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Saturday, March 06, 2004

Does Ted Rall exist? Scary

The New York Times website has pulled the cartoons of award-winning cartoonist and author Ted Rall, because the cartoons offended some of the website’s more conservative readers.

Now, newspapers and websites shuffle their cartoonists and columnists all the time, but what’s really troubling about what the Times has done is that they have taken Rall out of their archives. It’s as if he never existed!

The fear that newspapers would edit the past was one of the big concerns voiced in the 1990s when newspapers started going online. Many editors said that this sort of thing would never happen --- that they would never stand for it. And yet now, at the publication that sees itself as the leading news outlet of the free world, it’s already started to happen.

"In any other situation, it would be unthinkable to withhold investigative material"

The Bush White House has ignored all but one or two of the joint inquiry's 19 urgent recommendations to make the nation safer against the next attempted terrorist attack.

The F.A.A. and NORAD had at least 42 minutes to decide what to do about Flight 93. What really happened?

[C]ommissioners were unaware of the crucial information given in an even more revealing phone call, made by another heroic flight attendant on the same plane, Madeline (Amy) Sweeney. They were unaware because their chief of staff, Philip Zelikow, chooses which evidence and witnesses to bring to their attention. Mr. Zelikow, as a former adviser to the pre-9/11 Bush administration, has a blatant conflict.

The Bush administration controls who sees what on the 9/11 investigation committee. How many Americans are aware of that?

How many Americans are aware the committee could collapse because of the administration's non-cooperation?

How many Americans are aware of the significant questions remaining unanswered about the airlines, NORAD, the FAA, the FBI, and the administration itself?

"We know what [Sweeney, American Flight 11] said from notes, and the government has them," said Mary Schiavo, the formidable former Inspector General of the Department of Transportation, whose nickname among aviation officials was "Scary Mary." Ms. Schiavo sat in on the commission's hearing on aviation security on 9/11 and was disgusted by what it left out. "In any other situation, it would be unthinkable to withhold investigative material from an independent commission," she told this writer. "There are usually grave consequences. But the commission is clearly not talking to everybody or not telling us everything."...

Asked when NORAD gave an order for fighter planes to scramble in response to United's Flight 93, the air-defense agency notes only that F-16's were already airborne from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia to intercept American's Flight 77. The latter jet heaved into the Pentagon at either 9:40 a.m. (according to the F.A.A.) or at 9:38 a.m. (according to NORAD). Although the F-16's weren't in the skies over Washington until 9:49, the question is: Did they continue flying north in an attempt to deter the last of the four hijacked jets? The distance was only 129 miles...

The independent commission is in a position to demand such answers, and many more. Have any weapons been recovered from any of the four downed planes? If not, why should the panel assume they were "less-than-four-inch knives," the description repeatedly used in the commission's hearing on aviation security? Remember the airlines' first reports, that the whole job was pulled off with box cutters? In fact, investigators for the commission found that box cutters were reported on only one plane. In any case, box cutters were considered straight razors and were always illegal. Thus the airlines switched their story and produced a snap-open knife of less than four inches at the hearing. This weapon falls conveniently within the aviation-security guidelines pre-9/11.

"It is incomprehensible why this administration has refused to aggressively pursue the leads that our inquiry developed," fumes Senator Bob Graham, the former co-chairman of the inquiry, which ended in 2003. The Bush White House has ignored all but one or two of the joint inquiry's 19 urgent recommendations to make the nation safer against the next attempted terrorist attack. The White House also allowed large portions of the inquiry's final report to be censored (redacted), claiming national security, so that even some members of the current 9/11 commission, whose mandate was to build on the work of the congressional panel, cannot read the evidence.

Senator Graham snorted, "It's absurd."


What Would Smalltalk Do (WWSD)?

An interesting thing about Smalltalk is that although it does not have "type" declarations, the compiler does require "typeless" variable declarations. So both examples in the previous article would be caught by the compiler.

No only would the problems be caught, but the rich, integrated Smalltalk toolset would ask you to correct the spelling or automatically place the new variables in the declaration list.

Also, part of the rich Smalltalk toolset is "Small Lint" which is like pychecker, only funner.

pychecker does strictness checking

Jon writes about dynamic languages and static checking (which rightly should be optional IMHO)...

Are there reasons why Python can't, or shouldn't, support something like "use strict"?

The answer in this case is pychecker. I don't know how pychecker's features line up with perl's strict.

Running Jon's example through pychecker like this... pychecker loose.py results in the following:

    File "loose.py", line 2
      print '[' + aNyme + ']';
  NameError: name 'aNyme' is not defined

pychecker does not catch the contributed example to Jon's article. For example running pychecker other-example.py where the contents are...

sysmsg = 'foo&bar'
sysmgs = sysmsg.replace('&',' ')
print sysmsg

This results in no warnings, although I would expect at least a warning that the variable sysmsgs is unused.

