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User Journal

Journal Journal: Sexual abuse by teachers 2

A number of years ago, the Catholic clergy abuse scandal hit the press and things have never been the same. The Catholic Church (in America, primarily) was hit with lawsuit after lawsuit alleging abuse of minors. In most cases, these lawsuits were justified. The victims were never really believed when they made their initial allegations, or the perpetrators were shuffled from one job to another, never really receiving their just punishment.

However, the Catholic Church was unjustly painted with the "pedophile" label, with many critics heaping criticism upon the principles of celibacy. The argument went that, without another release for underlying sexual tension, priests turned to abuse of children. A small number of voices pointed out that the percentage of priests exhibiting this aberrant behavior was pretty much in line with other professionals, teachers, policemen, etc. That the percentage of priests in relation to the entire priesthood was pretty much the same as the percentage of sexual criminals in relation to the population as a whole. By and large, these voices were not heard or ignored when they were.

Well, it's been interesting recently to read about sexual abuse by teachers making the headlines. It's just as heinous as sexual abuse by members of the priesthood. Accused teachers shuffled from school district to school district, never really receiving the punishment they deserve.

From the article:

Lawmakers say they are concerned about an increasingly well-documented phenomenon: While the vast majority of America's teachers are committed professionals, there also is a persistent problem with sexual misconduct in U.S. schools. When abuse happens, administrators too often fail to let others know about it, and too many legal loopholes let offenders stay in the classroom.

Sounds very familiar to me.

I only hope that the people who levied such criticism upon members of the Catholic priesthood do so in equal measure to those others who we place in a position of trust, our teachers. However, I'm cynical enough to believe that this won't be the case.

In closing, I pray that the media attention paid to these types of scandals shines a spotlight upon this predatory abuse by any member or sector of society, religious or secular. I pray that all perpetrators are brought to justice and that the victims find some measure of relief and closure.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Pope Benedict XVI's speech 4

Having heard about the debate about Pope Benedict XVI's recent speech in which he talks about the relationship between violence and religion, I decided to go find the text of the speech and decide for myself what's going on. You can find the Vatican english translation here.

My take on it is that the Pope was attempting to show how, throughout history, religion has been shown to be incompatible with violence. Specifcally, he was attempting to show that reason is incompatible to both religion and violence and that only by choosing reason can religion be understood and accepted. Thus, violence is counter to relgion. He happened to use a rather bad example in the quote from Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus that disparages Mohammed. The Pope certainly didn't say that he agreed with the quote. In fact, in reference to this quote, he uses words like "leaves us astounded" and "a startling brusqueness."

In any case, I give you the link so you can decide for yourself.

User Journal

Journal Journal: WMD in Iraq

This journal is just a placeholder for me so I don't lose the information.


According to Richard Miniter's book, Disinformation, there has been found:
    Found: 1.77 metric tons of enriched uranium

    Found: 1,500 gallons of chemical weapons

    Found: Roadside bomb loaded with sarin gas

    Found: 1,000 radioactive materials--ideal for radioactive dirty bombs

    Found: 17 chemical warheads--some containing cyclosarin, a nerve agent five times more powerful than sarin.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Social discourse on Slashdot 6

It's discussions like this, full of a boatload of misconceptions about the role of religion, charity, and politics, that make me want to just go to ars full time.

I'm a professional, successful scientist, working at a world-class scientific laboratory, doing my best to make an impact on basic energy, climate, and materials science. I'm also a conservative Catholic Christian, exactly the type of person that most of the people in this discussion are railing against. If you followed all of the bile, you'd think that being a scientist and being a Christian were completely incompatible. I have never believed so. In fact, I consider them inextricable.

And it would seem that my colleagues find the positions compatible as well. I don't have the statistics here, but I believe that something like 75% of scientists believe in God.

Yes, I know I should get involved with the conversation, try to pull /. away from the teetering liberal bastion it is, but discussions like this just make me tired. It takes a lot of energy to keep it up.

