Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Praise Be To the Sky Fairy and the Seven Lords and Ladies of Haute Cotoure!

Neal Pollack has returned to the Blogosphere! We might just beat these thugs and get our country back.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Update: Chinese Blog Ban

Not a whole lot to update, Iím afraid. My initial post (below) stands: International blog hosts such as typepad and Blog.com are unaccessible to Chinese Bloggers. The companies that run those sites have reported no technical failure on their end and the Chinese government isnít saying much of anything on the matter. The Chinese blog hosts are claiming that itís merely a technical set back that is keeping them down, but their is a lot of suspicion that there is pressure form above to stay off line.

At this point, Iíd like to say that it is difficult to verify any information, as all the claims Iíve been able to find are unsubstantiated posts on blogs No news services have run this story, as far as I can tell. This doesnít mean it isnít happening, of course. Just that the facts are sketchy and often contradictory, hence the lack of any citations that you can hang your hat on. But given the nature of this story, I think it can be safe to assume something shady is going on. This is a major set back to Chinaís image as a country on the verge of freedom.

Jane Perrone, Blogger for the Guradian:

Philip [A Chinese Blogger] writes: 'While the rest of the world may not yet consider blogs a relevant media source, in the People's Republic they are one way for people to make themselves heard. Since the mainstream Chinese press is heavily controlled and websites such as BBC News are blocked, blogs provide an alternative voice.'

This isn't very helpful to what Philip calls the 'new wave of commentators and diarists' who have begun to blog. He believes that the crackdown 'may well be related to the current electoral debacle in Taiwan, plus the publication of a letter regarding the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. Both of these have been widely discussed by bloggers. It would appear that the government, already nervous of the internet, wishes to further suppress blogging as a medium for discussion.'

I want all our Blog Brothers and Sisters in China, and especially in Taiwan, to know that weíre with them on this fight. Keep speaking. If you canít get to your blog, talk about it in the street. Let everyone know that the Chinese Government is suppressing the voices of the people.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Alas, All Things Must End

Spring Break officially ends Sunday night but since I'll be driving all day Sunday, it actually ends tonight. Which means I'm spending today with my wife. So no posts until at least Monday Afternoon, after I'm back at Grad School, sawing away on my MLS degree. I have to say I'm well rested and feeling a bit energized. I might even make ith through the rest of the semester without killing anyone.

There's a first time for everything.

Friday, March 26, 2004

China Bans Blogs

All typepad.com and blogs.com hosted sites are banned in China starting this morning, a week after China has agreed to amend its constitution to respect human rights. This is another move by the Central government to curb free speech and freedom of information on the Internet.

Someone tell me again why we're friends with China but enemies with Cuba. Maybe BushCo. is envious of the absolute stranglehold that China has on their media. After all, if Bush had that kind of ability to censor TV, nespapers and the Internet, he wouldn't have to worry about people like Richard Clarke spoiling his plans for corporate hegemony.

Note to fellow Bloggers: get the word out. Post about this, then send an e-mail or ping to Yan at Glutter and let her know your voice is part of the chorus. She's a Hong Kong blogger, and would very much appreciate your support.

Update, via USAToday:

SHANGHAI ó China has shut down a pair of Web sites that were free-ranging user forums known as blogs, stepping up government attempts to control political discussion on the Internet, a media watchdog group reported even as one site reappeared Friday.

However, a note Friday on the page of the second site, blogbus.com, said it was still closed due to content problems. (Related story: China bans PC game)

"Because individual postings contained forbidden content, the server is temporarily down. We will seek a speedy resolution to the problem," said a message on the site's Web page.

The other site, identified by the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders as blogcn.com, said its page had shut down for "server upgrading" but made no mention of any forced closure due the content. It appeared to be restored on Friday.

China has enthusiastically promoted use of the Internet for commercial applications, but battles to prevent it becoming a forum for criticism of the Communist Party. A special team of police monitors Web sites and chat rooms for sensitive content.

Thanks to Elayne Riggs for pointing out the misinformation and shame on me for not checking my sources. This is still a bad thing as censorship of any kind is simply wrong but it changes the issue slightly that it's China-based Blog hosts that are being banned, rather than International based hosts. It makes the issue a lot more murky, as it's unkwon as of yet if these Chinese blogs were just engaging in free speach or in actual sedition (though in China, they are often considdered synonyms).

If It's Friday...

It must be time for some catblogging!

Lucy demonstrates scientifically that sharks are not the only animals who are made mostly of cartilage. Sometimes, she'll fall asleep in some contorted Gordian knot pose, other times she does it just for attention.

Pansypoo, everyone's favorite Ludite Blogger, sent me some pictures of her cat, Basil, who seems to be half gargoyle, what with the eyes and the sitting atop high corners and the flaven.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

"He's not the Savior! He's a very naughty boy!"

from the Beeb:

Monty Python's film The Life of Brian is to return to US cinemas next month following the success of The Passion of the Christ.

