Monday, June 30, 2008

Random Flickr Blogging: img_7994

Random Flickr-blogging explained. (Join the fun!)

Click on the images to see this week's entries so far, from:

Anthony Cartouche at Yazoo Street Scandal

shiltone at The King's Stilts

Generik at The Generik Brand

Ben Varkentine at a dragon dancing with the Buddha

George at I'm Not One To Blog, But...

Kanchi on her first dance class in Summer Camp

More in sorrow than in anger:

"It did not meet my expectations."


G-dmn it, how hard is it to say this?

Press to Obama "Denounce Clark"
Obama to Press "I won't get into an argument between the former Supreme Allied Commander and General and a former Captain (edited in deference to S.W. Anderson's point in the comments) about whose command experience is greater."



Okay, I know it's terribly expensive to hire actual human proofreaders, but I bet the American Family Association is wishing it had made the investment after this snafu. It seems some right-wing sites use Auto-Correct on Associated Press articles to weed out language they find unacceptable. I wonder what the AP thinks about this:

...the American Family Association’s OneNewsNow website takes the phenomenon [auto-correct] one step further with its AP articles. The far-right fundamentalist group replaces the word “gay” in the articles with the word “homosexual.” I’m not entirely sure why, but it seems to make the AFA happy. The group is, after all, pretty far out there.

The problem, of course, is that “gay” does not always mean what the AFA wants it to mean. My friend Kyle reported this morning that sprinter Tyson Gay won the 100 meters at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials over the weekend. The AFA ran the story, but only after the auto-correct had “fixed” the article.

That means — you guessed it — the track star was renamed “Tyson Homosexual.” The headline on the piece read, “Homosexual eases into 100 final at Olympic trials.”

The eagle eyes at the AFA have since fixed their "fix", but there is a screen capture here, along with some more examples of proofreading brilliance.

via Shakesville

Monday Movie Review: The Eagle Has Landed

The Eagle Has Landed (1976) 8/10
In the final days of World War II, an unlikely plan to kidnap Winston Churchill seems as if it might succeed. Directed by John Sturges.

I believe this is what is meant by a "corker." What a cast of characters! What a delightful assortment of oddities and quirks, and what an adventure!

The oddest thing about The Eagle Has Landed is that our "heroes" are all Nazis or Nazi collaborators. Tom Mankiewicz's screenplay goes to great lengths to give most of them motivations that are palatable to the audience; Col. Steiner (Michael Caine), for example, is court-marshalled for attempting to help a Jewish woman escape being transported to a concentration camp. But Himmler (Donald Pleasance) has given the highest authority to this kidnapping plot, and so Col. Radl (Robert Duvall) gets Steiner and his men—crack paratroopers—released.

The fact remains, you're rooting for Nazis. It's "safe" to do so because you know their plot fails and the war is essentially already lost, and because there is virtually no Nazism per se in the film (except for a brief remark about the "order" that England lacks). It's pretty much World War II as convenient backdrop for an adventure story.

And it really is a terrific adventure, with a little humor, a little slapstick, a lot of action, and a touch of romance. Donald Sutherland, as an Irishman working to defeat England to further the cause of a united Ireland, is terrific. He arrives in a small village, where Churchill is scheduled to vacation, in advance of the paratroopers; befriending locals, learning the lay of the land, and preparing for the attack. Meanwhile, he gets into fights, falls for a local girl, and does a generally poor job of maintaining a low profile. He's certainly the best part of the movie.

(And by the way, this movie passes Mo's Movie Measure: The interaction of local women is crucial, even though most of the characters are men.)

You can already tell it's a kickass cast, and I didn't even mention Jean Marsh, Larry Hagman, Treat Williams, or Jenny Agutter. The movie looks good (production design by Bond veteran Peter Murton) and moves beautifully.

The primary downside is the accents, many of which swallow the German names so badly that I had to use the IMDb to figure out who was who.

There's less to say about this film because it's fundamentally meaningless; it's meant only for fun, and it provides fun. It's one of those movie that makes the rounds on television, and it's worth catching.

(The Cross-post Has Landed)

Pure comedy Gold

William the Bloody claims familiarity with the Declaration of Independence and with regular food.

Half a century ago the philosopher Leo Strauss remarked that the passage in which the Declaration of Independence proclaims its self-evident truths “has frequently been quoted, but, by its weight and its elevation, it is made immune to the degrading effects of the excessive familiarity which breeds contempt and of misuse which breeds disgust.”

I’ve had occasion to test this claim. The last few years, we’ve spent July Fourth at the house of friends who have had the assembled company read the entire declaration. It’s a longer document than one thinks; the charges against the king take quite a while to get through.

(This is my favorite part:)

But I can report from firsthand experience that the declaration as a whole, and not just its most famous phrases, remains remarkably immune to the degrading effects of excessive familiarity. (gee, ya think?)

Oh, come on, I could more easily believe they wadded the thing up and used it to start the charcoal to roast Iraqi babies than I could that they stand around reading it and savoring every word.

Too Busy to Hate? But Not Too Busy for PR!

Too Busy To Hate?

