Wednesday, December 28, 2005


What Is Your Animal Personality?

brought to you by Quizilla [via
One oddity of these quizzes: none of them mention blogging as a pasttime or a venue of communication. It's like we're inventing quizzes for people of the 1980s....

Protect Yourself, a little

While your personal information is still yours you can legally require that it not be shared: Ten Tips is a great collection of things to make 2006 more pleasant....

It is unlikely that these privacy protections will be permanant, as the concept of intellectual property oozes its way across all kinds of common-sense boundaries: eventually, the fact that a company has the data will mean that the only way to prevent them from profiting from it is by paying them protection money. Or, perhaps, we should institute more democratic reforms to keep our elected officials responsible to the citizenry instead of the artificial corporate persons PACs....

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Index: Impeachment

Suddenly, it seems that everyone's talking (on the left, anyway; I particularly like this one, and this roundup) about "the I-word" in relation to the administration's admission that it couldn't care less about the law (that's why they have lawyers: to find loopholes, or the appearance of loopholes, that will allow their allies who control Congress to talk their way out of investigating or impeaching anyone), at least there's a prima facie case that the President is not only violating the rights of Americans but, and this is more likely to get him impeached, ignoring the will of Congress.

Well, this is as good a time as any to make an index page for my own Articles of Impeachment. After all, some of us have been on the case for a while now:

9 April 2011: The Most Comprehensive List of Scandals and Legal Violations.
16 March 2009: Torture.
25 January 2009: Vanity Fair: An Oral History of the Bush White House
2 June 2008: Fundamental and deliberate malfeasance in military affairs (see also here)
14 March 2008: Interfering in regulatory process
4 March 2007: GreyHawk's "short list" of impeachable offenses and a pointed call to both parties' representatives in Congress.
23 January 2007: reckless disregard for the lives and health of US service personnel and first responders, not to mention the rest of us.
1 December 2006: Elizabeth de la Vega's indictment of top administration officials, up to and including the President, on charges of conspiracy to defraud
26 November 2006: Petition outlining ten charges against the President and Vice President.
14 September 2006: Counterpunch Roundup of criminal acts by Administration
8 September 2006: For militarizing, privatizing and "reorganizing" functional government agencies to create disastrous incompetence.
24 May 2006: An excellent review of historical issues relating to impeachment, pointing out the political dynamics of the process
9 April 2006: Plame Leak Damaged National Security and Signing Statements are UnConstitutional. That's my take, anyway.
14 March 2006: Dan Savage's ITMFA (Impeach the M-F Alread) site is up, but all it has so far is attitude and logo stuff. With luck, his readership will provide him with content soon.
7 March 2006: Juan Cole's Top Ten list isn't very impeachable, but Bush-Blair conspiracy, interfering with the military and unspeakable torture should be.
11 August 2005: Speculation about indictments from the Plame leak
6 May 2005: of course, misusing intelligence data to defraud Congress and the American people into a war is the ultimate high crime.
7 April 2005: threatening the fiscal soundness of the government

Do you think President Bush hasn't considered his culpability and legal exposure? Of course he has. The one thing that all his Supreme Court nominees have had in common is extreme deference to presidential authority; it's a defensive strategy.

And there's already some preemptive talking points out there, pointing out things done by previous (i.e. Democratic) presidents which didn't result in impeachment (though other lesser things did, under Republican dominated Congress, so what gives?). But it's possible to really discuss impeachment with even hardcore Republicans, and it's worth it.

Christianity: Advanced Seminar

It's hard have a religiously mixed family: religion is a very personal and sensitive matter. But when the entire family is not only one religion, but all members of the same sect, it shouldn't be a problem, right? Wrong, because people within even a single movement can't agree on the core theological/ritual issues anymore. What's weird, I guess, is that there are literally hundreds of Christian sects, so that every possible permutation of Christian theology is pretty well represented. But still, within the movements are fights like the one over infant/child baptism/communion, a disagreement at, at one time, marked the major divisions within Protestantism.

Maybe it's just the Anglican/Episcopal thing: having really not gone through Reformation, as such, they have to catch up.

Ghost of Cheney Past:

I think that the proposition of going to Baghdad is also fallacious. I think if we were going to remove Saddam Hussein we would have had to go all the way to Baghdad, we would have to commit a lot of force because I do not believe he would wait in the Presidential Palace for us to arrive. I think we'd have had to hunt him down. And once we'd done that and we'd gotten rid of Saddam Hussein and his government, then we'd have had to put another government in its place.

What kind of government? Should it be a Sunni government or Shi'i government or a Kurdish government or Ba'athist regime? Or maybe we want to bring in some of the Islamic fundamentalists? How long would we have had to stay in Baghdad to keep that government in place? What would happen to the government once U.S. forces withdrew? How many casualties should the United States accept in that effort to try to create clarity and stability in a situation that is inherently unstable?

I think it is vitally important for a President to know when to use military force. I think it is also very important for him to know when not to commit U.S. military force. And it's my view that the President got it right both times, that it would have been a mistake for us to get bogged down in the quagmire inside Iraq.

-- Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, 1991
You can read the rest here. As Sgt. Bray says, Wow.

