On the subject of bad service…

So I have my lawyer and PurpleSlog has his gripes.. let’s add Dell / DHL to the list.

My AC adapter died the other day, so I called Dell emphasizing the severity of the situation, noting that I oversaw the purchase of four laptops from them, and encouraging them to get it shipped the next day. Then… nothing.

Well, this morning, I received two emails from Dell, each informing me the replacement part was shipped on the 24th. Checking the DHL tracking number provided, I see that DHL (while not leaving any sort of note on the door) has already tried to deliver twice.

So (a) Dell, for its sloppy customer service, and (b) DHL (I think) for its stealth non-notification of delivery attempts.

Maybe it’s best that the Democrats are taking it easy..

A break from serious analysis and Dozier Internet Law, PC to guffaw on a party that’s as bad as the Congressional Republicans.

New York Times reports that the Congressional Democrats work-week is just too long. I’m not surprised. There’s only so much you can do when your dedicated to symbolic legislation with no chance of actually passing.

But the news that the Democrats emailed the Justice Department whistleblower list to Dick Cheney is beyond hilarious. With work like that, maybe Pelosi and company just should stay home!

And it gets better:

Compounding the mistake, the committee later sent out a second email attempting to recall the original email; it, too, included all recipients in the “to:” field, according to a recipient of the emails.

(hat-tip to Slashdottwice!).

Zai Jian, Greencine!

With some sadness, I canceled my greencine account today. Grad school always takes up a lot of time, and the Time Warner DVR is just too fun and convneient… fast forwarding through ads makes television fun again, and time-shifting just blows me away.

I originally got involved with Greencine because their selection was broader than Netflix or Blockbuster. On a related note, film buffs will enjoy Adam’s “List”.

In the quite likely event that I return (service has always been fantastic), a partial list of my current queue is below the fold.

Black Snake Moan (2007)
The Bow (2005)
Truman (1995)
Sanjuro (Criterion Collection) (1962)
Getting Any? (1995)
Heimat: A Chronicle of Germany (Disc 2 of 6) (1984)
Animated Soviet Propaganda: American Imperialists (1924)
Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life (1997)
Baraka (1993)
My Life as a Dog (Criterion Collection) (1985)
This Divided State (2005)
Point of Order (1964)
Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession (2004)
Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst (2003)
Batman Begins (Special Edition) (2005)
Sword of the Beast (Criterion Collection) (1965)
Following (1998)
Pickpocket (Criterion Collection) (1959)
Legong, Dance of the Virgins (1935)
Mean Creek (2003)
Gaza Strip (2002)
In the Year of the Pig (1968)
Purple Butterfly (2003)
The Road Home (2000)
The Squid and the Whale (2005)
King of Chess (1991)
Tears of the Black Tiger (2000)
Incubus (1965)
Undeclared: Complete Series (Disc 1 of 4) (2001)
The Conversation (1974)
Sars Wars: Bangkok Zombie Crisis (2004)
Mountain Patrol (2004)
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984)
A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)
Gojira Deluxe Collector’s Edition (1954)
The Proposition (2005)
The Skeleton Key (2005)
Deadwood: Season 1 (Disc 1 of 6) (2004)
The Ghost of Mae Nak (2005)
Being There (1979)
What’s Up, Tiger Lily? (1966)
Ran (Masterworks Edition) (1985)
Max (2002)
Blood Guts Bullets and Octane (1998)
Mendy (2006)
I Am Sam (2001)
Overlord (Criterion Collection) (1975)
Nine Lives (2004)
The Sign of the Cross (1932)
The Bride with White Hair (1993)
Things to Do (2006)
The President’s Last Bang (2005)
Letters From Iwo Jima (2006)
Sansho the Bailiff (Criterion Collection) (1954)
Ball of Fire (1941)
The Devil and Daniel Johnston (2004)
Seven Swords (2005)
Days of Glory (2006)
The Seventh Seal (Criterion Collection) (1957)
If…. (Criterion Collection) (1968)
Following Sean (2005)
The Spy Who Came in From the Cold (1965)
Down from the Mountain (2001)
Zero Hour! (1957)
Voices of a Distant Star (2002)
The Party (1968)
Fired! (2006)
Why We Fight: The Battle of Russia (1943)
Crazed Fruit (Criterion Collection) (1956)
Dead Man (1995)
Eraserhead (1977)
City of God (2002)
It Happened One Night (1934)
Red River (1948)
Marooned in Iraq (2002)

Dozier Internet Law censoring Gamespot?

When Informercial Scams was SLAPP’d by Dozier Internet Law, they contacted Public Citizen and fought back. But was GameSpot similarly targeted? And did they cave?

