Friday, April 30, 2004

Ah, Jerry Falwell

I think it's important for Jerry Falwell's views to get as much airing as possible. Here's today's "Falwell Confidential" in its entirety, along with a few choice responses from yours truly. Emphasis is mine, and is intended only to make it clearer what I'm referring to; it's definitely not to draw particular attention to things that'll make him look dumb.
Date: April 29, 2004 From: Jerry Falwell ONE NATION ... INCREASINGLY DIVISIBLE I imagine that Rep. James McDermott has heard from many of his trendy liberal friends who have been telling him what a brave and courageous soul he is for snubbing the phrase "under God" when he led the House of Representatives in saying the Pledge of Allegiance on Tuesday. Rep. McDermott, a man who does pledge allegiance to Planned Parenthood, the Feminist Majority and the other dictatorial abortion-rights groups in our nation, contended that he refused to utter the words "under God" because the courts are presently considering whether the phrase is constitutional. He was referring to, of course, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that found the two words to be unconstitutional. A decision on that ruling is pending at the U.S. Supreme Court.
It's unfortuante that the Reverend Falwell doesn't tell us his theory as to what Representative McDermott actually did, if he didn't do what he contended to have done.
This is just one more case of an abject secularist ignoring the God-centered groundwork that is responsible for the establishment and achievement of this nation.
abject. Adj. 1 : sunk to or existing in a low state or condition 2 a : cast down in spirit : SERVILE, SPIRITLESS [a man made abject by suffering] b : showing utter hopelessness or resignation [abject surrender] 3 : expressing or offered in a humble and often ingratiating spirit [abject flattery] [an abject apology]
Today's secularists loathe America's biblical underpinning that served to inspire and motivate our Founders to forge a nation that would recognize the value of its religious citizens, even in governmental affairs. They disrespect our history and seek only to establish an agenda that eradicates our longstanding religious heritage. Secularists want the American public square to be devoid of religious influence, especially if it has a Christian foundation. From Ten Commandments monuments at American courthouses, to high school football game prayers, to the brief mention of God in our Pledge, secularists are seeking to enforce their marginal views on the nation, thereby creating an America that our Founders would not recognize.
That's why we should also ban automobiles, television, and vaccinations.
Barry Lynn, president of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, a group that seeks to wholly secularize our nation, admitted to me that he ultimately hopes to purge the words "In God We Trust" from our currency. I wonder if secularists would, given the ability to do so, strike the phrase "endowed by our Creator" from the U.S. Constitution.
Well, I was just remarking that it'd be cool to do something logically impossible, so yeah, maybe. I always find it really surprising that so many people who are taken seriously don't know the difference between the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.
They have asserted that the great document is a living, breathing manuscript, which suggests that they believe they ultimately have the leeway to extract words or phrases that offend and insult their present-day secularist notions.
"Extract" is a funny word to use there. But anyway. The neat thing about the Constitution is that it is a secular document. Or does the Reverend refer to those neo-liberals who blatantly disregarded the founders' intent by passing secular amendments?
Will they take control of our nation's textbooks so that they can cleanse words that chronicle our Founders as men of faith who routinely sought guidance from above? Will secularists obscure from future generations the fact that our Founders called the nation to earnest prayer and supplication, entreating Almighty God to bless them? Will ministers one day be punished for upholding the Word of God in sermons that counter the secularist standpoint?
That's a really good point. On the other hand, let's see where similar rhetoric will get us on the other side:
What's next? Will Christianity be forced upon all citizens? Will the Radical Right have the clout to offer me as a human sacrifice to appease our mighty God? Will religious leaders be given the right to rape children they don't like?
Everybody, nod appreciatively at the good rhetoric I'm using.
Columnist Ann Coulter, who certainly has a matchless way with words, said recently, "The nation waits with bated breath to see if, this term, the court will strike 'under God' from the Pledge of Allegiance. Liberals are so desperate for this to happen that some of them are actually praying for it." Mr. McDermott will no doubt become the poster child for the effort to thoroughly secularize our nation. He is already revered by secularists for his action in June 2002, when the House of Representatives voted to condemn the 9th Circuit Court's ruling that declared the Pledge unconstitutional. With a vote of 416-to-2, the House adopted the measure, with Rep. McDermott voting "present."
Ok, that's just weird. This is more like it:
Then in a March 2003 resolution, Rep. McDermott joined with six other "no" voters in refusing to condemn the 9th Circuit ruling. Gary Bauer, chairman of the Campaign for Working Families, said, "While Jim McDermott may be in the minority in the House of Representatives, he does, unfortunately, 'represent' many on the lunatic fringe of American politics who are increasingly active and energized this year. In the 'civil war' over values, either McDermott's worldview will prevail or our worldview, that recognizes God as the author of our liberty, will prevail." The chief problem, however, is that those in this lunatic fringe are characteristically portrayed in the so-called mainstream media as holding conventional viewpoints.
So-called by whom? The masses?
Conjecture is treated as truth. We see it every day.
I have no idea whatsoever what this means.
The mainstream media hold what have become established views on issues such as abortion, evolution and homosexual rights that counter the mindset of millions of Americans. But they treat these views as fact, purposely disregarding and discounting as irrelevant the views of those who do not accept these "truths." This is how our nation will become increasingly secularized and divided. It is a tragedy of immense proportions that so many of our fellow Americans simply fall into lockstep with the trend-as-truth mentality. That is why it behooves every one of us who loves America and the foundation on which it was built to uphold the legacy of our Forefathers by taking a stand for our religious freedoms.
Unless we rise up and take action - a good first step would be to vote out the Jim McDermotts of the day - our children will one day wake in a vast secularist wasteland that used to be America.
Well, at least it'll be vast. We wouldn't want them to feel cramped. I bet it's fun to be Brian Leiter.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Souls in Clones