Self Parody Alert

Book title, seen recently: Pit Bulls for Dummies.

I think there's an "are" missing, myself...

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Perpetuating Errors

Arendt quotes Bainbridge:
In sum, the Patriot Act was a "hasty change that overturns long-established customs and principles." We should not have compounded the error by rushing through a renewal. Congress should be commended for having given itself time to take a deep breath and make sure that it has an opportunity for full debate and evaluation of each provision and proposed amendment rather than making hurried changes at the last minute under the gun.
He quotes him a lot, so I might have to start reading him directly... maybe later.

Anyway, does anyone else think that the extension of the USA Patriot Act was a really bad tactical move by the Democrats? It feeds into the "there's an emergency, a war on" hysteria. With all respect to Prof. Bainbridge, Congress has had plenty of time to discuss and consider the Act; the time had come to revise it or, my preference, let it die. By forcing the administration to let the act expire rather than compromise the most egregious civil liberty violations, it would put the Republicans on record as inflexible and the Democrats as, for a change, principled.

Saturday, December 24, 2005


In response to Anne Zook's entirely justifiable concern about these poor souls, I replied
Sad to say, I think the judge has it more or less right: what the administration has done, by its illegal actions, is create a situation which would be the pride and joy of a law school prof's hypothetical collection: there is no legal option. The judge, unlike the chief executive, is incapable of ordering actions which violate the law; only Congress can authorize exceptions (or the Executive, if it's regulatory instead of statutory); Judges can invalidate law, but the problem is that the executive has failed to follow perfectly reasonable laws.... Joseph Heller, eat your heart out.
We can add it to the impeachment list...

As Anne Zook says, Ho. Ho. Ho. (actually, that phrase has been ruined for me ever since I read Neil Gaiman's take on it.) Merry Christmas, anyway.

p.s. Does Santa Exist?

Friday, December 23, 2005

So the system works.... not really.

The Religious Policeman reports that the teacher sentenced to three years and 750 lashes for teaching science and tolerance has been pardoned, along with another teacher sentenced to a similar punishment for criticizing arranged, loveless marriage. It's nice that the Saudi's decided, given the publicity involved, to pardon these men, but it leaves in place a system which will produce more of them.

Of course, if you're shameless, then even publicity won't stop you. No, you'll just claim that those who oppose you are "soft"....

Works for the Saudis. Why not us?

Yoo, who?

A wise man said:
One of the big mistakes made in the process of developing legal positions following September 11th was that certain lawyers at State and in the military services were excluded from some of the conversations. These are the lawyers most adept at understanding international law, especially the law of armed conflict.
Who was responsible for bypassing them? Who's the administration's go-to guy for legal opinions favoring monarchical power and might-makes-right international relations? Yoo, that's who.

Ahistorical Adjustments

While awaiting the Bad History Carnival with bated breath, I took the liberty of rearranging my blogrolls. A few things got added, a few things got removed, a bunch of stuff got moved up or down, and I added the Carnival section for those regular roundups I get the most out of.

Also, I note that my visitor count has just exceeded eight thousand, thanks in no small part to high-traffic links from Avedon Carol, the History Carnival, Orac, and an increase in regular visitors via the blogrolls of Pooflingers, Hiram Hover, Kittybear, and a few other generous souls.

Update: It's Here. It's lots of good (bad) stuff. And hand-delivered, too (see comments)! At risk of exposing my own side to hostile fire, I'll note that conservatives took a real beating this time, though The Neural Gourmet tried to even things out at the end...

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Thursday Lyrics: That's The Way That The World Goes 'Round

If you know any John Prine, it's probably "Angel From Montgomery" which Bonnie Raitt (and many others) have covered. That's good poetry, too. I bet you can find the "happy enchilada" dialogue on the internet somewhere, if you look, but I like the song just fine as it is.

That's The Way That The World Goes 'Round
John Prine

I know a guy that's got a lot to lose.
He's a pretty nice fellow but he's kind of confused.
He's got muscles in his head that ain't never been used.
Thinks he own half of this town.

Starts drinking heavy, gets a big red nose.
Beats his old lady with a rubber hose,
Then he takes her out to dinner and buys her new clothes.
That's the way that the world goes 'round.

That's the way that the world goes 'round.
You're up one day and the next you're down.
It's half an inch of water and you think you're gonna drown.
That's the way that the world goes 'round.

I was sitting in the bathtub counting my toes,
When the radiator broke, water all froze.
I got stuck in the ice without my clothes,
Naked as the eyes of a clown.
I was crying ice cubes hoping I'd croak,
When the sun come through the window, the ice all broke.
I stood up and laughed, thought it was a joke
That's the way that the world goes 'round.


Thoughts for the next template revision...

Your Blog Should Be Green
Your blog is smart and thoughtful - not a lot of fluff. You enjoy a good discussion, especially if it involves picking apart ideas. However, you tend to get easily annoyed by any thoughtless comments in your blog.

Green is one of those colors that's either just right or really, really wrong. There are so many bad shades of green.

