Archive for February 4th, 2007
If you find the little Snap “preview” irritating, just click “options” on its screen when it appears, and you can turn it off. I prefer Cooliris, which I can control and which is installed in my browser so that it works for ALL sites. Just a thought.
A commenter to this post asked whether I believed in God and what my religious orientation was. I do not believe in a God that follows the NFL and steps in to fix the outcome of the Super Bowl (though more than 1 in 4 do).
The flavor of God that I find most appealing (YMMV) is the God as described by process theology, and the best book to start with is Charles Hartshorne’s Omnipotence and Other Theological Mistakes (and you can read the preface and the introduction to the first chapter in this post). This God is described (in the negative, as it were) in Process Theology: an introductory exposition, by John B. Cobb, Jr., and David Ray Griffin, as follows:
The Washington Post reports on the administration’s purge of federal prosecutors this morning and finds that the call for the move came, shockingly, from outside the Justice Department:
One administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in discussing personnel issues, said the spate of firings was the result of “pressure from people who make personnel decisions outside of Justice who wanted to make some things happen in these places.”
In other words, the pressure to replace the prosecutors did not come from the people who would know about the U.S. Attorneys’ job performance (their supervisors at the Justice Department), but rather from power players in the White House or Republican Party. That would explain why the seven federal prosecutors purged in December were not given a reason for their dismissals — and why justifications for the firings have sounded like lame rationalizations.
This fits, of course, with McClatchy’s finding last week that the Bush administration, in a break with the practice of prior administrations, has been placing conservative loyalists in U.S. Attorney spots across the country. Instead of nominating local, qualified attorneys whose philosophy jibes with the administration (as was the traditional practice), the nomination of U.S. Attorneys has been subsumed into the Republican Party’s political machine. Apparently the title of U.S. Attorney is just too attractive a resumé-fattener to dole out helter-skelter. And while you’re fattening the resumés of possible future stars of the party, it can’t hurt to knock out a prosecutor who was doing considerable damage to the party.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will be holding a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the issue Tuesday called, “Preserving Prosecutorial Independence: Is the Department of Justice Politicizing the Hiring and Firing of U.S. Attorneys?” Let’s see if he comes up with an answer.
Lessons we thought had been learned from Vietnam were forgotten in the rush to invade Iraq. And now, as we cover President Bush’s ratcheting up of the rhetoric against Iran, it’s looking like the lessons we should have learned from Iraq may not have been learned at all. So at the risk of stating the obvious, here are some thoughts about what those lessons were.
You Can’t Be Too Skeptical of Authority
- Don’t assume anything administration officials tell you is true. In fact, you are probably better off assuming anything they tell you is a lie.
- Demand proof for their every assertion. Assume the proof is a lie. Demand that they prove that their proof is accurate.
- Just because they say it, doesn’t mean it should be make the headlines. The absence of supporting evidence for their assertion — or a preponderance of evidence that contradicts the assertion — may be more newsworthy than the assertion itself.
- Don’t print anonymous assertions. Demand that sources make themselves accountable for what they insist is true.
Provocation Alone Does Not Justify War
- War is so serious that even proving the existence of a casus belli isn’t enough. Make officials prove to the public that going to war will make things better.
- Demand to know what happens if the war (or tactical strike) doesn’t go as planned?
- Demand to know what happens if it does? What happens after “victory”?
- Ask them: Isn’t it possible this will make things worse, rather than better?
Be Particularly Skeptical of Secrecy
- Don’t assume that these officials, with their access to secret intelligence, know more than you do.
- Alternately, assume that they do indeed know more than you do – and are trying to keep intelligence that would undermine their arguments secret.
A bad, tasteless joke. ThinkProgress has several examples today, with video. Check them out:
McCain: Contradicts himself in 47 seconds (click for video):
On ABC’s This Week, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said it is unrealistic to expect the escalation strategy to change the situation in Iraq in “a few months”:
MCCAIN: Took us a long time to get in the situation we’re in, and to say that — and somehow assume that in a few months, that things are going to get all better I think is not realistic.
Just 47 seconds later, McCain said we’ll know whether the escalation strategy is working “in a few months”:
STEPHANOPOULOS: You say it’s all in. How long are you going to give it to work?
