Monday, December 3, 2007

Le Idiot!



Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Newton? Who were those guys? This in a first world, industrialized nation? H/T John Derbyshire.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

NRO Lies!

Jeeze, once you get into the habit of exclamation mark abuse, it's hard to quit!

Scott Beauchamp may or may not have lied in his TNR pieces. If he did well, then he’s a liar. It’s a small thing. The uproar created when cynical attacks on TNR appeared in the Weekly Standard written by Michael Goldfarb, and taken up by irresponsible right-wing bloggers, e.g. Michelle Malkin, Ace of Spades, etc… was not a small thing. Besides being hypocritical and intellectually dishonest and pathetically cynical, it the effect of raising a rabble of dimwits (there are dimwits on the left, too – they just weren’t going to respond to this crowd) all screaming about a trivial issue. Now National Review has its own little scandal, probably just as trivial as K-Lo says. But, having been part of the mob when Franklin Foer’s head was being asked for, does K-Lo step up, admit a problem and move on?

Glen Greenwald puts it this way:


Rather than acknowledging any errors in a clear and straightforward way, National Review chose late Friday afternoon to raise this matter -- the favored time period of politicians to dump embarrassing stories, when as few people as possible will see it -- in the form of a mealy-mouthed, self-justifying "Editor's Note" from Kathryn Jean Lopez. Lopez apologizes to readers on the ground that "NRO should have provided readers with more context and caveats in some posts from Lebanon this fall," but never says what those caveats should have been or what the missing context was.

Andrew Sullivan is piling on as well.

Franklin Foer has responded generally to the TNR/Beauchamp bruhaha here.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Friday Galactic Blogging


Face on spirals - I never get sick of looking at them. This is another, very high resolution, view of M74, a relatively close-by galaxy at approximately 32 million light years, and approximately the same size as our own. It's a nearly perfect example of what's known as a Grand Design Spiral Galaxy. This is an APOD image and as such a higher resolution image is available if you click through.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Gong




These are the guys your mom would have warned you about circa 1970. Hippy-dippy long-hairs with some weird ideas and lots of drugs. But they could really play. The only bigger circus was the Grateful Dead; but, I'm willing to bet that these guys still win any head-to-head silliness contest.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Friday Galactic Blogging


I never cease to be awed by how unbelievably beautiful these deep space images can be. This tableau contains NGC 7331 in the upper right and something else called Stephan's Quintet a "compact group" and the site of a giant intergalactic shock wave (imaged beautifully on the Wikipedia page.) It's an APOD image and as always click through for a higher res image.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Good Grief

K-Lo attempts some political analysis. Why I'm not super worried that her analyses might be actually, uh, competent:


Why I’m not super worried yet: The presidency ain’t fridges with TVs in them and I think even iPod Americans know that.


Wow, funny girl. And she has responsibility for National Review's website. Who hired her, and for what skills?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Mark Steyn!

Since I've already started abusing exclamation marks, and haven't posted a complaint about Steyn in quite a while - here is definitive proof that Charles Johnson is a fatuous loon.

Frank!


Frank died long before he should have. One of the best musicians I know of, as well as one of the most original and interesting composers there ever was. I hope his music lasts as long as J. S. Bach's has.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Friday Galactic Blogging


I'm always a sucker for a great spiral, and here is a magnificent example. Not dissimilar to our own Milky Way, M74 is a gorgeous spiral, fully face on, at a distance of 30 million light years. Clicking through the image will take you to the APOD description, clicking there will show a higher resolution version of the image.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Friday Galactic Blogging


I recommend clicking through to the high-resolution APOD version of this image of the Hercules Cluster. Imagining things so big it takes a beam of light tens of thousands of years to traverse apparently sprinkled like snowflakes takes me to a scale that I have a hard time wrapping my mind around. But, damn! What a beautiful image.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Friday Galactic Blogging


Dwarf Irregular galaxy I Zwicky 18 is a relatively nearby (59 million light years), notably strange object which was once thought to an extremely young galaxy in our general neighborhood. Hubble imaging has recently shown a much older star population than had previously been seen, and current estimates give its age at about 10 billion years, consonant with estimates of the age og the Milky Way. The bright young stars which seem to dominate its light output may have been created because of the gravitational effect of the nearby companion galaxy, seen here to the upper right.

Click through for the APOD page describing this object.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

More Of This Sort Of Thing Please!



If you want to make a political argument denying health-care to kids, then what's unfair about this sort of political response?

H/T Garance.

