Thursday, September 30, 2004

Undercut by Vile Registration

I just finished reading Lilek's latest and was preparing to add my two cents. James got his inspiration off of yet another columnist complaining about how he is a professional reporter and how bloggers are getting delusions of grandeur on taking the CBS memo debacle to ideas of replacing main stream media. I had read the article in queston, and found it to be full of the same elitism that has informed many other such articles. I was prepared to write a post about how the main stream media seems to be under the delusion that their readership is a mass of empty vessels waiting to be filled with knowledge.

Then, during the time I was reading the rest of Lilek's take on the whole blogger/main stream media boundary, the Star Tribune put the article behind a registration wall. So, F it all.

Continuing the Moratorium

In the spirit of my boycotting the conventions, I am considering not watching the debates. I am far from sure that anything resembling policy will be discussed. What we should see is a war of soundbites. I happened to be with my high school civics teacher/basketball coach during the Bentson/Quayle debate in which the infamous "You're no Jack Kennedy" line was delivered. Being a young and media besotted freshman at the time, I was impressed, but Coach wasn't. He pointed out that all that did was attack a straw man hastily constructed from Quayle's words. Anything that happens tonight is likely to be a battle of advertising mottos.

Of course, the likelihood of someone really falling on his face is tempting. Perhaps if I could find a drinking game listed on an unregistered site, I might tune in.

Barring any major miscues, here are my sight unseen predictions for after the debate:
1. The main stream media analysts will declare Senator Kerry the winner.
2. President Bush will get the bounce in the poll numbers.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Mt. St. Helens Rumbles

And you can be certain that someone in the Tin-Foil Hat Brigade is claiming that this alert has some suspicious timing behind it. First the crucial battleground state of Florida gets hit with hurricane after hurricane, now the democratic stalwart state of Washington gets its own natural disaster. Could it be that this is all some sinister plot to depress voter turnout in heavily Democratic areas?

If you think so, please read this post below.

I Need to Pay More Attention

I can't believe that the first of Scaled Composite's launches in quest of the Ansari X Prize went up and I didn't know about it. Despite some minor control problems (minor defined as a problem that didn't result in the spacecraft crashing), Space Ship 1 carried its load ten miles higher than was needed to qualify the flight.

For certain, I will be out there on October 4 for the the second launch.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Beyond the CAT Scan


An article in the British Medical Journal reveals a study in which dogs have proven effective at scenting cancer by-products in urine.

The connection of the ideas that cancerous cells have altered metabolisms, that those altered metabolisms would create chemicals that volatilize, and that they may volatilize in concentrations high enough to be detected by scent receptors that were formed under tens of thousand of years of evolutionary pressure is certainly enough to form a credible hypothesis. The difference between quack medicine and rigorous medicine is that rigor was added through the experiment just conducted, as opposed to going straight to marketing. I would look forward to further experiments.

I would ask, if anyone connected to the study is looking at this, that esophogial cancer be added to the list of likely candidates.

Class 1 Geek Reporting

Farm Accident Digest offers a Geek Test in which one is categorized by which item upsets you the most. I am solidly in the first group: Greedo shoots first. Han Solo is a man used to living in a criminal underworld. It is that type of sensibility that makes his evolution into a hero so much more impressive than Luke's.

Besides, when the guy holding a blaster on me says that he might not deliver me for the bounty because he would enjoy killing me himself, I'd take that as a green light to open fire.

They May Be Stoned, But They're No Slackers

Something to bear in mind about our databased age, when making cracks about a certain group of people make sure there isn't any data that can turn you into the butt of the joke. In the aftermath of a John Stewart appearance on the Bill O'Reilly's The O'Reilly Factor, Comedy Central did some research into the demographics of the two shows. It turns out that the viewers of The Daily Show with John Stewart are probably not the stoned slackers as O'Reilly characterized them. According to the research, the Daily Show audience has a higher rate of college education than O'Reilly's.

The CNN article did note, however:
Comedy Central had no statistics on how many people watch "The Daily Show" stoned.

I have sometimes wondered if being stoned helps in watching the news, regardless of the source.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Oh, Yeah!

via Samizdata.

Leave it to Richard Branson to be the first to be developing a civilian space flight business model. I am particularly interested in the idea that Scaled Composites will be developing a new model of Space Ship I. Sounds like time to get my face out at the Mojave Spaceport (I do love writing that) in case they decide they need a materials engineer.

Update to the Storage Locker

Evidently Senator Kerry was not the one made that particular answer to the questionaire interview with Outdoor Life Magazine. Supposedly it was his staff that had filled in the answers, and mistakenly said that the Senator owns an assault rifle.

I'm not really sure if it is better that it is the Kerry Campaign and not Senator Kerry himself who keeps inserting Vietnam into every answer where it is half-way plausible. I wonder just how much leadership is really going on in that camp.

Link via Instapundit.

Yet Another Instant Celebrity

Evidently the story about the speeder doing 205 m.p.h. on his motorcycle is getting a lot of attention among the knowledgeable of the motorcycle scene. The discussion is on as to whether he did hit that speed or if the officer in the helicopter hit the timer a touch early.

Either way, I have two predictions about the consequences of this event:

1. Samuel Tilley will be able to sell a couple of interviews and recover the cost of the ticket and the inevitably confiscated bike. As for the revoked liscence, he's out of luck.

2. The Minnesota State Patrol is going to make a fortune off of the fines collected from the various wannabes who will try to match the feat. I'd point out that the pretenders risk killing themselves, but for this type of dude, that is in the plus column rather than the minus in their figuring.

Friday, September 24, 2004

The Count is Now: 110

[To those of you following the Samizdata trackback, I offer profuse apologies on the rampant reposting. I thought it was a bad connection on my end not getting the pings through. My bad, sorry.]

Via Samizdata comes this piece of something from Dr. Christie Davies at The Social Affairs Unit Weblog entitled Why should children have to learn science? I once taught science on a substitute basis, and being one of the ones who "endured" the boredom of my science lessons to go on to earn an engineering degree, I found this article getting to my blood pressure. I thought about doing my first real fisking of an article on this, but it comes down to two or three big fallacies that need to be smacked down to completely unravel it.

A knowledge of science we are assured is essential for a proper understanding of the modern world. It is not. Very few English people whether adults or teenagers have any serious knowledge of the sciences but this does not hinder them in any way when it comes to earning, buying and selling, taking care of their children, playing elaborate games on their computers, tinkering with their car engines, giving up smoking or choosing between one fool and another at election time. It would not assist them in any way to understand the properties of silicon or carbon monoxide or lead tetra-ethyl or serotonin or the nature of thermodynamics or electro-magnetic fields, even though these underlie their activities.

