aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Sunday, December 25, 2005
Taking the credit card issuers to task
An editorial in the NYTimes today:
[C]redit card companies aren’t all that interested in customers who pay their bills in full every month. They really want the so-called revolvers, people who don’t cover their balances and pony up those juicy interest payments and fees. The tighter repayment provisions in the new law will encourage companies to trawl for even less-qualified customers.
This is all a stark reminder of just how one-sided the new bankruptcy law is. While access to Chapter 7 bankruptcy has been sharply curtailed in the law, which went into effect in October, credit card companies are welcome to keep stuffing mailboxes with pre-approved cards.
Legislators ignored the five billion solicitations for new cards sent out last year alone. They pretended that the blame for the rising number of bankruptcies and delinquencies lay solely at the doorstep of debtors who recklessly used bankruptcy courts to dodge their responsibilities. This year, we’ve set a record with more than two million people in this country declaring bankruptcy. And many of their doorsteps are littered with direct mail offering new, high-interest cards.
At the very least, the credit card industry shares responsibility for this surge in bankruptcy filings. And with the reams of data and advanced risk-modeling tools available to financial companies, it is fair to argue that they deserve the better part of the blame.
I only wish there was someone listening.
Mom fights the RIAA
After $24,000 in legal bills, this mother of five vows to fight on by herself. Her former lawyer says she doesn’t really need him:
It was Easter Sunday, and Patricia Santangelo was in church with her kids when she says the music recording industry peeked into her computer and decided to take her to court.
Santangelo says she has never downloaded a single song on her computer, but the industry didn’t see it that way. The woman from Wappingers Falls, about 80 miles north of New York City, is among the more than 16,000 people who have been sued for allegedly pirating music through file-sharing computer networks.
“I assumed that when I explained to them who I was and that I wasn’t a computer downloader, it would just go away,” she said in an interview. “I didn’t really understand what it all meant. But they just kept insisting on a financial settlement.”
The industry is demanding thousands of dollars to settle the case, but Santangelo, unlike the 3,700 defendants who have already settled, says she will stand on principle and fight the lawsuit.
“It’s a moral issue,” she said. “I can’t sign something that says I agree to stop doing something I never did.”
Follow on screen instructions
Among the 21st century Christmas toys opened here this morning:
A couple Nintendo DSs - with picto chat, a touch screen drawing pad and keyboard linking up to 16 kids in 4 chat rooms - an iPod shuffle, a digital camera, an updated Furby ("an emoto-tronic friend"), the retro Rock’em Sock’em Robots (not the newer wireless version) and a Darth Vader voice-changer mask.
When kids press the belly...one of seven musical beats is heard. When they turn his right ear, they can add up to seven rhythms; his left ear alters up to seven melodies. Other sound effects are added when they touch a “flicker” switch. Kids “create” their own music by altering the tempo… [W]hen you connect iZ to an iPod or other musical source. The character’s wide eyes bounce to the beat, and its colorful flashing horn nose responds to the music.
Me, I went for the 20Q pocket mind reader. Actually, I brought them. After a friend in NY got me one, I went out and bought them for the kids:
The artificial intelligence behind the game is a neural-network, similar to a human brain. A brain, or neural-network, is built from neurons connected by synaptic connections. A human brain has about one hundred trillion (100,000,000,000,000) synaptic connections. The 20q.net online version currently has about ten million (10,000,000), and the pocket version has about two hundred and fifty thousand (250,000). The game uses the neural-network to choose the next question as well as deciding what to guess.
Meanwhile Doug’s having troubles installing the iPod software on the PC, “Failed to complete installation??? uh oh...”
Saturday, December 24, 2005
Merry Christmas Happy Hanukkah Good Kwanza
The day started with a trip to the Virgin Megastore at Union Square to pick up a CD for Doug’s mom. The salesclerk asked, “Peter Paul who?” She looked it up and we bought their single copy of the Peter Paul & Mary Holiday Celebration.