No, you can't make this shit up. It really appeared under his byline. David Ignatius explains that "everyone wants" what the emperor-or-whatever-they-call-him of Dubai wants, which is that Obama and McCain take the imaginary debates to this imaginary city to show their imaginary grasp of world affairs.

Atrios puts it down to Ignatius's desire for an all expenses paid trip to Dubai, a place an ordinary person wouldn't go for graft, let alone just for a hotel room and some free toiletries. But I think its worse than that. Its so improbable that I don't see Ignatius wasting his ink on it. Lets face it, the entire thing is a boondoggle of absurd proportions and Ignatius has to have received a payoff up front. We'll know that when his next column proposes that "everyone is talking" about what "great idea" it would be if Obama and McCain would agree to debate on the St. Andrew's Golf Course, wearing Golfing pants, because everyone knows that "Golf is the sport that's too busy to hate" and we have all those golfing interests. And the next column? He'll propose that they sell the naming rights to the debate to Microsoft.

My personal favorite in this gagworthy essay is this remarkable line:

As much as any place in the Arab world, Dubai is a symbol of modernization and change. It's a bit over the top, to be sure, with an artificial ski resort, man-made islands in the shape of a palm tree and rococo hotels with make-believe canals and Arab castles. What's likable about Dubai is that, as a boomtown, it's a city that's "too busy to hate," as was said a generation ago of Atlanta.

What? See, when people are kept busy by capitalism and disney they are "too busy to hate" so presumably all those other countries where they have free time to hate, or to fire mortars at occupation forces, or attack the allies or whatever? Its because they are just plain lazy and under-occupied. If only they had good jobs and rococo hotels and stuff in Iraq, or an autocrat to make them show up at those jobs and clean those hotels, there'd be no insurgency at all. The Iraq war, the enmity of the Arab states towards Israel, is really just a failure of capitalism and the resulting discontent, not an expression of it.


Edited to add El Gato Negro's very interesting comment on this post:

My thoughts align closely to aimai's, especially after reading paragraphs like this:

The idea for this debate emerged in conversations and e-mails over the past week with officials in Dubai.
It appears to have the unofficial blessing of Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid, the emirate's ruler. Dubai's leaders "realize the importance of such an idea and are ready to receive the candidates and organize the event," one senior official told me.

The only new information in the column is that Ignatz has been having conversations with top officials from Dubai, the rest is all P.R.

It does appear as if Ignatius is working for someone who has Dubai as a client. Or he himself has Dubai as a client.


cross posted at Steve M's No More Mr. Nice Blog

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

A correspondent writes to Josh Micah Marshall's TPM:

The entire Republican campaign will be focused on making Obama the worst menu choice imaginable. Of course this will sully St. McCain's reputation and he will be subject to all manner of criticism (the stuff DC Dems fear so much they'll do anything to avoid). Nonetheless, the Republicans will take an ugly win over a noble loss any day.

They will use the summer months to shore up the old McCain image as "maverick", "moderate" and independent. It's all lies but they don't care about that. The Democratic campaign meanwhile ... is entirely new to the national game and has nothing like the experience of winning the Republicans have so they are essentially giving free ground to the opposition instead of going on the attack now when they have McCain down and could easily keep him down. ...

The ... Democrats are not planning on winning. They are planning how not to lose. Naturally, this is one of the best strategies known to man if you wish to lose the contest. Republicans on the other hand are actively planning on how they win. They know this necessarily includes doing all they can to sully Obama's reputation and paint him as something he is not: untrustworthy, extreme, etc...

What we know, however, is that the Republicans have won the last two Presidential campaigns and have deep experience running a national operation, how to prepare for the fall and how to execute a take down of the opponent.

Read the whole thing, and start screaming now.


Sunday, June 29, 2008

What Digby Said

No more needs to be said than this.



Yesterday I gave a fund-raiser for Barack Obama. I called it "Something Old for Something New" even though I'm way too old to believe that. I posted it on the web site and leafleted my street and sent out e-invites to some friends. Years of giving children's parties have given me a lot of experience running parties--its important that there be something for everyone to do and important that there be some kind of goody bag. This party was its own thing to do, since everyone brought something, and its own built in goody bag, since everyone got to take something away.

Its a tough time of year for the kinds of people we know because everyone is either running from children's event to children's event, away on the weekends, or at weddings and things that eat up every hour of the weekend. Still, we got 22 donating couples. Each couple or single brought one thing they had loved but wanted to get rid of--a vase, a picture, a piece of jewlery, some fancy cushions, a set of cooking magazines--and donated 20.08 or whatever they wanted to to the campaign. We had punch and snacks for a couple of hours, they filled out their donor cards and some filled out volunteer cards as well, and then everyone got to choose one item from the table full of strange things. We kept Obama campaign pictures from the Scout Tufankjian web site running in a loop on a tv in one room, I had the volunteer stuff out, and I kept my own exhortations to a minimum and just reminded people that this is going to be a hard, bloody, campaign and we are going to need a lot of money and volunteer effort to fight it.

We raised 1,150 some dollars in two hours for the Obama campaign (I haven't quite figured it out yet because some people donated directly on the web site, some by cash and check). More importantly, everyone had a blast, came out for the campaign, and I had a chance to recruit other people into doing something for the campaign. It was so much fun that some people have said they would like to throw a similar party. Its pretty easy to do, really, so if you like to throw parties I highly recommend it.


