February 28, 2007

I have to wonder

What do my libertarian friends think of this?

Twelve-year-old Deamonte Driver died of a toothache Sunday.

A routine, $80 tooth extraction might have saved him.

If his mother had been insured.

If his family had not lost its Medicaid.

If Medicaid dentists weren't so hard to find.

If his mother hadn't been focused on getting a dentist for his brother, who had six rotted teeth.

By the time Deamonte's own aching tooth got any attention, the bacteria from the abscess had spread to his brain, doctors said. After two operations and more than six weeks of hospital care, the Prince George's County boy died.

Now, I'm inclined to call this an act of violence. In denying Driver medical care, we as a society are responsible for his death.

But let's bracket that question since, as Andrew Bailey correctly pointed out, defining violence is hard. Let's look instead at a principle of Peter Singer's:

If we can prevent something very bad from happening by doing X, and if we can do X without sacrificing something of comparable moral worth, then doing X is morally required.

In particular,

If we can prevent (or substantially reduce the incidence of) the death of poor people from preventable diseases by paying a progressive tax into a single-payer health care system, and our freedom from taxation is not of comparable moral worth with the death of poor people from preventable diseases, then paying a progressive tax into a single-payer health care system is morally required.

This isn't a particularly utilitarian principle. Indeed, I have trouble understanding what it would be for the general principle to be false; what else could it be for X to be of less comparable worth than Y except for the sacrifice of X for the sake of Y to be morally required?

But I suppose libertarians want to reject the conclusion the more specific principle implies. How does this rejection go? The specific principle is an instance of the general principle, and I've already suggested the general principle is as analytic a truth as one could hope for. Then there's an empirical premiss, concerning the effectiveness of single-payer health care systems in improving public health, which I take to be extremely well-supported. The only other option is to claim that not paying into a progressive income tax is of higher moral comparable worth than the lives of poor people, which seems to be radically incompatible with any baseline notion -- whether Kantian, Aristotelean, or mainstream Christian -- of the intrinsic worth of every individual, a la Nozick.

Is the libertarian seriously going to claim that property is of greater intrinsic worth than life?

February 26, 2007

Ghost Ride It!

Ok, let's set aside that this song has an incredibly uncreative beat and is so clearly based on an attention grabbing gimmick it actually got the Macarena song stuck in my head by association.

I'm not the type of alarmist that freaks out whenever some stupid kid does something he thinks his heroes of pop culture want him to do. Songs about street violence? Fine. Video games with the blasting and the shooting, whahey 'n lehvin! Sure. But I mean, this is pretty hard to defend. He's telling people explicitly to get out of their cars while the cars are still moving down the street? I mean come on!

Thanks to Czar for tipping me off to this one.

February 24, 2007

Libertarianism and violence

Over at Pandagon, Chris Clark has a nice post up about the history of libertarianism, that pro-capital anarchism so popular among upper middle class teenagers of a certain intellectual and rebellious stripe. And, of course, a certain stripe of political philosopher, including a few of my own fellow grad students.

I wanted to highlight this bit of Clark's in particular:

Libertarian Cranial Detonation Technique #3: Mentioning Libertarianism’s blindspot.

That accumulation of serious political power is the end result of the Libertarian political wankdream, and yet somehow boss-based coercion escapes the Libertarian scrutiny to which municipal zoning boards and feminist bloggers with itchy banning fingers are routinely subjected.

Arguing with some libertarian colleagues a time or two, I've developed a hypothesis, which I'm neither going to defend or critique here.

The hypothesis is that libertarians are working with an excessively narrow understanding of violence. Ask a libertarian about, say, taxation, and you'll suddenly find yourself in a rhetorical whirl of gun-toting IRS agents kicking down your door. But try to draw a parallel with the threat of economic violence -- the kind, say, Wal-Mart uses to keep its employees in line -- and the libertarian will look at you as though you're speaking Martian.