Evidently the War on Christmas has been a long one.
We left New York, had lunch in Philadelphia, dinner in Lancaster and we’re sleeping in Harrisburg. We’ll be up early in the morning with the niece and nephew to open Christmas presents.
We wish you and yours a great one, however you celebrate.
Christmas day worship in your living room via DVD
As Christmas Day is nearly here, I thought it worth reposting my reaction from two weeks ago to the decision by some mega-churches to cancel the Christmas service and offer a DVD instead.
The megachurch goal of an “innovative” and “family friendly” approach is achieved this Christmas by canceling the Christmas Day service and distributing a DVD instead.
This, says Willow Creek Community Church Communications Director Cally Parkinson (a “community” church needs a communications director???) will facilitate a “more personal and maybe more intimate Christmas message.”
God, she says, “is with us wherever we are.” How convenient.
For me it confirms Fareed Zakaria’s observation in The Future of Freedom that there’s a decline of religious authority in American life. In a compelling and well argued chapter entitled “The Death of Authority” he suggests that the notion of evangelicalism thriving because of its strictness is flat-out wrong.
Rather, he explains, today’s fundamentalism has undergone a profound populist transformation; the focus is on attracting the masses. Today we have faith as therapy; a populist evangelicalism that coddles its flock. “People are praised, comforted, consoled, but never condemned,” he writes:
[p.214] What remains of the old Protestant fundamentalism is politics: abortion, gays, evolution. These issues are what binds the vast congregation together. But even here things have changed as Americans have become more tolerant of many of these social taboos. Today many fundamentalist churches take nominally tough positions on, say, homosexuality but increasingly do little else for fear of offending the average believer, whom one scholar calls “the unwashed Harry.” All it really takes to be a fundamentalist these days is to watch the TV shows, go to the theme parks, buy Christian rock, and vote Republican.
So are the fundamentalist upset about canceling the Christmas service? Some. But the big deal even for them is not that they’re canceling the Christmas service. It turns out that’s the trend among evangelical churches; they make Christmas Eve the big draw instead. But because Christmas falls on a Sunday they’ll be canceling a Sunday service. That’s the upset.
The cancelation won’t upset my worship routine. Bedside Baptist is the church for me. And it looks like this Christmas, even here in the red, red, heart of the South, I won’t be alone in that.
SEE ALSO: Slate’s photo essay on the anatomy of megachurches.
UK gay priests rebel over marriage
The Church of England’s Gay priests want a civil partnerships for themselves:
In recent correspondence, the Church of England reiterated its teachings that sexual relations should only take place within a heterosexual marriage.
The church is not enforcing its directive on lay members who have civil partnerships but is telling clergy they must promise that their relationships will be celibate.
BBC News religious affairs correspondent Robert Piggott said there are already signs of a rebellion from gay clergy.
He said the issue of homosexuality has already split the worldwide communion and now poses a new threat to unity at home.
Wednesday saw the first same-sex ceremonies take place in England and Wales.
It’s official: TiVo’s a great gadget
A friend with a featured role in Transamerica - she was outstanding, by the way - commented to Doug last night on the heterosexual cast. As with Brokeback Mountain, I think it’s a good thing. I don’t want ghettoized movies preaching to the choir, I want movies that reach out and spread the good word.
Transamerica is that kind of movie. It is outstanding; Felicity Huffman’s performance brave and brilliant:
To call Felicity Huffman’s performance in “Transamerica” persuasive would be an understatement, as well as somewhat misleading. Her character, Bree (short for Sabrina), is a pre-operative transsexual who lives in a modest bungalow in Los Angeles and in a condition she refers to as “stealth.” In other words, though still technically male, Bree passes for a woman, though there is nothing very stealthy about her elaborate, almost theatrical displays of femininity. In her tasteful pink outfits and meticulously applied makeup, she presents an image of womanliness that harks back to an earlier era. Her voice soft and breathy, she avoids cursing and peppers her conversation with Latinate words and foreign phrases.