Cross posted at No More Mr. Nice Blog

Totally the most important post of the week

Joss Whedon writes about Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along:


"Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog" will be streamed, LIVE (that part’s not true), FREE (sadly, that part is) right on, in mid-July. Specifically:

ACT ONE (Wheee!) will go up Tuesday July 15th.

ACT TWO (OMG!) will go up Thursday July 17th.

ACT THREE (Denouement!) will go up Saturday July 19th.

Read it all! And sing along!


Shorter David Broder: "I am shocked -- shocked!-- at the dumbing down of American political discourse."

Saturday, June 28, 2008

There Appears to be a little Glitch in the System

I got all excited about the revelation that Obama's social networking would actually work for us social beings behind it--that is to say that a "get obama to change his mind on FISA" group had sprung up within the Obama web site itself. But alas, there's a little flaw in the plan due to the acephalous format. Somehow when you sign up for the group instead of getting a single action item to do you are simultaneously signed up for *everyone's emails* and so all morning my mailbox has been flooded with sincere and thoughtful exhortations to Obama, and to the 400 other members of the group, to *do something* which, I assure you, I would happilly do. But I don't need 400 reminders to do the same damn thing--donate to Act Blue, phone Obama's telephone line, bring this FISA thing up at my fundraiser today, or anything else. Just one action item, once, is sufficient. Is this typical of how these things work? because its damned annoying. I'd go and unsubscribe but then I wouldn't get any mail at all.

Got to run, guests to the fundraiser in 3.5 hours. Panic stations are now. Mr. Aimai has chosen *this *&^%$*minute to decide he needs to go get a haircut for a business trip. Surprisingly, since he gets the cheapest level of supercuts, he didn't want to let me do it while I was so busy getting ready for the party.



This Is Wrong

Crooks and Liars posts this instructive "how not to respond" transcript of David Gregory asking one of Obama's Advisor's whether Bush shouldn't be given credit for "no attacks" on the US. Here's the transcript:

Gregory: “Hello, Susan. While we are talking about the prospect of nuclear terrorism, which is what is behind the concerns of North Korea and Iran. I have a broader question for you and really for Senator Obama. Why is it, does he believe that America has not been attacked in this country by terrorists since 9/11? And does George W. Bush, President Bush deserve credit for that?”

Rice: “I think what we have to acknowledge, David, that we haven’t been attacked but we are nonetheless less safe as a sequence of the policies of this administration has pursued. Our standing in the world is at an all-time low. Al Qaeda is more dangerous now in Afghanistan and Pakistan than it has been. Our intelligence community is warning they are reconstituting and more deadly to U.S. forces than Iraq.”

Crooks and Liars picks off the easy point which is to say that:

Of course, Gregory is incorrect, there HAS been a deadly terrorist attack in the U.S. since 9/11 — the anthrax attacks that killed 5 Americans ring a bell to you? It’s interesting that so many seem to forget this factoid. Speaking of anthrax and Bush failures, you’ll be happy to learn that $5.8 million of your tax dollars were just awarded to Steven Hatfill in his lawsuit against the Bush Justice Department. Hatfill is an Army scientist who was deemed a “Person of Interest” in the anthrax attacks, but was eventually ruled out as a suspect in the Bush administration’s botched investigation. Hatfill’s lawyer placed partial blame on the media for not questioning the Bush administration’s motives in targeting him and for reporting leaked disinformation they could not substantiate.
But even that doesn't go far enough because the correct response is:

"The US, its citizens, its soldiers, and its interests are being attacked every day in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the world. We lost X number of soldiers last month in Iraq, we lost X number of troops in Afghanistan. Our Allies lost civilians in the bombing attacks in Spain and our allies in Britain and our citizens in this country have lost priceless civil and constitutional protections against government abuse. Short sighted and foolish international policies on loose nukes and other weapons of mass destruction have made the US itself less safe over the long term. If President Bush just wanted to make sure that he looked good to the home audience he played a good game over the last seven years but safer? No, we aren't safer. Not when we count all the people the President has put in harm's way, all our national and international interests, or our historic rights as American citizens."

cross posted at No More Mr. Nice Blog


TalkLeft via Krugman:

The Division of Motor Vehicles in North Carolina issued 10,000 license plates that began with WTF before someone spoiled the fun by complaining.
IOW the NC DMV -- which for a while actually featured a WTF license plate on its website -- was PWND.

Old, Angry, But Very Much In Control--of his tax cuts..

Last week, the Center for American Progress Action Fund released a new report by Michael Ettlinger estimating that under McCain's tax plan, he and his wife, Cindy, would save $373,429. That's nearly $400,000 -- per year, not over the course of their lifetimes. (Under Barack Obama's plan, the McCains would save less than $6,000. The Obamas would save nearly $50,000 under McCain's plan, and slightly more than $6,000 under Obama's plan own plan.)