For libertarians, I suspect, physical violence is real, and the state is suspect because it is the only agent authorized to use physical violence, or the threat of physical violence, as a means of coercion. (The idea that the state is an agent is also, I think, suspect, but that's far too complicated an issue for this little note.) Economic violence is not real, `because you can also go get another job', so the use of economic violence, or the threat of economic violence, is likewise not real, and hence there's no reason to be suspicious of the wealthy.

The California paradox

My dad, his wife, and my step-sisters all live in eastern Contra Costa County, so this blog entry by Andrew Leonard at Salon, on the metastasizing suburban hell that is the San Ramon and Tassajaro Valleys, rings deeply true to me. I've seen, first-hand, the six-lane-in-each-direction monster surface streets and 300 acre `developments' that destroy dwindling farmland and open spaces to house only about 1800 people. I came back from the movies in Dublin with my siblings along Tassajaro Road, gaping in horror at the vast tracts of freshly-bulldozed land as they gossiped about when the new high school is going to open.

At the same time, my mom makes her living designing custom homes and has family ties to contractors, carpenters, and other people who make their living in the building industry, so I'm acutely aware that `development' is a cornerstone of the Western economy. I can also somewhat sympathise with the ideal of home ownership, and I'm aware of the way mortgage payments are one of the key tax shelters that enable families from the lower middle class to move into the middle middle class.

And my parents, for all that I've presented them as caricatures in the first two paragraphs, feel this same tension. They are firmly ensconced in a paradox Leonard identifies, a paradox I'm going to call the California paradox:

The paradox that I had plenty of time to think about as I waited for the lights to change at the humongous intersections standing ready for the hordes of cars to come, is that the San Francisco Bay Area can be simultaneously home to such car-centered contemporary culture, and to one of the largest community of progressive activists dedicated to smart growth and ecological sustainability in the world.

On the one hand, both households recycle, try to heat and cool their houses as efficiently as possible, plan errand trips to minimize gas usage, and, especially in my mom's case, firmly believe that local governments in suburban communities need to take mass transit options seriously and dramatically reform their building codes so that new `developments' are designed for pedestrians, not car drivers. But, at the same time, they have no problem, say, driving nearly half an hour down the freeway just to save a few dollars per pound on coffee and a few dollars per gallon on milk.

I'm still working on Charles Taylors' Ethics of authenticity, and right now he's presenting his view of modernity as an anti-fatalistic one. According to Taylor, both the boosters and detractors of modernity hold a fatalistic view: whether for better or for worse, both believe that we are stuck with society as it is structured today, at least for the foreseeable future. But, Taylor says, this is false, and we need to view modern society as amenable to reform and rehabilitation through personal, political, cultural, and philosophical struggle.

I'd like to suggest that we read the California paradox in the same way. It is a manifestation of deep tension within the American cultural psyche -- and within the psyche of individual Americans -- between desires for universal justice and personal privilege. This tension is not conscious, for the most part. I think most Americans still believe -- or at least want to believe -- that justice can be achieved without any sacrifice on their own part. But this is clearly absurd: the giant strip malls that sell cheap, sweatshop-produced crap, low-density McMansion housing developments, and SUV-worshiping car culture that are the logical conclusions of the egoistic, capitalist version of `the American dream' consume too many resources and require too much parasitism of the poor by the wealthy to be consistent with justice.

I do not know which side will win out in the long run, but I do believe the winner is not already determined. I believe that personal, political, cultural and philosophical struggle can bring people to recognise the tension, make the choice, and make the choice for justice over privilege. To believe otherwise, I think, is to embrace profound, crushing despair.

Fifty-car pileup in the series of tubes

In case you haven't come across it yet, behold the glory of Conservapedia:

1984 was a book by George Orwell. 1984 describes an alternate history in which Oceania (Australia) is at war with Eurasia. It is a utopian book because it talks about a place where everyone is watched over by Big Brother, who makes sure people are doing what they are supposed to.

The protagonist is Winston Smith. Thre is something about rats at the end, but it is confusing. The end is probably supposed to be ambigous.

That's verbatim. For more fun, read up on elementary proofs:

The term "elementary proof" or "elementary techniques" in mathematics means use of only real numbers rather than complex numbers, which relies on manipulation of the imaginary square root of (-1). Elementary proofs are preferred because they are do not require additional assumptions inherent in complex analysis, such as that there is a unique square root of (-1) that will yield consistent results.

