Fun and Water Games

 Posted by on 31 May 2002 at 9:28 pm  Uncategorized
May 312002

John Caldera of the Independence Institute has a funny commentary on droughts and water rights in the Boulder paper. The opening paragraph is priceless.

Grading on a Curve

 Posted by on 31 May 2002 at 4:07 pm  Uncategorized
May 312002

Eugene has the only decent defense of grading on a curve that I’ve ever read. In fact, it’s pretty convincing. (I particularly appreciated the point about the variations in the professors as generally much greater than the variations between classes.) Go read it!

Of Living Death

 Posted by on 31 May 2002 at 1:06 pm  Uncategorized
May 312002

I have often wondered why we tend to simply lump people affected by an attack into three categories: unharmed, injured, and dead. After all, a scrape on the forehead is hardly the same as the loss of a limn or paralysis, yet both count as injuries. And even when we use the distinction of “minor” versus “serious” injuries, we don’t often hear about the nature of those serious injuries or about their long-term inpact on the person’s life.

But the WND article Survivors face agony in suicide attacks details the damage. Here’s the worst of it:

Reports of people being injured in suicide bombings are not rare. Since September 2000, 498 Israelis have been killed and 4,021 injured in acts of Palestinian violence. In suicide bombings alone, 208 Israelis have died. On Monday, there were several reports on the suicide bomber who killed an 18-month-old baby girl and her grandmother and left 27 people injured. The reports, however, rarely go into the medical details to explain just what is meant by “injured.”

At a Tel Aviv nightclub June 1, a suicide bomber left 15-year-old Alona Shportova with serious brain damage and paralysis. She also had some of her limbs lacerated. In the suicide bombing of Dec. 1, Eran Mizrahi suffered a nail through his skull. He was celebrating his 16th birthday at a restaurant in Jerusalem. His injury left him paralyzed and in a catatonic state.

Messing said one of the victims he saw while in Jerusalem had around 300 individual metallic fragments within his body. The metal fragments, measuring from millimeters to centimeters, were imbedded in the young man literally from head to toe, he said.

“Several of the fragments penetrated into his vital organs. He sustained a punctured colon, a collapsed lung, and a lacerated liver and kidney. I could actually feel the nails under his skin where they had burrowed and lodged,” Messing recalls.

The victim underwent painstaking hours of exploration to try to remove the metal fragments that were accessible.

“He suffered multiple organ injuries, but was saved with successful emergency room care and surgery,” he said. “Other victims suffered amputated limbs, severe burns, fractures, lacerations, paralysis, deafness and blindness.”

Sometimes the fragments will cause more damage if they are taken out, Messing said, so some of the victims live the rest of their agonizing lives with shrapnel still inside of them.

“It is common knowledge here that light injury can be losing a limb; medium is nearly dead or doubtful if he will live or radically altered functionality,” Legomsky says. “Serious almost always means most of these victims wish they were dead physically.”

I am reminded of the title of one of Ayn Rand’s essays from VOR: “Of Living Death.”

Google Zeitgeist

 Posted by on 31 May 2002 at 10:59 am  Uncategorized
May 312002

I’ve been wondering about the popularity of various Google searches for a while. Now I know, thanks to Google Zeitgeist.

So now I just need a way to work all those popular search terms into every single blog entry. The problem is that I don’t know what the hell most of them mean. Sure I know who “chandra levy” is, and “david blaine” sounds familiar. But I’m not sure about “roland garros”, “monica bellucci”, or “roy keane”. And what is “eurovision”? And “gta3″? And “cbse results”? And “e3″? And finally, is “big brother” the TV show or the totalitarian government?

Ah, screw it! It would be impossible to work all those terms into a post!


 Posted by on 31 May 2002 at 9:49 am  Uncategorized
May 312002

Paul and I went to see Spider-man last night. I can definitely understand why the movie has been so popular. Spider-man is the quintessentially American hero, particularly in these post-9/11 days. He’s the geeky good guy, who has to learn how to be a superhero in both the moral and physical sense. He has to learn self-discipline and self-restraint in order to protect those he loves. He is unwilling to sacrifice anyone to evil. He is utterly devoted to fighting crime, without sinking into bitter revenge. Three cheers for Spider-man!

