Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Medical Realities

Grand Rounds 2:28 is educational, as usual. As usual, there's some discussion of economic realities, but I was struck by one story in which an elderly patient, suffering complications from a procedure, exclaimed "Well, you tell those doctors that they have another thing coming if they think that I'm going to pay for this implant!" The blogger chalked it up to "a sense of humor. I love patients like that!" That's a pretty typical reaction to outspoken women, or elderly, both of whom get patronized on a regular basis by such "professionals", but what if she was serious? In the case as described, the complication was predictable and it was allowed to persist well after it was noted: why should a patient, or her insurance, pay for a botched procedure when the doctors can't be bothered to correct their own mistakes in a timely fashion?

In other moral dilemmas, this discussion of medical involvement in executions is quite a challenge. Both to liberals and conservatives, in different ways. Lively stuff.


Iraqis overwhelming want US forces out soon. US forces in Iraq want to be out soon.

This raises the stakes: anyone who wants to argue that we should be staying more than about a year needs to have a damned good reason.

John Henry WAS a Steel-Drivin' Man

I grew up with various versions of John Henry, from the hagiographic to the satirical, but always figured it was just folk legend. Some historians think that it actually happened
at the Great Bend Tunnel in Talcott, W.Va., in 1872. John "Bill" Dillon, a historian who lives in Talcott, says the purpose of the competition was to see who could get through the mountain the fastest.

"The drill drove one nine-foot hole, but John Henry drove two seven-foot holes," he says. "Well, [compare] 14 feet to nine feet, and you know who was faster."
Of course, it did kill him. That part's true, too, they say.

I am Four Torah Students....

The Mishnah's been doing sets of four lately. I've got a couple more to post later, but I really liked this one. Something for teachers to meditate upon....
"There are four types of students (lit., among those who sit before the Sages) -- a sponge, a funnel, a strainer, and a sifter. The sponge absorbs everything. The funnel brings in on this [side] and brings out on the other. The strainer lets out the wine and retains the lees. The sieve lets out the flour dust and retains the fine flour."

This week's mishna discusses four types of students, basically in terms of their ability to retain the knowledge taught to them. The sponge retains everything, but is unable to distinguish between correct and incorrect points (Maimonides and Rabbeinu Yonah) or between significant and insignificant ones (Rashi). The funnel is the one for whom information goes in one ear and out the other. The strainer discards the wine -- the significant material, and retains the lees -- the incorrect or insignificant points. He's the sort who remembers all sorts of trivial, useless details of the material he studied, but has no idea he's in a forest. Finally, the sieve retains the fine flour -- the significant material, and discards the dust -- the inconsequential details.
I think these types of students need to be categorized by interest as well as by memory: most of us are sponges of trivia, strainers of gossip, funnels of stuff that bores us and, if we're lucky, sieves in our own fields.... Is the trick for teachers to make our students sponges by pre-sifting stuff for them, or can we really make them sieves in our own fields?

Monday, February 27, 2006

Conservative Speaks Out, Gets Fired... by Conservatives

Apropos my previous discussion with Gary Farber about Francis Fukuyama, and what attacks on the administration from the right liberals should embrace, comes details about Bruce Bartlett, author of Imposter: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy, which by all accounts is a devastating conservative critique of the present administration. Bartlett is a Liberty Fund/NCPA think-tanker, a career conservative with historical and economic training, and after he published his book, he was sacked. I can't get a bead, based on what I've read so far, if this is another Fukuyama-esque incident -- good evidence of the internal contradictions of Bush-ism, but not terribly attractive argumentation -- or if Bartlett is the kind of conservative (more classical liberal than really Reaganesque) who might contribute arguments we could use without choking on them.

Carnival Non sequitor: there's two more carnivals for highly specialized audiences, both ripe examples of the increasing specialization of the carnival movement and highly questionable contributions to world civilization: The 24 fanfest Carnival of Bauer and the anti-evolutionary Darwin is Dead roundup (Orac and Matt are on the case already; no word yet on anti-24 curmudgeons, but I'd be happy to hear from folks, just for balance). [On the other hand, the Kosher Cooking Carnival could be a sign of the approaching messianic age....]

No Sweat.... I wasn't nervous, were you?

You Passed 8th Grade Math

Congratulations, you got 10/10 correct!

But this ought to be a must-pass test for store clerks.... maybe for all bloggers, too.

Non Sequitor: Chocolate Lowers Blood Pressure, Extends Life
This time, researchers examined the eating habits of 470 healthy men who were not taking blood pressure medicine. The men who ate the most products made from cocoa beans — including cocoa drinks, chocolate bars and chocolate pudding — had lower blood pressure and a 50 percent lower risk of death.
Dutch chocolate tonight!

Ummm... not really, no.

Of all the futures posited in this quiz, this is one of the least attractive or likely to suit me...
You scored as Galactica (Battlestar: Galactica). You are leery of your surroundings, and with good reason. Anyone could be a cylon. But you have close friends and you know they would never hurt you. Now if only the damn XO would stop drinking.
Galactica (Battlestar: Galactica)
Enterprise D (Star Trek)
Babylon 5 (Babylon 5)
SG-1 (Stargate)
Deep Space Nine (Star Trek)
Millennium Falcon (Star Wars)
Serenity (Firefly)
Nebuchadnezzar (The Matrix)
Moya (Farscape)
FBI's X-Files Division (The X-Files)
Andromeda Ascendant (Andromeda)
Bebop (Cowboy Bebop)
Your Ultimate Sci-Fi Profile II: which sci-fi crew would you best fit in? (pics)
created with QuizFarm.com [via]

The chief flaw in this quiz is that too many of the questions are about what you currently believe (do psychics exist, etc.) not about how you'd respond to the situations as posited (would you be friends with a real psychic, etc.) in the various milieux. Oh, well.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Dangerous Old Teachings

All I Ever Needed to Know About Christianity I learned from Broadway....
Growing up an American Jew, I had limited exposure to Christianity as a doctrine (as opposed to Christianity as a culture, which was everywhere), but our family did have, and I listed to quite a bit, the musicals Godspell and Jesus Christ, Superstar (Broadway, not Hollywood version, of course), and whatever positive sense I had of the Christian faith before college (I've grown up some since then; just like Judaism isn't simply defined by the Old Testament....) pretty much came from those sources. Not the worst introductions, really.

But that probably explains my reaction to the forthcoming publication of the Gospel of Judas:
The second century text, which was believed lost for over a thousand years, reportedly argues that Judas Iscariot was an essential part of God's design and, as such, almost a hero. Without his betrayal, Jesus would not have been crucified and so, the argument goes, God's plan to save mankind from its sins would not have been fulfilled.

This unorthodox account of Christ's life was written by an ancient Gnostic sect called the Cainites, which made a habit of giving a positive value to all the negative figures in Christian scriptures.
If you believe in a God with a "plan" or in "destiny" (I don't, really) then I don't see how you avoid the conclusion that Judas is a necessary part of the sacrifice of Christ.