Oh, where to begin? In this case, I will yield to a quote from a comment made by The Wobbly Guy at the post on Samizdata.

Science, as it is taught now all over the world, is not much better than religion. Students learn facts and concepts without any real inkling of the logical processes and principles that goes on behind the scenes.

That's not science education. That's theology which just happens to have 'Science' as the name of the religion taught.

The argument that science is taught as rote wisdom is accurate. It should not be as the central point of science is the method by which unknowns are converted into knowns. When there is a conflict between two ideas (memes to borrow from earlier posts) then a person well-trained in science would ask to see the data supporting each proposition. What if each side has data? Then the well-trained person would check the methods used to acquire the data. The data that have the more logical method of collection or the wider scope of analysis would then be picked, and by extention its conclusion, than the other set.

The idea that it would not help them to understand the porperties of carbon monoxide is utterly laughable when they want to protect their homes from it. Understanding thermodynamics let people see how pretentious it is when Creationists try to use the Second Law to prove that evolution could not have happened. Failure to understand the nature of electro-magnetic fields allows people to fall prey to panic over the emanations from their mobile phones or the power lines over their childrens's schools.

The danger of science-as-religion is that it empowers anyone who can say to be speaking with the authority of science with an unassailable perch to pontificate. Truly they would be the inerrant priesthood. A scientifically unaware populace would be prey for those from hawkers of unregulated miracle cures to environmental alarmists. The only answer to this is more education (of a better quality) rather than less.

On to another piece of something later in the post:

Faced with science even pupils who sparkle during History or English retreat into dull carelessness. A youngster may have something, if only an inane opinion, to contribute in these subjects but science is text book truth. Who can contradict the laws of motion or challenge the coloured beads that make up a molecule of glycol? Worse still there is the tedium of lab work with its twiddling of pipettes, peering down polarizing microscopes or at warped mirrors and dissecting of frogs.

Glancing past the bias shown in capitalizing History and English and not capitalizing science, allow me to add my anecdotal two cents worth by noting that I "retreat(ed) into dull carelessness" during English and was one of those who "sparkle(d)" in Science. History wasn't bad because I always enjoyed figuring out how the big systems worked. Simply because I found the rules of modern English grammar to be largely arbitrary and that an appreciation of Chaucer of Faulkner to be entirely useless, it does not follow that English should not be taught as a requirement.

When a student questions this or that fact in Science, a good teacher would explain the logic that leads to the fact and gently correct the student. This does require a teacher capable of teaching in that manner. In fact, the back-and-forth discourse that occurs between student and teacher within an effective science curriculum should be an analogy of the dialog that happens between the scientist and the object of his/her study. The lack of teachers who themselves understand science well enough to teach in this manner is a problem. Again, the solution is find more teachers, not put the ones we do have out of a job.

The dismal view of lab work taken by Dr. Davies is particularly disheartening. I might even speculate that he has had some particularly dismal laboratory and field trip experiences, but given the paucity of evidence, I shall not. The purpose of the lab work is to show that the answers to scientific questions are available to be found with nature, the world, the universe, as the source. Up to obvious limits, any student of science can satisfy him/herself of any of the lessons taught by carrying out experiments on their own. No absolute need to rely solely on authorities exists in science.

Teach students to speak the language of the scientific method, and they will be empowered far more than by anything else they are taught in school.

A Thought on the Campaign

From Andrew Sullivan's latest Sunday Times column is Sullivan's analysis of why the Kerry campaign is doing so poorly. One of the points is how Kerry voted for giving the president the authority to go into Iraq and then voted against the funding apporpriation.

One of the points some friends of mine make for their vote against Bush (not for Kerry) is how badly Bush has failed in Iraq post-hostilities. Granted, things could have gone very much better with much better planning. However, what plan the Bush administration did have would have been rendered virtually impossible if that appropriation had failed. Kerry loses a great deal of moral authority when he claims that Bush has failed when he cast his vote in a manner that would have guaranteed failure had his side prevailed.

It would have been far better for Senator Kerry if he had reversed his votes: Against the force authorization, For the reconstruction funds. That would flow seamlessly into a position of, "We should not have gone into Iraq in the first place, but we will do whatever it takes to win the peace." As it is, his voting record seems like a miniature of the apparent administration attitude of "Do what we want, damn the consequences."

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Thanks Guys

It may not seem like much, but thank you all for helping the site meter click over into four-digit territory. Thanks especially to Doc in the Box for throwing some attention over this way.

Family vs. Spousal Rights

It has been a while since the news carried the story of Terri Schiavo. The most recent development is that the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the law hurriedly past to prevent Terri's husband from removing her feeding tube was a violation of constitutionally serparated powers.

This is a tough case. It comes down, in my opinion, on who possesses the right to speak for Terri, her family or her husband. I, writing in a general all-other-things-being-equal sense, believe that the spouse's power to to speak for the person trumps the person's parents. It rests on the fact that one may choose, and choose to keep, a spouse, while one can not do so with one's family.

One of my questions that never seems to get answered in the Definition of Marriage debate is just what is the definition of marriage? To say that marriage is the union of one man and one woman is like leaving the definition of basketball as a game between two teams of five players. My argument comes back to the Schiavo case in that I define marriage as the granting of rights over oneself to another person in return for rights over that person. The fundamental right that the Schiavo case brings up is the right for the spouse to speak for the person when he/she can not do so for him/herself.

Injury, Meet Insult

As if the Gulf Coast hasn't been having a tough enough hurricane season, Ivan is back for an encore. To folks in Florida, good luck with Jean.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Self-Organization in the Blogosphere

The blogosphere is abuzz with a Newsday article by Danny Schechter. Jeff Goldstein gives the article a righteous and thorough fisking.

The part that has the blogosphere vibrating at an elevated pitch is the following:

The Republican National Committee operates its own 24/7 anti-news network to monitor coverage and orchestrate a rapid response. Salon reports that the story casting doubt on the documents was first pushed into the news stream by Creative Response Concepts, a Republican public relations firm. Then, selected bloggers went to work led by an Atlanta lawyer who helped get President Bill Clinton disbarred and was the first who called the memos fakes. His charges spread like a prairie fire through the rabid conservative grapevine and amen corner. The goal: Focus the media on Rather, not Bush. CBS initially stood by the documents, then hedged, saying that even if they were flawed, the story that Bush had disobeyed his commander's order to have a physical was accurate in essence. But it finally had to concede it was a mistake to run the story.