Mathematicians also consider elementary techniques to include objects, operations, and relations. Sets, sequences and geometry are not included.

The prime number theorem has long been proven using complex analysis (Riemann's zeta function), but in 1949 and 1950 an elementary proof by Paul Erdos and Atle Selberg earned Selberg the highest prize in math, the Fields medal.

And Kant:

The German Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) was one of the most famous philosophers ever, and is therefore one of the best philosophers ever. In his "A Critique of Pure Reason," Kant criticizes pure reason as a guide to life, establishing several categories through which reason is able to comprehend the ultimate reality. Though Kant may not have been a Christian himself, he considered Christian values to be the best values in the world in space, due to the antimony of practical reason. Kant also established a systematic basis for critical philosophy, establishing synthetic a priori considerations as a prior necessity to analytic a priori concepts, and suggested a material origin for the solar system (prior to Kant, the origin of the solar system was considered to be immaterial and possibly even a priori). Kant's own suggestion for a moral daily life was the categorical imperative: Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law. Expressed another way, an act is moral only if it works as a rule for everyone. For example, littering would be wrong because if everyone did it, then there would be an ugly mess. On the other hand, if a murderer asks you where someone is hiding, you should always tell them because lying is wrong. The categorical imperative can be contrasted with the hypothetical imperative, which says that you should act according to any maxim which might possibly be willed. Kant is taught in all college philosophy departments to this day, though not for praising Christianity! He remained a confirmed bachelor throughout his life.

February 23, 2007


About two weeks ago, we decided to switch from Comcast -- heretofore our cable internet and teevee provider -- to a combination of Dish Network (for the teevee) and whatever incarnation of AT&T is around now (for DSL). The deal was quite nice, saving us about $35 a month, and Dish Network includes a DVR for free.

But switching internet providers had problems, as switching internet providers often does. I've never been able to tell whether this is a problem configuring my router or a problem getting it to work with the various modems, but Server Not Found errors are legion whenever I switch ISPs, and this most recent switch was no exception. I could, usually, load any given page by the second try, but loading more than one page at a time was right out. And that's after letting the connection `warm up' -- the first three to six attempts to load a page in the morning always failed. Calling technical support is useless, because all they ever tell you to do is turn your modem off and back on again. I've tried fiddling with router settings and Googling support fora, but so far the only fix I found was to wait for the router and modem to start playing together properly.

After starting to get seriously frustrated and wondering whether I had made a mistake this time around, I happened across a rave review for OpenDNS. It doesn't seem like anything big -- just an alternative system of DNS servers. (This is like trading one copy of the white pages for another.) But the tiny change of pointing my router at OpenDNS instead of AT&T's default fixed all my problems. Loading the eleven sites in my primary folder of blog bookmarks all at once takes a few seconds, with no DNS errors. This is faster than Comcast, and comparable to the T3 line I have access to on campus. There's also no `warm up' time when I first turn on my computer.

I'm extremely impressed, and recommend checking out OpenDNS even if you already have a fast, reliable connection.

February 21, 2007

Set Phasers To Stunning!

Thank you Dan Brottman for reminding me how awesome George Takei is...as if I needed reminding!

February 20, 2007

The Civility Of A Southern Gentleman

I somehow missed this back in September, but it looks like the Vice President isn't the only one with a taste for sailor talk. This, of course, after John Edwards was attacked from the right for *hiring* people that said a few objectionable things in the past.

Super Speed, And A Smooth Flavor Too!

A Grand Internet Debate has been raging for a while now about Marvel Comics' ban on smoking within their comics. I'm sure you can suss out the arguments without even reading the posts, but it's not a bad argument, as far as dumb internet arguments go.

That said, it did lead me to this link, which shows the shocking origin story of Jay Garrick, the first Flash!

February 19, 2007

Pretty weird, coming from NPR

Notable quotations, from memory, on ATC yesterday:

Around the world, millions of people are celebrating the New Year.