I just offered the following answer to Ask a Philosopher. Joaquin asked: Would human clones have "souls"? A lot of us think the correct answer isn't very interesting: No, clones would not have souls because no one has a soul. But I assume, based on your question, that you do think that ordinary people have souls. If you think that ordinary people do have souls, I don't see why you should think that clones wouldn't have souls, too. How does the soul work for ordinary people? Maybe it arises from the physical features of our brains -- when a brain has a certain structure, that means there's a soul of a certain kind. If this is the right way to think about souls, then it's easy to see that a clone *would* have a soul -- after all, presumably, it has the right sort of brain. Maybe the soul is NOT connected intimately with the body. Maybe God just *gives* each person a soul when he is born (or conceived, or at whatever time you think soulhood begins). In that case, we must ask, how does God decide whether to give organisms souls? It seems odd to suppse that God gives a soul to every baby that is born through traditional means, and via C-sections, and infants that are cultivated in a labratory, but not clones. Why would God see these creatures, which are in every physical way just like ordinary humans, and refrain from giving them souls? Of course it's *possible* that God just really doesn't like clones, or think that they should have souls, but there's no reason to suppose that would be so. (It would be just as reasonable to think that God doesn't give souls to redheads, because he doesn't like them. It's *possible*, but there's not reason to think that's the way it works.) So I think clones would have souls if ordinary people did.

Thursday, April 22, 2004


Allan has a post about disagreement, which happens to correspond to a disagreement that occurred between Ben and me at the GCB last night. I say, we can disagree about things that are not propositions; Ben disagrees. My example: suppose Ben and I are looking for a place to live, and he says, "Let's live on Wickenden." I say, "No, let's live on Hope". We disagree, even though there's no proposition he's assenting to that I think is false, or vice versa.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Martian Invasion!

