My New Apartment
I was going to blog on the CIA, but I couldn’t find the research materials I need, so y’all (all 0 of you) are going to listen to me wax enthusiastic about my new apartment instead.
My old apartment was cheap for the West Side and nice in some ways. I liked my roommates, and I liked the area. But there were three major problems with it. The first problem was that someone lived in my living room (thus the cheap rent). The second problem was that my window faced Santa Monica blvd and a parking lot. More than six dump trucks would go by in a single day, The third problem was that my apartment would be upwards of 20 degrees hotter than the outside in the summer.
My new apartment is like a dream come true in comparison. It’s cool, almost the exact same temperature as the outside. I face the complex and not the street so the noise level is far lower. I have a beautiful living room, stairs, room for furniture and a door from my room to a balcony. Life is good.
Even my morning run is a little better now. I can easily make it to the beach. I don’t have to run down as many painful hills, but get just about the same uphill.
I have filled my living room with books. This is very satisfying especially in comparison with filling my bedroom with books. Simple things can be great.
1: “Bob” by the way if you are still scanning my website looking for material to use in ad-hominem attacks, I’ll give you some. I’m a very angry person when something wakes me up in the middle of the night, and have occasionally said unkind things. Please use that to your heart’s content.
Some of the most brilliant lines
I have ever read, written by a self-hating journalist:
"Bushisms," those much-discussed cultural artifacts that demonstrate the apparent stupidity of our poorly spoken president, really are pretty revealing. But criticism of them is likely to backfire horribly. A couple of examples will illustrate.
You said the same thing about the RNC and protests -- and your predictions bore out. Your true colors are coming out of those dowdy unkempt historian's clothes; I believe I detect the bright glow of a journalist or political public relations consultant shining through.
Just so you know, I would like to say: Congratulations Chris! First the LA Times, then the Washington Post, and then, Pinky, THE WORLD (also known as the New York Times).
I suspect this will be the first of many such stories:
Having read Michelle Malkin's book, parents are trooping down to their local school board
to demand that the history curriculum be changed.
A must-read essay
from Purdue historian Robert May.
"It really doesn't matter because art isn't political."
I don't think he meant it, but you can't blame me for chuckling.
Headline in Newsday
: "GOP: Protests are Kerry's Fault."
As predicted, the Republican maneuver is: Kerry (equals) unhinged, radical protests.
rnc v nyc
Protests have begun in New York. Proving my earlier fears
wholly unwarranted, Bush opponents on the streets are carefully moderating their message
to avoid alienating the majority of voters.
Packing up everything I own to move to a new apartment!
ice cream, mandrake -- children's ice cream...
From those notorious America-hating lefties at the Hoover Institute, this image
of Japanese-American detainees neatly suggests the idiocy of the argument that wartime internment kept Japanese-American spies and saboteurs from supporting the war effort.
And then there are these
bob scares me
1.) Go to this post
at Eric Muller's website.
2.) Click on "comments."
3.) Try to form a mental image of "Bob."
one of many readers on monkeyrectum road, no doubt
Hopping from link to link, in the let's-find-an-alternative-to-really-studying hours, I find (and I'm probably last to this particular party) that more and more newspapers are requiring that you register before you can view stories on their websites: name, street address, city, zip code, date of birth, eye color, favorite dairy product...
And I have to wonder if there's a real live person out there who reviews the information that comes in through these registration forms, because I have never responded to a request for detailed personal information (from, like, the South Modesto Daily Banner
) with anything at all like even remotely serious information. And I can't imagine that anyone else has,either.
This evening, to read an op-ed piece in a newspaper I'll never visit again, I helpfully typed in my name, address, and DOB: Miss Sidewalk P. Dogcrap, 6 Monkeyrectum Road, Monkeyanus, Rhode Island, born April 1, 1904.
ever get real answers to these stoopid forms? Why on earth do they bother?
Malkin, and the Liberal Academy
Eric Muller and Michelle Malkin debated about Malkin's book again today. Unfortunately I don’t have a transcription of round two of the interview and didn’t listen to it. So I’ll refrain from picking a winner. What I do have is the notes of a blogger
, and one particular point bothered me:
Britt[Britt is one of the hosts], what about other, non-Japanese internees? That’s not taught in history.
Malkin. There was internment of 31,000 enemy aliens and their families, about one-half were of European descent. We don’t hear about that. We only hear that the Japanese suffered.
First off it’s important to remember that Germans and Italians were treated very differently from the Japanese. But what bothered me is that I don’t think the overall claim this is true, historians do talk about the internment of Germans and Italians. It may not be remembered
as well, but that’s not because it doesn’t make it into textbooks or lectures. For example I’m currently studying for my field exam. Along with reading monographs, I picked up a fairly well regarded textbook to help me keep the big picture in view. The textbook is A People & A Nation
compiled by seven historians (I won’t list them all here). I’m using the sixth edition, published in 2001. In the opening paragraph
on internment they say:
After Pearl Harbor, the government drew upon this authority [provided by the Alien Registration Act of 1940] to take into custody thousands of Germans, Italians, and other Europeans as suspected spies and potential traitors. During the war, the government interned 14,426 Europeans in Enemy Alien Camps. Fearing subversion from aliens born in enemy countries, the government also prohibited ten thousand Italian American from living or working in restricted zones along the California coast, including San Francisco and Monterey Bay.
Now, Malkin didn’t make the original claim that European internment is “not taught in history.” But she did agree. This also isn’t an exhaustive review of multiple textbooks, but I think the point is still valid. Historians haven’t been hiding this from the public.
The state of academia: a pair of professors fired
over their refusal to participate in a college's extraordinarily pathetic grade inflation scheme.
Die, college administrators, die
born in a log cabin
An interesting observation
about presidential myth-making and the persistent power of the story of humble origins.
sometimes i miss you
My alma matter
has a new president
. She makes me happy.
books, dvds, patio furniture, mushrooms, tin-plated hamster toes....
are a must-have. They're totally going on my wish list.
i know nothing
For those who are interested in the Muller/Malkin exchange, by the way, Malkin is also the author of a previous book
maybe this is why the campaign is all about vietnam
This analysis of polling numbers
is a must-read. Among the most striking points: "Younger voters 18 to 29, who have a weak track record of turning out to vote, favor Bush 56%- 44%"
A twelve-point lead among young voters!
Bush also leads among voters who are 30-49 years old, and among voters 65 and older.
So which demographic group supports Kerry? 50-64. The baby boomers are keeping Kerry alive.
Michelle Malkin and Eric Muller Live
Eric Muller and Michelle Malkin debated on public radio
today. All in all, there wasn’t much new substance to the debate beyond their online battles. Near as I can tell Muller won the debate, Malkin seems to continue to make the same errors of reasoning he has outlined before. In fact at times I was really struggling to see how her argument could be believed to really fit together.
After listening to her defense live, I’m kind of left wondering about her view on her own thesis. She never says that she doesn’t believe that internment was justified in her radio interview (and claims the opposite), but her repeated attempts to dodge the questions makes me wonder how much she really buys that. I’m puzzled as to whether she really wants to argue for internment or if she wants to argue that some measure of racial profiling was legitimate under the circumstances. Her book clearly makes the former claim, but she seems far more comfortable dealing with the latter.
Muller established three things he thinks her book would have to do to prove her thesis (and does not accomplish). I’d add a forth (before his fist):
0.5: Engage with the earlier arguments in good faith. Establish how they do deal, and would deal with the evidence you present as well as the additional kinds of evidence they have brought to bear on the question. Demonstrate the ways your interpretation of your evidence is better and either re-interpret, discredit, or disprove the continued relevance of their evidence. (note: ad-hominem attacks don’t count as accomplishing this goal).
Edit: I'm struggling for a phrase to capture her move away from defending internment, and dodge in retrospect seems a bit harsh. She simply moved away from vigorously
saying she though internment was correct, to saying there was some "military justification." I'm just not quite sure what she means.
I really think the moment where she seemed the most trapped was when "evacuation" was being discussed and Muller jumped on her for calling it voluntary. I think parts of her argument rely on playing fast and loose with definitions, and Muller caught her in the act. She really couldn't defend herself, even by using some quick thinking specious reasoning. Internment was NOT voluntary. Eviction was NOT voluntary.
