Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Monday, June 07, 2004

Alan Turing: 110010 Years Later

Crooked Timber just reminded me that fifty years ago today, the man who helped save the Free World by uncovering hidden knowledge killed himself by eating an apple laced with cyanide. He was trying to escape persecution for his homosexuality, and he succeeded.

Perhaps one might fittingly honor his death by taking a moment to reflect that bigotry has enormous costs, and not only for those discriminated against. My profession and the world probably lost about three and a half decades of Alan Turing's genius.

A Eulogy for Reagan

Ronald Reagan's foreign policy created Osama bin Laden. May he rest in peace.

UPDATE: Juan Cole, history professor, elaborates:

Reagan's aggression led him to shape our world in most unfortunate ways. Although it would be an exaggeration to say that Ronald Reagan created al-Qaeda, it would not be a vast exaggeration. The Carter administration began the policy of supporting the radical Muslim holy warriors in Afghanistan who were waging an insurgency against the Soviets after their invasion of that country. But Carter only threw a few tens of millions of dollars at them. By the mid-1980s, Reagan was giving the holy warriors half a billion dollars a year. His officials strong-armed the Saudis into matching the US contribution, so that Saudi Intelligence chief Faisal al-Turki turned to Usamah Bin Laden to funnel the money to the Afghans. This sort of thing was certainly done in coordination with the Reagan administration. Even the Pakistanis thought that Reagan was a wild man, and balked at giving the holy warriors ever more powerful weapons. Reagan sent Orrin Hatch to Beijing to try to talk the Chinese into pressuring the Pakistanis to allow the holy warriors to receive stingers and other sophisticated ordnance. The Pakistanis ultimately relented, even though they knew there was a severe danger that the holy warriors would eventually morph into a security threat in their own right.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

self.shitlist.add(RayBradbury)

Bradbury is bitching out Michael Moore for the title of Fahrenheit 9/11, saying Moore "stole my title [for Fahrenheit 451] and changed the numbers without ever asking me for permission". Err, right.

Bradbury claims his grumpiness has nothing to do with Moore's politics, but the Salon interview linked by Boing Boing contains the following quote:

[Q:] What do you think of President Bush?

[A:] He's wonderful. We needed him. Clinton is a shithead and we're glad to be rid of him. And I'm not talking about his sexual exploits. I think we have a chance to do something about education, very important. We should have done it years ago. It doesn't matter who does it -- Democrats or Republicans -- but it's long overdue. Our education system is a monstrosity. We need to go back and rebuild kindergarten and first grade and teach reading and writing to everybody, all colors, and then the whole structure of our education will change because people will know how to read and write.

Suuure, Ray, I'm sure your fury has nothing to do with your politics. To be fair, Bradbury said the above before Bush demonstrated exactly how incredibly bad he would be. But, in my experience, only people who were predisposed to conservative political views ever trusted Bush at the beginning of his term.

Bradbury is one of the great old men of science fiction. It's unfortunate, though unsurprising, that, like old men everywhere, he's simultaneously turned reactionary and lost touch completely with the zeitgeist.

Let's elaborate on the irony for a moment: Ray Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451, the most prominent anti-censorship novel ever written in the English language. "Intellectual property" law is the chief mechanism by which censorship will be exercised in the twenty-first century. In the year 2004, Ray Bradbury is making a ridiculous claim about intellectual property infringement by a film, most likely because the film expresses political views that differ from his own. The Clash never sounded so relevant.

To Bradbury's credit, he's not pursuing legal redress, or seeking to suppress distribution of the film. But nevertheless, by denouncing Moore for borrowing in exactly the way that artists have done in every place and time in human history, Bradbury has pulled a major asshole move.

Three Links Regarding Nuclear Holocaust

One.

Two.

Three.