A really very interesting op-ed in the New York Times today. Teaser:
Certainly, the idea that Mars once harbored life no longer seems absurd ... there are several reasons to suppose that life, if it was ever there, could persist to this day. Finding life on Mars obviously would be thrilling. ... But the possibility of life on Mars also suggests that we should approach the place with caution. ... The history of first-time meetings between organisms is a sobering one. When the Spanish came to the New World, they brought smallpox and measles, which killed 90 percent of the people in Mexico within 50 years. H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS, crossed into humans from chimpanzees. ... Nor is it just viruses that are troublesome. When animals and plants arrive in a new place, they can have devastating effects, destroying crops and extinguishing native species. Given this, it seems rash even to entertain the notion of bringing Martian rock samples to Earth.
I found it interesting so I thought I'd post it. One of these days, I'll post more than just a link to something interesting here.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Whatever they speak in England

A BBC story about an Australian Court's ruling that a 13-year-old may begin sex change treatment, includes this sentence:
The decision has been both applauded and condemned by commentators.
My instinct is that there is something wrong with this sentence. I think it might be an equivocation on 'commentators'.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

He cometh of noble birth

Thomas Malory is *terrible* about ambiguous pronouns. In Book XI, ch. 14 of his Le Morte D'Arthur, he writes:
Then they made both great dole out of measure. 'This will not avail,' said Sir Percival. And then he kneeled down and made his prayer devoutly unto Almighty Jesu, for he was one of the best knights of the world that at that time was, in whom the very faith stood most in.
I can see it now... a knight in white armor approaches with a big spear, and he says 'wit thee well, my name is Sir Jesus that hath made my quest to forgive the world for thy sins, and son unto the great knight, Sir God. And now make thee ready, for I shall have ado with thee.'

Sunday, April 11, 2004

NYT Opinions page: Abortion, Unborn Victims

Some great letters to the editor on abortion in the latest (Monday) New York Times. Here is a piece of my favorite one:
The fundamental tenet behind pro-choice groups' ideology is to defend a woman's right to choose. To choose what? If her right to choose is whether or not to have her baby once she is pregnant, then why not fully fight to support the Unborn Victims of Violence Act? ... She has chosen to have her baby, and somebody else tried (or succeeded) in nullifying that choice. Pro-choice activists should be out in droves defending every woman's choice, be it abortion or childbirth.
This was essentially Brian's point when I posted on this issue a few weeks ago. (Sorry, too lazy/busy to link right now.)

Laugh. It's funny.

I may not be any good at writing philosophy papers tonight, but I just wrote a good joke.
Al has two friends, Bob and Chet. Over the course of the year, he asks both of them for help with various projects at several points. Bob is always eager to help -- he rearranges his schedule, shows up early and always puts in a strong effort. Chet, however, only helps grudgingly, and only about half the time. When he does show up, it's usually much later than the time they'd agreed on. At the end of the year, Al announces to his two friends that he has an award to bestow to thank the friend who most deserves it. "This year," says Al, "my 'helpful friend award' goes to Chet." Bob is livid. "Chet!?! I help you way more than Chet does! I rearrange my family schedule, and do everything you ask without complaining! I show up early and stay until it's done!" "Ah," says Al, "but what have you done for me lately?"
Thank you, thank you.

What novels should I read?

I have the following short-coming, relative to (1) my practical identity of 'well-educated person' and (2) my practical identity of 'good person': I haven't read nearly enough fiction. I haven't taken an English class since high school, and I've read very few novels since. I'm now trying to rectify that, and I would appreciate suggestions for worthwhile fiction for me to read here.

Friday, April 09, 2004

Name that famous argument

Somebody famous has something like the following thought experiment: suppose I told you I'd give a million dollars if you could get yourself to believe that the earth is flat. Without drastic means like hypnotism, you couldn't do it. Help me remember where this comes from?

Fake Barn Country disclaimer

One of the cute things about Fake Barn Country is the following disclaimer:
The views expressed here are solely those of the authors. They are not necessarily shared by Brown University, its faculty, or staff. Indeed, they may not even be contingently shared by Brown University, its faculty, or staff.
I didn't write that text -- I'm not sure who did, but I'm guessing it must have been Paul, Allan, John, or Jason. But I'm not sure that last part is correct -- I don't think it's the case that the views in Fake Barn Country might not be (even contingently) shared by Brown's staff. At least some of us contributors are definitely Brown University staff -- Allan teaches a philosophy course in Brown's department. And since Allan expresses his own views in the blog, those views must be shared by (at least some of) the staff.

