Archive for March 20th, 2011

About the rampant spying in the U.S.

| March 20, 2011 | 4 Replies
About the rampant spying in the U.S.

From Electronic Frontier Foundation:

EFF has obtained whistleblower evidence [PDF] from former AT&T technician Mark Klein showing that AT&T is cooperating with the illegal surveillance. The undisputed documents show that AT&T installed a fiberoptic splitter at its facility at 611 Folsom Street in San Francisco that makes copies of all emails, web browsing, and other Internet traffic to and from AT&T customers, and provides those copies to the NSA. This copying includes both domestic and international Internet activities of AT&T customers. As one expert observed, “this isn’t a wiretap, it’s a country-tap.”

What is EFF?

From the Internet to the iPod, technologies are transforming our society and empowering us as speakers, citizens, creators, and consumers. When our freedoms in the networked world come under attack, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is the first line of defense. EFF broke new ground when it was founded in 1990 — well before the Internet was on most people’s radar — and continues to confront cutting-edge issues defending free speech, privacy, innovation, and consumer rights today. From the beginning, EFF has championed the public interest in every critical battle affecting digital rights. Blending the expertise of lawyers, policy analysts, activists, and technologists, EFF achieves significant victories on behalf of consumers and the general public. EFF fights for freedom primarily in the courts, bringing and defending lawsuits even when that means taking on the US government or large corporations.

EFF offers this FAQ regarding its suit against AT&T.

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Never use a polysyllabic word…

| March 20, 2011 | 2 Replies
Never use a polysyllabic word…

…when a diminutive synonym will suffice.

The Onion nails it here:
Microsoft Word Now Includes Squiggly Blue Line To Alert Writer When Word Is Too Advanced For Mainstream Audience

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Daniel Dennett discusses closeted atheist preachers

| March 20, 2011 | Reply
Daniel Dennett discusses closeted atheist preachers

Philosopher Daniel Dennett discusses closeted atheist preachers in this excellent one-hour video in which he undertakes a “reverse engineering of religion.”

At about the 20-minute mark Dennett focuses on the works of Bart Ehrman and Jack Good (The Dishonest Church). Dennett points out that Good is outraged by the conspiracy by preachers to keep accurate information from the laity, who “can’t handle” the information. Per Dennett, seminarians work hard to devise clever ways to avoid divulging the full truth about the Bible. (minute 24).

How did it come to this? Dennett addresses this at minute 25. Dennett quotes Donald Hebb: “If it’s not worth doing, then it’s not worth doing well.” He focuses the question to this: Who needs theologians? His answer: Those preachers who want to avoid being candid with their parishioners. “Theologians are religions’ spinmeisters.”

At minute 29, Dennett recites the “Canons of Good Spin.” Two examples: “It has to relieve skepticism without arousing curiosity” and “It should seem profound.” These principles can be summed up with Dennett’s neologism “deepities.” (minute 31). These are statements that seem to be true only because they are ill-formed, and they have two readings. One is true but trivial, and the other is false but would be earth-shaking if true. Examples are given up through the remainder of the video, including a Karen Armstrong assertion at minute 43.

Theologians are like magicians, and the concept of “deepities” allows one to see the card up the magician’s sleeve. More on Karen Armstrong’s evasions at minute 45, including attacks on theologians who, cornered, suggest that existence is not an important attribute of “God.” Dennett racks it all up to a belief-in-God-meme. These evasions of theologians are reasons without reasoners. They are the result of unreasoning processes. The “cunning” is in the institutions themselves. These sorts of pseudo-explanations result from “a conspiracy without a mastermind.”

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The strangeness of humans

| March 20, 2011 | Reply
The strangeness of humans

The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, answered:

Man…. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.

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