Wednesday, March 30, 2005

It's true

Not really, but it's starting to feel that way. Remember the "geek code" movements of USENET days: we're going to need military-style ribbon coding for our political persuasion if this keeps up. [via Elayne Riggs]

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

"It Can't Be Done".... yet

Orac has posted and commented on a collection of the most popular "Galileo Moment" quotations. He's being too kind, but there's only so much time in the world....

Hypocrisy Watch Updates

In case you've not checked back, there have been a few updates to the Hypocrisy Watch. I'm trying to limit it to official mendacity, not mere rhetorical inconsistencies, so it's not a comprehensive list. But it's pretty good.

Oh, and Caleb thinks I'm doing more harm than good. He could be right. On the other hand, I'm still waiting to see if any of these inconsistencies can be reconciled.

Brandon, on the other hand defines hypocrisy -- and responses to hypocrisy -- in a way much closer to my understanding.

Monday, March 28, 2005


[via Sideshow]

The British, who are much less shy about talking up sex scandals among the powerful than we are (we prefer our sex scandals to be beautiful, not interesting) have taken note of Paul Wolfowitz's not-as-private-as-he-thought relationship history. It seems that he's very close to a staffer with a history of ties to Middle East anti-authoritarian activism. This might or might not have affected his views on Iraq, etc., but he clearly had some of those ideas independently before he "took up" with her. She's divorced; he's separated (over an apparently different affair).

I'm not entirely sure that I see the problem. Aside, of course, from the institutional one -- his habit of relationships with women in his own organizations is decidedly against the rules -- it's absurd to suggest that one person's influence could have pushed our government entirely in the direction of invading Iraq if there wasn't already a strong prediliction in that direction. It's not at all surprising that he's involved with a woman of strong and compatible opinions.

Sure, there's the "vengeance for Clinton" factor and the "hoist on their own petard" factor (though Wolfowitz himself has no truck with the social conservative wing, as near as I can tell), and the guy clearly should be kept on a pretty short leash. If he violates institutional policy about relationships, he should be disciplined. But I'm not sure that disqualifies him from a new position.

The fact that he's got no economic training, a deeply biased perspective, a toady attitude and no international support (unless you count the female Middle Eastern expatriate communities)... that should disqualify him.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

What Fox News Doesn't Want to Know, or, Why Haven't they brought in MORE Psychics?

Fox News brought in "psychic" John Edwards, who claimed that Terri Schiavo's spirit was indeed aware of what was happening to her. Edwards equivocated on whether her soul was still within her body, and the host did not ask what Schiavo's spirit wanted. Why not? It's the obvious next question: it's the ultimate scoop -- "Terri Wants To ___!" -- and what honest reporter could not ask the question? Even if Edwards is a nut and a fraud, let's see how far he's willing to go!

Frankly, a couple of reliable psychics should have been able to settle this a long time ago. Bring in four or five, and if they all (or all but the one fraud) come to the same conclusion independently, there you have it! But then, how many psychics would agree to a properly blinded study in this fashion, and how many people would actually turn a life decision over to these people? Never mind, the second question is stupid. But the courts aren't. Not yet, anyway.

Able voices

The above link is to a very interesting argument (article and comments) about the Schiavo case from the perspective of disability: rights and treatment of persons with disabilities remains difficult for the non-disabled to really grasp in anything like a systematic fashion because so few take the time to think about or grapple with these issues in any depth. However, it must be noted that, perhaps more so than in most "communities of interest," there is a great diversity of opinions and issues among those people who have or who deal with disabilities. There are some commonalities -- and concern about euthanasia/genetic testing/abortion is one of them -- but I'm deeply suspicious of anyone who says that the Schiavo case is "simple" if taken from the "right" perspective....

"Compassionate Conservativism" or "Culture of Life"

A man was arrested by the FBI for soliciting the murders of Michael Schiavo and Judge Green (and another one was arrested arming himself to stage a violent "rescue"). Canadian Cynic wants to know how to reconcile these with "pro-life." Me, too.

