30 March, 2006

Hooray, she's back!

Everyone*'s favorite artist will be at the San Francisco Exploratorium this Saturday with her installation, SF in Jello. I'll be there. I hope Jello Biafra can show up to close the loop.

*Everyone named Hedgehog, that is.

28 March, 2006

Spam redeems itself!

Today I got a spam e-mail with the following quote in it:
doesn't exist?'

'Calm down, calm down, calm down, professor,' stammered Berlioz, frightened of exciting this lunatic. ' You stay here a minute with comrade Bezdomny while I run round the corner and make a 'phone call and then we'll take you where you want to go. You don't know your way around town, [after] all...' Berlioz's plan was obviously right--to run to the nearest telephone box and tell the Aliens' Bureau that there was a foreign professor sitting at Patriarch's Ponds who was clearly insane. Something had to be done or there might be a nasty scene.

'Telephone? Of course, go and telephone if you want to,' agreed the lunatic sadly, and then suddenly begged with passion:

'But please--as a farewell request--at least say you believe in the devil! I won't ask anything more of you. Don't forget that there's still the seventh proof--the soundest! And it's just about to be demonstrated to you!'

'All right, all right,' said Berlioz pretending to agree. With a wink to the wretched Bezdomny, who by no means relished the thought of keeping
If you don't recognize this little tidbit, I order you to go forth and at once purchase for yourself a copy of The Master and Margarita, by Mikhail Bulgakov, which is my favorite book of all time. Wow! How cool is that? Maybe I'll receive the whole thing in little spam-snippets...

25 March, 2006

Meat Industry Supports Science

and I don't mean it ironically. Three years ago, when the first case of bovine spongiform encephalitis (BSE, or mad cow) was discovered in the U.S., the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture promptly created a rule forbidding individual farms and meatpackers from testing their cud-chompers' cadavers for the communicable prion that turns cow, bull, steer, and probably human, brains into Swiss cheese. (The American variety is apparently more like Havarti, and may be a different illness. But that's irrelevant for now.) The USDA has maintained all along that it instituted the rule as part of its eternal pursuit of consistency and high degrees of quality control. Those of us out here in war-on-science-landia suspected it had more to do with concealing for a longer time any evidence that the prion had become endemic in the herd, maintaining for a few years at least Americans' overconsumption of bovine musclature.

At the time, I wondered why a meatpacker desiring to export flesh to Japan wouldn't sue the USDA and demand the right to test its slaughter for prionic pollution. What happened to the constitutional "right to contract"? At last, someone has:
A Kansas meatpacker has sparked an industry fight by proposing testing all the company's cattle for mad cow disease.

Creekstone Farms Premium Beef wants to look for the disease in every animal it processes. The Agriculture Department has said no. Creekstone says it intends to sue the department.

"Our customers, particularly our Asian customers, have requested it over and over again," chief executive John Stewart* said in an interview Wednesday. "We feel strongly that if customers are asking for tested beef, we should be allowed to provide that."
To which I ask, what the hell took you people so long? It's the kind of thing that makes me wish I had gone to law school after all, as maybe I could be spending my time suing the government for the right to conduct science that might protect the public. Jeez.

For my part, I've tried a couple portions of beef in the past 2 years. They were fine. Both times they were at Katz' Delicatessen in New York. I have no idea how the animals were raised, but I know how the meat was prepared, and that was most excellently. It would have been comforting to consume the salty fibers with confidence that they were not deeply infused with self-replicating misfolded proteins.

* From Slaughterhouse Central world headquarters in Kansas, it's the Deathly Show, with John Stewart. (Music up, applause, pan, zoom. Stewart gazes into camera, waves pen. Blood squirts from pen. Audience gasps in orgiastic horror and pleasure.)

24 March, 2006

Get 'em while they're young!

This is deeply fucked up.* A children's book to teach little kids about "Democrat values". OH MY GOD. OH MY GOD. I mean, look at this sample page:

Truly abominable. Instead of teaching kids that praxis of good values has merit in itself, these authors (and apparently their readers) will tell them that merit is derived from their association with the correct tribe.

