aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging
William Saletan on the arrival of mind-reading machines:
To get a clear snapshot of free will, [John-Dylan Haynes, a brilliant researcher at Germany’s Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience] designed an experiment that would isolate it from other mental functions. No objects to interpret; no physical movements to anticipate or execute; no reasoning to perform. Participants were put in an fMRI machine and were told they would soon be shown the word “select,” followed a few seconds later by two numbers. Their job was to covertly decide, when they saw the “select” cue, whether to add or subtract the unseen numbers. Then, they were to perform the chosen calculation and punch a button corresponding to the correct answer. The snapshot was taken right after the “select” cue, when they had nothing to do but choose addition or subtraction. [...]
The computer got it right 71 percent of the time.
I know what you’re thinking: Why would anyone want a machine to read his mind? But imagine being paralyzed, unable to walk, type, or speak. Imagine a helmet full of electrodes, or a chip implanted in your head, that lets your brain tell your computer which key to press. Those technologies are already here. And why endure the agony of mental hunt-and-peck? Why not design computers that, like a smart secretary, can discern and execute even abstract intentions? That’s what Haynes has in mind. You want to open a folder or an e-mail, and your computer does it. Your wish is its command.
Monday, March 19, 2007
Hillary 1984 whodunit: Maybe it was Limbaugh
After all, the anti-Clinton conservatives have been high on Obama lately:
The fact that Hillary Clinton took something of a pounding last week wasn’t big news. But an examination of the talk outlets revealed an interesting twist to that pattern. Whatever the motivation, some of those conservative hosts are not only using their microphones to blast away at Clinton. They are also embracing, or at least saying nice things about, Barack Obama, a liberal Democrat whose primary virtue in their eyes may be that he can defeat Clinton for the nomination.
Whether heartfelt, strategic or simply faint praise, this Obama mini-love fest may strike some as sounding strange coming from some icons of conservative talk.
SEE ALSO: Adam Conner’s excellent parsing of the viral explosion, Anatomy, Mystery, and Impact of The Obama 1984 Ad.
[It] represents “a new era, a new wave of politics ... because it’s not about Obama,” said Peter Leyden, director of the New Politics Institute, a San Francisco-based think tank on politics and new media. “It’s about the end of the broadcast era.” [...]
Veteran San Francisco ad man Bob Gardner, whose work has included political campaigns for former President Gerald Ford, said the video is “very powerful” in its efforts to call for a generational change in politics.
“It puts Hillary spouting cliche nonsense to the drones—while a fresh face breaks through,” he says. “It’s old versus new.”
That theme—reflecting a generational change in the relationship between media, politics, candidates and voters—suggests that “Hillary 1984” could have the iconic power with the 21st century political generation that another classic political ad called “Daisy” represented to Baby Boomers, says Leyden. That 1964 spot for President Lyndon Johnson—featuring images of a child plucking a daisy, which morphed ominously into a nuclear mushroom cloud—battered GOP presidential candidate Sen. Barry Goldwater because it, too, portrayed “a shattering of the whole world” in both political leadership, and media.
Obama’s campaign says it had absolutely nothing to do with it. I buy that. And I’m as big a believer as anyone in the talents of the public. Still, I can’t help but be suspicious that this was not “just someone playing around with their home editing setup who doesn’t like Hillary.”
It’s been on Fox all day. Wanna bet it leads the morning shows tomorrow?
The struggle continues
This from a region where defiantly hanging Ten Commandment plaques on courthouse walls is a badge of honor:
BUTLER, Ga. - The cool, busy lobby of the Taylor County courthouse features a bulletin board, a Dr Pepper vending machine and two framed rosters honoring local veterans of World War II. It is easy to spot the slight difference in wording that justifies displaying two plaques instead of one.
This list says “Whites,” and that list says “Colored.”
County officials explain that the segregated plaques continue to hang because state law says no publicly owned memorial dedicated to veterans of the United States - or of the Confederate States of America - shall be relocated, removed, concealed, et cetera, et cetera.
“Fifty-dash-three-dash-one, subparagraph B,” recites Edward N. Davis, the county attorney. It is up to the state legislature to change the law, he says. Besides, he and other county officials say, some people like the plaques the way they are, and not all those people are white.
