Time Heals All Wounds.. And Then Kills the Patient
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Thu Apr 29 09:51:27 2004
Broken Lizard

So, during the install of Mathematica yesterday, apparently Mathematica decides it wants to launch mozilla, so it does. Unfortunately, I started mathematica from "su" rather than "su -", so it has my environment variables, and mozilla pops up, but also has its user dialogue thing visible. I dismiss it, and think nothing of it. Later, yesterday, after I make it home and restart mozilla, I notice that something's wrong -- the UI elements all have crude boxes around them, and the 'modern' theme I run Mozilla in has some elements mixed in from the default 'classic' theme. *Hmm*.. I go into the preferences, swap to the 'Internet Explorer' theme I installed some time ago on a lark, restart my browser, and .. it looks exactly the same. *Hmm* I switch to the Classic theme. No change. This worries me. I close mozilla, move my preferences directory out of the way (so mozilla can't find it), and start mozilla .. make that

window. I kill it, and try a few more times. Not good. I move my .mozilla back, start up mozilla (successfully this time -- frankenstein's monster returns), and decide to upgrade to the last beta of Mozilla 1.7 (was running 1.6). I use the package mangler to remove 1.6, and use the raw installer to install 1.7 (couldn't find packages of 1.7beta). I start up mozilla. It's still a patchwork, but I'm able to force a theme change to modern, which makes everything look nice again. Except .. one of the things about Mozilla -- the default, nonpackaged builds don't come with Freetype support, meaning that the fonts look really horrible. I could wait for 1.7 to be releaed -- the people who make packages typically don't bother for betas .. but things look so ugly that I decide to push my luck, and downgrade back to 1.6. I remove /usr/local/mozilla, tell yum to install Mozilla for me, and thankfully I get back 1.6, this time still looking nice. Hooray! I'm not certain what exactly happened to cause the problem, nor why 1.6 couldn't solve it but 1.7 could, but I'm glad it's gone.

This is pretty funny, in a twisted kind of way. This too, in perhaps a similar kind of way.. There's a bit more press on the military courts holding of people sans trial. Two interesting quotes from the inquiry: "I certainly wouldn't read the Authorization of Force's use of the term 'necessary and appropriate' as an invitation for judicial management of the executive's war-making power, I would have viewed it as a delegation to the executive to use its traditional authority to make discretionary judgments in finding what is the necessary appropriate force." -- Paul Clement, Solicitor General on BushJr's side

Martinez said that congressional authorizations for the use of force in wartime, even broadly written ones, have not "traditionally been interpreted to allow the executive unlimited power over citizens." (Jennifer Martinez, Stanford Law Prof)

So, some thoughts -- even if the resolution *did* grant BushJr the authority to use "all necessary and sufficient" force against terrorists or people aiding them, that was a really dumb thing for the legislature to do. BushJr, and maybe the executive in general, but especially jingoists like him, needs a tighter leash. At the very least, a sunset clause with a short expiry should've been built-in to the acts granting that. This ill-defined, endless 'war on terror' reminds me a bit of something, historically, and I don't like what it is.

A lawyer-in-training friend sent me this link, a document exploring the legal justification for why the U.S. military is permitted to be so backwards and discriminate against people in ways that no other area of the government may, and why actions some universities have taken to fight that discrimination have been met with a severe beating. See this in particular. Just like the movie we read about segregation in the south, it's infuriating to see institutionally-approved backwardsness like this, especially when the excuse comes up that it'd be unfair to the bigots to ask them to be able to live with people who live differently. This is part of the government, and the government should not be permitted to discriminate. If bigots can't cope, fire them, and let them go back to working gas stations or something.

Europe is .. ermm.. having a dialogue on anti-semitism. Depending on who you ask, it's either going down, or up. One possible cause cited has been the actions of Israel under Sharon. Singer, of the World Jewish congress, said at the conference, that criticizing Sharon could not be seen as anti-semitic, but denying that Jews have the right to live in their own state is deeply anti-semitic.

