Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Intelligent Attraction of Mass

Ahhhhhhh... Today's thing driving J crazy is the further attempts to bring Intelligent Design into school curriculums (apparently the anti-evolution forces have a majority on the Kansas schoolboard again... so look for more ridicule-inducing cringe-worthy news from there soon). Today's NY Times (reg. required) has the latest on this.

Now, you can maintain, like one dude in the article, that the reason the ACLU, and, well, me, and others get so upset about this is that, apparently, sound science filling in the "gaps" in evolution is actually what's at issue, and that this so-called sound science then leads to the possiblity of a Creator, and we just don't like religion, and that's why we have a problem with all of this. Yeah, sure, that's the ticket.

I'm sorry, but people -- PEOPLE -- listen to me -- a theory saying that some parts of the world are unexplainable and attempts to prove that they are, by definition, unexplainable and therefore made by a Creator are *simply* *unscientific*. To make the conclusion of a Creator based on a lack of ability to explain phenomena is NOT a valid deductive chain -- it is fallacious! Why can't you see that? It may or may not be true, but our present inability to explain something does NOT logically lead to the idea that it must have been created by means beyond the view of observable reality. Occam's Razor would imply that we SIMPLY DON'T HAVE A COMPLETE UNDERSTANDING OF THE PHENOMENA. By the same reasoning as Intelligent Design, Phlogiston was COMPLETELY reasonable -- phlogiston being the concept that, since burned objects were noticeably, well, different than the same object before it was burned, that they contained an odorless, colorless, tasteless, weightless substance called phlogiston -- and when you "burned" something -- that is, dephlogisticated it -- you were releasing the phlogiston and what remained was the true material the object was made of. Er, yeah. But given a certain set of information, it can be seen as reasonable, no? Logical, no, reasonable, perhaps. Or what of the flat earth? Certainly, as far as any one person standing on the surface of the earth without advanced observation equipment (or simply a very tall building), it is PERFECTLY REASONABLE to deduce the earth is flat -- this is only disprovable once equipment and/or information previously undiscovered or unrealized is used. The earth-centered solar system? Very possible -- though that explanation of retrogression gets tough -- probably just God moving around those lights fixed in the black cloth of the firmament.

Ok, here's the brass tacks kids -- next time anyone gives you some Intelligent Design claptrap, point out that evolution is better understood in many ways than gravity -- that is, we have stronger evidence confirming our understanding of evolution than the universal theory of gravitation -- BECAUSE WE DON'T KNOW EXACTLY WHY GRAVITY WORKS. Einstein's brilliant insights about time-space being all very well and good, the idea of gravity being "wells" in the "fabric" of space-time is a great metaphor, but the actual explanation of WHY things act like this is, well, lacking. We KNOW the details of evolutionary theory -- though we can't explain all observed cases. We know the mathematical rules governing gravity -- except for the expanding, accelerating universe (dark energy) and the details of explaining how it propagates faster than light (seemingly instantaneously).

Must be God pushing the elements of the universe apart -- yeah, that's it. Intelligent Pulling and Pushing Things Together and Apart -- that's a much better explanation than the universal theory of gravitation.

Seriously kids. Gravity. Less understood. Than evolution. In many ways.

Though I'm sure SOME people SOMEwhere wouldn't be opposed to Intelligent Gravitation, can the rest of us see now how baaaaaaaaaaaad intelligent design is?

Please. Now. Go forth and tell people that gravity is a less complete theory than evolution. Seriously. And please. Tell a lot of people in Kansas.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Please Throw Eggs at Dinesh D'Souza

Or anyone else who ever proposes Two Cheers for Colonialism.


Also, read an interesting article in Slate by Tim Noah on D'Souza's antimaterialism (ha!)


Thursday, December 09, 2004


I should be working, really, serious, but I can't resist.

USA Today leads with word that the Dept. of Homeland Security's effort to create a list of potential terrorist targets, such as dams, nuke plants, and skyscrapers, is way behind schedule and kind of whacked. Apparently, it includes water parks and miniature golf course, but not some major sites.

"Their list is a joke," said one Republican congressman.

--Eric Umansky, J-Fave Today's Paper's on Slate

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Proxy Servant

Hey one and all, latest fall-down bad job by the much-maligned (by me, at least) US media.