As far as the blog itself... I think it's smart fluff! Not enough (non-spam) comments, though.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Liberality and Bad History

No, it's not a slam at liberals. But for some reason, the Neural Gourmet has volunteered to host two carnivals in a single week!

First up is the Carnival of the Liberals, which is supposed to feature ten posts, but which NG has organized into ten topics, instead. More on that later. [oops: that's what I get for posting in a hurry. It's ten posts in four topics....]

Then, later this week, he'll be hosting the Carnival of Bad History.

If that's not enough to get you through the week, readingwise, the fifth Carnival of Feminists is up, too!

Oh, and congratulations to the British, who initiate a new era in marriage today!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Good Science; Bad Science

More forwards from Dad:

Good science: Dark Chocolate is Good For your Heart. Of course the Swiss are studying this.... I note that I recently discovered seriously dark Hershey bars; health food?

Bad Science: Small Brains Curve Space, Prove God Exists. I sent this on to a few anti-quackery science bloggers. Apparently it makes sense if perceptual space-time is a completely different system but governed by the same equations as actual space-time.... not.

Pretty Pictures and Web Toys

This is "The Supernova Remnant Cas A, as imaged in X-rays using the ACIS camera on the Chandra satellite (Credit: NASA/CXC/SAO). The colours are red: 0.3-1.55 keV; green: 1.55-3.34keV; and blue 3.34-10.0 keV." It's from a Princeton collection of pretty astronomical pictures. My other favorite is this Owl Nebula, with lots of other cute little galaxies in the background.

My father also sent along this interactive map of Rome c. 100 C.E., which comes with or without text labels (in English or French). The possibilities for role-playing games, etc., just get better and better. I suppose teachers might find them useful, too.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

A challenge: What are we worth?

In response to Eric Muller's citation (which deserves special mention as one of the best "go read this" posts I've ever read) of the new revelations that the President authorized secret and probably illegal surveillance within the US by US intelligence agencies, frequent commenter, law student, good citizen and sometime blogger David Marshall wrote:
You're pissed? Try walking in my shoes! Twenty two years in the military. Twenty two years of wars, and conflicts, pain and discomfort, of being away from my family months on end. Never for glory. Never for money. Just this immigrant's belief that America's freedoms and liberties are worth any sacrifice to defend.

I'm sad, disappointed, and outraged that my government has decided my sacrifice and the sacrifice of millions of other Americans is worth nothing. That the ideals we fight for are no longer important. That liberty is a commodity to be traded in exchange for security.

People trust their government. They should not. Can we fault education? What has happened to the high school civics lessons that obligate us to vigilance? Where are the history courses that warn the citizenry of past abuses? Where are the political science classes that explain the rationale for a form of government grounded on a system of checks and balances? Who has failed to point out in psychology courses that man will be tempted and corrupted by power at every opportunity? Where are the educators who praise the American virtue of questioning authority? Of being rugged individuals who take control of government, rather than allowing government to control us? That we are the masters of our own destiny, and that we should hold any member of the government accountable for undermining our autonomy and personal self-worth?

We have defiled every good intention, every carefully drafted provision, every principle of freedom and human dignity wisely devised by our founding fathers, and kept safe and improved on by generations of vigilant Americans, for the common good. We have forgotten what the sacrifices are for.

We have been made weak by fear, and that is something I would never have predicted when I came to this country.
I can't improve on that. Except by continuing to question, challenge and otherwise honor the legacy of participatory democracy which we must preserve to pass on to our children and our future.

Sideshow has some worthwhile reading on the subject, and one of the great muckrakers has passed just in time for us to learn a lesson from him. Still not sure? Wanna put your fate and freedom in the hands of the "just trust us" crew? [via]

People get more or less the government they deserve, someone once said....

a Jewish hipster moment

I think I missed my calling. I coulda been a Jewish hipster....

Well, I can still shout out yasha koach [well done!] to a recipient of the tenure star with clusters.

And: I can laugh at multicultural education for everyone except Jews. Oh, there's hope yet.

Garlic, mmmm.....

You Are Italian Food

Comforting yet overwhelming. People love you, but sometimes you're just too much.

I miss canoli. But macadamias make good pesto and fresh thai basil rocks (it also freezes just fine, and crushing frozen basil is much easier than chopping fresh)!

Friday, December 16, 2005

The Imperial Fallacy

The Madman of Chu cuts to the chase
Even so, I would predict that the morale-boosting effect of the speeches will be short-lived, and that their ultimate impact will be, on balance, more negative than positive. Pundits have pointed to distortions and ellisions within the speeches, but it is not for these that I would take the President to task. Having had such a complete void of candor from this administration, I can no longer evince surprise when it finally emerges within very strict limits. Rather, it is the overall logical thrust of the President's 'plan for victory' that I find ill-conceived and rhetorically ill-advised.

The administration's division of the Coalition mission into military, economic, and political aspects is in itself sound, but in all these arenas the President described a process in which the US has far more control than is at all possible.
That is, ultimately, the hubris which defines the Imperial Presidency, and the neo-conservative/PNAC/Straussian movement within it: they really think that they're in charge and that people will consistently do what they "predict" (it's not really prediction; more like wishful thinking within sharp ideological blinders).