By the standards the media applied to Edwards, the fact that McCain supports tax policies that would save him and his wife nearly $400,000 a year -- and require massive cuts to public services to pay for those tax breaks -- should surely be news. Unlike the media's focus on Edwards' wealth, which did nothing to help voters understand the substance of his proposals, McCain's potential savings under his tax plan actually would help illustrate how much the wealthy would benefit from the plan.

h/t Media Matters and Atrios

cross posted at No More Mr. Nice Blog.

Satire Stranger Than The Onion

WaPo Ombudsman Little Debbie Howell reports in her column this morning on a few of her typically small-bore, sideshowey concerns about fairness at the formerly great newspaper. Today she's bugged over this swipe a sailing columnist took at Bush: "As anyone who has lived in the United States the last eight years knows, a rudderless ship is not so good"; and by a link that appeared on the WaPo's home page to a video at the WaPo-owned The Onion.

Jim Brady, executive editor, provides Howell a defense of the link to The Onion:

If everything we link to has to have the exact same standards as The Post, that would rule out an awful lot of good, interesting content. The word 'standards' applies to the way in which we do things and shouldn't be translated to mean that anyone who doesn't hold the same standards is wrong.
Which provides an opening for some "good, interesting" commentary on WaPo "standards" from several readers, among them cassidyt:
...[T]he ombudsman should be focusing on serious errors in the Post (of which there are many every day) and not on the inanities with which Howell concerns herself....

Let's just take an example. The Post has, for many months, evinced a willingness to completely dismiss the National Intelligence Estimate that concluded last fall that Iran has terminated its nuclear weapons program. There were two more instances of that this week. Richard Perle simply insisted, without the benefit of any supporting evidence, that the Iranian nuclear weapons program continues apace. Fred Hiatt, last Monday, grossly mischaracterized the NIE in his column on Iran.

Perhaps Ms. Howell could explain to her readers the Post's policies regarding the publication in its op-ed pages of purportedly factual assertions that are not only completely baseless, but contrary to the best available evidence. Does she feel the Post has an obligation to ask Mr. Perle to elaborate in his op-ed on the basis for his assertion that Iran maintains and active nuclear weapons program? Does she feel that the Post has an obligation to inquire as to whether Mr. Hiatt even bothered to read the NIE before grossly mischaracterizing it in his op-ed?

Ms. Howell has established that she can scrupulously comb the Post for any metaphor employed by its sports reporters that could be somehow interpreted as vaguely "anti-bush". But can she perform the ombudsman's principal task of elucidating for readers the journalistic tenets behind the Post's coverage of the most important issues of our day?

6/28/2008 6:28:33 AM
I'd say that's some "Blog Rage" you can believe in, Mr. Brady.

Friday, June 27, 2008

East Coast Friday Random Ten

Arizona Amp & Alternator, "Blue Blue Marble Girl" Arizona Amp & Alternator
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, "Hold On To Yourself" Run, Lazarus, Run!!!
Beck, "Side of the Road" Sea Change
Sparklehorse, "Good Morning Spider" Good Morning Spider
Damien Jurado, "Now You’re Swimming" Holding His Breath
Mink DeVille, "Desperate Days" The Mink DeVille Collection
Damien Jurado, "Ohio" Rehearsals for Departure
Lucinda Williams, "Lafayette" Happy Woman Blues
Scout Niblett, "Lula" Sweet Heart Fever
Beck, "Missing" Guero

Bonus: NoahJohn, "Surefire Woman" Had a Burning

I guess Tom hit the road without doing his mix this week. Despite some hiccups, the iPod gods have been kind to me in his stead.


A full tank of gas?
one half the cost
of an American Girl Doll.

thnx to jethi and kanchi for pointing that out.

Off to the Mountains

Heading up to Mokelumne Wilderness for my first backpack of the season; back Monday evening. Apologies to my co-bloggers for not giving prior notice--things have been nuts. Play nice, don't break anything, and have a swell time.

I have only one thing to say today



(Okay, also? I cross-posted.)

Old, Angry, and Out of Control

T Rex
"At least I don't plaster on the Rustoleum like a trollop, you cunt!"

Caption with your own actual (or slightly altered) McCain quotes in comments.

[Seen in Gualala, Mendocino County.]

Let the Good Times Roll

Shorter Peggy Noonan: "John McCain must unleash his inner asshole."

Quoting Mark Leibovich in the New York Times, Peg gives us a taste:

"[McCain] volunteered that Brooke Buchanan, his spokeswoman who was seated nearby and rolling her eyes, 'has a lot of her money hidden in the Cayman Islands' and that she earned it by 'dealing drugs.' Previously, Mr. McCain had identified Ms. Buchanan as 'Pat Buchanan's illegitimate daughter,' 'bipolar,' 'a drunk,' 'someone with a lot of boyfriends,' and 'just out of Betty Ford.'"

[Peggy:] That's my boy. That's the McCain his friends love, McCain unplugged. The fall will be dead serious. At this point why not be himself, be human? Let him refind his inner rebel, the famous irreverent maverick, let the tiger out of the cage....
And so on. Then, out of the comic relief period will come a dramatic climax:
The race has a subtext, a historic encounter between the Old America and the New, and suddenly the Old America—those who are literally old, who married a guy who fought at the Chosin Reservoir, and those not so old who yet remember, and cherish, the special glories of the Old—will rise, and join in, and make themselves heard. They will not leave without a fight. And on that day John McCain will suddenly make it a race, as if moved by them and wanting to come through for them one last time. And then on down to the wire. And then . . .