In this debut feature by Duncan Tucker, who wrote and directed it, “Transamerica” sets out to affirm Bree’s dignity, to liberate her and others like her from any association with camp or freakishness. That the film succeeds without slipping too far into sentimentality or didacticism is in no small measure the result of Ms. Huffman’s wit and grace. (She may also be the first film actor of either sex to do frontal nudity, in a single movie, as both.) Her work on “Desperate Housewives,” for which she won an Emmy earlier this year, suggests a knack for gender parody, since that series is in essence a drag show that happens to star real women. The challenge Ms. Huffman faces here is more complicated: she must convey the layers of Bree’s identity and the spaces between those layers. It is not just that the actress must play a man who is playing a woman - that much is a matter of technique (with some prosthetic assistance, to be sure) - but also that she must impersonate a performer in the midst of learning a complicated role. Her performance is a complex metamorphosis, and it is thrilling to watch.
I will be hosting a screening in our little town.
Friday, December 23, 2005
Why accept the ghosted op-ed?
Julian asks this good question:
Why does nobody much seem to have a problem with the common-as-water practice of op-ed ghost writing? Sure, presumably the nominal author of a piece written by some research assistant endorses the contents, but isn’t it a little odd that editors who make “disclosure” and “transparency” professional mantras seem not to blink at running articles purporting to be written by one person and actually written by another? I bounced the question off a few D.C. friends who seemed to think that precisely because the practice was so common, it didn’t really count as deceptive: Everyone assumes that an op-ed festooned with a sufficiently famous byline (of someone not a professional writer, anyway) was actually penned by someone else. But I rather doubt that really is most people’s assumption outside the Beltway.
Yes, why not ”author name for famous byline?” Or at least ”famous byline with author name?” We can guess the reason: the commercial press wants the draw of the famous byline and the famous byline won’t do it without or is enticed by the solo credit.
UPDATE - James Joyner says:
People in important positions have subordinates who do most of the work, which the senior merely oversees. While it’s true that Abraham Lincoln found time to write the Gettysburg Address, we typically don’t expect presidents to write their own speeches. Similarly, if the chairman of General Motors is pleaing his company’s case in the op-ed pages of a major newspaper, we can be assured that he signed off on the column even if he didn’t write it. It’s not the wordsmithing that we care about but the message.
Conversely, when I read the column of a professional pundit, I operate under the assumption that I’m getting them. When I read George Will, Michael Kinsley, or Charles Krauthammer--or, for that matter, Kevin Drum, Andrew Sullivan, or Glenn Reynolds--I don’t do so in a vacuum but rather in the context of a relationship that I’ve built with them through the course of their writing. While the arguments they make in a given piece are still the main thing, their words are intertwined with their reputations.
Santorum’s a weasel
Intelligent design is becoming a hot issue in Pennsylvania’s Senate race. Rick Santorum, the Senate’s third-highest-ranking Republican, sits on the board of the Thomas More Law Center, which led the fight for ID in Dover, Pa. He also praised the Dover school district for trying to “teach the controversy of evolution.” Now that the case has led to a court ruling that eviscerated ID, Santorum says the center “made a huge mistake in taking this case,” and he’s going to quit its board. Santorum 2002: “Intelligent design is a legitimate scientific theory that should be taught in science classes.” Santorum 2005: “I’m not comfortable with intelligent design being taught in the science classroom.” Reaction from Santorum’s challenger: He’s an ideologue or a weasel, take your pick.
Faith in theater
The Times looks at the Roman Catholic church on West 49th Street known as the Actors’ Chapel and religious-minded actors who go there:
Religion and the theater, of course, have been connected since long before Jesus’ time, and performers of all faiths populate Broadway, where praying before performing or auditioning is common (if not always successful).