Virtue as constitutive of well-being

I really want to embrace the Aristotelean idea of virtue as partially constitutive of well-being (that is, all other things, equal, a virtuous person is better-off than an unvirtuous one), but it's difficult for me to conceive of that claim as anything more than a brute fact. Any suggestions/refutations? I have the intuition that if you found a really bad person, you could help him by feeding him a virtue pill, if you had such a thing, thereby causing him to become a good person. I know that intuition is at least somewhat controversial, though.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

State of the Blog

I think it's likely that I'll be doing less blogging here in the near future. Several factors come into play:
  • I'll be doing most of my philosophy posting in Fake Barn Country from now on (although I may double-post sometimes).
  • I'm really busy, and am supposed to be writing five term papers in the next however many weeks until I leave. I also need to plan my summer, including how many weeks from now I'm leaving, and many other things (like how long I'm staying in England in August!)
  • I feel the blog-muse drifting slowly away (but don't worry, it feels like it's only very slightly drifting away, and expects to come back soon).
And when I say less blogging, I mean, don't be surprised if I go, like, a whole day without a post. (I hope and expect to be doing a lot more posting in my readings blog, though, and in Fake Barn Country.)

SF Chronicle tackles the tough questions

Emily brought my attention to a fascinating column in the San Francisco Chronicle today. I thought I'd wait and write a thorough response, but then I realized how busy I am today, so I'll just quote a couple excerpts and give the link:
...the would-be suicide jumper who tied up traffic on the Bay Bridge and surrounding freeways for 13 1/2 hours last Friday. The opinions fall into two camps. One says you do whatever it takes for however long it takes to prevent the suicide. Saving a life is worth more than the inconvenience and costly ramifications of a traffic jam, even one that brings a wide slice of the Bay Area to a standstill. To believe otherwise, this camp says, is to abandon a core societal belief in the value of a person's life. The other side says there ought to be a time limit for negotiating with a jumper -- say an hour or two -- then the authorities should remove him. The resistant jumper might be hurt or even fall to his death in the process, but since he put himself in such a dangerous position, he is ultimately responsible for the result. The rest of us should not be held hostage, the argument goes, to a narcissist -- even a mentally ill narcissist -- who wants to be the center of attention for 13 hours. Farhad Ajir is surely not the last suicidal person who will find himself or herself paralyzed with fear, doubt or confusion at the edge of the Bay Bridge. So how do we figure out the ethical and social calculus to resolve the debate about handling such situations in the future? We could add up the hours lost by the thousands of people caught in traffic that day and compare it to the hours of the jumper's life that would go unlived if he plunged to his death. The hours are likely to be roughly equal, but the impact of loss obviously is not equal. The loss of one life is incalculably greater than the loss of several hours in the individual lives of thousands of people.
It's pretty cool to see these excellent, important, and difficult philosophical questions being tackled in mainstream media. I don't agree with much of the analysis (and I think both that the quoted suggestion makes no sense at all, and that the argument offered against it is false), but it certainly manages to focus on the right questions. (Now that I think about it, this issue connects pretty directly with the issue I posted on last night in Fake Barn Country.)

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Announcing... Fake Barn Country!

Fake Barn Country, a group blog for Brown University philosophy students. I've just authored the inaugural philosophy post.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Born every minute...

