Thursday, June 30, 2005

How Low Can You Go?

Republicans are threatening retaliation against Major League Baseball if Democratic supporter George Soros is permitted to buy a team. (You think I'm kidding? Google it.) Are they nuts?
  • They're messing with baseball. Not protecting it from itself, not looking out for fans. Just mucking around with it for political purposes. That's political suicide.
  • They're messing with big business. It's politicized enough, but if guys like George Soros think that they're economic health is threatened by cheap politics, we're never going to have another unbought politician in this country. (there is the possibility that they're actually shilling for a better-connected potential buyer: wouldn't that be amusing?)
  • They WON the damned elections. Probably not fairly, but they won, nonetheless. Taking revenge after you win is just mean.
OK: they're politically inept, economically backwards and nasty. This isn't news, except that they keep doing it over and over.... eventually, even most decent Republicans won't be able to hold their noses anymore.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Anonymity Tip

When blogging "anonymously," do not claim your blog at Technorati.

Damn, that was sloppy of me....

Sow the wind....

Apparently someone has filed an eminent domain petition against US Supreme Court Justice David Souter's home:
The proposed development, called "The Lost Liberty Hotel" will feature the "Just Desserts Cafe" and include a museum, open to the public, featuring a permanent exhibit on the loss of freedom in America. Instead of a Gideon's Bible each guest will receive a free copy of Ayn Rand's novel "Atlas Shrugged."
I tend to agree with those commentators who say that Kelo is flawed not because it misunderstands eminent domain (which really does allow the government to supercede private property rights for just about anything it wants if it can rationalize it by public good) but because of the greater argument that the US Constitution is system of checks and balances not just between branches of government but between citizens and government, and they've now left this power unchecked.

The Future of the Republican Party

A couple of progressives went undercover at a College Republicans (CR) convention and consumed a lot of beer. In the middle of a rollicking waste of time (theirs, unless someone was paying them for this; yours, if you read the whole blog they produced), though, was a description of the rising leader of the party's youth:
Yikes... Chairman-elect Paul Gourley seemed pretty tame today at the convention, but is no stranger to tricky politics.

He trains how rig mock elections at the Leadership Institute and raised millions of dollars for CR using sketchy, misleading and sometimes just outright lies to coerce people into believing they were giving to the real GOP or even President Bush. This particularly targeted senior citizens in their 80's and 90's, and most of the money didn't even go to organizing, but direct mailing. Apparently the questioning of such tactics (with Gourley's signature) was off limits, and according to 21-year-old Tom Jardon, chairman of Florida's College Republicans, "It's that kind of thing where if you ask a question, somehow you are labeled a Democrat, which in Republican circles is the ninth circle of hell." (LA Times, June 22, 2005 by Robin Abcarian)

Unfortunately, he's also an accomplished grassroots organizer and has had great success in South Dakota on his campus and beyond expanding the CR network, building new groups and making it a stand-out state during the election. Besides the CR, he's also active in Campus Crusade for Christ and student government.
Karl Rove, Jr.....

Origins v. Beginnings

Ben Brumfield notes that the distinction between the pretext for war and the actual causes of war -- highlighted in the present by the Downing Street Memos -- has ancient roots. It sounds as though Polybius would not have bought the WMD argument....

Tuesday, June 28, 2005


[via Glenn Reynolds]
The above list is far too short to really encompass Heinlein's greatest quotations: really, it's just the Lazarus Long edition. I mean, he left off the Kiplingesque "Green Hills of Earth" (which, combined with Tolkien's verses, is pretty much responsible for "filk" music) which concludes
The arching sky is calling
Spacemen back to their trade.
And the lights below us fade.

Out ride the sons of Terra,
Far drives the thundering jet,
Up leaps a race of Earthmen,
Out, far, and onward yet ---

We pray for one last landing
On the globe that gave us birth;
Let us rest our eyes on the friendly skies
And the cool, green hills of Earth.
Petrie's entire quotation collection, though, is big, and decidedly tilted toward libertarian atheism.

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

Monday, June 27, 2005

"pig-headed mob of warmongers"

In addition to a fine news aggregator and thinker, Anne Zook has a way with vigorous language that makes me jealous. The title of this post comes from her latest roundup: "...if the Bush Administration wasn't a pig-headed mob of warmongers, we might be able to salvage something out of this mess."

Honestly, though, it's not all his and his cronies' fault. The invertebrate Congress and schizophrenic corporate media play a role too.... as do their customers/constituents.

Godless Fun

Jason Kuznicki has assembled a wonderful collection of areligious blogging, including PZ Myers' fantastic satire, "Escape from the Planet of the Hats" (which ignores, because no satire is perfect, the fact that hats are sometimes quite useful, even essential) and Steve Pavlina's wonderfully backwards conversion narrative in which, among many other things, he observes "By their words I hear that most Americans are Christian. By their actions I see that most aren’t. ... Congruency is clarity. When you get clear about what you truly believe about reality by observing your actions and admitting the deepest, darkest truths to yourself that you never wanted to face, you’ll set yourself on a path of growth that will put all your earlier accomplishments to shame." Almost sounds like he's starting his own religion, but as long as there aren't Gods involved, I guess the atheists are ok with it.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Free Advice: Reading Aloud

When reading a story aloud to a child, the character with the most lines should have the easiest voice, closest to your natural tone.