The Biblical satire will be re-released in Los Angeles, New York and other US cities to mark its 25th anniversary.

Adverts will challenge Mel Gibson's blockbuster with the lines "Mel or Monty?", "The Passion or the Python?"

Distributor Rainbow said it hoped the film would "serve as an antidote to all the hysteria about Mel's movie".

This is the best news I've heard all day. If I believed in God, I'd ask him to bless those Python Boys.

Damn Strait!

AP (via Corrente):

POMONA, N.J. (AP) - The widow of Martin Luther King Jr. called gay marriage a civil rights issue, denouncing a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban it.

Constitutional amendments should be used to expand freedom, not restrict it, Coretta Scott King said Tuesday.

"Gay and lesbian people have families, and their families should have legal protection, whether by marriage or civil union," she said. "A constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages is a form of gay bashing and it would do nothing at all to protect traditional marriages."

Hats off to Mrs. King. Good to see she hasn't lost the fire, unlike some. That's right, I'm looking at you, Mr. Jesse "Rainbow Coalition" Jackson.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Introducing, Lucy the Library Cat

Lucy will be dropping by from time to time, especially on Cat Blogging Fridays to comment on events of the week. She isn't pleased in this picture but she just heard what Bush's goons are saying about John Kerry now.

Viva La Revolution!

The Purge is complete. I uploaded Appleworks 6 yesterday and deleted the Microsoft Office Suite, which now officially makes my computer Microsoft free*.

I've been doing other upgrades as well, such as moving from OS 10.2(.8) to OS 10.3,and loaded Dreamweaver MX, Adobe CS and about 10 gigs worth of new music to iTunes. I've even been fiddling with a bunch of pretty, new icons and desktop themes and now have the coolest computer on the block next to my wife's iMac, which has all the same software I just mentioned as well as an external hardrive that bumps her total storage capacity up to 220 gigs. That sounds like an awful lot but my wife is a photographer and so needs a lot of storage space for digital images. Though it does give one elbow room to ponder.

In 1969 we put three men on the moon with a couple of serial processors that took up a room the size of an apartment and were roughly a thousand times slower than my iPod, which fits in my pocket. Those giant supercomputers had a whopping 35 megs of total storage capacity. The future is a strange and ever expanding world. I'm glad I live here, rather than say in the fifteenth century.

*I still have a handful of fonts designed by Microsoft but it's unlikely that Comic Sans or Georgia Seriff will unexpectedly quit on me so they can stay.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Return of the Librarian

I know I only said I'd be away for a day or two, and that was four days ago but I've been away on Special Library related Program Activities of a secretive nature. All I can say is, if you haven't already, go see Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

I have made some blog related decisions in the last few days while I've been relaxing and enjoying Spring Break. I realized that recently I've wandered from the stated purpose of this Blog, which is to discuss writing (especially mine), books, and Library and free speech issues. I've been ranting about BushCo. Shenanigans far too much and not really adding anything but my own two cents to news items that other bloggers have been covering far better. So, no more politiblogging, except when it has to do with the Patriot Act, or books or if I'm really pissed about something or just feel like babbling.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

A Brief Hiatus

Today and tomorrow are busy days in the Library, so posting will be light, if at all. But fear not! Spring break starts Saturday, so I'll have something fun and thought provoking up shortly thereafter. In the meantime, check in with my pals at the Liberal Coalition. They'll keep you informed and amused until I get back.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Spanish Sensability

There's been a lot of chatter in the blogosphere about Spain, the Madrid bombing the election and what it all means. there seems to be a contingent that says that deviating from our failed policy of bombing the bombers and towing the line means giving in to the demands of the Fundamentalists.

This attitude that we can somehow appease Al Queda just underlines the problem with our way of thinking about this conflict and the world in general: it's too conventionally cold war. Too statist. This is not helped any by the label that the president has chosen for this conflict: War on Terror. The word "War" implies that there is a time for fighting and that one day, the fighting will end, one side will have met all their goals, defeated the other side and called out Bingo! The fighting will stop, some sort of peace treaty will be signed and we'll all go on like before. Except that's not what this conflict is about.

Simply put, their is no war. There are no sides. As many have pointed out, you can't defeat terrorism, as it's a tactic, not an ideology or a country or a group of people. You can no more fight a war against terror than you can fight a war against libertarian politics or the tooth fairy. Somewhere, someone will read the books of Ayn Rand or hear the tooth fairy story and take some action because of it.

As Lambert pointed out at Corrente, what we're really fighting is Fundamentalism, which is a profound reaction against modernity. We're fighting disperate groups of people who want to return to the middle ages, who want to destroy civilization (with all its discontents, maladies and shiny new fangled liberties). They aren't trying to change the system of governance or right a wrong. They're trying to undo Western Civilization. They're trying to kill the modern world. So it's not a matter of doing what they want in Spain, Saudi Arabia or anywhere, so they'll stop. Because they won't stop, no matter what we do. So all this blather about the voters in Spain appeasing Al Queda because they got together to peacefully make use of the mechanism of government in order to enact change as they see fit is bullshit. worse than that, it's crass politics. The Spanish people stood up to the Fundamentalists, said, "Fuck you, we're going on being western, civilized and modern, so stick that pipe bomb where Allah doesn't shine." The people of Spain should be applauded for being Spanish, not chastised by chowder headed GOP lapdogs for going against Lord Bush and his lunatic decrees.