"The race has a subtext," and vice versa. And then...and thennn... [drum roll, please] ... and theeeeennnnnnnnn... Barack Obama will trounce the old fool.

Mark it down, Peggy.

[Sorry for my recent scarcity, but I have a significant arm injury.]

Update: Christ Almighty, why do I bother? Just go read roy.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer

Or something like that. I don't have the energy to look up the lyrics. And most of y'all are probably too young to remember that song anyway.

It's hot here. Duh. June in Alabama. The tomatoes are coming along. I missed the first ripe ones, but nephew Zach, who was kind enough to house-and-pet-and-plant-sit while we were on vacation, sampled them and said they were good. It's not quite as traumatic as missing the baby's first steps. :) We've had a few off the Early Girl and one from the Celebrity, and I picked the first Cherokee Purple yesterday. It wasn't quite ripe, but I wanted to bring it in before the birds spotted it. I'll cut it today or tomorrow and see if the inside really does look like raw liver. The jalapeño plants are covered with peppers, and I've already made one batch of cornbread.

We added to the herb collection while on vacation, picking up a Kentucky Colonel mint and a tri-color sage. It's really too bad that I can't stomach bourbon (a bad experience in my misspent youth), but perhaps someone else would like a mint julep.

The bell pepper seedlings and cilantro plants are coming along. I'm keeping them in pots as my other peppers (except for the jalapeños) aren't doing too well in the yard. Just rescued the hot banana from the back bed and put it back in a pot; it's looking pretty pathetic. Zach's, OTOH, is doing great. He brought it with him when he came over to house-sit, and it has two big honkin' peppers on it. I should have taken a picture of his and pretended it was mine. Zach, you should post a pic at your place; you definitely get bragging rights.

The cats are enjoying the catnip and other herbs -- when they can bestir themselves to chew. I cut a bunch the other day, made pesto with the basil and stuck the rest in a vase.

I promise more politics soon. Cat and garden pictures and a recipe for jalapeño cornbread after the jump.

Cherokee Purple, Celebrity, and a couple of Early Girls, with Angel and Amelia in the background

Kentucky Colonel mint and tricolor sage

bell peppers and cilantro

pitiful banana pepper

Amelia imbibing catnip

lazy Angel

Angel with herb bouquet

Jalapeño Cornbread

3/4 c. self-rising cornmeal
1/2 c. buttermilk
1 egg
1/4 c. vegetable oil (I use olive)
1/2 can cream corn (freeze the other half for your next batch)
1/2 c. shredded sharp cheddar
1 jalapeño pepper, chopped

Combine all ingredients. Spray small iron skillet with cooking spray and stick it in the oven while you preheat to 400°F. Pour batter into hot skillet and bake for 35 minutes. This will make 6-8 servings, depending on how you slice it. It's easy to double if you want to feed more people or have leftovers, which I'm told are quite tasty but tend to be spicier the longer they sit. I don't have an original source for this recipe; I got it from my mother-in-law, who is a wonderful cook, and adapted it for us. Enjoy!

We All Understand the Games that Are Being Played

If the President orders a telecom company to bury a man a live in the forest, will Congress give everyone immunity for it?

cf Conyers to Yoo
h/t Talking Points Memo

Conyers to Yoo: Could President Order Suspect Buried Alive?

David Addington is going to say as little as possible to the House Judiciary Committee today. The Vice President's chief of staff didn't submit testimony today or make an opening statement, and he successfully stonewalled the first round of questioning from subcommittee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). He did submit 10 exhibits to the committee as evidence, but it's not yet clear what they consist of.

But then it was Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) turn to ask questions. And he went toe to toe with Yoo, the former DOJ attorney and torture-memo author extraordinaire:

Conyers: Could the President order a suspect buried alive?

Yoo: Uh, Mr. Chairman, I don't think I've ever given advice that the President could order someone buried alive. . .

Conyers: I didn't ask you if you ever gave him advice. I asked you thought the President could order a suspect buried alive.

Yoo: Well Chairman, my view right now is that I don't think a President . . . no American President would ever have to order that or feel it necessary to order that.

Conyers: I think we understand the games that are being played.

Smoky Morning

Smoky Morning 01
This is what it looked like Tuesday morning. Visibility is still minimal, and the smell of smoke is still ubiquitous.

Where Ignorance Is Bliss, 'Tis Folly To Be Wise

"d" at LGM has a post up about a new book on the science, if there is such a thing, of ignorance.

A reviewer makes this point about ignorance:

Ignorance is not simply a veil between the knower and the unknown. It is an active – indeed vigorous – force in the world. Ignorance is strength; ignorance is bliss. There is big money in knowing how to change the subject – by claiming the need for “more research” into whether tobacco contains carcinogens, for example, or whether the powerful jaws of dinosaurs once helped Adam and Eve to crack open coconuts.


Having a memory so spotty that is a small miracle one can recall one’s own name is a wonderfully convenient thing, at least for Bush administration officials facing Congressional hearings. The Internet complicates the relationship between information and ignorance ceaselessly, and in ever newer ways. Poverty fosters ignorance. But affluence, it seems, does it no real harm.