MCCAIN: I think in the case of the Iraqi government cooperating and doing what’s necessary, we can know fairly well in a few months.
McCain: Consequences of missed benchmarks are “obvious,” but then he can’t name them (click for video)
STEPHANOPOULOS: And in fact, your resolution lays out benchmarks for the Iraqi government to meet. But critics of it say there are no consequences spelled out if they don’t meet these goals. There’s no teeth.
MCCAIN: Well, the consequences are obvious. I mean, if they’re not meeting those benchmarks, then obviously the new strategy isn’t succeeding. And I can’t tell you what the other options are, because there are no good options to this. If there was a good option to what we’re doing, to sending more young Americans in harm’s way, I’d tell you. They’re all bad options, in my view, if this one isn’t supported and succeeds.
McCain’s not alone in this, BTW. Most of those supporting the escalation can’t (or won’t) say what will happen if benchmarks are not met:
McCain isn’t the only one who can’t make sense of toothless benchmarks. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said last week that benchmarks were “the best way to determine if the Iraqis are holding up their end of the bargain but he stopped short of saying what the U.S. should do it the Iraqis fall short. ‘I think everyone knows what the consequences are,’ McConnell said without specifying what he thinks they are, even when pressed. ‘I’m not going to start playing out the scenarios,’ he added.”
Chuck Hagel lays it on the line (click for video): McCain Resolution Is ‘Disingenuous’ And ‘Intellectually Dishonest’
HAGEL: There’s a difference. The other position that Senator Warner — and I think there are now 12 bipartisan members of the Senate on that resolution — that resolution states very clearly we disagree with adding more troops into Iraq. Very simply put, we disagree with escalating our military involvement in Iraq.
That is totally different, George, then saying let’s get out, let’s cut the funds. This notion that somehow we’re not supporting our troops, that’s not true. In fact, I think if you want to go to a disingenuous resolution, this idea about putting benchmarks on the Iraqi government…
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator McCain’s idea.
HAGEL: Yes, and then having no consequences, now that’s intellectually dishonest. So what are the consequences? Are we then going to pull out? If the benchmarks are not met by the Maliki government, are we then going to walk out? Are we then going to bring our troops home? Are we going to cut funding? Now, that falls more in the intellectually dishonest category.
Oh, and speaking of intellectual dishonesty, Read the rest of this entry »
This is an extremely clever plan. From Download Squad:
French authorities plan on passing out open-source software to incoming high school freshman next year.
The software (expected to include Firefox and Thunderbird as well as an office suite; instant messaging software and an audio/video player) will be put on a USB flash drive and passed out to students at the beginning of the school year. The USB drive will give students the ability to check email and surf the web with personal preferences without purchasing each child their own personal laptop.
An expected 175,000 USB sticks will be passed out this year at a cost of around 3.4 million dollars. Should the program be a success the Greater Paris Regional Council plans on continuing it in following years.
The company that wins the bid for the USB sticks will determine the exact software included on the stick. All of the software is required to be open-source.
I just learned of a new shaving forum, The Shave Den, which owes its existence to Mama Bear. Each shaving forum gradually develops its own character, so it will be interesting to see the direction of growth for this one.
I contributed a post the the “newbie” section, and the moderator has made it a “sticky”: my first one ever.
Problems with the shave usually have their cause in one of the essential steps:
Prep: beard must be fully wetted to soften—shave after showering, wash beard again at the sink, and apply a good lather to your wet beard. (Lather is always applied to a wet beard.)
Blade selection: crucial. Novices focus on the razor, but the razor is just a device for holding the blade and presenting the edge at the correct angle to the stubble. Different people require different blades. Get a sampler packet from LetterK so you can find the right blade for you.
Blade angle: absolutely critical. The blade should be ALMOST parallel to the skin being shaved, so that the edge strikes the stubble almost at a right angle. Where the skin has a lot of curves (e.g., jawline, neck, chin), you have to maneuver the razor a fair amount to keep the blade angle correct. Making short strokes will help you stay focused on blade angle. No matter how light the pressure, if the angle’s wrong, you’ll get a nick or cut.
