing their search and finding nothing, the police set the kids free and leave.

Is this the sort of thing that should happen in the "land of the free?" No. Of course not. This is the sort of thing that happens under dictators, not under constitutions. Nothing of the sort should ever occur in the home of typical American college kids planning to exercise their freedom. If this really happened in our country, you'd be pissed, wouldn't you? If this really happened in our country, you'd expect the media to be all over it, right? You'd expect heads in the FBI and on the local police force to roll, no?

Well, it did happen. Several times. Police and FBI have been raiding the homes of those suspected to be planning protests at the Republican National Convention. You can read about it and see videos here, here, here, here, here and here. And that's just a taste.

Now, I've taken a little poetic license in my description of events. I don't know the exact circumstances of each raid. Maybe those raided weren't typical American kids. Maybe they were hippies. Maybe they were communists or anarchists. But they are Americans; Americans who are guaranteed the right to protest and the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. It shouldn't matter whether they are typical kids or circus side shows, investment bankers or suffering artists. They have rights, and this seems to be a gross violation of those rights and a gross violation of the principles on which this country is founded.

Of course, I don't know for certain that these people weren't all planning on bombing the RNC and causing chaos. They say they weren't and the police aren't talking. You know who else isn't talking? The mainstream media. I haven't seen a peep about these raids on the 24 hour cable news channels. Nothing in the Washington Post. Nothing in the Chicago Tribune. Not even anything in the "liberal" New York Times. With the exception of a few independent media sources and bloggers, no one is pissed. No mainstream media is anywhere near the story. No heads are rolling.

The police in Minneapolis and the FBI acted like they operate in a police state, and where is the outrage?

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Saturday, August 30, 2008

In the olden days, did they shred documents?

The reason for my curiousity on this matter will become apparent in short order. See, while John McCain is only aware of the internet, his new running mate, Sarah Palin, apparently has a little experience as a hacker. And that experience has apparently come in handy. Her wikipedia page was altered favorably the night before it was announced that she was the Republican VP nominee. And the internet scrubbing continued from there. After all, we wouldn't want people to know that the "anti-corruption" politician was super cozy with Rep. Ted Stevens - you know, the corrupt one. Nor would we want people to know that she supported Obama's energy policy. (How does that work???)

Unfortunately for the apparently internet saavy Palin, for every forty-four year old who knows something about the internet, there is a twenty something year old who knows a hell of a lot more. You can't hide from the true techies. Hence my question. In the olden days, did they just shred documents? And if so, wouldn't politicians be better served by returning to the days when no amount of digging through caches could bring that information back and they could actually hide their dirty deeds and unfortunate statements? Too bad for Palin we're in the information age.

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More of Ben Stein's true colors

You remember Ben Stein, right? He's the nutjob who made that disgusting, piece of filth creationist propaganda film Expelled. He also claimed that science leads you to killing people. Well, he's at it again, this time claiming he "abhors racism" while basically calling Barak Obama an angry black man (video of the statement below).

Now, I'm not saying that you are automatically a racist just because you call someone an angry black man. I mean, if the shoe fits... right? Nor is there necessarily anything wrong with being an angry black man. There are, after all, some things that blacks in the US have a right to be angry about. But in this case, Stein's statement seems like blatant pandering to the racists in this country. I mean, c'mon. How is Barak Obama an angry black man? Since when did talk about hope and change make someone angry? Since when was expressing idealistic (perhaps even overly idealistic) optimism actually expressing deep seated rage? In my opinion, the problem with Obama is not that he's vitriolic, it's that he's saccharine, to the point of making this cynic a little nauseous at times. So why would Stein make such an obviously false statement? The only motive I can come up with is scaring those low information, low education voters with the specter of the one thing that terrifies an ignorant bigot more than anything else - an angry black man. I know not all Republicans will be using race to come after Obama, I just happen to think it says something significant about Stein that he's chosing to play this card.