This is, then, a field with much potential for growth. Most of the dozen papers in Agnotology are inquries into how particular bodies of ignorance have emerged and reproduced themselves over time. Nobody quotes the remark by Upton Sinclair that Al Gore made famous: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon him not understanding it.” Still, that line certainly applies to how blindspots have taken shape in the discourse over climate change, public health, and the history of racial oppression. (In a speech, Ronald Reagan once attributed the greatness of the United States to the fact that “it has never known slavery.”)

The internet, with its speed of thought connections between previously unconnected things--such as voters and information--makes the sharp divide between voters and thought, history, and logic all the more striking. It has the potential to bring together people who believe one thing (erroneously) with people who believe another thing (correctly) but the conjunction of the two can be either fruitful or disasterous, explosive or rather more like a damp squib, as this link to a video onPandagon shows:

Amanda links us to a video interrogation and an attempted education of a small town, right wing woman who is spreading the rumor that Obama is, in fact, a baby killing "Arab." The woman, who at some point got herself on a national TV or radio show to spout her newfound "knowledge" of Obama's real background and thus his real intentions, is convinced that Barack Obama is an "arab" with "arab tendencies" who favors "killing live babies" because she learned about it from a "lobbyist" in "DC" who she misidentifies as the Christian Women for America. Not surprisingly she turns out to mean the front group "Concerned Women for America" founded by Tim LaHaye's wife, Beverley.

The video confrontation is very poorly done since the videographer has no idea how to talk to someone he disagrees with, and is not prepared to confront her with the kind of evidence she would find credible--testimony, pictures, counter-information from sources she would consider believable. For example he does not sit down with the woman and interview her in comfort or seclusion but remains standing the entire time looking down on her (he appears to be taller). He does not show up with anything like "evidence" that she can look at--pictures of Obama and Michelle at their children's baptism. Pictures of Obama in church. Pictures of Obama at their own wedding. He does not confront her with weak points in her own theology which presumes that blood history (Obama's father) is more important than conversion history in Christian belief. Simply raising the question of whether a person is "born" or "chooses" to become Christian would have been an important way in to destablizing her world view. White american ethnic tradition places a high value on blood and ethnic origin, even for religions of choice. This is what an anthropologist would call an ethno-theory or a cultural trope. But at a higher level of abstraction Christianity is and always has been a converting religion that places most of its emphasis on the notion that every individual, regardless of his race or religious background, can and should come to Jesus and that that coming to Jesus wipes out the past. So this woman's insistence that Obama is "really" an Arab at some fundamental level, below the level of his actual history as a practicing Christian, exists in a very fragile conceptual space for her. On the one hand she believes it because race and ethnicity hold a very important place in her own daily worldview--they are obviously ineradicable and they leave their traces on us as people. But in her concious religious tradition? They have no long term place. Obama's stated intention to be a Christian, and to live as a Christian, and to raise his children as a Christian can't be countered with "he was born an Arab" or "his father was an Arab" because there are no such things in Christ Jesus per Paul and all the great converting figures.

In fact Obama would have a great success with these people--if idiots like this videographer don't interfere--going on a barnstorming "before I accepted Jesus" tour in which he, like Bush before him, pointed towards his own state of "original sin" (Bush's drunken indifference to god, Obama's years in the wilderness of Islam) *even or especially if he has to make it up.* He can say Michelle converted him, all dressed in white. This is such a natural part of the fundamentalist christian worldview that they almost can't grasp any other orientation to religion other than sinner to saved. An anthropologist that I knew twenty years ago, when this stuff was just barely on the horizon for all of us, told me in a fury that his brother had become a born again Christian and was insisting that Jesus had saved him from a life of prostitutes and drug dealing. The fury part? He said that his brother didn't actually have all the sins he thought he'd been cleansed of--he'd never been a drug dealer and he'd never lived the life of loose sexuality that he had ended up confessing to. It was all a kind of popular delusion, as public confessions and repentances tend to be.

I'm getting rather far afield from my original intention, which was to discuss ignorance and knowledge in the context of politics and the internet, but we've actually known quite a bit of this stuff for a very long time. John Emerson put up this great quote from Theodore Lowi's 1976 essay in Poliscide

From Poliscide, Theodore Lowi et. al., Macmillan, 1976, p. 282.:

Ignorance turned out to be a major result of specialization. Decision makers give up their knowledge of the whole as they seek full and complete knowledge of their particular piece of the whole. But ignorance is not only a correlative of specialization. It is almost a condition for peaceful coexistence among specialists.

Ignorance tends to be meaningfully distributed throughout the hierarchies. There was more ignorance at the center than at the periphery.....This brings our particular concern into focus. Ignorance at the scale that we observed could not have occurred by chance alone. Ignorance at this scale involving scientists -- that is, men dedicated to knowledge above all else -- had to be deliberate.

Reminding us that ignorance is a function of specialization, and specialization is a feature of modern societies and of modern media formats which consistently cut the world up into bits that can be commented on, or understood, only by "experts" whose knowledge is guaranteed by their appearance with degrees or histories attached to their names (a fellow of the AEI, a woman from Concerned Women of America) and by their appearance on your TV as an expert.