Ted mentions Starkiller, which hopefully will be given ongoing support in the Python community.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

"Hey, if we're going to exploit the dead, let's make sure it's the right dead."

The Guardian exposes more "backtracking"...

The campaign had said it would not use Sept. 11, 2001, for political reasons, yet footage from the aftermath of the terrorists attacks is shown in the ads.

While the Bush administration continues to discourage journalists from paying attention to dead Americans coming home from Iraq, the administration apparently has no qualms about exploiting dead Americans from September 11, 2001 in their political ads.

Oh, yeah, they also continue to obstruct the investigation of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, an investigation that could prevent further deaths.

Base library extensions in Smalltalk

A big ol' list of features the WithStyle team has added to the *base* libraries from Cincom.

Java? C#? Nope. Can't do that.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

A Gospel of Love and Hope: How to Respond to Mel Gibson's "Passion"

Got this in the mail from a friend...

A Gospel of Love and Hope: How to Respond to Mel Gibson's "Passion"

By Rabbi Michael Lerner Editor, Tikkun Magazine

Mel Gibson unlocked the secret of why Americans have never confronted anti-Semitism in the way that we did with the other great systems of hatred (racism, sexism, homophobia) when he told a national t.v. audience on February 16 that "the Jews' real complaint isn't with my film (The Passion) but with the Gospels." Few Christians today know the history of anti-Semitism and the way that the Passion stories were central to rekindling hatred of Jews from generation to generation. Many are embracing Gibson's movie and not understanding why Jews seem to be so threatened. Gibson knows that for many Americans it is simply unimaginable to question the Gospels.

Those who wanted to purge hatred of Jews from the collective unconscious of Western societies after the defeat of Nazism in 1945 faced an impossible dilemma. The dominant religious tradition of the West was based on a set of four accounts of Jesus, each of which to some extent is riddled with anger at or even hatred of the Jews. The Gospels were written, many historians tell us, some fifty years after Jesus' death at a time when early Christians (most of whom considered themselves still Jewish) were engaged in a fierce competition with a newly emerging rabbinic Judaism to win the hearts and minds of their fellow Jews (some of whom were becoming Jewish Christians, retaining their Jewish practice but adding to it a belief in Jesus as messiah) and the minds of the disaffected masses of the Roman empire (some Christians already having given up on converting Jews and beginning to think that the real audience for their outreach should be the wider world of the Roman Empire).

The Gospels sought to play down the antagonism that Jews of Jesus' time felt toward Rome, so they displaced the anger at his crucifixion instead onto those Jews who remembered Jesus as an inspiring and revolutionary teacher but not much more (not a messiah, not God). The result: an account that portrays Jews as willfully calling on the Romans to kill Jesus, rejecting the supposed compassion of the Romans, and thereby earning the hatred of humanity for the Jews' supposed collective responsibility for this act of deicide. Conversely, Jesus' Judaism, his viewing the world through the frame of his Jewish spiritual practice and Torah-based thinking, is played-down or at times completely obscured, so that the message of these professional "convert the non-Jews" thinkers would not be undermined by a covert message (still advocated by some of the Jewish Christians at the time of the writing of the Gospel) that to be a Christian one should also become a Jew.

When Christianity gained state power in Rome in the 4th century of the common era, it quickly began to pass legislation restricting Jewish rights. And as Christianity conquered Europe in the ensuing centuries, spreading its story that the Jews were responsible for killing Jesus, the Jews became the primary demeaned other of Europe for the next 1700 years. Jews came to fear Easter-because the retelling of the Crucifixion story often led to moob attacks on defenseless Jews who were blamed for having caused the suffering of Jesus.

In the aftermath of WWII, many principled Christians recognized that the Holocaust was possible in part because Hitler was able to draw upon the cultural legacy of hatred toward Jews nurtured by this kind of Christian teaching. The Catholic Church and some Protestant denominations have sought to distance themselves from this long history of demeaning the Jews. But although anti-Semitism became unfashionable, only a few Christians were willing to take responsibility for the devastating impact of the hateful representations of Jews that suffused the Gospels and culminated in its historically doubtful account of the Roman imperialists, who ruled with an iron fist and crucified thousands of Jews, bowing to the will of a hateful Jewish mob determined to kill Jesus.

Even when the Catholic Church officially banned teaching hatred of Jews, it never ordered its dioceses to teach about the role the church itself had played in creating and sustaining those negative stereotypes.

Liberals and progressives in the late 20th century did an impressive job of confronting and educating the public about the literary, intellectual, and cultural sources of racism, sexism and homophobia. But they tended to shy away from anti-Semitism, both because of the mistaken assumption that it was no longer a real problem (after all, Jews were economically and politically flourishing in post-WWII America) and because such a confrontation would have forced a challenge to the dominant Western religion at the core of its most dramatic story: the crucifixion.