Ask for advice, ask for trouble
An open letter to advice columnists
I first read you, Dear Abby, when I was a wee tot. Precocious me, however, I progressed to someone smarter: Marilyn vos Savant
. Sadly even her colossal IQ does not save her from choosing inane questions to answer, or help her compose articulate responses. What am I saying? I don't believe in IQ.
I moved past you, though, ma cherie. I avoided you, rather successfully dare I say, until ma classe de francais, l'annee dernier, in which I had to write an advice column. The problem I concocted was stupid (an older man who still needed to sleep with a stuffed animal).
A few days ago I was reading the January 2004 "Reader's Digest" (ahem... it's my roommates... I swear) when I came across this:
Q: My husband is patient, lovable and caring. He packs my lunch each day with a handwritten love note, changes the kitty litter, mows the lawn, etc. But he's a slob. When he packs my lunch, he uses a paper towel to wipe his hands, then wads it up and tosses it on the counter. It'll sit there forever. When he brushes his teeth, he spits all over the spigot. He loves to read the newspaper, but throws it on the couch and it lies there for a week. I'm no Suzie Homemaker, but I'm not his mother, either. How can I get him to clean up after himself?
A: Dear HELP!!!
You want help? Most women would love to have your husband. How about this? While hubby is packing your lunch, composing handwritten love notes, mowing the lawn and cleaning the litter box, why don't you pick up the newspapers, wipe the counters and then leave him a note telling him what a treasure he is. On behalf of women everywhere, embrace this man!
Two points: This was a totally dumb question for HELP!!! to write in with. Seriously, just imagine a women not able to figure this one out on her own, or decide it through her friends? My imagination can barely stretch that far, but it makes it. What confounds me (my imagination just isn't that malleable) is the stupid response. I get the feeling the advice giver must have been slighted recently by her leading man, and it has jaded her. Or maybe she was just in a hurry. I don't know.
But the title of "advice giver" was recently redeemed with The Ethicist
column in the NYT magazine. Chalk one up for tne for the good guys. The question chosen was interesting (and, for me and my brethren, relevant):
As a graduate student and course assistant, I was paid by the hour for tasks that included holding open office hours (when students could drop in to ask questions) and grading homework assignments. If no one showed up for office hours, I could still bill the time. Would it have been O.K. to ''double bill'' if I graded homework while waiting for students to arrive? Thinking not, I spent the time studying and graded the homework later so I could bill both sets of time. Did I have to engage in that odd delay? Anonymous, New York
and the answer -- logical -- and dare I say, I for once agree:
It is tempting to argue that if you can do two tasks simultaneously without diminishing your ability to do either, go to it. You were hired to be available to students; you were available to students. While awaiting their arrival, you were free to grade homework or knit a scarf to sell at the campus yarn shop or ride a stationary bike connected to a generator to produce electricity to sell back to the campus power grid. No good would have come from your simply staring into space.
But while this argument is seductive, it is pure sophistry. You may bill the university for two hours only if it consumes two hours of your time. Your waiting-and-grading session consumed only one. You may not bill the university for more hours than you actually work.
What you might have done is arrange to charge a flat fee for your work -- so much for holding office hours, so much for grading homework -- and if you could do both simultaneously (while making shoes), more power to you.
Did anyone else actually feel the universe move?
Internment and the Historical Memory of "Sawtelle Village"
Recently I was given an informative booklet from the “Westside Residents Association” apparently designed to get me involved with that group and its efforts to have my neighborhood’s name changed from the all to mundane “West L.A.” to its “historic” name “Sawtelle Village.” Here in mad mad Southern California there is a lot in a name, not the least of which is property value. One thing that struck me about the pamphlet was the way it portrayed the earlier village incarnation of my area as a peaceful idyllic, and multicultural community. In the pamphlet internment, is part of an interruption of the pastoral narrative that dominated “Sawtelle Village” history:
World War II brought tragic changed to this tranquil place. The internment of many Japanese broke up families and caused an enormous loss, both in material things and human dignity. Many people still remember having to put all their possessions out on the sidewalk, to be sold to whoever would take them.
Unfortunately all of Los Angeles, and California history was not as “tranquil” as one might hope. Indeed internment itself was in many ways continuous with the past. Some 1905 headlines from the San Francisco Chronicle read:
CRIME AND POVERTY GO HAND IN HAND WITH ASIATIC LABOR
JAPANESE A MENACE TO AMERICAN WOMEN
THE YELLOW PERIL—HOW JAPANESE CROWD OUT THE WHITE RACE
But, the pamphlet requires that a village moment before graffiti and freeways follow along with the name. So the history of conflict and violence is elided in the service of that goal.
At the same time I couldn’t help but be a bit touched by the pamphlet’s vision. Besides the unfortunate episode of World War II, the happy past it conjures pleads for a harmonious, multicultural future. A happy, festive, and accepting community does seem a good place to make my home.
And certainly a substantial part of the experiences of the people who resided here was about the tranquility of living everyday life. For all of our obsession with lived experience, historians can miss that truth.
But in the end, I want a more honest historical memory for my community. After all, how can we face the challenges of building a cooperative future if we don’t understand the real problems in our past?
1: Quoted in Roger Daniels Prisoners Without Trial
terminal vortex syndrome
On a television show yesterday, a Democratic strategist said
that George W. Bush "betrayed his country by not fighting in Vietnam."
We're circling the drain, folks.
those pie-in-the-sky academics
In the ongoing exchange
between journalist Michelle Malkin and law professor Eric Muller over Malkin's book
on the detention of Japanese-Americans during WWII, a funny theme keeps popping up: Muller is an academic, and can be trusted to have all the cultural habits of his kind.
When Muller criticized Malkin for her abbreviated research schedule, for example, both she and her supporters argued that she simply has greater work discipline; Muller, being an academic, lives in pointy-headed fantasy land, where no one notices if you're slow. As Malkin writes
, "Guess what? I had my second child while I was writing this book and the columns, and celebrated my 11th wedding anniversary, and baked cookies every now and then, and managed to go fishing every once in a while. Impossible? Not when you have made a living in daily journalism the past 12 years and are used to real-world deadlines."
So take a look at Eric Muller's webpage
at the University of North Carolina Law School. A few things to note about his past: he's a former federal prosecutor; a Yale law grad, and a law review editor in law school; a former clerk to a federal district court judge. He graduated law school in 1987, and published his first book in 2001. Now, as a pretty young guy -- get a load of that picture -- he holds an endowed chair.
Just a thought: think Eric Muller knows anything about meeting real-world deadlines?
Malibu, hold the Rum
I have not much to say ("I won't say much of anything at all") except that parking on the side of the road in Malibu at night is lush. It gets kicked up a notch with your car door open allowing a much neglected CD's music to reach its way to you, cut only by the swish of the ocean and of tires pummeling the road at your back, while a half-full moon glowing red on the horizon creeps lower, toward its own reflection, and a canopy of stars acts as awning (pin pricks showing the light of the heavens). Add a twist of a friend and you have something truly delectable.
A totally unrelated thing: An article on plagerism
in the NYT. Interesting excerpts below:
While 10 percent of college students admitted to Internet plagiarism in 1999, that number rose to around 40 percent in 2003, Donald L. McCabe, the founder of the Center for Academic Integrity (C.A.I.) at Duke University, said in a telephone interview.
Surprise: the prewritten paper, on the idea of the hero in ''Gatsby'' (''What is a hero?'' it begins, and later: ''Muscles do not make a hero''), coming in at a reasonable $35, was terrible. The sentences run on, as in this clunker: ''Moreover, the fortune that Gatsby did amount was gained through criminal activities as he had experienced the finer things in life and wished to have a better social position, again he knew that this could only be gained through the status of wealth, in this way Gatsby sought to win the heart of the woman he had fallen in love with, Daisy.'' Faux-elegant words like ''whilst'' butt up against the jarringly conversational: ''Then Nick the narrator discovers who he is bang goes his secret.'' Bang! The paper becomes increasingly sloppy, mimicking the writing patterns of a tired and confused freshman. Maybe this is the point.