Update: Yglesias
The real point is that Bush and the GOP want to make sure that sick people in general don't get public sector health care and remain, instead, at the mercies of insurance companies or else are just left to their own devices. The sick kids are, basically, just innocent bystanders -- hostages to Bush's fealty to private health insurance.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


This is unexpectedly strange and cool. There are details here of the "halo" of the galaxy on the left (NGC 474) not often seen in photos like this. This seems to be an indication of complexities only slightly understood in the structure of galaxies and clusters (the complexity is certainly related to the proximity of the spiral appearing to the right in this image. Click once for the APOD page describing this in detail. Click again for the higher resolution view.

A Study In Contrast

I doubt much editorial comment needs to be added to understand this debate. Ezra's challenge is (very) slightly snarky, but seems relatively polite, especially in blogospheric terms. Michelle's riposte, however... well, judge for yourself.

I especially like this analysis.

Also, you've got to love this.

Edwards Cheats on Wife!

Elvis Sited.

Thank goodness for the National Enquirer. Their crack investigative team has uncovered evidence that John Edwards is cheating on his wife. I mean she emailed them, for gosh sake!

H/T Ace. (Thanks man! Don't know where this country'd be without you.)

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Keystone Cops

Eli Lake reports:

WASHINGTON — Al Qaeda's Internet communications system has suddenly gone dark to American intelligence after the leak of Osama bin Laden's September 11 speech inadvertently disclosed the fact that we had penetrated the enemy's system.

And these are the guys who have been responsible for our collective security for nearly seven years. It's time to begin counting down the seconds until someone, anyone, else holds the office of POTUS.

I don't hold with the notion that President Bush is a stupid man. He's clearly not. There does seem to be a growing body of evidence that intelligence is not a particularly important criterion in Administration hiring practices.


H/T Garance.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

I don't want to grow up.


Well, I don't. Be that as it may, I doubt there's a better, more interesting performer/songwriter than Tom Waits.

Blackwater, USA



Scared yet? I think you probably ought to be.

Friday Galactic Blogging


Gravitationally locked pair M81 and M82 are caught in a dance which has them passing each other every several hundred million years. The brilliant blue spiral arms of M81 (left) are likely the result of gravitational effects due to their proximity, while M82 glows in X-ray frequencies for the same reason. Click the image to see the APOD page and a description; click again for a higher resolution view.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Friday, er..., Sunday Galactic Blogging

This image depicts NGC5866, a striking lenticular galaxy in the constellation Draco, also known as the Spindle Galaxy. Click once to see the APOD page for this object, click again to see the high resolution version of the image, in which a number of background galaxies are easily visible.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Friday Galactic Blogging



What galaxy is this? It's actually an interior view (the only kind of view available, of course) of our galaxy, The Milky Way. The second APOD image is actually an artist's depiction of a possible external view, showing the central bar and spiral arms.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Friday Galactic Blogging


Andromeda is the closest, largest, brightest galaxy in the sky - easily viewed with the naked eye. Its surface brightness is such that you really don't get a good idea of the extent of it in the sky. The second APOD image here is a composite with a full moon to show just how big Andromeda is in the night sky.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Having Mentioned Leonard Cohen...



It wouldn't be right not to include something with the great man, himself. And in this case with Sonny Rollins! How cool is that?

Friday, September 7, 2007

Friday Galactic Blogging

Galaxies generally don't come in onesies. Our home galaxy the Milky Way, is a member of something prosaically named the Local Group, a collection of some dozens of galaxies including two monsters, our own and the Andromeda Galaxy, which is the nearest large bright galaxy, and a naked eye object. (Fainter members are still being discovered.) Groups are not the largest collections of galaxies, which at the largest known scales come grouped in clusters and superclusters, which can contain thousands of individual galaxies.

This photo depicts a striking nearby (60 million light years) group named Hickson 44 which contains some dramatically different spirals and a big elliptical in the upper left. As always click the image once to see the APOD description. Click again to see the higher resolution view.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Friday Galactic Blogging


Centaurus A presents a unique vision. It's an example of what can happen when a pair of galaxies collide - the resultant structures can be amazing. I don't think there's anything else in the sky that quite looks like this. It's also pretty bright, fifth brightest galaxy in the sky, in fact - though it can't be seen from most northern latitudes.

Click once for a more detailed description (courtesy Astronomy Picture of the Day.) Click again for a high resolution view.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

How exactly does Michelle Malkin define "non-partisan?"