Edit: I decided to toss my hat into the fray.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Apple's Keynote Software

Okay, I'm trying to like this software. I have to give a presentation tomorrow (or maybe Friday) about the state of visualization where I work. All I want to do is make a slide with two columns of bulletted text.

It's not possible! You can't have more than one "text area" in a slide. You can put other text thingies on the slide, but they won't get bulletted formatting. You have to put in the bullets and tabs yourself. And forget about pagination and wrapping.

So I tried to use a table. Tables are very cool in Keynote. However, you can't have bullletted text. The control in the inspector that would let you choose bullets or numbering is just a blank gray box. Simply not possible. You're back to the same state that you are with text "thingies".

So then I tried to create what I wanted in Powerpoint and then bring it into Keynote. You casn do it, you can, as long as you don't want to edit the text once you bring it into Keynote. All of the wrapping and pagination has been done manually with tabs and spaces!

Something about this software feels not quite finished.

I'm trying to like this program. I really am...

User Journal

Journal Journal: Tennessee 3

Well, here we go! I've recently accepted a position at Oak Ridge National Laboratory as Visualization Task Leader and will be moving to eastern Tennessee on Saturday. This is going to be a big move for us, as I've been in California for 11 years now and my wife's been here for 9 years. On all fronts (professional, personal, etc.) this is a good move for us, but it's scary nonetheless.

Wish me luck!

User Journal

Journal Journal: On Human Life 6

Ramesh Ponnuru has a well-reasoned article talking about the criticisms of President Bush's embryonic stem cell stance. In the article, he talks about the question of when to determine, in an embryo's/fetus' life, to say that they are human and deserving of a right to life.

An exerpt from the entire article:

We know that the embryo is alive, not dead or inanimate. We know that it is not just alive the way that one of our skin cells is alive: It is a distinct organism, not a part of some other organism. It has the capacity, under the right circumstances (circumstances that are in an important sense "normal"), to direct its own development from the embryonic to the fetal to the infant stages of development and beyond. And we know that this organism is human and does not belong to some other species.

We do not generally believe that the right of members of the human species to live--that is, not to be killed--depends on their size, age, location, condition of dependence, or number of limbs. Any claim that the embryo does not have a right to be protected from killing has to involve a denial of the idea that "mere" membership in the human species is enough to confer that right. That right will instead have to be posited to depend on some accidental quality that some human organisms have and others do not. Perhaps that quality is sentience or rich relationships with others or an ability to perform high-order mental functions or something else.

But whatever that something is, making the right to life depend on it creates serious problems. First, it is not just embryos who will be denied protection. Newborns can't perform high-order mental functions either, which is why philosophers who are consistent about denying the importance of membership in the human species, such as Peter Singer, approve of infanticide. Second, these qualities vary continuously. It is impossible to identify a non-arbitrary point at which an entity would have enough of the quality in question not to be killed. Third, for the same reason, it is impossible to explain why some people do not have more or fewer basic rights than other people depending on how much of this quality they possess. The foundation of human equality is denied in principle when we allow some members of the human species to be treated as mere things.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Duty 2

This is an impressive story. It's about a serviceman who has been pushing hard to go back to Iraq after a debilitating injury. It's a very interesting look into the drives and motivations of a particular serviceman.

There are some of you who will probably find his actions foolhardy. There are some of you will will find his actions noble. And some who will probably think they're a little of both.

As a father of two small children, I can understand some portion of his dilemma.

Christmas Cheer

Journal Journal: Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! Yes, I know it's a bit late, but I've been enjoying being on vacation with my family. We had a wonderful Christmas celebration.

I wanted to share this little tidbit I found. In a letter to the London Times, Mr. Moran from Dubai, UAE, writes about the celebration of Christmas in his country:

As many as 80,000 Brits (as well as a huge number of others from non-Islamic nations) live in the United Arab Emirates, where the country's indigenous people live by Sharia (Islamic law). Yet shopping centres are decorated with Christmas finery, stores pipe Christmas tunes to every corner, malls are full of children of all nationalities excitedly queueing to see Santa, and advertisements are fully geared to everything Christmas-related . . . a bit like it used to be in the UK before political correctness crept in.

