February 18th, 2015
David Brooks is the token conservative on the New York Times OpEd page. He replaced the insufferable William Safire, but has still been reliably conservative.
But something has happened as of late; he has been writing columns displaying empathy, such as one eschewing vengeance in response to ISIS. The one that really amazed me was yesterday’s essay on PTSD. Buried inside that was this:
war — no matter how justified or unjustified, noble or ignoble — is always a crime.
Amazing because for the longest time he was a noted war hawk.
January 3rd, 2015
Today is the 10th anniversary of this blog, so I’ll celebrate with a bunch of random items.
December 9th, 2014
Sometimes we just want to be alone,
to meet the self, to commune with nature,
to hope to glimpse that ineffable;
to let our thoughts run shouting
down halls that we’ve never seen,
unthreatened by the jaws of other peoples’ arguments.
Our soul is set free by our heart’s acceptance
that alone is not lonely,
and graced from guilt, goes ranging far and wide
until the human world attracts once more.
October 23rd, 2014
In my woodworking days I learned how to sharpen knives on a stone, so when invited to Thanksgiving or Christmas, I would offer to sharpen the host’s knives. The offer was always well received, but such a high proportion of cooks promptly cut themselves accidentally that I now don’t offer, or add a severe caveat.
I conclude that the canard about blunt knives being more dangerous is wrong. The logic is that blunt knives cause people to press harder, but I think the added sharpness of a sharpened knife far outweighs the added force applied to a blunt knife.
July 18th, 2014
I’ve always had a secret liking for split infinitives. Today I found a perfect example.
Therapists are trained not to tell you exactly what to do, no matter how much I ask.
I would much rather see (using brackets to indicate a sentence component)
Therapists are trained to [not tell you exactly what to do], no matter how much I ask.
To my ear, the original sentence implies a logical construction like this
Therapists are trained not to tell you exactly what to do, but to reflect your actions back to you.
June 14th, 2014
Here’s what the corporate state has come to:
- You need a college education to get a job;
- You have to pay for it;
- You can’t escape that debt (it’s high interest, and not dischargeable in bankruptcy);
- Therefore you have to work for us until it is paid off.
Ergo: Capitalism has reinvented the feudal system.
June 12th, 2014
The existence of elections, civil law and free speech gives the appearance of a functioning democracy, but in practice they are not acting as intended.
1. Voting is not Representative
Voting is skewed in America in many ways.
2. Justice is Unequal
There are very visibly two standards of justice.
- No top bankers went to jail because of the mortgage crisis,
Charlie Engle got 21 months for lying on a stated income loan of $400K.
- HSBC was fined $1.92bn for money laundering, including for Mexican drug cartels; no-one went to jail,
Patricia Spottedcrow received 10 years for a $31 marijuana sale.
- James Clapper committed perjury before Congress without repercussions,
Roger Clemens was charged with six counts, including perjury.
- The Chief Justice of the Texas supreme court criticized the disparity in justice: For those who can afford legal services, we have a top-notch judicial system. Highly qualified lawyers help courts dispense justice fairly and efficiently. But…. Nearly six million Texans qualify for legal aid. Yet our state’s legal aid programs meet but 20% of the needs of indigent Texans, forcing many to go it alone in our courts.
- A du Pont heir avoided prison after raping his 3-year-old daughter.
- Shaun Goodman crashed his Ferrari after a 100mph chase, his 7th DUI. He got one year’s work release but no straight jail time.
- The Iraq war was unjustified and illegal, but the only person punished was Scooter Libby, who received 30 months for lying about the outing of a CIA agent. His sentence was later commuted.
3. Political Protest is Suppressed
The net result of these distortions can be measured, and the results show that democracy is largely an illusion:
1. Budgets do not Match How People Want the Money Spent
People from both left and right want a budget that is well to the left of present allocations. A Program for Public Consultation report found that Republicans would cut defense spending by $56bn and Democrats by $131bn for an average cut of 18%. The public would increase energy conservation and renewable energy by 110%, job training by 130% and college financial aid by 90%.
2. The Wishes of the General Public are not Carried Out
A recent study by Gilens and Page analyzed 1,779 policy outcomes and determined that when a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose.
“the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”
The preferences of economic elites carries 15 times the weight of ordinary citizens.
A statement like this usually ends with a call to action.
I will leave that for another day, and instead make this a call for awareness. Tell your friends. Pass this on.
When enough people understand how they are being fooled, change will happen.
May 6th, 2014
The NYTimes reports that how Supreme Court Justices vote on 1st Amendment claims depends on their political leanings. The worst liberal bias is 1.3, whereas the conservative biases range from 3 to 7.
This is unsettling enough by itself, but even more disturbing is the implication is that conservative justices may be more biased in other areas besides 1st Amendment issues.
April 10th, 2014
I just ran into this sentence in Six programming paradigms that will change how you think about coding
You’re probably used to type systems in languages like C and Java
and marveled at its ambiguity. “Used” and “type” have several different grammatical meanings. As Hobbes (of Calvin and Hobbes) said
Verbing weirds language.
(The article itself is very interesting, and the reddit comments are good, too.)
March 8th, 2014
The Electoral College. Disproportionate Senatorial representation. Gerrymandering. Congressional inaction on higher taxes on the rich, military spending cuts and removing marijuana’s Schedule 1 classification. All are disquieting signs that we may be living in a society that only pretends to be a democracy.
I’m not the only person thinking this. Check out the comments to the NYT article Behind Clash Between C.I.A. and Congress, a Secret Report on Interrogations. Some excerpts:
Is it possible America has experienced a peaceful coup via the powers of the CIA, the NSA and trade treaties?
It is laughably sad that there are two sets of rules in the US. There are the laws and expected morals that the average citizen must follow, and then there is the “law” that the government has established for themselves.
America pretends to be a democracy when in fact the CIA, the essence and structure of a Police State, negates its tenets of transparency and rule of law.
If this congress and this administration cannot or will not reign in the intelligence agencies, I believe our democracy is lost.