Is "a little torture" like "a little pregnant"?

[via Chris Bray, who's back at Ft. Benning]

The problem with torture:
  • it's illegal
  • it's uncivilized
  • it makes our own citizens and soldiers more vulnerable to mistreatment justified by our bad behavior
  • it doesn't produce good information
  • information isn't really our problem
  • it makes us look bad, and that's part of why we have a problem in the first place

Michael Benson is right: the comments are chilling. There's a running commentary about the Geneva Convention not applying to non-state, un-uniformed fighters, but what they forget is that those people still should have benefit of due process and once we've captured them (killing them in the heat of battle... unavoidable) how we treat them reflects on us and this is -- in the broadest sense -- a conflict not of bullets and bombs, but of ideas and attitudes and character. Even the Bush administration admits this, but they can't quite muster the character or ideas to actually carry the fight to the enemy.

Update: Caleb McDaniel points out that this is not a new problem for Americans, though I would like to believe that our whitewash of that aspect of our history means that we don't like the idea anymore. Of course, there's still our prison system....

Testing Image Uploads

It works! Tweaking will be involved, but not today.

Very interesting.... OK, I have a profile image, now.

Quotations #065

"It is an inevitable defect, that bureaucrats will care more for routine than for results." -- Walter Bagehot (19c)

"No academic person is every voted into the chair until he has reached an age at which he has forgotten the meaning of the word 'irrelevant'." -- Francis M. Cornford

"It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either of them." -- Mark Twain, Following the Equator

"Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes." -- Henry David Thoreau, Walden

"Our disputants put men in mind of the skittle fish, that when he is unable to extricate himself, blackens all the water around him, till he becomes invisible." -- Joseph Adelison (1712)

Friday, June 24, 2005

Rove is a Symptom

Billmon is right to see Rove's attacks on Democrats as part of a broader rhetorical strategy (and, by the way, Dean's attacks on Republicans are not that different in technique, but dramatically different in theme, not to mention authority) to cast Democrats as fundamentally anti-American. Needless to say, Rove's position should be taken as the President's, and that of the Republican Party, unless it is repudiated clearly and quickly.

The question becomes whether the Democrats respond vigorously in kind or whether there's a possibility, though I admit that I might be dreaming, that continuing to call for rational discussion, inter-party dialogue, and solutions instead of slogans (and, ironically, that's a great slogan) might resonate sufficiently with the American people that a political shift might be possible.

Unfortunately, there are structural issues as well as discourse ones.

The Catch

It was a pretty good bet that there'd be a catch to the debt relief. Monbiot found it, too. [via Anne Zook]

I'm not convinced that this is worse than usual, or, for that matter, that some of it wouldn't be to Africa's benefit. Not the outsourcing resource exploitation to foreigners, so much, but the good governance stuff.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

3000 visitors

In honor of the upcoming 3000th visitor mark, I'd like to remind my regulars and newcomers to sign the guestbook and let me know who you are (or at least, pseudonymity being what it is, who you want me to think you are).

Thursday Verses: Why Walk When You Can Fly

Mary-Chapin Carpenter is one of my favorite female songwriters and a damn fine singer. This song probably works better when you hear it, but then most poetry needs to be heard, at least in the head, rather than just read. It's not terribly deep, but it's something I need to hear every now and then.

Why Walk When You Can Fly
by Mary-Chapin Carpenter

In this world there's a whole lot of trouble baby
In this world there's a whole lot of pain
In this world there's a whole lot of trouble but
A whole lot of ground to gain
Why take when you could be giving
Why watch as the world goes by
It's a hard enough life to be living
Why walk when you can fly

In this world there's a whole lot of sorrow
In this world there's a whole lot of shame
In this world there's a whole lot of sorrow
And a whole lot of ground to gain
When you spend you whole life wishing
Wanting and wondering why
It's a long enough life to be living
Why walk when you can fly

And in this world there's a whole lot of golden
In this world there's a whole lot of pain
In this world you've a soul for a compass
And a heart for a pair of wings
There's a star on the far horizon
Rising bright in an azure sky
For the rest of the time that you're given
Why walk when you can fly

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

Rectification of Names, aka Calling a Spade a Spade

Regarding Durbin's retreat from reality under fire, historian Chris Bray writes:
I am an American soldier, and I am headed to Iraq as an infantryman. If I act like a Gestapo agent while I'm there, I hope and expect that someone will call me a fucking Nazi.
Odds are pretty good, given the state of debate, that someone already has, at least in the abstract. That's unfortunate, just as unrealistic as the idea that torture, secret detentions and indiscriminate violence carried out by Americans under official policies and with the broad support of major public and political figures is somehow distinguishable from those atrocities carried out by any other regime. There's a damned middle ground in here somewhere, but it's starting to look, more and more, like No-Man's-Land.
[Thanks, Avedon]
Update: more here including a devastating short review of relevant US history.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Turning All Citizens Into Informants

[via L&P]
Gene Healy reports on a proposal to require all parent to report to police any and all rumors or reports they hear about drugs or drug use in the vicinity of their children. Also known as the "Parent-Child Alienation Act," this would not only deeply harm American families but would undoubtedly be unevenly -- i.e. selectively and arbitrarily -- prosecuted, further deepening the social and economic damage done by Drug Prohibition.