Yes, and they tell us some slaves loved their masters too.
The animal within
Over the past two centuries, people have had to disabuse themselves about various ideologies asserting that humans are fundamentally different from other animals. Biologists have shown that our arms and legs and organs have long evolutionary histories. Beliefs about the uniqueness of human behavior might well be the last bastion of our superiority complex, but research by [Emory University primatologist Frans] de Waal and many others suggests that even this redoubt may be crumbling.
“I have done studies of reconciliation and coalition strategies in chimpanzees,” de Waal said. “Business managers tell me that reminds them so much of what people do.”
Trapped in the War on Terror
After listening to the University Channel podcast* of University of Pennsylvania Political Science Professor Ian S. Lustick’s “Trapped in the War on Terror” speech at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, today I bought the book:
The hijackers’ biggest victory was to goad our government into taking the bait by unleashing the War on Terror. The worry, witch-hunt, and waste that have ensued are, according to Ian S. Lustick, destroying American confidence, undermining our economy, warping our political life, and isolating us from our international allies.
The media have given constant attention to possible terrorist-initiated catastrophes and to the failures and weaknesses of the government’s response. Trapped in the War on Terror, however, questions the very rationale for the War on Terror. By analyzing the virtual absence of evidence of a terrorist threat inside the United States along with the motives and strategic purposes of al-Qaeda, Lustick shows how disconnected the War on Terror is from the real but remote threat terrorism poses. He explains how the generalized War on Terror began as part of the justification for invading Iraq, but then took on a life of its own. A whirlwind of fear, failure, and recrimination, this “war” drags every interest group and politician, he argues, into selfish competition for its spoils.
* The audio quality is poor but the content so compelling that it’s well worth a listen. I’m grateful that they put it out.
Sunday, March 18, 2007
If you can’t beat ‘em don’t join ‘em
Jonathan Lethem didn’t.
Lately I’ve become fitful about some of the typical ways art is commodified. Despite making my living (mostly) by licensing my own copyrights, I found myself questioning some of the particular ways such rights are transacted, and even some of the premises underlying what’s called intellectual property. I read a lot of Lawrence Lessig and Siva Vaidhyanathan, who convinced me that technological progress - and globalization - made this a particularly contemporary issue. I also read Lewis Hyde’s The Gift, which persuaded me, paradoxically, that these issues are eternal ones, deeply embedded in the impulse to make any kind of art in the first place. I came away with the sense that artists ought to engage these questions directly, rather than leaving it entirely for corporations (on one side) and public advocates (on the other) to hash out. I also realized that sometimes giving things away - things that are usually seen to have an important and intrinsic ‘value’, like a film option - already felt like a meaningful part of what I do. I wanted to do more of it.
Find out more about Jonathan. He discusses the give away on Morning Edition. He’s interviewed about it on Fresh Air. His Harper’s piece last month, The Ecstacy of Influence, fired up the copyfight set. He discusses it on Radio Open Source. And he did an opening talk at last year’s Comedies of Fair U$e conference.
Lessig on Viacom, copyright, Congress & the courts
Larry Lessig says that with the Grokster decision the courts took up the copyright cudgel and now lawyers everywhere “get two bites at the copyright policy-making apple, one in Congress and one in the courts.”
That’s bad news for we copyleft copyfighters because it’s easier for content companies to get the votes they need in the latter, where there are far fewer needed (in Congress they need hundreds, in the courts just five):
Long ago, Justice Hugo Black argued that it was not up to the Supreme Court to keep the Constitution “in tune with the times.” And it is here that the cupidity of the court begins to matter. For by setting the precedent that the court is as entitled to keep the Copyright Act “in tune with the times” as Congress, it has created an incentive for companies like Viacom, no longer satisfied with a statute, to turn to the courts to get the law updated. Congress, of course, is perfectly capable of changing or removing the safe harbor provision to meet Viacom’s liking. But Viacom recognizes there’s no political support for the change it wants. It thus turns to a policy maker that doesn’t need political support - the Supreme Court.
The conservatives on the Supreme Court have long warned about just this dynamic. And while I remain a skeptic about deferring to Congress on constitutional matters, this case is a powerful lesson about the costs of judicial policy making in an area as complex as copyright. The Internet will now face years of uncertainty before this fundamental question about the meaning of a decade-old legislative deal gets resolved.