Confusion of Ultimates
A similarly old Buddhist teaching, the Nirvana Sutra, is being called "one of the most dangerous Sutras in all of Buddhism". The basic teachings strike me as being only subtly different from most other Mahayana Buddhist traditions, with perhaps a greater emphasis on the importance of being responsible for one's own enlightenment and de-emphasis on the "vows of the Boddhistava" as a route to salvation. I suppose it could be seen as a sort of backsliding towards Theravada-esque tradition, in which the focus is on attaining enlightenment rather than on salvation through faith, and the central figure is the Buddha, here described as being a sort of Brahman-like monism with avatar manifestations in the world.

In both cases I think the practitioners of these religions who feel threatened are grossly overestimating the degree to which people change their faith based on evidence, even semi-scriptural evidence....

Honesty and Policy

When you get asked a question over and over, eventually you come up with a solid, slightly snide, answer.... I had a friend whose birthday was April 1st, and ever year she walked around on her birthday with a checklist of the various jokes people invariably made (there were about seven, if memory serves). When someone said something, she'd pull out the list and check it off...

True story:
Scene: A coffee shop, early morning.
Customer: What did you study at LSU?
Barrista: Not much. That's why I'm here.
Another true story
(Found near the cash register of Bongo Billy's Cafe, Salida Colorado): "Unaccompanied children will be given an espresso and a free puppy!"
Similarly, another outbreak of academic metablogging has spawned, finally, a meme, "Inspired, of course, by the discussions about Jeff Rice's piece over at NewKid's and Dr. Crazy's." about pseudonymous academic blogging! The answers are a bit more complicated for me, because I don't actually do academic blogging under a pseudonym; that I do under my own name.

Is your blogging persona more serious than your real life persona?
No. Just as I have a professional life and a personal life, I have a professional blog and a decidedly unprofessional blog. Yeah, this one.

Do you think the only safe way an academic can write publicly is to write anonymously?
Of course not. But that's not the right question. The proper question is "Do you think an untenured academic can safely write honestly about academia without the cloak of anonymity?" Not really, is the answer. I've been known to do it anyway, but I never said it was smart.

Do you think that your blog could ruin your career?
Not as long as I recognize that
a. My pseudonym is pretty leaky, as cloaks of anonymity go
b. No matter how good my professional blogging is, the publication-teaching-service game must be played.
c. the danger of having two online identities is getting them confused...

Do you use a pseudonym out of fear?
Not fear as much as a desire to have an unprofessional public life which doesn't interfere with my professional one.

What is the biggest drawback to writing pseudonymously?
Not being able to argue from authority. (note: that doesn't actually work all that well even under my own name, due to the equalizing effect of online discourses)
Keeping track of who knows and who doesn't, and trying to avoid posting under both names in the same place.

Has anyone stumbled on your blog and found it accidentally?
If you mean, has anyone stumbled on it and figured out who I was, the answer is yes, but not in a while. When I first started doing this blog I was much less savvy about what I needed to do to anonymize, so I left some seriously obvious traces in the first few months. I've cleaned up most of them.

What would happen if an administrator at my college discovered my blog?
[added, when I found it on profgrrrl's meme via k8's roundup]
Since I don't write about academic things here, I don't think they'd care. I'm more concerned that colleagues would find this and use it to downplay my serious blogging (which, they've repeatedly told me, is nice but doesn't count for squat, professionally) or that students would feel uncomfortable with "knowing too much" about me. Let's face it, academia is more about persona than we ever admit...

Have you outed yourself to any other bloggers?
A few times. Once to make sure I didn't get counted as two people; once to give some advice and encouragement to another blogger doing high-quality work. I've never deliberately confused the issue (put false information here, or directly disavowed being Ahistoricality), either, though I have at times interacted with certain bloggers under both identities without revealing them, for different reasons.

Has your blog allowed you to experiment with writing?
I don't really "experiment" with writing; that's a literary thing, I think. I have used the blogs to build relationships, to share information, to catalog things of interest to me, to present my point of view to an amorphous but growing audience. It has made me more aware of the virtues of brevity, and better at getting to the point quickly, I think. It has made me more aware of the way in which my even more computer-oriented students read....

Why do you use a pseudonym?
Seriously, I'm not embarassed by what I write as Ahistoricality, but I don't want it to be my professional identity, either. This blog was created after I was already blogging under my own name, as a repository for stuff I couldn't, in good conscience, do in a professional blogging setting. It's become more than that, which is interesting.

I've been commenting more on academic blogs under this name, as a way of saying a few more of the honest things. I do appreciate what pseudonymous academic bloggers do, by way of forcing issues into the open. I wish more of our senior colleagues understood the issues, would take them up themselves. But eventually, we will be the senior colleagues....

Friday, February 24, 2006

Carnival of Bad History Coming to Ahistoricality!

The Carnival of Bad History will be here, Monday, March 13th. "Bad History" includes
  • incorrect information, particularly well-loved myths and legends
  • pseudo-historical distortion for political or cultural gain
  • historians behaving unprofessionally or otherwise embarassingly
  • historical analogies that don't work
  • historical drama, in print or screen, that messes up actual history
  • anything else that's historical and bad (if you're not sure, nominate it anyway and let me decide!)
The deadline for nominations will be Saturday, March 11th. You can send nominations to me directly (ahistoricality*at*earthlink*dot*net; please put something like "Bad History" in the subject line) or use the handy submission forms here or here.


If only they'd had internet quizzes twenty years ago...

You scored as Anthropology. You should be an Anthropology major!

What is your Perfect Major? created with QuizFarm.com

As Brian Ulrich said (see also Pooh), there's something seriously missing (which is why I didn't come out as 100% on anything), but at least, given the fields represented, it's pretty solid.

Visual Materials: For a frightening look at the contradictions of graduate school, whatever your field, see this. And if you watch this tribute to Rube Goldberg remember: people got paid good money to put this together. Plug that into your majors quiz....

Myths make lousy policy

Andrew Meyer's analysis of the Golden Mosque bombing takes a hard whack at the basic myths of left and right:
The Golden Mosque exists in a symbolic universe of which the US is virtually no part, its destruction has grievous consequences that will resonate far beyond any time threshold for a US withdrawal. Nothing about this atrocity can be interpreted as a response to foreign occupation, and it is preposterous to suppose that those who committed it would somehow lose the motivation to do so had the US already withdrawn.
Here is where cherished myths of the "right" may be seen fallen amid the rubble of the Golden Mosque. First of these is the notion that "Operation Iraqi Freedom" was ever a vital or effective response to 9/11. If one asked US security analysts in 2002 what precautions were being taken to guard against Al Qaeda attacks upon Shi'ite holy sites one would have been greeted with a look of total incomprehesion. By taking upon itself the custodianship of Iraqi society the US and its allies have effectively increased their scope of liabilities without any corresponding increase in assets. The invasion has unleashed forces within Iraq and the greater Middle East that the US does not fully understand and is ill-prepared to control.
What to do? Pick sides? Ramp up our presence until Iraq is our new Puerto Rico?

My only quibble with the Madman of Chu is that myths are not distributed equally: the left's criticism of the right's "plan" for Iraq was correct, whereas the Right's nattering about leftist do-nothingism foreclosed any more imaginative or effective planning or problem-solving.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

It shouldn't need saying....