[Thanks, Avedon!] Read the whole thing, it's solid, thoughtful stuff.

Abhorrent Hideous Insanity-Spurred Townsfolk-Obliterating Redhead-Injuring Creature from the Arcane Labyrinth

Yeah, that's me!

Abhorrent Hideous Insanity-Spurred Townsfolk-Obliterating Redhead-Injuring Creature from the Arcane Labyrinth
You can view the original here (and buy copies of the t-shirt here!), and get your own name decoded here. [via Treacherous Intimidating ... Imp ...]

I particularly like the "Creature from the Arcane Labyrinth" bit....

Do you want to know?

David Niewert reports on a rabid rightist
In January 2003, while on patrol with Civil Homeland Defense, Simcox was arrested by federal park rangers for illegally carrying a .45-caliber semi-automatic handgun in a national park. Also in Simcox's possession at the time of that arrest, according to police records, were a document entitled 'Mission Plan,' a police scanner, two walkie-talkies, and a toy figure of Wyatt Earp on horseback.
Yes, I want to know. Since he was arrested alone, why did he have two walkie-talkies? What was Wyatt Earp for? (and, why did it make it into the arrest report and why did the SPLC report include that detail?)

Life is way too strange sometimes.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Step Right Up....

History Carnival #22 includes links to a few of my own posts (and don't think I'm not grateful for the traffic, guys!), but there's some really good stuff, too. These really are funny, and so's this.

Update: The Teaching Carnival is up, too. And it's gonna take weeks to read it all....

Thursday Lyric: The Great Historical Bum

I grew up with the Chad Mitchell Trio version of this song (with full dialogue here), but the words of the original are a bit more pointed (and less salacious). For a really neat, truly original version, check out the 1945 Woody Guthrie Songbook, which has the handwritten notation "Fascism fought/ Indoors and out/ Good & bad weather/ Full & empty halls."

Great Historical Bum
(a.k.a. Just the Facts, M'am,
a.k.a. The Biggest Thing That Man Has Ever Done)
By Woody Guthrie

I'm just a lonesome traveler, the great historical bum
Highly educated, out of history I've come
I built the Rock of Ages, it was in the year of One
And that's about the biggest thing that Man has ever done

I was in the Garden of Eden, that was the year of Two
Joined the Apple Pickers Union, and I always paid my dues
I'm the man that signed the contract to raise the Rising Sun
And that's about the biggest thing that Man has ever done

I was straw boss on the pyramids, the Tower of Babel, too
I opened up the ocean, let the migrant children through
I fought a million battles and I never lost a one
And that's about the biggest thing that Man has ever done

I licked the daring Roman, I licked the daring Turk
Defeated Nero's army, boys, with thirty minutes' work
I fought a million battles and I never lost a one
And that's about the biggest thing that Man has ever done

I was in the Revolution that set this country free
Me and a couple o' Indians, we dumped the Boston tea
I fought the battle of Valley Forge and the battle of Bully Run
And that's about the biggest thing that Man has ever done

There was a man across the ocean, I guess you know him well
His name was Adolph Hitler, God damn his soul to hell
We kicked him in the panzers and put him on the run
And that's about the biggest thing that Man has ever done

[The songbook version goes on for a few more verses about beating Japan and Germany. I just love "kicked him in the panzers" so I thought I'd stop there]

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Ethical Dilemma? Not really.

Sure, the death penalty is a morally complex issue. Sometimes. Some of us feel that the complexities are not really worth the trouble, when you can really ruin a person's life (and maybe even get some good out of them) by locking them up forever, anyway. God's judgement, one way or another, falls on all of us, and we have an obligation to ourselves not to be too hasty in making these sorts of decisions.

On the other hand, sometimes the death penalty is a gross miscarriage of justice. Cory Maye is someone who shouldn't even have been charged with capital murder, much less sentenced to death. Honestly, there's no complexity here, unless we want to keep the death penalty but prevent errors from ever happening again.

(Yes, I say "again" because the likelihood that we -- I say "we" meaning Americans, past and present -- have executed one or more people who did not deserve the death penalty either out of sheer innocence or other failures of proportionality and fairness is very high.)

In addition to having one of the coolest blog names around, BattlePanda has the list of bloggers who share this view. (for the record, I'm Blue Team) It's nice to see some cross-party agreement on this, of course.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Just quote 'em

Tom Paxton said that "some people you don't have to satirize: you just quote them." that's the operating theory behind Fundies Say The Darndest Things, a site devoted to pulling quotes off of websites and comment pages and holding them up to ridicule. Some of the "fundies" are actually really dumb atheists, too (sorry, there doesn't seem to be a way to link to individual posts, not that I can tell, anyway): anyone who's clueless but nonetheless wedded to an inflexible truth....

They also have a blog, which includes extra tidbits like movies which feature Jesus as an action hero.

Update: on the other side, to be a little fair, a conservative's collection of The 40 Most Obnoxious Quotes For 2005. A few of them are entirely non-partisan offenders; being a conservative list, though, there's quite a few which are only offensive if you ignore both conservative statements of equal or greater disrepute and the fact that they are responses to thoroughly objectionable and disturbing events. [via Grant Jones, who's right about this story, and I'm very glad to hear someone on his side of the aisle say it]

Something for Everyone Update: And, thanks to Chris Bray, here's a collection of Mystery Men Movie Quotes that is part of a massive archive of quotable movie lines.

