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Iraq: Politics or Policy?
Topic: International Relations 12:20 pm EDT, Oct  3, 2004

Sorry, I've been away writing a book. I'm back, so let's get right down to business: We're in trouble in Iraq.

Tom Friedman is back, and boy, is he fired up!

Iraq: Politics or Policy?

The System of the World
Topic: Literature 10:48 pm EDT, Oct  2, 2004

Did anyone know the new Neal Stephenson is out?

Has anyone finished the first 1776 pages of The Baroque Cycle?

The colossal and impressive third volume (after Quicksilver and The Confusion) of Stephenson's magisterial exploration of the origins of the modern world in the scientific revolution of the baroque era begins in 1714.

This final volume in the cycle is another magnificent portrayal of an era, well worth the long slog it requires of Stephenson's many devoted readers.

The System of the World

America's Secret War - On Sale Now
Topic: War on Terrorism 1:30 pm EDT, Oct  2, 2004

In America's Secret War George Friedman identifies the United States's most dangerous enemies, delving into everything from presidential strategies of the last quarter century to hidden reasons behind the attack of 9/11 to the true aim of the war in Iraq.

This book doesn't go on sale until October 5, but you can buy it here today for half price. By comparison, Amazon is taking pre-orders at a 32% discount.

America's Secret War - On Sale Now

Is Your FPGA Design Secure?
Topic: Technology 11:53 am EDT, Oct  2, 2004

After spending months on your design, the last thing you want is to find your design has been stolen. Say goodbye to "locks," "fuses," "antifuses," and other contraptions. You can sleep peacefully when you design with Xilinx.

Here at Xilinx, we want you to rest at ease. All Xilinx devices have robust security mechanisms that make it nearly impossible to steal designs. With security mechanisms you can "bank" on, let's get into the details of design security and how Xilinx protects your valuable proprietary designs.

Is Your FPGA Design Secure?

What You Should Do to Prepare for and Respond to Chemical, Radiological, Nuclear, and Biological Terrorist Attacks
Topic: War on Terrorism 10:32 am EDT, Oct  2, 2004

This handy-dandy pocket guide focuses on simple steps individuals can take to prepare for and respond to terrorist attacks with chemical, biological, radiological ("dirty bomb") and nuclear weapons. The guides contain both preparatory steps and specific response guidance. This includes what individuals will experience, what their goals should be, and what they should do during each type of attack.

What You Should Do to Prepare for and Respond to Chemical, Radiological, Nuclear, and Biological Terrorist Attacks

The Proteus Effect: Stem Cells and Their Promise
Topic: Science 10:31 am EDT, Oct  2, 2004

Stem cells could be the key that unlocks cures to scores of diseases and illnesses. Their story is at once compelling, controversial, and remarkable. Part detective story, part medical history, The Proteus Effect recounts the events leading up to the discovery of stem cells and their incredible potential for the future of medicine.

The Proteus Effect: Stem Cells and Their Promise

Visionary Anatomies
Topic: Arts 10:30 am EDT, Oct  2, 2004

Visionary Anatomies contains the work of contemporary artists who use medical images and concepts to express aesthetic, social and cultural ideas. Despite ideas of separation between "unbiased" technological representations and "biased" artistic interpretation, some artists and scientists continue a dialogue and discover powerful metaphors and insights in each other's work.

In art, as in biology and medicine, anatomic representation can be a point of departure rather than an endpoint. The anatomic form becomes more than an illustration of living tissue; it reveals an intersection of life and imagination and provokes us to think anew about who we are and of what we are made.

The works draw from ancient anatomy and from modern imaging technology. Individually fascinating, they are yet more powerful as a collection, demanding repeatedly that we take a fresh look at ourselves, our inner being, and our place in the world.

Visionary Anatomies

Terror attacks influence driving behavior in Israel
Topic: Science 10:27 am EDT, Oct  2, 2004

Terror attacks in Israel produce a temporary lull in light accidents followed by a 35% spike in fatal accidents on Israeli roads 3 days after the attack. Our results are based on time-series analysis of Israeli traffic flows, accidents, and terror attacks from January 2001 through June 2002. Whereas prior studies have focused on subjective reports of posttraumatic stress, our study shows a population-level behavioral response to violent terror attacks.

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Terror attacks influence driving behavior in Israel

RE: Question of the day
Topic: Miscellaneous 12:26 am EDT, Oct  2, 2004

Decius wrote:
] Is it moral to use tax payer dollars to fund things that a
] large group of people in a society feel are totally immoral or
] unethical? Stated another way, is it ok to force people to pay
] for something they think is immoral, or should we have a broad
] moral consensus on something before we spend public money on
] it.

In an authoritarian society, this question might have some practical utility. In the United States, it seems rather academic.

A candidate for office is ethically obligated to present his/her views to the voting public. The people should be as inquisitive as possible, and no public or foreign policy question should be out of bounds.

Come election time, the people vote. You vote for the candidate of your choosing, with full awareness of the views and intentions of all the candidates. The winner carries out his/her stated policies.

Some candidates choose to separate their personal views from their public policy recommendations. Others do not. How any given candidate stands in this regard should be evident to the voters.

As a politician, one way to achieve such a separation is to make it your policy to defer to the public on certain matters. Call for a referendum and let the people decide for themselves regarding the outcome of a sensitive or highly charged issue.

Congress controls how money is spent, and it is supposed to represent the people in our society. If everyone in Congress had made known their views on stem cell research prior to being elected, then the collective outcome of a vote on a funding bill should be accepted by the public. If not, then the voters apparently didn't care enough to ask (and insist on an answer), because the topic has been part of the conversation for a while now.

Some of your examples are dubious. I don't think a majority of people "on the left" find the Iraq war immoral. The Congress voted in support of it, and they voted to continue funding it during the period of the occupation, even after we knew there were probably no WMDs. The morality of the action has nothing to do with the fact that the French opted not to help us pay for it.

I don't know your threshold for judging when we've reached "broad moral consensus" on an issue, but the whole idea strikes me as rather libertarian in the sense that it implicitly advocates for a smaller government.

Let's say the threshold is eighty percent. So then you go out and get one hundred voters who form a perfect cross section of the American public. You split them up, put each one alone in a room, and sit them down with a copy of the federal budget and a box of red pens. They are instructed to review the budget and redline anything they deem to be "immoral".

Once all of them are done, you compile the results, one line item at a time. If the item was redlined by more than twenty people, then it gets deleted from the budget. "No funding for you! Next!"

RE: Question of the day

Avenue Q
Topic: Arts 10:32 pm EDT, Oct  1, 2004

The inspired brainchild of the songwriters Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, this canny toy chest of a musical takes its stylistic cues from "Sesame Street," from its cheery urban set to its singing puppets of assorted colors and dispositions. And in doing so it becomes the first mainstream musical since "Rent" to coo with such seductive directness to theatergoers on the fair side of 40 in their own language, in which irony is less a mind-set than a loosely worn style. Directed by Jason Moore, with a book by Jeff Whitty, the show applies the coaxing, learning-is-fun attitude of children's educational television to the R-rated situations of postcollegiate life in the big city. Featuring a pitch-perfect ensemble of live performers and oversize hand puppets, "Avenue Q" is to "Sesame Street" what Mel Brooks's "Producers" is to vintage Broadway musicals: a connoisseur's tribute to what it only seems to send up.

Avenue Q

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