Earlier this year, I reported on a new, non-partisan movement that arose to challenge the surrender lobby. On a bitter cold weekend in March, the Gathering of Eagles brought together veterans, families of active-duty servicemen and servicewomen, Rolling Thunder members, military bloggers, and their grass-roots supporters to raise their pro-troops, pro-mission voices. I interviewed Eagles who flew in from San Francisco, rode motorcycles south from Georgia, drove all night from Boston, and trekked in caravans from coast to coast to answer ANSWER. At the crack of dawn facing biting winds and contemptuous taunts, tens of thousands of Eagles stood guard over war memorials threatened by anti-war anarchists and lined the streets where bongo drum-beating retreatists marched.


My goodness.

I'm Tempted to Start a Feature Called "Mark Steyn Watch"

He's a machine for producing quotable nonsense:

Your disparager's presumption that you must be arguing in bad faith is one of the most tedious features of the age.

Naughty liberals, Nasty liberals. Making specious claims of bad faith against arguments made by the Warriors for Truth. I guess he's just getting sick of hearing it.

The "disparager" in question is Matt Yglesias, who strikes me as an unlikely choice of target in this context. I don't know enough about Levin's views on the subject of farm subsidies to know whether Yglesias' claim is true. I do know enough about Yglesias to assert that he's a pretty careful partisan and doesn't generally make unsupportable claims.

Update: Yglesias Responds to Jonah and others who have weighed in.

Hypocrisy?



I found this at Ace's place. Despite the fact that I'm likely a "barking moonbat" who wouldn't deserve a link, I'll give credit (and a link) where it's due.

Larry Craig's Offense

Reposted (and somewhat cleaned up) from a comment I left at Garance's place:

I don't know if I think "peeping laws" in general serve a compelling good. I prefer public toilets not be multi-purposed this particular way - but I'm open to the argument that there might be issues of autonomy or freedom that outweigh my discomfort. Having said that, whether or not the law Larry Craig is accused of breaking is just, or even whether, whatever that law actually is, it was applied correctly - all these seem to be side considerations. Whatever the case might be, I haven't heard the suggestion that Craig was targeted because of his identity or his job. There's no "unfairness" here, in that sense. And he isn't in trouble because of some summary offense (or misdemeanor, I don't know for sure) he pled to. He did something that was extraordinarily stupid, with full knowledge of what he had to lose. As a result of that stupidity, he revealed that he has behaved with blatant hypocrisy on important topics.


And then, whatever you think about any of the rest of this, he tried to intimidate the cop.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Hallelujah



Leonard Cohen originally released this song on his 1985 opus Various Positions, a somewhat underrated album, in my opinion. I think it stands with his best work. This song, a tour de force of spiritual ambivalence, is among my favorite of his lyrics. Cale's interpretations - the first of which I encountered in the soundtrack of the animated film Shrek (I wish I could have found a widescreen version to link to) - have been really strong. Accompanied only by his own piano playing, they are spare and beautiful. This adds a string trio quartet to that simplicity without in any way detracting from the immediacy and beauty.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Huh?

I would like to know what this guy is talking about:

It's getting to be a bit of a pattern. Someone generically of the left - or so they regard themselves - writes about regrettable features of leftist advocacy and alignment in recent times and is met by a chorus of voices saying, approximately, 'Who, me? Who, us? What, the left? No, never. Unheard of.'

The whole damn piece is a string of non-specific stream-of-consciousness jargon making an incomprehensible argument against some undefined bogey of a "left." Just the sort of thing to get a nod and a link from Glenn Reynolds.

Mark's Found His Mojo!

Errant Cornerite Mark Steyn rarely disappoints for long. This piece gets style points for outsourcing its requisite useless analogy.

But the following is sublime:

I take your point. If Senator Craig had gone into the stall, rolled out his prayer mat, yelled "Allahu Akbar!" and been observed attempting to weaponize the ballcock, the undercover cop would have shrugged, "Do I really want to get stuck with another four-week stint in Sensitivity Training hell?" and gone about his business.

The non-sequitur reference to Islamic practice, and the insouciant way he slides into an ugly equivalence between Islamic practices and cruising airport men's rooms, and managing to combine a reference to terrorism with the use of the term "ballcock!" - all that PLUS the PC gracenote at the end of that bit - this is the mark of a true virtuoso. Thanks for showing us how it's done, Mark!

Monday, August 27, 2007

No Comment


If you wanted to pick a perfect symbol for the current state of the Bush Administration you might find a better candidate than Alberto Gonzalez' death grip on on the office of Attorney General. Up until now, that would not have been a simple task.

Eve Fairbanks at The Plank get dibs on the best line: Ding dong!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Weimar crapola?

Sullivan's rhetoric is reaching toward the unspeakable; though I'm not sure I disagree. The general point of the Chait piece he's referencing ought to have been made weeks ago.

