Coming out against discrimination

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Interesting interview with a man who used to work for one of the largest anti-gay lobbies in the US who recently “saw the light” that what they were doing was wrong:

Former AFA columnist Joe Murray speaks out against homophobia and hypocrisy

Good quote:

“How could preachers preach such vehement messages towards gays when it was clear that the Bible was unclear at best, and silent at worse, on the issue? Why recklessly condemn a group of individuals? Why fixate on them when your congregation is knee deep in divorce (Jesus had some pretty clear words on that issue)? And as for gluttony, how could preachers lecture gays on restraint when churches host pot luck dinner after pot luck dinner and not be deemed hypocritical?

It was this hypocrisy that caused me to open my eyes. Those on the Christian right, for whatever reasons, have become fixated on homosexuality. They are obsessed by it and perverse form of vengeance appears to be fueling their inquisition. I may be wrong, but I think actions are speaking much louder than words here.

The whole gay issue is no longer about the quest for the Truth; it is about fear and loathing. It is about shame and sorrow. It is anything but Christian.”

It’s nice to see when people learn to see things differently. Especially when their actions have been so harmful to a vulnerable group of people.

Further, it’s obvious the anti-gay movement is strongly rooted in a desire to get their congregations fired up about something. Scapegoating gays for their problems is a lot easier than solving the real underlying problems like rampant divorce and the disintegration of the family.

85% Animal, 15% Human

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While people in the US still bicker over stem cells, abortion, and human cloning, researchers at the University of Nevada have bred sheep that are made up of 15% human cells.

By injecting human cells into a growing fetus, the animal’s body can be used to grow specific organs and tissues on demand. The hope is that animals could be bred with organs genetically identical to a human patient awaiting a transplant, reducing the risk of rejection.

At present, two-thirds of organ transplant patients will die before a compatible organ is donated by the traditional means, motorcycle accidents. Doctors on the front line agree that some alternative is urgently needed, and few see anything unethical in growing tissue in a laboratory. Some scientists point out the danger of animal viruses adapting to human tissue and spreading invisibly to the new human host, but such fears will not be realized until organ farming begins to occur on a much larger scale.

I will not debate the ethics of farming animal organs for human patients, because the inevitability of it is of greater concern. Whether it’s here in North America or overseas, the need to clone human tissue will overcome any moral criticism. It is the enormous profit that will eventually be generated from organ farming that will ultimately undermine the ethical practices of the well-meaning scientists in the field today. The cute and cuddly sheep nobly donating their organs to dying human patients will give way to massive farms of blind, caged chimeras more nightmarish than the beakless genetically modified monstrosities raised for KFC.

When your time comes, when you learn you have cancer, you won’t care anymore about the ethics or the risks. You won’t ask where the organ came from. You’ll thank God for your new lease on life, and never think twice about that sheep that was 15% you.

We’re friends, but get your hands in the air

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A new tactic by the US military: These U.S. Raids In Iraq Look Real, But They Aren’t

They stage raids of “friendly” businesses to be able to check that money they give is being spent appropriately. If they went in normally it would make the business a target of the insurgents.

Quote:

But given the hostility toward the U.S., officials aren’t advertising their role. “The only way things will work is if the U.S. contribution is totally invisible,” says Maj. Christina Nagy, a civil-affairs officer from the 82nd Airborne Division. “I have people with higher ranks than me always wanting to have a ribbon cutting. I just listen and think, ‘Sure, if you want the companies to get immediately shot or blown up.’”

I think the tactic is a good idea, under the circumstances. But, it’s very sad it’s at this point. I really think the US military is doing things as well as could be expected now, but the constant policy screw-ups in the first 3 years of this war are making the job 1000 times more difficult now. It’s important to note that the difficulties are of their own making.

How can the military be expected to help rebuild this country, which would be the best way to shink the insurgency, when they’re so hated they can’t be seen to be helping? I’m generally not a fan of the idea to completely pull out of Iraq; The US created this mess and they need to fix it. But I’m seeing fewer possibilities of any ways to succeed. It’s obvious to everyone, except perhaps the White House inner circle, that this will never be won militarily.

I think the only real option, which would never happen, is for the leader of the US to make significant efforts to convince Iraqi citizens (not the insurgents) of their desire to help them. No one in Iraq believes that anymore. Until they believe that, and therefore are not willing to fight against them in mass numbers, there can be no success. The US can’t just go kill all the people willing to work/fight against them because that act directly brings more people into the group.

Manipulating the stock market

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Check out this video of an interview with Jim Cramer:

How to manipulate stock prices

Choice quote:

“What’s important when you’re in that hedge fund mode is to not do anything remotely truthful, because the truth is so against your view, that it’s important to create a new truth to develop a fiction.”

He blatantly discusses how hedge fund managers will make up news about companies in order to move the market to make their positions profitable. ie: if they are short shares of company X, they will call all kinds of people and tell them made-up negative news about X, to move the stock price down so they can cover their short and be profitable.

What I don’t get is how some teenager got thrown in jail a few years ago for going on message boards and making up news to move a stock, but these hedge fund managers can call real news organizations, plant completely false stories to move the market, and that’s all OK.

He makes it sound as if all hedge funds do this. I’d never been completely clear why the government wanted to regulate hedge funds. Is this why?

Dividing our friends and uniting our enemies

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The title of this post is a quote from a great interview on the Daily Show recently with Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was Jimmy Carters national security advisor.
The video is here: Zbigniew Brzezinski on the Daily Show

Here are some choice quotes:

Talking about the responsibilities that go with being the lone superpower:

The country was very pleased, satisfied with itself but self-indulgent. Not prepared to make the kind of sacrifies that leadership entails particularly at this stage of history, where we have to be aware of the fact that if we want to lead we have to make some sacrifies. We have to make some efforts to adjust to the inequalities that exist in the world and that requires us to be a superpower with some sense of humility and social responsibility.