Ahistorical Puritanism

I'm not a huge Lew Rockwell fan, but this historical perspective on the Global Struggle Against Vehement Ecumenicism and it's vanguard warriors:
Their own ideological predecessors in American history – the New England Puritans – were the first group in the history of Christianity to attempt to stamp out Christmas altogether.

Historian Oliver Perry Chitwood tells us that they managed to suppress the entire holiday. "The Puritans were opposed to the observance of Christmas," he writes, "which they regarded as a Catholic custom, and during the colonial period, Christmas was, therefore, not a New England holiday except in Rhode Island."

Perry Miller, in his magisterial treatise on Puritan culture, elaborates: "Christmas was associated in the Puritan mind with the ‘Lords of Misrule,’ with riot and drunkenness. Though commemorated outside New England, and by the Anglicans in Boston as early as 1686, it never came to be regarded generally as a day of joy and good will until the mid-nineteenth century."

David Hackett Fischer provides the broader context: "The Puritans made a point of abolishing the calendar of Christian feasts and saints’ day. The celebration of Christmas was forbidden in Massachusetts on pain of a five-shilling fine." Nor was this a Colonial peculiarity. When the same bunch was in charge in England, the Puritan Parliament "prohibited the observance of Christmas, Easter, Whitsunday, saints’ days and holy days."
The ahistoricality of their position is heightened, as Rockwell points out, by the deep-rooted and unresolvable tension between opposition to commercialization (aka idolatry) of the holiday and their need to see Christmas as universally celebrated, even by non-Christians and non-human corporations.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Can a blogger be a wise man? Or woman?

A wise person does not speak before one who is greater than he in wisdom or years; he does not interrupt his fellow; he is not rushed to respond; he asks relevant questions; he answers accurately; he discusses first things first and last things last; on what he did not hear, he says 'I did not hear;' and he admits to the truth.

I may be a fool. Or not.

Bad Sex Writing

The annual roundup of the worst published writing about sex in widely read non-pornographic novels is online and it is indeed bad. I don't get it. Sex is fun, right? It's dramatic and it's entertaining and most people have a pretty good idea how it goes. Why try so hard to complicate something that is so inherently easy.... never mind. I'm not a modern novelist.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Bush as Nietszche

"It's just a goddamned piece of paper" quoth our President, referring to the Constitution of the United States of America. Of course it is. He's absolutely right. And among the reasons that people keep "throwing it back in his face" is that he has now twice sworn to uphold and protect it.

I do not trust the President. I do not trust his advisors, or officials or party allies. But as long as the Constitution is an effective set of rules, as long as the principles of constitutional republican democracy are shared and upheld, there's a chance for this country to remain ... a country. If they repudiate it, then that's it. Game over, go home.

So, now's the time for loyal Republicans to step up. Now's when we find out, once and for all, if this administration is an anomaly or the shape of things to come. Will we let the president be above law, above morality, beyond good and evil? Is it pure power?

Update: This story might be false. I'd like to see evidence one way or the other, rather than mere "shoot the messenger" dismissals and bias confirmation affirmations.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Poetics of Spam

It's not quite a haiku, technically, and it didn't get posted with the line breaks. But when I read it, the rhythm of it and the unexpected clarity of the images just struck me.
scientific laser Watergate?
ghosted garages complicated
broom:excellences amitriptyline
The last line needs a bit of work (or a better explicator), but the first two lines are pure poetry slam material....

Spinning Gold

The Cunning Realist says that gold is up and that confirms what we already knew about the economy: it's overburdened with debt, particularly official debt, and inflation is highly likely.
Gold represents many things to different people, but essentially it's a proxy for excess liquidity. When there's too much money around, the price of gold generally rises as people try to maintain purchasing power against the effects of inflation.

I've been bullish on gold for several years because of the irresponsible fiscal and particularly monetary policy in Washington. For the past few years, the Federal Reserve has reacted to every minor bump in the economy or the stock market with a massive round of fresh liquidity. In the nanny state, economic weakness---or, God forbid, cleansing of overcapacity and malinvestment---can't be tolerated. This is particularly true during an unpopular war led by an unpopular president. Gold loves the nanny state. It adores offensive wars started by politicians who spend without considering the consequences. Regardless of what one thinks about George Soros, one of the all-time great quotes about politics and the financial markets belongs to him: "All of economic history is one lie and deceit after another. Your job as a speculator is to get on when the lie is being propagated and then get off before it is discovered." Gold is the ultimate polygraph machine. It stands as a silent sentinel, taking notes on what it sees and reacting accordingly. Thus, the fresh 24-year high in its price. [emphasis added]
I'm reminded of Robin Hahnel's rules of credit markets:
There are two rules of behavior in any credit system:
Rule #1 is the rule all participants want all other participants to follow: DON’T PANIC!
Rule #2 is the rule each participant must be careful to follow herself: PANIC FIRST!
What makes the Cunning Realist's analysis particularly interesting is that he's got the pre-spin cycle all figured out:
And in that regard, here's a bit of advice for the "no consequences" bunch as they prepare to explain away gold's rise. They've done an excellent job of perpetuating the "we're running out of oil!" meme in order to disguise the link between excess money creation and higher oil prices. With gold, start with the line that "gold is reflecting increased prosperity, so higher gold prices are a good thing." When that gets old, trot out "gold is an ancient, barbarous relic." As the desperation builds, try "it's unpatriotic to own gold." Eventually, establish a mantra that "gold is the currency of terrorists." And when there are no more pages in the script, conjure up FDR's spirit for advice on what to do next. [In 1933, Roosevelt outlawed the ownership of gold by U.S. citizens as the government tried to remove any constraint on its ability to reflate during the Great Depression (history buffs can view a copy of FDR's executive order here).]
I would point out that "gold is the currency of terrorists" is a meme that's already out there, with regard to the US attempts to make the entire international banking system transparent to US anti-terrorist agencies. So they may already be ahead of us on this game...