Another surprise: the custom-written paper, delivered in three days for $180, a tenth of a community college's annual tuition or the weekend allowance of a wealthy Ivy Leaguer, was a decent piece of work. One passage that probably few undergraduates could dream up even on a good day, after a couple of writing workshops, reads: ''Those who go from rags to riches don't find nirvana or some special land where they are immediately happy, content and removed from earthly worries. They, like Gatsby, find that the reality is that the world is still ugly . . . and that money and power just allow one to ignore those dichotomies a little bit easier.''
Vietnam, Swift Boat Captains, Historical Memory, and the "Always Inflammatory" Chris Bray
and Chris Bray
have both been sidetracked into rehashing past debates
and current political lunacy about Vietnam. Indeed we have seen a lot of Vietnam in 2003 and 2004. From Iraq, to Bush in the Guard, to Kerry on his swift boat we keep circling like vultures around the same historical problem.
Neither Chris nor I remember Vietnam. Indeed it would seem Vietnam has been dead a long time. But its memory, or its “lessons” seem to continue to grip our understanding of the present. Indeed our current obsession with Vietnam is an excellent example of how our understanding of the past continues to form our understanding of the present. And how else could it be? Perhaps, then, it’s worth my thinking a little bit about what Vietnam might have meant.
It’s interesting that Vietnam gets remembered as America’s “only defeat.” The war was officially declared a victory. The larger struggle that Vietnam was a part of, the Cold War, ended with a decided victory for the forces of “capitalism.” While actual numbers are difficult to estimate, it’s pretty clear American soldiers managed to maintain a favorable “kill ratio” of enemy forces. In fact many historians now view Tet as a desperate and failed offensive that severely depleted North Vietnam’s dwindling army. While in the end the U.S. ceded the South to the North, in purely traditional strategic terms the war went well.
Compare that with the War of 1812. Generally during war when one’s capital is burned, as D.C. was during that conflict, it is a bad sign. America’s fighting force was inadequate to win victory in 1812, and America’s most significant victory came after
the peace treaty had already been signed. The treaty itself more or less returned things to their pre-war state (a major diplomatic victory when the war had been a nearly unmitigated failure). The War of 1812, while officially a victory, was in reality something of a mixed bag.
Vietnam yielded protests and mass internal distaste for the conflict. And so did the War of 1812. During the Hartford Convention Federalists in New England considered secession from the union, though ultimately their demands fell flat because of the signing of a peace treaty. While elite Federalists debating in New England may not conjure the same image as Hippies fighting a running battle with the police in Berkeley, the point was similar.
Yet the War of 1812 was remembered as a success (O say, can you see...). Vietnam was not. And herein lies the distinct difference. For those now and then who were anti-war and for those now and then who were pro-war the war was a defeat. The defeat, I think rests less on the overall strategy or the specifics of war and more on the memories of internal conflict at the time.
Defeats, particularly noble and humiliating defeats, can serve as powerful rallying cries. The Alamo for Texans, the Civil War for Southerners, World War I for the Nazis—defeats unite communities.
For pro-war Americans Vietnam was a defeat of the American will to fight. It demonstrates how a militarily winnable war can be undermined by those members of society who will not go along. Dissent and defeat come from within. The media, and the left are often portrayed as working in cahoots to systematically undermine America’s will to fight. And the lesson of the war is to not let them do that again.
For anti-war American Vietnam was a defeat of the American conscience. In their view the war was a war against impoverished civilians. It is symbolized by the images of crude huts being burned with napalm. And despite years of protest the war marched on until 1973, during which time America continued to senselessly murder. Paranoid conservatives and conformists stained the history of America. And the lesson of the war is to not let them do that again.
These thoughts are a little unsystematic. They have concluded with my impressions of the present. Still we somehow seem to eerily come back to Vietnam, and I think the memory of defeat goes some way in explaining that.
1: The Star Spangled Banner
was written during the War of 1812.
more on malkin
As Eugene Volokh notes
, there's an excellent Cathy Young column
in today's Boston Globe. Last paragraphs are especially good:
Ironically, the profiling measures Malkin advocates today, such as
selective monitoring of aliens and visitors from countries with terrorist links,
are moderate and fairly sensible. She is right that it's ludicrous to invoke
Japanese internment as a parallel. But surely, defending something as extreme as
mass internment can only undermine her case. The people Malkin dubs "profiling
alarmists" argue that if you accept any ethnic profiling, you're on a slippery
slope to defending internment camps. And Malkin does her best to prove it for
But this doesn't mean that Malkin's book -- the new featured selection of
the Conservative Book Club -- is harmless. Among the conservative faithful, it
is likely to promote anti-immigrant bias, contempt for civil liberties, and the
attitude that acknowledging the racism of our past is for namby-pamby liberals
or America-hating lefties.
And that's a shame. It was President Reagan, a great conservative, who
first authorized reparations for Japanese-American internees and issued an
apology for the injustice done to them. For conservatives to embrace Malkin's
extremism is a betrayal of his legacy.
and a question
If John Kerry believes that combat experience makes him uniquely qualified to serve as commander in chief -- and that Bush's lack of combat experience makes him less qualified to do the same -- then why did Kerry pick John Edwards as a running mate?
The September issue of Harper's
includes a column in which editor Lewis Lapham describes the speeches given at the Republican National Convention. The problem
: the September issue of Harper's is already printed and in the mail to subscribers, a week before the convention.
Moore, Malkin, and Vietnam (oh my!)
Thanks to David Neiwert for making this transcript available on his blog
. Michelle Malkin, author of In Defense of Internment
tries to pitch herself as an expert on Kerry’s service in Vietnam. She tries to make an outrageous accusation and then pretend it’s just a legitimate question, and she gets busted for it:
MALKIN: Well, yes. Why don't people ask him more specific questions about the shrapnel in his leg. They are legitimate questions about whether or not it was a self-inflicted wound.
MATTHEWS: What do you mean by self-inflicted? Are you saying he shot himself on purpose? Is that what you're saying?
MALKIN: Did you read the book...
MATTHEWS: I'm asking a simple question. Are you saying that he shot himself on purpose.
MALKIN: I'm saying some of these soldiers...
MATTHEWS: And I'm asking [the] question.
MALKIN: And I'm answering it.
MATTHEWS: Did he shoot himself on purpose?
MALKIN: Some of the soldiers have made allegations that these were self-inflicted wounds.
MATTHEWS: No one has ever accused him of shooting himself on purpose.
MALKIN: That these were self-inflicted wounds.
MATTHEWS: You're saying there are -- he shot himself on purpose? That's a criminal act.
MALKIN: I'm saying that I've read the book and some of the...
MATTHEWS: I want an answer yes or no, Michelle.
MALKIN: Some of the veterans say...
MATTHEWS: No. No one has ever accused him of shooting himself on purpose.
MALKIN: Yes. Some of them say that.
MATTHEWS: Tell me where that...
MALKIN: Self-inflicted wounds -- in February, 1969.
MATTHEWS: This is not a show for this kind of talk. Are you accusing him of shooting himself on purpose to avoid combat or to get credit?
MALKIN: I‘m saying that's what some of these...
MATTHEWS: Give me a name.
MALKIN: Patrick Runyan (ph) and William Zeldonaz (ph).
MATTHEWS: They said—Patrick Runyan...
MALKIN: These people have...
MATTHEWS: And they said he shot himself on purpose to avoid combat or take credit for a wound?
MALKIN: These people have cast a lot of doubt on whether or not...
MATTHEWS: That's cast a lot of doubt. That's complete nonsense.
MALKIN: Did you read the section in the book...
MATTHEWS: I want a statement from you on this program, say to me right, that you believe he shot himself to get credit for a Purple Heart.
MALKIN: I'm not sure. I'm saying...
MATTHEWS: Why did you say?
MALKIN: I'm talking about what's in the book.
MATTHEWS: What is in the book. Is there -- is there a direct accusation in any book you've ever read in your life that says John Kerry ever shot himself on purpose to get credit for a Purple Heart? On purpose?