For me, the movie did involve a bit of strange cognitive dissonance. I recently watched The Cider House Rules, in which Tobey Maguire plays an orphan trained as an obstetrician. So in Spider-man that orphan obstetrician became a superhero. How weird! But it will be even stranger for Paul, when he finally gets around to watching The Cider House Rules, for then Spider-man will give up being a superhero to become an obstetrician.

Some Advice For Those With Children

 Posted by on 30 May 2002 at 10:30 pm  Uncategorized
May 302002

If you have a lot of tension and you get a headache, do what it says on the aspirin bottle:

“Take two Aspirin” and “Keep away from children.”

(Thanks to Richard Blane for forwarding.)

Top Political Blogs

 Posted by on 30 May 2002 at 10:00 pm  Uncategorized
May 302002

Hey, I want to know why I’m not on John Hawkins’ list of top political blogs. I bet that I was excluded just because my posting has been spotty for the past month and don’t often talk about politics. How unfair! I suspect liberal bias in this so-called Right Wing News! (Perhaps the name is simply a sugar-coated cover for a bitter pill, like “Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting.”)

The real problem with the list was the lack of tingling anticipation at the holder of the #1 slot. Who else could it be?

Oh, but where was Best of the Web? Or does that not really qualify as a blog?

The Joys and Pains of Moderation

 Posted by on 30 May 2002 at 1:03 pm  Uncategorized
May 302002

Overall, I’ve been having fun administering Nathaniel Branden’s new discussion forum on Yahoo Groups. It’s working much better than the old board, as I can now kick off people who are abusive. (That’s the extent of the moderation.)

But today in particular, people started clamoring for per-message moderation, starting with this message by Ray Bronski. Unfortunately, personal attacks on my motives and competence were part of the package. It was infuriating.

I suspect that this whole issue came up solely due to some rather personal and heated arguments between some of these pro-moderation people and Monica Pignotti regarding Thought Field Therapy. Monica was very forcefully arguing for the effectiveness of the therapy, when some people started attacking her personally. (She defended herself well, so I didn’t jump in, although I probably should have.) These people saw TFT as irrelevant to the discussion of Nathaniel’s work, even though he uses TFT in his practice and specifically invited Monica to the group to talk about TFT. (Some of them, I gather, didn’t know that NB uses TFT.)

So the pro-moderation crowd wanted to discuss something other than TFT, like self-esteem. That’s all well and good. But none of them actually posted anything on such subjects that was of sufficient interest to the group to start a discussion. And so suddenly they were clamoring for moderation, presumably so that TFT posts would be banned. It was silly.

If it was my list, rather than Nathaniel’s, I would have told these people to get lost, but probably not so nicely. Instead I posted two messages (one and two) arguing against per-message moderation. I also argued that people ought to take responsibility for creating discussions on the list of interest to them. Well, that didn’t seem to help. But finally Nathaniel chimed in with four messages, in support of exactly those two points. It seems that the pro-moderation crowd has been quieted. Thank goodness. Nothing like an argument from an authority!

I really wonder sometimes about people who are deeply interested in discussing self-help. Perhaps I came into my adult life too well-adjusted to understand the desire to speak about one’s own personal growth experiences. Perhaps I am too intellectually inclined. Perhaps I value my own privacy too much. Perhaps I’m not empathetic enough. Perhaps I’m too reason-oriented rather than emotion-oriented. Perhaps I’m just thick-skinned when it comes to heated intellectual debate. Perhaps Paul has been secretly brainwashing me against self-help psychology while I’m asleep. Whatever the reason, I just can’t relate.


 Posted by on 30 May 2002 at 11:23 am  Uncategorized
May 302002

A highly critical introduction to Scientology on Operation Clambake says this about the techniques of Scientology:

The results of applying their crackpot psychotherapy (called “auditing”) is to weaken the mind. The mind goes from a rational state to an irrational one as the delusional contents of the subconscious mind are brought to the surface and are assumed to be valid. It also makes a person more susceptible to suggestion since it submerges the critical thinking faculties of the mind into a partial subconscious state. It results in a permanent light hypnotic trance and so from thenceforth that person can be more easily controlled. The person will, to a much greater extent, believe and do whatever they are told. And of course this is used to the full in persuading them to hand over further money and dedicating themselves further to the cult.

