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Journal Journal: Trump - a warning from the present 2

I don't believe for a second Trump believes a word he's saying.

What I am concerned about is that Trump could, very realistically, be elected because of the views he's espousing. That says something terrible about too many people at the moment, and also makes possible the frightening scenario whereby someone who believes what Trump is currently saying could be elected too.

In the mean time, Trump is also validating the opinions of many extremists.

Comment Re:This is the only answer that matters (Score 1) 371

I think there might be a segment of the market that would buy a Steam OS machine but would either be too intimidated by technology to buy a separate copy of Windows 10 to install or too cheap to spend the extra $120. There are probably also at least some people who want a free software operating system but will tolerate Steam, but I doubt there are many.

Comment Re:This is why ISIS wins (Score 2) 496

Now you won't even support some petty little dictators like Putin/Assad to defeat a religious movement that threatens the entire modern world?

It's a bunch of pathetic terrorists not a threat to the entire modern world. FFS people, stop crapping your pants every time some nut shoots or blows up something. When that happens, terrorists might not win anything, but we definitely lose.

Nobody religious extremist is going to kill you tomorrow. Go live your life. (But change your pants, please.)

Comment Re:Really? Then what are the HDDs for? (Score 1) 371

Yeah, you pay a lot for convenience. And for example on the PS3 you have to subscribe to Sony's "Playstation Plus" service to get game software updates to run on a schedule. If you're not a subscriber - and I am not - then it informs you of a required update the next time you launch the game and you have to wait. That's a real pain, but I'm not willing to pay Sony $60 per year to solve a headache they created to get $60.

But again, my kids want multiplayer so it looks like the next purchase is going to fatten the pockets of some player. Dammit.

Comment Re:This is the only answer that matters (Score 1) 371

I understand your point with respect to the Nvidia drivers. I use AMD GPUs on Linux, even though the performance is horrendous, because the open source radeon drivers are better than the open source nouveau drivers. But I can do that because I don't do seriously graphics intensive gaming or CUDA or anything similar. If I did, I would not accept the performance hit that my free software drivers involved.

In terms of gaming, I want the free software options to be the ones everyone plays. But I'm not looking at this for me - I don't game enough to care. I'm looking at this for the average console user. For them, I think Steam OS is somewhat attractive and the selection from Humble Bundle and is not. A free software option they ignore and a proprietary but not DRM-encumbered option they ignore are both trumped by DRM on a free software operating system that they might actually use.

Comment Re: Really? (Score 1) 371

I think the rough handling and dirty environment can wreck the disks themselves. But the console is fine. I don't know anything with respect to PS2 longevity and brown outs and power spikes.

Now that I think about it, I think I got my Playstation 2 in 2003, over three years after the console launched. Maybe the first few production runs had lower quality.

Comment Re:They aren't really still blaming DPRK, are they (Score 1) 50

Looking at context, I think literally was more appropriate than figuratively. "Figuratively" would have been wrong, he really wasn't able to do anything with his computer. "Literally" is OK but is completely unnecessary and, as a result, because it's generally only used in situations where there may be a doubt, is inappropriate. It's like saying "Look at this awesome phone I just bought and did not steal" unironically.

Submission + - GlassRAT Targets Chinese Nationals, Lurked for 3 Years Undetected (

chicksdaddy writes: RSA researchers issued a report today ( about a remote access trojan (or RAT) program dubbed “GlassRAT” that they are linking to sophisticated and targeted attacks on “Chinese nationals associated with large multinational corporations," The Security Ledger reports. (

Discovered by RSA in February of this year, GlassRAT was first created in 2012 and “appears to have operated, stealthily, for nearly 3 years in some environments,” in part with the help of a legitimate certificate from a prominent Chinese software publisher and signed by Symantec and Verisign, RSA reports.

The software is described as a “simple but capable RAT” that packs reverse shell features that allow attackers to remotely control infected computers as well as transfer files and list active processes. The dropper program associated with the file poses as the Adobe Flash player, and was named “Flash.exe” when it was first detected.

RSA discovered it on the PC of a Chinese national working for a large, U.S. multi-national corporation. RSA had been investigating suspicious network traffic on the enterprise network. RSA says telemetry data and anecdotal reports suggest that GlassRAT may principally be targeting Chinese nationals or other Chinese speakers, in China and elsewhere, since at least early 2013.

RSA said it has discovered links between GlassRAT and earlier malware families including Mirage, Magicfire and PlugX. Those applications have been linked to targeted campaigns against the Philippine military and the Mongolian government. (

Submission + - A Secretive Air Cargo Operation Is Running in Ohio, and Signs Point to Amazon (

citadrianne writes: In 2013, at the height of the holiday season, a surge of last minute Amazon orders and bad weather left many customers without gifts under the tree on Christmas day.

Amazon said the problem was not due to issues with its warehouses or staff, but failures on the part of UPS and other shipping partners. It apologized and reimbursed some customers with $20 gift cards, but the debacle underscored for Amazon the disadvantages of relying on third party shippers for its delivery process.