Friday, December 09, 2005

Struggling with St. Nick

Naomi Chana is right, of course, to say that Christmas celebrations aren't really a serious Jewish problem. And yet, our Little Anachronism is now old enough to notice and understand all this stuff -- and Chanukah is "late" this year, dammit -- we're going to be fighting a rear guard action for the next few weeks. School isn't helping: it's a Waldorf pre-school, and they're big into fairy tales and angels and seasonally meaningful saint's days. Yeah, we knew that going in, but they assured us that it wasn't a Christian thing, but that didn't stop the teachers from putting gold-painted "magical" walnuts in the kids' shoes during nap time and telling them that St. Nicholas did it. So all the way home we're explaining that it's a story and it's the teachers that did it and I really think it's time to have that serious talk about "We're Jewish; they're Christian; it's fun but we don't do that (except to have fun with friends who do)"

We grew up sharing Christmas (stockings) with Christian friends (also Easter baskets, though often they had to wait for the end of Pesach); the same ones who came over for Seder and latkes and dreidle. The Little Anachronism is going through a "strange men are bad" phase anyway, so Santa isn't immediately attractive (especially the big one climbing up the side of the mall, for some reason), but lights and presents and candy canes are a challenge.

Yes, I know this kind of puts me in Naomi Chana's camp of Jews whose priority is to not look Christian; when family and friends and small children are involved, though, it gets more complicated. Even she's got decorated greenery. We don't do that, but there is the Hannukah Advent calendar....

Positive Atheism

Penn Gillette, in addition to being a damned fine magician and entertainer, is an atheist. A serious atheist. I didn't hear this when it was being broadcast, but it's a very nice statement of the ethical and psychological attitude of secular humanism.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Copyright and Lyrics

To some extent, my Thursday Verses series is in a "fair use" limbo, copyright-wise. I make no money from this site and most of the lyrics I cite come from other publicly accessible websites (so if copyright is being violated, what I do is a small incremental violation); on the other hand, I mostly post full lyrics instead of excerpts and I have yet to get permission from a copyright holder (most of whom wouldn't bother to respond to a minor blogger like myself, anyway, or would most likely turn me down), and I've been kind of lax about citing copyright on the lyrics themselves (that should change, really, I admit it).

Still, it's kind of disturbing to read that a freeware lyrics browser has been shut down due to pressure from the major music distributors [via] in spite of the fact that it actually neither collects nor distributes lyrics itself but does precisely what I do: finds publicly accessible lyrics and makes them easy to find.

Intellectual property is a concept of limited utility. It's important, but taking it too literally or seriously leads to silliness, and, ultimately, social and cultural paralysis. We will wither and die under a corporate information regime.

Thursday Bonus Verse: Do Not Mention His Name

TigerLily reminds me that it is the quarter-century anniversary of the death of John Lennon. I'm not the Lennonista that my spouse is, but the man was a cultural force whose influences for good and ill we are still experiencing. And he wrote some fine verse himself. But, in defense against the death-day memorials, I instead offer this reminder from the great Ellis Paul:

Who Killed John Lennon?

Do not mention his name.
The man kills John Lennon, now he's on TV again.
He's blaming Holden Caulfield in the face of the lens.
And each time he does it, he kills him again.
Who killed John Lennon?

A loser with a pistol, a martyr's best friend.

And each time he's televised, he kills him again.
It's the prize that he wanted when he loaded the gun.
And each time he's mentioned, murder is done.
So, who killed John Lennon?

A no one.

Thursday Lyric: Don Quixote

I've always had a soft spot for the Knight of the Woeful Countenance, the noble madman. "Too much sanity may be madness" as the playright writ. This version fails to reconcile the insanity, cruelty, compassion and clarity of La Mancha, which is the only way to be honest about it.