...but apparently it does:
The Geneva conventions’ core protections to soldiers and civilians remain vital, but they do not address the continuum of conflicts that exist today. The Bush administration may be correct in asserting that the Geneva conventions in their present form cannot effectively serve their intended purpose. Yet, its solution, simply rejecting the utility of the conventions, is not the answer, nor should the solution focus solely on the terrorist threat. Instead, the United States and the international community should revitalize the conventions to take into account the full range of challenges posed by modern wars.
You can read the rest here (pdf). Not all of the problems in applying the Geneva Conventions to modern warfare are really modern, nor are they Iraq-specific.

I suspect that this is kind of a Rorshach-test article: folks who believe in the power of a system of international treaties and agreements to create processual protections that benefit everyone even as they limit state action will find it convincing. I'm not sure that those who believe that we are better off long-term acting independently in our own short-term interests irrespective of international opinion and procedure will find it convincing, though.


Well, it was bound to happen: there's now a Carnival Of Blog Coverage, a roundup of the hype and furor about blogs, instead of in them.

All that's next, I guess, is an annual award for the Best Blog Awards: best categories, best voting/judging system (probably two categories: one for voted awards, one for judged awards), best announcements, best prize graphics, most effective promoter of field.....

Non Sequitur: Matt's Back! In addition to laying out his plans for a more diverse and sustainable blogging future, he includes a link to the Schmidt Sting Pain Index, which combines our cultural passion for quantification with our odd fascination with using adjectives in bizarre ways (much as wine tasters do). I do wish I could find a non-wikipedia reference for that scale: it's too satire-like for my taste.... funny, but not necessarily sound science.

Thursday Lyric: Zen Gospel Singing

I heard this song in the Bryan Bowers recording, with four tight male voices and an angelic autoharp backup. I know too much about Buddhism to let the theological error pass unnoticed -- Zen is part of the Mahayana tradition and does "sing of salvation and a heavenly home" with some regularity -- but it's still really funny, and kind of sweet.

Zen Gospel Singing
(by Mark Graham)

I once was a Baptist and on each Sunday morn
I'd be in church praying just as sure as you're born.
We'd sing there like angels in sweet harmony
But sin and salvation are no longer for me.

Cause now I'm a Buddhist I chant my mantra each day
But I miss that good singing in the old Gospel way.
We sing of old Buddha and the wonders of Zen.
We'll meet in Nirvana, yes we'll be there then.

Now my old friends don't like me since I shaved my head
and they all talk about me as if I were dead.
My good old Zen buddies they think I'm ok,
But I can't get them singing more than one note a day.

We sit here cross legged eating brown rice and cheese
and we chant out our mantra in four square harmony.
We don't sing of salvation or a heavenly home.
It's Zen gospel singing, just Om Om, sweet Om.

Copyright Mark Graham

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Reading the Times

It's conventional to beat on the New York Times as outdated, unreliable, politically suspect (which way depends on your own wingerhood), but it's still got some good and important material in it and I like its online layout better than any of the other major dailies.

Here's a disturbing story about the "fee for service" nature of criminal justice
Almost every encounter with the criminal justice system these days can give rise to a fee. There are application fees and co-payments for public defenders. Sentences include court costs, restitution and contributions to various funds. In Washington State, people convicted of certain crimes are also charged $100 so their DNA can be put in a database.

Private probation companies charge $30 to $40 a month for supervision. Halfway houses charge for staying in them. People sentenced to community service are required to buy $15 insurance policies for every week they work. Criminals on probation and parole wear global positioning devices that monitor their whereabouts — for a charge of as much as $16 a day.

The sums raised by these ever-mounting fees are intended to help offset some of the enormous costs of operating the criminal justice system. But even relatively small fees — $40 per session, say, for a court-ordered anger management class or $15 for a drug test — can have devastating consequences for people who emerge from prison with no money, credit or prospects, and who live in fear of being sent back for failing to pay.

"The difference between 30 years ago and today," said George H. Kendall, a lawyer with Holland & Knight in New York who represents Mr. Rideau, "is that people who everyone agrees are poor are leaving the courthouse significantly poorer."

Prosecutors and political leaders often say it is only fair that criminals rather than taxpayers pay for what it costs to protect the public.

But Judge James R. Thurman of the Magistrate Court in Lee County, Georgia, said his state's many fees, known there as add-ons, are a backdoor way to make poor people pay for the free lawyers guaranteed to them by the United States Supreme Court's decision in Gideon v. Wainwright in 1963.
I have no problem with restitution to victims; but "debt to society" is a metaphor, people!

Something which the Grand Rounds should address: error rates for doctors in major cases are unchanged by modern technology:
With all the tools available to modern medicine — the blood tests and M.R.I.'s and endoscopes — you might think that misdiagnosis has become a rare thing. But you would be wrong. Studies of autopsies have shown that doctors seriously misdiagnose fatal illnesses about 20 percent of the time. So millions of patients are being treated for the wrong disease.

As shocking as that is, the more astonishing fact may be that the rate has not really changed since the 1930's. "No improvement!" was how an article in the normally exclamation-free Journal of the American Medical Association summarized the situation.
I have a little trouble with cause and effect here: by definition, people have to die of something; that one fifth of deaths result from misdiagnosis at the very end doesn't mean that people don't benefit from advances in medicine delaying that end more effectively.

The question where are the moderate Muslims has several answers; this article points out the legal obstacles to social, political and religious criticism in many majority-Muslim countries.

Also, not from the Times, but about tempora and mores see Dan Kahan's summary of Scalia's AEI presentation on his resistance to foreign law citations in US opinions. There's more details here, which clearly states that Scalia believes international law (not just "foreign" law) is irrelevant unless explicitly adopted and enacted by Congress.
Update: Scalia also said, at that event, "Legal text should be interpreted neither strictly nor loosely. It should be interpreted reasonably." Well, sure. That's what the "living document" people have been saying for years. When's he gonna start?

Funny/Not Funny

Funny: A short history of WWII in leetspeek, aka IM-style.

Not Funny: White Supremacists are trying to seem normal. (Neiwert is doing his annual fund-raiser; it's the only blog I read that does this to which I'll actually contribute.)

Funny: Scott McLemee takes down David Horowitz, with humor, psychology and, so rare in journalism, facts.

Not Funny:

Feminist Blogging

The Ninth Carnival of Feminists is the usual rich collection.

The first one I clicked to, and very well written, is this discussion of intergender friendship which expires with age....

The second was an example of very poorly thought out window displays. I don't mind the mannequins so much, but the signage is disturbingly semi-literate....

I also recommend the patriarchy/English translator. For the rest, you'll just have to read it yourself. The descriptions are nice and clear, so you'll find something....

Boycotts, Good Advice and Slow Successes

The new Carnival of the Vanities is up, and, as usual, it's a mixed bag, but my pick of the bunch is this short discussion of Sharansky's Case for Democracy, in which "The Chainik Hocker" recounts the success of US economic pressure put on the USSR to permit slight dissent and emigration, and suggests that some kind of manipulation of trade law could produce similar results -- the collapse of dictatorships and terroristic regimes -- today.