Never mind that Creative Responce Concepts apologized for making a press release that gave the impression that they ringmastered the blogosphere's response. The tone that comes across in this article is that the speed with which allegations came flying after the story was written is suspicious in and of itself and indicates that the forgeries are forgeries in a different sense. Yes, this is all a brilliant misdirection from the substance of the report by getting the story confused with the mere fact that the evidence is fake. Obviously this is the work of the ever ready Rebublican Counter-Attack Machine. This is all the result of a massive pre-arranged conspiracy of Rovian proportions.

Time to clear the undergrowth of conspiracies with Occam's Razor. A fast response like this has always been the norm in a broadcast medium. When you are broadcasting information of questionable provenance to millions of people, there are bound to be those who question it. This is even easier when a person can go to the broadcaster's website and view scanned representations of the evidence itself. It should come as no surprise that at least one person in all of the millions who saw the broadcast and who was one of the thousands then moved to examine the online documents would have the knowledge to create an observation that becomes the first meme supporting the idea that the documents might be false.

Previously, in olden times, that person would remain a lone voice in the wilderness. Very few people would ever hear the idea, probably just the originator's friends, family, and readers of his letter to the editor. These days, the orignator, let's call him Buckhead, can borrow the eyes of the readers of a blog through a posted comment and potentially have it read by thousands of people. Some of them might then look into the matter themselves (perhaps there are people among them with even more experience with publishing and typesetting from the era). Soon you have dozens of people communicating with one another, comparing notes, and publishing their results for thousands of other people to consider.

From both the original broadcast and the later blog examinations, there are thousands of chances to cross the information with a mind that is knowledgable on the topic. For analogy, why do high schools get grouped into athletic leagues by the population of their student bodies? The reason is that larger schools have a competitive advantage in that they have more chances at picking up outliers on the athletic ability bell curve. The blogosphere uses the internet's ability to rapidly disseminate a large amount of data and opinion. Not only does it give voice to the outliers, but the voice of the outlier can spark another outlier to advance the meme with more evidence. It also give the opportunity for another outlier to cut down the meme with contradictory evidence, but that's life in the blogosphere.

Not only are there bell-curves for various knowledges, there is a bell-curve for motivation. While some people may not have the knowledge to say, "That's not right," they may have the motivation to find out for themselves. Bloggers are biased in that direction since it takes a minimal amount of motivation to maintain a blog in the first place. Guys like Powerline, Allahpundit, and INDC, have been combing reports, googling like mad, and tracking down witnesses and experts on their amateurish own. The result is that a professional news agency has had to back down from their assertion in the face of the evidence amassed by a bunch of guys in their pajamas.

A person would have to be truly enamored with the idea that "central planning works best" to honestly believe that there has to be a conspiracy in all of this. What there is instead is a number of probablistic near certainties taking hold on their own. It would have been impossible to say just which elements would have started this deluge of refutation before the event. The probabilities only say that it is more likely to happen than not, no prediction can be made as to who particularly it would be.

One last thing, much has been made about Buckhead being an Atlanta lawyer who was instrumental in getting former-president Clinton disbarred. While his motivations can raise questions about the validity of his assertions, they do not answer those questions. Intellectual honesty would dictate that if you doubt the truthfulness of a source due to his motivation, then you fact check his ass, not discard the informatin at first glance. Mr. MacDougald probably decided to be sceptical of the memos cited as proof as soon as they were made known. He put out his observation into the public forum, where others picked up on it and ran with it. His allegation was found to be credible, despite his bias for President Bush.

And wasn't investigating the story with a sceptical eye supposed to be CBS's job?

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Not a Good Stretch for Intelligence Anywhere

Before the latest hot topic (I prefer the tag Danron to the cliched Memogate) hit the blogosphere, the cause du jour was the intelligence failures that occured pre 9/11 and pre Iraq. Normally I'd cut the intelligence service some slack, its a hell of a job and they can't hold up the majority of their successes for applause. Recently, however, I have to agree that changes need to be made. Of couse, asking for more efficiency in a government organization is like asking for the moon.

While the government intelligence services have seriously underperformed, the public sector intelligence services have recieved quite the black eye recently as well. Public Sector Intelligence Services? What are they? They are the other set of alphabet soup that we all live with: ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, FOX, ESPN (great source if you are focused on that one region), etc. They are the intelligence services for the public at large. That they can do their jobs really, really well is without question. I always found it funny in Tom Clancy novels how the CIA would always have TV's tuned to CNN. In a democracy like ours, (Republic, I know, please cut me some rhetorical slack) the delivery of information to the people is a critical need. The decision makers must be informed.

New Meat for the Storage Locker

Candidate interviews from Outdoor Life Magazine. This for a discussion that its the Republicans who harp on Kerry constantly bringing up his Viet Nam service when Kerry himself supposedly doesn't.

OL: Are you a gun owner? If so, what is your favorite gun?

Bush: Yes. My favorite gun is a Weatherby, Athena 20-gauge (over/under).

Kerry: My favorite gun is the M-16 that saved my life and that of my crew in Vietnam. I don’t own one of those now, but one of my reminders of my service is a Communist Chinese assault rifle.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Yet Another Reason I Ain't a Republican

We have Jimmy Swaggart (via the Volokh Conspiracy) saying this:

I'm trying to find the correct name for it . . . this utter absolute, asinine, idiotic stupidity of men marrying men. . . . I've never seen a man in my life I wanted to marry. And I'm gonna be blunt and plain; if one ever looks at me like that, I'm gonna kill him and tell God he died.

Much as I would like Muslims to denounce terrorist attacks, I would like Christians to denounce this stupidity. I think that everyone can agree that Swaggart is promising a violation of a more fundamental rule than what he proposes punishing.

And, as my fried Drew says, "If I were homosexual, I might take that as a challenge."

Meme Proliferation, Pt. 3

And now onto the Political biome of the meme ecosphere. Optimally, one would believe that the Political environment would be much like the Scientific environment except for the variability in definition of "best adapted". The scientific influence would be shown in the requirement that all theories, points of view, and forecasts will be contiguous with all other memes, if not across the entire political scene, then at least within one's own philosophy. Remember that memes that create a niche for other memes are actually the evidence that supports a conclusion.

In a political campaign, the goal is to create the strongest meme in the field. Come Election Day, will the "President Bush" meme be stronger than the "President Kerry" meme? A meme can not be strengthened in and of itself, however. In order to make a meme a better option is to lift it up with other memes. "President Bush" has a very strong supporting meme with "War on Terror", while "President Kerry" has been relying very much on "War Hero".