I've been slightly suspicous of our Ukraine election coverage, particularly because Yushchenko's better-for-democracy-ness has been chiefly "proven" in the media with simple mention of the fact that he is more "pro-western". I haven't heard anything like "and he supports more transparency and politics responsive to the average and less well-off citizens" or, I don't know, he insists on a larger role of women in Ukrainian politics (this is a random example of something I would consider "pro-democracy", though for all I know, the Ukriane could have amazing gender equity). The point here is that the story crafted by our media was already somewhat suspect to me -- if nothing else, it was ever-so-superficial; can any of you tell me WHY Yushchenko is better for democracy than Yanukovich? No? You, in the back there, with your hand up? Oh, you were stretching? What about proof of election fraud? Yes, over there -- no? No clue?

What this is leading up to is this article recommended by J-friend and advisor John. Don't let the fact that it's on Al-Jazeera frighten you. Not that I expect anyone reading my page to be uncritical enough to dismiss something simply cuz it's on Al-Jazeera (see: Control Room. No seriously, see it. It's really good. Much better, convincing movie than Fahrenheit 9/11, in my opinion). Basically, one guy seems more under Putin's thumb, one more under our thumb -- and guess which one our unbiased media portrays as the democratic underdog? (Though I have to admit, the possibility that Yushchenko was possibly poisoned with dioxin does compel some sympathy -- though perhaps it should be no more sympathy than would be due your average Roman Senate-esque wheeler/dealer.) Nonetheless, the point isn't whether or not Yush is the great, er, whiter hope, but rather what the real political landscape is. Who wants to bet that what we're going is a good, sophisticated analysis of that? (Though to be fair, NYT did have the conventional "on the other hand" article a little while ago.)

In other news, speaking of gender equity in government (a paragraph or two ago), check out the Human Development report from this year. US: 14% women in "parliament" (congress); around 30% in Belgium, the Netherlands, Canada, and Australia; 36% in Cuba; 10% in Brasil; 20% in Nicaragua, to go through some other countries I'm familiar with. So, we're not on the bottom at all -- but let's see, women are only about 14% of the populace right now, right? Riiiiiight. Sexism. Thing of the past. Well, that's a relief.)

That's all folks,


Tuesday, December 07, 2004

New Meme: The Bush Administration Is Awesome!

No, I haven't gone crazy. I've just become desperate/bored enough to think of a useless silly subversive tactic.

You realize, of course, that even among Bush supporters, expectations aren't very high? (Disclosure: More than half of US citizens think he's mishandling Iraq, won't help the economy, the tax cuts shouldn't be permanent, and that he will fuck up social security; more than half do think he's doing right in general on the war on terror.)

And of course, as we all know, with low expectations, it's harder to be disappointed.

That's right, you see it, don't you? That's right.

We must TALK UP THE BUSH ADMINSTRATION. Maybe if we liberals and progressives wage a constant, non-stop positive PR campaign about how good Bush's crony-Cabinet is going to in its second term, then its failures will be all the more dramatic! Bwa hah hah!

It's just crazy enough... not to work.

In other news... anyone besides me remember the earlier critiques of the Department of Homeland Security? (Seems not -- Slate had some great stuff that appears to have gone down the Memory Hole, annd not the ironic, good kind).

I mention this, because the "Intelligence Reform" flap had a similar background that has also disappeared. Hey, I realize it's important to reform intelligence -- everyone, everyone agrees there was some major fucking up (remember SecState-to-be's description of "Bin Laden to attack inside US" as historical information?), but the sometimes-mentioned point that THIS reform might not be efficacious, in that, it may not, you know, help fix things seems COMPLETELY GONE.


Just to refresh or introduce you to the critiques, the DHS and the "Intelligence Czar" have the similar critiques that creating new bureaucracy may not help increase the efficiency of information flow, especially without large (painful) reorganizations (which seem unlikely to be done); the DHS united (what was it? 22?) many disparate departments with varying degrees of connection to "homeland security" without (seemingly) creating an appropriate administrative structure to handle it. And as Fred Kaplan has pointed out on Slate, if the problem in the 9/11 mishandling was that information wasn't properly flowing through the different organizations, i.e. it was "over-centralized" in that the Washington hierarchy supposedly wasn't keyed in enough to the branch offices, and there was "groupthink", how does having one new guy (or in an unlikely case gal) at the top of it all fight groupthink, lack of cooperation between competing intelligence organizations, and over-centralization?

Now, I don't know -- maybe the 9/11 Panel's suggestions are great, and actually answer all concerns. BUT MAYBE WE SHOULD STILL BE TALKING ABOUT IT. I defy you, DEFY YOU, to find critiques of the intelligence proposals and the DHS: 2 Years Later, or even a systematic analysis of what's gone right, rather than simply "process" stories on Bush vs. Congress vs. Hastert vs. DonRum vs. etc. Shouldn't we not only know about the progress of reform, but WHETHER OR NOT IT WILL BE EFFECTIVE? Surely, not everyone in the entire US is convinced this bill will work, or that DHS is working just fine?