The mystery comes from the current #11 result for Dozier Internet Law, titled “GameSpot: Note to Dozier Internet Law: Don’t screw with ⁄.” Bizarrely, this high-ranking post reads:

Game over
This user is banned
No continues

However, google cache reveals this text (emphasis original):

Those guys (douchebags) everyone loves to hate at cybertriallaywers.com have just done something incredibly stupid…they’ve tried to claim copyright on their website’s HTML. Fresh off their embarassment at the hands of Public Citizen it was found out that in their website’s EULA they assert copyright over their website’s HTML.

Thats not the funny part though, that comes in the form of the comments on the Slashdot article about it.

Within the first handful of comments the HTML source had already been reproduced in full, analysed, found to be invalid HTML, oh and apparently that it violates copyright itself in at least two different ways.

In otherwords I would like to modify slightly that old saying, “Don’t fight the internet.” Don’t fight slashdot, you will lose and be humiliated in the process.

By Runningflame570 — GameSpot
Posted Oct 18, 2007 10:09 pm PT

So did Dozier get to a description of a Slashdot article, but not the article itself? Did Gamespot ban the user and delete the post for another reason?

What is going on?

Dozier Internet Law Satires and Parodies

A couple funnies on the Dozier Internet Law saga (you know, the guys who threatned Information Scams and executes code on your computer without letting you see it). The first three are from Brendan of I Hate Linux:

The Lawyers against free speech (that they disagree with)

Pay up or we’ll sue!

Pay no attention to the HTML behind the curtain

The last link is a satire of Dozier’s homepage.

Turkewitz SLAPP’d? (Or is it a reasonable request?)

Eric Turkewitz’s post “More on Dozier v. Public Citizen” ranks #8 in the Dozier Internet Law Top 25 Poll – Week 2. His work exposing corrupt lawyers online speaks well of his public mindedness. Further, as Mr. Turkewitz is himself a lawyer, he is able to inject legal knowledge into the discussion like few others can.

On an unrelated post about car rental immunity, he posted the AVIS logo alongside the Hertz logo, as both companies are effected by the ruling. AVIS asked him to stop. Now Turkewitz is asking other bloggers what they know about trademark law.

Rational Agency and Personhood

Reacting privately to my posts on Cognitive Development, Rational Moral Development, and the OODA Loop, an immensely valued critic wrote:

It remains unclear to me why you are skeptical of rational agency despite having no problem with rationality, metacognition, or other related concepts. My sense is that you see intelligence, and thus rationality, as residing mostly in automatic, domain-specific processes, and associate agency with more controlled and general forms of reasoning that you think are more likely to undermine rationality than to enhance it.

Since getting this email last week I’ve been tossing it around in my head. I think I agree.

People know much more than they can say. Our verbal descriptions most closely match our behavior when we are new at a task, and know it only as a series of steps. With practice we no longer think about those steps — we automate them — so that we can perform them mindlessly while thinking about other things

The human ability to think has two main purposes: to allow us to learn new thinks (reorientation) and disrupt the execution of already automated tasks (disorientation). That is, thinking is a tool that should be used when our orientation is insufficient for the actions we have to perform. Normally, we rely on anxiety, or disorientation produced by orientation, to tell us when we need to calculate a new path or go back and reorient ourselves for a later time. Metacognition is similar to anxiety, except that it’s controlled by decision instead of orientation.

So why am I skeptical of rational agency, the idea that being human means having well-thought-out reasons for one’s actions? Because the tool of thought is just that, a tool. Decision is a tool used by persons in situations where they are unable or undesirious of trusting what they already know — it is not the essence of personhood.

OODA Alpha, Part XIII: Conclusion

The Observe-Orient-Decide-Act, or OODA, loop is a model of human cognition. The OODA model is a dual processing theory that has two main circuits: Observe-Orient-Decide which is analogous to Level 1 processing, and Observe-Orient-Decide-Act which is a form of Level 2 processing. Within an educational context, one central insight of the OODA model is that an educator does not have to focus on decision, or conscious processing, to change actions. Two broad methods, reorientation and disorientation, are presented that operate by modifying or disrupting mental cognitive structures.

Three broad educational contexts are described. Instruction, or educating to some specific end, academics, or learner interaction supervised by an educator, and creativity, or the process of an educator preparing a learner to create new and useful products. For instruction and creativity, educators must focus on building the correct orientations within learners so they can learn. For academics, educators should use disorientation where appropriate in order to interrupt the natural behavior of learners to manipulate peer interaction. For creativity, educators should reorient learners so they possess the proper intrinsic motivation to be both well adjusted and successful.