If a meme can build up, it can certainly tear down. The "War on Terror" meme "President Bush" rests upon is most definitely vulnerable to "Botched Iraq Reconstruction". The "War Hero" meme has taken a great many hits from the memes that have been bundled under "Swift Boat Vets".

Much as an african dung beetle would be out of luck if elephants died off, a meme that has lost its supporting memes is due for extinction. This follows quickly in the scientific setting, less quickly in the political. We are currently seeing a wonderful example of that concept with the CBS memos. Dan Rather made a report on 60 Minutes with an alegation (new meme) that President Bush had disobeyed orders while in the Texas Air National Guard but was not called on it due to political influence. Essentially new memes "History of Political Favoritism" and "Failure to Complete Duty" were spawned that attacked the "Fit for Presidency" meme under "President Bush". A supporting meme, "Memos from Personal File of Commanding Officer" was presented to back up the assertions. Without the "Memos" meme, the two assertions would be disconnected from any support, and should die.

In science, that is what would happen. In politics, there can be those who try to hold fast. The New York Times headline about the memos being "Fake, but Accurate" shows that attitude nicely. Dan Rather's assertion that the story should be about President Bush's service is entirely missing the point. In order to bring as much evidence against as Rather has for, all the President has to say is "I did complete my National Guard service." That has already happened. That is the same amount because the memos have not been shown to be reliably true, indeed they have been shown to be almost certainly false.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Here's an Opportunity

This story regarding the awarding of John Kerry's medals is an opportunity for people to make a decision as to the credibility of the military's decision making in the Viet Nam era. Either the military is credible with respect to deciding whether standards have been met, or the military is not a credible authority for determining the truth of events. If one chooses the first option, then the matters regarding Viet Nam military service are closed: Senator Kerry deserved the medals he was awarded and President Bush had fulfilled his obligations in the Texas Air National Guard. If the second option appeals, then further investigation is meritted: President Bush needs to prove that he performed as required in the Air National Guard and Senator Kerry needs to answer the charges leveled by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth rather than merely cast aspersions as to their partisan intentions.

As with any other choice, this says more about the chooser than the objects of the coice. What is not a proper response is to say that one can separate the two and's in order to mix and match.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Meme Proliferation, Pt. 2

I was going to start right in on Political memes here, but Sean brought me back to what inspired this essay, his own post about memes. The particular idea sprang from an old post from The Truth Laid Bear that used the novel Kaleidoscope Century by John Barnes. The novel conflates the ideas of memes with computer viruses, another great biological analogy, to create the idea of people falling prey to and acting out on rogue ideas.

TLB had idea that I'm going to run with: Who's to say that this isn't happening already? While I haven't lost all hope in human free-will, ideas have lead to more war than the fights over dirt. ("That dirt should be mine" being a meme itself is a little too circular for this stage of the discussion.) How many people have died from malignant applications of the memes "Christianity", "Racial Superiority", and most recently "Wahabbi Islam"? Most of the damage done by rogue memes has happened well before computers came along.

The difference that computers are making is that memes can travel farther, faster. In the end, I believe the net impact as a result of computers to be positive. With the internet, memes are able to reach virtually all over the world. While at first blush this would mean that a wider net can be cast to catch fertile minds for both positive and negative memes, the final result is that there are no longer isolated pockets where a malignant meme can cultivate itself without having to fight more peaceful, and in my view more successful at improving the host's life, memes. "The War on Terror" meme may be successful at heaping negative outcomes upon the "Jihad" meme, but it will be the "Individual Liberty" and "Tolerance" memes abilities to deliver happier lives that will ultimately be the means to "Victory".

Sidebar: From the first paragraph, note how we can trace a path of the meme "Computer Virus/Meme" from John Barnes, to The Truth Laid Bear, To Doc in the Box, to Game the World, and ultimately, you. That the spread is very much like how an epidemiologist would chart the spread of a disease is the heart of the meme anaology. Starting from the novel's author (and there's no telling where he got the idea from or what idea he mutated to come up with the new one) it has traveled through several generations to end up nestled in your brain. That is what you get for looking at this used brain hanky I call a weblog.

Update: I forgot to mention that I also believe that the memes that fall under the genus "Partisan Rhetoric" can potentially explode into truly virulent strains. Hearing stories of peoples homes and cars being vandalized for displaying pro-Bush signs or stickers is very disturbing. I absolutely believe that if Bush wins in November, or even looks to be taking a commanding lead prior to the election, someone will experience a mutation of the "Bush=Hitler" meme and will attempt to carry it to a fatal conclusion.

They Got Some Respect Back

The newspaper El Pais of Spain has apologized for the e-mail advertisement that sparked this response from me. I will give credit where credit is due, so the editors of El Pais can at least acknowledge that they made a mistake.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Meme Proliferation. Pt I

Often times analogies create insights into processes that could not have been realized without the new vocabulary of the analogy. The analogy of idea-as-gene, meme, has proven very useful in studying how ideas start, survive and spread.

A meme starts when a new idea is created, whether by hybridization of multiple other memes or a singular recasting/mutation of an older concept is unimportant. That meme must then compete for resources and a niche. The resource that is most valuble for a meme is processing time in peoples's minds. The niche is a place among other memes in which the new meme is not in conflict/contradiction.

Once a meme has the resource of a person's attention, it will eventually die out unless it can gain other peoples's attentions. Memes therefore spread via human channels of communication: the spoken word, writing, television, and, most recently, the blogosphere. In fact, all of these examples and the minds that create and consume them, can be described in the analogy as an ecosystem. And, like organisms in an ecosystem, each meme must compete for attention with all other memes currently present.

Within ecosystems there are biomes, regions in which conditions are disimilar enough to create different survival criteria. Whereas genes have to compete in biomes such as forest, oceanic, arctic, etc., memes also have different regions of operation. At one end of the scale is Entertainment. In this arena, memes that provide the most intellectual or sensory fulfillment are selected. Currently, the memes "Jessica Simpson", "The Sopranos", and "Reality TV" are hot, while "Disco", "MC Hammer", and "Sit-Com" are either dead or not doing well. Some memes have found stable niches that allow for a long life, ie "Wayne Newton playing in Vegas". Others have managed to adapt along with a changing environment to become endemic: "Madonna".

At the other end of the spectrum is Science. Here, only ideas that can be logically deduced from previously established memes and/or new data can survive. When two ideas come into conflict, other memes, aka data or evidence, are brought in to discern which creates a more homogeneous whole. In some cases one idea, "Static Universe", is completely undone by data, "Celestial Objects Move Faster Away From the Earth in Direct Relation to Their Distance From the Earth", that support other memes, "Expanding Universe".