I'm not some sort of shameless individualist, but herd mentalities give me the heebie-jeebies. An incisive observer of the world is one who appreciates nuance and does not cut the world into broad swathes. The opposite tendency is the hallmark of dullards. "You should all grow wheat," Stalin says to the peasants in the USSR. "Oh, crap," say all the Kyrgyzstanis, who have herded sheep for eons, and promptly starve to death.

I found this kind of shit-flinging tribalism especially offensive after the 2004 election, when plenty of Democrat associates of mine fulminated about those troglodytes in the "red states" and their lack of basic human decency. A message to you, Rudy: get over your need to draw battle lines over political allegiances. Baring your teeth and snarling at each other is what dogs do. Just be humans.

* Incidentally, is there any more powerful way to express condemnation than to say that "shit is fucked up"? I don't think there is!

Especially when this particular tribe contains some notably virtue-less individuals.


Apparently, one of the leaders of the Oglala Sioux tribe in South Dakota has decided she's not going to put up with this "banning abortion" shit. She says, "I will personally establish a Planned Parenthood clinic on my own land which is within the boundaries of the Pine Ridge Reservation where the State of South Dakota has absolutely no jurisdiction."

Check it out.

22 March, 2006

Retread of tired "prisoner abuse" issue.

For some reason the New York Times feels like this story about extensive torture in a Special Ops prison called Camp Nama in Baghdad is newsworthy. I don't know when the MSM is going to get it through its thick collective skull that we've already dealt with that whole torture issue. We punished the people responsible for Abu Ghraib; Americans have moved on. Why won't the media?*

I think it's about time to get some t-shirts made. How about, "Don't fuck with me - I'm a citizen of an evil torture state"?

* Also, why won't the torturers?

21 March, 2006

Disservice piggyback

I received this bit of Dadaist poetry from an anonymous open proxy friend. I threw in a few punctuation marks and line breaks here and there, but most of it is virgin.*

Disservice Piggyback
Fishing rod, genuinely axis accuser!
Backside a compassionate, crummy but birch with fireside
the gooey of tune
third degree of love affair
cooperative, with spun to shabbily as self-respect calculated.
go-cart, medallion porter, and westernize!

to, in drinking fountain, northwesterly, the millennia labyrinth.
to chase, presently, spree flashback.

as in, the pair coercion and clear-cut.

by was boomerang airy, diploma-soulful, "jack-of-all-trades" babble-camera.
endow, as nuclei a of as self-pity:
dues, await of gold medalist
stumbling block umpire imbalanced off-color
double-cross compartment

moo the perfectionist buttercup! Ah, heirloom, amiably!
Delirium, the are an enrichment.

it illness.
it station.

* I am, of course, not the first to do this.

20 March, 2006

Post-birthday existential crisis

This article about sums it up. Civil war.*

The mindless doublespeak being tossed around is amazing. You may marvel at these brilliant juxtapositions, by both Cheney and Rumsfeld:
US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld wrote an article for the Washington Post, in which he argued that Iraq is not in the midst of a civil war.

The defense secretary said: "The terrorists realized that they were losing the war. They are, therefore, trying to make the sectarian conflict in Iraq into a civil war. If the United States began to pull out from Iraq right now, it would be like giving Germany back to the Nazis after World War II."

US Vice President Dick Cheney, disagreeing with Allawi, said Iraq is not under threat of a civil war.

Some are seriously determined to create a civil war in Iraq, Cheney claimed on CBS.
I.e., the terrorists WANT to create civil war, and are desperately trying to. But anything you see that might actually look like civil war is not the logical result of that impulsion; it's actually the insurgency in its "final throes".

Frankly this rhetoric is starting to bore me. Every statement that comes out of the mouths of these people is contorted to support the notion that every single thing they are doing is right. It's right to stay there and fight the terrorists, because otherwise they will bring about destruction and chaos. And things are going well; after all, if they weren't, that would suggest we're doing something wrong.