And if you can't see beyond Bush and his failed attempts at power and empire than you stumbling into a sort of fundamentalism of your own, complete with a desire to kill those who disagree with you and change the world as you see fit. The "terrorists" aren't just over there, wearing turbans and chanting Wahabi hymns. They're right here too, spitting fire and chewing on brimstone, straitening their ties and quoting Bible passages for all the wrong reasons.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

And He Bombed Pearl Harbor, Too

via Hesiod we learn that John Kerry caused 9/11. At least, that's what the GOP dreck machine is saying.

I think I saw him lurking around White Chappel back in ë88, as well.

Every time we hit bottom with these pigfuckers, Karl Rove calls in the steam shovels and takes us just a little bit deeper into the shit.

Please! For the love of Buddha!Donate to John Kerry so we can get these asshats out of office before they drive us all freakin insane with their goofy rantings.

Monday, March 15, 2004

From the Office of Homeland Security, Lincoln Bedroom Floral Arrangers Department


Administration sources tell TIME that employees at the Department of Homeland Security have been asked to keep their eyes open for opportunities to pose the President in settings that might highlight the Administration's efforts to make the nation safer. The goal, they are being told, is to provide Bush with one homeland-security photo-op a month.

I thought this was why George Bush created Fox News, so that OHS could, you know, defend our shores from threats, not arrange fucking photo ops!

So when we have our Madrid train bombing, can we all remind Bush of just what OHS was supposed to be doing while they were stuffing his cod piece?

Battlefields of the Mind: Looking at the Culture War from Afar
Part Three: Sword and Sorcery

Fundamentalist Christians have, for several decades now, been twisted into a fit over Role Playing Games like Dungeons & Dragons. At first glance, this seems like simply a symptom of their pathological irrationality. But I think it's a bit more deep rooted than just fear of the Devil lurking in a Unicorn Poster*. Fundie Christians hate D&D because it threatens their monopoly on overly complex fantasy worlds with arbitrary rules.

"Oh, sorry, you failed your saving role, so it's off to the flaming pit for you."

These concerned christians fear that their children are being led into occultism and madness by a game, despite the fact that, time and again, there is no evidence that it's the game that makes people do anything. The few unfortunate lunatics who kill their siblings with axes have a tenuous grasp of reality to begin with and there's no reason to believe that switching brands of fantasy, from those written by Wizards of the Coast to those written by ancient dead shepherds would effect the outcome one way or the other.

You aren't saved from anything by believing in nonsense, even if your brand of nonsense has the benefit of 2000 years of cultural acceptance. You still believe in things that are not, and act as if they are, which is dangerous behavior all around, but is potentially fatal on a global scale if you are the President of the United States and believe that the King of the Angels shits magic ice cream every time you kill an infidel.

So what does this have to do with the Culture War?

Well, first off, what I have been referring to the Culture War is really a fictitious meme created by a few ultraconservative pundits as a way of framing the dialogue between infophobes and infophiles in terms of conflict. (For more on this reframing of the issues of the day in terms of conflict see Orcinus). War implies that there are two sides, one good, one bad, engaged in a fight to the death for the supremacy of each side's favorite world view, winner take all (at least, this is the traditional, comic book view of war as noble champions versus despicable agressors. Can you guess which ones the Neocon Pundits fancy themselves to be?)

The Culture War is in fact, just a continuation of the ongoing dialogue between opposing viewpoints, but through the means of ridicule and name calling. We characterize these viewpoints as Conservative or Liberal, running on a sliding scale from the Far Right to the Far left. But like all arguments based on abstractions, this is a generalization that obliterates nuance and thoughtful discussion by forcing everyone with a viewpoint (which is everyone with two or more brain cells to rub together) to pick a side, cross the line and square off against an opponent. This leads to the invective and name calling that has increasingly become a part of public debate.

But reality is far more complex and dynamic than this push-me-pull-you political shorthand leads us to believe. And that's the problem. Conservatives canít win in a fair intelectual fight, even one they started. They need to roll with loaded dice, make up the rules as they go and then decide which rules are applied and when (and change them as they see fit). Talking common sense to them only makes them angry, because common sense doesnít enter into the picture. The Sean Hannitys and Bill OíReillys and George W. Bushs of the world are engaged in a dangerous role playing game. Itís dangerous because they forgot to leave their dice in church where they belong and when you point this little fact out, they stick their fingers in their ears like the intelectual six year olds that they are and scream, ìNah! Nah! Nah! Canít hear you!î and then threaten to beat us up after school. But thatís really all we can do is try to persevere with logic and heart and gradually, chip away at their straw men and expose their lies and trickery. Thatís how we won the Scopes trial. Itís how we declared our Independence from King George and why we did have to fight because he wouldnít see reason and wanted to keep playing his Geopolitical real world version of Risk.