In other news, the pro-life camp is trumpeting what they claim is evidence that Terri Sciavo is communicating: in response to the question "do you want to live?" she made noises that could possibly be interpreted as the words "I want...." But the pro-lifers are ignoring the possibility that, even if she is aware and is trying to communicate, and succeeding, after all this time, that she was saying "I want to die." Then, what?

I'm slow....

You are Sloth!
Lazy huh ?? You're a bit slow in getting going - and tend not to do anything unless it is absolutely necessary. You'd rather sit around, watch TV/Sleep then go out and about with friends, or take part in a sporting event. On the positive side, you tend to be quite smart, as you spend a lot of time watching the News(!!) or on the computer, Also by conserving your energy, it's right there waiting for you when it's vitally important to get going.
Consider possibly moving out of the room once in a while - and perhaps once a week trade watching TV for half an hour with a walk - and you'll be back on track.
However, Congratulations on being the most intelligent of the 7 deadly sins...

Friday, March 25, 2005

Quotations #048

[Reminder: these come out of my file of quotations in no particular order. Relevance is accidental. Emphasis is mine.]

"Man is the only animal that contemplates death, and the only that shows any sign of doubt of its finality." -- William Ernest Hocking

"On one occasion I remarked that democracy had at least one merit, namely, that a Member of Parliament can not be stupider than his constituents, for the more stupid he is, the stupider they were to elect him." -- Bertrand Russell

"It sometimes seems as though we were trying to combine the ideal of no schools at all with the democratic ideal of schools for everybody by having schools without education." -- Robert Maynard Hutchins

"Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance." -- Will Durant

"Why should we subsidize intellectual curiosity?" -- Ronald Reagan

Bonus: Military officers often say that "amateurs study tactics—professionals study logistics." [Philip Carter in Slate/INTEL DUMP, via War Historian]

Basic Math, Administration 101

Yes, they skipped the fact-checker, and that was bad. But how does a text prep book get to the fact-checker with dozens of basic errors? Talk about the "thin blue (pencil) line"...

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Hypocrisy Watchty

Bit of a blogger, there. Just in case anyone linked to the mucked up title/URL.... The article is here. Sorry 'bout that.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Hypocrisy Watch

I started losing track, so I have to have a list. Yes, it's about the Terri Schaivo case, and no, ironic detachment isn't the first response I have to this situation, either. Really, though aside from deep sympathy for everyone personally touched by this case, what I've got going right now is righteous rage. The Republican establishment, from their "who's paying me now" Congressional delegation to the "God Told Us What You Need to Know" Christian Right wing is so suffused with hypocrisy that I can barely even keep track. This list will be updated as I think of (or read about) new issues. Let's start at the top.
  • George W. Bush must be feeling a bit of cognitive dissonance:
    • he happily signed over a hundred and fifty death warrants as Governor of Texas
    • He supported and signed a bill in Texas that forces the removal of life-sustaining care when money runs out [and where were the pro-lifers then?]
    It must be nice to sign something that saves a life... sort of.
  • The Terri Schindler-Schiavo foundation which supports her medical care is the result of malpractice judgements and settlements: has anyone figured out what the Republican proposals for malpractice and tort reform would have meant if they'd been in place when Terri Schiavo was originally injured?
  • Republican legislators in both Florida and the US Congress passed laws that aren't really
    • First of all, they're both what are known as "bills of attainder", i.e. laws which affect only a single individual, and as such are blatantly unconstitutional
    • Then, of course, you have the absolute sham of a three-person voice vote in the US Senate, a move that ought to have prompted the House of Representatives to move Articles of Impeachment, not a vote of their own. (I know, only the Senate can censure it's own members. They should have. They still could, and if they've got any brains or balls left, they will. The House should have refused to accept the Senate Bill as legitimate. Wait, House Republicans? Never mind.)
  • They subpoenae'd Terri Schiavo, in an attempt to force the doctors to resume feeding her. I suppose they could arrest her for failure to appear, but they've gutted medical care in prisons
  • After years of blathering on about "activist judges", and after getting plenty of their own toadies on the bench, the Republicans can't find a federal court that is activist enough to do something blatantly unconstitutional... but the Supreme Court hasn't weighed in yet, so there's hope.
    • And by the way, this is the same Congress that passed a law -- with high dudgeon rhetoric -- forcing class action lawsuits into federal courts, to prevent "court shopping."
    • The Supreme Court has weighed in and will not act. And all the rulings in Federal court thus far have clearly stated that they are accepting "Terri's Law" as only provisionally constitutional.
  • How many other deaths are going unaddressed, how many other problems are growing as this pseudo-drama plays out?
  • Delay and Hastert, who are claiming Terri Schiavo as a victim of disability discrimination, were among the small minority of Congress that opposed the ADA
  • Randall Terry, spokesman for the parents' rights over the husband's has made most of his career championing "traditional marriage."
  • Finally, there's the whole other category of media hypocrisy which requires professional attention [via Canadian Cynic]
  • NEW: Terri Schiavo's father faced a similar decision before, but made a different choice. [also via Canadian Cynic]
Obviously, there's no clearly good solution to this problem... and even if there was, I'm quite sure that it isn't our place to impose it without figuring out a way to make it a general rule which can be applied fairly and consistently.

