aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
The Pentagon apparently sees gays as a threat
From SLDN (Servicemembers Legal Defense Network):
WASHINGTON, DC - According to recent press reports, Pentagon officials have been spying on what they call “suspicious” meetings by civilian groups, including student groups opposed to the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual military personnel. The story, first reported by Lisa Myers and NBC News last week, noted that Pentagon investigators had records pertaining to April protests at the State University of New York at Albany and William Patterson College in New Jersey. A February protest at NYU was also listed, along with the law school’s LGBT advocacy group OUTlaw, which was classified as “possibly violent” by the Pentagon. A UC-Santa Cruz “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” protest, which included a gay kiss-in, was labeled as a “credible threat” of terrorism.
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) condemned the Pentagon surveillance and monitoring. “The Pentagon is supposed to defend the Constitution, not turn it upside down,” said SLDN executive director C. Dixon Osburn. “Students have a first amendment right to protest and Americans have a right to expect that their government will respect our constitutional right to privacy. To suggest that a gay kiss-in is a ‘credible threat’ is absurd, homophobic and irrational. To suggest the Constitution does not apply to groups with views differing with Pentagon policy is chilling.”
In January, the Department of Defense confirmed a report that Air Force officials proposed developing a chemical weapon in 1994 that would turn enemies gay. The proposal, part of a plan from Wright Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, was to develop “chemicals that effect (sic) human behavior so that discipline and morale in enemy units is adversely effected (sic). One distasteful but completely non-lethal example would be strong aphrodisiacs, especially if the chemical also caused homosexual behavior.” SLDN also condemned that report, and the Pentagon later said it never intended to develop the program.
“The Pentagon seems to constantly find new and more offensive ways to demean lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people,” said Osburn. ”First, we were deemed unfit to serve our country, despite winning wars, medals and the praise of fellow service members. Then, our sexual orientation was suggested as a means to destabilize the enemy. Now, our public displays of affection are equated with al Qaeda terrorist activity. It is time for new Pentagon policy consistent with the views of 21st century America.”
Dover is over
HARRISBURG, Pa. [my hometwon]—“Intelligent design” cannot be mentioned in biology classes in a Pennsylvania public school district, a federal judge said Tuesday, ruling in one of the biggest courtroom clashes on evolution since the 1925 Scopes trial.
Dover Area School Board members violated the Constitution when they ordered that its biology curriculum must include the notion that life on Earth was produced by an unidentified intelligent cause, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III said. Several members repeatedly lied to cover their motives even while professing religious beliefs, he said.
The judge’s ruling is here.
Probabilistic accuracy v definitive authority
Chris Anderson has a wonderful post on why people are uncomfortable with Wikipedia, Google and blogs. It’s because these systems “sacrifice perfection at the microscale for optimization at the macroscale.” He says we’re living in a probabilistic age:
The good thing about probabilistic systems is that they benefit from the wisdom of the crowd and as a result can scale nicely both in breadth and depth. But because they do this by sacrificing absolute certainty on the microscale, you need to take any single result with a grain of salt. As Zephoria puts it in this smart post, Wikipedia “should be the first source of information, not the last. It should be a site for information exploration, not the definitive source of facts.”
The same is true for blogs, no single one of which is authoritative. As I put it in this post, “blogs are a Long Tail, and it is always a mistake to generalize about the quality or nature of content in the Long Tail--it is, by definition, variable and diverse.” But collectively they are proving more than an equal to mainstream media. You just need to read more than one of them before making up your own mind.
Likewise for Google, which seems both omniscient and inscrutable. It makes connections that you or I might not, because they emerge naturally from math on a scale we can’t comprehend. Google is arguably the first company to be born with the alien intelligence of the Web’s large-N statistics hard-wired into its DNA. That’s why it’s so successful, and so seemingly unstoppable.