Hotels hold tree-lighting ceremonies and carol services by swimming pools, and holidaymakers stand amazed when Santa rides into town on a camel, handing out gifts.

I have heard of no local being offended by any of these supposed insults and no one complains of being singled out for persecution.

Bah humbug to the ignorant council killjoys who obviously have no understanding of what it really means to have a faith; we in the UAE are having a very happy Christmas, thank you.

Food for thought...

Merry Christmas, everyone!

User Journal

Journal Journal: Electoral Vote 4

For those of you who don't read pudge's journal, I recommend that you check out his latest entry. He has a fascinating link that I'd like you to know about.

In a nutshell, there is a site called the Electoral Vote Predictor which takes statewide polls and aggregates them into an overall assessment of where Bush and Kerry both sit in terms of the overall electoral vote.

The guy is an out-and-out Bush hater, but it doesn't appear to bias his analysis, which is fairly mathematical.

Some of the goodies on the page that make it interesting are an excellent summary map, an RSS feed, his raw data in excel format, and a graph of his electoral vote prediction history since late May, annotated with some important U.S. events.

Enjoy! (And give pudge a visit - one of the best reads on /.)

User Journal

Journal Journal: More Moore 3

From an editorial:

June 30, 2004

Michael Moore's "Un-Fair-enheit"

Richard Mullenax

The movie ''Fahrenheit 9/11'' starts off with a flashback at the presidential election in November, 2000. Al Gore and company were celebrating their victory in Florida, the state where Gore thought he had won. Moore narrates as if it were just a dream. He accuses the alleged evil empire, Fox News, of making CNN and MSNBC fold under its pressure to announce Bush as the winner and Florida Governor Jeb Bush for rigging the votes in Florida while allegedly ignoring Black votes. Despite the argument of the Black voters and certain congressmen, not one Democratic or Republican senator supported the accusation. Michael Moore attempts to get sympathies from his audience rather than provide the facts.

The film goes on to accuse the president of many different things. One of the allegations is that the GOP is currently scaring Americans with the terrorist alerts. It seems hypocritical since Moore blamed Bush for not doing enough before 9/11 and now blames him for scaring people from living their daily lives. I also find it ironic that in late 2002, Moore had a debate with Christopher Hitchens at the Telluride Film Festival about Osama bin Laden's role in the 9/11 attacks. Moore said that Osama Bin Laden should be considered innocent until proven guilty. That indicates that we should not have gone into Afghanistan until we had the facts. Yet for whatever ''unknown'' reason, Moore now believes that bin Laden is indeed guilty. I can understand that Michael Moore made a mistake and had changed his feelings about someone like bin Laden, but how could he go after Bush in the same way? He blamed Bush for waiting three months to retaliate against the Taliban regime.

Michael Moore does a better job of mocking his opponents than he does of showing any facts about them. He sarcastically lists the small countries in the ''coalition of the willing,'' but mysteriously leaves out England, Spain, and Australia.

One of the most ridiculous remarks in ''Fahrenheit 9/11'' was when Michael Moore made Iraq sound like a peaceful place before the coalition's invasion. As suspected, Moore is confused about what freedom is if he can't tell the difference between democracy and dictatorship. He made Iraq to be a place where life was happy and then suddenly, he showed the imperial United States bombing the innocent country of Iraq. Moore also said that Saddam was no threat to America at all. For the sake of all the readers, including Michael Moore's ilk, let's list exactly how sovereign and terror-free Iraq really was.

