An interesting ad from Dove.

A former forensic artist for the San Jose police department met a series of women and asked each to describe the way they look. He had no way of seeing them behind a curtain. He prompted them to detail everything: hair length, facial structure, their most prominent features. He then sketched each participant from their self-description.

Each woman was asked before the study to get to know one of the other participants. The forensic artist then prompted each woman to describe the other’s face.

At the end of the video, the artist reveals two sketches — one from the participant itself, one from their partner. The differences are remarkable.

It was torture

Sully read through the nearly 600 page report from the Constitution Project on the “interrogation techniques” used by the Bush administration–and it makes for grisly reading:

While being held in this position [a prolonged standing stress position involving being shackled to a bar or hook in the ceiling by the detainee’s wrists, typically while naked, for a continual period of time, ranging from two to three days continuously, up to two or three months intermittently] some of the detainees were allowed to defecate in a bucket. A guard would come to release their hands from the bar or hook in the ceiling so that they could sit on the bucket. None of them, however, were allowed to clean themselves afterwards. Others were made to wear a garment that resembled a diaper. This was the case for Mr. Bin Attash in his fourth place of detention. However, he commented that on several occasions the diaper was not replaced so he had to urinate and defecate on himself while shackled in the prolonged stress standing position. When [prisoners fell] asleep held in this position, the whole weight of their bodies was effectively suspended from the shackled wrists, transmitting the strain through the arms to the shoulders.

Here’s the deal, conservatives: If you’re outraged by the dehumanizing abominations that took place in Philly at the house of horrors run by Kermit Gosnell (and you damn well should be), then you need to be equally outraged by the dehumanizing practices used by the Bush administration. A human life is a human life is a human life and if you’re going to get angry about how one man in Philly spat on the imago dei you should get angry about how a whole bunch of men in Washington did the same. There are plenty of important differences between the two cases, obviously, but the tie that binds both is the radical disregard shown for human beings bearing the image of God.

On how to move forward, I’m with Sullivan:

What matters – and the law is crystal clear about this – is that torture and anything even close to torture be prosecuted aggressively. This is true especially when a government is claiming urgent national security in defense of its own crimes. The laws specifically rule out any defense on those grounds. So either we are a republic governed by the rule of law or we are not. Yes, there is discretion as to whether to prosecute any crime. But war crimes are the gravest on the books and have no statute of limitations. Prosecuting them is integral to adherence to Geneva, which itself is integral to the maintenance of the rule of law and of Western civilization itself. Either we set up a Truth Commission and find a way to pardon the war criminals, while establishing their guilt – which would at least give a brief nod to the rule of law. Or we have to take this report and the Senate Intelligence Committee’s findings as a basis for legal action for war crimes.

There is no way forward without this going back. And there is no way past this but through it.

One other thing, just to head this off before it’s raised: There are Christian conservatives who have been denouncing the use of torture since the start. Joe Carter reemed one NR piece over at First Things three years ago and Al Mohler wrote against the use of torture way back in December of 2005 at Evangelical Outpost.

Dreher has a new essay in TAC that is worth checking out:

In a dinner conversation not long after the publication of American Grace, Putnam told me that Christian churches would have to liberalize on sexual teaching if they hoped to retain the loyalty of younger generations. This seems at first like a reasonable conclusion, but the experience of America’s liberal denominations belies that prescription. Mainline Protestant churches, which have been far more accepting of homosexuality and sexual liberation in general, have continued their stark membership decline.

It seems that when people decide that historically normative Christianity is wrong about sex, they typically don’t find a church that endorses their liberal views. They quit going to church altogether.

This raises a critically important question: is sex the linchpin of Christian cultural order? Is it really the case that to cast off Christian teaching on sex and sexuality is to remove the factor that gives—or gave—Christianity its power as a social force?

Leanne Ogasawara answers the age old question:

“If God allowed you to go back in time to spend the day with one famous historical person, who would you choose?”

He pondered this question in a rose garden. And as he happily ran through his various candidates– “Plato or Socrates in downtown Athens; or how about Nietzsche or the young Rimbaud?” — his mind lingered lazily over Cleopatra, “Ah, but one day would never be enough…”.

I had, in the meantime, already made up my own mind. For almost in an instant I had decided who I would choose. To meet Proust would have been delicious and the sight of John the Baptist incredible, and yet, in the end, I knew I could not really top the allure of Voltaire. In terms of a day spent, I just have to believe that Voltaire really had what it takes. I mean, he kept Madame du Châtelet happy for decades in her grand chateau, right?