Don Quixote
Gordon Lightfoot

Through the woodland, through the valley
Comes a horseman wild and free
Tilting at the windmills passing
Who can the brave young horseman be
He is wild but he is mellow
He is strong but he is weak
He is cruel but he is gentle
He is wise but he is meek
Reaching for his saddlebag
He takes a battered book into his hand
Standing like a prophet bold
He shouts across the ocean to the shore
Till he can shout no more

I have come o’er moor and mountain
Like the hawk upon the wing
I was once a shining knight
Who was the guardian of a king
I have searched the whole world over
Looking for a place to sleep
I have seen the strong survive
And I have seen the lean grown weak

See the children of the earth
Who wake to find the table bare
See the gentry in the country
Riding off to take the air

Reaching for his saddlebag
He takes a rusty sword into his hand
Then striking up a knightly pose
He shouts across the ocean to the shore
Till he can shout no more

See the jailor with his key
Who locks away all trace of sin
See the judge upon the bench
Who tries the case as best he can
See the wise and wicked ones
Who feed upon life’s sacred fire
See the soldier with his gun
Who must be dead to be admired

See the man who tips the needle
See the man who buys and sells
See the man who puts the collar
On the ones who dare not tell
See the drunkard in the tavern
Stemming gold to make ends meet
See the youth in ghetto black
Condemned to life upon the street

Reaching for his saddlebag
He takes a tarnished cross into his hand
Then standing like a preacher now
He shouts across the ocean to the shore
Then in a blaze of tangled hooves
He gallops off across the dusty plain
In vain to search again
Where no one will hear

Through the woodland, through the valley
Comes a horseman wild and free
Tilting at the windmills passing
Who can the brave young horseman be
He is wild but he is mellow
He is strong but he is weak
He is cruel but he is gentle
He is wise but he is meek

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Phlegmatic bloggers?

You Have a Phlegmatic Temperament

Mild mannered and laid back, you take life at a slow pace. You are very consistent - both in emotions and actions. You tend to absorb set backs easily. You are cool and collected.

It is difficult to offend you. You can remain composed and unemotional. You are a great friend and lover. You don't demand much of others. While you are quiet, you have a subtle wit that your friends know well.

At your worst, you are lazy and unwilling to work at anything. You often get stuck in a rut, without aspirations or dreams. You can get too dependent on others, setting yourself up for abandonment.

I'm not sure if, by definition, this result ought to be excluded for bloggers. But it's a pretty good description of me offline, so I'll let it stand.

So are bloggers everywhere

Is there another major issue we could squeeze in here to divide us?
Chinese bloggers are sharply divided about what is most important: commercial success, open source and open access, or freedom of speech.
Nope, I think that covers it.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Supreme Christmas Special

Why does Christmas need so much saving? By consumers, by judges, by churches, by reindeer, by little children, by amnesiac fat men, by despondent middle-agers.... What is it about Christmas that is so fragile, so precarious, that it must be constantly saved?

Weblog Awards

Voting for the 2005 Weblog Awards is up and running through the 15th. You can vote at 24 hour intervals.... And apparently, people do. The awards have, apparently, earned a reputation as a conservative swarmfest, though liberals seem to be doing OK in the early running.

I've got rooting interests in Best Blog, Best New Blog, Best Liberal Blog, Best Asian Blog (I've got two of them on my blogroll) and a few other categories.

Update: I discovered that you can access all the polls simultaneously here. Very convenient.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Dear Abby v. Bloggers

Dear Abby is something which I read because it's in the newspaper. Truth be told, I prefer Miss Manners, or even Ann Landers, to Dear Abby, but it's there. Sometimes it's even entertaining -- in a morbid sort of way -- though her answers have gotten even less impressive since the generational change. Imagine my surprise when she addressed a topic near and dear to my heart: Blogging!

Well, being a short-sighted stick in the mud, as usual, she's against it. Not against it, as such, but against doing anything fun with it:
DEAR ABBY: Please warn your readers that their Web pages and blogs could stand in the way of securing a job! Just as employers have learned to read e-mail and blogs, they have learned to screen candidates through their sites. Many people in their 20s and 30s wrongly believe their creations are entertaining and informative. Employers are not seeking political activists, evangelizers, whiners or tattletales. They do not want to find themselves facing a lawsuit or on the front page of a newspaper because a client, patient or parent of a student discovered a comment written by an employee.
The job market is tight, and job seekers must remember their computer skills can either help them land a position or destroy a job prospect. -- CHICAGO EMPLOYER

DEAR EMPLOYER: You have opened up a line of thought I'll bet a lot of job applicants -- and future job applicants -- have never considered. Googling a name isn't difficult, and it could lead to an applicant's blog. Most bloggers write to be read, and invite people to comment. Thank you for the reminder that those who blog should remember that they are open to public scrutiny, and that if they apply for a job, everything about them will be considered -- including their blog. Prospective employers are certainly within their rights to make decisions based upon what they read.
Obviously, blogging anonymously never occurred to either "Chicago Employer" or "Dear Abby"....

Seriously, though, an employer who knows that it's legal to discriminate on the basis of religion, politics and personal attitude should also know that employers aren't really liable for the non-professional free speech exercises of their employees. If you want to respond, here's her online form!

Update: On the other hand, blogging professionally can be very productive, at least in the sciences.