Individuals don't "know" much, outside of their own sensory perceptions, that they haven't heard or acquired at second hand from other sources of more or less dubious authority in their own social circle--or, with the growth of newspapers, books, radio, tv, and the internet their own imaginary social circle. When you go out to talk to someone who "knows" something that you think you know "just isn't true" you have to come armed with the same kind of information they are using to get to their erroneous conclusion, and you have to have a lot of patience. Just confronting someone and telling them they are wrong--or worse, that their trusted source is wrong is simply not convincing.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Self-Righteous Douchebags for McCain

Yesterday, an L.A. Times poll showed Nader drawing more support away from McCain than from Obama.

Today, Nader is attacking Obama.

Coincidence? I don't think so. The only way Saint Ralph has any relevance at all is if he damages Obama. If a poll shows he isn't doint that...well, he just has to try harder.

Update: Steve M eviscerates Nader on the substance of his statement. Go read--it's a thing of beauty.

War is Over, If You Want It/Arab Psychosocial Pathology Watch Part XXXX

Graduate of the von Clauswitz-Freud School of Psychology (Diploma available on the back of your Cereal Box)

One of the first things I realized when visiting Iraq after the U.S. invasion was that the very fact that Iraqis did not liberate themselves, but had to be liberated by Americans, was a source of humiliation to them. It’s one reason they never threw flowers. More... When someone else has to liberate you in your own home, that is humiliating — and humiliation, I believe, is the single-most underestimated force in international relations, especially in the Middle East.

That also helps explain why Iraqis initially never took ownership of their governing institutions, like the Coalition Provisional Authority, or C.P.A. They never fought for it. It was handed to them. People have to fight and win their own freedom, and that’s what gives their institutions legitimacy.

Must be the same school that gave John "drilling for manly confidence" McCain his diploma:

"Even though it may take some years, the fact that we are exploiting those reserves would have psychological impact that I think is beneficial."
Who knew that its all about the psychology? I thought God was on the side of the big guns? Now it turns out that God is just sitting behind us listening to us complain about our feelings and doodling on one of those little pads. I would definitely have run the war differently, if I'd known it was all about the feelings.

Best possible outcome

Orien Rose's surgery went perfectly. Everything went really, really well. She has a skull and a brow. The surgical team says they’re DONE inside her head. Like, done. There was very little bleeding, so healing should be fast.

Christine has written details here.

Orien just sent me a picture of her. I’m not posting a picture of a girl in a hospital gown all over the Internets, but she looks damn good. Sitting up, eating breakfast, signing “I love you” to the camera (Orien is a Sign Language Interpreter, and Orien Rose knows a little Sign as well).

Edit: Got permission from the parents to post a picture: go here.

Thank you all for your help.

Letter to an Aquaintance

McCain brings a lot of experience? Are you kidding me? Age and
Experience may be the same thing, but experience and wisdom sure
aren't. McCain is an old man, but his experience amounts to doing the
same things wrong, and getting the same out of his experiences, for all
those years.

McCain was the son of an important and privileged person, an Admiral,
and he used those connections to get into Flight School and stay in
although he, by his own admission, didn't do a good job, wasn't a good
student, and ranked some 584 out of a class of 599. Anyone else would
have been flunked out but privilege kept him in. In the military, he
was a pilot, not a leader of troops. He did not have any responsibility
for men under him, for strategy, or for any kind of combat other than
bombing missions. More... He crashed his plane less than a month into his
first tour of duty in Vietnam and served out the rest of his war in a
prison camp. After the war he went to the war college and wrote a thesis
on why it was the fault of the press and the American people that we
hadn't been able to bomb the Vietnamese into submission. After *that* he
dumped his injured first wife because she had been in a near fatal car
crash and lost her model good looks. He abandoned his first family and
took up with a rich girl 17 years his junior and moved to Arizona where
her wealthy family could back his run for congress. For 26 years he has
held a seat from Arizona, either congress or the senate, without once
holding a private sector job, meeting payroll, or doing other than
shelling out handouts to corporate cronies and accepting favors from
them. After the Keating Five scandal in which he and other prominent
politicians accepted favors and bribes in return for political favors
and taxpayer goodies he reinvented himself as a "maverick" who would
talk about anything to the press in return for soft treatment. His
entire history as a "campaign finance reform guy" is an utter fake--as
evidenced by his conduct during this primary season when he took public
money and its limitations, used it to leverage private loans, and then
tried to back out of public financing and its rules in order to bust the
caps on the allowed spending once he thought he could make a go on
private lobbyist money. He is *still* not in compliance with FEC
regulations, still overspending the limits he himself agreed to for the
primary, and under any other less corrupt form of government would
actually be facing fines and jail time for robbing the taxpayer and
breaking the law just during the primary. McCain has backed Bush and
the war in Iraq 100 percent from the get go--only going on tv
occasionally when it suited him to pretend to argue with the boundaries
of our fighting strategy. He is against a woman's right to choose, has
supported the overturning of roe v. wade and has said that he would
appoint extremely reactionary judges to the supreme court. If you want
to know more about why this might be important here is a site
for women's testimony
about how hard it has become to get a legitimate, medical, abortion
under Bush. When asked what our "most important economic issues" were
just recently he replied that "fighting islamic terrorism" was the most
important--in the face of the subprime and prime mortgage meltdown,
record unemployment, skyrocketing gas prices, and two disastrous wars
he proposes to do...what? He's as bad as Rudy "9/11" Guiliani. He knows
he can't win on issues and so he'd just planning to beat the drum on
national defense--well, he has zero record on national defense as a
military strategist or leader. He's been in congress all these years
just lapping up taxpayer money and passing it on to his lobbyist friends.