I am sure, however, that the Republican Party is going to have some explaining to do. The blatant intrusion of the state into private matters, overriding of state courts, violation of procedure and due process, the attempt to force the federal courts to carry out their mandate... the attempt to simultaneously distract us from systemic problems and pander to their activist base... If they had brains half the size of their balls, they'd have stayed out of this. If they had souls and hearts....

Monday, March 21, 2005

"Conservative" v. Right Wing

Conservatives are the new radicals? Liberals are the new conservatives? Maybe we should just say "power corrupts" and leave it at that for now, eh?

Warning Labels

Mr. Jones writes, "There will soon be no product sold on the market that doesn't include warning labels." Soon? I would, in fact, venture to guess that the text-messaging device in question already had a warning card in the box, including the ever-popular "do not immerse" and slyly tempting "batteries should not be disposed of in flames."

I bought chain once, stainless steel links of three-eighths inch thick metal and with a pull-test strength in the thousands of pounds, which said that it wasn't to be used for playground equipment, towing, pulleys or lifting heavy weights (there might have been more on the list, I lost track and I probably voided the warranty by not keeping the list. Oh, and by using the chain for playground equipment). What was I supposed to use it for, interior decoration?

To the Woodshed!

That's where Dana Milbank got taken by Avedon Carol. Yikes. I might have to start using the term "lamestream media" myself.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Quotations #047

"Capital punishment is as fundamentally wrong as a cure for crime as charity is wrong as a cure for poverty." -- Henry Ford

"Never answer a critic, unless he's right." -- Bernard M. Baruch

"The great law of culture: let each become all that he was created capable of being." -- Thomas Carlyle

"Men will sooner surrender their rights than their customs." -- Moritz Goedemann

"A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic." -- Joseph Stalin

Friday, March 18, 2005

Thursday, March 17, 2005

The Blogger Pledge

If the FEC makes rules that limit my First Amendment right to express my opinion on core political issues, I will not obey those rules.
The implications of including private blogging as "in kind contributions" would obliterate citizen participation in politics as we know it. Every volunteer would be considered a "donor"; every petition signature, every letter to the editor, every act of punditry would have to be given a financial value and credited (or debited) to someone. Insanity.

Eight Year Lawyers

[via Orac's recent Grand Rounds]
Doctors are named in malpractice lawsuits every eight years, on average. Discuss

Tautology Alert! Or is it the grandfather paradox....

e.b. writes:
Has anyone ever considered the consequences of not doing counterfactual history?
Think about it, but laugh while you're doing it.

Thursday Poem: The Shame of Going Back

The Shame of Going Back
by Henry Lawson

When you've come to make a fortune and you haven't made your salt,
And the reason of your failure isn't anybody's fault --
When you haven't got a billet, and the times are very slack,
There is nothing that can spur you like the shame of going back;
Crawling home with empty pockets,
Going back hard-up;
Oh! it's then you learn the meaning of humiliation's cup.

When the place and you are strangers and you struggle all alone,
And you have a mighty longing for the town where you are known;
When your clothes are very shabby and the future's very black,
There is nothing that can hurt you like the shame of going back.

