2006-10-28

There is AIDS

In my previous post, I linked to sites that question the assumption that HIV causes AIDS.

I have since looked at what the mainstream proponents of the HIV->AIDS theory have to say about the arguments of those who are against it, and I have so far found the following good resources:If you're aware of more factual responses to the claims made by Alive & Well and others that dismantles their claims based on solid research data, feel welcome to comment.

2006-10-27

There is no AIDS?

We all assume that the HIV-causes-AIDS theory has been proven beyond reasonable doubt, since otherwise, why would we be seeing so much material that takes it for granted, right?

Well... It turns out the HIV/AIDS theory might not have been proven, ever. At all. It might be, in fact, that it is only the result of mass hysteria and a long game of "telephone".

Or, as it says on the website of one Peter Duesberg:
On the basis of his experience with retroviruses, Duesberg has challenged the virus-AIDS hypothesis in the pages of such journals as Cancer Research, Lancet, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Science, Nature, Journal of AIDS, AIDS Forschung, Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapeutics, New England Journal of Medicine and Research in Immunology. He has instead proposed the hypothesis that the various American/European AIDS diseases are brought on by the long-term consumption of recreational drugs and/or AZT itself, which is prescribed to prevent or treat AIDS. See The AIDS Dilemma: Drug diseases blamed on a passenger virus.
I very much recommend checking out this site. It discusses this topic surprisingly professionally.

Did you know that at least one of the researchers credited with discovering HIV has since stated, according to Alive and Well, that "he does not believe HIV alone is capable of causing AIDS"?

See also my next post where I link to sites in favor of the opposite point of view.

2006-10-24

Dawkins and the drive against religion

In this post, James Robertson discusses Richard Dawkins's drive against religion, which drive I generally agree with, but I think it misses the point in some ways.

It is not necessary to teach people not to believe in God, but it is necessary to convince them that reason comes first. Faith is not a problem if the believer is willing to adapt when confronted with facts that conflict with his faith. But faith is a problem if one isn't so flexible - when one puts faith ahead of reason in one's value system. This leads to fanaticism, terrorism, abortion clinic bombing, dressing up women in burqas, female circumcision, and so on.

It is very necessary that the school system develops the students' rational analysis skills, to give youngsters trust in their reasoning abilities. Beyond that, teaching them not to believe in unicorns or witches is pointless, because what else is more interesting than what you aren't supposed to do, think, or believe.

2006-10-17

Religious fundamentalism is around us

Most "normal" people are so insufficiently aware that things like these are taking place in the world every day, and it is "normal".

I grew up in a light version of this - my growing up was full of conflict with a Catholic fundamentalist parent. I've also been upclose and personal with Network 21 (the strongest group of Amway distributors) who run an indoctrination system that's in many ways similar to this.

This is really evil, and people usually fail to understand that when I say that I'm against organized religion, this means that I'm against cults and indoctrination systems like this. They are a real disease that perpetuates itself in society, and even large and generally less fundamentalist organized religions have lots of nooks and crannies which are fundamentalist in this way. I've seen those nooks and crannies and people who perpetuate this on the Catholic side, and I can confirm that indeed these patterns are evil, and furthermore that they are not a deviation, they are an integral part of the system, they are the norm.

Now all it takes is for some more people to speak out, and for others to pay attention and listen to people with such experience, and not think that we just need to "make nice" and "reduce social friction", as alluded to in my previous post. This kind of thing destroys the lives of people it grabs on to - I am only a light victim of this, but see how dogemperor describes how she was raised. Beyond the people they affect directly, cults like these have the power to cause wars in which millions get killed, and they have a great eagerness to do it. The Iraq war may have partly happened because it had support from large masses of American Christian fundamentalists, who believe it is a stepstone to their rapture and salvation.

If you don't know much about the power and the nature of religios cults, please do educate yourself. Read the experiences of people like ex-dominionists, ex-opus dei, ex-scientology. Nothing is more tragic and more dangerous than people who wreck their lives and others' convinced they're doing the right thing, caught up in this system that totally prevents them from thinking.