MALKIN: On --
MATTHEWS: On purpose? Yes or no, Michelle.
MALKIN: In the February 1969 -- in the February 1969 event.
MATTHEWS: Did he say on it purpose.
MALKIN: There are doubts about whether or not it was intense rifle fire or not. And I wish you would ask these questions of John Kerry instead of me.
MATTHEWS: I have never heard anyone say he shot himself on purpose. I haven't heard you say it.
MALKIN: Have you tried to ask -- have you tried ask John Kerry these questions?
MATTHEWS: If he shot himself on purpose? No. I have not asked him that.
MALKIN: Don't you wonder?
MATTHEWS: No, I don't. It's never occurred to me.
Malkin essentially made a criticism through the guise of “asking a question” for which she had no factual basis. It might be somewhat comparable to the “how many times do you beat your wife?” fallacy. Forcing one’s opponents to deny ridiculous accusations puts doubt in the minds of voters. It’s designed not to prove anything, or make any point, but to do precisely the opposite. It’s designed to at once attack a person without basis and shield the attacker from rightful criticism. It’s gratifying to see someone called on the carpet for this.
Giggling aside, this brings up a relevant objection a friend of mine mentioned while we were discussing my criticisms of Moore. Moore, he explained was merely fighting fire with fire. Like it or not, political commentary like this is important to both parties in order that they win an election. To expect the left to not have its Malkins is ridiculous. Victory depends on having people who can do this kind of attack work for you.
I have to admit he’s got a point (though one might further question how effective Moore has been). But it’s not satisfying to me. I want something more. It seems to me that we have a responsibility to call debate in bad faith what it is. Accuracy and fair argument are worthy goals, and having an intelligent democracy requires some standards of public commentary, standards that I think we all too frequently fall below.
And no, there was no golden age where debate was “fair and balanced.” I do not see why that negates my hope for a better future.
by the, always inflammatory, Chris Bray
discusses the numbers of casualties of Reservists and Guardsmen during Vietnam. Bray makes a good point that “going negative” can be dangerous, but there is more information about the National Guard that is relevant. Ronald H. Spector
(who served in Vietnam and is a professor of history and international affairs) outlines the uses of the National Guard in his book After Tet
published in 1993. After noting that LBJ decided not to deploy the Guard and Reservists apparently in order to impress the Soviets he describes the subsequent role of the two:
All through 1965 and 1966 the Joint Chiefs of Staff pressed for a Reserve callup[sic], and all through those years the President said no. Meanwhile, young men of draft age soon realized that the Reserves represented a safe haven. Guard and Reserve units rapidly began to fill up with affluent and well-connected young men, many of them college graduates. Major General George Gilson of the Maryland National Guard told
Life magazine that whenever the Baltimore Colts “have a player with a military problem they send him to us.” At one point the Dallas Cowboys had ten players assigned to the National Guard division. By 1968 the Army National Guard had a waiting list of a hundred thousand men. Less than 1 percent of the members of the National Guard were black….”
Serving in the National Guard was a way for the “affluent and well-connected” to avoid being sent into combat when they did not have other ways to defer. I think George W. Bush fits into the category “affluent and well-connected” and, while I’m sure flying aircraft in Texas was a daunting task, it doesn’t really seem like the same thing as actually going to Vietnam to me.
With that said, I think it’s a very bad idea to make one’s mind up about who to vote for based on this. Look, how many of us can honestly say that with Bush’s level of connections and ease to not to go Vietnam, that we actually would have decided to put our bodies in harm’s way? I vote for a president based on how well they will do the job, and how closely they match my ideological perspective. I don’t think that military service is really that valuable for either job performance or ideology.
you suck, you worthless pile of crap -- can i have your vote?
On the subject of astonishly thoughtless politics, I'm amazed at the intensity with which Bush opponents like to point out
that he dodged the draft, and avoided service in Vietnam, by being a coward
and joining the the Air National Guard.
Folks, millions of people
-- millions of voters
-- have served, or are serving, in the National Guard. Many Guard members are currently serving in (and dying in) Iraq. Telling them, over and over, that you think they're cowards
whose service is contemptible and worthless is...
Well, whatever else it may be, it's really amazingly stupid politics.
maybe if i had a math degree from mit...
nothing to say
I just want to have the last post of the night.
einstein, solar flares, and pendulums
A Kuhnian anomoly?
In 1954 Maurice Allais, a French economist who would go on to win, in 1988, the Nobel prize in his subject, decided to observe and record the movements of a pendulum over a period of 30 days. Coincidentally, one of his observations took place during a solar eclipse. When the moon passed in front of the sun, the pendulum unexpectedly started moving a bit faster than it should have done.
Since that first observation, the “Allais effect”, as it is now called, has confounded physicists. If the effect is real, it could indicate a hitherto unperceived flaw in General Relativity—the current explanation of how gravity works.
Also, in more science news, some very exciting developments in one of the three big science projects going on in the world. The ILC (International Linear Collider) adopted a proposed plan from the DESY lab, in Germany. The plan
Self-interest is often argued for as the “real” motivation of people based on a very broad construction of how people operate self-interestedly. I am going to try to make a point about how flawed self-interest as a mode of explanation can be. Unfortunately my reasoning is a bit complicated here, so please try and bear with me.
A: Jim told me that carbs make you fat and that I shouldn’t eat cereal. He says I’d be better off to eat lard. Except I found out from my doctor that Jim is wrong.
B: You know why Jim wants you to do that right?
A: Because he thinks it’s good for me?
B: No, because Jim owns futures in cereal. He wants to build you up by giving you advice against his self-interest so that you will trust him. Then he wants to get you to buy a computer because he owns stock in intel.
A: But I’m not going to buy a computer. Additionally it turns out that lard is bad for me, so how could that cause me trust him?
B: Jim has been deceived by Atkins (who by the way just wants to sell books), and has also miscalculated your desire to buy a computer.
A: Jim was telling me how good cereal is for you the other day. I think I’m going to start eating more cereal and less lard.
B: You know why Jim want syou to do that right?
A: Because it’s good for me?
B: No, because Jim owns futures in grain. He’s trying to campaign to create a culture where grain is considered to be better than lard.
A: But isn’t cereal actually better than lard?
B: Maybe, but that isn’t why Jim wants you to buy it.
A: Jim told me the carbs make you fat and that I shouldn’t eat cereal. He says I’d be better off to eat lard.
B: You know why Jim wants you to do that right?
A: Because it’s good for me?
B: No, because Jim owns futures in grain. He wants to build you up by giving you advice against his self-interest so that you will trust him. Then he wants to get you to buy a computer because he owns stock in intel.
A: But I’m not going to buy a computer. And isn’t Atkins right?
B: Sure Atkins is right. But, obviously, Jim thinks you are going to buy a computer!
What I think these three dialogues demonstrate is that self-interest when broadly constructed is an empty concept. B continually explains Jim’s actions in terms of self-interest. He manages to do this in unlikely scenarios. One might imagine the following box:
That is to say there are exactly four possibilities for any given recommendation of Jim’s. It can be in Jim’s interest and A’s interest. It can be in Jim’s interest but NOT in A’s interest. It can be NOT in Jim’s interest, but in A’s interest. And it can be NOT in Jim’s interest and NOT in A’s interest. In any of these cases we explain Jim’s actions in terms of self-interest. Let’s go through one by one.
1) It’s in Jim’s interest and it’s in A’s interest. This case is explained in dialogue B. What we claim is that Jim really
recommended the course of action because it was in his interest. Even though it was also in A’s interest, we assume that Jim was more motivated by his desire to make money.
2) It’s in not in Jim’s interest and it is in A’s interest. This is dialogue C. What we assume is that there is some possible self-interest Jim must be thinking of, even if he is ultimately wrong. Jim simply miscalculated.
3) It’s not in A’s interest but it is in Jim’s. This one is easy. We explain Jim wanted A to harm himself for Jim’s benefit.
4) It’s in neither A’s interest nor Jim’s interest. Dialogue A explains this example. We simply say that Jim has miscalculated what’s in his own interest, and doesn’t really care what is good for A.
