Ah, supporting our troops

September 18, 2007

gold star father kicked defending his son’s memorial“:

As Carlos passed counter protesters, one man ripped a picture of Alex from the memorial. Carlos leaped on the man to retrieve the picture. It was at that point that approximately five others all began to attack Carlos by kicking him in the head, legs, stomach and back.

some people make me sick…


happy news!

August 24, 2007

progressive is the most favorable ideological term in america!

party at my place

August 14, 2007

beer and chips… oh heck, i’ll go buy a keg!

oooh, great printable invites.


August 10, 2007

quite possibly the most effective weapon ever developed during the great blog wars (2003-….).

visible vote!

August 10, 2007

watch the debate!

the HRC/LOGO format was superb, and explored issues beyond the terrible soundbytes we’re accustomed to. the commentary on it may be standard, but it is a very worthwhile watch. listening intently to the candidates changed my views on several of them (and dramatically upped my respect for a few).

richardson, unfortunately, stepped on several landmines, evading questions by focusing on his otherwise (very admirable) record. this is a shame, since he is a pretty impressive candidate. (and my current favorite, but only slightly).

wish i had said that…

August 9, 2007

i’d never heard of pat condell before today, but i have a ton of respect for him.

the banality of fantasy

August 9, 2007

(from Idealizing Fantasy Bodies, at the Iris Network)

i hate to admit it, but i play a fair amount of world of warcraft. i’m not ashamed that i enjoy the game – it really is a great way to connect with friends across the country – its just… i feel like i fell in with the wrong crowd. wow gamers are notoriously sexist. and homophobic (not only by player behavior – even game design and blizzard’s treatment of LBGT guilds plays a role).

i find it ironic that fantasy is often a conservative genre, playing with narrow concepts of history and tradition. history, to me, is a robust place, filled with forgotten possibilities. even supposedly simple traditions are the product of diversity that was pruned as a narrow approach won out. it is honestly a shame that these carryover stereotypes go unchallenged.

take the bodies of characters in world of warcraft. it is fairly clear that the designers chose to make models that fit ‘idealized’ human forms. bulky men. hourglass women. even the non-human fantasy races follow these roles – completely ignoring the diversity of body forms between males and females in the animal kingdom, or even the varying gender roles of men and women in human history.

if even our dreams and fantasies are so constrained, what hope is there for our lives?

this really shouldn’t shock me

July 30, 2007

the whitehouse coup

a gang of super-wealthy businessmen plotted to overthrow FDR with half a million veterans and “adopt the policies of Hitler and Mussolini to beat the great depression”. (more on wikipedia – under “the business plot” – it even appeared in History Today, an american coup d’etat)

… i’d only recently heard about the assasination attempt by Giuseppe Zangara, who got Anton Cermak instead. (talk about an interesting counterfactual history, if he’d shot FDR instead)

imagine if they taught this in schools. it gives a completely different gloss on the nature of our government, and the dangers it is exposed to. i imagine support for bush’s overreach and the bogus “money = speech” argument would have have dramatically less support.

(horray mercury rising)
(oh wow, you can even see it on video)

Out of Order

July 30, 2007

In short: An individual was arrested and charged with a hate crime for flushing a Koran in a toilet on the campus of Pace University [AP].

Ah, good old Pace. He clearly deserves some sort of punishment, that building has a ridiculous shortage of toilets (they were rather sketch to begin with – or maybe that is just NYC in July…).

Vandalism is the offense (and perhaps theft – as noted below). That certainly needs to be addressed. The question is whether a particular intent – hatred – should be considered an aggravating factor to the crime. [Note that nobody knows the intent, we’re all just, perhaps unfairly, speculating.]

With hate crime legislation, hate is added as a factor to redress the harm done to (an implicitly minority) community, the hostile environment the action fosters. As commenters note, “it’s the affect it has on that worshipper that makes it a hate crime.”

This is one of many reasons hate crime legislation is so dangerous.

Sticks and stones aren’t the only things that hurt. Speech hurts. Consider the Piss Christ debate. Believers frequently advanced the argument that this NEA-funded art fostered a hostile atmosphere toward Christianity. As the Justice said, “It is often true that one man’s vulgarity is another’s lyric.”