And there are so many of these people. It sometimes seems as though 'light' versions exist wherever you look.

What's the right amount of social friction?

James Robertson argues in response to my recent thoughts about dress code:
In social settings, politeness exists to reduce friction. People who don't get that are - whether they realize it or not - increasing the social friction between people.
There is of course truth in this, but there are two sides to this medal, and as far as dress code is concerned, I responded in a comment under James' post.

As far as social friction in general is concerned though, I find it worthwhile to express these thoughts:

It could be argued that, in a situation where you're a lemming in a group of lemmings heading over a cliff, it will "reduce social friction" if you just go along and don't resist the flow of your peers. Likewise, it could be argued that if you were living in Nazi Germany, it would "reduce social friction" if you just didn't complain about the treatment of the Jews. (*) In fact, you are quite correct that "reducing social friction" is just the kind of thing you need to do in order to avoid trouble and to progress in the world. The problem is that, if you excel at "reducing social friction", you become, well, "slippery".

Always aiming to "reduce social friction" is not something that counts as admirable behavior in my world. Standing up for the right thing is what counts. As far as I'm concerned, everyone who aims to "reduce social friction" is just helping the world become a worse place, because it accomodates everyone who's making it worse.

But, sure, it helps one's interests in the process.

(*) I know, I know, Godwin's law, reductio ad Hitlerum. But the analogy is worth stating because that's where society can go if everyone ignores a problem and just aims to "reduce friction". Are the United States not becoming a fascist nation because everyone is playing along with the stupid measures invented by the federal government, "reducing the social friction"?

2006-10-12

Iraq death toll between 400,000 and 950,000

New Scientist reports:
Critics commenting on the study say the number of deaths in the families interviewed – 82 reported before the invasion, 547 afterwards – was too few to extrapolate to the whole country. But the researchers insist they have made statistical compensations for their sample size to pre-empt these criticisms.

They estimate that there were at least 392,976 excess deaths – those that would not have occurred, has there been no war – in Iraq since 2003, and possibly as many as 942,636. The research confirmed the results of the same group’s 2004 study.
Even Saddam Hussein didn't kill as many people.

Suppose the Iraq war had anything to do with protecting the United States from terrorism. Which it did not, and the United States are now supposedly more at threat than before. But anyway.

Suppose that, a few years ago, George W. Bush had told you that his plan of getting rid of the terrorist problem would cost the lives of between 400.000 and 1 million Americans.

What would you have thought of Mr. Bush's plan, then?

2006-10-07

Join me in my country!

Here's what a country governed by denis will look like.

1. No flat democracy. Flat democracy is when two wolves and a sheep get to vote on what's for dinner. It leads to dysfunctional populist policies and totalitarian states. Hitler was voted into power. So were Putin and Ahmadinejad.

People don't know what's best for everyone. They can be manipulated at will and they won't ever know any better unless there's an external correction.

Just look at how long the income tax has persisted. Look at how bureaucracy worldwide has ballooned. People can't get elected unless they're good at lying and manipulating. If any improvement is to be done, it can only get done by a skillful politician who can do it not because of, but despite the public.

This is no way to govern a state.

For their own sake, power is not for the masses.

But even more importantly, power is not for the crackpots: Kim Jong-il, Stalin, Ceausescu. So where shall the power reside?

2. An enlightened, constitutional absolutism, until a better model is found. The initial constitution shall be short and shall consist mainly of the essential human rights the state is obliged to respect, lest it forfeit its legitimacy. In most respects though, I shall be free to organize, reorganize and partition the state as I see fit, in order to find the best working model. Models I shall try will include SD-2 (Structured Deep Democracy) and WikiLaws. Preferrably, I would like to come up with a dynamic system that leads to a stable, free and self-improving state without the need for central leadership. If this fails, I will look for a way to select central leadership through a better process than the current major systems (flat democracy or hereditary monarchy) provide. (A system like the one through which a Dalai Lama is chosen comes to mind.)