My only quibble with that on first read is that I don't think we can do that anymore: we're too tightly bound by WTO, etc. -- pet causes of the current administration and its unfettered-trade allies -- to get away with politicizing trade at official levels. We've put so much faith in the power of free trade to transform the world in our likeness.... hmmm.

The new Grand Rounds is up, as well. In the category of "things you didn't think you'd have to say" comes these admonitions
1. Don’t drink to excess.
2. If you do, don’t try to sober up using crack cocaine.
3. Don’t visit prostitutes, whether or not you adhere to lessons 1 and 2.
4. If you do visit prostitutes (and I’m not suggesting that you do–see lesson 3), pay them for their services.
5. If you refuse to pay them (and I’m not suggesting that you do–see 3 and 4), don’t inform them of this fact while standing around in your birthday suit.
6. If you decline payment for the services of a lady of the evening, while still in your birthday suit, be sure she doesn’t have rapid access to sharp knives.
Other useful posts include one clarifying (i.e. debunking) the "low fat diet doesn't help" story, and some unhelpful things parents say to and around children and nurses.

Pretty basic stuff, you'd think. But damn....

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

If you aren't outraged...

...you're not reading Avedon Carol or Anne Zook lately. Seriously, just start at the top and keep reading until your blood pressure boils over.

Not sure what it all means? Eric Muller found an apt description though his loyal readers are waiting for a proper citation.


I finally found a reasonably good description of my position on the military:
one who accepts war and armies as a sometimes necessary evil, but regards a large military establishment and conscript armies, even when needed, as a threat to the preservation of civil institutions of government
Anti-militarism is a position that, properly articulated, could really help the left/liberal coalition build support.

Malcolm X was assasinated forty-one years ago today. Interesting guy.

Defining Terrorism...

I like Arend, but I never understood why states cannot be terrorists. They can certainly carry out acts "that intentionally target civilians and other noncombatants in violation of existing law relating to the conduct of hostilities." Sometimes, as Arend notes, acts of guerrilla warfare look like terrorism, but are sufficiently focused on military and governmental targets as to be legitimate warfare. Still, it seems to me that the distinction between "terrorist state" and "state sponsor of terrorism" is one which might be useful in embassies, but not so much to the rest of us.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Africa, where our theories and ideals are tested and usually fail

DCat has a short roundup of African news; Anne Zook has a long one. Anyone who says they have a simple solution to Africa's problems should be slapped. Anyone who says that Africa's problems can't be solved, or aren't worth being solved, should be shot.

And we tried colonialism and imperialism in Africa before. It didn't help. So it needs to be better than that.

Utopian v. Utopian: Fukuyama Speaks

Francis Fukuyama, author of the Republican supremacist tract The End of History doesn't like the neo-conservatives, at least not now that they've failed:
"The End of History," in other words, presented a kind of Marxist argument for the existence of a long-term process of social evolution, but one that terminates in liberal democracy rather than communism. In the formulation of the scholar Ken Jowitt, the neoconservative position articulated by people like Kristol and Kagan was, by contrast, Leninist; they believed that history can be pushed along with the right application of power and will. Leninism was a tragedy in its Bolshevik version, and it has returned as farce when practiced by the United States. Neoconservatism, as both a political symbol and a body of thought, has evolved into something I can no longer support.
In other words, none of them actually have much regard for historical reality. It's all very well to have a vision, but not to think of yourself as an "agent of destiny." It's just not healthy.

Fukuyama goes on at great length (thanks, Ralph) about the problems with 'benevolent hegemony,' the screwups we've committed in and around Iraq, and how we need a realistic, long-term approach to the problems of terrorism, extremism and the democratic will of people who don't like us.

Sounds remarkably like the foreign policy Democrats were promoting two years (five years. Thirty years?) ago; how nice of him to finally come around.

Opportunistic wanker.

Speaking of johnny-come-lately wankers, Dave Neiwert [not a wanker] has finally found evidence of Glenn Reynolds [major wanker] criticising Ann "convert the ragheads" Coulter
To win this war, we need to kill the people who want to kill us. But we need to win over the rest. The terrorists of Al Qaeda want to polarize things so that it appears to be a war of Christianity against Islam, of America and the West against all Arabs and Muslims. With remarks like those, she's helping their cause, not ours. Call it "objectively pro-terrorist."
You could even apply that domestically, Glenn. And there's lots more like her that you haven't even started talking about yet.

These guys -- Fukuyama, Reynolds -- are gonna take credit for figuring out what we knew years ago. You just know it.

p.s.: Orac's back at blogspot temporarily, talking about the David Irving trial and connecting it to the Ann Coulter issue. Apparently Irving is about to join the "johnny-come-lately wanker" club by admitting that a Holocaust did happen and he denied it in spite of having seen hard evidence with his own eyes.

Update: Avedon Carol linked here, which provoked some interesting responses. Gary Farber in particular, points out that Fukuyama's been a critic of Bush/Neo-Con foreign policy since 9/11 or shortly thereafter. There's no evidence of it in the article I read; to the contrary, the presentation there is very much of someone who has viewed the accumulated evidence of failure over the last five years and only recently come to realize the error of his ways. Perhaps he's transitioned from criticism of policy to criticism of political theory; either way, he's presenting it poorly, in my opinion.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Good news/Bad news

The good news is that the president likes science fiction. I'm all for it. Crichton's Andromeda Strain was a brilliant book.

The bad news is that he's using it instead of actual science...
Mr. Crichton, whose views in "State of Fear" helped him win the American Association of Petroleum Geologists' annual journalism award this month, has been a leading doubter of global warming and last September appeared before a Senate committee to argue that the supporting science was mixed, at best.

"This shows the president is more interested in science fiction than science," Frank O'Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, said after learning of the White House meeting. Mr. O'Donnell's group monitors environmental policy.
Yeah, you read that right: Crichton got a "journalism award" from an oil industry group for his fictional thriller work.

What's next: Anne Rice getting awards from the Red Cross? God help us if the President ever starts reading Tom Clancy....

Saturday, February 18, 2006

A Taste of Nothing... and an Award

I still haven't decided if I'm going to be a regular reader of the Blogmandu Buddhist Roundup, but even without reading the posts, the roundup itself is a nice slice of opinions that don't get heard much in US circles. And this edition includes a link to the nominees for Best Buddhist Bloggers of 2005, the "Bloggisattvas".... So, if you're interested in Buddhist blogging at all, this is your chance to survey the cream of the crop.

Two More: Orac relays J. Michael Straczynski's last dinner with Andreas Katsulas, and Disability Law Sam points to a Washington Post article on accessibility at home, and the market's oblivion to changing demographics and desires.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Some fun reading

Orac has reposted his "You might be an altie [credulous alternative medicine consumer/promoter] if..." list, with updates for the last year.

And Maria Headley pitches a book but learns the dangers of mumbling at conferences. [via]

Update: There are a lot of words in the English language which originally came from Arabic: algebra, alcohol, algorithm.... Some of them offer more humorous potential than others.

And, a new species of Carnival has been discovered: I and the Bird is a roundup of birdwatchers, environmentalists and pet owner blogging.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Political Cultism

Dave Neiwert reports:
Much of the blogosphere, both left and right, has been abuzz over Glenn Greenwald's excellent post limning the cultic nature of the modern conservative movement. It created, as Greenwald observed in a followup post, a predictable response from right-wing circles.
Judging by the hundreds of comments on Greenwald's posts, and the length of the followup, "abuzz" is an understatement.

