Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Stewart Brand - My Hero

I've been a fan of Stewart Brand for many years. Though I was never a hippie, I was a computer hobbyist back in the 1970s and a believer in space habitats in the early 1980s, so I regularly enjoyed the free-for-all in the pages of CoEvolution Quarterly.

One of the great things about Mr. Brand, one of the things that makes him a hero, is summed up in this statement:
“Any time that people are forced to acknowledge publicly that they’re wrong, it’s really good for the commonweal. I love to be busted for apocalyptic proclamations that turned out to be 180 degrees wrong. In 1973 I thought the energy crisis was so intolerable that we’d have police on the streets by Christmas. The times I’ve been wrong is when I assume there’s a brittleness in a complex system that turns out to be way more resilient than I thought.”
How refreshing!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Curses! He Gets It!

A level-headed internet voice on the political left? Great Scot! This could cause a rupture in the space-time continuum!

The blogger bomb-throwing may be good for inflaming the activist base, and, as they demonstrated in the 2006 Lieberman-Lamont Senate primary race in Connecticut, for occasionally blowing up the opposition. It’s not bad for bullying your friends, either, as the liberal blogosphere did last week in pressuring Edwards to not fire the two bloggers who penned the offensive anti-religious posts.

But the typical blog mix of insults and incitements is just not an effective strategy for persuading people outside of your circle of belief – be they moderate Democrats, moderate Republicans, or the swelling number of independents – to join your cause. In fact, it’s far more likely to alienate than propagate them.

Something else most liberal bloggers fail to appreciate – we as Democrats can’t afford to repel those middle of the road, largely non-partisan voters.

The Iraq war notwithstanding, which has temporarily tilted the political landscape in our favor, the long-term electoral math is stacked against us – surveys show conservatives currently outnumber liberals three-to-two. Thus, if we want to win the White House and become a majority party again, it’s not enough to excite our base. We must also expand it.

One sure way to do the opposite, and consign our party to minority status, is to broadly tar Christians in general and Catholics in particular as “Christo-fascists” and misogynists, as the Edwards bloggers did.

Catholics are one of the biggest and most important swing-voting blocs in this country. They often tend to decide elections. So it’s probably not the smartest idea for a leading Democratic presidential candidate to hire people who openly defame Catholicism’s sacred figures by talking about the Lord filling the Virgin Mary with “his hot, white, sticky spirit.”

That so many leading bloggers could not see or acknowledge that point suggests at a minimum a giant blind spot on their part – after all, these guys are the first to protest the notion that Democrats are in any way hostile to religion and denounce it as a conservative canard.

But more than likely it just indicates that these bloggers didn’t see anything wrong with the bigoted rants of their peers – and that the far left’s disdain for people of faith is not only alive and well, but has gone digital.

Howard Dean, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the party leadership recognize this religion problem is real, and much to their credit, they have made it a priority to reach out to faith-based voters over the last few years and show them that they are welcome in the Democratic fold.

One has to wonder what they thought as they watched their blogger wards, whom they have lately been favoring with public praise and special access, trample the godly garden they have been trying to re-seed.

In the long run, the only way to prevent embarrassments like this from escalating and causing greater damage – and more importantly, to fulfill the rich potential of the blogosphere as a persuasion and organizing tool – is for the voices of reason within the Netroots to stand up to the smack down artists and prod their peers to trade their juvenile accusations for mature arguments.

Don't listen to that man! LA LA LA LA LA!

Democrats just don't understand that many people, Libertarians and Republicans, were driven from the Democratic party in the the last 40 years.

Every time I hear Democrats gassing on about their "faith" I remember all of the insults that Christians have endured from their fair-haired children and I just say, "You lost me there, Skippy."

For a good example of what I'm talking about, check out the comments to the linked article. Nasty, nasty.

Reaping the Nutroots

There is something perversely satisfying about this video of Washington State Senator Patty Murray being heckled, harassed, and served with an "arrest warrant" by antiwar activists.

It reminds me of this quote from A Bee in the Mouth: Anger in America Now:
“New Anger is a spectacle to be witnessed by an appreciative audience, not an attempt to win over the uncommitted....If in your anger you reduce your opponent to the status of someone unworthy or unable to engage in legitimate exchange, real politics comes to an end....Whoever embraces New Anger is bound to find that, at least in the political realm, he has traded the possibility of real influence for the momentary satisfactions of self-expression.”
Calling Patty Murray a war criminal pretty much embodies this concept. But the fact that she and her colleagues played to these people and used these people during their political campaigns is sweet, sweet schadenfreude.