John Cole weighs in and says some some things pretty plainly.

H/T Henry at Crooked Timber.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Charles Stross says it better than I have

People who know me have heard my DRM diatribes on multiple occasions. I hate it. It gets in the way, and it provides a vector for malware. It allows for ugly theories of ownership. It solves no problems except for imaginary ones. (Which isn't to say that there aren't real problems to which it's intended to be a solution. It just doesn't solve them.) Here's somebody else's diatribe.

P.S. Read Accelerando.

Related: I haven't bought one of the damn things - I'm too cheap to be any better than a generation or two behind the bleeding edge: my current, relatively new, phone is a RAZR.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Friday Galactic Blogging


Yet another beautiful spiral, named M81, this one about twelve million light years away. Click through for a description, and click again for a higher resolution version. This was imaged with the Hubble space telescope, and one of the cool aspects of this image is that individual stars from M81 have been resolved.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

More Kevin Ayers



Why? Well, mainly because I can. Also because this particular YouTube clip really seems to get at something essential about Ayers at a particular point in time. And additionally, that's Ollie Halsall playing one of the guitars - a great guitar player, an important part of what Ayers did musically, and someone who died unnecessarily young. (That's Ollie with the light colored jacket. Andy Summers is the third guitar player on stage.)

Mark Steyn Is Almost Always an Ass

But, in the ongoing effort to give credit where it's due, I agree completely with this.

Monday, August 20, 2007

What I've Finished Reading


I’ve just finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, about a month, I think, behind most people. I came to the Harry Potter party late, anyway. I bought the first five books as a boxed set about a year and a half ago for my wife, and watched her consume the lot in about two weeks. I realized after she finished the first three in about four days that I’d better get number six pretty quickly. I was reluctant to believe I’d find them quite so compelling, but I decided that her obvious pleasure was a pretty good sign. I probably needed three week to get through those six. Since I’d seen the films that were currently available, I knew what to expect from the first few. In their slightly clunky way, the first three or four were really pretty charming. As the series went on, and the stories became longer and more complex, however, the plotting had something of an arbitrary this happened, then that happened, and then something else happened quality to it, and worse, some of the action began to seem forced, characters did or said things the logic of which seemed to have more to do with where Rowling needed to drive the story rather than what would be consistent with the characters, particularly Harry Potter, himself. Megan McArdle said it very well indeed, here.

Deathly Hallows turns out to have been a rather easier read than Half-Blood Prince, thankfully. There’s still some forced stupidity on the part of some of the characters, but this time around Rowling provides a better rationale. I certainly had a greater emotional investment in the characters, this time around.


Spoiler:


I thought the quasi-death and immediate resurrection of Harry was pretty cheesy, particularly in light of all the hype and speculation, in which Rowling was a full participant. I thought at least one of the primary trio was going to be killed off. Silly me. I liked the overall ending just fine; although I found the epilogue a little short of detail. Another reviewer made the point that maybe a little bit of the hiding-in-a-tent interlude could have been trimmed in exchange for a slightly more hefty wrap-up, with a bit more detail about what becomes of this character whose struggles we’ve been following for all these thousands of pages.

Pink Martini



Ok, back to the present. Sort of. They're a kind of a throwback to some other time, between, I don't know, maybe 1920 and 1960. These guys are a great live band. There are twelve to fourteen people on stage, instruments ranging from piano, upright bass and Latin percussion to brass, a string trio, guitar, drums, etc... The music is a combination of original material and multi-national pop from the last century. It's magnificent, if you like this sort of thing. Which I do, definitely.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

K-La La

How is it that dishonest creeps like Mark Krikorian get the keys to post here? It’s an important blog. If you don’t read it you’re missing out on an interesting window into what conservatives are thinking. But, posts like this one beg the question of standards over there in K-Lo land. First there’s the implicit twofer swipe at the Association for Civil-Rights in Israel and the ACLU. How is it that standing up for civil rights is a partisan issue of the left? We should ask Bob Barr about that.


Then, there’s moving from this ACRI quote: "Israel's moral and legal obligation to accept any refugees or asylum seekers facing life-threatening danger or infringements on their freedom" to “So, apparently anyone, anywhere who doesn’t enjoy complete political freedom and manages to sneak into Israel should be allowed to stay.” Ignoring the phrase “life-threatening” as an intensifier in that compound leaves a pretty unbalanced pair: life-threatening danger on the one hand, not lesser danger, but “life-threatening” danger, and amorphously defined infringements on the other. He ignores the obvious intent just to get the cheap applause line: “So, apparently anyone, anywhere who doesn’t enjoy complete political freedom and manages to sneak into Israel should be allowed to stay.”