This is interesting, because what he's discussing isn't really new -- Neiwert, Zook, Luker, and a bunch of other folks I read have been saying almost identical things for months, at least -- I guess it's just finally reached a point where it's got everyone's attention.

Neiwert expands the discussion somewhat, as is his wont, with a nicely detailed discussion of the hallmarks of a "political religion" and a review of some of his work on pseudofascism. I'd love to see reaction from other, like Greenwald, actual conservatives like The Cunning Realist, Ralph Luker and Chris Bray, etc.

I keep thinking of the French Revolution, that hotbed of political cultism, and what happened to Robespierre: one day he was the most dangerous and radical man in Europe; then he went just a little bit too far, got shouted down in public, and within a week he was headless and the Revolution backtracked to a more sustainable equilibrium. Are we finally at the point where we can stand up and be outraged, employ the legal means and political will which has been building up, to shock the system into stopping our self-destruction?

A Ton of Money...

Apparently, one million dollars, in singles, weighs one metric ton; in hundred dollar bills, it's just 22 pounds, though.

If you want to stop blogging, please don't delete the blog. I don't know about the claim that "Carnivals are going to be the key entry-point into the blogosphere for future historians, students and archivists." but the conclusion is still dead-on: "They are also key nodes in the web that is blogosphere. If you have hosted an edition of a carnival, deleting it should be considered a capital crime."

Speaking of which, I missed the announcement of the latest Teaching Carnival, but it's a doozy. It's huge! No way am I reading all that today. Maybe by the end of the month.... they gotta move this one to weekly editions. And, the Skeptics' Circle Court of Disputation is in Session! (My favorite so far is the asteroid mining debunk, though I think he's taking a slightly too narrow view of things. This debunking of anti-vaccination scare tactics is great, too.).

Also, speaking of science blogs, I'm not the best member of my family to be telling physics jokes, but what're ya gonna do? Also, Chicken/Road jokes as answered by pseudoscientists (and a few rational skeptics, too). A good week for humor.

Thursday Poem: Vermin Haiku

I was going to post this last week, but the juxtaposition with the King funeral poem was too much... And I've already posted serious lyrics this week, courtesy of Tom Paxton and the CIA, not to mention an obligatory (but I haven't seen anyone else make it) Tom Lehrer reference. So, after much delay, and in the full knowledge that it's a distinctly minor offering, my Vermin Haiku
Attic scurrying
returns. Rats. This time I use
chemical warfare.
And it's been (mostly) quiet ever since.

[Other poetry and lyrics posted here, original and otherwise, are indexed here]

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Happy Meme....

If there is someone on your blogroll who makes your world a better place just because that person exists and who you would not have met (in real life or not) without the internet, then post this same sentence on your blog.
Yeah, that's the truth.

Ancient and Future Culture

Andreas Katsulas who played G'Kar on Babylon 5, as well as a lot of other great characters over his career, has passed away. It's redundant to say, but he did an incredible amount of good work, particularly considering the makeup and conditions under which he did it. The character had a fascinating inner and outer life, and it was always well-played. (Orac's tribute is nicely done, including an excellent synopsis of the G'Kar-Londo arcs which made B5 so satisfying as literary television [and here's some of G'Kar's best lines, but only a small sampling], and a bit more of his career is laid out here, including his midwestern origins)

In lighter news, graffiti is eternal.

Four Things Meme

via him and her and her. I've tweaked the categories a bit, as most people seem to on this meme, combining questions from my sources and replacing the last one....

4 jobs I’ve had
Computer programmer
Research assistant

The Fifth Element
The Fisher King

Somerville, MA
Cambridge, MA
Berkeley, CA
Tokyo, Japan

West Wing
Homicide: Life on the Street
Babylon 5
Dharma and Greg

Seattle, WA
Kansas City, MO
Kansas City, KS
Amsterdam, Holland

Bloglines (aka: my blogroll, plus some)
HNN (starting with Cliopatria, of course)
NY Times (though Wash. Post is rapidly overtaking it)

Saag Paneer

Sleeping, in bed
A cafe, preferably outdoors
A great library
Closer to family

4 early musical influences
Phil Ochs
Joan Baez
Dvorak's New World Symphony
Stan Rogers

Four Computers You’ve Owned
mid/late-80s: Osborne Executive (portable! two floppy drives! seven inch screen!)
early-90s: IBM PC AT (oh, the power of the 80286)
mid-90s: HP laptop (the model name I've forgotten, but it wasn't really state of the art when I bought it)
early-00s: HP Pavilion 500Mz Celeron (just replaced with a 2.8Ghz P4 on which I'm writing this, as it runs its first Windows update...)

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

History Carnival!

The 24th History Carnival is up, and Natalie Bennett has done -- as usual -- a superb job organizing and presenting the entries. As always, the mark of a truly great HC is that there's nothing from this blog in it; other hallmarks of a great crop of material are the rich archaeological discussions, the really good gender history material, and the unusual wealth of non-Western stuff, all obviating complaints I've made in the past about the HCs. Kudos, as they say, to Natalie and to the historical blogosphere!

This is as good a time as any to remind folks that the next Carnival of BAD History will be here on March 1st: submissions to ahistoricality at earthlink dot net, please!

Other Carnivals: The 6th Carnival of the Liberals and the 178th Carnival of Vanities are up. Also the Grand Rounds! Lots of stuff to read.

Yeah, Bowling on Ice!

You Are Curling
What you lack in athleticism, you make up for in concentration. And while curling isn't much more of a sport than bowling, you *can* win a gold medal for it!
Bowling isn't a sport? It's more athletic than target shooting; it's less subjective than ice dance or the myriad of other highly questionable "sports" in the games. Results rarely turn on the quality of the equipment you use, as in downhill skiing, but on the quality of the play.

Actually, curling reminds me more of snooker than bowling, which is more like nine-ball....

My Word Cloud

[via] I don't know that this says anything profound about me, but it's cute. And you can get a T-Shirt made if you want...

"You just stand there lookin' cute...."

Sorry, that's been going through my head. It's about all there is to say.

This incident (you know exactly what I'm talking about without links, right?) doesn't change my view of Cheney, the administration, guns, gun laws, hunting, the media, etc.... it's pretty much consistent with what I already thought about most of these things and one incident is a pretty small piece of data in these patterns. Note it and move on. To be honest, I suspect the same thing is true of most people: I would love to hear from or about anyone whose mind was changed about anything due to this incident. Comments are open....

I think the furor over the "delay" is stupid. If Cheney had shot a cabinet secretary, a Supreme Court Justice, a member of Congress, or if he'd outright killed the guy, or if they'd been having a serious disagreement immediately before, then I could see immediate disclosure as a significant obligation. But this was an accidental injury of uncertain magnitude to a private citizen, a friend and political ally, on private land at a private event. In other words, there were privacy issues involved, and it's nice to see the administration struggling with those just a little bit. Unless there's evidence that they tried to squelch the story entirely -- that would be evidence of a lot of things, including incredibly unrealistic expectations -- there was no issue of governance or law or public interest which was harmed by a 24 hour delay.