Here's something that they've done wrong from day one: doggedly insisted on "defeating the terrorists" through the application of violence, when what was really called for was finding ways to enfranchise all parties (especially the Sunni Arab minority, wealthy, powerful, threatened and willing to fight). The polarization of the country was the inevitable result. This mindset is not surprising from a group that only has two modes of operation: 1) Bombing the crap out of people, or 2) Threatening to bomb the crap out of people. But it's also not really surprising that it didn't work.

Hubris like this used to guarantee that the wrath of the gods would come down upon you. I'm waiting.

* This really is the correct time to say 'I told you so.'

19 March, 2006

Happy birthday!

Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday dear screaming death and terror from the skies
Happy birthday to you

Why this guy won the Pulitzer

A lot of us thought it odd when a car reviewer won the Pulitzer for criticism a couple years ago. Today, Dan Neil shows us how it's done:
THERE'S something peculiarly egregious, something antagonizing about the 2007 Mercedes-Benz GL, the company's new full-size, 15-mpg sport-utility vehicle, which might be described as a Cadillac Escalade with a hankering for Czechoslovakia. For one thing, it goes to show that, even though the full-size SUV market has fallen off dramatically in the last year, there are still sufficient numbers of selfish rotters out there to constitute an appealing market segment.

Mercedes-Benz executives offer this wholly meritless defense: Many of its customers leave the brand because the company does not offer a full-size SUV that meets their needs, which is to say, a seven-passenger, 17-foot 4x4 with a 9,300-pound towing capacity. At this point in the presentation in Napa Valley last week, execs showed slides of the GL pulling a 30-foot boat. So there you have it: Mercedes' audience of water-skiing polygamists is underserved.

Needs? Did the man say needs? OK, then. I propose needs testing for the purchase of such a vehicle. You must have a Chris-Craft and three or more school-age children in the yard to qualify. Your vehicle must do double-duty as, um, a bookmobile.

Need has very little to do with it. This segment is about want, naked and unquenchable, I-got-mine-you-get-bent appetite. It's well established that the vast majority of these vehicles never touch gravel, never carry more than a couple of people, and never tow anything heavier than the weight of their owner's childhood traumas.

Most people who buy the GL won't know a Class IV hitch from a Mark 48 torpedo. And I, for one, am not going to congratulate some Bel-Air singleton for his wise vehicle purchase when it is so patently purblind and morally retrograde.

Plainly, I'm disappointed that Mercedes-Benz — the company of Gullwings and 500Es, of elegant engineering and F1 cars — has decided to get into delivery van business. And yet I cannot fairly blame the company, which being a corporation is doing what corporations do in the absence of governance: Make as much money as is within its ken to do....

Why, in the midst of a slow-rolling energy crisis, an unpopular war in a region of the world made strategic only by its oil, and the globe's climbing mercury, should precisely the wrong kinds of vehicles remain so popular?

One reason is surely the tax breaks associated with 3-ton SUVs: business owners get a $25,000 tax break on the purchase of full-size SUVs (scaled back from $100,000 in 2004) and five-year depreciation schedule. For people taking advantage of this cozy corner of Section 179, the GL — with a base price anticipated to be about $60,000 — will be virtually free. That makes your $4,000 hybrid tax break look pretty punk, doesn't it?

The tax code is the most obvious point of inflection between vehicle choice and public policy. Another knee-point is CAFE — that's Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, in case you forgot, and who could blame you?

....We have been told recently that we are addicted to oil, but we seem to be unable to do much about it. California's clean-air bureaus are trying to regulate carbon emissions from vehicles and are being sued by manufacturers and the federal government for their trouble....

If we were serious about oil dependence, we would dramatically raise fuel economy standards, impose gas-guzzler taxes on noncommercial light trucks and lower the national speed limit.

None of that is going to happen.

So, in the face of this enormous governmental and regulatory inaction... SUV owners are mocked. Late-night comics have become scolds. Evangelicals have enlisted Jesus Christ himself in the "What Would Jesus Drive" campaign....