Like my Mama always says, "You lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas."

Monday, February 26, 2007

Put Not Your Faith In Princes

I am a big fan of James Cameron. Or I was. Until today.

I think that Aliens is the best stand-up science fiction shooter in the history of the Solar system. It rocks.
"Just tell me one thing, Burke. You're going out there to destroy them, right? Not to study. Not to bring back. But to wipe them out."
But now he's turned from being the man who created The Abyss into Geraldo Rivera.

Sic transit gloria mundi

Friday, February 23, 2007

Another Set of Boxes

(via Jane Gault)

Because I find the traditional "Left vs. Right" typology describing the political spectrum simple-minded to the point of imbecility, I am curious of new ways to slice and dice the electorate.

The Pew Research Center for People and the Press has a test in which that they try to get beyond "left-right." Having been trained by years of schooling and of being pestered by Mrs. Islander to take those "test your man" quizzes in women's magazines I stepped up to bat.

So how does this test classify me?


Based on your answers to the questionnaire, you most closely resemble survey respondents within the Enterpriser typology group. This does not mean that you necessarily fit every group characteristic or agree with the group on all issues.

Enterprisers represent 9 percent of the American public, and 10 percent of registered voters.

Basic Description
As in previous studies conducted in 1987, 1994 and 1999, this extremely partisan Republican group’s politics are driven by a belief in the free enterprise system and social values that reflect a conservative agenda. Enterprisers are also the strongest backers of an assertive foreign policy, which includes nearly unanimous support for the war in Iraq and strong support for such anti-terrorism efforts as the Patriot Act.

Defining Values
Assertive on foreign policy and patriotic; anti-regulation and pro-business; very little support for government help to the poor; strong belief that individuals are responsible for their own well being. Conservative on social issues such as gay marriage, but not much more religious than the nation as a whole. Very satisfied with personal financial situation.

Who They Are
Predominantly white (91%), male (76%) and financially well-off (62% have household incomes of at least $50,000, compared with 40% nationwide). Nearly half (46%) have a college degree, and 77% are married. Nearly a quarter (23%) are themselves military veterans. Only 10% are under age 30.

Lifestyle Notes
59% report having a gun in their homes; 53% trade stocks and bonds in the stock market, and 30% are small business owners – all of which are the highest percentages among typology groups. 48% attend church weekly; 36% attend bible study or prayer group meetings.

2004 Election
Bush 92%, Kerry 1%. Bush’s most reliable supporters (just 4% of Enterprisers did not vote)

Party ID
81% Republican, 18% Independent/No Preference, 1% Democrat (98% Rep/LeanRep)

Media Use
Enterprisers follow news about government and politics more closely than any other group, and exhibit the most knowledge about world affairs. The Fox News Channel is their primary source of news (46% cite it as a main source) followed by newspapers (42%) radio (31%) and the internet (26%).

Let's see:
  • "Not much more religious than the nation as a whole." A clean miss. I am very religious.
  • "48% attend church weekly; 36% attend bible study or prayer group meetings." Does that contradict the previous point?
  • "Predominantly white (91%), male (76%) and financially well-off " Well, two out of three. Check my photo and you'll see that "well off" doesn't photograph.
  • "Very satisfied with personal financial situation." That stuffs it.
  • "59% report having a gun in their homes;" Nope. I support my right to have one, though.
  • "81% Republican, 18% Independent/No Preference" Yep, that's me--about 81% Republican.
These tests, at best, ask me if I think government is too powerful, and, when I say, "Yes," tell me that I favor smaller government. Hmmmm.... There is also the problem with the forced dichotomy of the questions. What if I think neither of the statements, "The government should do more to protect morality in society," or "I worry the government is getting too involved in the issue of morality" really characterizes my position?

The important thing to remember is that you only get out of these things what you put into these things (minus entropic losses.)

For the record, I like the Pournell Political chart because it jars many people out of the "left-right" dichotomy.

And of course I enjoy Stephen den Beste's take on the left-right fallacy.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Here Comes Newt!

I am embarrassed to note that that old toe-biter, Dick Morris has a gushy column in The Hill devoted to my personal favorite, Newt Gingrich.
Enter Newt. Hungry for new ideas and desperate after losing Congress, Republican voters seem to be rallying to the only real genius in the race — the former Speaker. The statute of limitations seems to have expired on his personal scandals and Gingrich is striking a responsive chord among conservatives.
If only it were so, Dick! I would pay good money to see Newt step into the debate.