Let's not let this bit of retail violence distract us from the wholesale damage, death and destruction being done by this administration, shall we?

Monday, February 13, 2006

Monday Lyrics: Good Morning, Mr. Blue

It's true: we fired the head of the CIA because he wasn't into torture
The CIA’s top counter-terrorism official was fired last week because he opposed detaining Al-Qaeda suspects in secret prisons abroad, sending them to other countries for interrogation and using forms of torture such as “water boarding”, intelligence sources have claimed.

Robert Grenier, head of the CIA counter-terrorism centre, was relieved of his post after a year in the job. One intelligence official said he was “not quite as aggressive as he might have been” in pursuing Al-Qaeda leaders and networks.

Vincent Cannistraro, a former head of counter-terrorism at the agency, said: “It is not that Grenier wasn’t aggressive enough, it is that he wasn’t ‘with the programme’. He expressed misgivings about the secret prisons in Europe and the rendition of terrorists.”

Grenier also opposed “excessive” interrogation, such as strapping suspects to boards and dunking them in water, according to Cannistraro.
A song came immediately to mind... I'm sorry, it's not a traditional Valentine. Think of it as a love letter to lost freedoms....

Looking for the lyrics, I came across this Paxton interview from a couple of years ago in which he talks about the -- far too rare -- big-name cover versions of some of his songs. This one was covered by some psychadelic rock band.


Good morning Mister Blue, we've got our eyes on you.
The evidence is clear, that you've been scheming.
You like to steal away and while away the day.
You like to spend an hour dreaming.
What will it take, to whip you into line?
A broken heart? A broken head?
It can be arranged. It can be arranged.

Step softly Mister Blue, we know what's best for you.
We know where your precious dreams will take you.
You've got a slot to fill, and fill that slot you will.
You'll learn to love it, or we'll break you.
Oh, what will it take, to whip you into line?
A broken heart? A broken head?
It can be arranged. It can be arranged.

Be careful Mister Blue this phase you're going through,
Can lead you nowhere else, but to disaster.
Excuse us while we grin, you've worn our patience thin.
It's time to show you who is your master.
What will it take, to whip you into line?
A broken heart? A broken head?
It can be arranged. It can be arranged.

Don't worry Mister Blue, we'll take good care of you.
Just think of it as sense and not surrender.
But never think again, that you can think again,
Or you'll get something you'll remember.
What will it take to whip you into line?
A broken heart? A broken head?
It can be arranged. It can be arranged.

Buddhist Blogging

I'm sure most of the koan-like introductions have been used.... Blogmandu is a weekly Buddhist Carnival, and it's looking pretty healthy. There's actually quite a bit of discussion of The Cartoons, and it's an interesting range, being from a very different perspective than the mainstream.

And, for a very different sort of blogging, Orac has moved from Blogspot to be a member of a new group of science blogs.

I am looking forward to rooting around in the scientific and Buddhist blogospheres for the near future: I Love The Internet!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Crime and Culture

I'm not a big "true crime" reader, but Jonathan Edelstein has organized a blogstorm of Old Bailey scholarship which brings out some great historical discussions. So if you have an interest in early modern English history, or the use of criminal records for social history, the way in which digitization of sources can facilitate research, or just want to read about the dregs of society from another time and place, it's great stuff.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Global Personality Test

OK, I thought about it, and decided to do a little feedback on this test, because it's not sitting well with me at all.
Advanced Global Personality Test Results
Extraversion |||||||||||||| 60%
Stability |||||||||||| 43%
Orderliness |||||||||||||| 60%
Accommodation |||||||||||||||| 63%
Interdependence |||||||||||||||| 70%
Intellectual |||||||||||||||| 70%
Mystical |||||| 30%
Artistic |||||||||| 36%
Religious |||||||||||||||| 70%
Hedonism |||||||||||| 43%
Materialism |||||||||||| 50%
Narcissism |||||||||| 36%
Adventurousness |||| 16%
Work ethic |||||||||||||| 56%
Self absorbed |||||| 23%
Conflict seeking |||||||||||||| 56%
Need to dominate |||||||||||| 50%
Romantic |||||| 30%
Avoidant |||||||||||||||| 63%
Anti-authority |||||||||||| 43%
Wealth |||||| 30%
Dependency |||||||||||||||| 63%
Change averse |||||||||||| 50%
Cautiousness |||||||||||||||||| 76%
Individuality |||| 16%
Sexuality |||||||||||||| 56%
Peter pan complex || 10%
Physical security |||||||||||||||||| 76%
Physical Fitness || 10%
Histrionic |||||||||||| 50%
Paranoia |||||||||||||||| 70%
Vanity |||||| 30%
Hypersensitivity |||||||||||| 43%
Female cliche || 10%
Take Free Advanced Global Personality Test
personality tests by similarminds.com [via]

Stability results were moderately low which suggests you are worrying, insecure, emotional, and anxious. ...This is kind of a surprising result. Not the worrying bit -- I know about that -- but I don't think of myself as terribly insecure
Orderliness results were moderately high which suggests you are, at times, overly organized, reliable, neat, and hard working at the expense of flexibility, efficiency, spontaneity, and fun.
Well, there's no question that I do get frustrated at the frequency with which logic, reason and planning fail to win the day
Extraversion results were moderately high which suggests you are, at times, overly talkative, outgoing, sociable and interacting at the expense of developing your own individual interests and internally based identity.
Well, I'm a blogger, which means I read and react constantly, complete with links, and a neurotic interest in measurements of attention. But I think I've got a pretty damned good idea who I am and it's not anybody else.

Trait Snapshot:

cleanI try to shower regularly, and I don't run out of underwear much...
self revealingsee above
openI don't know: honest, yes. "Open" implies an eagerness that doesn't seem quite right.
organizedOut of sheer self-defense, sometimes.
outgoing, social, makes friends easilyMore so on-line, honestly, than in person.
enjoys leadership and managing othersI enjoy policing details; it's not the same thing.
dominantOverbearing, at times. I have a talent for sounding authoritative, even when I'm faking it, which is quite disconcerting to some who know me well....
does not like to be aloneActually, I don't mind it a bit, most of the time.
assertiveNot terribly, no. Again, out of self-defense and necessity, I've gotten more so over time, and on-line I'm a tiger!
hard workingObsessive, sometimes. see below
finisherYes. But not much of a starter....
optimisticWell, more so than the other way, I suppose.
positiveWith a veneer of cynicism so thick that it's not really a veneer....
likes to stand outOn-line, yes. Not so much in person.
likes large partiesNo.
respects authorityNo. I respect people who I know to have earned positions of authority, but my respect for people in positions of power whom I don't know to be competent and fair is nearly nil.
practicalUmm.... I'm a blogger?
high self esteemcompared to what?
dislikes chaosDepends on the venue.
busyOf course.
not familiar with the dark side of lifeWrong. Just not a devotee...
controllingPlanning. It's not the same thing.
high self controlUhh... no.
traditionalWell, sometimes.
toughcompared to what?
likes to fit in, conformingI conform because it is useful to conform, and I like the results that come from consciously conforming to particular standards, not because conformity is a good thing as such.
brutally honestYeah.
takes precautionsYes, most of the time.

