First They Came for the Cartoonists

Once upon a time, members of the media could be counted upon to champion free expression even when nobody else would. Where the First Amendment was implicated, newspapers were willing to go to bat for everyone from neo-Nazis to Hustler magazine, and to take on powerful institutions from the Vatican to the Pentagon, often while patting themselves on the back for "speaking truth to power." Yet when it comes to the Islamic question, many in the media will not even stick up for themselves. That is, to say the least, a very ominous development.

via HINKLE: First They Came for the Cartoonists . . . | Richmond Times-Dispatch.

PHP Framework Benchmarks on Github

As part of “trying new things,” I have moved my web frameworks benchmark project over to Git on Github and away from Subversion on Google Code.

This project is often imitated and occasionally adopted. For all you framework fans who want to compare their preferred systems to the ones officially included in the project, you can now fork the repo and add your favorite. Who knows, some may make their way back onto the officially-included list.

Additionally, I have modified the project so that you can use one of three different benchmarking tools: Apache Benchmark, JoeDog siege, or ACME http_load. After you follow the setup instructions, you can run benchmarks using each of the different tools against the same benchmark targets:

./bench/ab.php targets/baseline.ini
./bench/siege.php targets/baseline.ini
./bench/httpload.php targets/baseline.ini

Comments or questions? Leave a note below.

How Stalin and Hitler enabled each other’s crimes

Comparing the Soviet Union to the Nazis only makes the Nazis look better if you don’t understand the truth about the Soviet Union. Communists are as bad as Nazis, and communist sympathizers and apologists are as bad as Nazi sympathizers and apologists.

via Instapundit » Blog Archive » HOW STALIN AND HITLER enabled each other’s crimes. A review of Timothy Snyder’s Bloodlands: Europe ….

And from the review itself:

The Soviet Union’s ethnic murders predated Nazi Germany’s. Stalin was not directly responsible for the Holocaust, but his pact with the Nazis paved the way for Hitler’s killing of Jews in the east.

via Mass murder: History and its woes | The Economist.

Starbucks Puts Quality Over Quantity

What Starbucks would really like is simply to be able to say "make a latte this way every single time", and have thousands of baristas hop to." But anyone who has ever managed employees knows that this isn’t quite so easy as it sounds. Even with the cleverest and most motivated employees, little changes will creep in over time; when I was a canvass field manager for PIRG, I was always a little astonished to find the varied ways that people had modified the standard "rap" they were supposed to give at each door, often without even realizing that they’d gone off script. This is why Atul Gawande is so gung-ho on making doctors hew to checklists and hard-to-modify standardized procedures.

via Starbucks Puts Quality Over Quantity – Megan McArdle – Business – The Atlantic.

Mystery and Evidence

… Christianity rests upon certain historical claims, like the claim of the resurrection. But this is not enough to make scientific hypotheses central to Christianity, any more than it makes such hypotheses central to history. It is true, as I have just said, that Christianity does place certain historical events at the heart of their conception of the world, and to that extent, one cannot be a Christian unless one believes that these events happened. Speaking for myself, it is because I reject the factual basis of the central Christian doctrines that I consider myself an atheist. But I do not reject these claims because I think they are bad hypotheses in the scientific sense. Not all factual claims are scientific hypotheses. So I disagree with Richard Dawkins when he says “religions make existence claims, and this means scientific claims.”

Religion, on the other hand, attempts to make sense of the world by seeing a kind of meaning or significance in things. This kind of significance does not need laws or generalizations, but just the sense that the everyday world we experience is not all there is, and that behind it all is the mystery of God’s presence. The believer is already convinced that God is present in everything, even if they cannot explain this or support it with evidence. But it makes sense of their life by suffusing it with meaning. This is the attitude (seeing God in everything) expressed in George Herbert’s poem, “The Elixir.” Equipped with this attitude, even the most miserable tasks can come to have value: “Who sweeps a room as for Thy laws/ Makes that and th’ action fine.”

Religions do make factual and historical claims, and if these claims are false, then the religions fail. But this dependence on fact does not make religious claims anything like hypotheses in the scientific sense. Hypotheses are not central. Rather, what is central is the commitment to the meaningfulness (and therefore the mystery) of the world.

All emphasis mine. Via Mystery and Evidence –

Update, 06 Oct: For what it’s worth, I consider myself an agnostic.