flwyd: (bad decision dinosaur)
In case you haven't been paying attention to the news this weekend, Democratic Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and a bunch of spectators were shot at a street corner political gathering in Tucson. The police arrested suspect Jared Lee Loughner, who left behind a bunch of semi-coherent YouTube videos. Thanks to Boing Boing for posting transcripts of Jared Loughner's videos.

I find it interesting to try to follow the killer's train of thought–he doesn't share the same reality that most of us do. It looks clear that Loughner recently took a philosophy or logic class and loves the Aristotelean-style propositional logic. The classic example is
  • All men are mortal.
  • Socrates is a man.
  • Therefore, Socrates is mortal.
Loughner prefers the conditional phrasing:
If B.C.E. year are unable to start then A.D.E. years are unable to begin.
B.C.E. years are unable to start.
Thus, A.D.E. years are unable to begin.
However, he's not very good at choosing true premises: If you're receiving a grade from Pima Community College class then the grade you're receiving is unconstitutional because of the United States Bill of Rights.
You're receiving a grade from Pima Community College class.
Therefore, the grade you're receiving is unconstitutional because of the United States Bill of Rights. The grading you purchase from Pima Community College is unconstitutional at tuition. His grasp of time is also questionable:
If 987,123,478,961,876,341,234,671,234,098,601,978,618 is the year in B.C.E. then the previous year of 987,123,478,961,876,341,234,671,234,098,601,978,618 B.C.E. is 987,123,478,961,876,341,234,671,234,098,601,978,619 B.C.E.
987,123,478,961,876,341,234,671,234,098,601,978,618 is the year in B.C.E.
Therefore, the previous year of 987,123,478,961,876,341,234,671,234,098,601,978,618 B.C.E is 987,123,478,961,876,341,234,671,234,098,601,978,619 B.C.E.


Some points of reference to understand where Loughner is coming from:
Section 10 of the United States Constitution either refers to Article 1, Section 10 (No state shall… make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts), implying college tuition is fraud because it's not backed by gold, or Amendment 10 of the Bill of Rights (The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people), implying college tuition is invalid because federally-funded education is not part of the Constitution. Both the gold standard and the idea that the federal government isn't authorized to do anything that's not in the constitution have been popular rallying points for Tea Party activists.

B.C.E. stands for Before Common Era, a more politically correct version of Before Christ. Common Era is the politically correct version of Anno Domini (year of our Lord), but Loughner apparently thought you just add "E" to the older abbreviation. (I always assumed that BCE implied existence of year zero, but unfortunately Wikipedia claims that's not true.)

An ad hominem argument is one that attacks a person rather than the ideas he professes. For example, if someone disputed Plato's political philosophy on the grounds that he was gay, that would be an ad hominem attack. Loughner wrote
If I define terrorist then a terrorist is a person who employs terror or terrorism, especially as a political weapon.
I define terrorist.
Thus, a terrorist is a person who employs terror or terrorism, especially as a political weapon.
If you call me a terrorist then the argument to call me a terrorist is Ad hominem.
You call me a terrorist.
Thus, the argument to call me a terrorist is Ad hominem.
"Terrorist" is a word that has been used in indiscriminate and ad hominem ways in the last decade. But if Loughner's armed attack yesterday was meant to be a political weapon of terror, then he is a terrorist. However, I'm not sure his YouTube corpus is coherent or direct enough to know what his motives were. Maybe he was just pissed at his Congresswoman for personal (not political) reasons and wanted to kill her without causing terror in the hearts of members of Congress. But with a former Vice Presidential candidate posting an image with gun sight crosshairs over Gifford's district, it's easy to see why people would jump to a political conclusion. Apparently, Palin is trying to unsay that on the Internet.

Yes We Did

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008 12:14 am
flwyd: (transparent ribbon for government accoun)
I did a very insignificant amount today to help the election of the most impressive political figure of my generation. It seems that almost everyone in Lakewood voted early this year, but the Obama campaign–through an incredible volunteer organization–left nothing to chance and pushed to the end. President-elect Obama is able to inspire a wide range of people to make significant personal donations -- of money, of vacation time, of weekend time, of spare time, of sleep, and of sanity to play a small role in doing what they feel is right for America. If he can spread this energy beyond his campaign into society as a whole, he may leave an immensely important mark on the character of a nation for generations to come.