The proposal comes from Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. of Wisconsin, who also proposed fines and jail time for those people who say or do things the FCC later judges -- and nobody's sure what counts anymore -- obscene, as an alternative to the current regime of penalizing broadcasters. In other words, a moralistic police state, where prosecutors and unelected administrators can penalize you for doing anything they don't like.

p.s. While I'm commenting on HNN (since I can't comment on HNN under a pseudonym), let me just note that Derek Catsam is entirely on target in his evaluation of Jeb Bush.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Uses and Abuses of Race

[via IHE] A very interesting discussion, particularly the part about the functional utility of discussing race in medical service (which would be true in other fields as well), and the extent to which that utility relies on something somewhere between valid generalization and cultural stereotyping.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Powerful Truths

[via Anne Zook]
What are the top three aspects of law enforcement that need reform most urgently?

I would call an end to the war on drugs -- yesterday...

Number two would be the selective and intelligent demilitarization of America's police forces. The thing is, we pretty much behave in accordance to the cultural values and norms of our institutions. If I belong to a paramilitary bureaucratic organization that puts the community at arm's length, then guess what? I'm going to be the soldier bureaucrat. ...

The third thing would be embracing an authentic definition of community policing. ... There is very little I can do as an individual, but there's a hell of a lot that I can do as an organized, mobilized community -- citizen participation in policy-making and program development, crisis management, you name it.

I think chiefs need to be out there, visible and conspicuous, and they need to be a living emblem of the reforms and improvements they're advocating. If they're not change agents, then shame on them, because the institution needs change.

Read the interview and find out why.

Quotations #064

"Parturient mones, nascetur ridiculus mus [Mountains will go into labor, and a silly little mouse will be born]." -- Horace, Ars Poetica

"Non omnia possumus omnes [We can't all do everything]" -- Virgil, Ecologues

"Consider your origins: you were not made to live as brutes, but to follow virtue and knowledge." -- Dante Alighieri, Inferno

"None climbs so high as he who knows not whither he is going." -- Oliver Cromwell (attributed)

"Under conditions of tyranny it is far easier to act than to think." -- Hannah Arendt

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Functionalism v. Feminism?

I got this from a friend via e-mail
Barbara Walters of 20/20 (USA-ABC Television) did a story on gender roles in Kabul, Afghanistan, several years before the Afghan conflict. She noted that women customarily walked 5 paces behind their husbands.

She recently returned to Kabul and observed that women still walk behind their husbands. From Ms. Walters vantage point, despite the overthrow of the oppressive Taliban regime, the women now seem to walk even further back behind their husbands and are happy to maintain the old custom.

Ms. Walters approached one of the Afghani women and asked, "Why do you now seem happy with the old custom that you once tried so desperately to change?" The woman looked Ms. Walters straight in the eyes and, without hesitation, said "Land mines."
It's apocryphal (see link above), but it's still funny.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Quote of the Day

Blogger's "Next Blog" feature brings unexpected visitors, and if you use site monitors, you can find them again. One of them had a "Quote of the Day" feature which you can add to your sidebar. I'll have to look over their quotation collections and see if they're worth it.

For History Carnival visitors, they also have a This Day in History applet which I cannot seem to insert into a Blogger post....

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Quotations #063

"Childhood decides." -- Jean-Paul Sartre

"The universe is fat with dimensions." -- Robert Reed, "Coelacanths"

"They [Americans] have confused progress with mechanization." -- Lewis Mumford

"Children who tell adults everything are trying to make them as wise as they. Just as children who ask questions already know why the sky is blue and where the lost kitten has gone. What they need is confirmation that the odd and frightening magic which has turned adults into giants has not completely addled their brains." -- Richard Bowes, "The Mask of the Rex."

"There are only three rules to writing a novel; unfortunately, no one knows what they are." -- Somerset Maugham

Religion Poll:

[via Kotsko's Weblog where their theological pretensions do not extend to getting the names of non-Christian religions right]

#1: Neo-Pagan (100)
#2: Unitarian Universalist (97)
#3: Liberal Quaker (88)
#4: Mainline to Liberal Protestant (88)
#5: Reform Judaism (83)
#6: Sikhism (83)
#7: New Age (79)
#8: Atheist/Agnostic (79)
#9: Humanist (79)
#10: New Thought (73)
#11: Baháí (69)
#12: Christian Science (65)
#13: Scientology (65)
#14: Taoism (65)
#15: Mahayana Buddhist (61)
#16: Theravada Buddhist (56)
#17: Latter Day Saints (55)
#18: Orthodox Judaism (55)
#19: Mainline to Conservative Protestant (50)
#20: Eastern Orthodox (41)
#21: Hindu (41)
#22: Islam (41)
#23: Orthodox Quaker (41)
#24: Roman Catholic (41)
#25: Seventh Day Adventist (27)
#26: Jainism (13)

First religion quiz I ever took that gave me a Christian result above a Jewish one. For the record, I'm deeply disturbed by the appearance of Church of Christ, Science and Scientology so high on the list, and consider it clear evidence of a flawed test (or flawed test-taker).