In the situation I have outlined we might not be inclined to believe the pessimist B in all the dialogues. But I think if you pay attention very closely to the kind of argument B makes in each dialogue you will see the exact same argument made in other places. In particular if I were writing a profile in Jim entitled Jim, that Self-centered Bastard
I might explain away the anomalies when Jim doesn’t seem to be self-interested using one of the arguments I outlined.
I think we should take seriously the notion that Jim (and others) may legitimately believe the things he is saying, even if we can construct a self-interested motive for his saying them. We shouldn’t assume that the possibility of a self-interested explanation precludes Jim’s genuine benevolence.
remember: don't look at potentially offensive images in the art history library
Mail today from the research library at the Getty Center
; they have a new Internet use policy. My favorite policy update is the one found under the heading, "Potentially Offensive Material." Emphasis added:
"Some content, especially visual images
, on the Internet may be necessary for your work
but, at the same time, it may be offensive to others even though it is not illegal, obscene, and/or pornographic content
. The Research Library requires that all users be sensitive to the display of Internet material that might be offensive to others working in the area."
So: In a research institute dedicated to art and art history, please don't look at visual materials that may fall into a vague and exceptionally broad category defined subjectively to refer to anything that anyone else might find offensive. What if there's a strict Muslim in the building who finds figurative art to be offensive
? What if John Ashcroft shows up? Is it me, or is this an odd standard?
My suspicion is that this standard is meant to be applied with great discretion by library staff, and won't be put to any really broad use. There must be a story behind this, yeah? ("Sir, I think it's really great that you're a scholar and everything, but, um, we all kind of doubt that you're writing a dissertation on digital representations of horny schoolgirls. Could you please close your browser window?") Still and all, for an art institution, don't look at anything that might offend anyone
seems a little out there.
(Note: I love the Getty like crazy, and am very very happy to have reader privileges there. So. Yeah.)
good science, bad science
Science and politics (see this Salon article
, or better yet, listen to this episode of Justice Talking
) . A number of scientists are concerned about the Bush administration's treatment of scientific knowledge -- claiming that this knowledge has been either distorted or suppressed. A declaration (The Statement
) was signed by over 40 Nobel Prize winners (The Prominent Signatories
free gift for karl rove
I'm pretty sure the RNC is praying
for, if not counting on, a big ugly circus
to communicate the message that opponents of the Bush administration are a bunch of vicious, communist
nutbags. Read this
; if this guy shows up to protest, and gets his picture in the newspaper as an emblem of anti-Bush sentiment, is it likely to a.) help, or b.) hurt Bush's ability to draw votes in most of the country?
The uglier the protests are, the more the Repubs look calm and levelheaded; the more opposition -- spun into "the left," the whole damn thing -- looks unbalanced and dangerous.
The best thing opponents of the adminstration could do in New York would be to smile, wave, and hand out free coffee and donuts to the Republican delegates.
So I'm really curious to see how much of a zoo my beloved NYC becomes during the Republican National Convention. I heard on NPR that one group is sending out a team to "disinform" the Republican delegates -- giving wrong directions, fake maps, etc., with the hopes of not only disrupting the convention but also to provide the delegates with a non-sterilized, non-beautified view of NYC.
I tried out my online Hardy Boys skills and I think I may have found them
More than anything else, I think it would be cool to get one of the fake maps.
I also heard on the same NPR program of a women, a lifelong democrat, who decided to help out the RNC because of her love of New York. Can someone hand me a bucket? Bleech. Better.
On a separate note, what I think will prove an important internet file sharing case
was just decided... in favor of the file sharing companies. It still can go to the U.S. Supreme Court, but I doubt they will take it. (But then again, I hope they do.)
law and disorder
I love reading about law. Even more fun is listening to the law
. I may not know a legal definition for tort (do you get them with coffee? or is it with tea? I always forget...), but I do know that listening to people arguing is big fun. At the dinner table, on the airplane, or in front of a courtroom, I'm not too particular. Voyeuristic any? Sure.
But upon reading this
, I can't help but get angry.
Mr. Siminovsky urges the judge to take the money and offers to write a check, too. Justice Garson seems to agree and puts the money in his drawer.
A few minutes later, Mr. Siminovsky leaves the office.
"Keep the faith," he tells the judge.
Disputations are fun, but please, my dear gentlepersons, stay within the rules.
PS. I swear
this was a Law & Order episode.
The Dream Team’s Nightmare
A few days ago noted basketball powerhouse Puerto Rico scored a major victory over the colossus to the north by kicking the crap out of its NBA star laden Olympic Basketball team. The wake up call to the dream team wasn’t entirely unexpected, but what was surprising is how many Americans (myself included) got a little bit of a kick out of seeing the boys in blue falter. As Mark Bechtel explained in a Sports Illustrated article
“…I never expected what I witnessed on Sunday: people -- Americans, mind you -- high-fiving as Carlos Arroyo toyed with the Dream Team.”
I don’t think a new lack of patriotism is responsible for the enthusiasm. Nor do I think it’s that the particular super stars on the American team are disliked--Duncan, James, AI, ‘Melo, these guys are all fairly well loved. I agree with Bechtel that the problem lies in the NBA’s style of play, built out of a desire for superstars and marketing. The NBA still hasn’t gotten over how well loved Michael Jordan was (for good reason), and due to that miscalculation (and others) has followed a path that makes its product boring and lifeless. Let’s outline some of the errors which combine to eliminate any kind of exciting team
1) The “star” officiating rule. Post-Jordan the NBA continues to have two systems of officiating, one for superstars and one for everyone else. What this means is that it pays to dump the ball into your superstar every single time you can. He will get easy calls, and go to the line over and over again.
2) Encouraging more “physical” play in the finals. Everyone agrees that play gets more physical in the NBA finals. What this means is guys get hit more. While at first glance this may seem like something that’s fun, it destroys the game of basketball because it slows players down, and prevents them from getting open looks at the basket. Less ball movement, less grace, less fun.
3) Too much post play. How much fun is it to watch Shaq bang his but into the opposition? Answer: yaaawn.
4) Not enough jump shooting. These players can’t shoot. The U.S. team can’t make a 3 to save its life. Shooting is something learned young through coaching. In Europe the best talent gets good coaching early and learns to shoot. Here in the states we ignore them until they get a deal from Nike.
The NBA should recognize that March Madness is successful for a reason. Anybody can win, unknowns frequently emerge as stars, and the play is dictated by the needs of the team. The pros can learn from college, and the U.S. can learn from Puerto Rico.
Documentary films appear to be becoming for liberals, what AM radio is for conservatives. This year I’ve watched a few of the bevy of the political documentaries being produced from a left of center perspective, and somehow I can’t help but feel a little let down. I’m not going to write a piece on distortions and documentaries, enough of that has been written already. No, my main critique is that the documentaries I have watched this year, The Corporation
, Fahrenheit 9/11
, and (admittedly way after it was released, but it was new to me) Bowling for Columbine
leave off just where they start to ask the really interesting questions. I’ll use Bowling for Columbine
as an example here because I think it’s a little bit less contentious than the other films, and far enough in the past to get a bit of distance in analyzing it.
There is no moment in Bowling for Columbine
when Moore, Like Ibsen through Nora, steps into one of his interviewees and lays out his views on gun control. But, I think it’s safe to say his conclusion is one of deep ambivalence towards gun control itself. While he shows no sympathy for gun makers he ultimately seems to discard gun ownership as a root cause of American gun violence. Moore makes much of the puzzle that Canada has a lower crime rate despite similar gun ownership. This, ultimately, is a strange conclusion for a movie about guns to come to. Does Moore think the question he spends so much time on is even important?
While I’m not sure Canada alone is sufficient evidence to conclude that gun ownership is irrelevant, I actually agree with Moore on this point. I think the debate over gun ownership is something of a red herring. Personally, I don’t support the “right” to own so-called assault rifles, but I don’t think removing them is going to really end our problems with violence. Too much energy gets wasted on this question, and not enough time spent on the real and much more challenging question about the sources of American gun violence.
