Programming today is a race between software engineers striving to build better and bigger idiot-proof programs, and the Universe trying to produce bigger and better idiots. So far, the Universe is winning.
Via Brian Leiter comes this frightening thing. It seems the Bush administration now wants to pre-approve any government scientists who attend conferences and events sponsored by the World Health Organization. That is, political approval. This isn't the first instance of blatant political interference in scientific processes.
This is sadly reminiscent of the old Soviet system. People who are familiar with the history of science will bring up a man named Lysenko. Lysenko was a very bad scientist, but a very good politician. He managed to dominate Soviet scientific thought (well, where it related to biology and agriculture) from 1948 to 1965. Some scientists who disagreed with Lysenko even disappeared. I strongly suggest that you read the Lysenko link at The Sceptic's Dictionary.
Update:Here is another (current) example of political interference with science.
We all dodged a bullet today, whether we know it or not. In ruling partially against the government, the Supreme Court has stated that the president's powers in times of "war" are not absolute. Although the government can detain US citizens without charges or trial, the detainees have the right to contest this through the courts. The government wanted an absolute power to detain with no oversight from the courts.
In the ruling on the Hamdi case, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said that the court:
"made clear that a state of war is not a blank check for the president when it comes to the rights of the nation's citizens."
We've taken a half-step back from the abyss where inconvenient citizens can "disappear" as they do in so many places in the world.
Update:Via Brian Leiter, some comments by Justice Stevens in the Padilla case:
'At stake in this case is nothing less than the essence of a free society. Even more important than the method of selecting the people's rulers and their successors is the character of the constraints imposed on the Executive by the rule of law. Unconstrained Executive detention for the purpose of investigating and preventing subversive activity is the hallmark of the Star Chamber. Access to counsel for the purpose of protecting the citizen from official mistakes and mistreatment is the hallmark of due process.
'Executive detention of subversive citizens, like detention of enemy soldiers to keep them off the battlefield, may sometimes be justified to prevent persons from launching or becoming missiles of destruction. It may not, however, be justified by the naked interest in using unlawful procedures to extract information. Incommunicado detention for months on end is such a procedure. Whether the information so procured is more or less reliable than that acquired by more extreme forms of torture is of no consequence. For if this Nation is to remain true to the ideals symbolized by its flag, it must not wield the tools of tyrants even to resist an assault by the forces of tyranny.'
Update #2:This is an interesting break-down of the Justice's positions. Note that in one of the cases (Padilla), they ruled on a technicality, so the author of the chart projected some positions based on positions on other cases.
2 eggs, beaten
¼c red bell pepper, chopped
¼c red onion, chopped
¼c reduced-fat feta cheese
3-4 Kalamata olives, chopped
Chop the peppers, onions and olives. Spray an 8" omelet pan with canola (or olive) oil spray. Heat over medium heat. Sauté onions and peppers until soft. Add beaten eggs and cook until bottom is firm and top is still wet. Add olives and cheese on ½ and fold the remaining half over. Cook until firm.
I was going through some song-books and ran into an old favorite of mine. The Yew Tree was written by Brian McNeill and recorded by The Battlefield Band. The song is written to a yew tree, believed to be 1000 years old, on the east coast of Scotland, not very far from the English border. The premise of the song is that the tree has seen many things, and could tell us much about the past and perhaps the future.
The second verse may be my favorite. It talks about the bloody battle of Flodden Field and contains one of the most poignant statements in poetry that I've ever read.
Did you look through the haze o' the long summer days
To the south and the far English border?
All the bonnets o' steel on Flodden's far field.
Did they march by your side in good order?
Did you ask them the price of their glory
When you heard the great battle begin?
For the dust o' their bones would rise up frae the stones
To bring tears to the eyes of the wind.
It's those last two lines that get me, every time.
The tag lines of the following two verses are almost as evocative.
When the poor hunt the poor across mountain and moor
The rich man can keep them in chains.
For the price o' their souls was a gospel so cold,
It would freeze up the joy in their hearts.
The Battlefield Band's motto is "Forward Into Scotland's Past." They combine the best of Scottish traditional music (yes, bagpipes included) with very current songwriting. The Yew Tree is on Anthem for the Common Man and I highly recommend it, and anything else the boys have done.
On Sunday I was given the first copy of a new CD, Incandescence produced by Michael J. Lewis. I promised that I'd get a review up by Monday at the latest, and here it is Wednesday. The problem, you see, is that this is not an easy CD to review. As I struggle through it, you'll understand why. It's certainly not hard to listen to, just hard to describe.
Dealing with the loss of a pet is never easy. It's harder by far when you have young children. In my upset, I'm not certain that I handled it with them in the best possible manner, but things seem to be ok now.