Talking about Sharif returns to Pakistan – Pakistan – msnbc.com

 

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Sharif returns to Pakistan – Pakistan – msnbc.com

Now the tough question, do Bhutto and Sharif have the discipline as former rivals to unite against the evil that runs their country? The issue of democrats vs. autocrats is more important than individual political differences.   These two have to unite and purge, ensuring that nobody loyal to the military controls so much as a post office and all military that have an interest in politics have to be gone. 

 

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Talking about Japan fleet sets off to hunt humpbacks – World environment- msnbc.com

 

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Japan fleet sets off to hunt humpbacks – World environment- msnbc.com

Actions such as hunting protected species and using huge driftnets that kill everything for miles should be treated as terrorist attacks and treated accordingly. 

Even in a democracy, all laws are ultimately enforced by the use of force, ultimately at gunpoint.   If it isn’t enforced by force, it is just a statement of preference like for chocolate over vanilla. 

Seas are inherently poorly policed and in a frontier environment it is especially important that the punishments for those caught breaking the law be severe to increase deterence.

I am far more worried about environmental damage to the oceans than I am about global warming.  It can be harder to track this kind of damage due to the size and remoteness of the areas in question.  

A couple of years ago, there were reports that some fish runs that were important for Japan were running at about 50% of their regular numbers, with no known cause.  What does that mean?

Well, it could mean a number of things.  It could mean that environmental damage or something else has killed the fish’s food source.  It could mean that driftnet fishers wiped out half the fish run a couple of years ago while the bulk of it was in the ocean.  It could mean that they have developed some parasite.  The fish run could be back up to 100% the next year or it could drop to a quarter.  There is no practical way to measure with certainty the effects of outlaw actions on the oceans.

Which brings us back to the point that even in a democracy all laws are ultimately enforced at gunpoint. 

Certain countries, especially Japan, will take no steps to prevent their fishermen from violating international law.   They can announce in advance that they intend to break the law and Japan will do nothing.

In such a situation, we need the remedy that any other country’s boat that encounters one breaking the law can just sink it, and that is what ought to be done.  No warning, no trial, no bs.  Straight to the ocean floor and ensure that there are no survivors.  

Capital punishment is an odd thing in that I consider the conventional approach to it to be ass-backwards. 

The single most important characteristic of capital punishment is that it can’t be taken back.  In my view it is insufficient for an offence to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt for the death penalty to be used.  Too often in precisely the kind of inflammatory cases where the masses would want the death penalty, for the same reason police are more likely to plant evidence, counsel perjury, suppress exonerating evidence, etc.   Such cases usually have no broader implications than the immediate case and it is very common for police and prosecutors to build a case out of smoke and mirrors and perjury when they really want somebody, especially if this secondary victim is non-white or otherwise marginalized.

On the other hand, what about the clear cases?  If a fisherman doesn’t know that he is on a whaling ship or that he is on a driftnet vessel, he’s too stupid to be in the gene pool anyways.  Send him to the ocean floor. 

There are certain cases where the traditional legalistic criterion of "beyond a reasonable doubt" misses the mark.  One of my favorite examples is the Oka uprising in Canada.   Some North American Indians with heavy criminal connections took a bunch of hostages and played the race card, whining that that they were mistreated because they were natives.  

Now there is a world of difference between the traditional murder trial situation and what happened at Oka and what happens with many environmental crimes.  When you see somebody with a gun or with a driftnet, believing in their innocence isn’t just an unreasonable doubt, it’s incoherent.   In such a situation the policy reasons against the death penalty do not apply and I expect the person to be as dead as a doornail.  It is irrational to even require that the perpetrator be arrested and brought to trial. 

The criminals that damage the environment are a threat to all of us.  There are broad implications to their actions for 6.5 billion people, about half of whom live in southeast asia, which I doubt will support more than a billion people by the year 2100.

 

Talking about Australia’s Labor sweeps to power – Asia-Pacific – msnbc.com

 

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Australia’s Labor sweeps to power – Asia-Pacific – msnbc.com

Good to see that global warming is now actually having an effect on the way that people vote.

I do however retain my reservations in this area.  This is not because I am a conservative.  It is because I am both an environmentalist and because I have studied the area in question.

The issue of global warming has been oversimplified.  One of the major issues arising is of the melting of ice and the raising of sea level.  The melting of ice is related to its reflectivity, a measure called Albedo, and it’s chemical composition as well as the surrounding temperatures.