How smart is this? (emphasis added throughout)
Now you can pick the sex of your baby in the privacy of your own home. Or so the Internet sellers of sex-selection kits would have you believe. The latest fad in babymaking offers guaranteed, worry-free gender selection for just $199 plus shipping.
See, it's guaranteed! What brilliance! If it only "works" half the time (i.e. not at all), they still get to keep at least half the money -- probably much more, since people won't bother returning it.
One home-use product is the GenSelect system, featuring boy and girl kits offered over the Internet at $199 apiece plus shipping. It is touted as being 96 percent effective if properly used. ... Sweazy said thousands of kits have been sold worldwide since the Web site started three years ago, and that business has tripled in the past year. He said he did not have information on how many babies of the desired gender have been born with GenSelect, and a spokesman said sales figures are confidential. ... "We have some people who didn't get the gender that they chose," Sweazy said, "but virtually every one of them didn't do it right."
This is absolutely hilarious. You'd think most people wouldn't fall for such an obvious scam. But then you'd remember what most people are actually like:
Veronica Moister of Lake Worth, Fla. said she's almost seven months pregnant with the girl she wanted thanks to GenSelect. She found their site while Web surfing and was pretty doubtful at first. ... Moister said she became a convert when she learned she was carrying a girl.
Yeah, way to infer to the best explanation, there. By the way, if anyone's wondering, I'm God. If you're planning to have a baby anytime soon, pray to me and tell me what gender you want. If you end up getting that gender, then go ahead and start worshipping me. (If you don't, then you didn't pray right.)

Making a law unto onesself...

...and seeking help from outside in enforcement. UPDATE: Link fixed. Thanks Joe, sorry everyone.

More on late-term abortion: Supervenience

I posted in January about the statements of John Harris, a British philosopher who outraged many by suggesting that there is no morally significant difference between a late-term abortion and infanticide. The more I think about this issue, the more explaining I feel like the pro-choice camp has to do. In Jamie's class today, we discussed supervenience, in the context of the supervenience of the ethical on the descriptive. A common analogy to draw is one to that of the supervenience of biological properties on chemical ones. Necessarily, if A and B are identical with respect to all chemical properties, then they are identical with respect to all biological properties. I'm pretty sure this is more or less uncontroversial. That's why I was surprised to realize how directly it refutes the sometimes-cited pro-choice understanding of life as beginning at birth. Consider two identical fetuses in identical wombs. Mother A is drug-induced to enter labor at time t-1, while Mother B does not enter labor until t-3. At t-2 (say, one minute before t-3), Baby A has been born and Fetus B has not -- there is only a geographical difference between the two -- there is no chemical difference. Therefore, by supervenience, there is no biological difference. Therefore, since 'is alive' is a biological property, it cannot be the case that A is alive and B is not. This means that life does not begin at birth. I know that you don't have to think it does to be pro-choice, but if late-term abortion is morally permissible and infanticide is not, then this difference requires an explanation. (For the record, I think that life begins gradually, that fetuses are morally significant from the point at which they can experience pain but are much less morally significant than adult humans, that infanticide harms the victim only very slightly more than late-term abortion does, and that infanticide is much less morally reprehensible than the killing of either a five-year-old or an adult.)

Monday, April 05, 2004

Partial Birth Abortion Ban

I'd just like to say, I find the controversy over this procedure to be extremely frustrating. Rarely do politicians do such a thin job pretending to actually be concerned about what's right and wrong with respect to the matter at hand. I mentioned last week about how easily people seem to ignore obvious moral data, and earlier about misuse of slippery slope arguments by opponents to the ban. One might think I'm defending the Right on this issue, but I'm not -- I haven't yet mentioned the most frustrating part of the debate of all. The part of the legislation that has everyone up in arms is that it fails to include an exception for cases in which the procedure is necessary to protect the mother's life. At first glance, this would appear to be a reasonable exception to include. So why don't they include it? "Congress, in passing the ban last year, said the procedure was never medically necessary, even to protect a woman's health." (SF Chronicle) So now we're having hearings to determine whether it's ever important (hearings, I might add, that raise privacy concerns about medical confidentiality), in order to determine whether the lack of that exception renders the bill unconstitutional. If proponents of the bill really think that the procedure is never medically necessary, as they're currently arguing in court, then what was the point of rejecting an amendment allowing a provision for medical necessity? If they're right, then that provision will just never apply, and their opponents will stop complaining, and the law will go into the books. The obvious and frustrating fact of the matter is, no one is interested in doing the right thing with regards to partial birth abortion policy. Everyone's looking at a different issue, and they're not even doing a good job pretending not to be.