Where do they find these people?

Friday, August 17, 2007

Friday Galactic Blogging



Not every visible galaxy is a spiral, of course. But the spirals are among the most beautiful things I can imagine. This gorgeous image of a relatively close neighbor was taken, surprisingly, by a ground-based telescope, Many of the really striking images from the past decade or two originate from orbital scopes, such as Hubble and Chandra.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

He Was Against It Before He Was For It

Again, from PZ's invaluable Pharyngula:

What Is Up With Chris Matthews?


I watch Hardball most nights, much to the annoyance of my politically averse wife. Chris Matthews doesn't seem like a particularly pleasant guy; not someone with whom you want to sit down for a quiet evening, I think. Still, the show has a certain appeal. I mean since they dropped their political Gladiator shows, CNN's got nothing. And Fox? Well, I'll give you Brit Hume, I guess, but after that, what? Hannity? O'Reilly? I'll take the Kool-Aid, please! I do like Olbermann's show, but I'm not that interested, generally in shows hosted by people I substantially agree with. (But as long as he is as annoying to the forces of darkness as he obviously is today -- live long and prosper, Keith!) Hardball satisfies my need for a dose of political combat each day. I don't necessarily agree with the host, and when he provides Ann Coulter with a perch from which to spew bile, I'll go do something else. Still, I think I gain more than I lose by watching the show.

Matthews seems to have a gift. Just about everybody seems to hate him. How do you manage to convince both NewsBusters and Media Matters that you're working for the other side? It takes talent. I don't profess to understand what it means, except that it definitely means I'll keep watching.

2005's Misinformer of the Year (Media Matters)
NewsBusters
More Media Matters

It's double plus good that Michelle Malkin hates him. One more reason to watch his show:
Ambush journalism... or my evening with caveman Chris Matthews

I had to look a liitle harder to find an example, but Think Progress shows some approval

Update: Well, this is more than a little disturbing.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Canterbury



In the late sixties and the seventies - and, to some extent, even today - there was interconnected collection of musicians centered in Canterbury, England, who produced a unique body of work. These guys, Kevin Ayers in the foreground, and Daevid Allen (playing the "gliss" guitar") were founding members of The Soft Machine, the band at the center of this swirl. Kevin had an interesting solo career, and throughout the seventies was making great eclectic pop music. Daevid's band, Gong, was awesome spectacle, a psychedelic band with jazz level chops; wildly hallucinogenic, and deeply musical at once.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Jonah Goldberg on Enemy Combatants


UPDATE: Jonah has a fair response to these criticisms.


Jonah Goldberg is a good pundit. He’s smart, he can frame an argument. Jonah even seems to get along with liberals. Sometimes, in fact, he does that better than some liberals seem to be able to reciprocate.


All that said, not all of the arguments he floats are equal. In this column, Jonah berates “leading liberals and democrats” for the perceived sin of wanting to treat members of al Qaeda as criminals. The column is a reaction to an op ed in the New York Times penned by Wes Clark and UCLA law professor Kal Raustiala.


Clark and Raustiala make two arguments. The first is partly symbolic. Treating al Qaeda members as combatants “dignifies criminality by according terrorist killers the status of soldiers.” They argue that stateless terrorists don’t distinguish between civilians and combatants, and can’t be easily distinguished from civilians, themselves. The rules governing combatants aren’t really designed for this state of affairs, and this can lead to problems.


Jonah takes issue with this, mostly on what reads, to me, as the weakest, part of the argument. In his view designating al Qaeda as “enemy combatants” lowers their status rather than “dignifying” it. He also argues that treating them as criminals would entail launching “CSI: Kabul,” which is I think the strongest part of what he has to say.


What he ignores is the second argument put forth by Clark and Raustiala. The current approach “endangers our political traditions and our commitment to liberty.” They go on: “The government wields frightening power when it can designate who is, and who is not, subject to indefinite military detention.” This is the heart of the argument. Even if we grant that treating terrorists as combatants would be more effective than dealing with them as criminals, we need to remember that in a liberal democracy there are limits to what can be done. Efficiency, even in the face of a threat, can't be the highest priority. We need to remember who we are, or we'll lose what we have, inevitably.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Summarizing My Coalescing View on TNR and WS

Once again, this is substantially a comment I left on someone else's blog.