Poverty: Vollmann knows it when he sees it
"Poverty presents a host of challenges, but knowing it when we see it isn’t one of them,” says Walter Kirn in today’s NYTimes’ Book Review:
How does traveling the world asking poor people why they think they’re poor differ from traveling the world asking people in pain why they’re in pain or thirsty people why they thirst? Is this a serious, legitimate inquiry, or does it betray a certain faux-autism that might be better suited to performance art? These are two of my questions for William T. Vollmann, the prolific, award-winning novelist and journalist whose new book, “Poor People,” centers on just such a Pyrrhic, postmodern project: asking the unfathomable of the unfortunate and using their numbed, predictable responses as proof of their plight’s intractable mystery.
Vollmann opens his study of poverty by describing all the things he won’t do and setting forth his reasons for not doing them. For starters, because he considers himself “rich” and doesn’t wish to playact or condescend, he informs us he won’t follow the example of George Orwell in “Down and Out in Paris and London” and try to walk a mile in poor folks’ shoes. Nor will he emulate James Agee’s text in “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men” (a book he regards as an “elitist expression of egalitarian longings") and tug at the heartstrings of the privileged while elevating the poor to sainthood. This is grandiose masochism, he suggests, and does the impoverished no good. He may be right about this, but I doubt it. Who but the rich can help the poor - or arrange things so they can more easily help themselves? And what does it matter if guilt moves them to do it? READ ON
Invisible octopus and urinal sculptures
Via Damn Cool Pics, “This Octopus turns invisible and visible at will..”
SEE ALSO: Damn cool urinals.
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Undercover, covert & classified
Before Valerie’s testimony on Friday the CIA had never put anything on the public record regarding her status. Yesterday the CIA came out of the closet. CIA Director Michael Hayden approved a statement that contained the following language:During her employment at the CIA, Ms. Wilson was under cover.
Her employment status with the CIA was classified information prohibited from disclosure under Executive Order 12958.
At the time of the publication of Robert Novak’s column on July 14,2003, Ms. Wilson’s CIA employment status was covert.
This was classified information.
Got it? The Director of the CIA confirmed in public for the first time that Valerie Plame Wilson was undercover, was covert and that this information was classified. What is it about English that goober Congressman Westmoreland and ditzy Vicky Toensing don’t understand?
The Show is over
At halfway through the one year run, he was interviewed for On The Media and asked what he had learned:
ZE FRANK: What have I concluded? I would say there’s this notion that this space is sort of a quasi-reality space, right? - and that, in a sort of different way than television, you actually, there’s this sense that you and your audience are enmeshed somehow and that they know something about you and you sort of know something about them. And I guess one of the really surprising things is the degree to which that’s true. You know [LAUGHS], the kind of emotional investment that I have gotten from this, and, [LAUGHS], you know, the degree to which a single comment in a huge comment field can pretty much ruin my day is really, really remarkable.
BOB GARFIELD: You’ve got 100,000 people a day streaming your production, which is, you know, let’s say, a bigger audience than Tucker Carlson has, and he makes a lot of money and he’s pretty famous. To what extent have you been able to cash in on the success of your show? I mean, is this a money-making proposition?
ZE FRANK: You know, the amount of time and sort of personal resource that I spend on the show [LAUGHS] makes it very, very hard to call any sort of financial gain on my part “cashing in.” One of the interesting things now is getting involved in this conversation of what exactly is the business model? But it’s not really about finding the business model that works. It’s about, you know, a few really large key players starting to invest real money into this space, you know, deciding that there’s value in this space. So in the meantime, you know, I have all this sort of requisite Web money-making tactics in place. I sell t-shirts. I have text links. And, you know, probably the most unusual thing that I do is I work with Revver, which encodes a small click-through ad on the end of my video and gives me some of the money from that.
BOB GARFIELD: And are you making a living compared to what you were making when you were, you know, in the advertising business?
ZE FRANK: [LAUGHS] No. The answer to that question is no.
The Show may be over but Ze’s only just begun.
Impossibly cool transparent screen shots
Transparent Screen - AREA,Originally uploaded by w00kie. Full gallery.