The cultural opprobrium that afflicts SUV owners — often overheated, occasionally misdirected, frequently ignored — is virtually the only disincentive in the market, the only defense the rest of us have from these rolling hot tubs of avarice. People feel slightly embarrassed, even a little ashamed. Good.

17 March, 2006

The video bandwagon

Everyone else is posting videos on their blogs. Are we any less? Nay. Here, eat this. Nice to see television get things right occasionally.

(Video courtesy of boston-legal.org)

The most pressing issue in our communities...

is the prohibition of
"intimate touching, sexual squatting or sexual bending" during school dances.
Thank heavens we have someone working on that. (I don't like freak dancing either. It hurts to rub up against the backside of a porcupine.)

Watch this page!

New Scientists recently pointed out this patent, which is for a device that, because it can be used to disperse biological and chemical agents and was developed on a government grant, clearly violates anti-chembio weapons treaties. EM-barassing! The blushing DOD, which funded the effort, has apparently been trying to get the USPTO to remove the offending text from the patent. Thankfully the incredibly, incredibly, incredibly slow response time of the Patent Office is on our side. But any day now this ought to go poof...

16 March, 2006

A pox on abortion!

As you know, South Dakota has banned abortion. The law is particularly fire-breathing, including a five-year prison sentence for doctors performing an abortion and abjuring any exception for rape or incest (which even President Bush feels should be allowed). There's some compelling logic here, after all - why should you kill an innocent child merely for the crimes of its father? And as we read here, most women who are victims of rape or incest decide to keep their child anyway. Just ask Sheryle!
Sheryle Bowers didn’t take part in research for Victims and Victors [a book by the Elliott Institute, a pro-life research group --ed], but her testimony tells the same story. She was just turning 12, and her family was in turmoil. Sheryle’s mother, Mary, was doing her best to care for her five children after her alcoholic husband left them. Then a suitor entered her life. She was attracted to him and appreciated the attention he gave her children. But unknown to Mary, the 29-year-old man, whom she would eventually marry, began a sexual relationship with Sheryle.

“He told me we needed to be very careful not to tell anyone,” Sheryle recalls, “or we would get in big trouble.” Sheryle’s childish desire to protect her mother from further pain caused her to keep the terrible secret.

Undetected, the abuser continued the incest for years, even through his marriage and divorce from Sheryle’s mother. Desperately wanting to escape, Sheryle tried again to end it when she was 18. In return, he caused her to become pregnant, hoping to force her to marry and go away with him.

The pregnancy finally revealed the awful truth, and the abuser left. Sheryle’s family rallied around her. Her mother, in Sheryle’s words, “scooped me up.” Though dealing with shame, guilt and embarrassment, Sheryle’s Christian beliefs kept her from abortion, and she gave birth to Christopher, who is now 21.

“I cried for two days in the hospital,” she recalls. “It’s not your ideal way to have a baby. But does that mean, for our convenience, we take his life?”

Overcoming the abuse took years, but Sheryle attributes her healing to God, and she credits Christopher’s birth as the beginning. “Finally God fulfilled a promise He had given me: ‘The LORD has taken away your judgments, He has cast out your enemy. The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; You shall see disaster no more’ (Zephaniah 3:15).

“My son was really a gift from God because he created a way of escape,” Sheryle says. “The natural thing is to stay in the dark, to cover [the incest] up. Abortion is another way [for abuse] to stay hidden.”
Thankfully, now all women in South Dakota can "choose" life, just like Sheryle did, with the gentle encouragement of the State. And if bans in other states like Mississippi fall into place, women everywhere will be able to "choose" life! With any luck, Jesus will be SO pleased by this turn of events, He will come right down and sweep up the righteous* and take them to heaven.

Exciting times we live in. It's enough to make you ask, what should we ban next? Poll to the right!

* Viz., not us.

Our greatest national crisis

Is the lack of cages for large numbers of humans. Thanks heavens that's being taken care of.