The problem is that Moore has wasted so much time on guns; he seems to pursue a myriad of causes for violence without coming to much of a conclusion about any of them. Moore tries in turn, weapons manufacturing, bowling, America’s violent past, and poverty, as theories for explaining violence. Of these Moore never really examines any in detail but he seems to adopt racism the most as an explanation for violence.
Unfortunately Moore botches a study of race in America too badly to pose any kind of answer to the puzzles he raises of American violence. His short history of American racism is a laughable caricature of American history, where Americans head off to Africa to kidnap Africans and enslave them. After that the the rise of the KKK, gun ownership, and white flight to the suburbs are all somehow mooshed together into one phenomenon explaining the history of race in America. Factually incorrect (slaves were sold by Africans not kidnapped by Americans), and hopelessly muddled this history can’t really do much to explain racism, other than pointing up the obvious events of slavery and civil rights (which Moore does not to link to any pattern of either gun ownership or crime).
We also have an interview with Charlton Heston, where Moore seems to imply Heston is a racist. This particular move has rightly drawn much ire
, due to Heston’s past as a civil rights activist. But even if it were true, the clearly aging Heston can hardly serve as a case study in racism, and couldn’t answer our questions about racism and violence. The Heston interview just seems like wasted space that could have been used on, say, a real history of racism in America or more analysis on race, class and violence in America in the present.
And, for good measure, Moore goes to Canada. There he interviews African Americans who find Canada a good place to go to get a break from the racism of the U.S. Are we really supposed to believe that Canada is the only European colony that doesn’t have a past and a present filled with troubles over race and racism? I'm sorry, a few visitors commenting on how accepting canada seems does not convince me.
Moore’s film winds up asking some interesting questions, and discarding some bad leads to understanding American violence. But, somehow, that doesn’t seem like quite enough for me. One leaves Columbine with little further understanding about the enormous problems Moore addresses, and no potential solution to crime, aside from ending racism and poverty (which would be nice, but seems challenging). And one wonders if this undermines any political message his film might present. If Moore doesn’t have any answers, why are we listening to him when so many pundits (left and right) are willing to offer up proposals and elaborate theories?
Falwell and Lies
Rev. Jerry Falwell is not a difficult figure to lampoon, but a quote from the Boston Globe
I just believe George Bush is as fine a president as we've had in my lifetime. I'd equate it with Ronald Reagan. . . . I'll be there. If condemning him will help him, I'll condemn him; if applauding him will help him, I'll applaud him.
Look, I understand Falwell’s position as a cheerleader for conservative presidents. But this seems to imply that his condemnations are openly partisan and not expression of his true opinions; or to put in another way—lies. I have no idea if this is what Falwell meant to imply by saying he’s willing to “condemn” or “applaud” as circumstances require, but one would think he would at least want to pretend
that his stated opinions aren’t mere calculations. He is, after all, supposed to be a man of God.
cartoon history for cartoon politics
Ted "Sack of Hammers" Rall writes
that New York City won't welcome the Republican delegates to that party's upcoming national convention -- because the Republican Party is historically racist, and New York is historically egalitarian:
"Well aware that it is barren soil for their party's anti-urban, anti-immigrant, anti-feminist, overtly racist ideology, Republican leaders have wisely avoided New York City as a convention site for the past 150 years."
Yeeessssss, New York City has been the site of all kinds of really
, really progressive stuff
. It's just that simple.
(And it's just as clear, of course, that the "red states" of flyover country have uniformly marched in line
with the far-right
In The Soup
I’ve spent so much negative energy bloging that I thought it would be worth reviewing something I like. In The Soup
staring Steve Buscemi is a quite fun comedic adventure. Set in New York it focuses on Buscemi’s attempts to become a big time movie director. The movie’s tone is probably it’s most commendable trait. It manages to be a somewhat serious movie with well developed characters, crisp dialog, a tantalizingly elusive love interest, and meaningful commentary while managing to get over itself with clever humor. In The Soup
did well at the Sundance film festival circa 1992, before independent films were getting as much mainstream attention as they do now. Pick its re-release up at your local rental hut.
Pretty in Pink
My friend Dylan sent me a link to this
. It's a giant pink ribbon in Times Square to be constructed out of post-it notes. You can fill out a form on the website -- only giving your first name, last name, city, and state -- and have 3M donate a dollar for the City of Hope Cancer Center.
Post-It, nylon, velcro, great things... great things...
looks really interesting.
An open letter to my brain
I used to be able to use you -- well one side of you, anyway -- to do mathematics. It's true. You used to know what a module was. Kernels were not only related to agriculture or UNIX shells. But now solving an ordinary differential equation would cause a short-circuit, mayhaps a complete meltdown. I'm serious, brain, this is a problem of gargantuan proportions. Do you even know what "gargantuan"
means? Whatever. I'll help you out. Look it up here
You sicken me. My stomach lurches because of your inadequacy. Who knows the reaction of my other body parts. You need to reforge synaptic connections in the corpus callosum
You even forgot to remind me that the International Mathematics Olympiad
(IMO) was last month. Better late than never. The United States came in second, to China. (One thing to note is that 3 of the 6 US team members were from Phillips Exeter Academy...) You stupid chunk of grey matter, you could never do IMO level problems. But when you were not severly damaged, I fondly remember your assitance in writing this great competition
when I was in high school. Now its run by the NSA. Conspiracy? You connect the synapses.
Maybe I'll help you in the recovery process. I will attempt the USAMTS exam problems from this year. Please, don't forsake me. Pretty please?
An Open Letter to an Anonymous Government Official
Dear LA Transit Official(s) Who Designed the Green Line.
You are so clever.
The Green Line takes dead aim as a straight shot through the LA Basin from Lakewood to Hawthorn. In sleek modernist fashion it turns for no man (and probably not women either), dividing the city into neat boxy segments. Ahead of the speeding train as it passes Hawthorn all signs point to LAX directly to the west, the fifth busiest airport in the world, about to be light railed into the 21st century.
But the City Planners were far too clever for that. They knew we would be expecting our multi-million dollar light rail system to connect with the largest airport in the region (indeed the largest west of the Rockies). We had grown complacent, sitting in out armchairs watching the designers chart new mass transit routes. We expected the trains to connect to places people go; we expected one transit system to link to another, rail to meet sky in Westchester. We were wrong.
You faked us out, turning the green line south so as to avoid Los Angeles International Airport. You brilliant designers you! You have demonstrated our supreme stupidity in thinking the trains should do something useful. This isn’t transit, it’s a postmodern art project. You are challenging our categories, tearing down our expectations. Screw linking the biggest airport with the web of light rail. Let’s turn south and go to El Segundo instead!
I tip my hat to you.
they were lovin' on jesus, i guess
So, the rest of this story aside, John Kerry has said
that he was shot at, on December 25, 1968, "by our South Vietnamese allies who were drunk and celebrating Christmas."
I honestly have no idea, but this seems a little odd: how likely would Vietnamese soldiers have been to be celebrating Christmas? Is Vietnam a highly Christian nation? Tet is the Vietnamese New Year -- how many holidays do the Vietnamese celebrate on the American model? (If I go to Vietnam for Thanksgiving, will they make me a Tofurkey?)
I am counting on someone else to provide an answer in comments, saving me from having to do my own damn research.
crime, poverty, and my now-silent commute
Following up on a discussion elsewhere, Eugene Volokh points
to an interesting argument: crime causes, or at least perpetuates, poverty.
I live in a neighborhood near MacArthur Park that could serve as a model for that argument, and have had the "crime perpetuates poverty" thought on at least one occasion. I walked outside one night to find that a thief had stolen the CDs I had in my car, and had also tried to remove my stereo by jimmying it out of the dashboard with a big screwdriver. That effort failed, but still ruined the stereo; it cost me the stereo, in other words, but gained him (or, less likely, her) nothing. As for the CDs, I love to picture a thief trying to sell my Neutral Milk Hotel and Sleater-Kinney albums on the street. I tend to doubt that this would have been a really lucrative theft. Again: a loss to me, but no gain to the thief.