“this is not a Photoshop trick, this is his REAL desktop image”
Mark Twain demystifies the authorial ideal
When, at the age of 12, Helen Keller was accused of plagiarism, Michael Anagnos of the Perkins Institution in Boston convened a nine-member jury that acquitted her of the charge by a single vote. His. He later turned on her calling her “a living lie.” Keller would remain defensive about plagiarism ever after.
I must steal half a moment from my work to say how glad I am to have your book and how highly I value it, both for its own sake and as a remembrance of an affectionate friendship which has subsisted between us for nine years without a break and without a single act of violence that I can call to mind. I suppose there is nothing like it in heaven; and not likely to be, until we get there and show off. I often think of it with longing, and how they’ll say, “there they come--sit down in front.” I am practicing with a tin halo. You do the same. I was at Henry Roger’s last night, and of course we talked of you. He is not at all well--you will not like to hear that; but like you and me, he is just as lovely as ever.
I am charmed with your book--enchanted. You are a wonderful creature, the most wonderful in the world--you and your other half together--Miss Sullivan, I mean, for it took the pair of you to make complete and perfect whole. How she stands out in her letters! her brilliancy, penetration, originality, wisdom, character, and the fine literary competencies of her pen--they are all there.
Oh, dear me, how unspeakably funny and owlishly idiotic and grotesque was that “plagiarism” farce! As if there was much of anything in any human utterance, oral or written, except plagiarism! The kernel, the soul--let us go farther and say the substance, the bulk, the actual and valuable material of all human utterances in plagiarism. For substantially all ideas are second hand, consciously or unconsciously drawn from a million outside sources and daily use by the garnerer with a pride and satisfaction born of the superstition that he originated them; whereas there is not a rag of originality about them any where except the little discoloration they get from his mental and moral calibre and his temperament, which is revealed in characteristics of phrasing.
When a great orator makes a great speech you are listening to ten thousand men--but we call it his speech, and really some exceedingly small portion of it is his. But not enough to signify. It is merely a Waterloo. It is Wellington’s battle, in some degree, and we call it his but there were others that contributed. It takes a thousand men to invent a telegraph or a steam engine, or a phonograph, or a telephone, or any other important thing--and the last man gets the credit and we forget the others. He added his little mite--that ninety-nine parts of all things that proceed from the intellect are plagiarisms, pure and simple; and the lesson ought to make us modest. But nothing can do that.
Then why don’t we unwittingly reproduce the phrasing of a story, as well as the story itself? It can hardly happen--to the extent of fifty words--except in the case of a child; its memory tablet is not lumbered with impressions, and the natural language can have graving room there and preserve the language a year or two, but a grown person’s memory tablet is a palimpsest, with hardly a bare space upon which to engrave a phrase. It must be a very rare thing that a whole page gets so sharply printed on a man’s mind, by a single reading, that it will stay long enough to turn up some time or other to be mistaken by him for his own.
No doubt we are constantly littering our literature with disconnected sentences borrowed from books at some unremembered time and how imagined to be our own, but that is about the most we can do. In 1866 I read Dr. Holmes’s poems, in the Sandwich Islands. A year and a half later I stole his dedication, without knowing it, and used it to dedicate my “Innocents Abroad” with. Ten years afterward I was talking with Dr. Holmes about it. He was not an ignorant ass--no, not he; he was not a collection of decayed human turnips, like your “Plagiarism Court,” and so when I said, “I know now where I stole it, but who did you steal it from,” he said, “I don’t remember; I only know I stole it from somebody, because I have never originated anything altogether myself, nor met anyone who had!”
To think of those solemn donkeys breaking a little child’s heart with their ignorant rubbish about plagiarism! I couldn’t sleep for blaspheming about it last night. Why, their whole histories, their whole lives, all their learning, all their thoughts, all their opinions were one solid rock of plagiarism, and they didn’t know it and never suspected it. A gang of dull and hoary pirates piously setting themselves the task of disciplining and purifying a kitten that they think they’ve caught filching a chop! Oh, dam--
But you finish it, dear, I am running short of vocabulary today.
Every lovingly your friend (sic)
Mark Twain had complex and contradictory views on creativity and copyright. For much more here’s the Mark Twain and the History of Literary Copyright chapter from Siva’s Copyrights and Copywrongs (pdf).
