Archive for May 29th, 2010
Not mine, but Trent Hamm’s: he writes The Simple Dollar.
I think this post is worth reading.
Glenn Greenwald has three columns about the very bad direction the US is taking in the area of civil liberties and Executive Power. I highly recommend them, and I would appreciate a comment pointing out any instances of narcissism on Greenwald’s part.
The reason for this request is that I fairly often see a comment on how narcissistic Greenwald is, but only the conclusion is stated, never the evidence. And I just don’t see it. I readily admit I could be missing it, which is why I’m asking for those who do see it to point out the evidence.
To help, this post contains a list of the DSM criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and the evidence I saw for Bush fitting that description. In other words, I didn’t back then say, "Bush is narcissistic," I pointed out evidence that led to the conclusion. That seems better than just stating the conclusion.
Here are the Greenwald columns that strike me as thoroughly worth reading:
The question arose in conversation whether Wikipedia is reliable or not. As stated, the proposition is misleadingly phrased: reliability, unlike (say) pregnancy, is a matter of degree, not of yes/no, is/is not.
So, then, phrasing the question properly: to what degree is Wikipedia reliable? The answer is: pretty reliable. While no one (with any sense) would base important research or a critical paper on material taken directly from Wikipedia, for non-critical information, it’s plenty reliable enough. For example, I just tried a terrific sauce that was labeled Moroccan Harissa. I didn’t think twice about looking up “harissa” in Wikipedia.
Take a look at the entry. First, there’s a perfectly ample description to satisfy one’s curiosity. Moreover, the references on which the article is based are provided:
- Malouf, Lucy (2008). Artichoke to Za’atar: Modern Middle Eastern Food. U of California P. p. 66. ISBN 9780520254138.
- Morse, Kitty; Laurie Smith (1998). Cooking at the kasbah: recipes from my Moroccan kitchen. Chronicle Books. p. 39. ISBN 9780811815031.
- Fayed, Saad. “Flank Steak with Harissa”. About.com. Retrieved 2009-08-02.]
- “Baby Eggplant with Harissa and Mint”. Ashbury’s Aubergines. Retrieved 2009-08-02. www.Aubergines.org 
So that’s good: I can check the article’s consistency with the sources. Moreover, since I use Google Chrome with the World of Trust extension, each link is marked by a World of Trust symbol that indicates to what degree the site can be trusted.
And the “external links” (i.e., links unused in the article) are also useful:
Finally, two notes that indicate how Wikipedia is a process:
I think that is quite impressive. And, for daily life, who could want more? Moreover, sooner or later, a person who knows more about the topic will come along and revise and extend the entry—in much the same way that obvious errors are quickly corrected.
Contentious articles (e.g., politically sensitive) do get quite a bit of churning, but one would expect that and treat those more gingerly, perhaps using them only for what can be learned from the links. And those articles generally are closely monitored by the editors and sometimes locked down to prevent changes until things settle down.
I have double-walled glasses that hold 1 British pint (20 oz), into which I put:
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1/2 c. Whole Foods pomegranate juice
Fill half the space remaining with Whole Foods brand Italian sparkling mineral water and the other half with Tejava tea, both of which I keep in the fridge.
Extremely tasty, and pomegranate juice (@ 3 oz/day) has been shown to improve arterial health.
As regular readers know, I seldom make a recommendation, but in this case I feel that I must. I’m reading again Ploesti: The Great Ground-Air Battle of 1 August 1943 (link to secondhand hardbound copies—and it’s worth getting in hardback).
The epigraph to the book:
In Tsarist times a game of courage called Kukushka was played late at night in garrisons in Caucasia and Siberia. Two officers stood in adjoining rooms with an open door between. One had a pistol, the other had not. At a signal, the lights were extinguished. The unarmed player opened the contest by dashing toward the door, yelling "Kukushka!" The rules permitted him to go through it straight or diagonally, left or right, couching or leaping. His opponent’s problem was to shoot him as he came through the door.
– Othmar Gurtner, The Myth of the Eigerwald
And the epigraph to the opening chapter:
He who owns the oil will own the world, for he will rule the sea by means of the heavy oils, the air by means of the ultra-refined oils, and the land by means of petrol and the illuminating oils. And, in addition to these, he will rule his fellow men in an economic sense, by reason of the fantastic wealth he will derive from oil.
– Henri Bérenger, 1921
Truly a book worth reading.
CAN people with autism take a pill to improve their social skills? For the first time, drugs are being tested that could address the social difficulties associated with autism and other learning disorders by tackling some of the brain chemistry thought to underlie them.
The only drugs currently prescribed to people with autism seek to dampen aggression and anxiety. The new drugs, now in the very early stages of clinical testing, address some of the classic symptoms of autism.
"People may learn more, learn to speak better, learn social skills and to be more communicative," says Randall Carpenter of Seaside Therapeutics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which is testing one of the drugs.
Geraldine Dawson, chief science officer at the charity Autism Speaks and a psychiatrist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is equally enthusiastic about the prospect of a new class of drugs. "For the first time we are seeing drugs that could tackle core autism symptoms," she says…
A coalition of public health and environmental groups, collectively known as the National Workgroup for Safe Markets, has produced a report on the amounts of Bisphenol A (BPA) in canned foods: No Silver Lining: An Investigation into Bisphenol A in Canned Foods.