Senseless, pointless destruction of property; risking arrest and jail for nothing; stealing items that have no particular street value. The causal relationships are muddled, here, but it seems to me that poverty self-perpetutates, to some degree; a degrading milieu leads people to waste energy on dumb and counterproductive behavior, causing social degradation.
Anyway, the dude forgot his screwdriver. I found it on the floor of my car. And I'm not giving it back, you bastard.
An open letter to Roger Penrose
Are you angry that Stephen Wolfram beat you to the punch? His leviathan tome positing a "theory of everything," starting from first principles, intended largely for interested non-specialists, seems to be have taken the bang out of your new book: The Road to Reality
Sadly the book is only released in the UK now, and as such, I will not be getting my hands on it anytime soon. But I can guess that after pouring over A New Kind of Science
, I won't have the gumption to tackle your thousand page book for quite a while. But, dear professor, I don't think I will leave your book upset and condescended to, as I did from Wolfram's. I have faith that you have a greater respect for your audience, and a not-so-narrow view of history and the progress of science, when you contextualize your ideas.
In case you haven't read Wolfram's text (though I noted he did cite you as one of the hundreds of people he has learned something from, even if it was only one conversation), I figure I'll give you a sketch of what I find to be the most interesting aspect of his book -- the distinction between traditional
science and Wolfram's "new" kind of science. I extract this from a larger paper I wrote on this book for a class last year:
In order to understand how Wolfram persuades, it is helpful to keep in mind exactly what Wolfram is trying to persuade for
: the acceptance of a new complexity-based science with the Principle of Computational Equivalence to act as its basic law. In order to argue for this, Wolfram argues against the existing framework--one he terms "traditional science." In this section I argue that Wolfram constructs the term "traditional science" to act as a straw man--for him to denigrate--as a rhetorical device in order to argue for his framework. Wolfram, by this strategy, places himself squarely outside
of the establishment ("traditional science") he constructs.
Mathematical logic theory places limitations on mathematics with Godel's Incompleteness Theorem, which in one forumulation says that it is impossible to determine if a given set of axioms is consistent (i.e. if the axioms will never yield contradictions in proofs) within the system. The theorem also implies that if there is
a set of consistent axioms (and as stated, it can never be known if there is), there will necessarily
be mathematical statements which are undecidable
(i.e. that can never be proved or disproved within the axiom system). [...] By defining the existing framework as fundamentally
faulty and of limited value, this formulateion underscores the necessity for a new framwork that can acknowledge and bypass these defects. [...]
Mathematics is not the only field which is characterized, fundamentally, as ineffective in attacking the major questions. One entire chapter is devoted to fundamental physics:
Fundamental physics is the area in which traditional mathematical approaches to science have had their greatest success. But despite this success, there are still many central issues that remain quite unresolved. And in this chapter my purpose is to consider some of these issues in the light of what we have learned from studying simple programs... And indeed what we will see in this chapter is that remarkably simple programs are often able to capture the essence of what is going on--even though traditional efforts have been quite unsuccessful. (433)
[...] The above passage carries within it the implicit message that traditional approaches, at their best, provide an inadequate explanation. [...]
Drawing a bold line between Wolfram's science and "traditional science" also squarely positions Wolfram as an outsider
to the scientific establishment. As he writes of his process of scientific discovery, "to develop the new kind of science that I describe in this book I have had no choice but to take several large steps at once, and in doing so I have mostly ended up having to start from scratch--with new ideas and new methods that ultimately depend very little on what has gone before" (x). Consciously Wolfram relegates the scientific ideas he draws upon to the endnotes, explaining that this move is done for clarity. This is reinforced by omitting any formal citiations to scientific articles. The only actor is the body text is Wolfram himself, rather than one actor (practitioner) working in a network of practitioners and ideas (citations). In many parts of the body text, the reader is left unaware of if what is being described is new or had been discovered before. It rejects continuity between "traditional science" and the new science. Wolfram separates himself intellectually in the body text--and in so doing, assists in making the claim that the ideas in ANKS
are unprecedented and do not lie within "the existing paradigm" that science is working within.
I admit I must say I'm curious and excited. Most interesting for me will be reading the book reviews that come out from this book -- where they are published, who wrote them, what was found important to include, what wasn't... I read 30 or 40 different reviews of ANKS, and the one review
I read for this book engages similar tropes.
Please have the book printed and distributed in the United States soon. Next time, may respectfully I suggest Routledge?
Portland vs. Los Angeles
Wendell Cox is worried about the consequences of urban planning over at www.demographia.com. I have not double-checked his figures, but his article
attacks Portland Oregon (home of my beloved Reed College
) by way of comparison with Los Angeles. His main point seems to be that Portland’s smart dense growth plans created a city lacking in density, far less dense in fact than Los Angeles.
Like a lot of what Cox says he makes some very interesting observations, but in the end I’m not sure the Los Angeles/Portland comparison is really serves his argument. He fawns over Los Angeles’s density: “The most dense census tract in the Los Angeles area had a population density of 79,725, 3.5 times that of Portland's most dense tract, at 22,858. Data just published in the 2000 US Census shows that the gap has widened. The most dense 1990 census tract in Los Angeles has become even more dense, at 94,450 per square mile (bounded by Vermont Ave., Normandie Ave, 3rd St and 5th St.).” None of this is terribly surprising, or terribly helpful.
The Los Angeles metropolitan area (including the so-called Inland Empire) has about eight times the population of the Portland Metropolitan area. LA dwarfs PDX, and one of the results of this is that there are a lot of people trying to buy a limited supply of land. There is demand in LA for large apartment complexes that is lacking in Portland (and indeed just about every city below say 6 million in the metro area). It would be unreasonable to expect Portland to be denser than Los Angeles given the much larger size of the latter.
Additionally, it's not clear that Portland really aims for the kind of density Los Angeles has. As Cox notes in his other articles, density creates problems as well as benefits. Los Angeles has grown to the point that its infrastructure, particularly its transportation infrastructure, can no longer keep up with demand. Even if additional freeways were erected (despite the logistical and political problems in doing so) it is doubtful LA’s traffic problem would ever come under control. Due to latent capacity “engineers believe if you really wanted to accommodate all the potential trips in L.A., some freeways wood have to be widened to 16 lanes each.” (found here
Finally, trying to determine what effects Portland’s policies have had on density is a tricky business. Oregon’s economy has been in trouble for a long time, and that has impacted the city’s demand for land. But, in theory at least, restricting development to a few areas should function much like geographic barriers do on population density. Here we have more evidence that extremely dense cities like Hong Kong seem to be more likely to form in areas where land is limited (as one would probably expect). That land restriction promotes density would explain, for example, why the San Francisco-Oakland region is so much denser than larger Chicago on Cox’s own chart. Even in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Basin is bounded on all sites by sheer and tall mountains that hamper development.
Cox should find a more apt comparison than Los Angeles for Portland. It would be especially useful to pick a city of similar size, and geography. Until then, I’m not convinced the evidence is damning of Portland’s urban planning.
the well-known american desire to win european approval
One of the thoughts I keep having, during this already-dreadful campaign season, is that John Kerry (and his army of consultants and message-shapers) have no idea what country it is that they're trying to speak to. There's a hard-to-miss tone-deafness all over his campaign.
One example is the often-repeated promise to restore America in the eyes of the world -- winning allies back to the fold, earning back international respect, reforging coalitions that have been damaged by the Bush administration's recklessness, blah, blah, blah. Europe, of course, is necessarily central to the argument; it's clear, in Kerryland, that the Bushies have cost us the love and respect of France and Germany.
Do these folks read history? Americans have never really looked at the rest of the world -- particularly Europe
-- with anything better than ambivalence. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams thought Europe was a very beautiful island of magnificent aristocratic elegance built on the labor of degraded serfs; they thought that European culture was very lovely, very corrupt, and incredibly dangerous.
Flash forward a bit to the early twentieth century, when Woodrow Wilson tried to get the country behind the League of Nations and an internationalist agenda. The United States never joined the League of Nations; the Senate refused to agree to it.