Razor pressure: use very light pressure. Shaving with a cartridge either requires or encourages pressure, so this is a habit that must be unlearned. Often the weight of the razor by itself is enough to cut the stubble. Hold the blade to minimize pressure—e.g., by the balance point on the handle. When you rinse after the first pass, you’ll feel quite a bit of stubble. This does NOT mean you should use more pressure—in single blade shaving, you eliminate the stubble by progressively reducing it over 2, 3, or 4 passes.
Your beard’s grain (direction of growth): It’s vital that you know this, since the sequence of passes is first with the grain, then across the grain, and then (if stubble is sufficiently reduced) against the grain. (If too much stubble remains for a comfortable against-the-grain pass, shave across the grain the other way.) Generally, the beard on your face will grow downward—but not always. I have a couple of patches where it grows more or less sideways. The grain on the neck can be anything. To find the grain, wait 8-12 hours after you’ve shaved, then rub your face and neck. The direction that’s roughest is against the grain. You’ll find the “roughest” direction is different on different pars of your face and neck.
If you pay attention to these basic points, you’ll enjoy your shaves. There will be a learning curve, as you make the transition from cognitive understanding to practiced skill, but you will at least know what you’re trying for.
Watch this video, and ask yourself why the two characters are an African-American man and a white woman—each a representative of a group still fighting for full opportunities in business and an equal wage for equal responsibilities and work.
This video has the effect—and perhaps the intent—of reinforcing the stereotypes dear to the patriarchy now in power.
People tend to resist change. Why?
“I’m all for progress. It’s change I object to.” Mark Twain, to whom that quote is usually attributed, may not have ever uttered or written those words.
That’s the start of an article in Business Week on how to introduce change to a company—a sidebar to the fascinating story of the downfall of Julie Roehm, hired to change Wal-Mart’s marketing approach. (Wal-Mart didn’t want to change.)
The author of the sidebar article explains why people resist change:
Virtually every company has people, maybe huge numbers of them, who will resist change until the bitter end. It’s human nature.
Ah! Human nature, of course. That’s the reason. And how do we know? Because almost all people resist change. It’s a tautology, in other words—the essence of uninformative “communication.” The writer should be ashamed. (Anatol Rapport talks at some length about the various types of explanations for “why” in Operational Philosophy, an enjoyable and informative book.)
What struck me in reading Rich’s column was this paragraph:
Frank Rich has a good column today, and in the next post I’ll comment on one aspect of it:
In the days since Dick Cheney lost it on CNN, our nation’s armchair shrinks have had a blast. The vice president who boasted of “enormous successes” in Iraq and barked “hogwash” at the congenitally mild Wolf Blitzer has been roundly judged delusional, pathologically dishonest or just plain nuts. But what else is new? We identified those diagnoses long ago. The more intriguing question is what ignited this particularly violent public flare-up.
The answer can be found in the timing of the CNN interview, which was conducted the day after the start of the perjury trial of Mr. Cheney’s former top aide, Scooter Libby. The vice president’s on-camera crackup reflected his understandable fear that a White House cover-up was crumbling. He knew that sworn testimony in a Washington courtroom would reveal still more sordid details about how the administration lied to take the country into war in Iraq. He knew that those revelations could cripple the White House’s current campaign to escalate that war and foment apocalyptic scenarios about Iran. Scariest of all, he knew that he might yet have to testify under oath himself.
Mr. Cheney, in other words, understands the danger this trial poses to the White House even as some of Washington remains oblivious. From the start, the capital has belittled the Joseph and Valerie Wilson affair as “a tempest in a teapot,” as David Broder of The Washington Post reiterated just five months ago. When “all of the facts come out in this case, it’s going to be laughable because the consequences are not that great,” Bob Woodward said in 2005. Or, as Robert Novak suggested in 2003 before he revealed Ms. Wilson’s identity as a C.I.A. officer in his column, “weapons of mass destruction or uranium from Niger” are “little elitist issues that don’t bother most of the people.” Those issues may not trouble Mr. Novak, but they do loom large to other people, especially those who sent their kids off to war over nonexistent weapons of mass destruction and nonexistent uranium.