Another difference between Entertainment and Science memes is that Science memes are said to be discovered, while Entertainment memes have at least some intentional component to them. Gravity existed long before the meme "Gravity" existed, and "Gravity" is still changing as more information from experiments and new theories are developed. In entertainment, intentionaly cultivation of memes is possible and often desirable. Once "Nirvana" was discovered, it wasn't long until "Pearl Jam" was created. Also, once a meme is discredited/destroyed in the Science biome it is almost assuredly gone for good, while comebacks/reinfections are not uncommon in Entertainment.

In the next part of this post, I'll discuss memes in the Political biome.

'Cause Everyone Needs a Good Battle Cry

What Is Your Battle Cry?

Skulking out of the mountains, cutting down all who dare stand in the way using a thorned whip, cometh Ted! And he gives a spectacular howl:

"In the name of malice, man, that's some good coffee!!!"

Find out!
Enter username:
Are you a girl, or a guy ?

created by beatings : powered by monkeys

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

The Count is Now: 100

Some things make me angry, other things just make me sick. Say what you will about 9-11 being politicized, but at least most thinking people could agree that it is not fit fodder for advertising. That the add implies that what happened that day was a good thing is what really has turned my stomach.

This is wrong, just fucking wrong.

(Link via Vodka Pundit)

(The origin of The Count can be found here.)

Update: Sometimes serendipity just happens. I am currently reading The Substance of Style by Virginia Postrel. In chapter 3, in which she analyzes the debate over the value of design, she relates the experiences of a designer aquaintance on 9-11:

When terrorists slammed two passenger jets into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, Michael Beirut had his own moment of Nazis-to-Pepsi self-doubt. He was in London and returned home to Manhattan a jew days after the attack. "As a designer," he wrote me, "I am still reeling from the images of 9/11." The act had been horrifying, but the images it created could not have been better designed: "The timing of the collisions, the angle of the second plane, the colors of the explosions, the slow-motion collapsing of the towers: could the terrorists ever dream how mightmarishly vivid this would be to the vast viewing audience?"


He knew better. The destruction of the World Trade Center was not a carefully composed movie scene, designed to arouse pity and terror within the safe frame of fiction. It was the all-too-real murder of thousands. It was entirely substance.

That is why I find the advertisement so repugnant. It had stripped the meaning of the attacks down to the mere destruction of two buildings, and that those buildings were only symbols of American Corporatism. From the distance that those skyline pictures were taken, it would be impossible to see people. Yet even in the second photo, one must remember that each of those buildings contain hundreds to thousands of people each. Taking away the loss of all of those who died that day and seeing only the capitalist symbols being removed is nothing less than vile.

The War on Pretense

I have never really been hot about campaign finance reform. The fundamental problem is that money is an effective way to get the attention of elected representatives. I still have faith that the media will do its job well enough to nail any politician that was out-and-out selling his votes. In fact, I'm all for any type of legislation that would make it easier for the media to do its job.

That is why I have come to loathe the McCain-Feingold Act. That bill took the easy road of hitting the clearly visible numbers of soft money. In order to keep some amount of free speech alive, the bill created a loop hole, the 527's. The "limitation" that was laid on these organizations is that they have no communication with any official campaign apparatus. Communication is where the pretense occurs. At what point does communication occur? I could describe it as the transmission of information with the intent, in this case, of guiding future action. Picking up a phone, sitting around a table, e-mail, even dropping a brown paper wrapped package in a particular trashcan are obviously communication. But what if it is just a couple of old friends running into each other at the ole waterin' hole? Or even more obliquely, one campaign staffer talking a little too loudly in a restaurant to another with a 527 employee "accidently" in hearing range. The scare quotes are the essence of pretense.

So how does one fight pretense? McCain-Feingold itself was an attempt at stamping out pretense. Recall in the old days that one was limited to how much could be given directly to a candidate, but donations to the party were unlimited, on the pretense that said money would not be specifically directed to the candidate. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink. There are two options: try harder, or change tack. Trying harder would be new legislation to get rid of the 527 loophole. Changing tack would be to regard the whole idea of getting money out of politics a dream worthy of the greatest of optimists.

My choice: scrap the effort. Much as a black market will exist for virtually any contraband, their will be money in politics as long as politicians need money. Also, I judge what a person does with his wealth to be a fundamental aspect of liberty. A person who wishes to get involved in the political process via their money is no more noble or ignoble than the volunteer who gets involved via their time. Lets make the whole process transparent. If someone makes a donation, receipts have to be kept. If they don't, then it would be a relatively easy dig, relative to today's nightmare, for a professional reporter to show that the numbers don't add up and to ask some pertinant questions.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

A Line Has to Be Drawn

Via Instapundit is calling a new ad by MoveOn PAC grossly misleading. I haven't seen it, but the text offered on the Factcheck site has MoveOn making the argument that terrorists can kill hundreds of people with them. The implication is that the ban on assault weapons is keeping them out of the hands of terrorists.

Funny, but I don't recall laws against hijacking planes preventing terrorists from using three of them to kill thousands of people.

My Personal, Whacked-Out Memo Theory

It shall be discovered that the "memos" did come from a staffer, perhaps oppo researcher, on the Kerry campaign. The "memos" were only good enough to sneak past the overly credulous Dan Rather and his producer at CBS, yet not good enough to withstand even cursory examination by those with minimal knowledge of the subject but no emotional connection to the material. The source of the "memos" will be a Democratic die-hard, but not for Kerry. While this person will go down claiming all the while that they were only trying to get Bush, the truth is that the unknown staffer will have other hidden loyalties.

There is no way that the Bush campaign is responsible for this mess. The spin would have to go exactly their way. If the "memos" were left unchallenged, it would have made Bush seem even more like a diletente. If the forgeries were too quickly traced to the staffer (and you can bet that someone in the Kerry campaign is asking who the hell released these things) and then to the plot master, then the mainstream media would be on them like a great white on a hooked tuna.

My belief, it that the unknown leaker is a hard core democrat. That is, the hard core that gets the tingles with the thought, "Hillary '08".

Salt is available next to the lime and tequila for the necessary grains.

Of Course He Did

Virginia Postrel continues the discussion of the both-sides-simultaneously-true nature of the Texas Air National Guard service of George W. Bush: The memos are fake and Bush got special treatment to get into the Guard. As Dynamist reader James Ingram wrote to Virginia:

The dirty little secret here that no-one is discussing is that in 1968 nobody got in the National Guard without "special treatment." The connections necessary were not necessarily the high-powered kind that GWB could bring to bear.