The population of the PRC is about 1.31 billion. `Chinese', as a cultural group, would also include the population of Taiwan, and people of Chinese descent in Europe and the Americas. Counting this population in millions is technically accurate, but off by a factor of 1,000. It would be like opening a story on the Fourth of July with the line `Across the United States, over a hundred thousand people will watch fireworks tonight.'

Observers say those born in the year of the pig will be lucky.

Evidently Chinese people can't be relied on to communicate their own traditional beliefs. We white people need to go send some observers over to figure out what's up with these strange beings.

February 16, 2007

Worst President Ever

Link. Also of note is the second comment, posted by a Dallek...hmmmm...

I Was 100% Right

For all my faux salivating over Ghost Rider, it sounds like it's exactly what I thought it would be: a February movie. It's not great, not terrible, has decent special effects, and a plot that's serviceable. Sounds like a decent afternoon to me. I do quibble with the critic's evaluation of Hulk.

Update: Well, it might have been too early to declare victory. Then again, Harry Knowles is really hit and miss with me and the ranting sounds a lot like fanboy angst.

Update 2: Somebody in the comments to the original review posted this ranking of recent comic book movies. He's obviously wrong in a couple places, but why not post your version of the list?

1. Batman Begins
2. X-Men 2
3. X-Men
4. Fantastic Four
5. Spider-Man
6. Blade
7. The Punisher
8. The Hulk
8. Blade II
9. Spider-Man 2
10. Ghost Rider
11. V For Vendetta
12. Constantine
13. Daredevil
14. X-Men 3
15. Superman Returns
16. Blade Trinity
17. Elektra
18. Catwoman

Fair's Fair

I'll be the first to say that not only do I think John McCain shouldn't win the next presidential election but that he's incapable of doing so. I'm also happy to point out that his public persona as a maverick within the party is both a finely crafted and largely untrue creation. Still, I think it's only fair to give him a nod when he's breaking with the conservative platform, particularly in ways that aren't beneficial to his election strategy, and this is one of those times. As much as I love Atrios, I'm not sure he's being entirely fair here. My opinion isn't changed on McCain, but credit where it's due.

Holy Crap, What A Dick!

Ezra is spot on in this post about "Alpha" and "Beta" cooks from the New York Times. When I cook I definitely get in the zone a bit, but man, if this isn't straight out abusive it's certainly not the behavior you want out of a partner.

I'm a rich, white, retired guy. Why the hell should I pay for other people to get an education?

This is just disgusting. Some douchebag in Arizona -- one Patrick Flynn -- successfully established a new school district for his exurb that will have no schools, teachers, or students, just so his property taxes wouldn't increase about $1.50 per $100 of property value. (That's about $7,500 for a $500k house.) The children in the new school district will continue to attend schools in nearby districts, but their parents will now be required to pay for tuition.

Economists who look at pollution often talk about externalities. An externality is a cost or benefit from a transaction that benefits some third party. In the pollution case, the externalities are the negative effects of the pollution and the cost of cleaning it up, which are typically not bourne by the factories who, say, dump toxic waste into a river that feeds a drinking water reservoir.

In most states, the social benefits of public education are not an externality. Everyone pays property taxes either directly (actually owning their home) or indirectly (their landlord increases the rent), so everyone helps pay for all children to get an education at a public school; there are no third parties to the property tax-education funding series of transactions. In the case of Patrick Flynn and his school-free school district, though, he and the other residents of the district without minor children enjoy the benefits of public education without paying for it. The benefits of public education become an externality.

Externalities are typically egregious violations of economic justice. In the pollution case, you can be sure the owners of the polluting factory are wealthier than the people who are going to get cancer from contaminated drinking water, and (without Superfund laws) are wealthier than the taxpayer who's paying the cleanup bill. The Christopher Verde School District is no different: instead of paying their fair share, Flynn and other wealthy retirees are forcing young families -- who come to exurbs because they can actually afford to buy a house, not because they can afford a 3,000 square foot McMansion -- to shoulder all the costs of educating their children, in the form of tuition paid to neighbouring school districts.