Nevertheless, ever since the 1960s there have been thousands of sensitive Christians, who, to their credit, have created a Christian spiritual renewal movement which rejects the teaching of hatred in the Gospel by allegorizing the story and giving greater focus to the Resurrection than to the Crucifixion. Returning to Jesus' Jewish roots, and refocusing attention on the bulk of the Gospel, with its stories portraying a Jewish Jesus who builds on and elaborates the ancient Torah commandments to "love your neighbor as yourself" and "love the stranger," the Christian renewalists tended to see the two-thousand-year history of Christian anti-Semitism as a distortion of the deeper truth of the Gospel. Easter became a holiday to celebrate the rebirth of an ancient Jewish hope-that the forces of hatred and cruelty manifessted in the Crucifixion could be overcome by a triumph of the forces of love, generosity and kindness whose Resurrection and ultimate victory were celebrated at Easter.

Yet that renewal movement is now being effectively challenged by a Christian fundamentalist movement with deep ties to right-wing politics. In post 9/11 America, many people have given up on the hopeful vision of social change movements. They have turned to a deep pessimism in which the idea of a world based on love, cooperation and generosity to the Other is alternately ridiculed and disdained as unrealistic and dangerous. A cynical realism holds sway in the media and mainstream American culture and political institutions, placing American progressive and visionary thinkers on the defensive. No wonder, then, that many Christians are attracted to interpretations of their religious tradition which emphasize the danger and cruelty in the world while sidelining aspects of the Gospel which teach compassion and solidarity with the oppressed.

I've written about this struggle in another context (see my book Jewish Renewal: A Path to Healing and Transformation). Inside the Jewish tradition there has always been a struggle between those who have heard God's voice as the voice of accumulated pain and cruelty of the universe passed on from generation to generation, and those who have heard God's voice as a voice of love, compassion, generosity and transcendence. Even in our Torah there are moments when the people hearing God's voice are hearing it through the frame of their own accumulated pain and hence hear a voice that talks a language of power, domination and cruelty, and other moments when the people hearing God's voice are hearing it through the frame of their own capacity to respond to God's revelation of love and generosity. And so it is through history that we find in virtually every religious tradition the people who distort the message of love of their own traditions and instead portray God as the voice legitimating domination, power over others, cruelty and violence. The George W's, the Osama Bin Ladins, the Ariel Sharons are found in every tradition. And they don't even need the frame of religion (some people like to blame these distortions-but the truth is that the Nazis, Stanlinistss, and Vietnam-war mongers of the US did not need religion to act out the legacy of pain and cruelty in the world). There is no religious tradition, no ideology of liberation (including Marxism, psychoanalysis, feminism, etc.) that cannot be appropriated by a distorted consciousness and transformed into its opposite, that is, into a mechanism or a justificatory ideology to dominate and act out of cruelty.

So let's understand that the attempt to revive Christian enthusiasm around the part of the story that is focused on cruelty and pain is not only (or even primarily) a threat to the Jews, but rather a threat to all those decent, loving, and generous Christians who have found in the Jesus story a foundation for their most humane and caring instincts. It is these Christians who are under assault by Mel Gibson's movie, and by the particular form of Christian evangelicalism that it is meant to stimulate. Yet, in a deeper way, the Gibson movie is likely to stimulate a broader assault on all of us who seek to build a world based on caring and love, cooperation and generosity, by giving strength to the part within each of us that despairs, the voice within each of us that tells us that cruelty is what is "really how the other is, really how the world is," the voice inside each of us that feels that there is no point in struggling to transform the world because it is too hopeless and too dominated by craziness (and that is the point of the Jews in the Gospel calling for Jesus to be killed, because it is saying "even the Jews, his own people" do this, because evil is dominant in the world and always will be, and the only way out is to believe in Jesus and find salvation in another world, and despair of changing this one). So, part of the struggle is to reclaim and reaffirm the Jewish Jesus, the Jesus who retains hope for building love right here, the Jesus who unabashedly proclaims that the Kingdom of Heaven has arrived (which is to say, that it is here on earth, that the world right now can be based on love and kindness, and that we don't have to wait for some future time or "the end of days" as described by Isaiah, because it is here now, we can make it happen right away by the way that we live our lives). And it is this voice of Jesus that The Passion movie seeks to marginalize or make invisible.

