Truth, Lies, and Language Processing

“At the same time your brain is deciding if a sentence or phrase makes grammatical sense, it’s also assessing the truth of the statement. That’s the conclusion of a study appearing in the March 18 issue of Science online.

To see how your brain deals with untrue statements and sentences that just don’t make sense, researchers from the Netherlands used two different brain-scanning technologies to determine which areas of the brain were activated for each circumstance.

‘Semantic interpretation and sentence verification are done in parallel,’ says the study’s lead author, Peter Hagoort, a professor of cognitive neuroscience at the University of Nijmegen and the director of the F.C. Donders Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging in Nijmegen, The Netherlands.” —Yahoo! News

Is acne really a disease?

A theory of acne as an evolutionarily significant, high-order psychoneuroimmune interaction timed to cortical development with a crucial role in mate choice. Abstract: “Adolescent acne is considered from the perspective of evolutionary psychology with an emphasis on a role in mate choice. The fact that acne, which is almost universal and not a true infection, is (1) initiated at puberty by the action of pubertal hormones on likely distinct, pro-acne follices, and (2) typically resolves in one’s early twenties when prefrontal cortex development is complete, suggests that the condition’s timeframe is meaningful. Acne’s conspicuous localization on the face, and its ability to elicit reflexive disgust and avoidance in observers, suggests a possible role in sexual selection. The pathophysiology of acne is reviewed, and the suggestion made that, far from being a disease, adolescent acne is a normal physiological process – a high-order psychoneuroimmune interaction – that functions to ward off potential mates until the afflicted individual is some years past the age of reproductive maturity, and thus emotionally, intellectually, and physically fit to be a parent.” —Medical Hypotheses I love these evolutionary biology speculations!

Get Out of My Namespace

James Gleick with a good summary of the issues: “…So Jeff Burgar, accused cybersquatter, speaks for many Internet users when he views Icann and WIPO as defenders of the corporate trademark establishment. ”It’s a business,” he said. ”The arbitration process is geared to take domain names from one party and give them to another” — from the have-nots, he means, to the haves. ”The arbitrators are almost all of them attorneys who have a vested interest in looking out for big business or celebrities.”

To cope with the dynamic, entangled, variegated nature of our information-governed world, perhaps the law just needs to relax — loosen the cords, instead of tightening them. A system based on property rights in names may be the wrong approach. The principle people really care about is authenticity and truthfulness. The law needs to prevent miscreants from pretending to be people they’re not or from passing off spurious products — but that is all…

Namespaces will collide. Let them. ” —New York Times

Noam Chomsky Endorses Kerry…

…Just Barely: “My feeling is pretty much the way it was in the year 2000. I admire Ralph Nader and Denis Kucinich very much, and insofar as they bring up issues and carry out an educational and organisational function – that’s important, and fine, and I support it.

However, when it comes to the choice between the two factions of the business party, it does sometimes, in this case as in 2000, make a difference. A fraction.

That’s not only true for international affairs, it’s maybe even more dramatically true domestically. The people around Bush are very deeply committed to dismantling the achievements of popular struggle through the past century. The prospect of a government which serves popular interests is being dismantled here. It’s an administration that works, that is devoted, to a narrow sector of wealth and power, no matter what the cost to the general population. And that could be extremely dangerous in the not very long run.” —Guardian.UK

Did Bush Press For Iraq-9/11 Link?

Commentary is rife about Richard Clarke’s revelations about the Bush administration’s preparedness for terrorism and its response to the Sept. 11th attacks in the 60 Minutes interview with Lesley Stahl, and in his forthcoming book. Choice soundbite:


“I find it outrageous that the President is running for re-election on the grounds that he’s done such great things about terrorism. He ignored it.”

Clarke originally thought Donald Rumsfeld must be joking when, immediately after the Sept. 11th attacks, he pressed for the bombing of Iraq because there was a dearth of appetizing targets in Afghanistan. The president and his puppeteers continued to bully Clarke and other security analysts to bring back analysis suggesting an Iraqi link and reject the absence of any such evidence.

“The president dragged me into a room with a couple of other people, shut the door, and said, ‘I want you to find whether Iraq did this.’ Now he never said, ‘Make it up.’ But the entire conversation left me in absolutely no doubt that George Bush wanted me to come back with a report that said Iraq did this.


“I said, ‘Mr. President. We’ve done this before. We have been looking at this. We looked at it with an open mind. There’s no connection.’


“He came back at me and said, “Iraq! Saddam! Find out if there’s a connection.’ And in a very intimidating way. I mean that we should come back with that answer. We wrote a report.”


Clarke continued, “It was a serious look. We got together all the FBI experts, all the CIA experts. We wrote the report. We sent the report out to CIA and found FBI and said, ‘Will you sign this report?’ They all cleared the report. And we sent it up to the president and it got bounced by the National Security Advisor or Deputy. It got bounced and sent back saying, ‘Wrong answer. … Do it again.’

It is clear by now to anyone who wants to look that increasingly prominent criticism of the administration’s self-fulfilling prophecy approach to national security, and its outright lying, is coming from across the ideological spectrum and hardly motivated for political gain. BillMon expands on Clarke’s neo-con bona fides in his reflections on the 60 Minutes interview. It is insurmountably evident that it was not intelligence failure but, simply, the President’s men knowing what they wanted to hear and rejecting all contrary feedback because of an unshakeable commitment to invading Iraq, that determined the administration’s defining foreign policy direction. The administration damage control so far has been to claim that Clarke is describing conversations that never happened — despite CBS News having corroborating witnesses — and to accuse him of “auditioning for a job in the Kerry campaign” — as if he would have to lie to get that door opened for him.

My only question is why CBS News really had to pose its headline as a question.

Congressional Accountability for Judicial Activism Act of 2004

I heard about this from a friend but didn’t believe it could be anything but a liberal ‘troll’. However, lo and behold, it is real; one of our august representatives in Congress, Ron Lewis (R.-KY), with 19 co-sponsors, has introduced a bill to allow Congress to reverse the judgments of the United States Supreme Court. Lewis makes no bones about the fact that the impetus for

“the modest solutions I intend to set forth, stem from the November ruling

by the Massachusetts Supreme Court to allow same-sex marriages and the

subsequent rulings on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act

that have followed. America’s judicial branch has become increasingly overreaching and disconnected from the values of everyday Americans… The recent actions taken by courts in Massachusetts and elsewhere are demonstrative of a single branch of government taking upon itself the singular ability to legislate. These actions usurp the will of the governed by allowing a select few to conclusively rule on issues that are radically reshaping our nation’s traditions.”

There does not appear to have been much note of this idiotic example of conservative ‘thought’ (quotation marks are necessary, yes) in the weblogging world. I don’t know if that it is because it is beneath the radar, if everyone has already judged it beneath their dignity to comment on, or because it is clear that the bill, now in commmittee, will go nowhere. But shouldn’t there be an test on fundamental Constitutional principles or something before a cretin like Lewis gets to sit in Congress or propose a bill? You can look at Rep. Lewis’ voting history here but why bother? You know already what you will find. [thanks, Steve]