But nobody who was of draft age during this period believes you could go down to your local recruiting office and join the Guard. Its a LOL idea.

My not being so much as an idea until after my dad got home from Viet Nam disqualifies me from saying directly that everyone knew that getting into the Guard or Reserves was synonymous with special treatment. I will take it as given that everyone aware in that era knew that for the purposes of this post.

So everyone knew. Everyone, including Dan Rather. Any piece of investigative journalism has to start with a gut feeling that there is a story there prior to finding the proof. For a story about W. getting special treatment into the Guard, that starting point is a no-brainer. The difficult part was that tangible proof was not found until the "memos" showed. They must have seemed to be too-good-to-check. However, if the use of favoritism to enter the Guard was so pervasive, then it would have been dog bites man and not worth a CYA memo.

The Most Wrong of Messages

Via Andrew Sullivan:

Newsweek reports on the growing rebel movements in Iraq. From where I sit, it would seem that the recent upsurge seems to be following 1) the negotiated cease fire with al Sadr and 2) recent capitulations to hostage takers. Please recall that the Falluja seige started once an arrest warrant for murder was issued for al Sadr and that it ended with a negotiated settlement that essentially said, "Never mind."

The situation in Iraq is missing the mark in one very important area: Violence must not be the most effective, or at all effective, manner in which objectives are accomplished. The provisional government, and its American allies, has to ensure the monopoly on violence. That was the way that Hussein ensured his rule, and now the new government has to prove that it has it and is much, much more benevolent with it.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Add Metaphors and Puree for One Minute

Via Glenn Reynold's longish post discussing yet another victory for the blogosphere over main stream media, I had the pleasure to read this post from Transterrestrial Musings by Rand Sandberg carving Tim Rutten of the Los Angeles Times a new one. (Said article being unavailable at the time of posting.)

Mr. Sandberg uses an old joke about sculpture to draw a parallel to reporting:

So a story has to be reduced to what the reporter considers to be its essential elements. Like the old joke about the sculptor, he takes the body of available facts, and cuts away everything that doesn't look like an elephant. But that's the key; the sculptor is carving an elephant--a decision usually made before chisel is taken in hand. It may be that the rock from which he's knocking off the non-pachydermic chips wasn't simply a rectangular block--it perhaps naturally started out with a resemblance to an elephant, but that doesn't mean that he couldn't have hacked out a hippo instead.

There is a metaphor that I have used in the past, and it too relies on a story about an elephant. It is the old fable about the blind men who were laying hands upon an elephant for the first time. When asked to identify what they were touching, each man reported very different things depending on where with respect to the elephant they stood. The man at the trunk said it was a snake, a second at an ear said a blanket, a third at a leg said a tree trunk.

When it comes to big issues, I don't believe that anyone person, no matter how skilled of a reporter he may be, is much better off than the blind men. There is simply too much to see. Bloggers are individually even more like the blind men, but with one critical difference. The old fable indicated that the blind men never spoke with one another. They never compared notes or even seemed to realize that they were talking about the same thing. Blogging is nothing but communication.

One of the angles of the "memo" story is that people were making credible assertions as to the falsity of the memos so shortly after the airing of the broadcast. The old media of television certainly got the job done right in getting the information out to the world. What was different in this blogosphere age is that the people who would have spotted the forgery even in the old days no longer have to get past the gatekeepers of old media to spread their arguments. The real value of the blogosphere is not that it gives better answers, but that it asks better questions.

Umm, Guys...

Nuclear weapons do change things. CNN is carrying a report on a mushroom cloud spotted over North Korea. Supposedly the blast on September 9 was a huge use of conventional explosives as opposed to an above ground nuclear test. The invitation of the British ambassador to the site and the lack of any announced evidence via sattelite do make the explanation of demolition a mountain for a hydroelectric plant.

This being the election cycle, a few obligatory quotes as to how this shows the difference between the candidates are inevitable. From those quotes, I provide you with this howler from former Secretary of State and current Kerry adviser Madeline Albright.

"They get the wrong message out of Iraq. You know, we invade countries that don't have nuclear weapons and we don't invade those that do,"

Hmm, does that mean that North Korea has access to weapons that could be used as a military deterrent? Does that mean that if we attacked North Korea they could use one bomb and kill as many soldiers in two or three milliseconds as have died over the past 18 months in Iraq? Or perhaps they would take out the millions of people living in Seoul?

Tactically speaking, Korean nukes would be much more effective than nukes in Iraq. North Korea is very mountainous and large numbers of the United States armored forces would have to be concentrated at mountain passes and railheads, whereas the flat desert terrain in Iraq was a tanker's dream.

I just find it curious that the people who complain about Bush not following through with his convictions of forcibly removing threats to the US are the same ones who accuse him of lacking "nuance". This time here, it is more of the right tool for the right job. In this case, diplomacy is the best though not necesarily good choice. At least we don't have Madeline Albright leading the talks.

Why Not Both?

Virginia Postrel has an Exchange with a Democratic Friend at her site. It caught my eye because my main interest in the campaigns is watching how the arguments are carried out. I'm trying to figure out the rules by which both sides are playing. For this election cycle, the rules seem to have less coherence than those for Calvinball.

Anyway, back to Virginia's dialogue, she mentions, regarding the T.A.N.G. "memo":

I think the memos are big fakes. I also think that Bush got special treatment, probably without anyone having to ask for it. Given his family's connections and the way Texas operates like a small town, people would have looked out for him.

To which the unnamed Democratic staffer friend replied:

I think you're right on - the memos are Big Fakes AND Bush is a Child of Privilege. We have such a hard time accepting the Certsian Philosophy. Yes, it's a breath mint, and yes, it's a candy mint. It's two, two, two mints in one. Much of life is Certsian, but we so love our fights that we'll gin them up if we have to. It's a candy mint, damnit!

I am composing this post at 12:40 in the morning, so I have cut myself some slack for thinking, "I've never heard of a philosopher by the name of Certs." I do, however, vaguely recall those commercials, but even then never understood that there was an argument going on. Applied to politics, I can see the view being that refutation of one point of information for a conclusion does not automatically mean that the conclusion is false. I doubt anyone can challenge the idea that George W.'s life was much better for being George W. than if he wasn't. Much like John Kerry's life is probably better with Teresa than without, at least financially.

Nowadays it seems that the only background one should not be able to rise above and become president is to be born affluent and to have parents who can go above and beyond what most people can do for their children. Then again, Marion Barry got to be mayor of Washington DC again, so what say a little of that forgiveness gets passed to the other side of the aisle?