About Bush’s foreign policy:

The notion that he is somehow or other leading the forces of good against the empire of evil. The notion that somehow or other in that setting the fact that we are morally superior justifies us comitting immoral acts. And that, I think, is a very dangerous posture for the country that is the #1 global power. But which to lead effectively has to have the support, trust and confidence of other nations. The fact is he squandered our credibility, our legitimacy and even respect for our power, and that’s a very serious indictment.

Jon brought up a point from the book about how he believes technology has made it much easier to kill a million people than govern them for the first time in history. That a small number of people can cause so much damage:

… and because of that, operating on the international scene has to be based, to an unprecedented degree, on effective consensus, on drawing others to work with us. … The real problem is that we have had a policy lately that has been dividing our friends and uniting our enemies, and it should be the other way around.

Learning from History

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I spent part of the weekend watching the History Channel.  What I learned was surprisingly relevant to today’s world.

I started with a documentary about 300 Spartans vs the 10,000 Persians, the story behind the new movie 300. The traditional telling of that story contains several historical inaccuracies. not the least of which being that there were at least 1000 of them in total, 300 Spartans and 700 volunteers from other city-states like Athens who rarely get credit for their heroism and self-sacrifice.

Next came other documentaries about the Greek and Roman eras, including one about Caligula. You probably know the story. He was the son of a well-respected Roman emperor, raised in seclusion during an time of political division, and although he was tremendously popular when he was crowned, his disrespect for democracy (like appointing his horse to the Senate), failed military campaigns and delusions of grandeur (declaring himself a living god on par with Zeus) quickly turned the people against him, ultimately leading to assassination by his own guards.

The parallel to the underqualified, overconfident, self-important leaders of today is obvious. Fortunately, there are safeguards like term limits and alternatives like impeachment so we don’t get to the point of actual assassination. But the historical lesson is there: bad leadership weakened the empire itself. The Roman Empire was so stricken by internal conflict and civil unrest that its enemies saw weakness and began pushing back. The people of Europe, northern Africa and the mideast who had been subjugated by the Romans took back their lands over centuries of bloody conflict that ultimately decimated the great empire. The enlightened, educated, artistic, and democratic culture of the Romans was crushed, and it took centuries for another such civilization to arise in its place.

We often think of democracy as the pinnacle of political evolution. We must also think of it as a fragile system, at risk as much from mismanagement within as from barbarian hordes outside.

Stock quote and analysis app for BlackBerry

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I recently got a BlackBerry. I am also involved with Market Filters which does technical analysis of the stock market.

Naturally the first idea that popped to mind was to combine the two. So, I wrote a device application that does stock quotes, index quotes and market scanning. It uses webservices provided by Market Filters for the data. There are currently 2 scans available: oversold and overbought, but more will be added (tons more exist in Market Filters, I’ll just need to add refs to them in the app).

Doing this as a device app rather than a WML website has a lot of advantages. For me the biggest was the use of lightweight data transfers, ensuring your monthly bandwidth isn’t eaten up. But, it also gives a lot more flexibility. Eventually this could be extended to optionally keep polling scans or stocks to be alerted when you need to buy or sell, etc.

Here’s a link to the application: MarketFilters Mobile Analysis – stock quotes and scans

Conscientious Objections

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Macleans is carrying an except from a new book by a soldier who felt it necessary to desert the US Army after his experiences in Iraq made him question why they were there and who the real terrorists were. Here’s an excerpt from the excerpt:

“It struck me then that we, the American soldiers, were the terrorists. We were terrorizing Iraqis. Intimidating them. Beating them. Destroying their homes. Probably raping them. The ones we didn’t kill had all the reasons in the world to become terrorists themselves. Given what we were doing to them, who could blame them for wanting to kill us, and all Americans?” — The Deserter’s Tale

This soldier recounts arresting every Iraqi male over five feet tall and sending them to detention centers from which, to his knowledge, none ever returned. His squad was given the job of raiding random Iraqi homes in search of weapons, contraband and terrorist cells. No weapons were found during the hundreds of midnight raids he took part in, yet the violence of the raids increased with the growing frustration and paranoia of the troops.

I suppose that’s hardly surprising. We’ve heard quotes from guards at Abu Ghraib that ended with the same moral: “If they didn’t hate America before they came to Abu Ghraib, they do now.” Hardly the behaviour of liberators. How can you win ‘hearts and minds’ when you’re kicking them in the teeth?

Simplified CSS Tabs with Javascript

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Recently I was building a webpage with tabs and stumbled across a good, simple, example using CSS: Simplified CSS Tabs.

I used this on my page, and all was good. The example above wasn’t a working example though, I had to add the Javascript to actually make it work. I might as well make that available for anyone who’s interested: Simplified CSS Tabs with Javascript. Straightforward JS but still useful.

Tested in IE6+ and FF1.5+. It’s all straightforward CSS and JS so should have no significant issues in other browsers.

Should Gore run?

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Al Gore, Rock Star

I’m torn on whether I think Gore should run again. I think he would have a very good chance to win. First of all, he’s proven he could get 50% of the vote, when his public image was pretty weak.

He would likely win the primaries very easily. A lot of people who might pick Hillary simply because they think she’s most “electable” would flock to Gore.

In the general election I think he’d have a very good shot considering his experience and his new energized public image.

But, on the other hand, the point he seems to be making is that he could do less for the environment as President. I kind of buy that because he’d have to worry about a lot of other stuff, including the disaster known as Iraq. Either way, it’s still interesting to watch all the speculation.

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