15 March, 2006


I wrote a puzzle out of boredom. I had the idea while sitting in floor meeting yesterday (which is good ground for the mind to wander in). It's an MIT Mystery Hunt-style puzzle - the answer is a single word.

14 March, 2006


I love dragonflies. I do not look forward to gazing upon them with suspicion and dismay.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is soliciting research proposals in the area of Hybrid Insect MEMS....

DARPA seeks innovative proposals to develop technology to create insect-cyborgs, possibly enabled by intimately integrating microsystems within insects, during their early stages of metamorphoses. The healing processes from one metamorphic stage to the next stage are expected to yield more reliable bio-electromechanical interface to insects, as compared to adhesively bonded systems to adult insects. Once these platforms are integrated, various microsystem payloads can be mounted on the platforms with the goal of controlling insect locomotion, sense local environment, and scavenge power. Multidisciplinary teams of engineers, physicists, and biologists are expected to work together to develop new technologies utilizing insect biology, while developing foundations for the new field of insect cyborg engineering. The HI-MEMS may also serve as vehicles to conduct research to answer basic questions in biology.

The final demonstration goal of the HI-MEMS program is the delivery of an insect within five meters of a specific target located at hundred meters away, using electronic remote control, and/or global positioning system (GPS). Although flying insects are of great interest (e.g. moths and dragonflies), hopping and swimming insects could also meet final demonstration goals. In conjunction with delivery, the insect must remain stationary either indefinitely or until otherwise instructed. The insect-cyborg must also be able to transmit data from DOD relevant sensors, yielding information about the local environment. These sensors can include gas sensors, microphones, video, etc.
It is small comfort to fantasize that some prankster might already be developing cyborg barn swallows that eat these suckers for snack.

13 March, 2006

The Holy Drink

San Juan Chamula is a village in Chiapas, just outside of San Cristobal de las Casas. Its residents are famed for their fierce independence, which kept them out from under the thumb of Spanish rule for all of their history. Nowadays Chamula is a popular destination for tourists (such as myself) on day trips, to see authentic Mayan customs being practiced.*

Chamulans (now numbering about 60,000) are ruled by an elite group of families who pass their authority down hereditarily. Their law is absolute, and Chamulans obey to the letter. It is these elites who decide the shape of Chamulan society. It changes when they change and stagnates when they stand firm. The penalty for disobedience is exile or death; those Chamulans who convert away from Catholicism, for example, are given twenty days to leave the valley, or they and their family are burned to death.

Chamula resisted converting to Catholicism for a long time. Never having been subject to Spain, they were never really beholden to missionaries in any way and had few motives to convert. In the end, though, a group of missionaries managed to convince the village leaders to become Catholics. They decided they would; they built a church, kicked out the priests, and told their shamans to dress in sacerdotal vestiments from now on. The Mayan gods were replaced with Catholic saints (whom the Chamulans continue to refer to as "gods"), with the principle deity being Saint Sebastian. (Chamulans have only recently started to accept Jesus Christ as a being of some importance, and he's still pretty low on the totem pole.) These days the principle deities are Saint Sebastian, Saint Peter, and Saint John the Baptist in the lead.

This is about all that Chamula took from Catholicism; most of the rest of their religious praxis comes from traditional Mayan rituals. Or something.

Chamulan healing and prayer rituals use a few key ingredients. One is a sugarcane liquor called posh, used to induce intoxication which brings one closer in line with the world of spirits. Another is a dark brew sipped in several ceremonies (I've forgotten the name of it).

A few decades ago, Coca-Cola made its introduction to Chamula. It was superficially similar to the traditional dark brew that was used in sacred rituals, but it was sweeter and tastier. Many Chamulans began to substitute Coca-Cola for the traditional drink.

About eleven years ago, the leaders decided to replace the traditional drink completely with Coca-Cola. The latter now became the 'holy drink', to be used in all sacred rituals. Naturally the level of cola consumption in Chamula skyrocketed.

Not long afterwards, the Pepsico company became apprised of this situation. Not wanting to be left out of a plum arrangement, they came into town and greased the palms of the leadership with a generous amount of money. Soon it came to be known that Pepsi, too, was a sacred drink.