What did it find? BPA in 92% of the foods sampled. Most canned foods are lined with BPA plastic, and it leaches into the foods.
I’ve discussed concerns about the health effects of BPA in previous posts. Here is an update on attempts to get rid of it.
- Senator Dianne Feinstein proposed an amendment to the endlessly pending food safety bill to ban BPA.
- The Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA) and the Chamber of Commerce have threatened to oppose the food safety bill if it bans BPA. How’s that for a good example of food politics in action.
- The canning industry knows it must replace BPA and is looking for alternatives.
- The French will ban BPA in baby bottles, since infants are most at risk.
To put all this in context, take a look at Jerome Groopman’s New Yorker article,The Plastic Panic: How Worried Should We Be About Everyday Chemicals? He isn’t exactly sure, but points out how difficult it is to test the health effects of any one of many chemicals in our environment–flame retardants and plastics among them–and how far regulation lags in dealing with this problem. He concludes:
How do we go forward? Flame retardants surely serve a purpose, just as BPA and phthalates have made for better and stronger plastics. Still, while the evidence of these chemicals’ health consequences may be far from conclusive, safer alternatives need to be sought. More important, policymakers must create a better system for making decisions about when to ban these types of substances, and must invest in the research that will inform those decisions. There’s no guarantee that we’ll always be right, but protecting those at the greatest risk shouldn’t be deferred.
Given the evidence brought forth to date on BPA, I’d call this an understatement.
The Tea Party and the Religious Right would like to abolish the separation of church and state. They in effect want the government to get into the Christian religion business, though they don’t specific the sect the government should choose as a model, a major oversight. Different Christian sects have serious disagreements and are often at daggers drawn: Northern Ireland is an example, with Protestant Christians and Catholic Christians killing each other with great satisfaction. In fact, let me quote this paragraph from Charles Reade’s wonderful book The Cloister and the Hearth:
Soon after this a fellow-enthusiast came on the scene in the unwonted form of an old lady. Margaret, sister and survivor of the brothers Van Eyck, left Flanders, and came to end her days in her native country. She bought a small house near Tergou. In course of time she heard of Gerard, and saw some of his handiwork: it pleased her so well that she sent her female servant, Reicht Heynes, to ask him to come to her. This led to an acquaintance: it could hardly be otherwise, for little Tergou had never held so many as two zealots of this sort before. At first the old lady damped Gerard’s courage terribly. At each visit she fished out of holes and corners drawings and paintings, some of them by her own hand, that seemed to him unapproachable; but if the artist overpowered him, the woman kept his heart up. She and Reicht soon turned him inside out like a glove: among other things, they drew from him what the good monks had failed to hit upon, the reason why he did not illuminate, viz., that he could not afford the gold, the blue, and the red, but only the cheap earths; and that he was afraid to ask his mother to buy the choice colours, and was sure he should ask her in vain. Then Margaret Van Eyck gave him a little brush–gold, and some vermilion and ultramarine, and a piece of good vellum to lay them on. He almost adored her. As he left the house Reicht ran after him with a candle and two quarters: he quite kissed her. But better even than the gold and lapis-lazuli to the illuminator was the sympathy to the isolated enthusiast. That sympathy was always ready, and, as he returned it, an affection sprung up between the old painter and the young calligrapher that was doubly characteristic of the time. For this was a century in which the fine arts and the higher mechanical arts were not separated by any distinct boundary, nor were those who practised them; and it was an age in which artists sought out and loved one another. Should this last statement stagger a painter or writer of our day, let me remind him that even Christians loved one another at first starting.
But perhaps our Religious Right could look at Pakistan and see what happens when religion is combined with government. Juan Cole:
… The horrifying assault on the Ahmadi congregations underlines why Pakistan needs a separation of religion and state. The problem with using Islam as the state ideology (as the country’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah clearly foresaw) is that there is no generic Islam. If a strict Sunnism of a revivalist or Salafi sort is the orthodoxy, then Twelver Shiites, Ismailis, Ahmadis and Sufis will be disadvantaged. I would argue that these latter groups taken together constitute a majority of the country (most Pakistanis are Sufis, and most Sufis are Sunni, but fundamentalist Sunnism despises mystical Sufism, which strives for spiritual union of the believer with the divine beloved)…
Read the whole thing. It doesn’t take much to imagine the bloody struggles between different sects of Christians—indeed, we have only to look at history. Nothing a sect of Christians seems to like more than the wholesale slaughter of another sect (who are always labeled “heretics”, so it’s okay to kill them).
Thanks to a reader for pointing out this vendor: The Irish Barber. The reader has high praise for the service from this vendor—and my reader lives in Thailand, so obviously overseas orders are not a problem.
I guess: another day off. We got home at 11:00 p.m., far beyond my current bedtime, and then I read through The Week before going to bed. Just now finally up and showered—no shave today—and my apartment desperately requires some cleaning (and assembling the new grill). So little blogging again today and again tomorrow, but I’ll be back at it.