When we've fought the battle bravely and are beaten to the wall,
'Tis the sneers of men, not conscience, that make cowards of us all;
And the while you are returning, oh! your brain is on the rack,
And your heart is in the shadow of the shame of going back.

When a beaten man's discovered with a bullet in his brain,
They POST-MORTEM him, and try him, and they say he was insane;
But it very often happens that he'd lately got the sack,
And his onward move was owing to the shame of going back.

Ah! my friend, you call it nonsense, and your upper lip is curled,
I can see that you have never worked your passage through the world;
But when fortune rounds upon you and the rain is on the track,
You will learn the bitter meaning of the shame of going back;
Going home with empty pockets,
Going home hard-up;
Oh, you'll taste the bitter poison in humiliation's cup.

(the index of other lyrics and poetry I've posted is here)

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

No Suprise Here: Monk

Actually, in 1400 c.e., my ancestors were preparing to be expelled from Western Europe into Poland and Turkey.... but ok.

The Monk
You scored 26% Cardinal, 58% Monk, 38% Lady, and 40% Knight!

You live a peaceful, quiet life. Very little danger comes you way and you live a long time. You are wise and modest, but also stagnant. You have little comfort, little food and have taken a vow of silence. But who needs chatter when just sitting in the cloister of your abbey with The Good Book makes you perfectly content.

My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
You scored higher than 10% on Cardinal
You scored higher than 96% on Monk
You scored higher than 56% on Lady
You scored higher than 36% on Knight
Link: The Who Would You Be in 1400 AD Test written by KnightlyKnave on Ok Cupid

Declaration of Interdependence?

Shouldn't we explain ourselves? Is this enough? Is it too much?

Libertarian in London?

Apparently this is the first of a five part series on being "Mercan" (politically speaking, of course) in Europe, where the political spectrum is wider, but lefter, than here. Not sure what he's going to do with it, but I want to keep an eye on it.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Quotations #046

"If you see in any given situation only what everybody else can see, you can be said to be so much a representative of your culture that you are a victim of it." -- S. I. Hayakawa

"The past is but the beginning of a beginning." -- H.G.Wells

"For my part I think it a less evil that some criminals should escape than that the government should play an ignoble part." -- Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

"Pacifism is simply undisguised cowardice." -- Adolf Hitler

"Poverty is the mother of crime." -- Marcus Aurelius

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Fun With Error Messages

[via Nancy Nall]

The possibilities aren't limitless, but they're close.... Think of the fun you could have as a teacher commenting on online drafts of student papers!


[via Sideshow]

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Boggles the mind....

[via Simon World]
If you post details of a breakup anonymously on an e-board, and tens of thousands of people follow up and threaten the wrong people, who gets sued?

It's in China, which makes it all the more interesting: the bulletin board culture there is going to revolutionize something, but we're just not sure what, yet. Breakups, for starters.....

Monday, March 07, 2005

Quotations #045

"Only the modern city offers the mind the grounds upon which it can achieve awareness of itself." -- Georg Wilhelm Hegel

"The world has achieved brilliance without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants." -- General Omar Bradley

"Conservativism is the worship of dead revolutions." -- Clinton Rossiter

"A man who is not a Liberal at sixteen has no heart; a man who is not a Conservative at sixty has no head." -- Benjamin Disraeli

"The conservative who resists change is as valuable as the radical who proposes it." -- Will and Ariel Durant

Saturday, March 05, 2005

One in Four Americans...

In which we are drawn and, ahem, quartered. [via Simon World]

Quotations #044

"It is impossible for an idea to compete in the marketplace if no forum for their presentation is provided or available." -- Thomas Mann

"All children are essentially criminal." -- Denis Diderot

"People in general are equally horrified at hearing the Christian faith doubted, and at seeing it practiced." -- Samuel Butler

"The age of ignorance commenced with the Christian system." -- Thomas Paine

"Boston is a moral and intellectual nursery always busy applying first principles to trifles." -- George Santayana

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Bush v. America on North Korea Policy

I'm one of the first to argue that policy should not follow popularity (There was a fantastic radio humor short I heard a few years back about an election which was won by the candidate who literally promised every voter a pony, but I haven't been able to locate it since) but when a politician claims a "mandate" as our president has generally that means that their policies are broadly endorsed. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the case.

