• Culture,  Media,  Military,  Religion

    Two from Slate

    • Hitchens on Falwell – a nice vicious hit job, closing with

      It’s a shame that there is no hell for Falwell to go to, and it’s extraordinary that not even such a scandalous career is enough to shake our dumb addiction to the “faith-based.”

    • On Generals – An interesting piece on the lack of turnover at the Pentagon due to the Iraq war. Unmentioned is the lack of turnover as a result of 9-11, which should be the larger clue.
  • America,  Culture,  Politics

    We live in scary times when Bill Maher is right about something

    Check out this post from The Agitator. The whole “They hate us for our freedom” bit sounds nice, and is partly true, but it is the most useless adage ever created. If we’re going to reduce the number of terrorists to zero (the goal) we’re going to need to do more than just proclaim our greatness and ignore all specifics. Sigh.

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  • America,  Culture,  Media

    The belated Imus post

    I’m not sure whether I said this already in a post or an email, but in any case..

    Imus said “Nappy Headed Hos”.

    The outrage industry sprang into action, because that is their entire job.

    The media covered it, because all of the major players were happy to come to them, and news coverage consisted largely of replaying existing footage, or cutting and pasting press releases. This equaled a cheap to produce (in time and dollars) article or news segment, especially compared to the two wars that are going on right now

    People liked it because it was widespread and easy to understand. Anyone could shoot his mouth off to anyone else and not get schooled by someone who knew more about the topic. There was also no personal connection to anyone they knew, so no feelings could be hurt.

    There is no deep meaning to the “controversy”.

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  • Culture,  Evolution,  Judaism

    Super Jews are coming! Duck!

    Mathew Yglesias links to a Charles Murray article in Commentary about the apparent brainpower edge of the Jewish people. For the most part, Yglesias’ commenters go off on the notion of implied inequality with a few dissents.

    To me this is partial proof of evolution. The world has changed to a mostly urban lifestyle, and Jews have been living in cities for much longer than most groups. That would make them more suited to score higher than other groups on what we measure on IQ tests. Jewish culture essentially “chose” the right path to the future.

    Throw in non-random mating and the fact that Jewish culture values literacy more than most other cultures and it seems quite reasonable that Jews would score higher on whatever test the psychologists can throw at them.

    None of this matters much (yay minimalist view of politics) but it is interesting. I imagine it is as unprovable as are most other evolutionary theories.

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  • Culture,  Politics

    Thoughts on Scooter Libby

    I haven’t paid much attention to the Libby trial. Joe Wilson always seemed like too much of a pompous blowhard, and Libby too much of a devoted apparachik, to care much. However, like tax cuts, impeachments and special prosecutors are always good.

    Two surprising things

    • Fitzgerald convicted Libby on essentially technical grounds, which struck me as odd, as he’s a rather talented lawyer. IIRC he was Clinton pardonee Marc Rich’s lawyer.
    • No one has brought up this reason for the animus towards Wilson; to wit: Cheney’s office is filled with 45-65 year old true believers who all work 60-80 hours a week. Along comes some guy who retired in his late 40s who tries to tell them their business (and not too well either). That has to some sort of huge insult in the late middle aged workaholic society.
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  • BigThink,  Culture,  Dreams,  Hoffer

    What dreams may come

    Yesterday I did a tough 80 miles on the Silver Comet. It was a hotter than usual, and for some reason I decided to push myself speed wise. I averaged a mile an hour over my usual speed for that distance, and my heart rate was about 10-15 bpm over the usual rate as well. I mistimed the start of the ride and wound up riding for an hour in a darkness usually found in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Riding safely in this sort of dark mandated an unusually upright and uncomfortable posture for the final hour (I had to keep my vision focused on the area covered by my headlight, which was small).

    I’m also on a low-carb kick at the moment.

    After I got home I finished Eric Hoffer’s autobiography, Truth Imagined. I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts on the book later. The book describes his time as a migrant farm worker in California in the 20s and 30s. One interesting thing he writes about is the sheer variety of people he encountered while on the bum. People of learning and accomplishment, forced by the depression into a migrant way of life. It struck me that this is a as a little remarked price of prosperity, as well as the relative meritocracy that is part and parcel of a free society. To wit; in good times one is more likely to meet people just like oneself than in times of physical and economic catastrophe, for good or ill.

    That night I had a dream where I attended a cocktail party, wearing a tuxedo. I was talking to an interesting and confident woman my age named Trea. I had told her the observation mentioned above and she opined that I had the cause and effect backward. Economic catastrophe’s are caused by the mixing of people (grouped by ability, not race) which interferes with the division and specialization of labor.

    What does this labor produce? Society and culture. The conventional view (of mine anyway) is that society and culture are like an investment portfolio; it’s outside one’s immediate grasp, it changes over time, and grows incrementally. Trea’s view was that society is produced and consumed, and does not change incrementally at all. It’s like the contents of one’s pantry; food goes in, it goes out, but it doesn’t last forever, and neither grows nor evolves.

    In economic parlance, society/culture are stocks, not flows, which is the way I usually think of them.

    I’ve usually don’t have these sort of dreams, nor do I have new (to me) ideas in dreams. I’m not sure what to make of it all.

    And if you’ve read this far, I’m impressed.

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  • Ajax,  Atlanta,  Culture,  Links,  Police State

    Rapid fire and random thoughts

    • Interesting thoughts on the use of mercenaries to settle third world conflicts (Darfour, the Congo, etc) at Instapundit and Marginal Revolution. I’m a bit queasy about the idea myself, though it’s probably worth trying.
    • Congress asserts amazing immunities for itself. No-knock raids and tear gas are good enough for you and me though.
    • Why do we believe anything sponsored by supposedly independent interest groups, in this case, an epidemic of girls going wild?
    • A nice AJAX primer from Brainjar.
    • Traffic Data in Windows Live Local.
    • The current media created craze is the fight club. I think this article misses out on reasons why it is appealing to techies though. If you’re a programmer, you’re spending all day in your virtual world, and stepping into the ring is about as far away from that as you can get.
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  • BigThink,  Culture,  Predictions

    Things I don’t believe in

    A list of things I don’t believe in, for no reason other than I find their proponents objectionable, or sensationalistic.

    • Intelligent Design theory
    • Global Warming
    • Public education reform
    • Keyboards in rock music
    • Authenticity as a meaningful part of music
    • McCarthyism being a defining moment of American History
    • Native American culture being inherently earth friendly
    • Anything to do with “carbs”
    • Apple’s vaunted OS stability
    • Apple’s better “interface”
    • Any positive influence of Janis Joplin
    • The oft-touted claim by libertarians that 20% of Americans are libertarian also
    • “Natural” foods
    • Homeopathy
    • Divorce being a public/social problem
    • Stem cell research being a big deal, for good or ill
    • Biomass fuels
    • Peak oil
    • Addictive personalities
    • Chiropractors
  • Culture,  Politics

    How is this possible

    Amazon, Maher to swim in ‘Fishbowl’
    “New 30-minute entertainment Web program will make its debut June 1, exclusively on”

    How is Bill Maher still popular, much less more popular than ever? His delivery, never a strong suit of his, has gotten more tortured than ever, or at least it was before I quit watching him. He also prefaced every line with “Isn’t it really….”.

    I find a lot of left-wing comics (Mark Maron, Jon Stewart has come back quite a bit after a bad slump) funny, so I don’t think it’s that his politics are offensive to me, he just seems about as funny as an episode of Mama’s Family these days.

    De gustibus non est disputandum I suppose.