Thursday Lyric: Delivery Delayed

Stan Rogers is best known as a folk singer, for good reason. And this is indeed a song, in the sense that it is sung. But it works best, for me, as poetry. I understand this poem, I feel this truth, but I still don't entirely grasp it, or live it to my satisfactions. It comforts and challenges me.

Delivery Delayed
by Stan Rogers

How early is "Beginning"? From when is there a soul?
Do we discover living, or, somehow, are we told?
In sudden pain, in empty cold, in blinding light of day
We're given breath, and it takes our breath away.

How cruel to be unformed fancy, the way in which we come -
Over-whelmed by feeling and sudden loss of love
And what price dark confining pain, (the hardest to forgive)
When all at once, we're called upon to live.

By a giant hand we're taken from the shelter of the womb
That dreaded first horizon, the endless empty room
Where communion is lost forever, when a heart first beats alone
Still, it remembers, no matter how its grown.

We grow, but grow apart -
We live, but more alone -
The more to see, the more to see,
To cry aloud that we are free
To hide our ancient fear of being alone.

And how we live in darkness, embracing spiteful cold
Refusing any answers, for no man can be told
That delivery is delayed until at last we're made aware
And first reach for love, to find 'twas always there.

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

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Gay Marriage Poll Stuffing Opportunity

Canadian Cynic lives up to his name and points to a poll that needs some progressive (preferably Northern, but they're not checking ID) folks to speak up.

What do you call it when you overlay real grass on astroturf, I wonder?

History Carnival #10

Marc Comtois has done a very nice roundup of the historical blogsphere, including the time viewing hoax noted here. I suppose, at some point, I'll have to start doing roundups of the ahistorical blogosphere, if I could only figure out what that means....

In the "I hate to link to it because of the debate it could start but I just can't help myself" category, Eric at Classical Values has a list of the top ten most destructive music of the recent past, but he left off Bob Dylan, who single-handedly did more damage to folk and rock music (and possibly to religious music) than any other person alive or dead.

The "Final Historian" thinks we're in trouble, too: Glocalization is not just hard to say, it's dangerous!

[Update: the History Carnival link made Wednesday the first triple-digit traffic day on this blog since the Atriostorm back in early May. That's like six days worth of normal traffic....]

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Diagnosis of Darth Vader

[via the Grand Rounds] Yeah, he's not right in the head. We knew that....

We may be in more trouble than we thought

When I signed the above petition to save NPR/PBS/CPB (not, not that petition: that's old news, and this is new business), I added:
The politicization of public broadcasting by the Administration and its Republican allies, and the use of financial threats to back up that politicization, are bullying tactics, brute force attacks on the public discourse which lies at the heart of a decently functioning democracy. Normally I try to be moderate and reasonable about these things, but this is not one of them: if this succeeds I will have no choice but to conclude that the Republican Party -- AND ANY DEMOCRATS WHO STAND WITH THEM ON (almost) ANY ISSUE -- is in opposition to healthy American society.
and it's not just funding cuts but also politicization. It's not "nice" to say things like "fascist" and "proto-hitler" but sometimes it's justified. Damn.

Lefties blog together; Righties swarm

Am I being unfair? Read it and decide for yourself. Just the difference between the availability of comments sections on the right and left is remarkable....

Pakistani Justice

Kristof is really good at one thing, and one thing only: finding interesting people (who are pretty much entirely ignored by other journalists), telling their stories, and sticking with them. His column today is a chronicle of courage and craven politics the likes of which rarely make mainstream media pages.

"You can do anything with a child

if you just play with them" said Otto von Bismark, and it seems that there might be something quite ominous there: a British report that toddler/kindergarten bullies might be -- and might be treated as -- pre-criminals.

But David Nishimura gives us some hope: a Roald Dahl museum which could redeem all our childhoods....

Monday, June 13, 2005

Michael Jackson Verdict Prediction

There will be no riots.

Update: So far, so good....

Pre-Downing Evidence Piles Up

It's not bad enough that there's evidence in the "Downing Street" memo of six months of pre-determination for the undeclared war, but nine months. In other words, everything we heard out of the Bush and Blair administrations for almost a year (at least) before the shooting started was propogandistic maneuvering.

And yet, that time was not spent planning, mind you, or we wouldn't likely be in this mess we are in now.

Who's Watching You? Who isn't?

Ted Koppel surveys (about half of) the legal, technological and economic threats to our privacy. Most of them have to do with "hackers" taking unauthorized control of information, but frankly, I'm more than a little nervous about corporate information sharing and the increased scope of contract law (i.e. conditions of employment) to limit rights on and off the job, limit private and "fair use" space, etc.

There's all kinds of ways this could go bad.

Dictionary of Journalistic Clichés

[via mrbrown via Simon World]
Want to cut through the smokescreen? A sampling:
Informed source: Reads the newspaper
War-torn: We can't find it on a map
Knowledgable observers: The reporter and the person at the next desk
Self-styled: Phony
Guru: see "Self-styled"
Troubled youth: arsonist
Recently: We lost the press release
First in the modern history of ... : no entries in NewsLink
Never: Not in NewsLink or Google
Source who spoke on condition of anonymity: PR flack
Highbrow: boring
Family Values: right wing idiot
Progressive: left wing idiot
Couldn't be reached for comment: the reporter didn't call until after 5pm
Legendary: about to die
Good Samaritan: Too stupid to run away
Innocent bystander: Too slow to run away
Activist: Will talk to press
Stunned: couldn't give a decent quote
Dapper: Hasn't bought new clothes in 20 years
With news wire services: no original reporting whatsoever

It's an Australian list, but that only affects the examples they use. Apparently their journalists went to the same jargon-camps that ours did.