The article opens with these two sentences: `Just to be clear, Patrick Flynn says he loves public education. He just does not like the idea of paying for it.' This absolutely reeks of class privilege. Patrick Flynn doesn't like the idea of rich people like himself paying for public education. He's fine with levying a de facto regressive property tax to pay for public education.

February 13, 2007

Good For Klein

Just ask LL Cool J how easy it is to earn back cred after you've lost it. With that in mind, it's really nice to see Joe Klein writing something aggressive in the face of what appears to be a drumming up of support for an Iranian War Adventure(tm). Like I said in my last post about him, at this point Klein's pussyfooting during the run up to Iraq II is long in the past. The problem was that he had appologized but not changed his tone regarding current situations bearing a striking resemblance to 2003. It's going to take a lot more than this to change my mind completely about the guy, but this is a step in the right direction and a great use of the podium he has at his disposal.

February 12, 2007

Another picture attempt


Blogger seems to have eaten the last photos I posted. Here's another try. This is the cemetery at Notre Dame after one of our recent heavy snow falls. As you can see, we got about a foot of snow over just a couple days.
Posted by Picasa

Short review of Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job

It's sketch comedy. Only without the sketches, or comedy.

February 09, 2007

Fair Enough

Edwards isn't going to fire his bloggers, but I wish he would have come out swinging at the hypocrites who started this mess. And I'm not afraid to say it, Bill Donohue is a bad man.

February 08, 2007

Charles Taylor's horizons of significance

In preparation for his visit to ND next month, I'm reading Charles Taylor's The ethics of authenticity. (That's the communitarian-liberal philosopher, not the Liberian dictator and war criminal with connections to Pat Robertson.) I'd like to think that I'm going to write a full review on this once I'm finished, so this will just be a brief note on his idea of horizons of significance. (cont'd below the fold)

Taylor takes as his starting point the idea that authenticity, in the existentialist and quasi-existentialist sense of, roughly, being true to one's own inner nature, is a significant and legitimate ethical principle. This is in sharp contrast with other communitarians, including possibly ND's own Alisdair MacIntyre, who dismiss authenticity as nothing more than a flimsy, incoherent relativism with (in MacIntyre's case) a lousy theory of personal identity or ethical selfhood. Taylor's primary thesis is that the idea of authenticity has been significantly corrupted. More specifically, he spends the first half of the book arguing that the flimsy, incoherent relativism that's the ethical status quo in our society is incompatible with actually achieving authenticity. That is, if you try to live your life according to this `soft relativism', you will never live authentically.

One argument-sketch his gives for this last claim is that authenticity presupposes (requires) external `horizons of significance'. To borrow the example MacIntyre uses to make the same point, consider the practice of painting. Painting well (or, being a good painter) presupposes standards of excellence in painting that go beyond your decisions and preferences. That is, you can't just declare yourself a good painter; you're judged to be a good or bad painter according to historically established standards over which you have no direct control. As Taylor puts it, in our culture of soft relativism, we `tend to see fulfilment as just of the self, neglecting or delegitimating the demands that come from beyond our own desires or aspirations, be they from history, tradition, society, nature, or God' (58, my emphasis).

The point is compelling, at least rhetorically, but also troubling. Why troubling? I think because the idea that the demands or standards are external to me means they're out of my control. Look again at Taylor's list of the sources of significance: historically, those demands and standards have been intimately linked with oppression and suppression; or, more generally, authenticity seems to be achieved more often by those individuals who reject the standards and demands of their society than those who embrace them. This is why so many existentialists (Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, de Beauvoir, Sartre) cherish both authenticity and iconoclasm -- the two seem to go hand in hand. Taylor appears to be arguing, contra Nietzsche, that authenticity is actually incompatible with iconoclasm.