I hope Christians will take the lead in organizing people of all faiths to leaflet every public showing of Gibson's film with a message that runs counter to the anger at Jews that this film is likely to produce in at least some viewers. I hope that every morally sensitive Christian minister and priest will use the weeks ahead to preach about the history of Christian anti-Semitism until most parishioners can understand why Jews would feel worried about the popularizing of the Gospel story. But I hope also that the discussion isn't reduced to that-that Christians take on the underlying chaallenge and affirm their commitment to the Jewish Jesus, the Jesus that preaches that a world of love is possible right now, right here, through our actions.

The best hope to avoid a new surge of anti-Semitism will not come only from de-coding the anti-Semitic themes in Mel Gibson's film, or the Gospel on which it was based, but rather by re-crediting the ancient Jewish vision of Jesus-that in place of the Old Bottom Line of money and power, a New Bottom Line of Love and Generosity is possible. People of all faiths need to shape a political and social movement that reaffirms the most generous, peace-oriented, social justice-committed, and loving truths of the spiritual heritage of the human race. It is only this resurrection of hope that can save us from a new wave of global hatred.

Please take this message and ask your local newspaper to publish it. Send it to your friends and anyone on your email lists.

Rabbi Michael Lerner

Monday, March 01, 2004


Feed for the Oregon State Public Interest Research Group (OSPIRG) blog.

Is this your government?

Les AuCoin (Oregon's 1st District in Congress for 18 years)...

If this isn't Eden, Eden is just around the corner.

The area is special enough that even Oregon's fractious congressional delegation decided it required protection...

Sadly, this story is part of a broader pattern in which the Bush administration isn't just contracting out sensitive environmental work to dubious corporations. It is also stocking the leadership of federal regulatory agencies with corporate figures who previously made a living doing combat with those same agencies.

Thus, Mark Rey, the former chief lobbyist of the American Forest and Paper Association, supervises the Forest Service.

The spokesman for the Department of Agriculture on mad cow disease was hired from the National Cattlemen's Association, and the chief legal adviser for the administration's salmon recovery plan in the Northwest is Mark Rutzick, a man who built his career fighting for the timber industry against the endangered Northwest spotted owl.

But they say this is your government.

America's Democracy Atrophied

Yoshi Tsurumi (Professor of International Business, Baruch College, the City University of New York, former Harvard professor of student George W. Bush)...

[The present adminstration's] was the same kind of income distribution that the U.S. built during the McKinley-Gilded Age. There was no Securitiesy Exchange Commission to check "creative accounting" and Enron-WorldCom like malfeasance of corporations. America had poor public schools and medical care. There was no minimum wage or labor standard. Both federal and state governments and courts were hostile to labor unions and civic groups protesting the "injustices" of the society. The natural environment was ravaged by railroads, mining, lumbering, and newly emerging oil and gas firms. Abortion was illegal. Women did not even have the vote. In the South, Christian fundamentalists were pressuring public schools to stop teaching Charles Darwin's evolution theories. During the McKinley-Gilded Age, America's democracy atrophied. And America embarked on her imperialistic expansions of colonising Cuba, Panama, and the Philippines.

Official criticisms of Microsoft

What's the state of publishing criticisms of Microsoft in industry publications? Is there any concern that Microsoft's continuing dominance has an influence over the objectivity and depth a critic would be allowed by a publisher?

Does anyone even dare broach the subject anymore?

Dynamic languages on dotnet

Jon Udell writes about dynamic languages (or the lack thereof) on dotnet.

The shocking part is what's missing. Where is the word from Microsoft? At OSCON 2003 last July, there were BOFs and discussions about this topic, with MSFT representatives claiming efforts toward this goal.


Although Jon claims "Despite lots of second-guessing, there?s no consensus that the CLR is inherently unfriendly to dynamic languages," there is more evidence than not that dynamic languages are more difficult to implement on dotnet than the JVM.

The grade on this for dotnet should be failing. Consider the JVM was never intended for dynamic languages, yet dotnet was deliberately designed for all kinds of languages (Java-like, functional, scripting, and dynamic OOP, at least). Consider the knowledge as well as source to JVM languages have been available for years.

MSFT deliberately de-emphasized dynamic languages approaching the first release of dotnet. But did they go so far as to paint themselves into some kind of a corner, maybe with an over-restrictive programming model?

Maybe there is no consensus, but *something* is wrong.

Eclipse or Mozilla?

Which platform would be better for general purpose applications, Eclipse or Mozilla? Why do you say that?

Gandhi or Gibson?

Which movie might be more inspiring for the world today, Gandhi or Gibson?

I think the fate of the world rests in which choice we make.

How individual ownership of code could harm the design.

Java and XUL

A recommendation to combine Java with XUL.

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About Me

Portland, Oregon, United States
I'm usually writing from my favorite location on the planet, the pacific northwest of the u.s. I write for myself only and unless otherwise specified my posts here should not be taken as representing an official position of my employer. Contact me at my gee mail account, username patrickdlogan.