S.Res. 424 – A resolution condemning the mass atrocities committed by the Government of Syria


Hello everyone, long time no talk. I was away for the past few days due to birthday celebrations (hot springs and massage…doesn’t get any better!). But, I’m back, and I’ve taken notice to a new bill going through the US. It’s bill S.Res. 424, which condemns the mass atrocities committed by the government. Link to more information here. First of all, I have to wonder, what would passing this bill actually accomplish? It goes to state all the atrocities committed by Bashar al-Assad, and then states that the US should provide the people of Syria with weapons and other material needs to protect themselves. Ok, I thought they were already getting assistance? “We are going to hold the major players responsible for their actions against the people.” Well, no shit. There’s an idea! Ok, so I’m a little annoyed. In the time it takes for this bill to pass congress it will have put off saving these people. What the world should be doing is going in and arresting Bashar al-Assad. The people can fight for themselves, sure, but it’s been going on for a year already and what progress has been made? What will more weapons do for them, really, when half their population is either injured or dead already? I don’t get it. It’s as though the government is playing a board game. “Oh! Give these guys more weapons and lets see how it plays out.” Come on, if you can’t figure out that al-Assad needs to go, and the most influential military country in the world isn’t going to do anything but hand out weapons to potential bad guys, we have a problem. As the congressmen are sitting there reading over this form there is a war going on, and all they say it “let’s provide more weapons, it’ll be fun to watch.” Oh, come on. They say, in this bill, to ensure that the weapons don’t get into the hands of any Al Qaeda members, or other human rights violators. And how, exactly, are you going to ensure that? Right, you can’t. Once again, the US government has wasted the time of the people and just embarrassed themselves while they play their board game. Maybe it’s time they step up and actually do something useful? Like, I don’t know, actually taking out the human rights violators such as Bashar al-Assad and his followers. I totally support the rights of the Syrian rebels, and I think they should be the ones to take him out, but it’s not worth so many deaths, and if the US is going to support them anyway, why not do something besides sit at a desk and make stupid, empty promises? All your doing by sending them weapons is allowing more of them to go into the field where they will get injured or die. Weapons aren’t going to break down the barrier al-Assad has put up around himself. What will, is having another power go in there and seize him. Not shoot citizens, not demand rights and steal their oil, not engage in open combat, but drop down onto his house and kill the man. No, I don’t think the US should be the ones to do this, but this bill is more of an embarrassment and a waste of time than sitting there doing nothing would be. Kudos congress, you’ve done it again.

Repost from CMV: Gonna Go Back In Time: Wisconsin’s Legalized Sexism


Catherynne Valente has posted a fantastic post. There seems to be lots of those going around in the past few days. So, I’ve reblogged it here. The original can be found on her blog.

It’s ok. You guys can tell me.

We all secretly went back in time, right?

That’s the only way I can get my head around Wisconsin’s repeal of their Equal Pay Act on the argument that “Money is more important to men”, piled on top of the birth control “debate” and Georgia passing legislation based on the idea that women are anatomically and ethically identical to pigs and cows. We fell through a time vortex and it’s 1959 and half of the twentieth century didn’t happen.

That is, of course, what Scott Walker and the rest of the charming gentlemen who are signing these grotesque reversions into law without mandate or recourse want. Hey, if we take away their birth control and don’t pay them for work, everything will go back to the way it was when pwecious Scotty was a kid and women will just stay at home and back cookies for everyone. Yay!No one will be gay anymore and America will drink its milk and be big and strong and we won’t have to worry about recycling and breast cancer (ew breasts!) and unwhite people and that rock n’ roll music the kids listen to. We can law it all away.

Yeah. And fuck you, too. And fuck you to everyone who told me to stop swearing about this on Twitter last night. WE SHOULD ALL BE SWEARING. We should all be laying down so much shit that fucking roses grow on Twitter. WE SHOULD CARE ABOUT THIS AT LEAST AS MUCH AS WE CARED ABOUT SOPA. Funny how I don’t see anyone shutting down portions of the Internet in protest, though. I mean, it’s only women. The headline on Reddit about this is: “Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has signed a bill that prohibits workers from collecting damages in employment discrimination cases.” No outrage, no commentary, just a link. No mention of Walker’s contention that women don’t work as hard, aren’t “go go go” like men, and shouldn’t be paid as much. Women not even mentioned, despite being the clear and stated target of the legislation. Why get upset? Should be fine!