Assume Scott Beauchamp is a nefarious liar. Further assume TNR did exactly what they claim to have done, which is to check the plausibility of his stories to the extent that it was practical. The stories were first-person accounts published under a pseudonym. This is not reportage. It doesn't carry the same weight and it surely does not carry the imprimatur of the magazine's journalistic reputation the way a bylined piece by a journalist would. This is by definition, an a priori judgment, and it seems obvious to me.

So, assuming that my summary corresponds to reality, what obligation has TNR overlooked - what scandal ought to exist? As far as I can tell the only infractions have been committed by the Aces, Hewitts, and Malkins, etc... and most particularaly by the Weekly Standard, who, by now, after the painfully stupid search under every tea-cup for WMD, which as far as I can remember, they've never repudiated, should have no credibilty with anyone, exept for willfully blind fellow travelers.

Romney Wins the Iowa Straw Poll

Romney 32%, Huckabee 18%, Brownback 15%


I suspect Brownback is toast.


I don’t think it’ll have currency for more than a couple of weeks, but at least right now, it’s Clinton and Romney who seem to have the all the mo’. Romney’s is pretty ephemeral, considering his most important rivals didn’t straw-poll with him, but right now, today, it’s fair to see him this way, I think.


I like this match up - I can’t see Romney eliciting much passion among the Republicans. Ignoring his obvious problem with Christian bigots (hey, I’m an atheist bigot, I don’t have much use for wacky cults, even if they take over Utah) I don’t believe Romney catches on fire. I don’t think he has much charisma, except in an oily CEO/Head of Sales sense which might work for pragmatic Chamber of Commerce types, but which I doubt translates to the base. On the other hand, I think the Democrat generically inherits a lot of built-in warm-and-fuzziness, which not even Senator Clinton – in fact, giving credit where it’s due, it’s probably no longer to fair to imply that she’s a klutz on this level – which none of the top six or seven seem likely to squander.


I don’t feel quite as sanguine, when I consider Giuliani; but he’s got his own significant hurdles. I don’t believe its going to be easy to predict how he’s going to go over with the Republican base. My gut says not particularly well, but it, rightfully, doesn’t earn a salary.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

There are multiple, recursing levels of Heh! here

Pharyngula

Global Gloom

When did Michael Crichton jump the shark and become a propagandist for right-wing causes? (Yeah, I know it wasn't yesterday.)


In some of the most disturbing chapters, Lomborg recounts what leading climate figures have said about anyone who questions the orthodoxy, thus demonstrating the illiberal, antidemocratic tone of the current debate. Lomborg himself takes the larger view, explaining in detail why the tone of hysteria is inappropriate to addressing the problems we face.


I'm so glad people like Dr. Crichton and Bjørn Lomborg are here to help save me from the forces of illiberality, and the enemies of democracy.


I claim zero expertise on global warming, though today’s Science Saturday gives what seems to be a balanced discussion. Note the hysteria as the Evil MSM representative frames the journalistic state of affairs.


I haven't read the book. If Crichton was interested in engaing in the actual debate, he would have pitched his review differently, aiming his rhetoric at skeptics rather than ideological true-believers. As it is there's nothing here compelling enough to persuade somebody like me to read it.


The straw men whom Crichton and the "skeptics" he helps to enable take aim at have almost nothing to do with the actual debate that takes place in the public sphere, which, like every other public debate, suffers from cartoonish characterizations and exaggeration at the mass media level. When the so-called skeptics engage, only the basest, dumbest aspects of the pro- side of the debate are depicted with any accuracy. The rest, e.g. Gore's movie, is depicted with sneers and condescension, and almost never discussed on the merits. I've seen An Inconvenient Truth, and it's a polemic, unabashedly - there's nothing wrong with that. It build its case rationally, and makes points that are available for debate.

Friday, August 10, 2007

LGF Pronounces Judgment

In fact, I agree with him in regard to this. That is, I agree that Neil Clark is a jerk. But the irony of Charles Johnson accusing anybody of "unbelievable hate" is almost incomprehensible.

Is it my imagination or does Charles' vocabulary seem just a tad, er, shaded, by how he perceives the ideology of his target?

Friday Galactic Blogging


Speaking of face-on spirals, this is an absolutely gorgeous example.

Krauthammer Reverts to Type

The New Republic seems not to have understood how the Kuwait “detail” undermines everything.

I initially wrote the following as a comment on Bloggingheads.tv.

"Beauchamp might be a liar." This is a provable assertion. It is not equivalent to "Beauchamp is a liar," or to "Everything Beauchamp says is true," neither of which is supportable. After weeks of beating this topic to death, nothing anybody has said changes the truth value of any of those assertions. And yet the attacks on Beauchamp - and TNR, do a simple search with just the terms TNR and Beauchamp and see how many hits you get that lead directly to slams on TNR, (we're ignoring the fact that that attacks on Foer are prima facie attacks on TNR) - have asserted and continue to assert that the truth of what he says has been incontrovertibly settled.