Friday, March 16, 2007
TimesSelect free to edu
I just canceled my paid TimesSelect subscription. It’s now free for edu:
We are pleased to offer a complimentary subscription to TimesSelect. You must be a student or faculty member with a valid college or university e-mail address to be eligible for this offer. You no longer need an access code to activate your TimesSelect University Subscription.
More from Editor & Publisher:
[T]he company has “no regrets” putting 22 columnists at the Times and its sister newspaper The International Herald Tribune, archives and other material behind a pay wall.
As of January 2007, TimesSelect has 627,000 subscribers, 36% of which are online-only. In 2006, TimesSelect brought in $9.9 million in subscription revenue.
...Many colleges offer .edu addresses to their alums, and Nat Ives reports some believe college graduates will use the addresses to cheat TimesSelect. A Times veep says: “We’re assuming that the alumni of this nation’s colleges and universities have a thorough enough education in ethics to keep them honest.
According to Putt’s Law “technology is dominated by two types of people: those who understand what they do not manage, and those who manage what they do not understand.” Archibald Putt, the author of “Putt’s Law and the Successful Technocrat” speaks with IEEE’s Susan Hassler about what inspired him to start writing.
Putt, who has written using that pseudonym since 1976, has slowly seen his alter ego evolve and develop different opinions of its own. He still holds on to the concepts of Putt’s Law, and the competence inversion it illustrates, however.
Hassler asks him why he published an updated edition of his book, how he sees the effect of the internet influence how people work, and what type of impact he wants to generate on the younger generation of technology workers.
He discusses it in this ITConversations podcast:
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Hoxie: The First Stand & a lesson waiting
I just finished watching David Appleby’s documentary, Hoxie: The First Stand, about the voluntary integration of the Hoxie, Arkansas school district in 1955. The Hoxie school board - six white men believing the Brown v Board of Ed decision was good and reasonable and just - voted unanimously and stood together for a year under intense pressure to become the first of the 17 states which had mandatory segregation prior to Brown to integrate.
White supremacist activists from outside the area converged on Hoxie, and political leaders from throughout the South attempted to reverse the decision. All failed. Appleby interviews people from all sides - the school board, press, pupils, pols and lawmen - and illustrates their story with photos and footage, most powerfully of the political leaders of the period.
The documentary was completed in 2003. Julian Bond narrates. I am left deeply moved. The closing lines:
Meant to be, or made to be, the path they showed us remains a vivid reminder of the road not taken by so many others… Perhaps the Hoxie outcome could not have been duplicated throughout the rest of the South. Perhaps the next 20 years of struggle were inevitable. But the lesson, that racism fear and bigotry might be subdued by good leadership, rather than harnessed for political gain, is one we’re still waiting to learn.
Emphasis mine. Sadly, we’re still waiting.
Here’s a short Columbia Journalism Review piece on the film, which won a duPont award, a Peabody and a regional Emmy.
GMail status page
Can’t get into your GMail account? Now you can find out the status through GMail Alerts Manager. The first post:
Hi Gmailers -
The purpose of this sub-group is to provide you with valuable information regarding technical issues that Gmail may be experiencing. Posts will be made by Gmail Alerts Manager, a Google employee, and will have as accurate and up-to-date information as possible. We know how important Gmail is to our users and want to ensure that you are fully informed in the event of a problem.
Gmail Alerts Manager
Jeffrey Rosen discusses neuroscience law on Fresh Air
It’s about an emerging field of study called “neurolaw,” which combines neuroscience and the law. He writes about how evidence from brain-scanning technologies are being used in the courtroom to explain away criminal behavior.
The topic appeals to me for its call to rethink the notion of Retributive Justice, ascendant, Rosen tells us, since the 1970s. There is a scary side. The last paragraph of the Times piece:
As the new technologies proliferate, even the neurolaw experts themselves have only begun to think about the questions that lie ahead. Can the police get a search warrant for someone’s brain? Should the Fourth Amendment protect our minds in the same way that it protects our houses? Can courts order tests of suspects’ memories to determine whether they are gang members or police informers, or would this violate the Fifth Amendment’s ban on compulsory self-incrimination? Would punishing people for their thoughts rather than for their actions violate the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment? However astonishing our machines may become, they cannot tell us how to answer these perplexing questions. We must instead look to our own powers of reasoning and intuition, relatively primitive as they may be. As Stephen Morse puts it, neuroscience itself can never identify the mysterious point at which people should be excused from responsibility for their actions because they are not able, in some sense, to control themselves. That question, he suggests, is “moral and ultimately legal,” and it must be answered not in laboratories but in courtrooms and legislatures. In other words, we must answer it ourselves.