And thatís the only time war becomes an acceptable outcome: when the Infophobes start hurling bombs instead of just insults.

*My wife told me once how, as a child, she had received a unicorn poster in school as a reward for completing a reading contest. She took the poster home and hung it on her wall, as children are want to do. When she came home the following day, she discovered that her mother had thrown the unicorn poster away because unicorns, being mythic creatures are thus, satanic and the poster was a doorway through which the Devil might creep into their very Catholic home and steal the silver or rearrange the flowers. My wife's copy of the Collected Stories of Edgar Allen Poe and Stephen King's It met similar fates.

Ed. note: I know, I promised a critique of Secularism Vs. Theocracy but I realized while writing the third part that the whole idea of the culture war was a false meme. So perhaps Iíll extoll the virtues of a Secular Society over a theocratic one another time.

The Ides of March

On this day in 44 BC, Julius Caesar was assassinated by Marcus Brutus.

[...I]n Pompey's theater, at the foot of Pompey's statue, where the senate happened to be meeting that day in the temple of Venus that was part of the theater complex. The foundations of the theater survive to this day, where the modern Roman restaurant Da Pamcrazio invites passersby to dine where Caesar was slain. It's in a wonderful part of the old city, near the Campo dei Fiori. The salad bar's pretty good, but avoid the Texas toast, and above all, Beware the Ides of March.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Words, Words, Words...

I've taken down the link to the excerpt from my Novel, the Tragic Circus. I'm in the process of polishing the MS, getting ready for round two of my submitting it for publication. Thanks to everyone who gave feedback and comments. I'll keep everyone posted as I recieve rejection letters and, hopefully, one day soon, the magic acceptance letter.

No More Coincidence

I heard the news on the Beeb last night, that Al Quida has claimed responsibility for the Madrid train bombing, as a retaliation for Spain's backing of George Bush's little Mesopotamian Excursion. What I didn't know though was that the attack happened a week before Spain's general election. Or that the attack happened exactly two and a half years after the WTC attack. (I think on some level I had intuited this but never bothered to do the math).

My heart goes out to Prime Minister Aznar and King Carlos and the people of Spain (see Jeb, it's not so hard to find out who these people are).

And it makes me wonder if this is what we have to look forward to in six months: another attack on Bush's watch. But this time he's not going to get a chance to spin it around to his favor. It's plain now that George Bush is an absolute failure when it comes to the War on Terror. He spent the last two years going after a shattered dictator in an unarmed country while the real terrorists were at large, plotting and calculating, just like they were three years ago when Bush was vacationing on his ranch.

That about sums up George W. Bush's term as president: On Vacation.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Astonishing Tales

Like many, I've been following the adventures of America's Worst Mother (TM, TBogg industries, a joint venture of Nabisco and Lockheed-Martin). I'm amused at his snarky take on this strange, tortured, repressed woman and her lamentable children with names that make the Zappa kids sound normal. But today I actually perused Meghan Cox Gurdon's column at the National Review.

It's astounding. Like a opium dream crossed with an Oprah Book of the Month title (the old ones, when she was promoting single debased women authors with no talent instead of raping the corpses of the great writers of the 20th century, looking for pocket change). This week's column is centered around a mysterious white stone, some red-leather clad teacher dancing a tango and the children foaming at the mouth over fire breathing rabbits. Either this woman is feeding her children horse doses of LSD in order to record the results ala Tom Wolf, or else she's been spending too much time with a hookah pipe in her mouth. Either way, it's a frightening sight to behold.

It never ceases to amaze me when I'm confronted by the level of crap that gets published these days. What's even more astounding is that the "writers" of such shit get payed while I can't seem to find a publisher interested in my stories*. Apparently I'm not cloying, don't have children to exploit in some Dickensian fantasy gone horribly awry and still retain a shred a human decency. All traits that bar one from syndication these days, apparently.

*I received another rejection letter Wednesday, this one for some short stories I was hoping to have published, hence the undercurrent of frustration.

update: In retrospect, I realize that me grumbling about syndicated columnists and moaning about my umpteenth rejection letter may strike some as a bit childish. Generally speaking, I regard rejection letters as a badge of honor. Moby Dick was rejected numerous times, as was Ulysses and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was famously rejected by over 100 editors before it was published and it's now a classic. So there. But, It's been a frustrating week, what with grad school and my wife being in another state and on the most frustrating day, I returned home to find that little gem of a rejection letter waiting for me, so it was not exactly what I'd call a cheery moment. But in the future, I will keep the bitching to a minimum. I won't say it'll never happen again because, well, it's my blog and if I feel like moaning, damn it, I'm going to moan!

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Battlefields of the Mind: Looking at the Culture War from Afar
Part Two: Monkey Gone to Heaven

One of the first modern skirmishes in the Culture War was the Scopes Monkey Trial.