Some Catholics, in particular, feel there is a direct connection between the drama of the church and that of the stage. Father Baker, for instance, reminds some parishioners that “the Broadway experience is rooted in the great Western drama of the liturgy and of the beliefs.”
St. Malachy’s, a traditional Gothic-style chapel with a donated Steinway piano - which “God sent us,” Father Baker said - is just one of the Christian outposts for actors on Broadway and beyond. More and more, clergy members and Christian performers themselves say, those who are seeking out services are younger and more devoted to the idea that a religious rooting can be important, personally and professionally, in a famously tough industry.
Scott Porter, the lead in Altar Boyz is quoted on Christians’ harsh condemnation of homosexuality:
“I had a pastor tell me that if there are gays that work in this field, you have to condemn them,” Mr. Porter said. “And I asked him, ‘Why are you condemning them?’ I think you should be openly accepting and loving. People are changed from personal experience, not by someone condemning them.”
I’ll assume he means changed as in “made believers” as opposed to changed as in “made straight.” Either way it’s a welcome Christian viewpoint.
Being gay is a choice
A homosexual proclivity may not be.
Homosexual and gay are not synonymous; all homosexuals are not gay. Homosexual acts may be circumstantial - a man in prison, a drunken evening - or experimental and do not mean an individual is homosexual by nature. But experimentation can lead to the discovery of a homosexual inclination.
Once that inclination is realized, how it is addressed matters to all of us. Because then there is a choice to be made: to accept homosexuality or to resist and fight it. To embrace it is to become gay. To resist it leads to all kinds of trouble.
In Abraham Lincoln’s day, a more agrarian time when the family was the economic unit, gay was not a choice. Had it been, I’m persuaded beyond all reasonable doubt that Lincoln might have chosen it. And that he’d have been happier if he had.
Urbanization and mobilization - particularly World War II which brought women into the workforce and men together as it took them around the world - brought with it the beginnings of a gay identity. That identity is rooted in the collective experience of those who have gone through the difficult process of making the choice to embrace their homsexuality.
I saw Brokeback Mountain yesterday. Its peculiar achievement is to show straight America the cost to all of us when someone chooses not to be gay. For Ennis’s torment was not his alone; he shared it with Jack and Alma and their daughters and every woman he dated and every random person that fell victim to his wild outbursts of rage against the world.
Jack had a choice too, one that would not have made as tragic a movie.
Ennis was right when he said, “If you can’t fix it, Jack, you gotta stand it.” The heartbreak was in the way he chose to “stand it.” Ennis didn’t realize he had a choice. In the final shot, alone in his trailer, Ennis looks at a postcard of Brokeback Mountain tacked to a closet door. He closes the door.
What we must see, all of us gay and straight alike, is that it’s in our interest to help open the closet door. We must make the choice to come out of the closet and become gay an easier one; the obvious one. Because that’s the right choice, the good choice, the healthy choice, for our society and for all of us living in it.
RELATED: Here’s the full text Annie Proulx short story.
Thursday, December 22, 2005
I love The Strand Bookstore at Broadway and 12th.
Today I bought The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few & How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies, & Nations by James Surowiecki, Slam Dunks and No-Brainers: Language In Your Life, the Media, Business, Politics, and, Like, Whatever by Leslie Savan, The Next Attack: The Failure of the War on Terror and a Strategy for Getting It Right by Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon, and Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture
by Ariel Levy.
They didn’t have The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology by Ray Kurzweil. “That’s a popular book,” said the salesperson.
Four out of five’s not bad.
“Sexy is all she is…”
So says my Westchester-connected friend about DA Jeanine Pirro. “I don’t know why the Republicans are cozying up to her. Have you seen how she dresses?”
He thinks she’s got no substance. I think she’ll win:
Even as she announced she would shutter her campaign against Clinton, Pirro jumped into the state attorney general’s contest. A recent independent poll showed her trailing the two Democrats seeking that office.