Critics say the technology changes nothing. Cynics say it is over-rated. That it will play out as we now envision is unlikely; that it raises questions we will be forced to face in my lifetime, much more so.
A man has to move his family because he is in violation of sex offender zoning.
Many of his patients, he explained, must pay for their drugs out-of-pocket, and yet even the generic drugs at pharmacy chains like Walgreens, Eckerd, and CVS could cost them dearly.
So Wolf began snooping around and found that two chains, Costco and Sam’s Club, sold generics at prices far, far below the other chains. Even once you factor in the cost of buying a membership at Costco and Sam’s Club, the price differences were astounding. Here are the prices he found at Houston stores for 90 tablets of generic Prozac:
Sam’s Club: $15
Those aren’t typos. Walgreens charges $117 for a bottle of the same pills for which Costco charges $12.
I was skeptical at first. Why on earth, I asked Wolf, would anyone in his right mind fill his generic prescription at Walgreen’s instead of Costco?
His answer: if a retiree is used to filling his prescriptions at Walgreens, that’s where he fills his prescriptions — and he assumes that the price of a generic drug (or, perhaps, any drug) is pretty much the same at any pharmacy.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Andrew Sullivan spells it out in an extraordinary review of Dinesh D’Souza’s The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11 (no link, Google it if you’re so inclined) in the New Republic:
This is the central argument of D’Souza’s book: that cultural globalization is the last chance for theoconservatism in its death match with liberal modernity. If a majority of Americans do not support a system of government resting on an external and divine moral order, then the obvious next move is to enlist the billions of fundamentalist believers in the developing world to forge a global alliance. If you combine the premodern patriarchs among the Christians of Africa and Asia and the Muslims of the Middle East and pit them against the degenerate, declining individualists in the West, a global theoconservative victory is possible.
That is D’Souza’s vision, and he is not shy about it. The test case for this strategy can be seen most graphically in the Anglican Church. Theoconservative Episcopalians in Northern Virginia have sought protection under a Nigerian prelate who believes that even speech about homosexuality should be criminalized. If theoconservatism cannot work as a govern- ing majority in the First World, then it is time to forge an alliance between half of America with the Third World.
One has to admire at least the frankness with which this secessionist strategy for conservatism is laid out. “How can we use the war on terror to win the culture war?” D’Souza asks in a final chapter called “Battle Plan for the Right.” Notice here that defeating the forces of Islamist terror is merely instrumental to the deeper struggle to defeat modern individualism and autonomy. The idea of a common American commitment to the Constitution’s guarantees of individual freedom and autonomy is secondary to the global battle for the “external moral order.” Loyalty is not to country, but to a worldwide theoconservative ideology. Like the Marxists of old, the theoconservatives see their movement increasingly as global, resting on eternal truths, and not compatible with the “liberal morality” of their autonomous bourgeois fellow Westerners. [...]
Just to be clear: D’Souza is arguing that a democracy under divine authority and subject to theological truth is “a perfect expression of the conservative understanding of American democracy.” Why should we be surprised that he wants an alliance with theocratic autocracies in the devel- oping world? In D’Souza’s eyes, both the American Constitution and traditional Islam have a common foe. “Secularism is the common enemy,” D’Souza quotes a Muslim scholar as saying. “Men and women in the West who are still devoted to the life of faith should know that those closest to them in this world are Muslims.” In a spectacular attempt to prove he means exactly this, D’Souza throws into the mix an excoriation of Turkey as excessively secular. AtatÃƒÂ¼rk’s “militant secularization of Turkey is being reversed,” D’Souza notes, “and on balance it is a good thing. Muslims have the right to live in Islamic states under Muslim law if they wish.”
