Tuesday, May 31, 2005

A Prediction for the Peanut Gallery

So. I wonder how many guys like this are rushing to correct their assertions that Deep Throat was a fictitious character?

Of course, that guy's actually fairly reasonable in his assertions--though nonetheless incorrect. Others maintained Deep Throat was just a hoax crafted by Woodward and Bernstein to hype All the President's Men. Or by their editor.

But what about all the folks who said Deep Throat was a lie conjured up by a liberal attack dog media to bring down a great President? I suspect silence from many, but some of them will probably just weave a richer conspiracy theory in order to carry on believing what they would really like to, regardless.

A brief dip into FreeRepublic.com today reveals that those folks seem willing to accept that Felt is Deep Throat, but they're also happy to deflect wrong-doing from Nixon to Felt:
IowaHawk: [T]he media will try and celebrate this man...and what he did...and we shouldn't allow that to happen.

There was a serious crime committed here....the FBI or people in the FBI brought down a sitting President.

No one should skate and get a free pass on this one. . . .

Dog: Yes, Felt illegally leaked confidential FBI files, authorized illegal FBI raids, and has now been tied to Ellsberg's leaking of the Pentagon Papers, peripherally.

...If the FBI was behind Ellsberg's leaking of the Pentagon Papers, then we have ourselves a criminal enterprise posing as lawmen.
Breaking into Watergate to capture a Presidential election, though, presumedly was not a criminal enterprise.

Relevant as Ever

There is a grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved. --Charles Darwin, The Origin of the Species
As Dr. Charles F. Urbanowicz notes, a reference to God was only added later and, as Martin Gardner points out "to conciliate angry clerics."

Therefore, creationists and theistic evolutionists who attempt to enlist Darwin's support these days need to do their research properly and alter their arguments, so they're not misleading folks unfamiliar with Darwin. Here's a creationist who gets it.

Oh, and Darwin's so-called deathbed conversion? Urban legend.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Two Words

Boo-hoo Dick.

Are you, like me, overdosing on all this mock outrage? Just the other day, a blast of untempered hypocrisy Bush administration almost caused a rift in the time-space continuum when they criticized Newsweek for damaging US interests overseas by disseminating inaccurate information and endangering lives on foreign soil. (The late night comedians made good use of that one, as you can imagine.)

And now Cheney's offended by Amnesty International? Right, Dick. 'Cos there's little or no proof of any U.S.-lead human right violations at Gitmo and elsewhere is there?

Of Amnesty International, Cheney says, "I frankly just don't take them seriously." Doubtless, neither will millions of loyal Cheney acolytes take the allegations seriously now. The Veep has given them permission to dismiss the world's most esteemed human rights organization and lump them together with all the other commie causes out to keep America from maintaining its (her?) rightful place in the world.

The hits just keep on comin'!

Friday, May 27, 2005

You're Free to Practice Whichever [State-Approved] Religion You Like

Many conservatives scoff when the left complains about the wall between church and state eroding, but what are we to make of this Indiana judge, who has ordered a family not to share their "non-mainstream religious beliefs and rituals"--Wicca--with their own son?

Anyone on the right care to defend this? Any conservatives outraged by this activist judge? Hello? Can you hear me now? Hello?

(Via Andrew Sullivan.)

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Skyscraper 18

The new issue of Skyscraper hit stands recently and includes a couple of reviews by yours truly, one of Joseph Arthur's recent (and excellent) album Our Shadows Will Remain, and the other of the collection of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds videos. You can find it at your local Borders, Barnes & Noble and quite possibly at your local independent music store. I'm reviewing the new New Order and the Eels double album for the next ish. And maybe some additional disks. When I'm gonna find time to do that, I couldn't tell you! But I never miss a deadline. [Crosses fingers.]

Brothers Andrew and Peter Bottomley publish the mag quarterly, and they're always great to work with.

Relatively Speaking

Free from the Teaching Company until July 31st, download two lectures by Professor Richard Wolfson of Middlebury College in honor of Albert Einstein's 100th Anniversary: Einstein's Miraculous Year and Relativity in a Nutshell.

I recently purchased a series of lectures by Barbara King of William and Mary from the Teaching Company and was really impressed with their quality. For ages I thought the Teaching Company was some sort of scammy online degree sort of outfit, but then they sent me a free CD in the mail with a couple of lectures on it, and I found them so enjoyable, I sprang for professor King's lectures on biological anthropology from an evolutionary perspective. Fascinating stuff.