3. No income tax. No tarriffs. No customs. The income tax imposes costs of compliance which seriously impede economic activity. Tarrifs unnecessarily impede trade. No one should have to concern themselves with taxation when making economic decisions. Revenue collection must be neutral, straightforward and fair. If necessary, something akin to FairTax can be enacted, but it will not be necessary, because:

4. The state owns all land. Land cannot be purchased, only rented, by companies and individuals. The state lends all land through auction, collecting the proceeds as its revenue. The revenue that the state collects is its own and the state may do with it as it pleases, provided only it does not violate the constitution. The state is thus interested in pursuing policies that encourage economic activity, which in turn increases the value of land. The state is encouraged to take responsibility for land development and planning and is motivated to always do the right thing, long term, with respect to the land. Thus the power to solve problems is placed with the entity most able to solve them, and the entity is motivated to solve them.

5. Anyone can immigrate as long as they can rent a place. The state and the economy always benefits from economic immigration, so there is no need to restrict this. The only condition is that everyone who immigrates is able to provide themselves with the basic necessities.

6. Everyone must provide for themselves. The state is to be founded on formerly barren land, so all or almost all initial citizens are immigrants. Those who cannot provide themselves with basic necessities, or refuse to do so through honest means, are sent back to their country of origin.

7. High-quality education. The long-term well-being of the state depends entirely on the abilities of its citizens, so these must be nurtured and developed to the highest extent. This starts with top-notch elementary schools followed all the way through to universities. Elementary schools are free and well-financed. Subsequent levels of education are accessible to everyone on an investment stipend principle: the state or other investor finances the student in exchange for a share of her future paycheck. The share (interest rate) is larger for riskier investments (student might not be capable for his chosen path), smaller for less risky ones (student appears very capable).

8. Failed persons have status of pets. People who are not able to provide themselves with basic necessities, yet cannot be deported because their country of origin will not accept them, or because they were born within the state, are understood to have the same status as pets. They are a burden to society which someone needs to bear. If someone (friends or relatives) is willing to take care of such a person, they are free to do so. If no one is willing to take care of you, you are sent to an institution that houses people who cannot provide for themselves. This institution may or may not provide limited access to the outside depending on whether you present a threat to society.

It is understood that, if you are unable to provide for yourself, there are two options: you either have potential or you do not. If you have potential, someone should be willing to invest in you to help you become what you can. If no one is willing to make that investment, your case must be considered terminal, hence you get placed into an institution suitable for humanely sustaining your life at a reasonable cost to the state.

This is intended to be a reasonably acceptable yet glum prospect, to avoid a situation where people are encouraged to mooch off the state.

9. Universal anti-infection testing. The state concerns itself with ailments that can be transmitted from one person to another and takes steps to minimize transmission of illness. All visitors and immigrants are routinely tested for a variety of transmitted diseases, including STDs. All citizens are tested in regular intervals or on return from trips abroad. The strategy for dealing with infections depends on person's status (citizen, foreigner), infection spreding mechanism (breathing, sexual, ...), etc.

Example: as long as HIV treatment is expensive and the infection non-curable, the state will not routinely pay for treatment (the person should be insured for the possibility or face consequences). However, the state will help prevent further infection by making it possible for potential sexual partners to easily and trustworthily share information about each other's recent HIV and STD test status before engaging in sexual activity.

10. The state will promote rationality. The state won't prohibit anyone from worshipping God, Allah or the Invisible Pink Unicorn. However, the state will ensure through its education system that children are well-informed about the existence of various religions, their various histories, policies and views, and why rational thinking is better suited to solving one's problems than mere belief.

11. Personal freedom. The state will not legislate on anyone's ability to do things that adversely affect no one else. Pornography, promiscuity, nudity, prostitution, gambling and drugs will all be permitted. What won't be permitted is violence and crime. People who resort to violence and crime because of their lifestyle choices will be considered for a possible investment deal to bring them back on a productive path, or else, internment in the humanitarian institution for housing people who cannot take care of themselves.

