Friday, April 27, 2007


A map depicting the connected nodes of the Internet
We say that inseparable quantum interconnectedness of the whole universe is the fundamental reality, and that relatively independent behaving parts are merely particular and contingent forms within this whole.
- David Bohm
The cover article of this week's Economist "When Everything Connects" concerns the coming wireless revolution, and how not just our phones and computers connect, but how everything will soon be connected - our fridges, our cars, our toaster, our fire alarms ... paint, that can of baked beans in the back of your cupboard - everything.

The thing I hope this connectivity helps us to realize is - everything already is and always has been connected. (Without waxing too pretentious, that's the loose excuse of a theme for this blog: hitched to everything.) If we're lucky, if we don't stay blind to the fact, maybe these technological advances can serve as visible metaphors for the fact that everything in the universe acts and interacts with every other thing. Furthermore, the differences we perceive among ourselves are astonishingly superficial, when you remember that we're all composed of the swarming collection of atoms, that each of our bodies contains atoms from an extraordinarily array of objects, creatures and people, which preceded us.

Some people worry that science is sapping our lives of mystery, and that only religion can offer us meaning, prevent us from all flying apart at the seams morally and devolving into savages. Nonsense. The truth is, understanding the nature of the universe, our connectivity within that universe, and the presumed rarity of consciousness within it should only help us better understand our need to get along, to overlook our trivial differences.

Because here is what we know: we each are all minuscule portions of the universe, asleep for eons, now awakened, consciousness. We are the universe considering itself.

When you understand that, how can fail to find life and consciousness especially precious - in whatever its form?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Putting the "White" in White House

White House circa 1828

In this damning New Republic article, Johann Hari details how a rather fringe-ish British historian earned a three-hour meeting with George Bush (I can't bring myself to place the elevating title in front of his name these days). Couldn't hurt that Andrew Roberts considers W a Churchill for the 21st century, but that's among the least disturbing of his beliefs.

Here's a quick bulleting of Roberts' beliefs and actions as detailed in the article:
  • Regularly describes the British empire as "glorious"
  • Spoke to the Springbok Club in 2001, a South African group, which still flies the flag of apartheid South Africa at its meetings and extols "the re-establishment of civilized European rule throughout the African continent."
  • Direct quote: "Just as we do not today differentiate between the Roman Republic and the imperial period of the Julio-Claudians when we think of the Roman Empire, so in the future no one will bother to make a distinction between the British Empire-led and the American Republic-led periods of English-speaking dominance."
  • Defends various and sundry massacres for their settling effects
  • "[H]e has advised Bush to adopt 'the whole idea of mass internment,' saying: 'I think it is the way the administration of Iraq should go.' At his lunch with Bush, according to economist Irwin Stelzer, who was present, Roberts cited Ireland as a place where internment worked."
  • Defends British concentration camps used in the Boer War
  • "He counsels that 'there can be no greater test of statesmanship than sticking to unpopular but correct policies.' The real threat isn't abroad, but at home, among domestic critics. Roberts writes, 'The greatest danger to [the British and, by extension, the American] continued imperium came not from declared enemies without, but rather from vociferous enemies within their own society.'"
  • Similarly, on Vietnam, he writes: "Some of the media was indeed a prime enemy of the conflict."
As Hari points out, Bush couldn't be getting more anachronistic advice:
Target civilians, introduce mass internment, don't worry about whether people hate you, bear down on dissent because it will sap the empire's willpower, ignore your critics because they're just jealous, and--above all--keep on fighting and you'll prevail.

It seems that Bush looks to historians as he looks to his advisers: to be told he's doing just fine. But to hear that message, he's had to scrape around for a fifth-rate Rudyard Kipling mocked by almost all serious historians and soaked in slaughter.
Roberts wrote TNR to rebut "Hari's despicable and cowardly attack," but if you read his letter, it seems he didn't have the heart (or ammunition) to respond most of what Hari actually had to say. And Hari takes the opportunity to write a pretty convincing, lengthy counter-rebuttal.

There's also some interesting debate in the comments about the validity or reductionism of employing terms like "racist," "white supremacist" or "imperialist ideology" when critiquing the likes of Roberts. Worth considering, for sure, but the term "imperialist" hardly seems a stretch when describing Roberts. Sounds like he'd embrace it. Kinda like cursing me with the term "humanist" or "liberal."

Sunday, April 22, 2007


Those who profess to favor freedom, yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.

- Frederick Douglass, American Abolitionist, Letter to an associate, 1849 (Via Pharyngula)

Monday, April 16, 2007

Birds of a Feather

An interesting facet of this whole Don Imus affair: how come so many conservatives have rushed to the defense of the ostensibly liberal shock jock? Do any of these conservative pundits realize how tranparent their selective defense of racist folks has become?

Then there's the bizarre conspiracy theory floating around conservative circles. To wit: liberals only ganged up to have Imus fired, so that action could set a precedent to fire conservative pundits in the future. Imus as sacrificial lamb.

Let's assume this vast left-wing conspiracy exists then. Do conservatives really have good reason to be distraught should any of the following high-profile pundits get similarly axed or uninvited to the popular pundit panels they currently infest?
Anne Coulter: "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity." And let's not forget the recent John Edwards remark. Among a gazillion such remarks.

Rush Limbaugh: "[S]ince Obama has -- on his mother's side -- forebears of his mother had slaves, could we not say that if Obama wins the Democratic nomination and then wins the presidency, he will own Al Sharpton?"

Bill O'Reilly: "[M]any of the poor in New Orleans" did not evacuate the city before Hurricane Katrina because "[t]hey were drug-addicted" and "weren't going to get turned off from their source. ... They were thugs."
That transparency thing. I just don't get it. How do they not see their defense of such malignancy for what it is? It's pathological.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

RIP Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut in an ad for the ACLU


The New York Times once called him "the laughing prophet of doom." Kurt Vonnegut died today.

From his 1965 novel, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater:
“Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies — ‘God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.’”
From Rolling Stone magazine last year:
He has stalled finishing his highly anticipated novel If God Were Alive Today - or so he claims. "I've given up on it ... It won't happen. ... The Army kept me on because I could type, so I was typing other people's discharges and stuff. And my feeling was, 'Please, I've done everything I was supposed to do. Can I go home now?' That's what I feel right now. I've written books. Lots of them. Please, I've done everything I'm supposed to do. Can I go home now?"
So it goes.

More Vonnegut:

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Literary Twofer

Kramer & Rushdie

I was just standing in the Housing Works bookstore a few blocks away when I came across a paperback novel by Peter Kramer, the author of Listening to Prozac. I was flipping through Spectacular Happiness, wondering why I'd never heard of it, especially since it looks like it got some highly favorable reviews, when I came across the following inscription a few pages in:
For Salman Rushdie with admiration - Peter Kramer
I have no reason to believe the inscription is anything but authentic. The book was in perfect condition, clearly unread.

I paid $4.93 for it.

Should Mr. Kramer or Mr. Rushie ever peruse this post by way of an egosearch, my apologies for any discomfort it arouses. I'm sure Mr. Rushdie had every intention of reading said volume when he procured it.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Google Debuts Free Wireless

The rumors have been circulating for months; now, looks like it's true: From the fine folks at Google, everything you need to know to set up free wireless within your home. This is going to be huge. Look for Google to flush any and all competition.