New Study: Music Downloading Harmless

The New York Times today has an interesting story about illegal music downloads. According to two economics professors, music downloads reduce music sales by "an amount statistically indistinguishable from zero". The reaction by the music industry has been less than convincing:
Amy Weiss, an industry spokeswoman, expressed incredulity at what she deemed an "incomprehensible" study, and she ridiculed the notion that a relatively small sample of downloads could shed light on the universe of activity. The industry response, titled "Downloading Hurts Sales," concludes: "If file sharing has no negative impact on the purchasing patterns of the top selling records, how do you account for the fact that, according to SoundScan, the decrease of Top 10 selling albums in each of the last four years is: 2000, 60 million units; 2001, 40 million units; 2002, 34 million units; 2003, 33 million units?"
That's like saying to Alibi John, "if Suspect Joe was with you on Thursday evening, then how do you account for the fact that a murder occurred?" Read the story. It's really quite interesting -- if the music industry's data is as bad as the article implies it is, it's downright scandalous that this kind of data hasn't been collected sooner.

I guess it fills the seats

An AP story reports:
Thou shalt not have a cow. So says the gospel according to The Simpsons. America's famous dysfunctional cartoon family will be the subject of a series of evening classes by the Rev. Robin Spittle on the Christian message in the popular show. "They are a churchgoing family and they make moral decisions, some of which I agree with, some of which I don't, but either way they are a great way to open up a discussion," said Spittle. ... Spittle says that each episode had Christian themes, even though Homer once described his religion as "you know, the one with all the well-meaning rules that don't work in real life. Uh, Christianity." ... "They have a clever way of covering a lot of ground in a short space of time. Each 20-minute show gets a whole message across," said Spittle, who has previously held services in the local pub and used Hollywood films such as "Harry Potter" to teach the meaning of Easter.
I agree with Rev. Spittle that characters on The Simpsons do sometimes make moral decisions. This makes the show approximately as relevant to Christianity as every other piece of fiction ever. (And what is the meaning of Easter, anyway? Maybe the lesson we're supposed to take is that it's not really about chocolate and a big bunny and hidden eggs -- Easter is actually about teaching us that even if our families are horrible to us, we shoudn't worry, because any day now we're going to be whisked off to a new magical home by a friendly half-giant.)

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Providence area Piano teachers with kids?

I've decided that I want to learn to play the piano. Since I'm poor, I'm looking for someone who'd be willing to give me lessons in exchange for services instead of money. Tutoring seems to me to be a natural choice. So if anyone knows anyone in the Providence area who might be willing to exchange piano lessons for tutoring services, please send 'em my way. Information about me for prospective tutoring-recipients:
I am a Ph.D. student at Brown (philosophy department). I graduated in 2003 from Rice University with a B.A. in Philosophy and Cognitive Science. I have experience tutoring math, logic, science, history, writing, and English at elementary, junior high, high school, and college levels. I'm also able to help with standardized test preparation. (My scores: SAT: 1550, LSAT: 172, GRE: 670-verbal, 790-quantitative, 800-analytic.)
Information about me for prospective piano teachers:
I've played the clarinet for many years and I also do quite a bit of singing, so I am already comfortable reading music. Also, I know which note corresponds to which key on the piano, and I have some vague idea of what the pedals do. Beyond that, I am a complete beginner at the piano, but I hope to be a quick learner. Also, I'm nice.
I would be ecstatic if I found someone within reasonable driving distance of Providence who was interested in entering this arrangement. If you are or know a likely candidate for such a person, I'd very much appreciate being put in touch with him or her.