Those who are invested in proving his veracity, or lack of same, have not made their case. Simple assertions, rumors, innuendo, bad feelings, suppositions, extrapolations, or yelling really loudly do not constitute a case.

As I've said elsewhere, I have no opinion about the truth of his claims. I do have an opinion about whether assertions about the truth of his claims are true.

And that's the bloody point. Just because something "seems" false doesn't make it so. He's presented his case. TNR say they've vetted it. The Army says the opposite. He definitely got at least one detail, the importance of which can be argued from now until kingdom come, wrong. That summarizes just about everything substantive here.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

89% - I don't think I'm a man-hater...

You Are 89% Feminist

You are a total feminist. This doesn't mean you're a man hater (in fact, you may be a man).
You just think that men and women should be treated equally. It's a simple idea but somehow complicated for the world to put into action.

Prepare To Believe

Murals and realistic scenery, computer-generated visual effects, over fifty exotic animals, life-sized people and dinosaur animatronics, and a special-effects theater complete with misty sea breezes and rumbling seats.

Those "life-sized people and dinosaur animatronics," by the way, are walking together, apparently some time in the last six thousand years or so. Aargh.

New York Times Blogger Solicits Ideas for Terror Attacks

Fox News


Isn’t this exactly the right approach? Create a public laboratory. The people inclined to attack us aren’t generically stupid, they are certainly brainstorming on their own. I say have contests, give people prizes for the best ideas, publish all of it. If we haven’t had the idea how can we guard against it? Of course there’s a risk that we’ll give an effective idea to someone. The converse risk, that someone will have an effective idea that we haven’t prepared for seems far graver.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Weekly Standard vs New Republic

The irony that The Weekly Standard, of all the publications on the planet, is making claims in judgment of the editorial integrity of any other publication, with the possible exception of the Weekly World News [RIP], is pretty rich. The second and third points of the Standard’s defense are pure smokescreen; and, the first point makes the explicit assumption that the result of an internal investigation of incidents with significant public relations implications for the body performing that investigation are dispositive. All three points lean on the dignity of the Army to shore up a weak argument.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Update from TNR

The Plank:

A STATEMENT ON SCOTT THOMAS BEAUCHAMP:

We've talked to military personnel directly involved in the events that Scott Thomas Beauchamp described, and they corroborated his account as detailed in our statement. When we called Army spokesman Major Steven F. Lamb and asked about an anonymously sourced allegation that Beauchamp had recanted his articles in a sworn statement, he told us, "I have no knowledge of that." He added, "If someone is speaking anonymously [to The Weekly Standard], they are on their own." When we pressed Lamb for details on the Army investigation, he told us, "We don't go into the details of how we conduct our investigations."

--The Editors


Weekly Standard Responds:

The editors of the New Republic have responded here. Three points:

(1) They neglected to report that the Army has concluded its investigation and found Beauchamp's stories to be false. As Major Lamb, the very officer they quote, has said in an authorized statement: "An investigation has been completed and the allegations made by PVT Beauchamp were found to be false. His platoon and company were interviewed and no one could substantiate the claims."

(2) Does the failure of the New Republic to report the Army's conclusions mean that the editors believe the Army investigators are wrong about Beauchamp?

(3) We have full confidence in our reporting that Pvt Beauchamp recanted under oath in the course of the investigation. Is the New Republic claiming that Pvt Beauchamp made no such admission to Army investigators? Is Beauchamp?


Beauchamp Redux

No reasonable person is claiming that Beauchamp’s claims are incontrovertibly true. If I were to try to characterize TNR’s point of view, I think it would be something like “It passed our process,” not “this is what we’re claiming is the truth.” The loud clamor, screaming “BEAUCHAMP IS A LIAR!” is based on what, exactly? The closest thing to a factual claim is today’s Weekly Standard Beauchamp Recants headline. Does anybody, besides ideological fellow-travelers take Bill Kristol’s paper seriously any more? The article cites an Army investigation. How did the investigators arrive at the point where the guy “recants?” Every assertion regarding the truth value of the bulk of Scott Beauchamp’s assertions is still suspect. I think Julian Sanchez’ point “Normally, the goal of fact checking is to catch errors, taking for granted that that the writer is not deliberately fabricating stories” is a good rebuttal to the swipes at TNR’s and Franklin Foer’s integrity by the likes of Ace and Malkin.