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Flip Flop on the Bridge To Nowhere

Sarah Palin told a fib. She claims to have been opposed to the notorious "bridge to nowhere". Well, it looks like she must have been for it before she was against it, then. And the mainstream media, worthless talking heads that they are, can't seem to inform the American public about it. CBS hasn't done their homework. Nor has the Wall Street Journal. Nor has Of course, what should we expect from the rest of the media when even the supposedly "liberal" New York Times is falsely putting forward the idea that Palin is some sort of centrist. Yeah. Cuz centrists oppose gay rights, deny global warming and oppose abortion even in cases of rape or incest. Please.

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Friday, August 29, 2008

Palin doesn't know what the VP does.

Sarah Palin is the republican nominee for VP, but two months ago...

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I love Dennis Kucinich

I may not always agree with him, and FSM knows I'm horrified by the whole UFO thing, but I really wish that more politicians had his passion.

This is Rep. Kucinich addressing the DNC.

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Monday, August 25, 2008


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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Dissertation Live Blogging: Russell on Definite Descriptions

How are we to analyze the semantics of linguistic expressions like the following?

(1) The Queen of England is old.
(2) The prime minister of England is male.
(3) The present king of France is bald.

(1), (2) and (3) contain what are called definite descriptions (because they are descriptions beginning with the definite article "the"). At first blush, it seems like we might analyze them in the same way we do names. When it comes to names like "George W. Bush" or "Samuel Clemmens" we tend to think that all there is to the meaning of a name is what it refers to. "George W. Bush" picks out Dubya, so it means Dubya. That's all there is to it. And when it comes to definite descriptions, this solution seems appealing - 'the queen of England' just means Elizabeth II.

But there is a problem with this approach, one which becomes readily apparent when we examine sentence (3). The expression 'the present king of France' has no referent. There is no king of France at the moment. But, on the approach we are taking, that would mean that the expression 'the present king of France' is meaningless, and that seems wrong.

To get around this problem, Bertrand Russell suggested that the semantics of definite descriptions are quantificational. He gave the following analysis of (3) (using E and A as the existential and universal quantifiers, respectively):

(4) Ex(Px & Bx) & Ay(Py > x=y)

In plain English, (4) reads "There exists exactly one thing that is the king of France and it is bald."

Russell's solution is pretty effective at avoiding the problem we ran into earlier. Sentence (3) is meaningful even though it lacks a referent. And because it lacks a referent, it is false.

Russell's solution is not without it's problems, however. For example, what about sentence (5)?

(5) The cat is on the mat.

We'll look at why Russell's analysis can't handle (5) next time.

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McCain Wants Your Water!

McCain has said that he wants to renegotiate the Colorado River Compact to take water from the upper basin states - and that includes New Mexico - and give it to his state of Arizona. Given that the states are all working well together under the recently renegotiated compact, I've no idea why McCain would want to do this. If word gets out (which, of course, it won't, given the stupid media), this could be a huge political problem for McCain in the Southwest. One thing people who live in the desert really don't like is people taking away their water.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

McCain's Mansions

I've been finding it very difficult to understand how people could come to trust John McCain to do anything but make matters worse when it comes to our ailing (okay, let's face it, our seriously ill) economy. As a graduate student, I don't find it particularly troubling that I have to scrounge or ask Mommy and Daddy for a little help now and again. That's what graduate student life is like. But when regular Joe and his wife, who hold down decent paying jobs, suddenly can't make the bills anymore, I know that something is wrong.

Some people aren't having trouble though. John and Cindy McCain certainly aren't. And John McCain's big man on economics - Phil Graham - has made it clear that he thinks that the recession we are in at the moment is a figment of our imaginations. This is the same man, of course, who helped to drive gas prices up by creating the Enron loophole, and also was a main contributor to the mortgage business deregulation that led to the mortgage crisis. Now, I'm not saying that the Obama family is particularly hard off. They aren't. But Michelle Obama isn't a beer heiress worth upwards of 100 million dollars. And Barak Obama's top economic advisor isn't a man who thinks the American people are whiners. I simply can't understand why anyone who actually feels the pinch of high gas prices, or rising mortgage payments, or layoffs could possibly think that McCain either knows that the economy actually is in shambles or that he would give a damn if he did know. His pockets are well lined whether you can make your house payment or not. BraveNewFilms puts in into video much better than I could say it, though. Just watch:

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