You wouldn't know it from reading the "news".


Sunday, December 05, 2004

Today's News... not really (...spoliers! a J-Continuum first)

No current events stuff for the people today... just two random entertainment/enlightenment recommendations...

On the entertainment front, finally saw one of the last Angel episodes... had a marathon on today here in Brasil. BOY. A very sad ending to the series -- sad, emotionally, not quality-wise.

Though I had some qualms about the quality of the last season, these last episodes did imply there was some method to the madness that had been missing, in my opinion, since the end of the Jasmine saga and a little before that, even. (I think Angel got a lot rockier after Connor buried Angel at the bottom of the sea... though the beginning of the next season was still relatively tight, with "evil" Wes a cool move... but I digress.) I was trying to think of why the (synopses -- still haven't caught the actual last eps) last eps got me so sad, and I think it's cuz, despite the weakened (imho) writing behind their characters, I really miss them. I miss the more "happy go lucky" days of the apocalypse, with Lorne still in Caritas (I think he lost a lot of direction, not just as a character but in the writing for him as a character, after he lost his club), with Gunn still a little more "street" (again a loss of depth in his character as he became Scooby-ized), with Cordy still in the SHOW! (and not completely turned into a nice, 3-dimensional, caring person), and Wes -- Wes actually stayed the most true to his character, throughout I think, though he moved from comic to tragicomic to just tragic... Whereas Spike was moving through this progression the opposite direction, in a way...

Anyway, I was going to say, I think I miss them more than many characters from series because they're *dead* -- some of them -- or just (apparently) *gone*. Fred's dead, seemingly *forever* -- destroyed to the essence (though of course, so was Elektra in Marvel and now she's got her own fucking series, no?). THAT's tragic. Wes' dead. Cordy's dead. (Though at least not dead down to her soul being destroyed). In many series, i.e., Buffy, you can go on to imagine the life their characters might lead (though Buffy did its closure so well, it would've been hard to imagine without Angel's clues to their life continuing, and possibly even being - gasp -- fun!), but in Angel, well not only are the living characters fighting the Apocalypse, but several are dead and gone beyond (easily) conceivable return. And their last few years were not happy ones. I miss them... like friends that are dead. Their deaths were so tragic, and moving (to me, at least), watching old episodes won't cut it -- they're *dead*. They're gone, and memories of them are just that... wow. What good tv.

In other news, hopefully those intellectual elites among you sniffing in disdain about TV and/or Angel specifically made it this far, because YOU MUST READ CORNEL WEST. I'm reading "Democracy Matters" and it is EXCELLENT. It is very refreshing to hear a black voice in the US railing against EMPIRE -- when was the last time you heard Kwesi Mfume and the NAACP talking about Empire? They're been pretty DNC-ized (maybe why their membership is flagging...) The radical strain of American thought is dying, and the NAACP is complicit in this... like West's heroes James Baldwin, W.E.B. DuBois, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and many others -- a deep radicalism is needed these days, in my opinion, to reinvigorate the entire left. But perhaps, most especially, the African American Left. We can't play the DNC/Clinton games like the NAACP has been doing and win... we cannot, as it has been said, seek approval from the same system we wish to overturn or reform. Come with me my Democratic friends... the African American community can no longer afford to be Center Left!!!

Saturday, December 04, 2004

The Unbearable Moral Bankruptcy of Being Center-Left

Michael Kinsley, on Al Franken this week (or was it Morning Sedition? Whatever) proved the ABSOLUTE idiocy of the erstwhile Kerry Platform/Centrist Democrat approach to Iraq.

As usual, the nonsense began with something making sense...

"Has there ever before been a war that so many people disapproved of but so few wanted to stop? Have the reasons for starting a war ever been so thoroughly discredited without turning into reasons for ending it? " Kinsley asks in a recent (21 November 2004 LA Times) article.

"What seems to be today's antiwar position — it was a terrible mistake and it's a terrible mess, but we can't just walk away from it — was actually the pro-war position during Vietnam. In fact, it was close to official government policy for more than half the length of that war.

Today's antiwar cause doesn't even have a movement, to speak of, let alone an agenda. It consists of perhaps 47% of the citizenry — the ones who voted for John Kerry — who are in some kind of existential opposition to the war but don't know what they want to do about it."

Thank goodness he represented this as the 47% of the citizenry that voted for JK -- I'd hate to be confused with having an existential* opposition to the war. I have a very DEFINITIVE opposition -- we were wrong, and we should come home now. After all, the earlier worry for why we SHOULDN'T come home is we could leave a civil war in our wake, right? WHAT THE BLOODY HELL IS GOING ON NOW, EH?