LightSabers for Dummies

Inspired by the true tale of two people who filled glass tubes with flammable fluids in an attempt to simulate Sithdom, someone has written what is destined to be an internet classic: the user's manual for the lightsaber.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Science Fiction as Historical Fraud

A Roman Catholic priest/physicist claimed at one time to have invented a device that would allow him to view the past. He even claimed to have viewed the life and death of Christ. Oddly, he did not claim to have viewed the Ressurection of Christ, which should have been a dead giveaway that he was either a hoaxer or a really bad priest.

Friday, June 10, 2005

"He's got principles. And if you don't like them, well, he's got others."

The Canadian Cynic is right: "Sometimes, this is just too easy."

Obstruction of nominations is OK for Republicans? What the hell did the Democrats just give up three lifetime appointments for?

When you're right...

I don't get to say it much: I think President George W. Bush is doing a good thing in the right way. So far, so good. Yeah, it's overdue, but it was overdue ten years ago. Yeah, lots could go wrong in execution (I seem to recall a $15B AIDS in Africa pledge that's way short of its actual goals. Maybe it's the condom thing.), there are strings attached, and there's more to do. But for now, I'll just say that this is one case where I really do agree that he's doing what I would have wanted him to do.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Downing Street Sausage

In my signature to the petition for public answers and inquiries with regard to the Downing Street memo, I added the following comments:
It is said that making law is like making sausage: nobody wants to know what goes in as long as something edible comes out. Making policy is much the same, I'm sure. But one of the reasons that we have laws and liability attachments to food production is to ensure the safety and quality of the ingredients in our sausages. Similarly, we have a free press and administrative procedures and separation of powers to ensure that our policy process is reasonably clean and does not kill us. Our Iraq policy is proving to be both immediately fatal to Iraqis and American military, and deeply detrimental to the political, economic and social strength of the nation.

A hot-dog manufacturer that killed thousands and sickened tens of thousands would be shut down, investigated, and made to pay. Why shouldn't our public policy be held to a similar standard?
To be fair, of course, a great many members of Congress have authorized, failed to restrict, funded and otherwise supported US policy towards Iraq, and they should also be held to account. Que se vayan todos!

Quotations #062

"History is not what you thought. It is what you can remember." Sellar and Yeatman, 1066 and All That.

"History, like wood, has a grain in it which determines how it splits; and those in authority, besides trying to shape and direct events, sometimes find it more convenient just to let them happen." -- Malcolm Muggeridge, The Infernal Grove

"If my theory does not embrace the physical facts (though I am sure it does) it embraces the subjective ones. This in itself may be a new discovery. Every theory is true in some discipline. The beauty of this is that it carries its own confirmation. It ravishes me." -- Gene Wolfe, "In Glory Like Their Star."

"It don't never hoit to look at evidence, provided you keep in mind that it ain't nothin' but evidence." -- Albert E. Cowdrey, "Queen for a Day"

"Progress never comes without a price. The boons of science always hurt." -- Michael Blumlein, "Know How, Can Do."

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Irony in the Heartland

Sometimes "Next Blog" brings you treasures. This blog is photographic/textual ironies, encountered in Oklahoma and environs. I've seen signs like these, but it does take a good eye (and a devoted blogger) to bring them all together. Nice stuff.

Too Vague to be Useful?

Your Dominant Thinking Style:


You are very insightful and tend to make decisions based on your insights. You focus on how things should be - even if you haven't worked out the details.

An idealist, thinking of the future helps you guide your path. You tend to give others long-term direction and momentum.

Your Secondary Thinking Style:


You thrive on the unknown and unpredictable. Novelty is your middle name. You are a challenger. You tend to challenge common assumptions and beliefs.

An expert inventor and problem solver, you approach everything from new angles. You show people how to question their models of the world.
This isn't much better. That's what you get, I guess, when you use "Next Blog" to find a testifying Christian who takes quizzes but doesn't always put the right links so you can take them, too.....

Whaddya Expect after just six questions?

The True You

You want your girlfriend or boyfriend to be together with you always, no matter when or where.
With respect to money, you spend as little as possible.
You think good luck doesn't exist - reality is built on practicalities.
The hidden side of your personality tends to be satisfied to care for things with a minimal amount of effort.
You are the type of person who assumes that the world revolves around yourself.
When it comes to finding a romantic partner, you don't have any particular type in mind, but you are inclined to look for someone who will say yes when you ask him / her out.
Wow, that's a REALLY bad description of me. Really, really bad.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Mirror, Times and BBC, Who Thunk the Best Philosophy?

The BBC History site, In Our Time is running an on-line poll for the GREATEST (western) PHILOSOPHER OF ALL (recorded) TIME. The folks at Crooked Timber are right: it really is between "the Greeks" and my inclination is to vote for the teacher who said that you should be careful what you claim is certain instead of the student who ignored that advice and developed some really goofy theories.