Ice and snow in their natural state are highly reflective, with a high Albedo.  This reflectivity turns back energy that could be used to heat it up and melt it.  Anything that reduces the reflectivity will increase the absorbtion of heat and cause more rapid melting.   Have you ever seen dirty ice or snow, with the dirt melting holes in the snow because it absorbs more heat?

Of course we all know that we can change the melting point of snow and ice as well by contaminating it, which is why we do things like salt roads and sidewalks, so ice can be made to retreat at temperatures that are below zero.

Then there are other issues that may be regional.  The ice on Kilomanjaro for instance has been receding although global temperature changes have not effected it.

Even if contributions to global warming stopped immediately, which is wildly impracticable, I would expect the ice melt and sea level rises to continue because of the effects on the ice of our pollution in changing the melting temperature and albedo.  Some glaciers take thousands of years to run their course, and so the effects of the present day pollution on ice may be felt for thousands of years to come, even if we stopped our contamination today.

Further, by geological standards we are still in an ice age and have been for 3-5 million years.  Our present ice caps are presently more advanced than they have been for the overwhelming majority of the time that the planet has existed.  It does not follow from the inconvenience of the ice melting, temperature increasing and other changes that the situation thus created is abnormal. 

While it is good to see that environmental issues are finally getting some attention, I am very concerned that one of the lowest priorities is dominating the environmental agenda. 

Philosophy- the truth of a matter vs decisions

The purpose of this entry is to show a certain philosophical error with important consequences.  The general approach of course is Wittgensteinian.  While I believe that he would agree with the gist of what I’m saying, that is neither here nor there unless the reader does as well.  Although the subject matter is banal, the implications are important.
 
Chemistry has given us the ability to make certain distinctions between different types of rock, as has the hardness scale from 1-10 with Talc being 1 and Diamond being 10.   It did not used to be so.  
 
Two such distinctions went in opposite directions, which is the point of this entry.  While Jadite and Nephrite are both still referred to as Jade, Ruby and Garnet are now considered two different categories of stone.  
 
It has been said that certain specimens of rock that were said to be ruby were in fact garnets, including some prominent alleged rubies which were crown jewels.  It has since been stated that because chemistry has determined that these were not rubies but garnets, that those who called these gems rubies were in error.  It is deciding that because others did not use words in the past as we do now, that they are in error, which is the error.
 
The reason for comparing the case of jade vs. the case of ruby, is that in one case science discovered that two different substances were called by the same name and they continued to be so called, while in the other science determined that two different substances were called by the same name and it was decided under nearly identical circumstances that these two chemical configurations should be called by two names instead of one.
 
Neither approach is right or wrong.  When one is presented with such a choice, there is a decision.  It is misconceived to say that those that did not have chemical analysis were in error if they called different substances with similar properties by the same name.  There is no truth of this matter of what words had to be used, when new information was available there was a decision to be made about what words to use but the FACTS were not in dispute.
 
Almost all philosophy and not a few debates arise because of an unspoken, unexamined premise that the words we choose bind reality, and that is not the case.
 
 

Pope calling for end to Iraq war

As Jesus and Moses were thousands of years ahead of their time on social issues it is ironic that most of those that have purported to represent their views throughout history have been hundreds of years behind the times on social issues.
 
It is good to see the Pope taking a more activist stand.  In all probability, if Jesus or Moses were here today, they would be progressive for today’s world as well.  The church has unfortunately been marginalizing itself by only taking stands on highly divisive issues such as abortion and missing the boat on the opportunity to take a stand on making our society a better place.
 
Now, lets see if Pope Benny will take the next step: explicitly stating that the United States MUST withdraw from Iraq, unconditionally and immediately.  The invasion was wrong from the outset and the wrong becomes greater rather than lesser with the passage of time.
 

Tasering

The recent taser-related death of a polish immigrant at the Vancouver airport raises a number of issues, which are more complicated than what has thus far been dealt with in the press. 
 
It is important that videos such as the one of this death not be censured, but there is a risk that such reports may give an unfair view of what happened.  To have the full story we’d have to watch 6 hours worth of tape.
 
Early reports indicated that the dead guy had been trashing the place in frustration.  The guy taking the video may have been present at a temporary lull in aggressive conduct.
 