Can we reconcile Taylor and Nietzsche? (Some day I really should write a bit on how reconciliation is so central to my approach to philosophy.) I think so, if we recognise that `external to me' is very different from `immune from revision'. Consider Picasso. Picasso successfully challenged and changed the standards of good painting, but was only able to do so because he was a good painter (indeed, an excellent painter) according to the very standards he challenged. Or consider the various civil rights movements of the 1960s and '70s. They were able to challenge and change our understanding of what makes for a truly just society by appeal to ideas of justice that were already present. These are examples of iconoclasm, but not complete and thoroughgoing iconoclasm. Instead of tearing down everything and starting over completely, these iconoclasts subverted selectively and rebuilt from within the status quo.

Hence, recognising that my pursuit of authenticity presupposes some horizons of significance determined by the community and tradition in which I engage that pursuit does not also presuppose that I can never criticise, rebel against, or change those horizons. This change won't be easy, of course, and a complete transformation of those horizons seems to be impossible, but I'm not sure that any of the four existentialists I mentioned above really believed authenticity required such a radical rejection of the status quo.

February 07, 2007

Edwards, Melissa, And Amanda

Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon and Melissa McEwan (know 'round the 'net as Shakespeare's Sister) were recently hired by the Edward's Presidential Campaign to develope the camaign's web presence. As was to be expected, the wingnut-o-sphere pounced at the opportunity to cull their posts for potentially objectionable content. Now the rumors are swirling fast that the campaign may fire the two women over this controversy.

This is complete and utter garbage. Look, I've never been a fan of Amanda. Pandagon was my favorite blog when Jesse and Ezra were on it. Then they left and, not liking the tone and argumentative style Amanda frequently takes, I pretty much stopped reading it. Don't get me wrong, Amanda's frequently right on the issues, I just don't like how she goes about making her case. On the other hand, I've always like Shakes. Regardless, if the Edwards campaign fires the two of them I'm going to lose a lot of faith in both the candidate and the campaign. These were two *very* public Internet personas. If they knew enough about the blogosphere to know who both of these women were, they absolutely knew enough to vet them by cruising through their posts before they gave out job offers. As Ezra says, firing these two either means the campaign is a bunch of cowards or incompetents.

This backlash from the Right was as predictable as it is stupid. Of *course* they were going to find arguably objectionable posts and take them completely out of context! Of *course* they were going to hypocritically damn the campaign for hiring those mean ol' Internet folks while completely ignoring worse from the Right.

All my best to Amanda and Melissa. They're qualified for the jobs and, well, they already got them. I hope the campaign has the sense to fight back instead of run. I have to say that if Edwards does fire them it will have a real impact on who I support in the primary.

Stay Tuned, True Believers!

Stan "The Man" Lee's going to appear in the 2/19 episode of Heroes! My guess is it's just a background role, but I love to see him in anything. Link.

Here's a very interesting question and answer session on Heroes. I found this bit particularly interesting:

"We're trying to keep this somewhat PG here, so we'll have to skip your
question! OK, last week after you threw out the name “Gabriel” as a name worth
looking into, it got our thinking caps spinning, as well as reader Erica, who
was traveling the same road with us. Gabriel, like Hana, Isaac, Matthew, Micah,
Nathan, Peter and Sarah are all from the Judeo Christian bible. Pretty much
every super powered individual has such a name. Now, Claire's adopted and does
not have a biblical name, but we're thinking that's not necessarily the name she
was born with. We're not sure where Jessica and Nicole derive their names from
biblically and Erica reminded us we don't know what DL is short for, but she
posited "David" as a likely first name. Of course, with Hiro and Mohinder not
being westerners, the rule doesn't necessarily apply to them.

(You know that gesture where you put your finger on your nose to insinuate someone just hit something on the nose? We're doing that. Right now. To Erica. Just to be clear – we don't think she smells.) Erica, we hope you feel that all your time in Sunday School and/or Hebrew school was not wasted. But we worry it may have eaten into you movie time in the ‘80s. Because if you watched the classic movie “The
Breakfast Club”, you would understand the true origin of the name Claire. It's a
fat girls name. "

February 06, 2007

Iron Man, Iron Man, Does Whatever A....hmmmm

Jeff Bridges joins the cast of the forthcoming Iron Man movie. He's added now to a cast that includes Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man, Gwyneth Paltrow as Virginia 'Pepper' Potts, and Terrence Howard as Jim Rhodes. Nerds on the interwebs seem to think Bridges will be playing Howard "Happy" Hogan. Now we just need Ken Watanabe as Mandarin and we're set.