Fine. Christians aren’t really an oppressed minority, even if they sometimes claim to be one. But artistic expression has run up against interpretations of Islam before. “A Koran with a Buddha shape carved into it (a reference to the Bamiyan Buddhas destroyed by the Taliban)” was removed from Roq la Rue. Or even political expression, when a gay artist burned an antique Koran (worth $60k) to protest its homophobic content. Perhaps both speakers were hate-free. But suppose otherwise. Do the intolerant really deserve fewer speech rights than the rest of us? (Mill would say no – the best way to show them error is to debate them freely.) PZ Meyers could certainly be construed to ‘hate’ religion. Does that limit his speech?

I really like books, and I really like community, but I am an even biger supporter of the pointed criticism of ideas. There is a long and proud tradition of treating undue sanctimony with disrespectful insolence. It is, perhaps, even central to debates about the place of religion in society. The pomp holiness of the devout is best countered with a little irreverence. But a free debate cannot have legal limits enforced by one side.

Attacking beliefs through criticism (even creative responses) is legitimate, necessary, and hopefully protected speech. At least it should be.

Read the rest of this entry »

can we talk about it yet?

July 23, 2007

warning: harry potter spoilers below. run in fear.

Read the rest of this entry »


July 19, 2007

citation stealing as plagarism?

(to be fair, I went to Easily Distracted, to read savage minds, and only then went to language log, then jumped back to Easily Distracted’s comments).

commentary on commentary alone tends to distort and deracinate an argument. and the products of this process aren’t always appealing. [think of when ‘scary movie’ spoofed ‘scream’, itself a spoof on halloween et al. if you’re a lover of slasher films it is pretty clear that at each iteration, originallity and artistic value was substantially decreased as an intricate theme was distilled into its basest appreciable components. resulting in vastly too many sperm jokes in the last set of movies.]

where this really hurts is in the reproduction of ‘statistics’ as facts. take the comment in a recent ny times that “in the last 20 years, ‘about half of America’s economic growth has gone to the top 1 percent.’ ” the times is quoting senator edwards. senator edwards made that comment in speeches, but never appears to have attributed it. i don’t doubt the statistic.  or fault edwards for failure to verbally cite in a campaign.  but i do wish that news reporters would investigate these claims, to substantiate or deny them.

the same could probably be said of the history of philosophy, actually.

outliers – is it the data or the theory?

July 19, 2007

During my brief(?) stint at the Treasury, my coworkers and I frequently excluded outliers from data because their position on the scatterplot didn’t mesh with our understanding of community finance.  We simply assumed the data was invalid in some way.  It certainly made for a *slightly* more coherent understanding of an exceptionally chaotic set of data.

what you really shouldn’t do—especially when the cases are in other respects quite similar, such as all being functioning, rich capitalist democracies—is label entire countries as “outliers” in order to remove them from your analysis, and then pretend that this has made them disappear from the face of the earth, too.

[Outliers, at crooked timber]

The problem, to me, occurs where the statistical trend between a limited number of variables is completely insufficient to examine a data set whose causal picture is, in fact, incredibly complex.  For the case recently discussed, whether more taxes (counter intuitively) produce less revenue… is much like predicting weather changes based on the activity of the butterflies in my backyard.  No doubt there is an effect, good luck creating the regression.

and we’re back…

July 18, 2007

sorry for the break…  (apologizing to my reading audience of – me).  its just that, being in the amazing and beautiful land of montana… i didn’t really want to spend much time inside.

alas, i head to the east coast in a month and so i’m acclimating by spending time inside, and reading various and insulting online articles to get my blood pressure up.

for those of you abroad…

November 16, 2006

… be thankful you didn’t get fundies as your host parents. i mean, talk about rude.

friday random 10

November 3, 2006

t minus 9 workdays until i return to montana… so a sampling of my ipod music for the x-country road tour seems appropriate.

  1. Never Enough – Eminem. wait a second, i have eminem on this ipod?  other than mosh, that is?  time to clean this thing up, lest i have to hit forward to move past
  2. I Would Walk 500 Miles – Me First and the Gimme Gimmes.  all time favorite punk cover band.  “and if i haver… whatever that means”  priceless.  to equivocate, to vascilate, btw.
  3. Kill A Kitten – Stephen Lynch.  i still laugh out loud whenever i hear this song.  satire and comdy in lyric form.  “if ye loveth jesus ye must kill a kitten”.  i love everything he does.  (haha, friday cat blogging!)
  4. Djobi djoba – Gypsy Kings.  calming me down (you’ll remember them from hotel california on the big lebowski movie)
  5. The Pointless, Yet Poignant, Crisis of a Co-Ed – Dar Williams.  priceless dar, the whole album is worth listening to.
  6. Almost Crimes – Broken Social Scene.  there really is no accounting for where this list is going.
  7. Alternative Girlfriend – Barenaked Ladies.  two places after dar?  my ipod mocks itself.  total filler track on a CD, but fun listening all the same.
  8. Take Back – Green Day.  i heart nimrod.
  9. All My Life – Kici and Jojo.  i’ve been told thats spelled wrong.  but no bother.  one of the best songs about romance ever.  (i’m a cheezy sap, so shoot me). 
  10. I Don’t Want Her Around – NOFX.  all time fav punk band, knew they would come up sooner or later