Monday, May 23, 2005

MAD World

Recently, I wrote about the rather frightening future possibility nuclear weapons disrupting society as we know it. Once I had submitted the post, I thought about it a little more, and I thought about how difficult it is to write about this problem without sounding like a kook. Complain too loudly about nuclear proliferation and some folks look at you with the same look that they reserve for conspiracy theorists and new-age gurus. I think nuclear proliferation is a legitimate and large concern, however, and, more importantly I think it's an entirely reasonable concern.

So, too, apparently does Robert McNamara--yes, that Robert McNamara. He's written the cover article for the latest issue of Foreign Policy and here's what he concludes:
We are at a critical moment in human history—perhaps not as dramatic as that of the Cuban Missile Crisis, but a moment no less crucial. Neither the Bush administration, the congress, the American people, nor the people of other nations have debated the merits of alternative, long-range nuclear weapons policies for their countries or the world. They have not examined the military utility of the weapons; the risk of inadvertent or accidental use; the moral and legal considerations relating to the use or threat of use of the weapons; or the impact of current policies on proliferation. Such debates are long overdue. If they are held, I believe they will conclude, as have I and an increasing number of senior military leaders, politicians, and civilian security experts: We must move promptly toward the elimination—or near elimination—of all nuclear weapons. For many, there is a strong temptation to cling to the strategies of the past 40 years. But to do so would be a serious mistake leading to unacceptable risks for all nations.
Sobering, huh? Reasonable? Absolutely.

He also quotes William Perry, who shares a similarly depressing view of the near future:
[J]ust last summer, at a meeting of the National Academy of Sciences, former Secretary of Defense William J. Perry said, “I have never been more fearful of a nuclear detonation than now.… There is a greater than 50 percent probability of a nuclear strike on U.S. targets within a decade.” I share his fears.
Me too. One of the shameless fallacies this administration has peddled for a while now is that Bush and company have been successful in preventing a terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11. What they neglect to point out is that almost decade passed between the first failed attempt on the the World Trade Center and the second horrifyingly successful attack on them. These large-scale terrorists attacks take time to plan and execute, and everyone in the administration has to know that just because there hasn't been an attack since 9/11 most certainly doesn't mean there isn't go to be another one.

Some of them don't mind using the absence of attacks--explicable in many different ways--for political gain. They're like the guy standing in the middle of his suburban living room with a can of anti-elephant spray. "It works, see. No elephants."

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Cross with the Kids

Ideally, the physics of record reviewing are as elegant as actual physics, with each piece speaking to the essence of its subject as deliberately and as appropriately as a real-world force reacting to an action. --actual quote from Pitchforkmedia.com.
As any music lover and regular reader of Pitchforkmedia knows, the kids over there can be relentlessly pretentious and self-absorbed. So it's refreshing to read David Cross taking 'em down a notch or two, especially considering they all but invited him to do so.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Thoughts from a Founding Father

History I believe furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance, of which their political as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purpose.

I never told my religion, nor scrutinized that of another. I never attempted to make a convert, nor wished to change another's creed. I have judged others' religions by their lives, for it is from our lives and not our words that our religions must be read.

Shake off all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are serviley crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God, because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blind faith.

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between church and State.

[N]o man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship ministry or shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but all men shall be free to profess and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise ... affect their civil capacities.

I consider the government of the United States as interdicted by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercises.

I am for freedom of religion and against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another.

No religious reading, instruction or exercise, shall be prescribed or practiced [in the elementary schools] inconsistent with the tenets of any religious sect or denomination.

- Thomas Jefferson here and here. And there's a whole lot more where those came from. (First quote via Iddybud)
That was a founding father. The religious (far) right talks about maintaining the philosophies of the founding fathers. Clearly, what they want to do is reverse the intentions of this particular founding father.

Can you imagine a modern-day politician reflecting Jefferson's thoughts in public today? We've grown in economically, technologically, militarily--but is it possible we're back-sliding intellectually?

On the whole, I suspect--or hope--not. I suspect a greater percentage of Americans may appreciate what Jefferson had to say on these matters. Perhaps the religious right has only grown more fervent in recent years in reaction to the overall growing secularization of the United States they see taking place around them. One can only hope. Of course, we've also seen that growing enlightenment and secularization in other parts of the world have been met with fundamentalist intolerance and, inevitably, violence. Let's hope that pattern isn't repeated here.

Arguably, it already has. Consider Eric Rudolph, who bombed an Birmingham abortion clinic and was protected by the people of Andrews, North Carolina, for nigh a decade after. It's not difficult at all to find folks sympathetic to him, though he fits the very definition of a terrorist. But how often have you seen him described that way?