The early 1920s found social patterns in chaos. Traditionalists, the older Victorians, worried that everything valuable was ending. Younger modernists no longer asked whether society would approve of their behavior, only whether their behavior met the approval of their intellect. Intellectual experimentation flourished. Americans danced to the sound of the Jazz Age, showed their contempt for alcoholic prohibition, debated abstract art and Freudian theories. In a response to the new social patterns set in motion by modernism, a wave of revivalism developed, becoming especially strong in the American South.

~Douglas Linder , from An introduction to Tennessee Vs. John Scopes

This will be a reoccurring motif in the Culture Wars, all the way up to the present: the reaction to cultural advancement by "Traditionalists" who fear that their comfortable assumptions are being subverted by Infophiles bent on shimmying their way down the slippery slope to Hell. The Traditionalists (which I refer to as Infophobes) do not see the benefit of lessoning human suffering through the application of our wits and intellect as a good thing. Despite the fact that it has been, at every turn, the Infophiles that have stood for the betterment of society as a whole, by championing advances in science, medicine and social philosophy that improve the lot of humankind, the Infophobes have tried to halt progress out of an irrational fear of the new.

Who would dominate American culture--the modernists or the traditionalists? Journalists were looking for a showdown, and they found one in a Dayton, Tennessee courtroom in the summer of 1925. There a jury was to decide the fate of John Scopes , a high school biology teacher charged with illegally teaching the theory of evolution. The guilt or innocence of John Scopes, and even the constitutionality of Tennessee's anti-evolution statute , mattered little. The meaning of the trial emerged through its interpretation as a conflict of social and intellectual values.

William Jennings Bryan , three-time Democratic candidate for President and a populist, led a Fundamentalist crusade to banish Darwin 's theory of evolution from American classrooms. Bryan's motivation for mounting the crusade is unclear. It is possible that Bryan, who cared deeply about equality, worried that Darwin's theories were being used by supporters of a growing eugenics movement that was advocating sterilization of "inferior stock." More likely, the Great Commoner came to his cause both out a concern that the teaching of evolution would undermine traditional values he had long supported and because he had a compelling desire to remain in the public spotlight--a spotlight he had occupied since his famous "Cross of Gold" speech at the 1896 Democratic Convention. Bryan, in the words of columnist H. L. Mencken , who covered the Scopes Trial, transformed himself into a "sort of Fundamentalist Pope." By 1925, Bryan and his followers had succeeded in getting legislation introduced in fifteen states to ban the teaching of evolution. In February, Tennessee enacted a bill introduced by John Butler making it unlawful "to teach any theory that denies the story of divine creation as taught by the Bible and to teach instead that man was descended from a lower order of animals."


We can speculate about Bryan's motivations all we like but we will never really know what motivated him to take up such a cause with his famous vehemence and elocution. Perhaps Bryan really was simply concerned about the Eugenicists. Given the role such proponents of racial purity would play only a decade later, it is a laudable notion that he was simply a crusader against pseudo-science and intolerance. But that spins the facts at hand in a very wide circle. One does not defend reason and good sense by beating it to death with a Bible. Though this is often the claim of Traditionalists who join such related battles as the Right to Life Movement and the Anti-stem Cell movement. they may want to defend the sanctity of the human spirit but they almost always do so at the cost of human life.

Perhaps it's a little hyperbolic of me to suggest that the Scopes trial was a life and death struggle for the human mind. Perhaps. But the Human Mind is where we're fighting the Culture War. And while the Monkey Trial ended 79 years ago, it does not mean that the fight against evolutionary theory has ended. if anything, the Infophobes wroth mightily at their defeat in Tennessee and have been redoubling their efforts to suppress the teaching of Evolutionary theory ever since.

As recently as January of this year, the state of Georgia considered banning the word 'Evolution' from its biology curriculum. An Orwellean gesture if there ever was one. How would banning a word stifle the idea behind it?* Obviously, it doesn't and luckily, in this case at least, level heads prevaled. The "buzzword" evolution remains, to vex the Creationists with all its magical might.

But of course, their are no more Creationists anymore. No. Creationism went out with the Reagan Administration. Even Traditionalists can evolve, apparently (just don't tell them that). Creationism now has donned a lab coat and walks about thumping it's copy of On the Origin of Species (the one with the suspiciously well worn leather cover) and talking all about Intelligent Design (ID). Which is merely more magic words conjured up by linguistic shamans to give their favorite Zombie notions the stench of Academia, and thus credibility (Night of the Living Creationist doesn't have the same ring to it as Intelligent Design).

In short, ID proposes the same thing as current evolutionary theory, only with the added benefit (or the superfluous, third nipple as it were) of there being a Designer behind the whole scheme. This Designer is of course never named outright (and which name would you use? Doesn't He have nine thousand names? Hard to cite Him as a source when the bibliography runs longer than the paper). Of course, what the ID proponents fail to realize is that even a cursory examination of actual Evolutionary theory renders the idea of a designer irrelevant, based on Ockhams Law. But then they wouldn't be Creationists if they respected scientific method, now would they?