Truth and Truism

It's a truism that generals spend their time planning to win the last war. But it's kind of sad that, having fought several wars since, we're still basically training for WWII. As Chris Bray says, "To frame this effort as critical to our national well-being while simultaneously allowing it to shamble along lethargic and undefined is to suggest that we never really meant what we said about the meaning of our curiously desultory war in the first place." [also available here, if you are pseudonymous and want to comment anyway]

In slightly related news, in response to Donald Rumsfeld's "epiphany" that insurgents really aren't, the folks at Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me.... have similarly retitled him "Secretary of Pretty Wishes." Update: Rumsfeld gets cram'd, demonstrating not only wishful thinking, but a remarkable ability to stretch half-truths into worldviews. Rumsfeld may go down as the philosopher of this administration.... that is, if he and his boss can get their stories straight.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Ahistoricality Alert: World's First Terrorists?

Judith Apter Klinghoffer, in addition to being mostly wrong about policy, isn't much for history, either. She cites Richard Lourie (who, in spite of writing at the NY Times, doesn't qualify as a member of the liberal media she so deeply despises) saying
The world's first terrorists were high-minded young people who believed Russia would be delivered from injustice by the killing of its leaders, setting off a mighty conflagration.
Leaving aside the canard about liberals aiding terrorists, it's historical mush: there were assassin/terrorists in Japan in the 1850s-1860s, there were some vicious moments in the western US during the Civil War era, there were guerilla movements in the middle east in the Roman Era which carried out terroristic attacks on non-combatants (Zealots, yes). And that's just off the top of my head. Can you think of other pre-1879 terrorists? I bet you can.

Why cite these as the "world's first"? Because they're the first that can be tied to leftists, of course. And anything done by anyone on the left ever automatically discredits anyone to the left of the president in the present.

Quotations #079

These quotations are not planned or scheduled: this is just what's next in my quotation file. But these are, without a doubt, some of my favorite epigrams ever.

"Sixty minutes of thinking of any kind is bound to lead to confusion and unhappiness." -- James Thurber

"There's always an easy solution to every human problem -- neat, plausible, and wrong." -- H. L. Mencken

"Our major obligation is not to mistake slogans for solutions." -- Edward R. Murrow

"Each generation must write its own history, not because past histories are untrue but because in a rapidly changing world new questions arise and new answers are needed." -- L. S. Stavrianos

"Everything the communists said about communism turned out to be a lie. But everything the communists said about capitalism was true." -- New Russian Proverb

Speaking of Russians, eb's got some Dostoyevsky.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Ahistoricality Alert: Shifting the Goalposts

NOW is always a crucial time, unprecedented and fraught. Do these people ever look back to learn something?

On a much lighter note, this has never happened in my office. What is it with college students and public sex these days? And when did "sexual harassment" become the first thing people yelled out while nude in public?

Thursday, December 01, 2005


It is World AIDS/HIV Day.
It is Blog Against Racism Day.

For the record, I'm against Racism and I think AIDS is a scourge which has exposed far too much of our indifference and intolerance already. The folks at HU-Islam have a little blogburst going with some interesting reading. And Simon World has some great AIDS Day links. Much more than anything I'm going to say today.

On the plus side, History Carnival #21 includes such unfortunately necessary correctives as a post detailing it wasn't liberals who supported and underplayed Hitler and torture never worked.

And that's the good news.

Update: No, this is the good news: South Africa's Constitutional Court has ruled in favor of same-sex marriage! That's something to celebrate.

Thursday Lyrics: Their Way

Sing it loud. Because you know it's true.

words by Bob Blue (copyright 1970)
music by Paul Anka ("My Way," copyright 1969)

I came, bought all my books, lived in the dorms, followed directions.
I worked, I studied hard, met lots of folks who had connections.
I crammed. They gave me grades, and may I say, not in a fair way.
But more, much more than this, I did it their way.

I learned all sorts of things, although I know I'll never use them.
The courses that I took were all required. I didn't choose them.
You'll find that to survive, it's best to act the doctrinaire way,
And so I buckled down and did it their way.

Yes, there were times I wondered why I had to crawl when I could fly.
I had my doubts, but after all, I clipped my wings, and learned to crawl.
I learned to bend, and in the end, I did it their way.

And so, my fine young friends, now that I am a full professor,
Where once I was oppressed, I've now become the cruel oppressor.
With me, you'll learn to cope. You'll learn to climb life's golden stairway.
Like me, you'll see the light, and do it their way.

For what can I do? What can I do? Take out your books. Read Chapter two.
And if to you it seems routine, don't speak to me: Go see the dean.
As long as they give me my pay, I'll do it their way.

I go for....

Severus Snape
You clearly do not scare easily. You want a man who is sharp, intellectual, cultured, and not too mushy. Get underneath his cool, sarcastic exterior and who knows what treasures you might find.
Who is your (male) Harry Potter love match?
brought to you by Quizilla [via]

Actually, that's not a bad description of the people I used to fall for: smart, psychologically slightly damaged but with a core of strength and virtue just waiting to be brought out. Then, after I'd brought it out of them, they'd move on to someone more romantic. Or I'd discover that the core of virtue wasn't quite what I thought it was...

My type is more of the Neville Longbottom/Ron Weasley sort, now. I'm much happier.