  1. Saddam's regime was the only one in the region that openly celebrated the attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. and described them as just the beginning of a larger revenge.
  2. Baghdad was for years the official, undisguised home address of Abu Nidal, then the most-wanted gangster in the world, who had been sentenced to death even by the PLO and had blown up airports in Vienna and Rome.
  3. Dec. 1, 2003, the New York Times reported--and the David Kay report had established--that Saddam had been secretly negotiating with the ''Dear Leader'' Kim Jong-il in a series of secret meetings in Syria, as late as the spring of 2003, to buy a North Korean missile system, and missile-production system, right off the shelf.
  4. Human rights groups state that hundreds of thousands of civilians were killed under Saddam Hussein's regime
  5. Hussein sponsored terrorism in Israel and sheltered a key figure in the first World Trade Center attack in 1993.

The movie took an interesting turn when Moore interviewed former White House counter-terrorism czar Richard Clarke. During the interview, Moore points to President Bush's rumored relationship with Saudi officials as the motivating factor in the president allegedly allowing relatives of terror mastermind Osama bin Laden to fly out of the country following the Sept.11, 2001 terror attacks. Richard Clarke has been one of the many critics of President George W. Bush, and Clark's testimony during the 9/11 Commission was that the FBI approved the flights for the bin Ladens and Saudis. However, Clark would contradict himself in a big way. Clarke bashes the FBI for releasing the bin Laden and Saudis after 9/11 even though Clarke admits he was responsible for letting them go and is not sorry for his decision.

According to ''The Hill'' newspaper:

The decision to approve the flights, Clarke admitted last week, had been his own. The request "didn't get any higher than me," he told The Hill.

"On 9-11, 9-12 and 9-13, many things didn't get any higher than me. I decided it in consultation with the FBI," Clarke said of the plane flight carrying bin Laden's relatives.

"I take responsibility for it. I don't think it was a mistake, and I'd do it again," he added. The Saudis and bin Laden's relatives were flown from the U.S. out of fear for their safety following the terror attacks.

In some of the most laughable scenes, Bush is on a golf course, making a stern statement to a question on Palestinian terrorism and after his statement he tells reporters to watch his drive. Moore tries to bury Bush at this point in the film by making him look insensitive, but it's actually called calm statesmanship. A lot of the presidents played golf such as John F. Kennedy, Dwight Eisenhower, and Bill Clinton. But it gets even funnier when Michael Moore stupidly asked members of Congress to sign their children up for the military. Besides the fact that parents cannot send their children off into the military like that, Moore fails to say that Congressional Representative Mark Kennedy has a nephew in the military and was willing to help Moore pass out recruitment brochures because he believed the War in Iraq was a noble cause.

Since we are on the topic of war, Moore goes back to his roots in Flint, Michigan, as he depicts poor African-Americans being persuaded to join the military by two men in uniform. It's funny that for over a century-and-a-half African-Americans insisted on their rights to join the U.S. Army and when they are being recruited, it's considered wrong despite the opportunities that would be granted to them. Before this scene, Moore made a point that few soldiers were in Afghanistan and Iraq and now he is criticizing recruitment.

In other various scenes, Moore tries to put religion on his side by using a poor Christian mother who lost her child in Iraq. You truly can't help but to feel sorry for the woman, but when did Christianity ever play into Michael Moore's views? Would a person for the war be non-Christian? How about when Moore was stopped by the Secret Service outside the Saudi Arabian embassy? He acts like a victim, but could you blame these men? After all, Michael Moore is okay with terrorist support from the Middle East terrorist organization Hezbollah.

The only thing consistent about Michael Moore's film is that it is inconsistent. Not only does he not provide another side, he pretends that there isn't even another side. Despite if ''Fahrenheit 9/11'' portrays truth or propaganda, one thing is for certain: he made millions of dollars. It toped the box office with over 21 million dollars for its opening week and Michael Moore is laughing all the way to the bank. Moore got what he wanted and to him, that's all that matters.

Journal Journal: 2 accepted, 1 pending 1

Well, I guess I must be doing better. I've had two articles accepted here in the last month or so, "North America's Fastest Linux Cluster Constructed" and "JPEG Patent Could Impact The Gimp". And I have one poll that's been "pending" for something like 10 days now.