"Well," say the Creation Scientists, "Evolution is Only a theory! Shouldn't we open the floor to other theories as well?" I'll let Stephen Jay Gould field the response to this rather self serving statement:

"Well evolution is a theory. It is also a fact. And facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world's data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts. Facts do not go away when scientists debate rival theories to explain them. Einstein's theory of gravitation replaced Newton's, but apples did not suspend themselves in mid-air, pending the outcome. And humans evolved from apelike ancestors whether they did so by Darwin's proposed mechanism or by some other yet to be discovered."

ó " Evolution as Fact and Theory ," Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes: Further Reflections in Natural History , New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1994, p. 254.

Lucky for us Infophiles, we have such supremely intelligent and bold generals as Dr. Gould to help us in the ongoing Culture War. And though Dr. Gould has left us bodily, there remains a wealth of knowledge and guiding light in his work, to serve as ample ammunition:

"'Creation science' has not entered the curriculum for a reason so simple and so basic that we often forget to mention it: because it is false, and because good teachers understand exactly why it is false. What could be more destructive of that most fragile yet most precious commodity in our entire intellectual heritage ó good teaching ó than a bill forcing honorable teachers to sully their sacred trust by granting equal treatment to a doctrine not only known to be false, but calculated to undermine any general understanding of science as an enterprise?"

ó "Verdict on Creationism," The Skeptical Inquirer , 1988, 12 (2): 186.

In Part three, we'll look at the two opposing base camps in the Culture War, the Secularists and the Theocrats.

*Animistically, speaking, the word itself is the thing itself. So, banning the magic word "evolution," makes the whole concept go poof! And all those black magicians in white lab coats subsequently scuttle off to their dank laboratories to wring their hands and mutter. At least in the mind of the sorts of folk who think Jesus spoke with a King James accent and think that Semiotics is a four letter word.

Read Part One

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Watcha Readin'?

Read any good books lately?

Monday, March 08, 2004


I just Googled for "awol" and this is what I found. Beauty!

My New Theory

I'll lay this one out like a syllogism, so even the freepers can understand it:

    1. The world's supply of oil is running out. There are varying estimates as to exactly how much is left but it's barely enough to get us through the next 20 years, at most.

    2. The oil barons realize this and decide that they need one of their own in the White House in order to legitimize their grab of the world's remaining oil supply, which happens to be in places like Iraq and Venezuela.

    3. They do this by piggybacking the neocon agenda of invasion-for-the-fun-of-it, using National Security as their trojan horse.

    4. When the oil wells start to go dry, they are the ones in control of the remaining supply, allowing them to gouge the rest of the world when the crisis becomes unavoidable.

Thus, the Oilmen make a butt-load of money and the rest of us get shafted because of their shortsightedness and greed. After all, we still have no alternative fuel source for when the oil does run out, meaning that we'll all be living in the dark.

Then their grandsons will become tallow barons and buy up the last candles and sell them to us.

Perhaps I'm wearing my tinfoil hat a little too tightly these days but it's at least as plausible and far more coherent an explanation for war than anything the administration has said in public.

Sunday, March 07, 2004

The Hurtling Moons of Barsoom

The Mars Rover on friday witnissed a solar eclipse on Mars, the first time weíve ever seen such an event from the surface of another planet.

Living in the future is sometimes frightening but every once in a while, I'm reminded that itís worth it. This is one of those times.

~Thanks to Byzantiumís Shores for the link.

(and the first person to correctly identify the reference in the title of this post will win a mix CD. Yeah!)

Battlefields of the Mind: Looking at the Culture War from Afar
Part One: A Reasonable Madness

For those who donít read David Neiwertís blog, Orcinus, you really are missing something. Mr. Neiwert has, for some time now, been documenting the hate speech and general antics of the Ultraconservative Right in what has become known ostensibly as the Culture Wars. And heís doing an amazing job. Seriously, if you arenít reading Orcinus on at least a weekly basis, I donít see how you could call yourself culturally or politically aware.

Iíd like to look at the Culture War, but from a Big Picture perspective.

First off, who is involved in this War? What are the sides and where are the lines drawn? Itís harder to pin down these specifics as the culture war, unlike your all too common geopolitical war, is fought entirely on an abstract plane of ideas, with memes instead of bombs and rhetoric in place of machine gun fire. To catch even a glimpse of the Big Picture, we need to examine the mental battlefields where these skirmishes take place.

In itís broadest sense the culture war has been going on for over 200 years, and started way back in the eighteenth century with the Declaration of Independence (in the US) and the Declaration of the Rights of Man (in France). To generalize for a moment we can look at the current Culture War as little more than an extension of the centuries old battle for human spirit, with the Champions of the Enlightenment on one side and the Minions of Theocracy on the other. But this is, as I said, a generalization (Iíll also admit that Iím squarely on one side of this conflict and so more than a little bias. Iíve always had an affinity for Enlightened Humanism and a profound disdain for theocrats of any shape). But the lines arenít drawn distinctly. It isnít simply Liberal vs. Conservative, Right vs. Left or any of the other dull labels that our mass media drag out every time they stumble across one of these ideological battlefields. However, we can make meaningful distinctions between the two sides of the culture war if we examine them from the perspective of Information, or more precisely, their attitudes about Information.