After all, there’s no war on women. The Republicans promise there isn’t. Just because the massive portion of their efforts are bent toward reducing the rights and freedoms of a single group within the American population doesn’t mean it’s a war. Not like the War on Drugs is a war. After all, drugs are bad and need to be controlled or else society will fall apart. Just like the ladies. This is just Good, Small Government. Why, next week, they’ll be repealing the Equal Pay for Caterpillars Act.

The conservatives are at least partly right: birth control and equal pay (somewhat equal, anyway) were the great victories of first and second wave feminism. They are trying everything in their power to take those things away, in the hopes that it’ll activate a Time Turner that will erase the source of those changes as well as the changes themselves. They say we are pigs, they say we don’t need any silly pin money, they say these things and they should be embarrassed, they should be ashamed at what just came out of their mouths, but no one is shaming them. The news treats it like a simple partisan debate. Point for blue, point for red. But no matter what young folks might say, these men know we’re not in a post-sexist or post-racist culture, that they can rely on old, ugly misogyny and the reluctance to stand up for women’s rights that has tinted gender relations in this country for pretty much ever to lube their legislation up nice and slick. When women are outraged, you don’t have to listen, after all. Bitches be crazy.

I know Walker will almost certainly be recalled in November. Doesn’t really matter–he’s fiat’d this into law and there’s an inertia there. I’ve heard rumors that Walker is a top candidate for the GOP VP slot, so don’t get smug in the knowledge that he’s going away. I shouldn’t be surprised, you shouldn’t be surprised–but we should all be terrified. And angry.

I’ve seen a lot of people saying things like “only in the US” and “America is crazy” and “thank god I don’t live there” flitting around, both here and on my gendered online discourse post. (And I want to thank the BSFA for proving my point, that the sexist jackasses, they live everywhere.) And I want to say: knock it off. First of all, no matter how much we like to take credit for things, Americans did not invent sexism. I promise, it could not “only happen in the US.” Many countries, if not all of them, have huge gender problems and many of those are boiling over with regressive assholes in power. And since the UK, Canada, and Australia are all having trouble with conservatives in their government pissing in the punchbowl, I wouldn’t get too excited about your immunity to this kind of crap.

But more importantly–stop thinking you’re special and it can never happen in your country. That is how America got like this in the first place. By thinking we were special, specially liberated and enlightened and awesome and only those other lamer countries had problems. That arrogance allows us to continue to let everything circle the drain, because we’re the best and OBVIOUSLY we’re not really sexist and stuff, it’ll get fixed, don’t worry. Our system can’t have been redesigned to let a few people destroy our economy–we have the best economy! USA! Everything’s fine! GROWTH 4EVAH.

I hate that shit. I know you hate that shit. So stop telling me Americans are so weird and where you live this could never happen. It could. If you’re not vigilant, like we haven’t been, it will.

Doesn’t mean I know what vigilance looks like. I’ve been told not to call myself a feminist my whole life, well before the current skirmishes. I’ve seen vast swathes of young women grow up couching every sentence defending their right to exist in “I’m not a feminist, but…” Because feminists are bad and they hate men and they’re ugly. But I’ve also been told: well, obviously you’re not serious about marriage if you don’t take your husband’s name, if you must be pro-choice make sure you insist that you could never make that choice for yourself, don’t make the first move or boys will think you’re a slut (also you will be a slut), you can have a full time job but don’t think that means you get to slack off on cooking, cleaning, and childrearing, you lazy baby-hungry girl. Men work so hard. They shouldn’t have to worry about the home. After all, you’re just naturally better at cleaning–men just don’t see clutter like you do!

But everything’s fine in America now and all feminism should worry about are the poor ladies living in the Middle East so why are you complaining that you only get 80 cents to the male dollar? YOU GOT 80 CENTS, BITCH, AREN’T YOU HAPPY?

So yeah. I feel fucking miserable and helpless. The fact is that our system is only loosely democratic at this point. We vote nationally on a President and that’s it. We as citizens have no recourse when executive branches decide to get all War on Caterpillars on our asses, and it’s been made abundantly clear that not one fuck is given about organized protest at that level of government.

This is why Wikipedia shut down to protest SOPA. Because that’s all we have, really. Disrupt commerce and consumer culture. But I just can’t see that kind of concentrated action happening in defense of women, no matter how much what happens to us happens to the whole culture. Go ahead: take our birth control and our jobs and call us pigs, tell us to obey the Catholic Church’s most panicked and regressive ideas whether or not we are Catholic. Take our humanity and wipe Congress’s asses with it.

But don’t you dare take away smoothly torrenting Mad Men episodes. How else will we get new ideas for how the country should look?

Canada’s Bill C-30 is Back!


Canada’s warrantless spying bill is coming back, and it’s worse than before

By  at 1:02 pm Wednesday, Apr 4

Michael Geist writes in with news of Canada’s bill C-30, the insane, overreaching warrantless spying bill that collapsed earlier this year on a wave of public disapprobation. As you might have suspected, it’s back. Michael sez, “The Canadian government has placed Bill C-30, the lawful access/online surveillance bill on hold, but there is no reason to believe it is going away. In fact, a recent report Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights suggests that the changes coming to the bill may not address public concern but rather expand lawful access requirements even further. The committee report on the State of Organized Crime that includes recommendations that reinforce Bill C-30’s mandatory warrantless disclosure of subscriber information and envision going beyond the bill by requiring both telecom companies and device manufacturers to assist in the decryption of encrypted communications as well as exploring mandatory verification of the identity of cellphone users. Moreover, Canadians shouldn’t be looking to the telcos for help. A Bell spokesperson stated ‘our primary concern in this area has always been the capacity of industry to implement any new requirements and who bears the cost.’ That is a troubling position for many Canadians who rightly expect their telecom companies to also be concerned with the privacy of their customers.”

Reblogged from http://boingboing.net/2012/04/04/canadas-warrantless-spying-b.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

OMG! I MISSED THE SINGULARITY? by Extropia DaSilva


I had to share this, it’s too good to just link to. So, the link to the original is there, and I highly suggest you check out her blog, but this article is quite well written.

OMG! I MISSED THE SINGULARITY?

by Extropia DaSilva
http://extropiadasilva.wordpress.com/2012/03/13/omg-i-missed-the-singularity/

If you have visited the H+ Magazine website, you are probably familiar with the advertisement showing a comic book rendering of a worried woman asking herself, “OMG…I missed the Singularity?”.

Now, there’s an interesting thought. Would it, in fact, be possible for the Singularity to happen without being noticed?

I think there are many reasons to believe people will miss the occurrence of the Singularity. Reasons such as:

1: The belief that the Singularity= the creation of artificial intelligence.

But that is A pathway to Singularity, not THE path. Vernor Vinge described several other technological developments that could lead to the Singularity:

“The IA Scenario: We enhance human intelligence through human-to-computer interfaces–that is, we achieve intelligence amplification (IA).

The Biomedical Scenario: We directly increase our intelligence by improving the neurological operation of our brains.

The Internet Scenario: Humanity, its networks, computers, and databases become sufficiently effective to be considered a superhuman being.

The Digital Gaia Scenario: The network of embedded microprocessors becomes sufficiently effective to be considered a superhuman being”.

If you think the Singularity is all about making an artificial general intelligence and no machine qualifying as such is on the horizon, you might mistakenly deny it is happening, when actually one or more of those other pathways has enabled a transcendence towards a super-intelligence.

Also, what kind of AI are you focusing on? Let’s face it, when most people think of artificial intelligence, they are imagining some machine acting like a person. Following the triumph of IBM’s Watson, professional sceptic Michael Shermer pointed out that Watson could not feel triumphant about its victory. Watson cannot feel anything, it is just a machine.

Now, in this instance Shermer was probably making a fair point. We should not get too carried away with the kinds of higher-order intentionality this computer possesses. Watson did not know it won in the sense that its human rivals know they lost. It does not have the level of self-awareness necessary for the processing of such higher-order concepts. But, when anticipating the Singularity should we really focus on ‘AI that has humanlike feelings’? What about software designed to forage through gargantuan databases, detecting patterns that humans cannot recognize? So far as I know, Yudkowsky’s SeeD AI has nothing to do with making a robot that can convincingly emote; it is entirely to do with engineering impersonal AI specialized to develop software.

2: The belief that some thing will accelerate us towards superintelligence.

In other words, we look to a specific technology to carry us over the threshold. ‘cyborg implants improve with every generation, until we have chips in our heads making us supergeniuses’.

But the last two scenarios Vinge outlined make it possible for superintelligence to arise out of networks of technologies. Consider that most basic of web-browsing activities, following a hyperlink. To me this action is utterly trivial, but it is giving away useful information, in that every mouseclick, every tap on a touchscreen, informs that ‘this is interesting to someone’. When combined with the hyperlink following of everyone else, you get (in Micheal Chorost’s words) “human declarative knowledge, human choices about that knowledge”. Combine that with search engines and you get “a computer system that collects votes about those choices”. Adding the Internet gives you “a high-speed, far-flung communications network that integrates them all”. Put it all together, and what you get is a planetary-wide system that is beginning to look like a brain. But you only see it that way if you cast your gaze over a sufficiently wide network of networks.

3: The belief that the Singularity will happen by 2045 (or 2030, or…).

In other words, thinking in terms of ‘singularity as event’ as if somebody one day will throw a switch and, behold! The Singularity happens. But maybe we should learn from the transition of mere matter to ‘life’. The modern view is that there was no event we can call the origin of life, because it is decidedly arbitrary to pinpoint the moment when a system of increasing complexity becomes ‘alive’. To paraphrase Rodney Brooks, the origin of life was a period, not an event. It seems reasonable to assume that the transition of a system of increasing complexity into a state of superintelligence will also be a period rather than an event. That this may be so becomes most apparent when you consider these words of Ray Kurzweil (which obviously are also relevant to point 2):

“The kinds of scenarios I’m talking about 20 or 30 years from now are not being developed because there’s one lab that’s sitting there creating a human-level AI in a machine. They’re happening because it’s the inevitable end result of thousands of little steps. Each step is conservative, not radical, and makes perfect sense. Each one is just the next generation in some company’s product.”

By focusing on the prophecised ‘event’ of the singularity we may miss the period of time in which cummulative and convergent technologies evolved into superintelligence. Also, those conservative steps may conspire to take us over the threshold without our noticing it is happening. what Kurzweil said about each step being conservative, not radical and perfectly sensible applies at all times. This is because any new technology can only be brought into existence using method and components that already exist, and invention also results from people taking what is known at the time, plus a modicum of inspiration, and then combining bits and pieces that already exist in order to create that new technology (which then becomes a potential building block for newer inventions). Therefore, the people of 2045 will react to nanosystems or mind uploading or Artilects from the perspective of the enabling technologies and sciences of their day. To them, such things will likely be as ordinary as iPad’s and streaming gaming services are to us.

We may find that when we get to 2045 we live in fast times, but we can see on the horizon upcoming technologies that will make our current capabilities seem quite mundane. So we defer announcing ‘the Singularity is here’ until that REALLY gosh-wow stuff arrives. Then, when it does and we look to the future, once again we see technologies coming that make our current capabilities seem mundane, so once again we think “Oh this is not the Singularity, THAT is!” and so on, adinfinitum.

Whenever you apply any of these beliefs about the singularity (it is AI, it will come from A technology, it will be an event…) you artificially reduce the probability space in which the singularity can arise. The more of those beliefs apply to your way of thinking, the smaller your probability space will be compared to the actual probability space. That increases the chances of the Singularity occurring in ways and places you were not looking for it. It could happen and you would miss it.