I disagree with the second part. It seems very questionable to me to state that all races deserve their own state, and in fact I think very few people would promote it as a universal -- those that do, for example, would need to be passionate about American Indians, Kurds, a whole lot of 'misplaced' races in Africa, Basques, Cossacks, various subgroups of the french, .. the thing is, nations are only rarely racially homogenous. Perhaps we could even ask about a seperate state for the Ashkenazi the Sephardi, the Yemeni, and all sorts of other racial mixes of the Hebrews. As a universal, no, we can't say that races have rights to a nation, nor can we say that it's racist to deny them one. In fact, the notion of an ethnically pure nation is itself highly racist, from the end to the necessary means to achieve it. There's another claim that might be made, that the Hebrews either fall into a category which grants them a right to such a state, or that they uniquely deserve such a state. I'll treat the two reasonings as being equivalent for now, and explore them. There are a few grounds that this might be argued by. There are the religious claims, as expressed by a bumper sticker on a car I pass while biking to CMU every day -- "The land of Israel, G-d's gift to the Jews". I don't believe in gods, so this argument doesn't bear any weight for me. There's a cultural claim, that the culture has placed such an importance on holding onto the land that to give it up would be to fundamentally deny a large part of the heritage of what it means to be Jewish. I can understand this argument a bit better, and can see why it might have a lot of pull, but I reject it too -- my political ideas arn't tied to Jewishness, nor do I feel any particular need to give a nod to Jewish culture, especially seeing that the same argument might be made for Islamic culture (which I also have no particular ties to). I may know what people mean when they say "Holy Land", or if I know their ethnicity, "Homeland", but giving weight to such things when they impact others in such a visible way is rather self-serving and jingoistic. Finally, there's the (perhaps seperable into two) argument that the Holocaust and continuous mistreatment by much of the rest of the world demonstrate a unique need for an Israel. This argument is actually not a bad one, and while a number of other minorities, such as the Roma and the Kurds have had almost universally bad treatment over history, it holds for them as well -- it is tempting to conclude that each such grouping of people needs a state. However, there remains the issue that while many areas of the world are hostile to the Hebrews, the Roma, and the Kurds, there are safe places for them, and these places which are hostile are by no means uniquely hostile to them. The Amish, for example, survive as a subculture in the United States, and while their numbers are small, there is little pressure (as far as I know) for them to have a state. One could make an argument that such groups are actually safer from genocide scattered across the world, and further note that their suffering is not historically unique. Still, this argument does bear some weight, although to use it to say that opposing Zionism is racist is inappropriate unless one is meaning to imply that said opposal is part of a bigger plot to eliminate the people.

One thing I do worry, or perhaps wonder, about is why Israel gets such a hard news rap, compared to it's surrounding nations. I know that for me, I'm bothered a bit more about things that the Israeli government does than, say, what the Syrian government does, because Israel is seen as being, more or less, as being a civilized country, meaning I think about it in an entirely different way than I do places I consider backwards. To use an analogy, if I read about people being burned for being of the wrong religion, and it happens in, say, Denmark, I'm going to be much more bothered than if it happens in Iran, because for me, while Iran is a fascinating country with an interesting history, to me, I see it as culturally backwards. It's still a horrible thing when such events occur, but I don't expect anything more from them, for now. It is possible, however, that my reasoning is uncommon, and that it's racism that drives the effect of Israel-Arab conflict being reported more than Arab-Arab conflict, or some other effect I haven't considered.

So, in sum, I don't think that opposing the designation/devotion of Israel to being a Jewish state is racist. That being said, I'm not against the existence of Israel, I'm just bothered by what I see as policies aimed at ethnic purity/privilege.

Apparently, the DoE thinks there might yet be something to Cold Fusion. The encouragement is that Helium-4 and low-grade heat are appearing in the right amounts in their experiments. The article raises an interesting concern -- if the effects are real, they may be too small to be useful -- a parlor-trick version of cold fusion may advance physics, but not provide any useful energy.

We're still learning nature's tricks -- scientists recently determined how spiders stick to ceilings, apparently able to bear about 170 times their own weight while doing so. It has to do with some incredible molecular-level magnetic-like attraction based off of interesting properties of their feet. Each molecule in their feet forms 'sheets', which they peel off the wall one at a time while lifting them. If we can duplicate it, there are numerous applications possible, but it's also neat just to admire the beauty of such a system. Ahh, nature!

Some people are just embarassing to shop with. Others are busy manufacturing a new notion of theft.

This is the coolest site I've found recently. It has sound samples of all kinds of different accents. *very cool*

This raises interesting issues on how politically neutral a church really is. I seem to remember that, for tax reasons, they're supposed to keep out of politics, but that's a line in the sand that might not really be reasonable to expect of them.

The voting-machine company everybody loves to hate (including me) has struck back with lawyers, aiming to have leaked documents that have leaked to the press destroyed. I do wonder -- is there an openness requirement for any companies that deal with sensitive issues in government? Should there be? In particular, the Freedom of Information act, as I understand it, mandates that a lot of internal government information be available to the public on written request. It would be interesting to expand that to government contractors for certain types of work.

You've probably heard about the fuss over photos of coffins from BushJr's adventures in Iraq. If not, it's good to follow such things.

More evidence about the problems of considering the private sector to be a full partner in science... We talked about this in my research methods class some time ago.

On the other hand, in technology, sometimes good things happen in private research. I guess it's a different thing to say what's healthy and to achieve what's possible, and drug companies are known as being more crooked than most.

In my research for two papers for my classes recently, I came across a number of books I'd like to read. I wonder if I'll get the time. Two titles that stand out are:

Eadie, Mervyn, "A disease once sacred: A history of the medical understanding of epilepsy" Dols, Michael, "Majn"un: The madman in medieval Islamic Society"

I recently have been reading a bit more about Kucinich, and I'm beginning to think that, had he been elected, he would've made a good president. It's a pity that we're not seeing a Dean/Kucinich ticket.

Finally, I feel a bit silly attaching the normal string of topics to the top of this message -- I seem to *always* write about politics and/or philosophy. Ehh.. so it goes.

That's all, folks.