The man is a wholly owned subsidiary of lobbyists--witness the fact
that his entire staff is made up of lobbyists whom he has had to
ostentatiously dismiss, one after the other. I have a particular
dislike of McCain and his scummy ways because he figured very largely in
the Abramoff bribery scandals--which as you may or may not know involved
mass bribery of congressional officials as well as the looting of the
treasuries of various Indian tribes as they tried to get more favorable
treatment from congress. Abramoff was also neck deep in the selling of
influence allowing the abuse of workers in the Marianas islands which
included the importation of chinese women workers into near slave
conditions, forced abortions, and other crimes. McCain was instrumental
in making sure that Abramoff's connections with top Congressmen and
Senators was covered up. Lots of this is in a book written by my cousin
Peter Stone who researches and writes for the National Journal. But you
can also read all about McCain in "Free Ride: John McCain and the Media"
David Brock (should be a clickable link) and in Cliff Schecter's new
book The Real McCain: Why Conservatives Don't Trust Him and Why
Independents Shouldn't.

That was certainly more than you wanted to know! But this is one vote
that is too important to waste. The Republicans have had eight years to
drive this country into a ditch. If you like where we've ended up by
all means vote for the Republican in this race--but don't vote for
McCain under the impression that he isn't a true blue Republican. He has
postured, but he has never deviated from the party line under Bush--not
on torture, not on wiretapping American citizens, not on anything.
Don't make the mistake of voting for the guy who represents an
"experience" you don't want. We may all end up with another four years
of Bush if you do.

Mind over Matter in the New Yorker

This is one of those essays for which the New Yorker is justly famous--that just totally turns your head around on a subject with which you have some familiarity but no scientific grasp. Read it and itch. More...

He has tried all sorts of treatments—medications, acupuncture, herbal remedies, lidocaine injections, electrical-stimulation therapy. But nothing really worked, and the condition forced him to retire in 2001. He now avoids leaving the house. He gives himself projects. Last year, he built a three-foot stone wall around his yard, slowly placing the stones by hand. But he spends much of his day, after his wife has left for work, alone in the house with their three cats, his shirt off and the heat turned up, trying to prevent a flareup.

His neurologist introduced him to me, with his permission, as an example of someone with severe itching from a central rather than a peripheral cause. So one morning we sat in his living room trying to puzzle out what was going on. The sun streamed in through a big bay window. One of his cats, a scraggly brown tabby, curled up beside me on the couch. H. sat in an armchair in a baggy purple T-shirt he’d put on for my visit. He told me that he thought his problem was basically a “bad switch” in his neck where the tumor had been, a kind of loose wire sending false signals to his brain. But I told him about the increasing evidence that our sensory experiences are not sent to the brain but originate in it. When I got to the example of phantom-limb sensations, he perked up. The experiences of phantom-limb patients sounded familiar to him. When I mentioned that he might want to try the mirror-box treatment, he agreed. “I have a mirror upstairs,” he said.

He brought a cheval glass down to the living room, and I had him stand with his chest against the side of it, so that his troublesome left arm was behind it and his normal right arm was in front. He tipped his head so that when he looked into the mirror the image of his right arm seemed to occupy the same position as his left arm. Then I had him wave his arms, his actual arms, as if he were conducting an orchestra.

The first thing he expressed was disappointment. “It isn’t quite like looking at my left hand,” he said. But then suddenly it was.

“Wow!” he said. “Now, this is odd.”

After a moment or two, I noticed that he had stopped moving his left arm. Yet he reported that he still felt as if it were moving. What’s more, the sensations in it had changed dramatically. For the first time in eleven years, he felt his left hand “snap” back to normal size. He felt the burning pain in his arm diminish. And the itch, too, was dulled.

“This is positively bizarre,” he said.

Wednesday Wildflowerblogging

Bush Monkeyflower
Bush Monkeyflower (Mimulus aurantiacus) on Sweeney Ridge, San Mateo County.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Fire Season

I could smell the smoke when I walked outside this morning. To the east, the sky was a thick smoky brown. An extremely dry spring combined with a freak thunderstorm add up to 842 wildfires burning in Northern California.

And the season is just starting. It's going to be a smoky summer.



Monday, June 23, 2008

Random Flickr-Blogging: img_5584

Random Flickr-blogging explained. (Join the fun!)

Click on the images to see this week's entries, from:

Ben Varkentine at a dragon dancing with the Buddha

Generik at The Generik Brand

George at I'm Not One To Blog, But...

dday at d-day

Anthony Cartouche at Yazoo Street Scandal

shiltone at The King's Stilts