None of which is to say that Scott Beauchamp is not a liar. There isn’t any unambiguous evidence either way.

Libertarianism, the series

I find myself attracted to the idea of libertarianism. I’m also aware of how it conflicts with some of my other values. Most libertarians seem to be much more concerned with what look to me like “meta” issues, than I am. My concerns relate to what I see as providing the greatest degree of freedom to the greatest number of people.

This makes me a lefty, and most of what that implies. I care about keeping the state as far from private behavior as possible. But: “my right to swing my fist ends at the tip of your nose.” This is where things begin to get messy. Is the remedy for a violation of that principle another swung fist? I don’t think so. Then there’s the problem of the tragedy of the commons. State intervention is necessary to protect shared resources. It seems trivially proven that some degree of state regulation is necessary. So the argument is about what is regulated and how much so.


My argument is that blanket economic freedom does not lead to either the most absolute liberty (as if that sort of thing could be measured) or the most liberty for the greatest number.


To be continued…

Monday, August 6, 2007

My Favorite Things

Listening to Coltrane play this song when I was a kid (lying in bed at something like midnight, listening to the radio) marked the moment for me when straight-ahead jazz began to sound beautiful.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

How can this not

be a parody site?

Also via Pharyngula. I don't know how closely Brownback embraces this kind of support, but I'm hoping it helps explain why he's not in the top tier on the Republican side.

Update: I see that my questions have already been asked.

Update 2: Jeeze. The scarlet "A" design is right off of Dawkins' site, where I'm embarrassed to admit I'd already seen it. Slick.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Pope Benedict admits evidence for evolution

Via Pharyngula.

What does this do to the alliance between conservative Catholics and Evangelicals?

What I'm Reading

When I read Richard K. Morgan's Altered Carbon,I was pretty deeply impressed. I'm a sucker for noir atmosphere, which he quite successfully grafted onto a good, original cyberpunk tale. I wasn't quite as impressed by the follow-ups, but I certainly enjoyed them.

Thirteen continues the hard-boiled tradition established by the earlier novels, but creates a entirely new world, much nearer to the present. It's tightly, cleverly plotted, something at which Morgan excels. One of the pitfalls of genre fiction is that characters are often larger than life. In this case the plotting depends on that being true of the main character, and that's not much of a sin; but, there are far too many beautiful female cops for this guy to get involved with, and most of the female antagonists are preternaturally endowed, as well. I miss some of the atmosphere from the earlier novels, this doesn't feel quite as original; but, bottom line, I like it quite a bit.

Friday, August 3, 2007

O'Reilly and Dodd



Need I say I have no respect for you Mr. O'Reilly?

O'Reilly should be ridiculed at every opportunity.

Friday Galactic Blogging


A not-quite-face-on spiral with lots of visible structure. God, I love APOD.

Say it ain't so, Charles!

I tend to think Krauthammer is an opportunistic jerk with a nearly complete lack of intellectual honesty. But when he's right, he's right. He didn't even manage to blame liberals. Go figure.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

S-CHIP and Immigrants

K-Lo hyperventilates:

SCHIP

passed the House last night.

As a House aide points out, apparently the socialist temptation was too much this time for congressman to even read their interest groups' policy papers:

After Democrats repeatedly claimed that SCHIP does not go to illegals on the floor yesterday, it might be worth pointing that even big labor says they are wrong:


So, if I'm following this logic, if one immigrant gets medical care as a result of providing medical coverage to a greater number of American children, then we ought to be careful about the great evil we are about to perpetrate. Or... maybe we've found yet another partisan smokescreen intended short-circuit any sort of rational consideration of a policy decision. Sheesh.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Beauchamp and Standards

Hello. Welcome to my blog.

I've just spent a day or so debating blogger reaction to Scott Beauchamp's articles at The New Republic over at Asymmetrical Information. I thought I had something fairly simple to say: The right-wing reaction was cynical and didn't merit a response. None of the charges have seemed particularly answerable to me; just vague baloney intended to create a lot of heat and no light. Most of the responses seemed to miss my point entirely. I have no idea whether Beauchamp is a liar. I don't think there's any way to validate much of what he said. I summarized my point of view thus:

The significant point is that leveling ambiguous, vague, open-ended, or otherwise irresolvable questions does not constitute a serious attack, and doesn’t demand an answer.

This doesn't seem particularly radical to me. Yet, the general response seemed to be that Beauchamp, liar that he is, owed us all a proof of his claims. The only responsibility his accusers have is to "Call bullshit." There's no requirement that the accusations have any basis, or actually be answerable.