Two of the most popular figure of the 1930s, the radio-preaching Father Coughlin and the Louisiana politican Huey Long, won throngs of followers by ranting
about the filthy international bankers (presumably J-e-w-s, sshhh) who had fiendishly instigated the Great Depression in the service of their sneaky little schemes. Lose the international bankers, they (but particularly Coughlin) argued, and the nation would return to prosperity. In one broadcast, Coughlin rallied his followers to send telegrams to Washington opposing the participation of the United States in a world court; Western Union quickly reported that the volume of telegram traffic had overloaded their system in the D.C. area. Congressmen came to work on Monday to find their desks buried in telegrams, almost uniformly expressing hostility to the world court, and that was that.
This is a quick, offhanded set of examples, but here's the point: I doubt very much, based on the historical tendencies evident in American views toward Europe, internationalism, and multilateralism, that a whole lot of American voters are sitting around the house thinking: Yes, we must
get right with the world! We must
get the French to like us again!
(And, anyway, it's pretty goddamn funny to see the Germans
expressing their distaste for war
(Or the French
expressing their distaste for imperialism
I suspect that Kerry is headed for the same fate as the treaty that would have brought the United States into the League of Nations: he's going to languish in the Senate until he's forgotten. American politicians don't win the presidency on internationalist rhetoric.
Parasites, Corduroy, and Hugh, oh my!
An open letter to parasites disguised as books
I tried to pace you. Really, I did. I vowed to read you slowly, my breaks from you were to be interstices reserved for academic reading. It's not like I didn't plan to revolve my life around you, so don't even go there. You were
Now you are over. I started you yesterday, and polished you off today. Less than three hours total. David Sedaris
's Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
, you are nothing more than a parasite, hooking your sharp wit into anyone who dares pop you open. Pringles, you got nothing.
A few hours, and I'm left emptier than when I started. Don't get me wrong, you were good. (Real good, in fact.) I loved your generosity in providing me with recollections of of your author, of Lisa and Tiffany and Amy and Paul, and of Hugh. I liked Hugh. (I wonder what they all did upon reading you... I wonder how much of you was tempered with the anticipation of howls of execration, of angered late-night phone calls, of faces scrunched up in confusion and offense...) But after each chapter, I thought, "I don't think of my life in this way chronicled by your writer. I don't find meaning, or a single interpretation, in the mundane. That glow that you evoke the end of every one of your chapters, I'm missing that part of my brain, I guess. I don't remember life as a six-year-old. In fact, I, for all practical purposes, did not exist before 10th grade."
I don't know when I will pick you up again. I've used you and now I might as well might discard you. But you, don't think that it is only a one way street. I feel that you used me and tossed me aside also. I was become you, you know. You wanted that and it happened. For three hours, I was become you. Now I'm not, and I'm sad.
The Holocaust, Comparison, and Malkin on Internment
I will probably post a few comments on Michelle Malkin’s new book defending internment (see www.isthatlegal.org for attacks on her book and links to her responses). My first issue has to do with Holocaust comparisons.
Is it legitimate to compare internment with the Holocaust? Certainly it seems unfair to claim the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II was equivalent to the Holocaust. They aren’t even close to each other in terms of the human horror of the events. But what about comparing more narrow criteria, such as the construction of camps, images of Jews and Japanese, and conduct of guards? Any such comparison is going to yield distinct and important differences. At the same time it must be interesting to historians, that at the same historical moment that America was engaged in internment, the Germans were conducting a final solution, and the Soviets were sending class traitors off to work camps in Siberia.
Malkin seems to come very close to arguing that discussing internment and the Holocaust at the same time is evidence of a claim for equivalence. In her defense of her book, Malkin explains what annoys her so much about “anologizers”:
No, I did not quote anyone making a specific comparison of “Manzanar to Auschwitz” or "Manzanar to Buchenwald." The analogizers are a little more slippery than that. Those who use modern “concentration camp” rhetoric when discussing the evacuation/relocation/internment measures meekly disavow a direct moral equivalence between relocation camps and death camps, but then proceed to indulge in the offensive moral equivalence that they say they reject.
What exactly is a “slippery” comparison and what makes it illegitimate? It’s not really clear from her statement what she thinks constitutes a fair or an unfair comparison of the Holocaust and internment, but the two examples she provides give some clue. First she quotes Roger Daniels:
The American camps were not death camps, but they were surrounded by barbed wire and by troops whose guns were pointed at the inmates. Almost all the 1,862 Japanese Americans who died in them died of natural causes, and they were outnumbered by the 5,918 American citizens who were born in the concentration camps. But the few Japanese Americans who were killed “accidentally” by their American guards were just as dead as the millions of Jews and others who were killed deliberately by their German, Soviet, or Japanese guards.
It’s hard to see where the offense occurs in this. Daniels seems to be very explicit that the Holocaust was much worse than internment (so much worse, that it’s hard to come up with a phrase that doesn’t sound like an understatement). I suppose it must be the last line where he makes the point that dead is dead, even if the events that lead to death aren’t nearly as horrific.
I can’t really justify getting outraged at Daniels comparison here. It seems responsible, candid and accurate. Certainly one can say that both internment and the Holocaust resulted in deaths without claiming they are equivalent.
Malkin has one further example of “anologizers” in her defense:
But please let’s not be so clueless about the concentration camp analogizers. They honestly do see WWII ethnic Japanese as grievously wronged victims on par with Holocaust survivors. On p. 116, I cite one of the most prominent and critically acclaimed anti-evacuation researchers, Japanese-American author Michi Weglyn, who championed reparations for WWII ethnic Japanese “similar to one offered by the German government which allowed ‘a sizable number of former victims of Nazi-ism [to] continue to collect lifelong annuities,” regardless of where they lived in the world."
Again this quote wasn’t all that shocking. Weglyn seems to merely be stating that the form
reparations took in Germany may be a good example. He is not claiming that the event
reparations are being made for is in any way equivalent. One, for example, might study how Los Angeles deals with traffic to design a traffic grid in Omaha. This isn’t because Omaha traffic is anywhere near the same order of magnitude as Los Angeles traffic, but merely because Los Angeles may have devised some useful strategies that are applicable elsewhere. Drawing analogies between very different things is not a problem, so long as those differences are properly understood.
The Holocaust is an important historical event that should not be cut off from comparison. Some may worry that comparing the Holocaust to other historical events (and even other acts of genocide) cheapens its memory. I don’t agree. This worry often seems to stem from a concern about creating a moral equivalence of the Holocaust and internment. I’m not even sure I know how one could meaningfully come up with a moral scale to represent the slaughter of millions of innocent people, and thus I don’t know how to compare it with other events in terms of morality. I do know that it’s clear the Holocaust was much worse than internment. At the same time it seems that ignoring the similarities may prevent us from pursuing a fuller understanding of both events. And that understanding is worth the effort.
a new bloomin' book
An open letter to kind mail persons:
I open my door, my dear kind mail persons, and you consistently come through for me. My birthday was a few weeks ago but you still bring me packages. For example today, after a day of watching mindless television, I opened the door, not, you know, for packages, but for fresh air. (My apartment gets hot and stuffy. Really.) And today I get greeted by your leavings. You bring me things every day, in fact, and I never give you anything, except a lot of stairs to climb. Today you made the trek to deliver a package from amazon.com. (I prefer to call it "amazing dot com.")
You delivered to me a little package of happiness: Harold Bloom's new book The Best Poems of the English Language
. I am a Bloom book virgin and you provided me with the situation to be deflowered. You set me up with the opportunity to Bloom
. I think you might enjoy, in return, a link to a great 2 hour, 58 minute, and 11 second interview with this author
. He sniffles throughout most of it, and I think with your soul as gentle and sentitive as I imagine, you will sniffle with him. If only to make him feel less awkward.
I forgive Bloom for berating T.S. Eliot, because he still (deigns to) include my favorite poem
|Do I dare||
|Disturb the universe?||
You, my dear, dear kind mail person, you do
dare disturb the universe.
I hope one day I can deliver bits of happiness into your life too.
I don't know how well this place will work out. But hopefully it will become an archiving of the fleeting thoughts, the rantings, the straight-up lives of history graduate students...