We know at Cirey, the two lovers would spend their days absorbed in the respective studies. Working at opposite ends of the vast chateau, it is said they passed notes constantly during their days spent working apart; liveried butlers would deliver handwritten love-letters on silver platters whenever one of the lovers had something to say to the other. In the evenings, though, Madame and Voltaire would always come together to dine. Oh, can you imagine the sparkling conversations? Those dinners alone make him worthy of a wistful sigh.

My answers below.

Continue Reading »

Well, not quite but one enterprising programmer did create an AI that can play Super Mario Brothers with some level of success.

Murphy created two programs, LearnFun and PlayFun, and began recording himself playing the first level (world 1-1) of Super Mario Bros. The NES puts out 60 frames of 2048 bytes per second, and each of these was fed into LearnFun. Everything in the NES’s memory—the buttons being pressed, the number of lives left, the score, the locations of enemies, Mario’s position as coordinates, and so on—is taken in by the LearnFun algorithm.

PlayFun then plays the game, and uses the knowledge from LearnFun to try and increase the values it knows it has to increase—Mario’s score, and how far scrolled to the right Mario is in the level. “It’s trying to find the sequence of inputs to make those values go up in the RAM,” Murphy explains in the video.

The results are impressive. After some tweaking, Mario plays the first level just like a real person, jumping on enemies like Goombas and hitting boxes for coins. The program even learns how to take advantage of bugs and glitches, like timing jumps so that Mario begins falling again at the exact time that he makes contact with a Goomba. Mario’s invincible when he’s falling, so the touch kills the Goomba, not Mario, and it gives him a further jump boost.

Good piece here from Douthat summing up the often contradictory goals that many journalists have in pursuing their work:

THE traditional American mass media — the crumbling, Internet-besieged edifice of newspapers and news shows, magazines and roundtables and journalism schools — evolved to believe with equal vigor in two not entirely compatible ideals.
One is an ideal of balance, nonpartisanship and near-perfect neutrality — distilled to its essence, perhaps, by the former Washington Post editor Leonard Downie Jr.’s longstanding refusal to cast a vote, “so that I never make up my mind which party, candidate or ideology should be in power.”

The other is a much more ideological ideal, which treats journalism as a kind of vanguard profession — fighting for the powerless against the powerful and leading America toward enlightenment.

Both of these visions have inspired great journalists and impressive publications. But many of the establishment media’s worst habits arise from the doomed attempt to pursue both of them at once.


the problem here isn’t that American journalists are too quick to go on crusades. Rather, it’s that the press’s ideological blinders limit the kinds of crusades mainstream outlets are willing to entertain, and the formal commitment to neutrality encourages self-deception about what counts as crusading.

The core weakness of the mainstream media, in this sense, is less liberalism than parochialism. The same habits of mind that make bipartisanthink seem like the height of wisdom also make it easy to condescend to causes and groups that seem disreputable and to underplay stories that might vindicate them.

The best response to this problem probably doesn’t involve doubling down on a quest for an illusory neutrality. We’d be better off, instead, if our battered-but-still-powerful media establishment did more to lean into the Internet era, which for all its challenges offers opportunities as well — the chance to multiply perspectives, to promote a diverse (and, yes, sometimes competing) array of causes and to pursue a wider variety of journalistic ideals.

A couple months ago John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, gave an interview to the Harvard Business Review in preparation for the release of his book, Conscious Capitalism.

Mark Skousen reviews the title in TAC:

Still, battle lines have been drawn between labor and capital, and between consumers and producers, into the 21st century. Workers live in constant fear of being underpaid, overworked, or unemployed thanks to the upper hand of management, while consumers are deceived by “hidden persuaders” into buying “bads” rather than “goods.” All this despite the Herculean efforts by such management gurus as Frederick Taylor, Alfred Sloan, Edward Deming, Louis Kelso, Peter Drucker, Steve Covey, and Jim Collins. Big government and non-profit organizations seem a necessary countervailing power to a deeply flawed private enterprise system.

In response, utopian visionaries have sought to transform capitalism into a system that is “humane,” “social,” “enlightened,” “good,” and even “better.” But after countless how-to books and MBA courses on business ethics, leadership, and corporate culture, the question remains: can the business world develop a system beneficial to all the stakeholders in a firm—owners, consumers, workers, investors, suppliers, and the community at large?

Enter John Mackey, cofounder and co-CEO of Whole Foods Market.  He and his co-author, Raj Sisodia, a professor at Bentley University, have created solutions they call “conscious capitalism” and “firms of endearment.” The authors offer a balanced score card, with chapters on “loyal, trusting customers”; “passionate, inspired team members”; “patient, purposeful investors”; “collaborative, innovative suppliers”; “flourishing, welcoming communities”; and “a healthy, vibrant environment.” Mackey and Sisodia conclude that business is not a sporting event, “a zero-sum game with a winner and a loser. It’s a win, win, win, win game.”



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