Robert Anton Wilson characterizes the two sides as Infophobes and Infophiles.

The pure infophobe (represented not too badly by most "respectable" law-abiding citizens anywhere) obsessively avoids exotic foods, exotic ideas, exotic clothing, exotic people, "dern foreigners," new technology, innovative art or music, tabu subjects, originality, creativity etc. Sen. Exon, Sen. Gramm, most of Congress, Theodore Roszack and Unibomber represent various styles of compulsive infophobic imprints. The pure infophile remains a relatively rare person at this primitive stage of evolution. The infophile seeks out the new and exotic in food, ideas, clothing, technology, art -- everywhere. Picasso, Joyce, Niels Bohr, Bucky Fuller and all the murdered heretics and innovators of history represent extreme infophiliac imprints.

Infophobes are frightened out of their narrow little minds by any new information that comes along, especially if that new information instigates a reassessment of their values or preconceptions about the world. That the Infophobes have held power for the better part of the last 6000 years is a phenomenon I scarcely claim to understand and am at a loss to explain. Speculating, Iíd say they are drawn to positions of power in order to squash as much new (and therefore in their view, dangerous) information as possible. This pathological disdain for the new manifests in a number of ways: disliking of foreign food, culture or traditions, a clinging to nostalgic ideals about a supposed golden past before these tacos and enchiladas where put before their noses. This fascination (which borderlines on obsession for some. See: Pat Buchanan) with the supposed simpler days of Yore is really one of the major traits of the Infophobe. Youíll often hear them talk about traditional values (traditions, being long established, have their origins in this golden past), reminisces of the days of their youth and a general longing to return to some previous state of being long since fallen into corruption by nebulous outside forces (whose agents all have dark skin and weird tasting food). That there never was such a Golden Age of purity and benevolence is beside the point. It never existed, but had to be created out of fantasy in order to give contrast the ever-present here and now, which never seems to live up to their Platonic expectations.

The infophile, meanwhile is a curious little monkey scampering through the modern world in search of knowledge and an ever expanding consciousness. The Infophile never knows what they may find around the next corner, over the next year or week or day. But whatever it is, it can only broaden ones picture of the world and therefore it is welcomed and even craved when absent. Infophiles like to travel, watch foreign films (are intrigued by the various languages that the subtitles translate) are curious to try that new Ethiopian restaurant down the street and canít wait for the new book by their favorite author to hit the shelves of their corner bookstore. That these sorts of people tend to be day dreamers and creative types, always thinking about the future and speculating what it might hold is a common trait and one that arguably has been the force behind every human advancement. After all, people who respect their elders and like the way grandpa thinks arenít interested in changing anything. That might upset the status quo.

Obviously, this is another generalization. But if we keep in mind that these two types, the Infophobe and Infophile are at opposite ends of a sliding scale, we can have a greater, more nuanced understanding of who the fighters in the Culture War are and what it is they stand for, regardless of what shape their rhetoric takes or how they spell their name.

It's a bit maddening to play these verbal games but when a war is being faught in every brain in the nation, a more reasonable form of madness is all we can hopefore.

In Part Two Iíll look at some specific battles in the Culture War and maybe identify some of the current generals on both sides.

The Adds the RNC Doesnít Want you to See

from CNN:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Republican National Committee is warning television stations across the country not to run ads from the MoveOn.org Voter Fund that criticize President Bush, charging that the left-leaning political group is paying for them with money raised in violation of the new campaign-finance law.

"As a broadcaster licensed by the Federal Communications Commission, you have a responsibility to the viewing public, and to your licensing agency, to refrain from complicity in any illegal activity," said the RNC's chief counsel, Jill Holtzman Vogel, in a letter sent to about 250 stations Friday.

"Now that you have been apprised of the law, to prevent further violations of federal law, we urge you to remove these advertisements from your station's broadcast rotation."

But MoveOn.org's lawyer, Joseph Sandler, said in a statement that the ads were funded legally, calling the RNC's letter "a complete misrepresentation of the law."

"The federal campaign laws have permitted precisely this use of money for advertising for the past 25 years," he said.

And MoveOn.org, which was planning to spend $1.9 million on an ad buy that started Thursday, said Friday that it would spend another $1 million.

Theyíre not even pretending to defend your freedoms anymore. Itís outright censorship for politcal gains. So all you freepers, next time you wonder aloud, "Why do Liberals hate Bush?" just follow the long finger pointing at all the signs.

If you havenít already donated to MoveOn., now would be a good time.

Thanks to Lambert over at Corrente for the link.

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Ever Wonder What Country You'd Be?