In a statement released by her campaign, Pirro said her “law enforcement background better qualifies me for a race for New York State Attorney General than a race for the United States Senate.”
It was obvious she’d never lay a glove on Clinton, but she was soooo right for the fight, even before the 32-second pause in her campaign kickoff speech. Scott Shields has wrap-up of her short-lived candidacy and wonders, who’s in?
It’s the liberals!
Kevin Drum comments on conservative claims that there have been no new terrorist acts on American soil because of the Patriot Act, the NSA surveillance and the enhanced interrogation techniques:
Of course, you might just as well ask yourself why there were no terrorist attacks on American soil in the four years before 9/11. The fact is, superhawks always claim their programs are vital to American security, and they almost always turn out to be wrong. We didn’t need to intern Japanese-Americans during World War II, we didn’t need Joe McCarthy’s theatrics during the Cold War, and we didn’t need COINTELPRO during the Vietnam War. And when the Church Committee outlawed the most egregious of our intelligence abuses in the 70s, guess what happened? The Soviet Union disintegrated a decade later. Turns out we didn’t need that stuff after all. America is a lot stronger than its supposed defenders give it credit for.
In any case, [this is] a talking point you can expect to hear a lot more of when al-Qaeda eventually mounts another successful attack on American soil, an act so likely as to be almost inevitable. No matter how big or how small that attack turns out to be, the hawks will rush to announce: it’s the liberals’ fault. It’s your fault. It’s my fault.
But never their fault. Never the fault of those who have so little faith in America’s institutions in the first place. It’s never their fault.
I am always aware that it was 8 1/2 years between World Trade Center attacks; and that Bush said after 9/11 that this was a new war that called for a new way of fighting. Then he proceeded with business as usual.
But wait… I’m wrong! There is something new. This war calls for no shared sacrifice; and no shared responsibility.
Or earthly father:
Can a loyal Christian believe that Christ was not born of a biological virgin? Perhaps it’s worth posing a different question: Why is church authority so intent upon Mary’s virginity as a historical fact? Would Jesus be any less God’s son if he had an earthly father? The central message of the Gospel is that God raised up and redeemed his servant from death by crucifixion-the Roman style of execution reserved for the lowest of the low. Why couldn’t God have sent the same message of divine solidarity with the world’s outcasts by making a Messiah out of a man whose conception was also taboo?
Some church leaders feel the pull of the illegitimacy tradition but fear its impact. “Undoubtedly, some sophisticated Christians could live with the alternative Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ [but] for many less sophisticated believers, illegitimacy would be an offense that would challenge the plausibility of the Christian Mystery,” Brown writes. However well-intended, that fear may be misdirected. When she published her book, Schaberg got seven grateful or supportive letters for every angry one she received. More than a century ago, Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote, “If a heavenly father, why not a heavenly mother? And if an earthly mother, why not an earthly father?” She continued, “I think the doctrine of the Virgin Birth as something sweeter, higher, nobler than ordinary motherhood, is a slur on all the natural motherhood of the world.” An unveiled illegitimacy tradition offers this Christmas gift: the restoration of natural motherhood to its rightful place in the miraculous.
The only thing we have to fear is…distorted judgement
H.D.S. Greenway writing in the Boston Globe:
IN MARCH OF 1933, Franklin Roosevelt, facing the crisis of the Great Depression, said in his inaugural address that ‘’the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
The fear people felt then was not nameless, unreasoning, nor unjustified, as Roosevelt well knew. In fact, his address went on to say that ‘’the withered leaves of industrial enterprise lie on every side; farmers find no markets for their produce; the savings of many years in thousands of families are gone . . . Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment.”
What Roosevelt meant was that fear can distort judgment and cloud the mind’s ability to perceive right turns from wrong turns in the road to safety. [...]