This situation persisted until about three years ago, when Coke and Pepsi both decided that they could do better by diversifying their inventory in Chamula. After all, Coca-Cola and Pepsico are nowadays properly considered titans of the "beverage" market, rather than mere "cola" giants. Why restrict a broad range of products from sale, merely because they happen to be the wrong color?

Soon enough the shamans announced that the primary benefit of the sacred drink came from the production of gas, rather than the dark color. Gas produced burps, which aided in the expulsion of bad spirits. Any carbonated beverage would thus serve as a sacred drink. So long as it was made by Coke or Pepsi, of course.

The result is a Chamula where soda beverages are consumed by the entire population on a daily basis. In the town church, when we visited, everyone was armed with a bottle of soda, and many of the residents around town could be seen drinking the stuff. The leading families, of course, are the only authorized distributors of soda products in the valley, ensuring that this tidy market succeeds in aggrandizing and confirming their power. In exchange, they only have to give up a modicum of authority and verify that all their decisions meet the approval of the Coke and Pepsi corporations. Thus they may maintain the rigid control over Chamula that allows them to preserve their ancient Mayan ways.

* Our guide was an opinionated man named Miguel, who had almost nothing positive to say about the Chamulans. This gave me a fairly jaundiced view of the group, so take what I say with a grain of salt.


At times, I have thought it would be handy to run a search engine that trolls government web pages and -- in real time, not with some 6-month delay -- lets users see how a page has changed. In particular, it would automatically alert users when web content disappears.

(As someone shows in Jonathan's comments, the page didn't disappear from everywhere, just from all *.mil sites.)

The U.S. government is in a censorship frenzy*. Sometimes I think a very clever person could divine what they're worried about from seeing what they censor. But the page Jonathan refers to is mystifying. Would the Pentagon really take down an entire interview with their Secretary in order to (ineffectively) hide one not-very-embarrassing sentence? It's hard to believe and it's also possible, given the current environment. When in doubt, leave it out -- of the public record.

Mars roving

Google has put up Mars maps (to go along with their Earth and Moon maps). Pretty neat; they have an elevation view which goes from -9 to +21 km. This is 2.4 times the maximum elevation on Earth (Everest, at 8844 m). At some point when I acquired an interest in landscape simulations I learned that this is because of a phenomenon called "mass wasting", which basically refers to the shear stress on a surface as a result of the force of gravity acting on it. Since the gravity is comparatively greater on Earth than on Mars, this means that the same surface will experience greater shear stress on Earth; or, conversely, we would expect a comparable shear force for steeper surfaces on Mars (assuming the material is roughly the same). This means weaker erosion on Mars, and thus higher peaks. The equatorial surface gravity is about 2.65 times stronger on Earth than on Mars, so there's some rough agreement there. Although, as is obvious if you tool around on the map, there's clearly much less volcanic activity on Mars than there is on Earth.

12 March, 2006

Return of the living dead!

I am back from Mexico!*

I have learned many things, some of which I even remember. More on that later. Some anecdotes from the trip home:

Detroit is the worst airport I have ever been in. It took an hour to get through customs. They inspected my luggage twice at two separate checkpoints. In their defense, I did have a healthy tan and a scruffy beard.

On the ramp to the plane to Boston, a small rubber wheel nestled against the hull of the plane warned us, "Danger! Do not touch." It wasn't obvious why it was dangerous. The guy in front of me leaned down and touched it.

My cab driver on the way home was an angry gnome of some sort. He may have been experiencing gnome culture shock. He made arcane hand-spells to try and get the pedestrians in the crosswalk to move faster and rolled down his window to shout at people who honked at him for driving in two lanes at once. I short-changed him by a dollar when it came time to pay because I didn't have that much American currency on me.

* I bet you didn't even know I was gone.

11 March, 2006

Voting is a tool of the bourgoisie...