As our nation becomes increasingly secular, do we have more and more violence to look forward to--violence curling up and striking from within our borders, in addition to violence from abroad?

Fire & Ice

I once read a rather depressing explanation for why we may not have heard from alien species already: the theory is that alien peoples may evolve to a point that they discover the power of the atom, then they somehow end up eradicating themselves before they can be discovered by other sentient beings. One would hope that some order of beings would escape such a horrific cycle. So perhaps this is a theory best embraced by only the least hopeful among us. (I should also note there also many other good reasons that we may not have heard from other sentient beings in the universe, chief of those being the distance involved and the eons it would take for any signals to reach us.)

But what are we to think? Nuclear weapons are still proliferating around the world. As technology evolves, it may be easily to replicate smaller, more efficient nuclear weapons. Is it too hard to imagine that the world might reach a point of secularization that pushes a religious minority into a corner (from their perspective), so that the only way they see to retaliate is by splitting a few atoms in significant locales across the planet? If you know much about nuclear winter at all, you know that you don't have to blow up the whole planet in order to destroy most of sentient life.

What a sad and terrible ending that'd be for this peculiar pocket of consciousness in the universe.

(I could say that I just need more coffee and I wouldn't have such a negative view of the future, but this is a theory I've been mulling over for a long time now. I used to have much more positive view of the future, something I thought of as "the inevitable democratization of human thought." I still hold out a little hope; I'm just afraid that such glorious ends may be interrupted by fiery, deadly means.)

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Defining Diplomacy Down

Definition of "diplomatic":
relating to or characteristic of diplomacy; "diplomatic immunity"; skilled in dealing with sensitive matters or people; able to take a broad view of negotiations between states
Anyone find room for John Bolton in there? Is this surreal or what? Is Bolton really the Bush administration's idea of a legitimate ambassador to the U.N.? Are they really that blind to his profound lack of sensitivity, sophistication and finesse? Is he really just the *perfect* and obvious ambassador to come out of the Bush administration, since he accurately mirrors that administration's attitudes and demeanor? The inevitable product of the administration's cowboy diplomacy? Or is this just the administration's way of giving the finger to the world? All of the above maybe?

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Future's So Bright

"Getting the government to change the way they kill people is difficult."

That's Douglas Carpenter, chief scientific officer at nanometals company Quantumsphere, explaining why the government has been slow to adopt the technology the military has been developing: nanoaluminium bullets. Apparently, these bullets would kills more quickly and would cost less. In other words, Kevin Walter, VP of technical business development at Nanoscale Technologies, can't resist saying, "You get a little better bang for your buck."

And Andy Oppenheimer of Jane's tells us that nanotechnology will help folks create smaller nukes with smaller detonators. They're small they "blur the line with conventional weapons." "(The bombs) could blow open everything that is in place for arms control," he says. "Everything gets more dangerous."

What's the bet they invent the mininuke well before they perfect the nanobots which will course through your body cleaning the plaque from your arteries. You know, technology which saves lives instead of destroying them.

Oh yeah, and Korea may have weapons-grade plutonium for five or six nukes.

Ah, the future's so bright, I gotta wear shades.

(Via Charlotte's Creative Loafing May 11-17, 2005, p. 21 and News of the Weird)

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Elite Libs for Bolton

Larry David may have a second career ahead of him as a political satirist. His post on Arianna Huffington's new MegaBlog is easily the most entertaining thing I've read there.

David explains why he supports John Bolton's nomination as ambassador to the U.N.:
I know this may not sound politically correct, but as someone who has abused and tormented employees and underlings for years, I am dismayed by all of this yammering directed at John Bolton. Let's face it, the people who are screaming the loudest at Bolton have never been a boss and have no idea what it’s like to deal with nitwits as dumb as themselves all day long.
Personally, I think sending Bolton to the United Nations is like nominating Jerry Falwell to the board of GLAAD. An affront to the very institution. It's not like there aren't hundreds of of conservatives better qualified to reprsent the U.S. at the U.N. I'm not suggesting Bush should've nominated a liberal. It's the particular and peculiar selection of Bolton that speaks to the arrogance of this administration.

The Huffington Post comes off a bit like Boing Boing gone mostly political. Lots of posts in a single day, most of them by celebrities who don't seem to have a whole lot to say. And as others have noticed, the vast majority of the contributors--and the appears to be dozens of them--appear to be men. Hopefully, Ms. Huffington will do something to remedy that soon.