The Bush administration’s predilection to torture was clearly a result of mind-clouding fear caused by the greatest terrorist attack in history on Sept. 11th, 2001. The same can be said of the excesses of the Patriot Act, and, too, the decision to use the National Security Agency to spy on American citizens without benefit of warrant as required by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
The Bush administration has shamelessly used fear to get its way. Both the president and vice president have tried to picture a withdrawal from Iraq as resulting in an Al Qaeda takeover of Iraq, and an Al Qaeda-led Caliphate stretching across the Muslim world. In reality al Qaeda hasn’t the remotest chance of taking over Iraq, not with 80 percent of the population either Kurdish or Shi’ite, and a timely end to American occupation might sooner lead to an Iraqi-Sunni disenchantment with foreign terrorists.
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Bloomberg a racist?
No longer steeped in the New York political scene, I don’t have a knowledgeable position on the strike; I lean towards favoring the strikers. But I do have a position on this comment by the mayor:
NEW YORK—Transit strike rhetoric took an ugly turn after Mayor Michael Bloomberg described union heads as “thuggish,” a remark some say was racist in the context of a predominantly black union.
Personal attacks were flying _ not among those butting heads over a new contract, but between the transit union and the mayor, who has no official role in the negotiations. City subways and buses are managed by the state Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Bloomberg’s comment is another example of unconscious racism.
John Batelle’s Predictions 2006 are up. The first two real doozies:
1. Someone, and I do not know who, will make a big pile of Big Media video assets freely available on the web - and not via Google Video. This will be a major studio, or television company, which will realize that once you free content, content will come back to you in mashed up and remixed glory that has - holy smokes! - real business models like advertising and retail attached. The deal will be simple: anyone can download, rip, and mix this video, but if you plan to make money from it - even selling ads next to it - you have to cut a deal with the mother ship. The company that does this will be heralded as either visionary, lunatic, or both.
2. Google will stumble, some might say badly, but it will be significant. How? My money is on its second or third major deal - something on the order of the recent AOL deal. It may well be a loss (perceived or otherwise) in the Google Book Search case. Or it might be the privacy issue. This is not to say the company is going to fail, or the stock, for that matter. Just that it will face a major test in 2006 that it won’t pass with flying colors.
Read them all. Here’s how he did last year.
Oh, and, I like this one too: “15. Tivo and NetFlix will merge.”
Hillary’s not Bill
I just came from a table full of people who instantly said they’d vote Hillary for president. Most thought she would not win (and none of us thinks she’s a liberal). Slate points to this week’s New York Magazine:
According to an article, Hillary Clinton’s sponsorship of the Flag Protection Act illustrates precisely why she is unelectable. Not blessed with husband Bill’s “uncanny knack for finessing left and right,” Hillary may support the war and flirt with mom-and-apple-pie issues, but that will only alienate Democrats while failing to win over Republicans. “American voters have been habitually choosing a certain kind of distinctly American person as president, and Hillary Clinton is not that kind of person,” the author says.
I said the way for her to win is to, right after re-election as senator, start an exploratory committee and launch a listening tour that is the exact national replica of the one that won her first senate election.
Well, not really, but it sure feels that way: $130 in tickets!
My car is licensed in Georgia but I had never removed the New York inspection sticker from my windshield. Turns out, that’s illegal. Not one but two $65 tickets.
I’ll plead innocent. And wind up paying half the fine some months from now…
I made it to Sweeney Todd - not the alternative rock band formed in 1969, but rather the dark, re-imagined, revival Sweeney Todd playing on Broadway - via the PATH train then walking. Today I’ll take a similar route to visit my old stomping grounds in Westchester.
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
The Pentagon apparently sees gays as a threat
From SLDN (Servicemembers Legal Defense Network):
WASHINGTON, DC - According to recent press reports, Pentagon officials have been spying on what they call “suspicious” meetings by civilian groups, including student groups opposed to the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual military personnel. The story, first reported by Lisa Myers and NBC News last week, noted that Pentagon investigators had records pertaining to April protests at the State University of New York at Albany and William Patterson College in New Jersey. A February protest at NYU was also listed, along with the law school’s LGBT advocacy group OUTlaw, which was classified as “possibly violent” by the Pentagon. A UC-Santa Cruz “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” protest, which included a gay kiss-in, was labeled as a “credible threat” of terrorism.
