Lazy Friday Links

Some worthwhile links for today...

Mike Hatch: A wrongful 'need to know'. Minnesota's attorney general takes on the Information Awareness Office.

Katherine Kersten of Minneapolis's own Cato-clone, the Center of the American Experiment wrote an opinion piece for the Star Tribune on Thursday bashing the liberal bias of American universities. But today's Letters to the Editor took her down a notch. Kate Mudge of Minneapolis writes, "Not only does Kersten cite notoriously liberal schools to prove her 'point' (Brown, University of California at Santa Barbara) that all liberal academics are out to promote their 'liberal orthodoxy,' but she herself makes a ridiculous claim that it is the conservative worldview that is most concerned about freedom of religion, speech and civic virtue." No kidding!

My favorite economist/pundit, Paul Krugman wrote an excellent article Victors and Spoils about the real story behind Bush's plan to cut 850,000 federal jobs.

In the face of budget deficits as far as the eye can see, the administration...must make a show of cutting spending. Yet what can it cut? The great bulk of public spending is either for essential services like defense and the justice system, or for middle-class entitlements like Social Security and Medicare...Privatizing federal jobs is a perfect answer to this dilemma. It's not a real answer -- the pay of those threatened employees is only about 2 percent of the federal budget, so efficiency gains from privatization ... will make almost no dent in overall spending. For a few years, however, talk of privatization will give the impression that the administration is doing something about the deficit.

Also, I'm glad I'm not the only one concerned about Bush being openly compared to Andrew Jackson, one of the most corrupt and ignorant presidents of the 19th century.

Sheldon Drobny, Salon: What would Moses drive?. Jews used their economic power to punish German and Japanese car companies after World War II (and Ford, too, because Henry Ford was a racist fuck). Drobny suggests it's time to do the same for gas-guzzling SUVs. "I'm sure there are plenty of Jews who send money to Israel, and then turn around and send money to its enemies, every time they fill up their SUVs with gas....I hope other Jews will join me. It's nice to have no guilt about subsidizing Islamic fundamentalists, or ruining the environment, either." That's a great idea. And it's good to see boycotts as a serious part of capitalism, too. Labor unions and consumer boycotts help keep corporate power in check.

TeleRead has some great stuff about poor kids who grow up in book-rich households. Here's a hint: they're more likely to succeed.

Tom Tomorrow has a weblog: This Modern World. I've checked it out before, but I think I might start reading it. I can't find an RSS feed for it, unfortunately.

The Singularity

When I read about the Singularity (the idea that technology is advancing exponentially and will continue to do so until it reaches a point where it instataneously surpasses our ability to understand it), I can't help but think of the parallels with religion. There is a huge leap of faith to believe that progress is always positive and always increasing. There's a further leap of faith to believe that AI or brain replication will enable humans to make the jump into the enhanced, sped-up conciousness that the Singularity demands to maintain its progress. The evidence that this is possible just isn't there. It makes great, entertaining fiction (some of my favorite SF books, including Ken MacLeod's Fall Revolution series, deal with the Singularity; and of course the concept was invented by SF author Vernor Vinge). But I don't believe it for a minute.

Slashdot recently had a story about some people who want to build an interstellar lifeboat for humanity to preserve some vestige of humanity from the Singularity.

A comment by Artifice_Eternity just nails it: The "Singularity" = the Rapture for atheists. "I like Vinge's fiction, but the Singularity thing strikes me as an apocalyptic/transcendent/eschatological scenario for people who can't stomach the Book of Revelation."

AP News: Appeals court upholds Louisiana's 197-year-old law against oral and anal sex. Morons.

Kevin Burton: Emacs Needs Floating Windows (Advanced Tooltips for IntelliSense Support). Preach it, brother! This is the only feature of IDEs that I miss in Emacs.