Since then, Amazon has been increasingly investing in its own alternatives, from contracting additional couriers to rolling out its own trucks in some cities.

The latest rumored venture into Amazon shipping has a name: Aerosmith.

An air cargo operation by that name launched in September of this year in Wilmington, Ohio on a trial basis. The operation is being run by the Ohio-based aviation holding company Air Transport Services Group, or ATSG, out of a state-of-the art facility. It's shipping consumer goods for a mysterious client that many believe to be Amazon.

Comment Re: Islam's relationship to modern science (Score 1) 326

I find a lot of people who are agnostic or atheist have actually made science their religion. Most aren't even practicing scientists, and instead of looking to the scientific method to teach them new ideas, they have "faith" in theories despite science not yet having proven or disproven them. They use science as their religion not to further science, but to attack religion. Your comments are pretty close to putting you in this bucket.

Excuse number #912 -- "atheism is a religion too". Or better yet #912.A -- "science is a religion". Please. If you know anything at all about science, its purpose, and how it works, you know that it is not a religion. It is a way of figuring out what it is best to believe about the real world in a systematic and improvable way. Note well the two essential components -- "about the real world", and "in a systematic and improvable way". It addresses the real world, not a fantasy world, and the standard for truth is thus this objective world itself, not what people have said about it or believe about it or wrote about it in an ancient book long before we had anything vaguely approaching a science. But the second part is just as important. If I make a claim about some systematic organization supposed to hold in th real world, it is possible to accumulate evidence that supports the claim, refutes the claim, or is neutral towards the claim. Over time, more evidence and better methods of looking generally result in claims that we believe very, very strongly to be either true or very close to true, claims that we believe not to be true, and claims that cannot be decided by the evidence at hand. In all cases the standard of truth is correspondence of the assertion with reality itself, not with argumentation about reality, although the reasoning process is Bayesian and hence one isn't building up evidence-supported beliefs in isolation.

"Science" is not a religion, it is the set of interlocking assertions that have the strongest, mutually supporting evidentiary support. It is literally what it is best to believe about the real world according to an actual standard. It does not assert perfect truth, it asserts probable truth, provisional probable truth at that. If you want to actually learn something about the reasoning process involved, I would recommend E. T. Jaynes' "Probability Theory, the Logic of Science". You might also want to peruse Richard Cox's monograph "The Algebra of Probable Inference". The difference between a religious text and these two works is so profound, so obvious, so glaring, that perhaps you will reconsider your rash statement that science is a religion. These books establish, via a minimal set of axioms, a direct connection between evidence and networks of probable beliefs -- they provided mathematical support and a proof of sorts that it is better to believe things given evidence than to believe any random notion that is asserted by anyone, anywhere, for whatever reason that is not supported by evidence, that contradicts beliefs that are supported by strong evidence, or that is contradicted by the evidence itself directly.

I would offer examples -- but is there really any point? There are a near infinity of possible religions. There are quite a few actual religions, religions that contradict one another on numerous points, and the number swells to a really large number if one allows (as one should) all of the religions ever believed by any vagrant tribe throughout history, and all of the named variations on religions loosely shared between tribes.

For starters, probability theory would dictate that even if one knew that precisely one of these variants was precisely true, it is rather improbable that your particular beliefs out of this set of possibilities is correct. It isn't even probable that your beliefs come from a major family that could be correct. The odds are against any given religion being correct before you examine evidence. Without evidence (and a general agreement as to what might constitute evidence) the best one can do is make all of these possibilities equally likely, that is to say, nearly infinitely unlikely.

Then one can systematically examine the scriptures and claims of each and every religion. All of the major religions tend to claim in their scriptures that they are perfectly true, inerrant, and the Word of God made manifest to be disbelieved in a single tittle at peril of whatever memetically evolved punishment suited its human creators at the time. If you've studied Godel's theorem, you should realize that this is a clear signature that this particular claim is false. If you want to identify a liar, look for the man who claims "I never lie". Nevertheless, it doesn't take five minutes of reading scriptures associated with the world religions making claims about God and the world to find numerous statements that are open absurdities, claims that are directly contradicted by everything we have painstakingly learned to believe on the basis of sound reasoning and experimental evidence. In other words, even if you allow the condition of contradicted by beliefs supported by strong evidence to apply to religions themselves, the contradictions between the religions reduce the believability in the entire set.

Is this in fact not only the case, but obviously so? Of course it is. Any believer in a major scripture-based world religion (excluding diffuse deism disconnected from any dogma or scripture as a world religion) believes in their religion and its scriptural claims as "evidence", but has no difficulty whatsoever in rejecting the claims of all of the other religions as absurd. If you are a Christian, you are not a Muslim. You aren't a Muslim because you think that Muhammed was (fill in the blank) mistaken, lying, misled when he claimed, as he does throughout the Quran, to be taking dictation from God/Allah. If you thought this was true, you would be a Muslim instead of a Christian. As for why we would doubt it even though it is written down, there are lots of things that are written down that aren't true. Documents making claims for absurd miracles, bad science, and openly questionable ethical assertions are things that we automatically reject as probably untrue -- unless we have been raised to think that they are true beyond any question or exposure to critical thinking.