Who doesn't? Turns out I'm not a country so much as an assortment of countries. Whitman said we contain multitudes but where do we shop for pants that can accomadate them all?

the United Nations!

Most people think you're ineffective, but you are trying to
completely save the world from itself, so there's always going to be a long
way to go.  You're always the one trying to get friends to talk to each
other, enemies to talk to each other, anyone who can to just talk instead of
beating each other about the head and torso.  Sometimes it works and sometimes
it doesn't, and you get very schizophrenic as a result.  But your heart
is in the right place, and sometimes also in New York.

face="Times New Roman">Take the Country
at the Blue Pyramid

Mugging for the Cause

Both Atrios and NTodd are running Kerry donation campaigns right now and I support them whole heartedly. While I may not be a card carrying Democrat and have doubts about the validity of the Democratic process as a whole, it's all we've got to work with. So if you really want to get rid of Bush in November, donate to Kerry, the DNC or MoveOn.

Disclosure: I haven't donated yet but I'm in Grad School. So when my next round of loans come in, I'll be dropping some coin in the bucket.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Never Fear! The... Pope is Here?

From Tom Tomorrow:

Pax Christi USA, the national Catholic peace and justice movement, will announce its plan to bring election monitors from the international community to observe and monitor the November elections in Florida. Pax Christi USA will also issue a call inviting other state and national organizations to join them in monitoring the election, especially in Florida, in an attempt to make the democratic process transparent and free of the kind of controversy witnessed in Florida during the 2000 election.

The Catholic Church has never been what one would characterizerise as a progressive, pro-democratic organizationtion. After all, these are the same folk who twiddled their thumbs while Hitler was murdering his way across Europe and conducted their own bloody little inquisitions all through the Middle Ages. But you know things are bad when the Pope, Steward of Rome, who rules until the King of the World returns, thinks there might be something fishy going on with the way your government runs its elections.

edited to exterminate Fnords

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Now Playing in My Head:


I was minding my business
I was lifting some lead off
The roof of the Holy Name church
It was worthwhile living a laughable life
Just to set my eyes on the blistering sight
Of a vicar in a tutu
He's not strange
He just wants to live his life this way

A scanty bit of a thing
With a decorative ring
That wouldn't cover the head of a child
As Rose collects the money in the cannister
Who comes sliding down the bannister ?
The vicar in a tutu
He's not strange
He just wants to live his life this way...

The Gospel According to Mad Max

I can't take credit for this one, it belongs to Beast of Sound. And from what I've heard of the movie, it's a more acurate title. If anyone's already seen this theological snuff film, leave a review in the comments.

Supporting 'the Base'

From Everything's Ruined:

"We are not infidels," says a somber Bush. "We agree with you on so many issues."

With President Bush's embrace yesterday of a marriage amendment, the compassionate conservative of 2000 has shown he is willing, if necessary, to make common cause with Osama bin Laden and fundamentalist mullahs throughout the Middle East.

Al-Qaeda, which translates as "The Base," despite three years of not attacking the US directly, has grown restless over Bush ignoring them and focusing too much on Saddam Hussein and John Kerry. At the same time, al-Qaeda is pleased that Bush has forwarded their agenda of destroying the United States, though Bush prefers "soft" methods such as financial mismanagement and murderously reckless environmental policy.

So when gay marriages advanced in Massachusetts and San Francisco, Bush felt a need to respond to the cries of angry mullahs -- even if it meant losing some swing voters he needs in November.

"Ultimately, I don't think he had any choice," said Ayman al-Zahawiri, a religious conservative who some call "Bin Laden's Brain." "The president has never really shown an enthusiasm about the wars over the culture." Al-Zahawiri added: "It would've been inconceivable that a president so associated with traditional values would have sat idly by while marriage was being redefined. He had to act."


..."Pulling our troops out of Saudi Arabia and going after the secular Saddam Hussein has not been enough for bin Laden and his people. Yes, now Iraq is on the way to becoming an Islamic state and Bush is eager to get us the hell out of there, but still you need to prove that you're willing to take measures at home. Eliminating civil liberties was the first step, and bin Laden is quite pleased about Bush's judicial appointees, most of whom favor reducing women's rights and making America a more explicitly religious nation. But if we're really going to please al-Qaeda we have to start attacking God's enemies directly. Homosexuals are God's enemies."

Already, some imams are pushing Bush to back an amendment that outlaws civil unions, too.

"In the last couple of months, 'The Base' has been hungry for moral leadership to come out of White House and was urging him to do something strong like he did today," said Shaikh Saiid al-Masri, one of the principal financiers of bin Laden's revolutionary terrorist organization.

But al-Masri said jihadists will balk if Bush sanctions an amendment allowing civil unions. "Creating counterfeits by any name hurts the real thing," he said. "God is great and he will punish the infidels who condone sodomy."

~Thanks to Patrick Nielson Hayden for the link.

Monday, March 01, 2004

You are Schroeder!

Which Peanuts Character are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

~Thanks to NTodd for the link