I'm sure I'll disagree with many positions he takes, but I know that he will take those positions after careful consideration with input from people who know what they're talking about. And that's really the core of good leadership.

I was also heartened by John McCain's concession speech tonight. It was almost as if he was eager to flee the fear mongering and red baiting he's engendered over the last two months. Perhaps he wanted to do away with the last eight years and get back to the John McCain who ran for president in 2000: a true bipartisan concerned with honorable action for the good of the country. I hope he helps establish broad support for fundamental changes President Obama wants to bring through.

When Bush leaves Washington, I hope he takes with him not only cowboy diplomacy and faith-based science but also the practice of railroading policy through congress, legislating from the Oval Office (signing statements), and executive secrecy. If Obama is to excite me as much in four years as he does right now, he'll need to graciously divest the Presidency of the powers claimed by his predecessor. He'll need to bring about important reforms and new programs not just with the help of 300 of his Democratic pals but by convincing the American people that the plans are strong so that they can convince their elected representatives to get on board. This is how a great orator can become a great governor.

To everyone who became engaged in politics this year for the first time ever (or the first time in a long time), stay involved. Politics is one part exciting, three parts boring. But by and large, it's the boring stuff that has an impact in our lives. Several local races in my area were decided by a margin smaller than the number of people who didn't vote for that section of the ballot.

Democracy is government of the people by the people who show up.

Today, this month, and this year, Barack Obama's supporters showed up. In the few days I've spent with the campaign organizers, I can see them fight to keep the chaos in check, straining to make it to the finish line without collapsing from exhaustion. They deserve a chance to rest and a chance to celebrate. But democracy isn't just about one person on one day. It's our civic duty (some might call it a curse) to stay informed and voice our opinions. I challenge everyone to be more informed each year about the candidates and issues on the ballot. Democracy is government of the people by the people who show up and it's based on the hope that everyone will show up and know what they're talking about.

Good night, and good luck.
flwyd: (fun characters)
It may be that I resonate better with ancient Chinese philosophy more than ancient Indian philosophy because the key untranslated concepts in the former are mostly mono- or bi-syllabic while in the latter the syllables flow freely and every god has several names. I'm able to build a better associative hashing function for Chinese concepts.

Pun Dump

Thursday, April 26th, 2007 01:17 am
flwyd: (Shakespeare bust oval)
I have too many volumes that are overdue. I need to go to the Library and ask a Librarian to check my balance.

If you write digits and symbols in acetone on your finger nails you're using reverse polish notation.

For the lispers in the crowd: Oops, upside the car!

I want to start a rock band called Sisyphus and the Rock.
<Sisyphus> Are you ready to rock?
<Crowd> Not yet!
<Sisyphus> Are you ready to rock?
<Crowd> Almost!
<Sisyphus> Are you ready to rock?
<Crowd> Not anymore!
flwyd: (big animated moon cycle)
From an off-topic email on the Dragonfest discussion group.

See... the Wiccan Rede isn't actually a guide for living your life. It says "If you don't hurt anything, do whatever you want." There are two main problems with this rule.

(a) It doesn't give you any suggestions. Eating Cheetoes on the couch watching reruns of Leave it to Beaver is following the Wiccan Rede to the letter.

(b) It doesn't give any guidance on how to behave when harm is involved. There's nothing in the Rede about joining the Army. There's nothing in the Rede that prohibits punching your best friend. The Rede doesn't even address the Trolley Problem. And really, what's the point of an ethic that can't be used on an out-of-control trolley?

Now I'm the sort of eclectic frood who uses philosophy to provide moral and ethical direction and religion to provide experiential and metaphorical direction, so a loosey-goosey religion like Neo-Paganism is just the thing for me. But for people who are looking for direction in their lives, the Wiccan Rede provides little more than a Magic 8 Ball.
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