D’Souza is rehearsing the mainstream view of the religious right with respect to the notion of separating church and state. They oppose it, and so does he. But with what a twist! Where he differs from the religious right is in his willingness to find the proper political authority, the proper models of political virtue, in Islam. Islam and Christianity together: that is D’Souza’s dream. He does not seem especially interested in God. He writes nothing about his own faith, whatever it is. His interest is not in the metaphysics or the mysteries of religion, but in the uses of religion for social control. (Somewhere Machiavelli is smiling.) In the goal of maintaining patriarchy, banning divorce, outlawing homosexuality, and policing blasphemy, any orthodoxy will do.
What about that subtitle?
D’Souza does not believe that the cultural left “helped 9/11 happen.” He believes that the cultural left made 9/11 happen. D’Souza, again, never speaks of God or his own faith in this book: his causality includes nothing supernatural. In his view, the cultural left “actively fostered” the murder of three thousand Westerners without any indirect assistance from the Almighty. In his words: “Thus when leading figures on the left say, We made them do this to us,’ in a sense they are correct. They are not correct that America is to blame. But their statement is true in that their actions and their America are responsible for fostering Islamic anti-Americanism in general and 9/11 in particular.”
The fight is to get to vote on animal welfare
In my work as an environmental lawyer, I’ve toured a dozen hog confinement operations and seen hundreds from the outside. My task was to evaluate their polluting potential, which was considerable. But what haunted me was the miserable creatures inside.
They were crowded into pens and cages, never allowed outdoors, and never even provided a soft place to lie down. Their tails had been cut off without anesthetic. Regardless of how well the operations are managed, the pigs subsist in inherently hostile settings. (Disclosure: my husband founded a network of farms that raise pigs using traditional, non-confinement methods.)
The stress, crowding and contamination inside confinement buildings foster disease, especially respiratory illnesses. In addition to toxic fumes, bacteria, yeast and molds have been recorded in swine buildings at a level more than 1,000 times higher than in normal air. To prevent disease outbreaks (and to stimulate faster growth), the hog industry adds more than 10 million pounds of antibiotics to its feed, the Union of Concerned Scientists estimates. This mountain of drugs - a staggering three times more than all antibiotics used to treat human illnesses - is a grim yardstick of the wretchedness of these facilities.
There are other reasons that merely phasing out gestation crates does not go nearly far enough. Keeping animals in such barren environments is a serious deprivation. Pigs in nature are active, curious creatures that typically spend 10 hours a day foraging, rooting and roaming.
Veterinarians consider pigs as smart as dogs. Imagine keeping a dog in a tight cage or crowded pen day after day with absolutely nothing to chew on, play with or otherwise occupy its mind. Americans would universally denounce that as inhumane.
In a passage reminiscent of Michael Pollan’s call for glass walls in slaughterhouses, she points out that all of this takes place far from cities in buildings with no windows. She says that 81 percent of respondents to a 2004 survey by Ohio State University think the well-being of livestock is as important as that of pets.
When given the option, Americans vote for humane treatment for farm animals. We can only vote on what’s on the ballot; that’s the battle we have to fight.
A reaction to Pace
Now Pace says his comments were just his “personal moral views” and “personal opinions.” Well, ye-ah! Meanwhile, in my rushed reaction to Joint Chiefs’ Chairman General Peter Pace’s comments yesterday, I missed this:
Sen. John Warner, R-Va., one of Congress’ most respected authorities on military matters and a former Navy secretary, said, “I respectfully but strongly disagree with the chairman’s view that homosexuality is immoral.”
Via Stephen H. Miller, “the threshold of anti-gay bigotry is much lower these days, even among Republicans (see Coulter, Ann, response to), suggesting that the gay ban is unlikely to survive the post-Bush presidency, whichever party takes the White House.”
Ubuntu Media Players
I’m falling behind in my efforts to get an old laptop up and going running Ubuntu. The goal is to get up to speed enough that by next year I am no longer using Quicken. I’ve been using Quicken since 1988 and have grown to despise the company, most notably for its sunset policy. The plan is to be and running on GnuCash by January 1. None too ambitious that.
I’m watching for the promised Ubuntu Studio optimized for multimedia creation and due out in April. Today I spotted a handy list of media players available for Ubuntu Linux with detailed install instructions.