12. No revenge-based justice. The justice system shall focus in every case to find the solution that is best for everyone. People who have transgressed against the law and done things such as stealing, rape, murder, shall not be punished so as to exact revenge, but shall be prevented from repeating their offense in a way that will necessarily restrict their freedom, but attempting to preserve possibilities for them to still somehow make sense of their lives and do something good for themselves and society. A 21-year old woman who falls asleep behind the wheel and accidentally kills 6 teenagers doesn't need to go to prison for 48 years, regardless of what the parents of these children feel.

I have more ideas, but it's already 5:40 AM.

So, what do you think?

I only need 100.000 people who want to live in a state like this, to lend me an initial investment of about US$100.000 each. That's a pittance compared to the taxes your family and yourself will save over a lifetime. Then we can lobby the Australian people to sell us a bit of their land so we can start our country.

Sure, there's nothing there right now, but we don't need anything to begin with. Singapore sprouted in a matter of decades, and Israel started out as a desert. With the right economic system in place, a paradise can be made out of anything. All we need is a piece of land where no one will bother us, where we are reasonably safe, and where we have room to expand.

In 30 years, New York could be nothing compared to the metropolis we can build there.

Visual Studio 2005 Configuration Manager Bugs

The programmer who created the Visual Studio 2005 Configuration Manager should be hung.

The Configuration Manager just doesn't work. It's so quirky you would think that they shipped it without even a minimal test. Suppose you remove a configuration; rename a different configuration to match the name of the one you removed; close the Configuration Manager; open it again; and both configurations reappear.

Heck, forget about renaming anything. Just try to remove a configuration from a project. Close the solution and open it again. The removed configuration is still there. If I want to achieve anything, I have to edit the .vcproj files manually.

Not to mention that, as you switch the active solution configuration, all of the settings sometimes just seem to flip and then you have to reset them again one by one, manually.

The Visual Studio 2005 IDE, overall, is such a crappy piece of software. It is better than Visual Studio 2003, not to mention 2002, which was impossibly buggy. But it's so way behind the stability of Visual Studio 6, which simply worked, whatever you did.

And it's not just the Configuration Manager. It's the whole IDE. Try creating a custom build step for a project. The extra dependencies don't start to work until you close the solution and reopen it. And that's not documented anywhere - it's a bug you have to learn about and work around it.

And the whole IDE is so frustratingly slow. I have a double-core 3.2GHz machine, and still I cannot write code normally while I'm compiling. Each keypress takes a few seconds to interpret. That's just an impossible degradation compared to the responsiveness of Visual Studio 6.

Whoever implemented Visual Studio 2005, they did an enormously crappy job. It seems as if Microsoft gave the job to a bunch of fresh out of college C# programmers who don't know their way around. The quality would be acceptable for a first try, but this is not the first try - it's their 3rd version of the .NET IDE, and the 8th version of Visual Studio overall. Just what on Earth are they doing?

Has everybody who worked on Visual Studio 6 packed up and gone to Bora Bora?

2006-10-05

America's rigged elections

I tend to believe that all this is true. It is uncanny how chummy Diebold executives are with the Bushes, and how conveniently ignorant the company is when it comes to the (non-)security of their voting machines. Add to this how Fox is de facto controlled by Bush relatives, and the "small" election irregularities that kept popping up after recent elections...

Even from across the ocean, it's quite clear what is actually going on. George Bush senior - the only ex-president known to still daily be reading his CIA memos - is the conniving architect who, with the help of his powerful network of friends, installed his easily-manipulated idiot son as the US president and has been keeping him in office through deceit and outright manipulation for the past 6 years. This is all being done in bad faith and these are acts that, altogether, amount to treason. The truth doesn't come out partially because (1) these people control a major portion of the media, and (2) it's inconceivable that this can really be happening in the "paragon of freedom and democracy" that the US is esteemed to be, anyway.