Link to the story.

Why Bloggers Won't Leave Joe Klein Alone

Atrios and other bloggers around the net have spent a lot of posts recently picking on Joe Klein. Though it might be obvious to politico nerds like myself who spend lots of time reading about this, most bloggers haven't spent the time to properly explain why they're angry and why at Joe Klein. Well, here's a good post where my friend across the Delaware River does just that.

The real problem with people like Klein, and unfortunately it seems Hilary and John are in the same group, is that they seem to think the "My bad dawg" principle applies to national politics. They've all admitted that they made a bad call back in '03, but don't seem to think anything should be affected by that. Back at the start of the war it was perfectly acceptable to ignor the Left. After all, we were all just crazy hippies that hated all wars, so our arguments againt this particular was were obviously unserious. We were, of course, completely right about everything. Despite all that's happened in the past four years, where is Klein on Iran? Is he coming out swinging against any other attempts by the Bush Administration to engage in military adventures in the Middle East? Is he apologizing for ignoring the people who were right both then and now? Is he using his position as "liberal commentator" in both print and television media to articulate a liberal position which has a pretty good track record over the last several years? Of course not, he's much more interested in painting liberals who are angry with him as crazed lunitics.

Update: Ha ha! I beat Ezra to the punch, but, well, his post is a bit better.

February 04, 2007

Good news, bad news (Joss Whedon edition)

First, Bad News: Joss Whedon will not be making Wonder Woman. Now, I'll admit that Wonder Woman was never anywhere near my favourite character, or even my favourite DC character (some of you may remember my preference for Batman and Flash), but I really did think that Whedon was one of the few writers/directors around who could get Wonder Woman right.

Indeed, I've just realised that my list of favourite directors (Ang Lee, David Fincher, Gore Verbinski, David Cronenberg, Christopher Nolan, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Guillermo del Toro, Akira Kurosawa, David O. Russell, Stanley Kubrick, Tom Tykwer) has many a comic book fan, nary a woman. Have any women managed to escape the mainstream directorial ghetto of the `chick flick'? Sofia Coppola's the only one I can think of, and I've been less than thrilled by her films.

Anyways, Good News: Buffy is going to go up against the War on Terra.

February 03, 2007

How did giraffe necks evolve?

If you know a little bit about natural selection, you probably think it's because having a long neck enables giraffes to get food other grazers cannot. And you would be right. But you'd be non-trivially right, because, as you also know if you know a little bit more about natural selection, sexual selection (where the females choose the males with the best example of outrageous feature X) can be just as good an explanation as biological fitness.

So go read about the evolution of giraffe necks already. Via Evolving thoughts, which is in the midst of a really cool multi-post saga about Darwin's idea of `species'. This is absolutely fascinating if you're a HOPOS (History Of Philosophy Of Science) nehd like me.

February 02, 2007

Go Bears!

As noted in a previous post, Tony Dungy doesn't seem to like gays much. On top of that, an intrepid internetician found out that Peyton Manning gave Bush and another Republican money in the last election. If the person's to be believed, the only Bears that are politically active are liberals. As much as I like Manning's commercials, this is just another reason I'm hoping Chicago wins on Sunday.

In Boston, Nerds Have Their Pants Pulled Down And They Are Spanked With Moon Rocks

Boston officials were all in a tizzy yesterday because an ad agency hired by Cartoon Network to promote Aqua Teen Hunger Force had placed devices around the city that "looked like bombs." The artists hired by the ad agency to make and distribute the devices were arrested and the mayor of Bean Town referenced this crazy post-9/11 world we live in. The whole thing brought traffic to a screeching halt in parts of the town and supposedly cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The company also, however, put the devices up in other cities, including Seattle, with less dramatic results. Seriously, go to the story and look at the second picture to see what the "bomb" looked like. Is that terrifying?

Wait...I mean, if any Mooninites are reading this, I find your five thousand dimensions very intimidating.