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CEAC 08 August 2012

A fairly lighthearted CEAC:

  • As you may or may not know, Ramadan is a lunar month where muslims fast during the day. In the evening, they naturally have large meals to compensate, although the month still is difficult for many people (even as many people advocate voluntary fasting as a health measure), and while it is community-obligatory on Muslims to observe, those with health issues can potentially postpone or skip it. In practice, the eveningward shift in eating represents challenges for restaurants (not unique to Muslims in that sense; in the months where it's feasable, it's not uncommon for Kosher restaurants to open for about 2 hours after the turning of the Jewish day after Shabbat ends). Some Muslims in Pakistan recently got grumbly because Pizza Hut didn't continue an all-you-can-eat promotion during Ramadan.
  • Here's some pretty bad journalism, where they suggest the motives of the guy who shot a number of people at a Sikh temple in WI might never be known. In the same article, they note that he was in a number of white power bands, and other articles have noted that he was active on Stormfront. So there's no question as to his motives. In general, if someone is on Stormfront, law enforcement should keep a close eye on them; there's no guarantee they'll commit visibly violent acts, but being part of that community, just like being in MRA groups, is a strong hint of having terrible motives.
  • Pleased to see some Eagle Scouts return their medals to BSA in protest of their reaffirmation of exclusionary policies. Although, as I commented a few weeks ago, BSA's problems run deeper than that.
  • Review of Wikileaks' troubled relationship with press freedom groups. I've been pretty concerned about their lack of sensitivity to concerns about protecting human life; the structuring of the "insurance policy" as well as Assange's explicit statements that the names of the informants that helped the US take out OBL should not be protected because they deserve whatever's coming to them both strike me as absolutely reprehensible. I do support Wikileaks' mission (as I understand it), but it keeps very bad company, Assange is more a problem than a boon, and it is frequently irresponsible (either by intent or negligence). Assange's continued I-am-above-the-law-and-get-to-negotiate-with-police rubbish doesn't help matters one bit.
  • I'm not sure what I think about this: a plan to reform the Civil Service in the UK so politicians have more control over the staffers who manage the government agencies they have in their portfolio. On one hand, it's true that, as quipped in "Yes Minister", if a civil servant succeeds they get the praise, and if they screw up it's their (elected) minister who usually suffers. However, the separation of power between the elected and the career drudge probably is a useful safeguard. The spoils system was a mess when it existed in the US (About 1830-1880), and the formation of our civil service, largely apolitical, ended a lot of political corruption. I hope I'm not seeing England trying to step into our past mistakes.
  • This article on why some Fundie media have taken much effort to purge Set Theory from maths was pretty amusing; I never made the link before between Set Theory and the move away from the hygenic mental world of times past that happened in the 1920s in many disciplines.
  • Mark LeVine offers some interesting thoughts on philosophers working on ethical topics, particularly "just war" and drones. The article starts off a bit rough and makes some absurd claims, like the one starting with "most philosophers today", but it gets to be pretty decent once you get past the early bits. Personally, I am mostly okay with drones, but I am concerned that by separating the soldier from the battlefield they make it possible to dehumanise one's foes even more, and I worry about the impact on military culture (and the voting habits of those who were military); when the lives of one's fellow humans or society members becomes too abstract, we accept things done to them that we should not.
  • NYC announces new anti-crime system made in collaboration with Microsoft. Huh.