Maybe I'm writing better. Maybe whoever had the "daddy pants" at the time likes me. Maybe I'm full of shit and it's all just the luck of the draw.

Whatever -- it feels pretty good to have an article accepted after almost 10 rejections.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Good things we're doing in Iraq 7

Reasonable people will disagree about why we went into Iraq. Was it justified? Should we have garned more support before we went?

This journal entry suspends that debate for just a bit to praise some of the work that we're doing there, no matter how we got there.

Here's a (multiply) forwarded email I received recently:

This is a letter from Ray Reynolds, a medic in the Iowa Army National Guard, serving in Iraq:

As I head off to Baghdad for the final weeks of my stay in Iraq, I wanted to say thanks to all of you who did not believe the media. They have done a very poor job of covering everything that has happened. I am sorry that I have not been able to visit all of you during my two week leave back home. And just so you can rest at night knowing something is happening in Iraq that is noteworthy, I thought I would pass this on to you. This is the list of things that has happened in Iraq recently: (Please share it with your friends and compare it to the version that your paper is producing.)

  • Over 400,000 kids have up-to-date immunizations.
  • School attendance is up 80% from levels before the war.
  • Over 1,500 schools have been renovated and rid of the weapons stored there so education can occur.
  • The port of Uhm Qasar was renovated so grain can be off-loaded from ships faster.
  • The country had its first 2 billion barrel export of oil in August.
  • Over 4.5 million people have clean drinking water for the first time ever in Iraq.
  • The country now receives 2 times the electrical power it did before the war.
  • 100% of the hospitals are open and fully staffed, compared to 35% before the war.
  • Elections are taking place in every major city, and city councils are in place.
  • Sewer and water lines are installed in every major city.
  • Over 60,000 police are patrolling the streets.
  • Over 100,000 Iraqi civil defense police are securing the country.
  • Over 80,000 Iraqi soldiers are patrolling the streets side by side with US soldiers.
  • Over 400,000 people have telephones for the first time ever.
  • Students are taught field sanitation and hand washing techniques to prevent the spread of germs.
  • An interim constitution has been signed.
  • Girls are allowed to attend school.
  • Textbooks that don't mention Saddam are in the schools for the first time in 30 years.

Don't believe for one second that these people do not want us there. I have met many, many people from Iraq that want us there, and in a bad way They say they will never see the freedoms we talk about but they hope their children will. We are doing a good job in Iraq and I challenge anyone, anywhere to dispute me on these facts. So If you happen to run into John Kerry, be sure to give him my email address and send him to Denison, Iowa. This soldier will set him straight. If you are like me and very disgusted with how this period of rebuilding has been portrayed, email this to a friend and let them know there are good things happening.

Ray Reynolds, SFC
Iowa Army National Guard
234th Signal Battalion

The Gimp

Journal Journal: JPEG Patent Could Impact the Gimp 1

I'm posting this story here so people can read it once it gets rejected from the main /. story submission queue. I give it 10 minutes to be rejected. Probably too many links. Update: Well, it's been 25 minutes. It is the weekend, after all. Update II: Accepted!!! I stand corrected, and amazed.

A number of years ago, Forgent acquired a patent on some of the algorithms required for JPEG compression and decompression, and recently sued 31 big-name IHVs and ISVs. A Newsforge article gets into some of the details and asks whether open source tools like the Gimp could be liable as well. To add fuel to the fire, the Joint Photographic Experts Group's committee thinks that some of the patent may be invalid. The story mentions that the FTC has some skepticism as well. We originally talked about this on slashdot back in the summer of 2002.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Severe TCP Vulnerability 5

In case this doesn't get picked up as a normal /. story, I wanted people to see it here.

Internet Technology Vulnerable to Hackers

Unfortunately, it's very light on technical details. Anyone have any links to more detailed specifications about what's wrong with TCP, and what can happen if a machine succumbs to an exploit?

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"In matters of principle, stand like a rock; in matters of taste, swim with the current." -- Thomas Jefferson