In assessing the police officer’s actions we must look at what they knew going in.   Toxicology tests do not indicate that the man was high on drugs, but that is irrelevant.  The police going in did not have access to toxicology tests.  They had to put him down first before any of that was going to happen.  If his actions were e.g. due to cocaine psychosis, even if he was ultimately taken down physically he could still do a lot of damage.  I know of such a case where it took 8 officers to take a guy down and even then he managed to break the arm of one and the jaw of another.   In the airport event there were only 4 officers present.
 
You also often do not know the level of training of a suspect.  If he has e.g. military training and is pumped up on drugs or adrenaline he may be able to really hurt someone even if outnumbered. 
 
As in all other areas of life, it is much easier to judge others that are in situations that one has never experienced.   I worked for nine years as a security guard, five years at Vancouver General Hospital.   There was one day when a person acting crazed like the guy at the airport put three experienced guards on compo.  He threw them around like toys even though he was a little guy.  Now that doesn’t usually happen, but you don’t know what you’re getting until it is all done and somebody is on the floor.   If you are in a profession where you have to go hands on regularly, you are going to get hurt if you take too many gambles.
 
Anybody who is trained in the use of force is going to know of horror stories.  Sometimes people just get hit wrong or they fall wrong.  There was an infamous case in Vancouver where a bouncer got in a scuffle outside a bar and put a guy down with one punch.  The guy that went down became a veggie.  All it takes is one punch the wrong way, and a life or a career can be over.  I cannot blame officers for wanting to minimize that risk- which, considering that we would be paying for them if they are disabled, is a risk to society as well.
 
Further, the point of a taser is to avoid doing permanent damage to someone.  If you go hands on without a taser, there is a higher probability that you will have to hurt the suspect to get him under control.   Tasering is not the only pain-compliance technique either.  There are a number of others, the purpose of which is to get a person to give up without having to disable the person in the process.
 
There are going to be situations where use of a taser is not indicated.  Whether this airport situation is one such situation I hope will be decided by a more sober enquiry that considers all of the evidence, rather than mass hysteria.   We cannot fault the investigators for not releasing all of the other evidence including the other video footage as to try to have all of the issues resolved in the media prior to releasing findings of an investigation would set a bad precedent. 
 
I also do not accept the taser maker’s assertion that they are perfectly safe.   I think that they are making a mistake in making such a representation, because it violates common sense.  It makes the taser makers sound like they are making the same kind of excuses as cigarette makers or those who used to distribute asbestos- there is no "proof" that the product is harmful, so it is safe.   Persons that are hopped up on drugs or with certain medical conditions are more likely to die after being tasered.  Sometimes suspects die during a struggle apart from tasering- they are resisting so much they have a heart attack.   If there is a net reduction in the risks to officers and suspects, I don’t see that there is any reason for taser makers to take the improbable position that hitting somebody with 50,000 volts carries no risk.
 
It is good that we have a society where such videos can be released so as to ensure public accountability but there is a danger here of a rush to judgment with partial information in the event as what I see happening in the press right now.   There is a further risk with this case being used by silly people for a call to the end of the use of tasers.   Deciding all cases on the basis of one case will rarely result in sound policy.

black humor

To the tune of "Dock of the Bay".  Right wingers may want to get a centerist or socialist to explain satire to them.
 

Sittin’ in the mornin’ sun
I’ll be sittin’ when the evenin’ come
Watching the planes fly in
And then I watch ’em fly away again, yeah

I’m sittin’ in Guantanamo Bay
Watching the tide roll away
Ooo, I’m just sittin’ in Gauntanamo Bay
Wastin’ time

I left my home in Georgia
Men in black took me away
Don’t know what I’m here for
And look like no one knows I’ve come this way

So I’m just gonna sit in Guantanamo Bay
Watching the tide roll away
Ooo, I’m sittin’ in Guantanamo Bay
Wastin’ time

Look like nothing’s gonna change
Everything still remains the same
I don’t know what you want me to tell you
So I guess I’ll just remain, yes

Sittin’ here resting my bones
Interrogators won’t leave me alone
It’s two thousand miles I roamed
Just to make this prison my home

Now, I’m just gonna sit at Guantanamo Bay
Watching the tide roll away
Oooo-wee, sittin’ in Guantanamo Bay
Wastin’ time