More google weirdness

Someone found my blog today as the #7 hit for inductive reasoning pregnant not lesbian. I have no idea what she was looking for. And while I'm doing google updates, I'll report that I'm now way up in the hitlist for brown philosophy student blog. I'm currently #2 (after Brian, who isn't even a student), but I'm pretty sure I saw myself show up as #1 at at least one point. Google is fickle like that. In other news, I'm back in Providence, if anyone didn't already know that and is keeping tabs.

Saturday, April 03, 2004


Apparently, some people find this advertisment inappropriate:
The display at Special Effects, a video and printing store in this northeast Ohio village, shows empty beer cans on the floor near an overturned table below dangling legs meant to look like a person who hanged himself. On a nearby table is a short, scrawled suicide letter on a piece of notebook paper — and another note that's lengthy and professionally printed. A sign reads, "Contemplating suicide? Let Special Effects give your suicide note that professional look."
Now I can imagine people being reasonably upset by an advertisement like this -- for instance, parents or friends of a person who has committed suicide might justifiedly feel like Special Effects was being insufficiently sensitive to a difficult topic. But offending people who treat suicide seriously does not seem to be the complaint:
"We have to hope it reflects ignorance," said Michael F. Hogan. "When suicide takes almost 1,000 lives every year in Ohio — more than murder or HIV-AIDS — and when 20 percent of high school students think about suicide every year, we need messages encouraging life, not death."
If the complaint is that impressionably youths will see the commercial and decide to kill themselves as a result, that's just silly.

Friday, April 02, 2004

Privacy and Gmail

Google is starting up a free email service called Gmail. A lot of it looks pretty awesome -- a gigabyte of storage, and full and powerful searchability. But I'm not sure what to think about one of the features. Here's what Google has to say about ad placement:
There are no pop-ups or banner ads in Gmail. Gmail does include relevant text ads that are similar to the ads appearing on the right side of Google search results pages. The matching of ads to content is a completely automated process performed by computers using the same technology that powers the Google AdSense program. This technology already places targeted ads on thousands of sites across the web by quickly analyzing the content of pages and determining which ads are most relevant to them. No humans read your email to target the ads, and no email content or other personally identifiable information is ever provided to advertisers.
On the one hand, I think this is a brilliant and innovative idea, and takes ad-targeting to a smart new level. On the other hand, the idea of having the contents of my emails scanned -- even only by an automated process, makes me a little uncomfortable. Possibly, this is just an 'ick' reaction that I should train myself to get over. Or possibly, there's a genuine privacy threat lurking. Thoughts?

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Ride into the sunset, enter into a civil union

I hadn't heard this before, but I'm pretty sure it's not an April Fool's joke. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that
"Sisters," Lynne Cheney's 1981 novel about feminism in the Old West -- complete with condoms, prostitution and lesbian love -- is being republished for those who missed it the first time around. Next week, Penguin Group USA will reissue the bodice-ripper, which went out of print 10 years ago and also disappeared from the resume of its staunch Republican author, who happens to be the wife of Vice President Dick Cheney.
The piece of evidence that allowed me to overcome my prank-suspicions was the book's page on I read a little more from the New York Daily News:
Yesterday, Flanders told Lowdown that Cheney's novel "is a breathy, gothic romance, horribly written. It's celebrating lesbian love and promotes the value of preventative devices, condoms, to women who want to remain free. It features a woman who has unmarried sex with the widow of her sister - all this by Lynne Cheney, the culture warrior of the right." (emphasis added by me)
Well, at least the novel doesn't feature gay marriage. That might be embarrassing for Mr. Cheney.

Charming creatures, are they not?

I just learned that the actor who plays Professor Flitwick in the Harry Potter movies is the same actor who played the chief Ewok in Return of the Jedi. His name is Warwick Davis. For some reason, I think that's pretty awesome.

Abortion-Debate Induced Moral Blindness

John has a post responding to an AP story about questions of the moral status of an unborn fetus. I posted last weekend about bad slippery slope arguments employed by the Left, reflecting the "Pro-Choice At Any Cost" mindset. John's example is even worse. If liberal America wants to have any credibility at all on this issue, it can't just wish important and difficult questions away.