Friday, August 31, 2007
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.
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.
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
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
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
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.
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
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
John Cole weighs in and says some some things pretty plainly.
H/T Henry at Crooked Timber.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
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
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
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.)
Monday, August 20, 2007
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.
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.
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
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
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
Where do they find these people?
Friday, August 17, 2007
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
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)
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
Is it my imagination or does Charles' vocabulary seem just a tad, er, shaded, by how he perceives the ideology of his target?
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
|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.
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.
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
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
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."
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?
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.
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
Sunday, August 5, 2007
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
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
Thursday, August 2, 2007
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
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.