Crying in New Hampshire

The Washington Post has an article by Harold Meyerson drawing yet another parallel between the election of 1972 and 2008. Even I, who have been drawing many parallels between the anti-war movements of the 1960s and the 2000s had not gotten to that point.

A specter was haunting Hillary Clinton as she campaigned in New Hampshire this weekend: the specter of Ed Muskie.

As the ancient or merely studious among us will recall, the Democratic senator from Maine, who'd been Hubert Humphrey's running mate in 1968, entered his party's presidential contest in 1972 as the front-runner. His prospects were dashed in the New Hampshire snows, however. As popular memory has it, an indignant Muskie started crying while refuting a silly attack on him (though whether he was genuinely upset or merely sniffling during a frigid outdoor news conference was never authoritatively resolved). Muskie's more serious problem, however, was the Vietnam War, which he opposed.

His opposition, though, had none of the fervor or long-term consistency of another Democratic senator and presidential aspirant, George McGovern. By 1972, seven years had elapsed since the United States had sent ground forces to Vietnam, and Richard Nixon, through his invasion of Cambodia and stepped-up bombing campaigns, had made clear that the road to de-escalation would entail periodic escalations, at least as long as he was president. The Democratic base was in no mood for temporizing on Vietnam.

Party voters wanted out, and they wanted a nominee who'd been right on the war (almost) from the start: McGovern. Sic transit gloria Muskie.

Today, Hillary Clinton seems almost uncannily positioned to become the Ed Muskie of 2008. She opposes the U.S. military presence in Iraq but not with the specificity, fervor or bona fides of her leading Democratic rivals. As Muskie did with Vietnam, she supported the legislation enabling the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and she has been slower and more inconstant than her party rivals in coming around to opposing the continued U.S. occupation.

Mr. Meyerson does note two differences:
Entering the race, Clinton has institutional advantages that Muskie could scarcely have dreamed of -- an unparalleled network of financial and political supporters, a universal level of public recognition. But, like Muskie, she is out of sync with her party's -- to some extent, her country's -- voters on the major issue of the day...

Indeed, so strong is support for a withdrawal that Edwards and Obama would by no means face the general election wipeout that was McGovern's fate. (Besides, Nixon ran against the antiwar movement and the fomenters of social tumult. Today, while opposition to the war is widespread, there isn't really an antiwar movement -- not one resembling what emerged in the '60s, anyway -- for hawks or Republicans to run against.)
So far, so good. But Mr Meyerson then runs off the rails with:
And should Americans still be fighting and dying in Iraq when the next election rolls around, the Democrats probably could win with Dennis Kucinich as their nominee.
Sorry. That was a bridge too far.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Quantum Computers Now?

Is it possible that a Vancouver, Canada company has produced a quantum computer decades ahead of schedule? Or is 2007's version of Cold Fusion?

A pointer to this story sent me over to the company's website.

I guess we'll find out February 13th.

Why is this so important? A couple of reasons spring to mind:
  • If this is a real product, these goes encryption standards!
  • Some meteorologists and climate scientists feel that failures of prediction aren't due to system complexity (chaos), but poor models. Putting bad models on a quantum computer will just turn out bad answers faster. This may encourage better modeling.
Want to read more about just what the heck Quantum Computing is? Meet Mr. Wiki.

Negative Campaign Ads

As we enter this amped-up, early kick-off campaign season, we are going to be hearing that evergreen complaint against "attack ads."

Not from me.

Andrew Ferguson points out:
"The difference between a positive ad and a negative ad is that the negative ad has a fact in it."
(Thanks to Jim Geraghty.)

Friday, February 09, 2007

Edwards and the Christian Left

Following up to my previous post about the Edward's campaign's misstep:

Apparently the affair has upset some on the Christian Left. I really feel for these people--especially those that have been laboring for years in the fields of social justice.
"We're completely invisible to this debate," said Eduardo Penalver, a Cornell University law professor who writes for the liberal Catholic journal Commonweal. He said he was dissatisfied with the Edwards campaign's response. "As a constituency, the Christian left isn't taken all that seriously," Penalver said.

"We have gone so far to rebuild that coalition [between Democrats and religious Christians] and something like this sets it back," said Brian O'Dwyer, a New York lawyer and Irish-American leader who chairs the National Democratic Ethnic Leadership Council, a Democratic Party group. O'Dwyer said Edwards should have fired the bloggers. "It's not only wrong morally – it's stupid politically."

...O'Dwyer e-mailed a statement to reporters saying: "Senator Edwards is condoning bigotry by keeping the two bloggers on his staff. Playing to the cheap seats with anti-Catholic bigotry has no place in the Democratic Party."