I think "takes internet quizzes too seriously" ought to be on here somewhere....

Does "Fair Use" include the right to know inconvenient things?

Apparently the editorial gnomes at the NFL work very quickly, cutting controversial material out of the TiVo Comcast Video On Demand stream of the Super Bowl. Apparently, having been burned by the breast blowout two years ago, they've gotten extra cautious about allowing access to the raw, if you will, footage.

Is this "fair," asks Pooh?

I think, unfortunately, that "fair use" doctrine doesn't apply, unless there's some kind of contractual obligation of TiVo Comcast to stream everything unedited; the right of broadcasters to edit presentations, even live ones, is pretty broad. I never really considered TiVo Video on Demand as an option before -- not enough TV watching, honestly, to be worth the money -- but this really puts a crimp into my desire to allow another layer of filtration.

But the broader question -- does this mean that we can't rely on corporations to provide honest reportage of important events if such honesty is in any way inconvenient -- is entirely relevant and the answer is: no, we never could rely on corporations to police themselves. We must police them, by legal and economic means.

Speaking of information freedom: Normally, the idea of government-run media brings up images of censorship and cheerleading, but the Voice of America has been, like the BBC, one of the great news organizations of the world, and a valuable tool for getting out a pretty honest picture of American life and politics to parts of the world where the press is considerably less free and thorough than the West. But the news business has changed: you don't have to have transmitters, satellites, etc. to be a global news source when you have the internet. So now, the VOA is competing with other US news sources for international attention and the idea of a non-profit government agency taking away revenue from Turner, Murdoch, etc., is anathema to Republicans in Congress (among others). So they've defunded the VOA's English Bureaus, effectively turning over control of the American international image to corporations whose political and financial goals are not those of the American people.

And, if freedom of information is important to you, consider this [via, who undersells it terribly]: the closing of previously public information will make things more difficult for researchers, who include harmless historians (well, mostly harmless) and epidemiologists (harmless unless you're a major environmental polluter).

Finally: The Washington Post -- a pretty good paper, by modern standards -- can't quite handle blogs or comments without censorship and doubletalk. And the Bush Administration now considers opposition bloggers a strategic threat, so when will they act on that?

Friday, February 10, 2006

Coretta Scott King's Politics

It's not a "major address" just a little speech to a community charity and lobbying organization [via]. But it's Coretta Scott King and I'm now regretting very much that I didn't pay more attention to her before. Here's an excerpt:
All organizations working for human rights and social justice should now work more closely together in coalition for social change. We have to work harder for the broader vision of the compassionate and caring society that demands decent living standards for all citizens. Every advancement in human rights that helps an oppressed group really benefits everybody because it elevates the standard of compassion and decency for the entire society.

With the 2002 election behind us, we must now turn our full attention to building an active coalition which can help bring impact no matter which party controls the political institutions. Politicians can be persuaded to change their positions, particularly when they know they can be replaced. Yes, we have to register and turnout more voters in the next election, but we also have to do a better job od educating people about the need for the reforms we are seeking.

The 'interrelated reality' my husband spoke of also applies to the legislative agenda we seek in coalitions of mutually supporting groups. We need to pass comprehensive hate crimes legislation. But, to create a genuinely nonviolent society, we also should work for stronger gun control and for an end to the death penalty. And we need more proactive education against bigotry and intolerance in America's schools, so young people are not seduced by the poisonous propaganda of hate groups.

Most importantly of all, if we want to create a more nonviolent society, we should be very concerned about our country getting involved in war. A war with Iraq will increase anti-American sentiment, create more terrorists and drain as much as two hundred billion taxpayer dollars, which should be invested in human development here in America.
Instead of trading blood for oil, we need to develop alternative sources of energy and mass rail transit, so we don't have to depend on mideast oil for our energy needs. And we can create plenty of needed jobs in meeting this challenge.

The interrelated reality of our legislative concerns also applies to the struggle against homophobia. We need the Employee Non-Discrimination Act to protect people from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender. But to create a society free from bigotry, as well as violence, we also need to protect and strengthen affirmative action. In addition, we need more funding for diversity education, so young people are inoculated against the toxic viruses of racism, sexism and homophobia before they enter the workforce.
Interrelated reality of our legislative concerns applies with a burning urgency to the global crisis of aids. We need full funding for aids research, prevention and treatment. To eradicate AIDS, we must give our medical researchers and scientists all of the support they need to find the cure. But we must first and foremost cure our own hearts of the fear and ignorance that leads to ostracism of people with HIV and AIDS. The real shame falls not on the people with AIDS, but on those who would deny their humanity. AIDS thrives on ignorance, bigotry and fear. In fact, I have no doubt that homophobia has worsened and prolonged the AIDS crisis. We don't have to search for the cure for ignorance, because we know that it is education.

The AIDS pandemic is an interrelated part of the failure of our national health care system. We've got at least 44 million people with no health insurance whatsoever, and millions more with health care insurance that will not protect them against a catastrophic illness. I would appeal to everyone who is concerned about AIDS to also work for national health care reform that covers every person for every illness.
Finally, she finished up with some words about "Homeland Security"
It seems to me that true homeland security ought to be more about providing health care for every citizen and less about reshuffling bureaucratic agencies and undermining our civil liberties. True homeland security should be about protection of liberties. True homeland security should be about protection of pension assets for retired people. Genuine homeland security should also be about gun control, protecting americans against domestic hate crimes and getting serious about reducing the pollution of our air ad water. And homeland security should mean feeding the hungry, housing the homeless and making sure there is quality education for every child and job at a decent wage for everyone who wants and needs one. That's how we make our country safe and secure for all citizens.
There. That's the stump speech for the next Democratic candidate for President. It ought to be, anyway. Any candidate who can't or won't stand up and say these things with conviction is going to lose, anyway.

Whitewashing: LeGuin's Earthsea and Marital Freedom

An excellent article by Pam Noles [via] on the whitewashing of EarthSea by the producers of the TV movie version (and a followup). I'd read LeGuin's repudiation of the production, but Noles is right: the "revision" in the transition to the screen deserves more serious consideration.

And, if you support the right of everyone to marry, oppose state intervention in truly private affairs, and believe in equality under the law, I've got a petition for you to sign.

Can "Civilizations" "Clash"?

VD Hanson says civilizations are clashing. Daniel Pipes says they are not.

National Review asked a bunch of other people what they think, but most of that's just wheel-spinning: the closest any of them come to actually answering the question is when they posit this as a clash between -- here's an original thought -- liberalism and religious extremism. One of them even denies that Islamic societies have risen to the level of a "civilization," which is, of course, extremely helpful... not. There's an awful lot of discussion of the "Muslim world" without defining what that means, and a lot of finger-pointing at "minorities" and "radicals" without defining their relationship to the "civilization" from which they arise.

The very fact that the question has been asked is interesting: why does it matter if "civilizations are clashing?" It matters because of the way in which it frames the "War on Terror" (as Anne Zook says, the war on Islamic Terrorists and Inconvenient States), going back to the hoary old Huntington thesis...