Just in case you think that there lay some kind of logic or reason left unvoiced by Kinsley, some deep motivation that stands up to examination that he forgot to mention -- an answer to the implied question of what sense this existential opposition makes -- nope, he cleared that up on old standby Air America Radio. He's just whistling into the wind.

I can't find a transcript... but more or less, he said the only reason to stay IN Iraq is the belief that things will get better if we stay there: that in the next couple years, our presence will finally help restore a stable society. He WENT ON to say that he saw no particular reason to believe this, he just supposed he hoped that it wasn't the case the it would continue as it was now. He didn't have a reason for such beleifs, but, he said, he wasn't ready to say that the US should pull out.

GREAT. What a towering intellect you're showing Mike; a) the only rational reason to not advocate for a pull out is if the US will help stabilize Iraq in the next couple years, b) that's not happening now (stabilizing influence), c) there's no particular reason to believe it will happen in the future, d) but what the hey, just cuz it's logically inconsistent, let's continue our existential opposition.

THIS is (was) the case for Kerry? EXISTENTIAL OPPOSITION? Hope for something you don't think is likely? WOW, the military-industrial complex, worried after Viet Nam that the US' citizenry's irrational confidence that using US power to kill other people (and to have our own soldiers killed) in service of our myopic economic interests, appears to have had a tremendous victory. Kinsley, the token-Leftist Talking Head, has confidence in our use of the military's force as a force for good, DESPITE the already serious problems doing so (between 20,000 and 100,000 civilians dead, the use of napalm, torture in Abu Ghraib, Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay, and recent reports from the Red Cross "alleging" continued torture (see earlier Red Cross report at The Smoking Gun).

Can all of you see this? How morally repugnant and weak this is? THIS is the Kerry legacy -- opposition equivalent to support from the Viet Nam era.

There is, in my opinion, LITTLE REASON to think that we will be a force for good in Iraq in the short or long term, with our troops on the ground there (see: Haiti, Nicaragua, Grenada, Viet Nam, Korea, Cambodia, Iran, Iraq Part I...). Therefore, pulling out is the only, rational, opposition stance to have. Further, if one is to believe in democracy and/or Tariq Ali, Iraq should, Iraq must be allowed to develop their own government, their own way -- to say that we must stay there to create a democratic utopia for them is anti-democratic and simply intellectually incoherent... not to mention ignorant of our incontrovertible history of only supporting and implanting puppet or semi-puppet governments. (Yow! Haven't read this yet, but check out the transcript of Mr. Ali v. Chris Hitchens... if there aren't some sparks here, we deserve our money back...)

Chalk another one up to the failure of today's so-called liberals...

*J-Friend Sarah points out that she doesn't believe existentialism has ever been used correctly, and indeed may not have a coherent meaning. She tems some razão (to use super-portuglish, after J-Sister's super-spanglish "I gotta voy") -- that is, she's got a point. "Existential" means both "grounded in existence or the experience of existence : EMPIRICAL b : having being in time and space" -- in other words, something solid and perceivable in a mundane day-to-day way, and also means related to existentialism, " chiefly 20th century philosophical movement embracing diverse doctrines but centering on analysis of individual existence in an unfathomable universe and the plight of the individual who must assume ultimate responsibility for his acts of free will without any certain knowledge of what is right or wrong or good or bad", in other words, something uncertain grounded in a universe that is inherently thus. As Sarah points out, there's little better than those english words that mean both something and a concept almost exactly the opposite of that something.

And that's... one to grow on.

Hooray... I'm sick to my stomach...

Randi Rhodes and Air America Radio are possibly the last patriots left…

There’s so much wrong with Iraq right now, where the fuck to start.

Randi is reporting today that the US has been using Napalm in Falluja… a quick google search provides back up for this. Although the Pentagon apparently denied this last year, they also apparently admitted this last year (thanks to J Continuum fave Our use of napalm is also reported by the Sunday Mirror, the Independent, Al-Jazeera, and Alternet, both last year (where we tried to claim, apparently, that our technologically updated Mark 77 Napalm bombs were ‘remarkably similar’ to Napalm, but not napalm) and THIS year, in Falluja. (But hey, at least the media has done a great job of covering Falluja, right?) FUCKING. SICKENING.

Supposedly, there have been some calls before the UK House of Commons to take the US to task over this, described ever-so-Britishly as a “row” that insisted PM Blair take account of this and threaten to withdraw UK troops if such actions continued. Dollars’ll get you Pounds Sterling that this Napalm thing doesn’t break out into the open, much less get Blair to make any serious noises against Herr Bush.