Doctor Jokes

I love the Grand Rounds: that's how I found these jokes (I removed the "meanings" attached by by bioethicist Dr. Bernstein not because they're wrong, though some of them are, but because if you want them you can follow the link back yourself):
  • A college professor was explaining a particularly complicated concept to his class when a pre-med student interrupted him.
    "Why do we have to learn this stuff?" the frustrated student blurted out.
    "To save lives," the professor responded before continuing the lecture.
    A few minutes later the student spoke up again. "So how does physics save lives?"
    The professor stared at the student without saying a word. "Physics saves lives," he continued, "because it keeps the idiots out of medical school."
  • The psychiatrist said to his nurse: "Just say we're very busy. Don't keep saying 'It's a madhouse.'"
  • There's more jokes (mostly not really doctor jokes, but OK) here, including the following veterinary humor:
    • A farmer was involved in a terrible road accident with a large truck. He ended up in court fighting for a big compensation claim.
      "I understand you're claiming damages for the injuries you're supposed to have suffered?" said the counsel for the insurance company.
      "Yes, that's right", replied the farmer.
      "You claimed you were injured in the accident, yet I have a signed police statement that says when the attending police officer asked you how you were feeling, you replied "I've never felt better in my life. Is that the case?"
      "Yeah, but ….."
      "A simple yes or no will suffice."
      "Yes," replied the farmer quietly.
      Then it was the turn of the farmer's counsel to ask the questions.
      "Please tell the court the exact circumstances of events following the accident when you made your statement of health," his lawyer said.
      "Certainly," replied the farmer. "After the accident my horse was thrashing around with a broken leg and my poor old dog was howling in pain. This cop comes along, takes one look at my horse and shoots him dead. Then he goes over to my dog, looks at him and shoots his dead too. Then he comes straight over to me, with his gun still smoking, and asks me how I was feeling. Now, mate, what the hell would you have said to him?"

The Ergosphere

The Engineer-Poet was kind enough to point me to a source for Wiley's Non Sequitur strip. Engineer-Poet is doing some very interesting work in the area of energy technology and economics.

Who do you trust?

Citigroup and UPS have managed to lose personal and account data for 3.9 million Citibank customers. I'm not one of them, nor was my data in any of the other major reported "losses" in the news recently. How long? What do you need to prepare? It's not like a hurricane kit.....

Monday, June 06, 2005

Quotations: Thinking and Creativity

Inspired by a fantastic cartoon posted by Orac which introduces the idea of "pre-conceptual science" (!) I found this collection of quotations, including:

"The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn." -- Alvin Toffler

"Profits, like sausages... are esteemed most by those who know least about what goes into them." -- Alvin Toffler

"I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody." -- Bill Cosby

"I have often wondered how it is that every man loves himself more than all the rest of men, but yet sets less value on his own opinion of himself than on the opinion of others." -- Marcus Aurelius

"One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time." -- Andre Gide

"Inspiration comes slowly and quietly." -- Brenda Ueland

If you NEED to keep a secret....

[via Cincinnati Historian]
In a charming discussion of the personal and political aspects of secret-keeping, including Deep Throat, Ben Bradlee's wife -- and Post staff writer -- Sally Quinn writes:
Republicans are much better than Democrats at keeping secrets. They are more disciplined and they punish people who leak. Democrats talk too much and are too disorganized to make people pay.
There's a slogan for you: "Democrats: the party that has better things to do than keep secrets" or perhaps "Democrats: Responsible government through selective irresponsibility." Hmmm. Maybe not.

Story Slippage

It's like a really bad game of telephone. It's decent people, drawing what they think are reasonable inferences to paraphrase a story, but the result is a significant distortion of the truth in just two transfers. I'll let Mr. Bray tell it himself:
So a couple of weeks ago, I talked to a reporter at the Soldiers for the Truth/DefenseWatch website about active duty call-ups for infantrymen in the Individual Ready Reserve. In passing, we discussed my last stretch of (peacetime) active duty, and I described it as having been uniquely uneventful. So little happened during those two years, I said, that the high point was the formal commendation I received for a two-week driving detail in which I carted a load of visiting colonels around Fort Benning in a van; one night I drove them to the officers club so they could have a beer or two without worrying about getting back to guest quarters on their own. In the Defense Watch story, the colonels became "inebriated"; the story was still largely the one I told, but the shading had changed a bit.

And so now the World Socialist Web Site reports that the U.S. army is so corrupt an organization that its enlisted soldiers mostly just function as servants to a decadent officer class:
Soldiers for The Truth ( reported on May 17 that now, as well as specialists, hundreds of IRR infantry are being called up.

SFTT spoke with one of them, 37-year-old Chris Bray, who had joined the Army in 1999 to get money for college*. He left in late 2001, describing his most important responsibility as being the designated driver to transport drunken officers back to their quarters at Fort Benning, Georgia.
It took a grand total of two steps. This minor event, mentioned in passing as part of a sideline story, is now my most important responsibility as a soldier. I spent two years driving drunken officers back to their quarters.

Speaking for the record is a little like building your own Frankenstein -- you just can't believe that your little creation is out there in the world, doing things that you didn't imagine it could do.