P.S. Could anyone tell me why the word "two" was said three times in that Certs commercial? I just finished reading The Da Vinci Code and my mind has been doing symbolic cartwheels since. Or it could just be that a mind with insomnia is a terrible thing to let blog.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Nothing is Sacred

Having been blogging for less than a year, this is the first 9-11 that I have had the opportunity to blog my recollections.

I live on the west coast. Those who know where Palmdale is know that its about 90 miles from any beach, but still comfortably in the Pacific Time Zone. On that morning, I had just woken up and turned on the radio to KLOS out of Los Angeles for their Mark & Brian radio show. They're normally a pair of funny guys, but their tones that morning got my heart racing before I even comprehended exactly what they were talking about. By that point, both towers had been hit and collapsed, the Pentagon was confirmed as a part of the same attack, and it was not yet established that the crash of flight 93 was also part of it. I went through a few of my morning routines on auto-pilot and went to my parents's house since I didn't have a working TV. It took me about half an hour before I had what could be described as a coherent thought, and it was, "Someone is going to pay for this, and I hope to God that its the right people."

So far, the right people are paying. The Taliban has been busted back down to be a warband again, and no direct sign of Osama bin Ladin has been proven for years.

And now for current events. We have the first presidential election since the 21st Century's first day of infamy. The charge has been made that the Republicans have politicized 9-11. While I do feel that that day was something transcendant that threw the boundaries of humanity and inhumanity into stark focus, it can not be escaped that in that time we looked to our leaders for guidance. Anything that the President does is political in that it will impact whether he or his party hold onto the office come the next election. To say that the president can not hold up his actions on that day as a political plus for himself is like saying that the class valedictorian should not brag about his SAT scores.

It is also fair for the opposition to point out where the presidents actions on that day and the days following were not up to snuff. The Seven Minutes are a legitimate point if one would have preferred the president to be standing over a telephone looking concerned rather than not spooking a bunch of elementary schoolers. But then the point that it is better to stand over a phone looking concerned is better has to stand up to the idea that if the President had to make decisions for things to happen that far down on the chain of command then things are really FUBAR. Rudy Giuliani has my respect and the respect of many of my friends from that part of the country for his handling of the crisis. The important point is that he did so on the city level, asking for state and federal assistance where he recognized that his own resources might be insufficient. Where some people might see that President Bush did not do enough, I see that the federal system of emergency responses worked well.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Base Politics

Andrew Sullivan brings up my main problem with Bush by looking at an article about the libertarian think tank, Cato Institute. Essentially the problem lies with the idea that Bush is not conservative, particularly with respect to Bush's fiscal policies. I ended voting for Harry Brown in 2000 precisely because the hairs on the back of my neck stood up whenever the words "compassionate conservative" were voiced. From what I have seen, Compassionate Conservatism involves mandating that everyone shall be compassionate through government taxation.

It is entirely too late for Bush to try to change his record over the past four years. That is the burden of incumbency. Kerry on the other hand can try to reshape his position. Downside, he's gone to that well so often that it is probably dry by now. The Democratic base has been as disheartened by Kerry's cut to the center on the War in Iraq (He would have used force, even knowing what we know now) as the small government portion of the Republican base by Bush's spending. I know, Congress decides what gets spent where, but 1) Congress has been Republican for a while now, and if the team is not performing, its the manager who gets canned, and 2) the pen used to veto a bill can't be that much heavier than the signature pen.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

The Horizon of Events Pt. 2

Some other thoughts came to me regarding the post below that I needed to add on to it.

It is very comforting to think that someone is in control of the greater forces that run rough shod over our lives. For the longest time, God was the heavy that filled in those blanks. It was during the Enlightenment when a number of geniuses (defined by Dilbert creator Scott Adams as mutants whose ideas, thanks to the printing press, stuck around long enough to raise the bar for the rest of us idiots) gave us the idea that God was not necesary and that our existences could be traced to impersonal forces and laws.

It was difficult for many people to come to grips with the idea that no one had his hands on the reins. When the car was invented, the mental image became worse, because at least the horse had a brain of its own.

If a problem has a human face, like your boss or some other brigand, it was thought that it would be amenable to human correction. That it why in the past two hundred years or so more attention has been paid to government as a way to step where God seems to have out for coffee.

There is a fundamental problem with government acting like God, there is never a smart mutant around when you need one. You end up with yet another idiot trying to keep all of the other idiots in line. It has been found that you can mitigate the problems created by the idiots in charge by putting many idiots together and make them agree on their idiocy in advance of any action.

The previous post comes into play in that economic effects of government actions happen well after your designated idiot representative has to be held accountable. The short run is that the idiot responsible for the way things are is probably long gone, especially if you consider term-limits. Some might claim that this would be a fundamental failure of democracy, and that some other sort of dictatorship would be preferable. The problem with that idea is that it solves the accountability problem by getting rid of the accountability.

Their are two ways that might get us around this problem. One, give the President terms of ten years. I know of no one who could physically survive that long, and by the time re election comes around, everyone would want a new face to look at. The better solution would be to realize that we have yet to hit the point of diminishing returns by way of reducing the role of government in the economy. Give the power to the people, and we will dig our way out of the mess on our own, thank you very much.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

The Horizon of Events

I started reading this article in The New York Times Magazine via Virgina Postrel's comments about the political power of the president to create jobs. Namely, there isn't any. Any politican that claims that his policies had created jobs or his opposition had lost jobs is as correct as the rooster taking credit for the sunrise.

At the end of the first page, Roger Lowenstein, the author of the piece, makes the following point:

Another problem is that, assuming Washington does have some influence, attributing it to the appropriate officeholder is next to impossible. The labor market does not correspond to neat, quadrennial cycles, and the notion that the Bush team, which took office when the economy was already cooling, precipitated a decline in the job market that began 10 weeks later is simply implausible. Governmental decisions have a long half-life. The balanced budget achieved by Clinton in 1998 owed much to the 1990 budget agreement forged by the first President Bush, who had been kicked out of office as a failure. If you want to blame the current president for a recession, argues Jeffrey Frankel, a Harvard economist, blame him for the next recession, because the Bush deficits will seriously narrow the options available to whoever is unlucky enough to be presiding then.

Any good that a politician's policies might create will not be visible, will not cross the horizon, until well after he is out of office. Ditto for an opponent looking for mud. The poitical horizon, defined by the next election when the politico is called to task, is much shorter than the economic horizon in which it can truly be judged whether said politico was effective. Sad but true.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Anyone Remember Winston Churchill?