...to fool the proletariat into thinking they are affecting the world, while deeper structures remain intact. So go vote for Rhinocrisy at the Koufax awards. We are a long-shot, but I just want to get on a big beautiful ship (see below). You just scroll down to the comments, write "Rhinocrisy makes me feel all warm and fuzzy," and then go read some of the other blogs that are probably even more deserving.

My first baseball post

A San Francisco sports columnist writes:
Before we paint [steroid-popping home run whacker Barry] Bonds as a crack-dealing serial killer, remember that he did nothing more than gaze at a big, beautiful ship cruising by him. Aboard were countless athletes juicing up on steroids, racking up astounding statistics, showing off their biceps and knowing they wouldn't be penalized. Bonds wanted to be on that ship. He joined a cast of thousands. If we're looking for the real criminals of this world, let's go check the streets.
Let's see what we can do with this:
Before we paint former Enron Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Skilling as a crack-dealing serial killer, remember that he did nothing more than gaze at a big, beautiful ship cruising by him. Aboard were countless executives juicing up on options, racking up astounding statistics, showing off their portfolios and knowing they wouldn't be penalized. Skilling wanted to be on that ship. He joined a cast of thousands. If we're looking for the real criminals of this world, let's go check the streets.
Or how about:
Before we paint heroin-dealing serial killer Charles Manson as a crack-dealing serial killer, remember that he did nothing more than gaze at a big, beautiful ship cruising by him. Aboard were countless psychopaths juicing up on crank, racking up astounding body counts, showing off their pimped rides and hoping they wouldn't be penalized. Manson wanted to be on that ship. He joined a cast of thousands. If we're looking for the real criminals of this world, let's go check the streets.

08 March, 2006

Gaffney Plays Dems for Chumps

Just as I was starting to think that maybe there were good reasons to question the Dubai ports deal, David, in comments, shows us that Frank Gaffney is behind this firestorm. Yes, that Frank Gaffney. The only question now is who Gaffney is really representing in all this. Who are the other port management firms? Who could come out ahead if Dubai gets blocked?

Andy Sullivan Goes Half-way to Frank Zappa

Andrew Sullivan, everyone's favorite gay Republican blogger, is quoted in Dana Milbank's political gossip column in the Washington Post:
"This is a big-government agenda," he said. "It is fueled by a new ideology, the ideology of Christian fundamentalism." The bearded pundit offered his own indictment of Bush: "complete contempt" for democratic processes, torture of detainees, ignoring habeas corpus and a "vast expansion of the federal government. The notion, he said, that the "Thatcher-Reagan legacy that many of us grew up to love and support would end this way is an astonishing paradox and a great tragedy."
Oh yes, we all remember the Thatcher-Reagan legacy so fondly, don't we. No, Andrew, you moron. George W. Bush is following the same policies as Reagan. He is just better at it. Let's think back on his small-government budgets, which created what were, at the time, unimaginable deficits. Or how about his small-government Attorney General, Edwin Meese III, who supported government censorship of not just pornography but also rock & roll records. Since some of us aren't old enough to remember the joy of Congressional hearings about Prince, Madonna, and 2LiveCrew (who were there just to prove that the threat of censorship does not in itself guarantee indefinite shelf-life), there is still this brilliant Frank Zappa debate, preserved in silicon and iron filings for your viewing pleasure. (And in case that isn't enough of John Lofton's proto-Bushian Christian fundamentalist wingnuttery, you can also read him in conversation with Alan Ginsberg.)

What strikes me is the similarity between Sullivan's critique of Bush and Zappa's critique of Reagan, which at the time turned Robert Novak into a burbling plush toy of condescention. Now we hear Reaganites saying the same stuff about Bush. What next, in 20 years will Karl Rove be saying that kind of stuff about President Malkin?

(Apologies in advance to readers of the future for linkrot. Complain to the Post.)

07 March, 2006

Hooray, I was wrong

As someone who has dissed ethanol as much as anyone, I must say I am pleased to hear from a reasonably respectable source that the stuff is no worse than gasoline, and is potentially much better. I apologize for missing this article when it first came out. I think I was in my burrow that week.