You asked what is absurd about the Book of Mormon. Do you want a list? Claims of imported old world plants and animals utterly absent from the new world? Steel swords in the new world? Compasses used for navigation before compasses were invented? The wrong geography for the old world? The constant assertions that white folk are good and pure and dark folk are not? The idea that Joseph Smith dug up gold plates covered with strange writings in the fields of upstate New York, and managed to decipher them with divine help? The terrible quality of the writing? There is an entire musical (to which I have tickets) poking fun at the Book of Mormon, which is nothing compared to the South Park episode which openly, and quite rightly, mocks it. Or you can go here: http://www.skepticsannotatedbi... and click on the lists of "problems" all neatly excised and commented on. Good luck with the hermeneutics (the entire discipline devoted to trying to pretend that problems in scriptural writings aren't).

In the end, of course, it ultimately comes down to evidence. An atheist doesn't necessarily believe that there is no God. They simply see no reliable and reasonable evidence that God exists. Lacking this, there is no good reason to reject the null hypothesis that there is no God, any more than we need to reject the null hypothesis that pink unicorns are not real animals prevalent in my back yard. I'm happy to believe in pink unicorns. Just show me one. Well, really you need to show me more than one, plus enough supporting evidence that I can be convinced that I'm not looking at a dyed horse that has undergone a painful surgical procedure.

What exactly, constitutes reliable, inarguable evidence in favor of the existence of God? What constitutes even weak evidence in favor of the existence of God? Our feelings? Question begging "logical" proofs? Scriptural writings that are mistaken on almost every single point that they can be checked on, that make absurd claims every few pages, things that if they were claimed today we would dismiss without wasting a minute on them?

So, my friend, while I am, as it happens, a professional scientist -- a theoretical physicist, in fact -- who majored in physics and philosophy as an undergraduate and whose favorite philosophy professor was a student of Bertrand Russell, and who writes about boring stuff like ontology and semantics and semiotics just for the fun of it, I deny any claim that science is a religion. The scientific worldview is the collection of mutually (reasonably) consistent, evidence supported beliefs about the real world. One can give a good reason for believing every single thing one believes in this worldview. If you doubt any of its assertions, there is an open and above board methodology for resolving the conflict, one that will, in general, convince any reasonable person in possession of the same evidence and supporting network of beliefs.

How, exactly, can that be compared to the primary reason -- seriously -- that anybody on Earth believes in their religion: Their parents believed in it and raised them to believe in them and (often) punished them if they questioned it and rewarded them if they accepted it, if only in subtle ways? If you don't believe that the acceleration of gravity is roughly 10 meters/second^2, we have an easy way to resolve the question if you are at all reasonable. If I happen to think that the Holy Trinity makes less sense than heretical Arianism, how exactly are you going to resolve the question? That's the difference between the two. Scientific truth is derived from observations of the real world and can be validated over and over again by anyone that doubts it. Nobody can answer the Trinity vs Unity question on the basis of evidence, because there is no real world evidence worthy of the name for either one.


Submission + - Fake Bomb Detector, Blamed for Hundreds of Deaths, Is Still in Use writes: Murtaza Hussain writes at The Intercept that although it remains in use at sensitive security areas throughout the world, the ADE 651 is a complete fraud and the ADE-651’s manufacturer sold it with the full knowledge that it was useless at detecting explosives. There are no batteries in the unit and it consists of a swivelling aerial mounted to a hinge on a hand-grip. The device contains nothing but the type of anti-theft tag used to prevent stealing in high street stores and critics have likened it to a glorified dowsing rod.

The story of how the ADE 651 came into use involves the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. At the height of the conflict, as the new Iraqi government battled a wave of deadly car bombings, it purchased more than 7,000 ADE 651 units worth tens of millions of dollars in a desperate effort to stop the attacks. Not only did the units not help, the device actually heightened the bloodshed by creating “a false sense of security” that contributed to the deaths of hundreds of Iraqi civilians. A BBC investigation led to a subsequent export ban on the devices.

The device is once again back in the news as it was reportedly used for security screening at hotels in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh where a Russian airliner that took off from that city’s airport was recently destroyed in a likely bombing attack by the militant Islamic State group. Speaking to The Independent about the hotel screening, the U.K. Foreign Office stated it would “continue to raise concerns” over the use of the ADE 651. James McCormick, the man responsible for the manufacture and sale of the ADE 651, received a 10-year prison sentence for his part in manufacture of the devices, sold to Iraq for $40,000 each. An employee of McCormick who later became a whistleblower said that after becoming concerned and questioning McCormick about the device, McCormick told him the ADE 651 “does exactly what it’s designed to. It makes money.”

Long computations which yield zero are probably all for naught.