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) condemned the Pentagon surveillance and monitoring. “The Pentagon is supposed to defend the Constitution, not turn it upside down,” said SLDN executive director C. Dixon Osburn. “Students have a first amendment right to protest and Americans have a right to expect that their government will respect our constitutional right to privacy. To suggest that a gay kiss-in is a ‘credible threat’ is absurd, homophobic and irrational. To suggest the Constitution does not apply to groups with views differing with Pentagon policy is chilling.”
In January, the Department of Defense confirmed a report that Air Force officials proposed developing a chemical weapon in 1994 that would turn enemies gay. The proposal, part of a plan from Wright Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, was to develop “chemicals that effect (sic) human behavior so that discipline and morale in enemy units is adversely effected (sic). One distasteful but completely non-lethal example would be strong aphrodisiacs, especially if the chemical also caused homosexual behavior.” SLDN also condemned that report, and the Pentagon later said it never intended to develop the program.
“The Pentagon seems to constantly find new and more offensive ways to demean lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people,” said Osburn. ”First, we were deemed unfit to serve our country, despite winning wars, medals and the praise of fellow service members. Then, our sexual orientation was suggested as a means to destabilize the enemy. Now, our public displays of affection are equated with al Qaeda terrorist activity. It is time for new Pentagon policy consistent with the views of 21st century America.”
Dover is over
HARRISBURG, Pa. [my hometwon]—“Intelligent design” cannot be mentioned in biology classes in a Pennsylvania public school district, a federal judge said Tuesday, ruling in one of the biggest courtroom clashes on evolution since the 1925 Scopes trial.
Dover Area School Board members violated the Constitution when they ordered that its biology curriculum must include the notion that life on Earth was produced by an unidentified intelligent cause, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III said. Several members repeatedly lied to cover their motives even while professing religious beliefs, he said.
The judge’s ruling is here.
Probabilistic accuracy v definitive authority
Chris Anderson has a wonderful post on why people are uncomfortable with Wikipedia, Google and blogs. It’s because these systems “sacrifice perfection at the microscale for optimization at the macroscale.” He says we’re living in a probabilistic age:
The good thing about probabilistic systems is that they benefit from the wisdom of the crowd and as a result can scale nicely both in breadth and depth. But because they do this by sacrificing absolute certainty on the microscale, you need to take any single result with a grain of salt. As Zephoria puts it in this smart post, Wikipedia “should be the first source of information, not the last. It should be a site for information exploration, not the definitive source of facts.”
The same is true for blogs, no single one of which is authoritative. As I put it in this post, “blogs are a Long Tail, and it is always a mistake to generalize about the quality or nature of content in the Long Tail--it is, by definition, variable and diverse.” But collectively they are proving more than an equal to mainstream media. You just need to read more than one of them before making up your own mind.
Likewise for Google, which seems both omniscient and inscrutable. It makes connections that you or I might not, because they emerge naturally from math on a scale we can’t comprehend. Google is arguably the first company to be born with the alien intelligence of the Web’s large-N statistics hard-wired into its DNA. That’s why it’s so successful, and so seemingly unstoppable.
Monday, December 19, 2005
From Salon, new lows in reality TV:
Crew members from the WB reality show “Cheaters” have been indicted on charges of assault after a caught-on-tape adulteress tried to flee the show’s cameras. The host, director and two security guards from the show allegedly assaulted the woman to try to keep her on camera. The woman’s husband, too, was indicted for violating a protection order she had against him, and is awaiting trial for previous charges of assaulting her, which should clear up any question of why she was cheating on him—with a police captain.