Blog or Not?

A statistically improbable polymath's views on politics and culture.

Friday, February 27, 2004
They beat us to it
New Paltz, NY, a little town in the Hudson River Valley, is issuing same-sex marriage licenses.

You know that scene at the end of All the President's Men, when all you see is a flurry of typed-out headlines showing the collapse and fall of the Nixon administration?

Yep, that's what's happening now.

Monday, February 23, 2004
People who didn't vote for Arnold
From the NYTimes:

The governor told Tim Russert, the host of "Meet the Press," that when he was in San Francisco on Friday, "all of a sudden we see riots and we see protests and we see people clashing. The next thing we know is there's injured or there's dead people."

The San Francisco police have reported no violence related to the same-sex marriage certificates. Hallye Jordan, a spokeswoman for Bill Lockyer, the California attorney general, suggested that Mr. Schwarzenegger might have confused his visit to San Francisco with "part of his next movie."

"There is no public safety emergency and we disagree with the governor's use of that type of rhetoric," Ms. Jordan said.

I've found myself thinking that Mayor Newsom picked this moment in history to start issuing same-sex marriage licenses precisely because he knew that many people, both in California and in the rest of the country, don't really take Governor Schwartzenegger seriously. I'm trying here, I really am--I mean, my former Senator, Fred Thompson, is currently one of the stars of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. So there's nothing wrong with being an actor and then going into politics. It's just that I'd prefer my actor-politicians to have played more, er, cerebral roles in the past. You know, like Jesse Ventura's turn as a Man in Black on an episode of The X-Files.

Sunday, February 22, 2004
Wait a minute... the robber barons had taste?
Jesse Taylor notes that Town Hall columnist Herbert London sounds like a stereotype of a leftist railing about the crass commercialism of the rich. I'm going to disagree with Jesse here and say that London's actually complaning about the lack of the Weberian Protestant work-hard-and-don't-spend-your-money ethic among the modern nouveau riche as opposed to the Robber Baron nouveau riche. But the real controversy is right in this sentence from the original article:

"The homes in Newport, Rhode Island reflect taste and aristocratic bearing unmatched by the mansions in Silicon Valley or the Hamptons. What Carnegie, Ford, Harriman and Rockefeller – with all their flaws – gave the nation will not be matched by the Donald and Warren Buffet."

I admit that I haven't been inside the Newport homes of any of the aforementioned, but I have been inside Biltmore Estate, the Vanderbilt family's palatial hideaway nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Ashville, North Carolina. "Taste", with its overtones of restraint, is not exactly the first word I'd use to describe that place--perhaps London actually meant to say "Edwardian bling-bling". (In case you want confirmation on this point, the website has a nice virtual tour, or you could rent "Richie Rich", which was filmed there.)

It's Back
Total Information Awareness.

Be afraid.

(Via Slashdot.)

We Probably Won't See This On the Official News Office Site
Apparently Professor Jacob Levy was called by the Children's Television Workshop in order to find out if "London Bridge Is Falling Down" had any sort of politically incorrect connotations (as in the more racist variations on "Eeny Meeny Miney Moe").
This is very, very cool.

Fun With the Harvard Dialect Study
I am:

52% (Dixie). Barely into the Dixie category.

Courtesy of The Yankee and Dixie Quiz (via Kathleen Moriarty).

I actually participated in the Harvard Dialect Study; I'm not sure how much my input skewed the results. I'm the child of a Chicago mother and a Long Island father, raised in Oak Ridge, TN
with extended vacations in the Chicago suburbs. (I was actually able to stretch the resulting internalized regional conflict into half of a Self, Culture, and Society essay last year.)

Sunday, February 15, 2004
George W. Bush: Statesman and Scholar
Belle of John and Belle Have A Blog has linked to a William Saletan article on Bush's, shall we say, Platonic view of reality. I'd have to say that this idea holds some merit, but I feel that Bush's actions in Iraq bear an even greater debt to Thomas More:

"As soon as war is declared, therefore, they [the Utopians] have their secret agents simultaneously post many placards, each marked with their official seal, in the most conspicuous places throughout enemy territory. In these proclamations they promise immense rewards to anyone who will do away with the enemy prince. They offer smaller but still substantial sums for killing any of a list of other individuals whom they name. These are the persons whom they regard as most responsible, after the prince, for plotting agression against them."

Has George W. Bush read Utopia?

Saturday, February 14, 2004
Waiter--one Singapore Fling! Er, Sling.
Amanda Butler is concerned by Singapore's actions in reactions to a falling birthrate--she's worried that Bush and his buddies are going to emulate the Singaporean government and give us novel dating tips such as "First Impressions Count!" and "Paying your date a compliment is a powerful tool!"

Me, I'm laughing at the hyperenthusiastic yenta act--and I'm pleased that Singapore is finally letting "Sex and the City" into the country as an attempt to get people in the mood. Hey, whatever increases freedom of expression. Besides, Singapore's always seemed like the kind of country that could stand to knock back a couple Singapore Slings and let its hair down.

Happy Valentine's Day
From Mayor Gavin Newsom, to Same-Sex Couples: Marriage

From the Massachusetts State Legislature: Gridlock

"Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There's a battle outside
And it is ragin'.
It'll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin'"

And for me: I get the chance to watch history being made.

"Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again"

--Lyrics from Bob Dylan, "The Times They Are A-Changin'".

Monday, February 09, 2004
A Beautiful, Beautiful Browser
Mozilla Firefox. Download it now. Yes, it's version 0.8, but trust me--this is one sweet browsing experience, and you can always keep your old Mozilla (as well as Internet Explorer, which I've mostly stopped using due to some gremlin which has permanently set my IE homepage to some seedy "search" site) in case this baby breaks down.

First off, and this is the new feature you're probably going to notice first, you can customize your toolbars. Theoretically you can do this on IE, but it's not something you notice right away. Here you'll notice--go to "Toolbars" and it's right there. Firefox starts you off with a fairly clean slate--just the standard directionals, home, a Google toolbar, and a bunch of Mozilla linkage--so I immediately started putting in tools and bookmarks.

(NOTE: If you start adding stuff, and you don't see it on the toolbar right away, don't fret--just open up a new browser window, and it'll pop up. Seems like there's a bit of a bug w/ this version [still a beta] in Windows. But it's still more bug-free than most of the stuff Microsoft puts out as the "finished" product.)

Now comes the best feature--the tabs. It's the perfect tool for a blogger. You know how Blogger's "Blog This!" feature gives you a little window for your blogging pleasure? Here I just center-click (e.g. click the scroll button, or right-click then select from menu) onto my Blogger link and I get a full-sized Blogger window--within the same Windows window. I am freed from the tiny window of "Blog This!", freed from picking out the right Mozilla window from my mass of collapsed Mozilla windows in the Start toolbar. I switch from subwindow to subwindow with ease.

Here's the link again.

Thursday, February 05, 2004
More Homeland Insecurity
Bush wants to cut research on decontaminating buildings exposed to biological weapons--buildings such as, say, Senate office buildings.

So... Andrew... you think Bush is good at Homeland Security, do you? James: you sure Al-Qaeda wants Howard Dean for President? (And just for that comment: [deleted] [deleted].)

Wednesday, February 04, 2004
It's Perfectly Rational!
Who is Davin Reed?

Tuesday, February 03, 2004
A Rare Personal Post
A friend of my family, a Bechtel employee, is being "deployed" to Iraq in a few days to rebuild the infrastructure. He'll be there for at least two months--could be up to seven. I heard about this less than an hour ago.


I'd never been connected on a personal level with this war, but... yeah.


Sunday, February 01, 2004
More thoughts on Andrew Sullivan
From Julian, one of my housemates, in Pandagon's comments, regarding Andrew Sullivan's continued support for President Bush:

"My theory: Sullivan is a character voter, not an issues voter. As a result, he looks for people with a similar character to himself. Bush is dishonest, intellectually lazy, shallowly ideological, and snidely contemptuous of disagreement. As a result, Sullivan takes an immediate liking to his character."

Now, I'm not in complete agreement with this comment--I guess I'm rather charitable in character assessment--I think Sullivan, bless his heart, is suffering from a bad case of cognitive dissonance. But it's an interesting take.

Cruel? Not really. Harmful to Health? Maybe.
Over at Crescat they've been discussing Libertarian presidential candidate Michael Badnarik's proposal for prison reform:

Given the opportunity, Michael would like to change one aspect of prison life to increase the safety of the people guarding them. Instead of allowing them to lift weights and exercise several hours per day (making them violent AND powerful), Michael would require them to remain in bed all day for the first month, and twelve hours per day after that. This lack of activity would allow their muscles to atrophy, making them helpless couch potatoes incapable of inflicting very much violence on each other, the guards, or unsuspecting citizens should they manage to escape. Michael also likes the idea of requiring them to submit one book report a week, encouraging them to strengthen their minds instead of their bodies.

Will Baude claims this punishment can't be classified as cruel--how painful is it to lie in bed all day? Admittedly, for a college student--especially here--this sounds pretty sweet. Besides, everyone agrees that letting hardened criminals pump iron for hours on end is a bad idea; Al Franken facetiously suggested replacing prison gyms with "mandatory step aerobics to Ace of Base". (Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot, I don't have the book here so I don't have the page number, 1996 I think) But is the solution really to keep these guys sedentary for a month?

We all know that when astronauts return to Earth after months in orbit most of them can't walk for a couple of days--their muscles have atrophied in zero gravity because there's none of the natural resistance training most of us unconsciously get when we drag our bodies along in the motion we call "walking". Of course, the astronauts try to compensate for this by performing resistance exercises using springs and suchlike, but it was still seen as quite the accomplishment when Shannon Lucid walked out of the space shuttle under her own power after breaking the world record for longest continuous period in orbit. Of course, Mr. Badnarik is hoping for this muscle atrophy. But what are the health risks involved in staying sedentary for a month? I'm not sure, but considering that the prison pays for inmate healthcare, I wouldn't want to find out.

I do like the book report idea, though. We need to increase literacy, and this seems like the only way to actually force people to read. And there's an entire universe of similar, low-cost, slightly kooky ideas for increasing the rehabilitation aspect of prisons--I'm personally partial to spraying lavendar mist around to calm people down and using feng shui in interesting ways.*

*I'm actually halfway serious about the lavendar--it can't hurt to give it a shot.