Back shortly after Germany was defeated in WWII, Winston Churchill went down in the greatest electoral defeat ever for a sitting Prime Minister. The lesson, a war leader is a person who guides his people through the hardest of times only to be seen as an unpleasant reminder of hard times after the crisis is over. So for anybody making accusations of "conveniet timing", would it not make a helluva lot more sense for Bush to continue sitting on Usama until after the election?

I'd certainly bet that more than the current lead of voters for Bush would head straight to John "Return to Normalcy" Kerry. Kind of like giving your Cy Young Award pitcher his walking papers. Thanks, kid, have a rest.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Forget the polls...

Let's talk about the ratings. From Pejmanesque:

Nearly 28 million Americans -- more than a quarter of them watching cable's Fox News Channel alone -- tuned in to see Bush accept his nomination for a second term at the climax of the Republican National Convention on Thursday, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Bush's national TV audience topped Kerry's speech at the Democratic convention in July by just over 3 million viewers, among those watching Big Three commercial networks ABC, CBS and NBC and the three leading cable news outlets -- Fox, CNN and MSNBC.

-Reuters, 9/3/04

Granted, those who tuned in are more likely those who wanted to hear what the President had to say, and are therefore more of the base than undecided. However it is telling that Bush is a bigger draw than Kerry. Incumbency has its advantages. This is bad news for Kerry unless, A) more Democrats gathered together to watch his speech, or B) the destroy-your-TV demographic is truly huge.

In the Colloquial

At is an article describing some of the fun being had in the EU over trying to run a government that encompasses several distinct languages. I think it was Mark Twain who said, "Nothing separates two people more than a common language." In this case, it is the informal and ironic uses of terms that sometimes cause misunderstandings.

Not that the US isn't guilty of this. I'm sure that a Brit or someone with english as a second language might get snagged by the way the phrase "With all due respect..." gets used. That's because there is the parenthetical aside (due being somehere between scant and none) that gets omitted between that phrase and the criticism that follows.

Link via Pejamnesque

Friday, September 03, 2004

Early Polls

Via Instapundit comes a Time Magazine poll showing the President opening a double digit lead. I managed to avoid the majority of Bush's speech last night, and it may what is keeping me on my "None of the Above" course.

The view from the cheap seats is showing me something that may be driving the numbers. I know others have made this statement, but there definitely seems to be a Beer Factor involved. I don't mean that the more beer you drink, the better Bush looks. I mean that Bush comes across as someone most people would enjoy sitting with on the back porch while knocking back a couple of brews.

Watching the trends in numbers, it strikes me that Bush and Kerry get opposite results with face time on TV. Bush's numbers go up, while Kerry's go down.

Best Wishes to Ex-Pres

Bill Clinton has been hospitalized and will undergo a quadruple bypass this coming tuesday. (Evidently he can't get cardiac surgeons to work Labor Day.) I know that if it was me or one of my loved ones facing this, I would be beside myself, so my best wishes are going to Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea.

In recognition of the sobriety of this event, I shall not write out the various conspiritorial ideas my cynical mind are churning out. Its the least I cold do.

Thursday, September 02, 2004


One of the folks watching the President's speech in the next room made the point, "What right do we have to go into another country and dictate how they live?"

I responded, "Isn't the whole point of the war on terror so that others don't do that for us?"

Hit and Run Convention Coverage

I haven't broken my vow to not watch any convention coverage. I just came back inside from smoking a cigar and the TV is on Bush's speach. Just in time for the first of two hecklers to be hustled out of the Garden. The first thing that came to mind was, "Tacky". Unless I start seeing those who oppose Bush denouncing this type of behavior, I really have to think that they approve of trying to disrupt the speach of those with whom they disagree.

Now just who is bucking for the epithet "Fascist"?

Also from the other room with the TV, I heard the President quote a letter from a soldier in Iraq. The soldier said that he is proud to be helping to heal a sick country. Iraq was sick from the Baathist poison that ruled it. It was sick because America gave the Baathist the weapons to do that back in the '80s. In addition to the idea that W. Bush's war in Iraq is the same war as Bush Sr.'s because Hussein violated the terms of the cease fire treaty, I believe that the blood and the treasure that we are spending now is our penance for that decision made by the Reagan Administration. This cost is still less than what it would have been if we did nothing to check Iran, but still the piper must be paid.

That's What I've Been Saying

This article by Leon de Winter of the Hudson Institute expresses very well my understanding of why the Muslim Street hates us: we give lie to the idea that God rewards the faithful and punishes the unbeliever. We are unfaithful, yet have virtually all of the material wealth of the world. Therefore, we must be in league with the Devil. They don't call the US the Great Satan for nothing.

Bringing in the War in Iraq on this point, it was said that Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein would never have worked together, despite the neocon arguments about them linking up to stage a WMD strike against the US. I would like to point out that the US allied with the USSR to defeat Hitler. If we could work with Stalin, I don't think that it is too much of a stretch to think that bin Ladin and Hussein could put aside their differences temporalily. Heck, they could even do what we did which was take out the common enemy, then proceed to oppose one another at every turn.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Questions About the RNC

Thus far I have kept to my pledge to avoid actually watching any of the live coverage of the conventions. I have been following the discussions and read a couple of transcripts. This has left me with a couple of questions.

1. The rhetorical style used by Arnold Schwartzenegger was very similar to that used, most famously, by Jeff "... You Might Be a Redneck" Foxworthy. Is it really wise to reinforce the old parallel between Rednecks and Republicans? Of course, I'd dare anyone to call Ahnold a redneck.

2. There has been some talk about Bush receiving a pre-convention bounce. I am not so certain that the bounce has to do with the convention than with world events. The War on Terror is Bush's strong hand. If anything were to remind people of the presence of terrorism, would it not rebound to Bush's advantage? I'm speaking of the latest Chechen offensives (and I do mean "offensive" in both senses). I think that the people of the US, despite the image created by Peace Protesters, do understand that terrorism anywhere is wrong, whether or not it hits at the US and its interests directly.

Protesting: A Resurgence of the Great American Pastime

At this rate, Peace Protesting is going to have as much about peace as Islam. I could see developing a tactical simulation wargame in which a player deploys units of peace protestors and police. It probably wouldn't work because one would have to have a clearly defined objective in order for the protestors to "win".

From what I have seen from the other coast, most of the protesters seem to be acting from a desire for attention and self expression rather than any attempt to sway those who are less fervent than themselves. These Narcissists for a Better World try to change other's opinion through derision and volume. That both of these methods serve only to cause others to dig in their heels and refuse to change is outside of their process.

And yes, I do understand the oxymoron of a peace protest wargame. I wonder if the Narcissists for a Better World understand the oxymoron of what they do.