(*Also not true, by the way.)
There's all kinds of things that we can say about this slippage.
  • check your sources' sources, when possible
  • be careful that you don't let your bias distort a story through exaggeration and misemphasis
  • Don't lie on the web: people read this stuff! [Don't lie anywhere, if you can avoid it, but I'm limiting myself to specific lessons of this incident]
  • "They also serve who only stand and wait" is easier to say than to understand
I'm sure there's more, but that's all I can think of this morning.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Quotations #061: Histories

"History ... is, indeed, little more than the register of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind." -- Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

"History [is] a distillation of rumour" -- Thomas Carlyle, History of the French Revolution

"History is the essence of innumerable biographies." -- Thomas Carlyle, "On History"

"Hegel says somewhere that all great events and personalities in world history reappear in one fashion or another. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce." -- Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte

"Does history repeat itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce? No, that's too grand, too considered a process. History just burps, and we taste again that raw-onion sandwich it swallowed centuries ago." -- Julian Barnes, A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters

Thursday, June 02, 2005

What We Already Knew: WSJ and NYT catch up

The United States is regarded, across large swaths of the Muslim world with a mixture of suspicion and hatred that military action in Afghanistan and Iraq has fanned to a white-hot intensity. Moderate Muslim voices are being drowned out by the screaming of fanatics.
"Often those with the most bloodthirsty ideas were the well-to-do and the privileged who have had some experience with the West - and not the downtrodden and ignorant 'masses' that are usually depicted as the font of anti-Western fury," Mr. Trofimov writes. "Sometimes those who know us best hate us most."

American support for oppressive regimes ranks high on the list of Muslim grievances. Mr. Trofimov finds a fascinating case study in Tunisia, a secular society in which women are guaranteed equal rights, abortion is legal and ultra-Orthodox Jews enjoy religious freedoms denied to fundamentalist Muslims. "We are much closer to the Italians and the French," a government official tells him.

Well, not quite. Zine el-Abadine Ben Ali, Tunisia's prime minister, has imposed secularism with an iron fist, exiling or imprisoning dissidents, while courting American support by taking a soft line on Israel and protecting Tunisia's tiny Jewish community. As in Iran under the shah, liberal opponents of the regime find themselves allied with Islamists, and the veil, paradoxically, has become a symbol of liberation.
Actually, I spoke to soon: when you get to the bottom of the review, the reviewer makes it clear that coming to a conclusion based on evidence is itself evidence of bias. Thus dies the value of journalism....

Walt Whitman's Birthday

It is the anniversary of Walt Whitman's birth, in honor of which libertarian Ken Gregg has posted the text of a political pamphlet he wrote in 1856, in honor of the 80th year of the United States of America. Things haven't changed much:
At present, the personnel of the government of these thirty millions, in executives and elsewhere, is drawn from limber-tongued lawyers, very fluent but empty, feeble old men, professional politicians, dandies, dyspeptics, and so forth, and rarely drawn from the solid body of the people; the effects now seen, and more to come. ... To-day, of all the persons in public office in These States, not one in a thousand has been chosen by any spontaneous movement of the people, nor is attending to the interests of the people; all have been nominated and put through by great or small caucuses of the politicians, or appointed as rewards for electioneering; and all consign themselves to personal and party interests. Neither in the Presidency, nor in Congress, nor in the foreign ambassadorships, nor in the governorships of The States, nor in legislatures, nor in the mayoralities of cities, nor the aldermanships, nor among the police, nor on the benches of judges, do I observe a single bold, muscular, young, well-informed, well-beloved, resolute American man, bound to do a man's duty, aloof from all parties, and with a manly scorn of all parties. Instead of that, every trustee of the people is a traitor, looking only to his own gain, and to boost up his party. The berths, the Presidency included, are bought, sold, electioneered for, prostituted, and filled with prostitutes.
Whitman had a pretty good eye for regional differences and tension:
In the North and East, swarms of dough-faces, office-vermin, kept-editors, clerks, attaches of the ten thousand officers and their parties, aware of nothing further than the drip and spoil of politics -- ignorant of principles, the true glory of a man. In the South, no end of blusterers, braggarts, windy, melodramatic, continually screaming in falsetto, a nuisance to These States, their own just as much as any; altogether the most impudent persons that have yet appeared in the history of lands, and with the most incredible successes, having pistol'd, bludgeoned, yelled and threatened America, the past twenty years into one long train of cowardly concessions, and still not through, but rather at the commencement. Their cherished secret scheme is to dissolve the union of These States. [emphasis added]
The rot went all the way to the top, as it does today
History is to record these two Presidencies [A. - he seems to mean here the two terms of Pres. Pierce; I'd extend it to Bush and Clinton without much difficulty] as so far our topmost warning and shame. Never were publicly displayed more deformed, mediocre, snivelling, unreliable, false-hearted men! Never were These States so insulted, and attempted to be betrayed!
He doesn't have much use for political parties, and anyone who -- like me -- thinks that our Republicrat duopoly has lived out its useful life will find that 'twas ever thus:
ARE NOT POLITICAL PARTIES ABOUT PLAYED OUT? I say they are, all round. America has outgrown parties; henceforth it is too large, and they too small. They habitually make common cause just as soon in advocacy of the worst deeds and men as the best, or probably a little sooner for the worst. I place no reliance upon any old party, nor upon any new party. Suppose one to be formed under the noblest auspices, and getting into power with the noblest intentions, how long would it remain so? How many years? Would it remain so one year? As soon as it becomes successful, and there are offices to be bestowed, the politicians leave the unsuccessful parties, and rush toward it, and it ripens and rots with the rest.
And he has a few choice words which apply quite nicely to the present Republican strategy:
WHAT RIGHT HAS ANY ONE POLITICAL PARTY, NO MATTER WHICH, TO WIELD THE AMERICAN GOVERNMENT? No right at all. Not the so-called democratic, not abolition, opposition to foreigners, nor any other party, should be permitted the exclusive use of the Presidency; and every American young man must have sense enough to comprehend this. I have said the old parties are defunct; but there remains of them empty flesh, putrid mouths, mumbling and squeaking the tones of these conventions, the politicians standing back in shadow, telling lies, trying to delude and frighten the people; and nominating such candidates as Fillmore and Buchanan.
Tom Paxton once said that the worst fate for a satirist or activist is to have his work remain relevant, year after year....