sinking ships

November 3, 2006

if you want to talking about insulting soldiers, how about abandoning one to a fundamentalist cleric?  who is really calling the shots over there?  and if we’re lost control, why are we staying?

don’t call me red

November 3, 2006

headline:  “on final campaign swing, bush visits deep red territory

the nytimes has something about “shoring up the base

hint – montana isn’t ‘the base’, not anymore.  we’re not even all that red.  democratic governor, democratic senator (maybe another?), democratic legislature (i hope)… if this is the base, i want to see the swing states.

loose lips

November 2, 2006

as noted on atrios:

HANNITY: How important is getting Usama bin Laden in the war on terror?

BUSH: Well, it’s important, and that’s why we’re after him every single day. But so is getting Zawahiri important, and so is getting the number-three guy, whoever he is when they pop up. You know, we’ve got this guy, Zarqawi.

 as on may 5, 2005 we’d downed 6 no.3s …  so the president apparently thinks that the war on terrorism is international whack a mole?  or a matter of political convenience?  true insight into his character?

 and across the aisle, kerry sticks his foot in his mouth:

“Education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. And if you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.”

foot in mouth disease…  what he meant to say:

“I can’t overstress the importance of a great education. Do you know where you end up if you don’t study, if you aren’t smart, if you’re intellectually lazy? You end up getting us stuck in a war in Iraq. Just ask President Bush.”

does a man who served his country in vietnam actually hate the troops, and a freudian slip exposes it for all to see?

of course not.  bush could not think something so shameful and be commander-in-chief.  i may vehemently disagree with his policies – to the point of finding many criminal – but no human being is that wicked.  john kerry, given who he is, could not intend to insult the troops.  (say otherwise, and you’re actually insulting a soldier, an irony i hope someone appreciates.)  both politicians stick their foot in their mouths, thats all.

we’ve all flubbed a line before.  enough times on the stage, you’re bound to misspeak.  in our high school performance of the crucible, john proctor said “the promise the stallion gives the girl, i gave that mare”.  bestiality in salem?  maybe, but not so much the point of the play.

john derbyshire notes that much of this outrage is fabricated, almost seeing someone trip and yelling “HA!”.  i have to agree, watching someone you dislike squirm is fun, and probably scores a couple cheap points, but… is it too much to ask that our parties act more like statesmen, and less like immature first graders?

i know this should be obvious – but the real problems here (no viable plan to eliminate al qaeda, no viable exit strategy for iraq, rising income inequality…) aren’t those the ones the parties should be fighting over, flubbed jokes on fund-raising tours?  isn’t the american public entitled to an apology, for the shameless immaturity of… well, every political campaign since i’ve been born?

And yet you can claim that you and you alone can protect us from terrorism?

October 27, 2006

olbermann’s comment on gop fearmongering.  (found on litbrit’s site… as was this title).  go, relax, watch it. 

notable quotes?

  • There is a cheap Texas Chainsaw Massacre quality to the whole thing…
  • You have adopted bin Laden and Zawahiri as spokesmen for the Republican National Committee.
  •  to forgive you for terrorizing us, we would have to believe that you somehow competent in keeping others from terrorizing us.  Yet last week, construction workers repairing a subway line in New York City were cleaning out an abandoned manhole on the edge of the WTC site, when they stumbled on the horrific and impossible: human remains from 9/11.

i could go on for a while, just watch it.

(oh, and thank you, MSNBC, for creating programming i’ll actually watch)

obama obama obama

October 27, 2006

i’ve complained to friends that obama doesn’t have much in the way of a track record.  allow me to eat a huge plate of crow, and admit that i was totally and utterly wrong.  hilzoy makes a convincing case for obama’s ability.  read it.  despite this, i’m still on the fence, if only because i haven’t seen the vision he’s laying out (ezra’s point).