OODA Alpha, a tdaxp series
1. Abstract
2. Dual Processing Systems
3. The OODA Loop
4. Decision
5. Orientation
6. A Theory of Mind
7. Reorientation
8. Disorientation
9. Education
10. Instruction
11. Student Interaction
12. Creativity
13. Conclusion
14. Bibliography

In search of a darwinian ratchet: the ANC, the PLO, and the RAF

Evolution is the change in frequency of variations over time. The evolution of species by means of natural selection was first described by Charles Darwin.

With this in mind, Fabius Maximus’s tak of a “Darwinian ratchet” makes no sense:

the success of Israel’s counter-insurgency strikes against Hamas and Hezbollah have resulted in a “Darwinian ratchet”.

Israel’s security services cull the ranks of the insurgency. This eliminates the slow and stupid, clearing space for the “best” to rise in authority. “Best” in the sense of those most able to survive, recruit, and train new ranks of insurgents. The more severe Israel’s efforts at exterminating the insurrection, the more ruthless the survivors.

Back to evolution. In terms of nature, evolution has no purpose, goal, or direction. Pace to the Nazis and the Stalinists, to the Social Darwinists and the Creationists, evolution is not directed toward rewarding the strong, the social, the smart, or the sinful. Evolution is merely the change in the frequency of variations of some aspect of things.

Evolution happens in the context of an environment. If the environment rewards those with high general intelligence with more offspring than those less gifted, one might see general intelligence vary upward in the next generation (perhaps at the cost of something else, such as short term memory). If the environment rewards those who are cautious and nervous, then presumably frequencies of neuroticisms might change.

Fabius appears to have a different notion of evolution. A “ratchet,” of course, is a tool that turns only one way. A “Darwinian ratchet” implies that evolution is determined to maximize some quality or trait, so that each new generation possesses more of it than the one preceding. One assumes that Fabius is looking to evolution to maximize, again and again, effective violence against Western societies..

But of course, evolution does not work this way, because the environment is not static. Even if the outside world remains the same, the population subjected to evolutionary forces will change, and as the population is part of the evolutionary landscape, the environment thus changes.

Fabius is concerned that Western violence against enemies of the West will ratchet up the fitness of our enemies, giving us more and more effective enemies. But of course, all that happens is that our activities alter their fitness landscape, leading to different proportions of different types of them. Take three examples of anti-Western forces subjected to continuous Western assault

  • The African National Congress

    The ANC began as a cookie-cutter Communist terrorist organization located in South Africa, aiming to bring down an economically productive yet antidemocratic ruling class. The South African government fought back, imprisoning the ANCs leaders, turning natural ANC allies against it, and generally engaging in Systems Administration duties. Fabius’s “Darwinian ratchet” would lead us to expect that the ANC became more and more virulent, but what actually happened was that the removal of ANC members capable of conducting guerrilla campaigns morphed the ANC into a peaceful democratic movement. The fall of Apartheid and the ANC victory brought something completely unlike what the ANC founders envisioned, and ushered in a new South African regime roughly as compatible with Western goals as the Afrikaner state that preceded it.

  • The Palestine Liberation Organization
  • “At first, we were refugees. Harmless. Now, we become fighters. Freedom fighters.” So Yasser Arafat rallied his troops, aiming to liberate the Palestinian people from Jewish and Hashemite occupation in Israel and Jordan. Once again, the West responded, offering hostility and partnership to the PLO in a bewildering series of deadly assaults. Again, the concept of a “darwinian ratchet” would lead us to believe that the PLO is now on the verge of achieving its objectives. But by the late 1990s the PLO had evolved into a corrupt rentier syndicate, completely unable to wage war on either of its historic enemies. When it tried in the Second Intifada it lost what freedom of maneuvered it had. The PLO is now protected by its old enemies from a reform movement (Hamas), in a divide-and-conquer strategy that makes true Palestinian statehood farther away than ever.

  • The Red Army Faction (Japan)

    But what if an enemy population adjusts to an increasingly hostile fitness landscape not by becoming soft and effective (the ANC), or soft and impotent (the PLO), but harsh and deadly? What if those reformists and crooks can be kept out, and the true believers are able to maintain power? Surely a “darwinian ratchet” will kick in then.

The radical wing of the RAF tried such a strategy, killing off the less radical half in a blood bath designed to weed out the disloyal. How it ends is predictable.

This is not to say that our enemies can’t win. Of course they can. But pseudo-scientific talk of darwinian ratchets and other mechanisms that guarantee us ten-foot-tall enemies do not help matters. They do not clarify the strategic environment or accurately capture reality. They are tools for myopic, conceited schools of analysis which imagines that we are so important that our enemies very thought and desire is for our harm (rather than their benefit).

Also in the blogsophere: A.E. defends his take, while Sean ponders a law of evolution.