2006-10-04

Dress code

A commenter recently posted this on James Robertson's blog:
bigz, if you come into my office wearing torn jeans and a t-shirt, I will be offended. You are not showing respect for me or yourself. That is simply the way the world works. And yes I teach my child respect. I learned it from my parents.
My instinctual reaction to this is, "If you're so uptight about clothes, I don't necessarily need to do any business with you." The person who wrote this is essentially a traditionalist - a person who perpetuates certain patterns of behavior "just because", not because there's necessarily any good reason for it. Being a traditionalist is fine as long as you don't force it on others. Forcing it upon others, though, is what the words "cultural imperialism" are about.

If I come into your office in jeans and a T-shirt, I'm not disrespecting you, because wearing such an outfit doesn't mean disrespect in my world. It's an outfit I like to wear and which I find myself comfortable in.

Likewise, although I myself would never wear a suit, I respect your decision to wear it and might admire how well it fits you.

However, if you think that my wearing jeans means disrespect, then you are forcing your value system on me, and that is the true disrespect. I would consider that as an insult, and for this reason I wouldn't want to do business with you.

Evil in Russia

This is despicable. It's worse than George W. Bush and the Iraq war. Dubya, at least, comes across stupid enough to give him the benefit of the doubt that perhaps he actually believed Iraq had something to do with Al-Qaeda. Or even if he was well aware that the link was tenuous, he might have been deluded enough to think that an intervention would actually result in a "beacon of democracy" and such things. It's a stretch, but - at least his stupidity makes it potentially conceivable that he didn't act overtly in bad faith.

This cannot be said for Putin. What he has been doing lately is so egregiously evil - first Yukos, then Ukraine, and now Georgia - that it cannot be forgiven on any moral grounds. Bush may be an idiot surrounded by self-serving men; but Putin is truly evil.

The world needs to stand up to this man. Something needs to be done about him.

But with America now exhausted from the war in Iraq; with its international goodwill wasted; its superpower status challenged; its global influence shattered; with Europe reliant on gas from Russia, and China being in alliance with it; who, and how, could now even stand up to him?

2006-10-02

Meta-programming vs. the mental gap

Boris Kolar wrote favorably about meta-programming in his comments to my previous post.

Meta-programming is, by definition, writing code that writes code. The very need to write code that writes more code is something that should be avoided - pre-empted - at the time of programming language design. Show me an example where you need to use meta-programming, and I will show you a language that lacks an essential feature for which your meta-programming is a workaround.

The essential problem of software development is not that programmers cannot churn out code, and so they need tools to help them churn out more code automatically. The essential crisis of programming today is that all code written nowadays has severe deficiencies in security and reliability. The problem is not that programmers are unable to create software. The problem is they are unable to create software that really does what they wanted it to do.

You see, all programs are perfect. All programs are complete, and they do exactly what you have written them to do. They implement the design you wrote down. The problem is, you don't know what you wrote down.

There is a wide gap between the programmer's expectations of what the code will do, and what the code actually does in reality. This gap is the source of most errors in software, and it comes about as a result of the whole programming environment being non-intuitive and too difficult to use. The languages and tools require the programmer to be 100% conscious of what he's doing at all times; whenever you are 99% or less conscious, you create bugs. And bugs are a problem when you ship to a bit more than just the machines in your living room. They are a problem when your customers depend on your software and cannot use it because of a freak bug. And bugs are a nightmare when they result in security vulnerabilities. It is untenable that a security researcher can easily find a 0-day exploitable vulnerability in any browser, any day. Such software cannot be trusted. We don't have desktop software today that can be trusted - and it's all because of the mental gap.

Now, getting rid of the gap between the programmer's mental model and the code does not call for giving the programmer more freedom. This is exactly the problem of C: no guidance and too much freedom to pursue any path. Closing the gap calls for simplifying the programming language and tools - reducing complexity, closing off the unwise paths - so that code can be reasoned about easily. Doing this in a way that retains all the necessary flexibility and still performs well is a challenge.

.NET and Java go a good way towards solving the mental-gap problem as far as memory management and single-threaded execution are concerned. The problem is, they don't solve the problem for parallel and asynchronous programming. That's what Flow is about. And additionally, it so happens that closing this gap in a way like Flow does also makes applications easier to design in an orthogonal, reusable an extensible manner, improving programmer productivity that way as well.