I'm particularly struck by this:
Still, 42 percent now say that Mr. Bush would have been better off trying to counter the threat of North Korea before invading Iraq, compared with 45 percent who think Mr. Bush was correct to focus first on Iraq.
58 percent of respondents said the White House did not share the foreign affairs priorities of most Americans.
On North Korea, 81 percent said that that nation does indeed now have nuclear weapons, and 7 in 10 said it poses a serious threat to the United States. Still, a majority of Americans said they opposed taking pre-emptive action against North Korea if diplomatic efforts failed - a shift from before the war in Iraq, when a majority said they would support military action if diplomatic efforts failed.
It always struck me as odd that the Iraq campaign came first, and that the administration held back on making North Korea a priority when it had a must stronger claim to WMD from the very beginning of the first term. Oil? We'll never get a straight answer out of this administration (or access to their documentation, either).

And they don't gain weight...

Robots that can mimic the movements of models (supermodels, of course) to display clothing in stores. Better, robots that will also use visual recognition technology to monitor shoppers (and non-shoppers) for marketing purposes. [via Simon World]

Obviously it's just a novelty now, but from the description this is intended to be integral technology for marketing (and, I'm guessing, security) departments of major stores. High end stuff, so far, but what's to stop lower end stores from using the visual technology without the mannequin? It could revolutionize corporate anthropology and psychology (yes, they use both disciplines to study shoppers and manipulate our perceptions and behavior).

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Quote Garden: History Bumper Crop!

"Pricklefoot" (gotta be a great story there, but the linked blog is missing. Another story?) in comments points to The Quote Garden as another source for pithy wisdom. Their history page, linked above, is quite extensive, and includes quite a few quotations I don't have in my collection. Here's a few highlights, and, as always, emphasis is my own:
  • The memories of men are too frail a thread to hang history from. ~John Still, The Jungle Tide
  • All the ancient histories, as one of our wits say, are just fables that have been agreed upon. ~Voltaire, Jeannot et Colin
  • We used to root for the Indians against the cavalry, because we didn't think it was fair in the history books that when the cavalry won it was a great victory, and when the Indians won it was a massacre. ~Dick Gregory
  • We are the prisoners of history. Or are we? ~Robert Penn Warren, Segregation
  • History is the sum total of the things that could have been avoided. ~Konrad Adenauer
  • History is a vast early warning system. ~Norman Cousins
  • Historian: an unsuccessful novelist. ~H.L. Mencken
  • Most history is guessing, and the rest is prejudice. ~Will and Ariel Durant, Our Oriental Heritage
  • If an historian were to relate truthfully all the crimes, weaknesses and disorders of mankind, his readers would take his work for satire rather than for history. ~Pierre Bayle, Historical and Critical Dictionary

Just because they're celebrating ...

... doesn't mean they pulled the trigger. It just confirms that they are poisonous scum.

Update: David Neiwert wades through more of that scum professionally than anyone should have to. He's been tracking this story though mostly mainstream sources, but his expertise in this area is extraordinary. He should get hazard pay.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

WikiQuote: History, of course

A friend who writes at least 100 words a day sent me the above link. I don't "get" Wiki, and I don't use Wiki, but their History Quotation page includes a few I haven't seen before, including:
  • "History is not to be searched for practical lessons, the applicability of which will always be doubtful in view of the inexhaustible novelty of circumstances and combinations of causes, but just this, that the mind acquire a sensitiveness an imaginative range."-- Peter Geyl
  • "Books won't stay banned. They won't burn. Ideas won't go to jail. In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost. The only sure weapon against bad ideas is better ideas." -- Alfred Whitney Griswold
  • "History is not a particular branch of knowledge, but a particular mode and method of knowledge in other branches." -- Lord Acton
  • "It may help to understand human affairs to be clear that most of the great triumphs and tragedies of history are caused, not by people being fundamentally good or fundamentally bad, but by people being fundamentally people." -- Good Omens (by Gaiman & Pratchett)