Update: Sepoy, as always, has his finger on the center of the knot. I'm pretty sure that he's making the same point I was, but I'm gonna have to read it a few more times to be sure. Damn, he's good.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Bouncy, but Firm... Incompetent but Profound


Take the 100 Acre Personality Quiz!

Well, that's a heck of a lot more likely than the last time I took a Milne test.

Now, for the Henson Index:

Yeah, Gonzo. Well, I have a few minutes left in the day, so I'll post a late Thursday Lyric, one of my very favorite songs (Yeah, everyone loves "Rainbow Connection" and I do to, but this one gets me closer to the heart) from the original Muppet Movie, as done by my avatar....
this looks familiar; vaguely familiar,
almost unreal yet; it's too soon to feel yet.
close to my soul, and yet so far away.
i'm going to go back there someday.

sun rises, night falls; sometimes the sky calls.
is that a song there; and do i belong there?
i've never been there; but i know the way.
i'm going to go back there someday.

come and go with me, it's more fun to share;
we'll both be completely at home in midair.
we're flying, not walking, on featherless wings.
we can hold on to love like invisible strings.

there's not a word yet; for old friends who've just met.
part heaven, part space, or have i found my place?
you can just visit, but i plan to stay.
i'm going to go back there someday.

i'm going to go back there someday.
It's a bit like "Send in the Clowns" for real people....

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Cautionary Carnival Moments

Oddly enough, the current Carnival of the Vanities is at the Carnival of the Capitalists blog, but it's still got that "if I'm gonna submit my best stuff and people are going to read it, it better be good" self-selective quality about it. I'm constantly amazed, actually, at the high quality of the CoV posts.

Anyway, two posts caught my eye: the discovery of 20-year-old hand grenades in an Indian Sikh temple, and a report of a conservative Republican teacher's rant about homosexuality. And they say liberals are the ones politicizing the classroom....

Also: the latest Carnival of Satire is up! I've decided to treat the CoS like I treat the History carnivals: if I see something that's worth considering for it, I'm not going to wait and hope the author submits it themselves. I like satire, and I want to see the good stuff get the attention it deserves. Also, as I've noted before, the CoS could use a bit of political balance, and I'm grateful to Mark Rayner for featuring what I submitted so prominently and positively.

Wednesday Poem: Waking the Dead

In honor of Coretta Scott King's funeral, a poem and meditation on funerals and politics.
Just go away quietly
We expected no protest from you in the coffin.
We have graced you with our presence.
Quietly, just go away.
Ah, but no. It will not be quiet. Dignified and firm, that's the way to go.

Cartoon-gate? Propheteering?

Sepoy pointed to this excellent overview of the Danish cartoon controversy, which, by stepping back and taking things one step at a time, makes some very important points. One which deserves note, and thought, is that the newspaper responsible had very productive meetings with Danish Muslim community leaders which had largely resolved the issue before Saudi, Syrian and Iranian media/government sources began pushing the story.

On the other hand, and I hate to find myself in agreement with Daniel Pipes, those governments which have apologized have missed the point of liberal democracy....

In case you were wondering: the boycott is hurting the Danish economy; no word on how well the pastry-like "buy Danish" campaign is making up the gap.

Everything in moderation?

Blogging is good for you according to a new online survey [insert joke about coals, Newscastle and self-fulfilling prophecies here], making bloggers and other online-journal-keepers feel more organized and less stressed. [via]

I clearly don't do anywhere near enough of the "inner thought" and "innermost feelings" blogging that they're talking about in this article. No, I'm not going to start. This blog serves its purposes quite nicely, as an outlet for political commentary, goofy quizzes, odd observations, poetry, quotations and as a record of the things I've read and given some thought.

There's a higher level discussion of blogging progressive politics going on, but it's mostly the usual "is blogging important? Depends who reads? Who reads? Depends who links? Who links? Bloggers, mostly, which really isn't all that important." circle dance. Not Anne, of course; she, like me, is pretty happy with a small circle of regular readers, though I've been known to do a little self-promotion now and then via (always relevant) carnivals and with other bloggers who I thought would be interested in what I had to say.

I blog because I enjoy blogging. I enjoy reading, thinking, writing, sharing, discussions and arguments. I like broadening my horizons and broadening those of others. I think I have some useful things to say and I like to keep up with what's going on. This is a great way to do it, and it creates this wonderful track record which is, really, the closest thing to an actual diary I've ever had in my life.

It's a very partial record of who I am and what I do. But it's a part of me that wouldn't get properly expressed otherwise, I don't think.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Is it Art?

Salavon's digitally averaged Playboy centerfolds are entirely work-safe, vague figures. But they do show the trend.

Now, is it art? Or just clever programming?

Is there a difference?

Here's a new installation in New York featuring lots of pictures of dead bodies and ephemera designed to shock and discomfort.

Is it art, or political propaganda? Either way, does it accomplish anything if nobody who doesn't already accept the message ever sees it?

Is there a difference?

Here's some fantastic war poster-style satires about our present situation.

Again, is it art, or political propaganda? Does the fact that it's funny (funnier, anyway) and easier to absorb quickly enhance or dilute its effectiveness? At least it's a better place to start a conversation.

Doin' What Comes Nat'rly

When will people realize that ignorance and abstinence are two very different things? When will people realize that education makes everything easier and safer? Sex education shouldn't be controversial: it is basic biology and public health. Morality? Immorality comes to people will all sorts of educational, religious and financial backgrounds. Let's keep the wages of sin in the realm of theology, shall we?

Stop Doing Violence

A fantastic post over at HU-Islam on the violence that advertising does to the psyche, by way of bodies.

In an "oops, I didn't mean that, either" moment, the Bush Administration's budget allocation for the National Institutes of Health will not change which means that basic research on health related issues will not keep pace with inflation, rising costs, competition for personnel from commercial sources, not to mention known, serious health risks both endemic and epidemic.

Deja vu, all over again: Mr. Jones ressurects a response to the Rushdie fatwa, and the Mutual Offense Offensive continues. I have more to say about this (the juxtaposition of this and this could endanger the structural integrity of your head, but it's important to remember that life is complicated so it's entirely possible that there are lots of "right" answers) but I'm not ready yet and not sure if this is the venue....
Anne Zook sums up some of what I'm thinking:
Bottom line? No matter how you slice it, killing people over a cartoon, no matter how it offends you, is uncivilized. Anything up to and including non-violent demonstrations would have been acceptable.

Bottomer bottom line? Hate speech is unacceptable, no matter what group it's aimed at. But is it actually "hate speech" to take a group to task for how they implement their beliefs?

But this is definitely the place to talk trash [via] about the structural and economic and environmental issues involved in consumerist waste handling. I think the article is a bit pessimistic: a little restructuring of costs could put recycling and environmental friendliness near the top of corporate cost-cutting/revenue-producing options, but it'll take some serious political will to end subsidies, etc. One thing I'll say about companies: the adapt to changing economic environments, and that's why the government spends so much time on the economy....

Thought I was done? Me too. But Dave Neiwert is making me nervous with the possibility that preparations are being made for large scale violence and civil liberties violations. Think I'm overreacting? Prove it.