Up next: Let's figure out how to make ethanol without genetically modified monocultures irrigated with fossil water. (Says the guy who is 35 years old and has driven vehicles fewer than 20,000 miles in his life, pretending to be really happy that now he can get run down on his bicycle by people propelled by plant power. Yes, hooray. I guess it's better than biking what used to be a coast road through a couple feet of water.)

06 March, 2006

Speaking of "-crisy"

We wouldn't want anyone to fall victim to the hobgoblin of little minds.

36 cubic miles

So, the Antarctic ice sheet is drizzling 36 cubic miles of fresh water into the Southern Ocean every year, is it?
The findings... are a concern because the ice sheet would increase sea levels by as much as 45m (150ft) were it all released. The West Antarctic ice sheet, where the bulk of the melting is taking place, holds water that would raise the sea level by more than 6m (20ft).
This compares with Los Angeles, a profligate city of 12 million people, using one cubic mile of water per year. Not to mention that the instruments used to detect this change work by noting changes in the Earth's gravitational field.

For some reason, people seem to think this is bad news. I prefer to see the upside. For example:
  • In the United States alone, the country's national Environmental Protection Agency estimates that drinking water and sewer projects over the next couple decades could cost $1 trillion. With most of the older system inundated in seawater, these expenses will be unnecessary.
  • With New Orleans underwater, we will be able to quit worrying about whether to rebuild or not.
  • As people from seaside regions around the world are forced to move inland, we will finally have a global reconciliation of "heartland" and "coastal" values.
  • Hell, there's nothing important along the coast anyway.

02 March, 2006

The half-life of feminism

In the course of a book group discussion of Self-Made Man, a book about a woman who passes as male in order to explore men's world, a friend asked, "women consciously redefined their gender. When and how will men do the same?" My reply follows.

I was raised among very few men and many women. By the time I was 16, I was fluent in both traditionally female tasks like cooking and dishwashing (I've never taken to dusting) and in (what I've since learned are) more typically female mental processes: seeing rape entirely from the victim's perspective, distrusting competition, abhorrence of violence, a strong belief in listening. I let some typically male skills fade in the process -- I ditched my 10-year-old's fascination with computer programming, I never took part in organized sports, I actively avoided the horrific group male bonding games of getting drunk and going to strip clubs and picking up girls by lying to them and then laughing about it all. It never surprised me to be an outsider in high school or even in college, as I had been raised to believe that was the more honorable place. But as time went on and one crush after another told me how great a brother I was and then complained about her date-rapist boyfriend, as opportunities for travel and jobs and other new experiences were handed off freely to the most competitive and aggressive asses, I eventually started to learn to play the game. Today I am nowhere near as gentle and emotional and accepting and listeningful as I was 20 years ago. I still carry a reflexive distrust of men (which causes its own problems) and I still can't throw a football 15 yards to save my life. But I now work in an environment that is very male-dominated, where I got hired in part because of my aggressive pursuit of the job, my ability to say, hell, if nobody else wants to barge in and talk to the boss and demand an interview that's their (and often her) problem. I have found that a lot of women in relationships -- including women who seem feminist and egalitarian in everyday life -- deeply want a strong, decisive, pushy, "ravishing" lover. In short, playing by The Rules and being an asshole man is still very rewarding, while the voluntary sacrifice of power and privilege much of the time is rewarding only in that it lets a guilt-ridden guy like me sleep better at night.

This is a long way of saying that the problem of male power is largely an incentive problem. Every day, we all -- including those of us who try to be conscious of this stuff -- reward pushy asshole rapist men and their female imitators while allowing more talented, beautiful, caring people to fail in one endeavor or another. It takes constant vigilance in every field to change this. So far as I can see, creating better incentives and structures is not a task that requires groups of men to hang out together in the woods (which as Joel implies, can often amplify the less salutory characteristics even of the sweetest guys you'll ever meet) so much as it requires everyone to speak up whenever they see injustice or what they see as fucked-up tastes and demands on the part of other people and institutions. That's my sense, anyway.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?