Thursday Lyric: The Kind of Love You Never Recover From

The Kind of Love You Never Recover From
© 1990 Christine Lavin

I know a couple
She sits in a rocking chair working puzzles
He watches TV upstairs
She has a secret she has never let out
A man she thinks he never knew about.
She hasn't seen him in 30 years
The mention of his name doesn't brings on tears
If you ask her "Are there any regrets?"
She'll tell you "No"
But she never forgets.

It was The Kind of Love You Never Recover From
Even though she found another one to take his place
She never will escape the truth
At times like this
When the moon is bright
When the air is foggy like it is tonight
She'll think about what might have been
If she had just held on to him.

I know a man who has done it all
He sailed the oceans
Climbed the mountains of Nepal
He lives high up on the Avenue
With a beautiful wife
Lovely children too.
But there's a woman he still dreams about
Certian thing's he's learned to live without
If you ask him "Are there any regrets?"
He'll tell you "No"
But he never forgets.

It was The Kind of Love You Never Recover From
Even though he found another one to take her place
He never will escape the truth
At times like this
When the moon is bright
When the air is foggy like it is tonight
He'll think about what might have been
If had not let her
Slip away from him.

I read about a woman who said
She never regretted
Anything she's ever done
Such arrogant words always seem to be spoken by those
Who then die young.

So here am I
Looking at you
Oh tell me
What are we gonna do?
Am I destined to be your regret
Are you that one I will never forget?
Years from now will we curse the day
You let me let you walk away
Isn't this too dear a price to pay
For the freedom
Of going seperate ways?

This is The Kind of Love You Never Recover From
Don't tell me that I'm gonna find another one to take your place
I never will escape the truth
At times like this
When the moon is bright
When the air is foggy like it is tonight
I'll think how sweet life could be
If you would stay with me
Oh stay with me
This is The Kind of Love You Never Recover From
Don't tell me that I'm gonna find another one to take your place
And try to face the truth
Let me hold you close tonight
The fog has lifted
And the moon is so bright
Think how sweet life could be
If you would stay with me
Oh stay with me
This is The Kind of Love You Never Recover From.
This is The Kind of Love You Never Recover From.

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

My Viking Self

[via Ralph Luker]
Alun's Viking Name Generator at Archaeoastronomy: Þorleif the Mad [That's pronounced "Thorleif"]
GORM Viking Name Converter: Ahistoricality the Peevish [That's an honor, if Anne Zook will forgive me]

The Quarter's Viking Name Generator not only gives you a name, but explains how you fit in Viking Society:
Your Viking Name is... Ásgautr Stronghorse

Your Viking Personality: You're a fearsome Viking, but you aren't completely uncivilized. The other Vikings make fun of you for that. You have a thirst for battle -- unfortunately, you're not terribly good at it. You probably know which end of a sword to hold, but you're not a fearsome fighter by any stretch of the imagination.

You might grumble a bit at the lack of amenities on board a Viking longboat, but you can handle it. Other Vikings consider you "one of the guys".

People who've known you for a while don't always trust your word. You sometimes come off as a bit of a snob. Vikings are not snobbish people -- they either like you, or they kill you. Try to be more like a Viking.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

My Song? Let this meme die here....

[via CES which I found because of Avedon]
#1 pop song on the day I was born:
  • US Charts: Daydream Believer - The Monkees [well, ok]
  • UK Charts: Hello Goodbye - The Beatles [better group, anyway]
"Theme Song" aka #1 pop song on my 18th birthday:
  • US Charts: Say You Say Me - Lionel Richie [say it ain't so! -- Ahistoricality]
  • UK Charts: Saving All My Love For You - Whitney Houston [is that worse, or better?]

There isn't a "folk chart" but I imagine that my birth album is probably a Tom Paxton or Joan Baez, and my theme song comes from Stan Rogers. I'd like to think so, anyway....

Fox News Admits Bias

So, do we call the FCC? Do we call the FEC? Or shall we just Impeach the bastards they're working for?

Oh, it is...

"In wedding-related matters, 'helpful suggestions' approaches being an oxymoron."