The results of applying their oversimplified and inapplicable rules in life is to lose the ability to think rationally and logically. A person loses the ability to think for themselves and so they lose the ability to challenge incorrect ideas. This makes them easier to control. It also isolates and alienates the person from society so that they withdraw from normal society and into their “Scientology” society. This further increases their susceptibility to the influence of their group. They end up being afraid of society, believing all society to be controlled by a group of drug companies, psychiatrists and financiers all of whom report to more remote masters. In other words they are in a state of mass paranoia. They therefore avoid reading newspapers and the like since they fear it will disturb their safe Scientology world. It is a downward spiral into madness.

I wonder about the psychology of brainwashing. What is actually happening to such a person’s mind during the process?

Short of a neurological defect, I suspect that it is impossible for a person to entirely “lose the ability to think rationally and logically.” After all, even the most brainwashed Scientologist must use reason and logic in order to get through the day. Even obeying orders requires us to think. So the tactics of Scientology can’t possibly eliminate all thinking, although perhaps it can eliminate critical thinking about Scientology itself.

As for strongly discouraging critical thinking about Scientology, both internal and external pressures can certainly be effective. If a person believes that the outside world is totally corrupt, that Hubbard will fix these abuses as soon as he learns of them, that thoughts critical of Scientology are a sign of mental illness, and so on, then critical thinking about Scientology becomes extremely difficult. Those are the internal pressures. If voicing any criticism will result in punishment or expulsion or loss of privilege or social ostracism, then critical thinking about Scientology becomes all the more difficult. Those are the external pressures. The combination of these two can be deadly.

These internal and external pressures exist for people in regular life all the time. A wife might not want to think about the meaning of her husband’s infidelity, so she pushes it out of her mind. A parent might refuse to acknowledge child’s drug problem, for fear that her friends will think her a bad mother. A Catholic may fear leaving the church for fear of going to hell. These are all pressures not to think, or at least not to think too much about something.

What makes brainwashing different is, I think, simply the amount of pressure exerted and the effectiveness of that pressure. The goal of the group, in such cases, is the precisely elimination of critical thought about the group. As a result, the pressures exerted are more likely to be strong and effective. When such pressures take hold in a person’s mind, the likelihood that the person will engage in critical thinking may sink to just about zero. Perhaps an accurate description would be that such a person has effectively lost the capacity to think rationally about a given subject.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that the capacity to think has been lost. After, if it was completely gone, it would be hard to explain how people like Monica Pignotti leave Scientology if all capacity for rational thought about Scientology had been compromised.

I admit that bursting through these internal and external pressures not to think may require more mental effort and endurance than most people have at their disposal. But an unwillingness to resist the pressures of Scientology is not the same as an incapacity to do so. Of course, for most, the distinction is likely to be sadly irrelevant.


 Posted by on 29 May 2002 at 8:42 pm  Uncategorized
May 292002

This article seemed like the usual apology for suicide bombings. The author argues:

When a people have been stripped of everything they have, are denied the expression of who they are, humiliated by those occupying their land, homes destroyed, schools closed, children not being allowed to play, put in jail without trials, executed without being tried…life becomes intolerable.

In fact, the notion of simple earthly pleasures becomes out of reach. The Israelis control every facet of Palestinian life. Suicide bombings are a reaction to this oppressive control of life. These people are telling Israelis, “You can starve us, beat us, humiliate us, but you will never control our spirit. We will choose the day of our death, and in the process make you feel a bit of the pain you, our occupiers, inflict on our entire society.”

Palestinians exist in an environment so dire that the prospects of death overshadow their prospects for life. Imagine your mother spat upon by a nineteen-year-old Israeli soldier simply because she was your mother…imagine our neighborhood being bombed by powerful planes and helicopters and we had no way to protect ourselves. Suicide bombings are acts of desperation and mean that a people have been pushed to the brink. There is not one incident that leads to one of these actions. Rather it is a systematic matrix of actions by Israeli occupation that terrorizes an entire population. Palestinians have been pushed so hard that they no longer fear death nor the enemy.

The “rightness or wrongness” of these suicide bombings can be debated by everyone, but failure to understand why these happen will make certain that they will continue. Without understanding the causes that lead to the bombings, one will never eliminate them. This simple truth seems to evade most commentators, pundits, politicians, and of course seems to be missed by most Israelis and those that support them.

Ho hum. But then I read the byline. “Mr. Jaffer Ali is a Palestinian-American businessman who writes on business Ethics, management theory and political topics. This guy is an ethicist?!? Sheesh!

I guess that’s what happens when the government doesn’t license philosophers. ;-)

Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha