Thursday, November 30, 2006

Organic Rainbow Rings

A few weeks ago I encountered "organic rainbow rings" You can call them "Organic Rainbow Rings" but I know Froot Loops when I see them. Mindful Momma has a comment about these, too. According to her google-fu, they actually are a little bit better than Froot Loops. But, she adds "do we really need organic fruit loops?"

truth diagram

truth diagram
Originally uploaded by rob helpychalk.
This is a diagram for today's symbolic logic class (11/30/06). It is actually my best recollection of a diagram drawn in the symbolic logic class I took from Sandy Zabel about ten years ago.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Khaled El-Masri

Here's another story of someone picked up without explanation as a part of the war on terror, tortured, and then released without being charged. Khaled El-Masri is a German citizen who was kidnapped while on vacation in Macedonia and taken to a secret CIA prison in Afghanistan. The ACLU is suing George Tenet and other CIA officials on behalf of El-Masri. The case was thrown out of a lower court on national security grounds. The news today is that the ACLU is arguing the case before an appeals court. I just heard NPR report that the government wants the case thrown out because it "seeks to prove something that is a state secret." This really, really makes me think that the secret here is "We picked up an innocent man and tortured him for no reason."

Johnny Mercer Song about Pythagoras

If I can find a sound file for the Johnny Mercer song about the Pythagorean Theorem in the next five minutes, I'll play it for my symbolic logic class. Otherwise, I'll just show them this lyric sheet.


A diagram for my 12:40 class

question diagram
Originally uploaded by rob helpychalk.

Monday, November 27, 2006

I just had a think

this is rob, not molly. I just had a think while riding my bike home, and I need to write it down. David Loy in Nondualism distinguishes 3 kinds of nondualism. Making this distinction allows us to understand how Baird Callicott can be such an intensely rational guy, yet constantly assert things like "holism" and "postmodernism." Basically, he is a nondualist in the second, and maybe the third of Loy's senses, but not the first. It is essentially the first nondualism--basically, denying the principle of noncontradiction--that makes rationality in the traditional sense beloved of analytic philosophers impossible. Also, accepting the other two nondualisms but rejecting the first is what allows me to say that "distinguishing three kinds of nondualism" is a sensible, even enlightening, thing to do.

update: this will also save Callicott from the charge of quantum physics abuse. I hpe no one else has thought of this, because I want to develop it into at least a talk.

Joey has croup.

For the past two days Joey has been wheezing horribly, and he periodically makes a coughing noise that is lower and louder than his tiny body should be capable of producing. It turns out that this is "croup," a name which sounds as terrifying as the noises joey is making. Molly looked up croup on the "Ask Dr. Hippie Attachment Parenting Guy" website, and the results seem reassuring, though. It appears that most cases are mild, and you should only bring in a doctor if the child genuinely can't breathe. Other than that, Dr. Hippie Attachment Parenting Guy recommends steaming up the bathroom and more breastfeeding. I get the sense that Dr. Hippie Attachment Parenting Guy recommends more breastfeeding in almost any circumstance. Really, I don't think he wants to see your breast in your shirt for any reason.

Update: Mom says that when I was nine months old I was hospitalized and spent time in an oxygen tent because of the croup. Joey is feeling better now: he's not barking, but he's still wheezing. I think we will take him to the drs tomorrow.

New York Times Bullshit Trifecta!

This op-ed piece about the apparent trend of public arguments against the existence of God uses all three of the crappy rhetorical techniques favored by the New York Times.

1. Ask a rhetorical question. Note immediately that it has a simple answer which does not fit your political agenda. Go on to spin a much more elaborate and completely unsupported hypothesis that answers the question, and hope that people forget the simple answer by the time you get to the end of your story. The great thing about this trick is that you can always, if asked, say that you acknowledged the simple answer. Then you can proceed to ignore the simple answer all over again.

2. Tell an anecdote and then claim it represents a social trend. For bonus points, have the anecdote be fictional.

3. Quote someone saying something very extreme in a way that makes it seem like you agree with that person, without actually coming out and agreeing with him. This lets you promote the extreme idea without having to actually defend it rationally.

I also see that PZ Myers is on the case.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Decorating Bleg

dining room 1
Originally uploaded by rob helpychalk.
We had to pull down the ceiling of our dining room because it had peeling lead paint, so now we are going to basically redecorate the room. At least for the time being, we plan to tack colored fabric to the exposed under ceiling, instead of putting in a new ceiling. We are also going to repaint the walls.

dining room 2

So here's the question: what colors should we use? We want to use one color for the lower part of the wall and one color for the upper part. We have yards and yards of white fabric for the ceiling that can be dyed any color that RIT manufactures. (Molly has ruled out tie dying, for reasons that remain obscure to me.)

dining room 3

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Collapse in Iraq

The Shia Mahdi army is giving some massive payback for the bombings in Sadr City yesterday, and politicians loyal to Moktada al-Sadr say they will withdraw from the government--effectively destroying it--if Iraqi president Nuri al-Maliki so much as meets with George Bush.

So if we stay in Iraq, whose side are we on in the civil war? It is silly to pretend, that there is some nonsectarian legitimate government that we are backing. The government is simply a battlefield for the sects. I mean this quite literally. Al-Sadr controls the Health Minsitry, and as a result is headquarters was attacked by Sunni militiamen today.

So whose side of the civil war are we on? Sadr wants us to leave, probably because in the Madhi army would come out on top of the ensuing chaos. In general, I think the Shia would benefit from our departure: they would almost immediately be able to establish their own state in the south, and as the majority nationwide could probably wind up dominating the Baghdad area as well. So are we in Iraq to protect the Sunni? The main Sunni faction I'm familiar with are the Baathist resistance? So we are there to protect Saddam's old guard?

Meanwhile, the Bush administration dispatch simply makes no sense. This is from the NYTimes:
"These ruthless acts of violence are deplorable. It is an outrage that these terrorists are targeting innocent civilians in a brazen effort to topple a democratically elected government. These killers will not succeed.”

He also repeated the administration’s insistence that Iraq was not in a civil war. “We’re constantly asked that question, and while the situation is serious, Prime Minister Maliki and President Talabani have said they do not believe it is a civil war,” he said.
The killers were not primarily attempting to topple a democratically elected government. The killers are, for now, the largest bloc in that government. The killers were avenging the attacks that occurred yesterday against their people. The Bush administration is unable to acknowledge this fact, though, because for them the violence yesterday was another act by "the terrorists" against the democratically elected government. The attacks today can't be vengeance for the attacks yesterday if they were both committed by "the terrorists." Jackasses.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving notes

1. Ice skating is much more difficult that the more familiar linoleum skating.

2. Flashlights are post-it notes make the best children's toys.

3. If the youngest child you are watching is 3, you can turn your back on them long enough to write this sentence.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

What is to be done

Ok, I leave tomorrow to go to my parents' house for Thanksgiving, and I have more small tasks than you can possibly imagine to get done before I leave. It is like this for every trip. I think if I only left to go someplace once I was completely ready to go, I would become completely immobile. I haven't even been able to draw up a to do list this time, because each time I start to, the items I list are so small, that I think I should just do one of them, since doing them would take less time than making up the list. But this leaves me with the sense that I am drowning in responsibility, and I feel sick.

I also have been literally feeling sick the last couple days. We are trying to get rid of some old lead paint in our house. Half the house is sealed off with plastic wrap, but you can still smell the crazy chemicals coming from the other side. When I felt sick yesterday, I decided to blame the chemicals, rather than the fact that I had three beers but skipped dinner. This morning I felt fine, after no beers, so I was all prepared to pronounce the chemicals innocent of my previous illness. But then I get to the office, and I feel woozy again. I'm a little nauseous, and my hands are shaking. I haven't been able to figure out what is going on, largely because I've been relying on everyone's favorite fallacious rule of inference: post hoc ergo propter hoc.

In any case, I'm am now going to share with you, the internet, my to do list. I think of this as profgrrrrl blogging, since she is the first blogger I saw doing this. I don't know why I feel compelled to read others' to do list, or share my own. It makes about as much sense as the gallery of grocery lists. But here it is.

  • As many job applications as possible [answer, 4]
  • 2 emails about the china course
  • 2 emails about SOC
  • 1 student email about grades--this requires actually tabulating some grades
  • 1 letter of recommendation: at least set a deadline for yourself about it.
  • Decide what work stuff to take on vacation with you
  • Pack it.
  • Do the grading that is sitting in your email inbox, so that it looks like you have less to do than you really do.
  • 1 personal phone call.
Well, maybe this isn't so bad.

Update: is using the word "ecstatic" in a job application going too far? As in "I am ecstatic at the opportunity to work with the Alden March Bioethics Institute"

Thursday, November 16, 2006

UCLA student repeatedly tazered for not producing ID while using the library

Mostafa Tabatabainejad was tazered by university police, after he failed to exit the university library quickly enough when he failed to produce the ID that is required of all students using the library after 11. He was tasered once when he didn't get out quickly enough, and then repeatedly after that for failing to stand up after being tazered the first time. Other students who asked the police for their names and badge numbers where threatened with tazering.

The whole incident is was caught on camera phone, and accompanies this article.

Update: the video from youtube

Update again: the link was from Bitch, the youtube link from a commenter at Bitch. Welcome Pharyngula readers.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Emergency Contraception for Students

Do any SLU students read this blog? Just in case you do, here is an important announcement from the health center:
As of today, Plan B emergency contraception will be available without a prescription in pharmacies across the country for women 18 and older.

Plan B emergency contraception (EC) is a safe and effective back up oral contraceptive; it can be taken up to five days after unprotected sex or sexual assault to prevent pregnancy. But EC is most effective the sooner you take it. Studies show EC can reduce the risk of unintended pregnancy by 89% if taken within the first 72 hours after unprotected sex – and by 95% if taken within 24 hours.

Plan B will continue be available in the Diana B. Torrey '82 Health and Counseling Center upon request. If you plan to purchase Plan B at a local pharmacy, you will need to ask for it at the pharmacy counter as it is classified as a "behind the counter" medication. You may also need to show proof of age so take an ID. Unfortunately, the price of Plan B has increased at local pharmacies to approximately $38- $40 per package due to the increased pricing by Barr Laboratory. The Torrey Center price will remain $20 as long as possible.

If you have any questions or concerns please call the Health Service at 229-5392.
I didn't even know the health center offered Plan B for $20, but then again, there is no reason I suppose that I needed to know. Still, it would be nice if amongst all the announcements about flu shots and mono, they put out more information about reproductive health. The quality of reproductive health is probably more sensitive to the availability of information than health issues surrounding germ-based diseases.

Monday, November 13, 2006

two points of scientific literacy

Some random parts of my scientific reasoning mid term. Questions are in bold. My answers are in regular font.

13. What are the basic elements of a Darwinian model of the origin of species?

Four point answer: Some reference to common descent

Five point answer: Common descent, random variation and natural selection.

Talking about finches will not help you here. Mentioning adaptation doesn’t help much either. Adaptation is only a part of the model in that it is something that is to be explained. Adaptation is observed, and then explained using random variation and selection. In philosophical terms, adaptation is the explanans, variation and selection are the explanandum.

18. Why are special creation theories marginal science?

Because they do not make any testable predictions. Three points off if you say because there is no evidence for them. The real problem is that the theories are not developed enough that there can be evidence for them.

What's good for the goose...

The Onion

Evangelical Haggard Claims He Was Molested By Republican Congressman

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO-Evangelical leader Ted Haggard, who stepped down last week after confessing that he purchased methamphetamines and...

And hey, The Onion now has a "blog this" feature!


Time is reporting that Rumsfeld will be prosecuted for war crimes in Germany.
Just days after his resignation, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is about to face more repercussions for his involvement in the troubled wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. New legal documents, to be filed next week with Germany's top prosecutor, will seek a criminal investigation and prosecution of Rumsfeld, along with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, former CIA director George Tenet and other senior U.S. civilian and military officers, for their alleged roles in abuses committed at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison and at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Search string: "is habeas corpus a right"

Someone just got here from a yahoo search for the exact phrase "is habeas corpus a right." The answer is "You're damn right it is, motherfucker."

New Teaching Statement?

While trying to write an application letter for a job at this department, I wound up writing these four paragraphs.
I am committed to student-centered learning, informed by current teaching scholarship, and backed by innovative techniques. In designing my courses, my focus is on what would serve my students best, rather than the best way to approach a body of knowledge. The focus of my reasoning course is, thus, to help students be more rational; the focus of my ethics course is to help them be more ethical. The result in each case is an emphasis on virtue theory and real world situations, with a constant awareness that, as Samuel Johnson said, people “more frequently require to be reminded than informed.” I use for my ethics text James Liszka’s Moral Competence, which presents a theoretical outline of what it means to be a competent moral decision maker, including discussions of moral emotions, autonomy, virtues, wisdom, and moral knowledge. I then ask them to apply this framework in their own lives by engaging in service learning (or “community based learning” as the program is known here). I have students do volunteer work with the elderly and disabled, or at a local soup kitchen. During this process, almost all the issues involved in traditional theoretical ethics arise: questions about the meaning of autonomy or distributive justice, for instance. But they now come up in a context where students are reminded of their basic ethical knowledge (such as golden rule level maxims) and sound ethical habits (door-holding level altruism) in a way that reinforces these.

Something similar goes on in my reasoning class. The class uses a motley array of sources: Alec Fisher on arguments from authority, Edward Tufte on lying with quantitative graphics, along with standard textbook treatments of the informal fallacies. Mostly, though, the class is built around field projects, where students are required to go into the real world of the internet and news media, find real arguments, and analyze them using the tools they are given. I also strongly emphasize the epistemic virtues in the class. We begin by reading Clifford’s “The Ethics of Belief” and watching 12 Angry Men. The students have responded very positively. One former pupil made “All St. Lawrence students should be required to take Dr. Loftis’s reasoning class” his thesis for a final project in a speech class.

All of this is backed by an engagement with teaching scholarship and innovative teaching techniques. As you can see from my CV, I regularly attend and present at the biennial conference of the American Association of Philosophy Teachers. I already mentioned using service learning in my courses. I also use a variety of in-class exercises and games: small group work, free writes, the true-false surveys from Nils Rauhut’s Ultimate Questions, quescussion (the discussion that consists only of questions), fishbowl (the discussion where a small number of participants are in “the bowl” and others are on the outside and can tag in), and daily question card exercises. I also use travel: My course on Asian environmental attitudes next semester concludes with a two week long trip to China.

Your advertisement asks for technological experience; I am fluent with current teaching technology. I know the advantages and pitfalls of PowerPoint. I have worked with all three of the major courseware packages (WebCT, Blackboard, and Angel.) I grade papers using the comment feature in MS Word, but I am considering moving to Acrobat. I have had students keep blogs. So far this has not proven to be any improvement over the discussion forums in the standard courseware packages. However we are likely to ask students to keep videoblogs for the upcoming China trip, which should be extremely effective.
The letter has simply started to blossom into a teaching statement, and a teaching statement I like a lot better than my current one. In all honesty, my current teaching statement hasn't fully shaken off the ghosts of my St. John's education. As a result, it both comes off as fusty to most people and doesn't really reflect my current practice.

So now I've got these four paragraphs, which are really too many for the letter, but too few to be a teaching statement on their own. I should probably create a new teaching statement by folding some of the old content into this new framework, and then shorten the letter by simply referring in parts to the new teaching statement.

All this makes it hard to do what I actually should be doing, though, which is getting the damn stuff in the mail. Also, I'm not sure how much of my current teaching practice really isn't just a product of being at a rich institution now that can fund all sorts of cool stuff with trips and computers and community placement programs. Hrm.

Amnesty USA petition against torture


Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Effect of Age, Gender, and Hotness on Student Perceptions of Teacher Quality.

Molly, in the comments my post where I publish my complete SLU course evaluations, notes that two of my female colleages have chili peppers on, but so so teaching ratings. This needs to be put in some context, and should even be a springboard for an important discussion.

It is folk wisdom in the faculty lounges that there is a causal interaction between age and gender on student evaluations. Roughly, being young is a plus on your evaluations for men, but a minus for women. I hypothosize a futher age by gender by hotness interaction, such that being young and hot is an extra strong negative factor on student evaluations for women, and at worst a neutral factor for men. My proposed mechanism here is the same as the mechanism that is standardly used to explain the age by gender interaction: the problem of establishing authority. The folk wisdom of the faculty lounges says that young women have trouble estabilishing authority because of the prejudices of their students (both male and female.) I would extend this mechanism further to cover young hot women.

So here is my first question: Where can I find the actual data on this--either the claim of folk wisdom or my claim about hotness.

Another point of context for the chili pepers on ratemyprofessors: ratemyprofessors is not even a valid measure of student perceptions of your performance, let alone your actual performance, because of self-selection bias and incredibly small sample sizes. This is probably obvious to the professors on ratemyprofessors, but less obvious to the students.

This leads me to my second question: can anyone recommend a general resource for contextualizing the information on student evalautions? I am interested, first of all, in their validity simply as a measure of student perceptions. I am also interested in how to bridge the gap between reports of student perceptions and actual measures of quality.

Is there a lawyer in the house?

I'm trying to put one of the Guantanamo cases in perspective by considering a bunch of hypotheticals. Suppose for a second, that there is no war on terror and no war in Afghanistan. The existing conflict is over and something like the current Karzai government is in charge.

Case 1: A Canadian national kills an American national on Afghan soil. Where is the trial held?

Case 2: A Canadian national kills an American soldier on Afghan soil. The soldier is stationed lawfully in Afghanistan. Where is the trial held?

Case 3: Just like case 2, except we now remove the assumption that there is no war in Afghanistan. Instead assume there is combat, authorized by congress, but no declared war, and still no bullshit rhetoric about a war on terror. Where is the trial held?

Case 4: Just like case 3, except add that the Canadian national is believed to have been working with the enemies of the US in Afghanistan. Where is the trial? Is the Canadian now simply a prisoner of war, to be held until hostilities are over?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Links to Publications

This post is a table of contents for my online academic publications.

Means, Ends, and the Critique of Pure Superheroes in Watchmen and Philosophy ed. Mark D. White (Oxford: Blackwell Press, 2009)

"What a Strange Little Man" in Battlestar Galactica and Philosophy ed. J. Eberl (Oxford: Blackwell Press, 2008)

“The Theragāthā Model of the Aesthetic Appreciation of Natural Environments” accepted, subject to revision, at Environmental Values. This version is a draft only, not for citation.

“The Other Value in the GMO Debate” In Ethical Issues in the Life Sciences, edited by F. Adams. (Charlottesville, VA: Philosophy Documentation Center, Forthcoming).

“Germ-Line Enhancement in Humans and Nonhumans” Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal Special Issue on Justice and Genetic Enhancement 15:1 (March 2005).

“Three Problems for the Aesthetic Foundations of Environmental Ethics,” Philosophy and the Contemporary World 10:2 (Fall–Winter 2003).

My reviews at Metapsychology Online

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Listen to Captain America.

This panel is taken from here. Apparently there is a tradition in Captain America comic books of having the real Captain America face off against a fake Captain America. In the comic this panel is from, the *real* CA announces that flags are nothing: only the values behind them count. Via pharyngula.

The satisfying "kerchunk" of democracy

Have you voted today? Molly and I voted this morning, and did you know? Here in the North Country we are still using the old fashioned mechanical lever machines. I know optical scan combines a paper trail with great accessibility, but I just love the satisfying "kerchunk" of democracy.

Adrienne Shelly RIP

Actress, writer and director Adrienne Shelly has been murdered, apparently by a construction worker who was upset with her noise complaints. I, like most people, know Shelly best from her roles in the great Hal Hartley movies Trust and The Unbelievable Truth. Her main focus, though, was writing and directing comedies. I saw her first feature, Sudden Manhattan, and was suitably amused. Since then she has made another movie I'll Take You There, and had a third, Waitress (with Firefly star Nathan Fillion!) in the can.

The construction worker who allegedly killed Shelly is said to have punched the slight, 5'2" director. I bet he didn't realize he could kill her like that. He then (allegedly) took her body to her office and tried to make it look like a suicide.

She had a husband and a three year old daughter.

Stories here and here.
Hat tip to Carin.

Update: NYT Story here. Apparently she was still alive when the guy tried to fake the suicide, and only died later after he hung up her unconscious body.

Monday, November 06, 2006

My Complete SLU Course Evaluations

As a part of my commitment to transparency in higher education, I have decided to put all of my teaching evaluations for my time at SLU online.

Here is single table summarizing of the numerical data for two key questions, Question 1: A high level of effort was demanded by this course, and Question 5: The instructor was an effective teacher. (Students are asked to agree or disagree on a seven point scale.) Molly made up these charts. Thanks.

Here are the university summaries for the quantitative sections, including all five questions.



Note that there is a screw up on these forms with 202A (Reasoning) and 203A (Ethics) from the Spring of 2006. I gave the Ethics forms to the Reasoning class, so all the Reasoning responses were tabulated by the university as Ethics. When it came time to give evaluation forms to Ethics, I discovered that I only had the 202A, Reasoning, forms to give out. I tried to compensate for the mistake by having the students write 203A:Ethical Theory on the form. The university refused to tabulate any form that had the extraneous marks on it. They did however tabulate 3 forms from students who did not follow my instructions. Of course, these were ethics students, whose three forms were then tabulated as Reasoning.

All of this is corrected in the summaries that Molly made up for me, and you can check it against the raw data.

OK, here is the raw data.

Fall 2003
Spring 2004
Fall 2004
Spring 2005
Fall 2005
Spring 2006
Ack, it's time to go home. I'll fill in the rest of these links later. Done! Also, there is was a summer course in 2004 on environmental ethics that I forgot completely about. I'm not even sure where the evals are. This will do for now, though.

Further Update: Let's also add a link to my page at Please note that 33.3% of the students reporting (N=3) rated me as "hot."

Saturday, November 04, 2006

OMG, a textbook fallacy

Check this argument out:
The Rev. Greg Boyd, pastor of Woodland Hills Church in Maplewood: "I thirst for water, and water exists. I hunger for food, and food exists. I hunger and thirst for God, so I concluded that God must exist."
from this interview with Richard Dawkins. The interviewer asks Dawkins what he thinks of this quote. Strangely, Dawkins does not say: "is this the best you could come up with? I despair for the American education system"

In any case, there's one for Reasoning class on Monday.

Name that philosopher

So I'm cruising department websites while working on job applications, and I see this page which is decorated with unlabeled pictures of philosophers. I cannot recognize the last three on the lower right. Also, I'm assuming the picture on the far left is Wittgenstein on a bad hair day, but it is not a photo I've seen before. Any ideas?

Thursday, November 02, 2006


I'm tired. I haven't entirely worked out what I'm going to say about Jose Padilla tomorrow. And I've got this framing thing for the talk about moral emotions and story telling which doesn't quite fit with my other framing thing about the importance of fair trials. But I'm tired.

I also see that I've already started missing job deadlines, some for good jobs. I keep saying to myself I'm going to send out my material, but then I teaching portfolio isn't how I'd like it to be...oh but no one cares about teaching, it's only research...people think it's weird enough that you have put so much effort into your teaching portfolio...but if I could make it more succinct it would all make sense. IN any case, I’ve got to get my butt in gear for job stuff in the next couple days.

Of course, the teach in is tomorrow, and Saturday Bérubé is appearing on our campus, and Sunday I have an extra class I agreed to teach for reasons which escape me now. And I’m already blowing off the Fulbright seminar on teaching Islam, even though they were kind enough to give me all these free books, and one of them even discusses the definition of religion, which is something that I’ve always wondered about but never formally researched, and I hear that one of the other seminar participants has good things to say about the topic.

But in any case, I’m tired. And my hands hurt from typing too much.

Some resources for detainee stories

interrogator commits suicide after refusing to commit torture

Aparantly, some people are resisting the orders to torture prisoners, but there is a price. This is the full story from an Arizona NPR outlet.
10/31/06 (2006-10-31) Army specialist Alyssa Peterson was an Arabic speaking interrogator assigned to the prison at the Tal-afar airbase in far northwestern Iraq near the Syrian border. According to the Army's investigation into her death, obtained by a KNAU reporter through the Freedom of Information Act, Peterson objected to the interrogation techniques used on prisoners. She refused to participate after only two nights working in the unit known as the cage. Army spokespersons for her unit have refused to describe the interrogation techniques Alyssa objected to. They say all records of those techniques have now been destroyed.

Instead she was assigned to the base gate, where she monitored Iraqi guards. She was sent to suicide prevention training. But on the night of September 15th, 2003, Army investigators concluded she shot and killed herself with her service rifle.

Alyssa Peterson graduated from Flagstaff High School and earned a psychology degree from Northern Arizona University on a military scholarship. She was trained in interrogation techniques at Fort Huachuca in southern Arizona, before being deployed to the Middle East in 2003.
Via Majikthise

Update: This article leads with something that I didn't even notice in the shorter NPR piece: the death occurred three years ago, and the reasons for it are only coming out now.

Fun Spam

Header: New york naked-eared

Body: elizabeth was forced to give into a little falsehood here; for to acknowledge the substance of"the person of whom i speak is a gentleman, and a stranger."

The body is a mash up of a couple lines from Pride and Prejudice. The intended payload of the spam--presumably some obscene jpegs, were stripped away by the spam filter.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Torture: It's not just for grown ups anymore

Omar Khadr: When stories about the use of child soldiers in Africa hit the Western media, the reaction was largely one of sympathy. The child soldier was someone who was victimized, brainwashed, forced to do horrible things. The questions asked were "How can we let these kids just be kids again? How can they be brought back into human society?"

Our leadership seems to think that everything is different if the child is a muslim, though. Then the question is "how can we torture this child for information?"

Omar Khadr was fourteen or fifteen years old when he was picked up by US soldiers in Afghanistan. No one denies that he was a soldier for Al Quada. His father is one of bin Ladin's lieutenants. Although he mostly grew up in Canada, he also lived in the bin Ladin compound, playing with Bin Ladin's children. No one denies that he threw a hand grenade that killed an American soldier. But none of this makes him significantly different than the children kidnapped into African armies and taught to kill. The fact that the abuse came from his own blood family is irrelevant.

Khadr's parents have probably been telling him his whole life that Americans are devils. Everything that has happened since his capture can only have reinforced this message. He has apparently been beaten, kept in stress positions, denied medical attention, and smeared with his own urine and feces. The last story was reported by his lawyers in a press conference on January 16, 2005. Before you go blowing off this testimony, remember that we have smeared our prisoners in shit before. The guards at Gitmo also like to use the threat of rape, claiming all the time that they are going to transfer him to a foreign prison where they like little boys.

As with all detainees at Gitmo, the main goal of the imprisonment is to manipulate every aspect of the prisoner’s surroundings so that they are perpetually disoriented, lose their sense of identity and ultimately their will to live. The methods were developed by an Air Force called Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) which was originally meant to train our soldiers how to resist torture. It is silly to describe the SERE techniques as somehow torture lite. They were designed very carefully to cause the most possible harm. It is also silly to deny that people at Gitmo are being subject to these techniques. They are built in to the organization of the facility. As a writer for the Rolling Stone put it: "This is Guantanamo Bay: To be held there is, per se, to be tortured."

How can anyone condone the torture of children?

Wikipedia, Rolling Stone.

re: Your Brains

via unfogged.

My China Course

Travel to China

Environmental Ethics and Issues in China

(on campus course plus trip)

Philosophy 348 / Environmental Studies 348

Tuesday – Thursday 10:10 – 11:40

Professors Rob Loftis (Philosophy)
and Stephen Robinson (Geology)

China has the world’s largest population, fastest growing economy, and a history of environmental catastrophe. This course will look at attitudes towards nature in China and the policy issues they generate, starting with readings on traditional nature attitudes and ending with the current dilemmas facing China. This course will be truly interdisciplinary in nature with perspectives from philosophy, public policy, environmental science, and engineering. In addition to the campus section of this course, we will travel to China following exams to learn first-hand about several of the sites and issues from the class. Students will interact extensively with local people experiencing these problems and meet with local representatives of environmental non-governmental organizations searching for solutions.

Mandatory information session:

Friday November 10, 3:00 pm in Brown Hall 143-44

Permission of instructors required

Junior or Senior standing only

Halloween 2006

Originally uploaded by rob helpychalk.
Homemade dragonfly costume courtesy Grandma Flo