The Christian Left has led the way for many years in the Democratic Party, some are alive today that spoke up and stood up and marched in the 1950s and 1960s civil-rights era. Hated and vilified by the Dixiecrats, they stuck to their beliefs and were vindicated when the nation had a change of heart. They have been a conscience to the party (and at the best of times to the entire country.)

And now some nasty little haters have stepped in and not only taken a high place at the table, but taken it after shouting that the Religious have no real place at the table.

I do disagree with much of the Christian Left and I speak out when I feel that they are missing the mark. But I am glad that they do not seemed to be disheartened. We need their voices, now more than ever, on the other side of the aisle.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Second Big Primary Gaffe

I was surprised when some low-level yutz in the Washington State Democratic Party decided that Christians weren't a constituency worth worrying about. But at least the Dem Pols at the state level have the decency to be ashamed. But when a National Candidate blows it...

I assume that the Constant Reader has been hearing about John Edward's campaign retaining the blogging services of Amanda Marcotte (Pandragon) and Melissa McEwan (Shakespeare's Sister).

This whole thing has been examined and dissected on many, many sites. The latest word from the Edward campaign site is that John Edwards has made the decision to keep them:

The tone and the sentiment of some of Amanda Marcotte's and Melissa McEwan's posts personally offended me. It's not how I talk to people, and it's not how I expect the people who work for me to talk to people. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but that kind of intolerant language will not be permitted from anyone on my campaign, whether it's intended as satire, humor, or anything else. But I also believe in giving everyone a fair shake. I've talked to Amanda and Melissa; they have both assured me that it was never their intention to malign anyone's faith, and I take them at their word. We're beginning a great debate about the future of our country, and we can't let it be hijacked. It will take discipline, focus, and courage to build the America we believe in.
Two points:

First, this is a piece of doubletalk.
  • Writing, "...that kind of intolerant language will not be permitted from anyone on my campaign..." and in the next sentence tolerating it.
  • Writing, "I've talked to Amanda and Melissa; they have both assured me that it was never their intention to malign anyone's faith, and I take them at their word," and ignoring the plain language of their previous writing.
  • Writing, "...I also believe in giving everyone a fair shake," at though this was an unfortunate one-time outburst, instead of an on-going trashing of Christians ("godbags").
At the national level, politicians know that all they have is their public image. There is no way that they can connect personally with even 1% of the voters that they need. So politicians craft a public persona that represents what they want to communicate to the voters whom they cannot meet.

Senator Bob Dole was terrible at his public persona. His speeches always oscillated between sounding like the grouchy old man down the block that yelled at the kids to get off his lawn and a kind of plaintive whine that Bill Clinton was getting a free pass, "Where's the outrage?"

When the election was over, he appeared on some talk shows and was very personable and funny--but you would never have know that from his persona.

Hillary Clinton is the current champion at crafting a campaign persona. In fact, she's so good that she runs the risk of having the press make the crafting of her persona the story of the campaign, rather than the melodrama of the Pioneer Who Became the First Woman President.

But Edwards has followed Joe Biden in starting his campaign with a gaffe. If Edwards had fired his blogmasters, he would have alienated his netroots activists; but by keeping them he chances alienating "people of faith" (i.e. devout Catholics and Protestants) as well as anybody to the left of Ralph Nader that's feeling touchy. Edwards has got to be thinking, "It's activists who win you the primary." So what's the breakdown?

Category: Unoffended, agree with Marcotte's views.
Action: Will applaud keeping them. Become more motivated.
Comment: This is the payoff group. Corral these ponies into pulling the bandwagon.
Result: Score!
Category: Offended, but believe that Edwards best represents their agenda.
Action: Hold nose and vote for Edwards anyway.
Comment: His core group.
Result: Score!
Category: Offended, Catholics and Protestants
Action: Won't vote for Edwards
Comment: Were going to vote for Obama anyway.
Result: No fault--no foul!

Second, I am glad that Edwards has kept Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan. As Senator Edwards says:
We're beginning a great debate about the future of our country, and we can't let it be hijacked. It will take discipline, focus, and courage to build the America we believe in.
This is true. We need a debate, an airing of views and opinions. We need discipline, focus, and courage. We cannot allow that debate to be hijacked by the candidate's personae. We need to look at the people in the team the candidate assembles to craft their message so that we can properly judge the candidate.

If I had said this kind of stuff in my workplace, I would be out the door. If I had written a blog with this kind of stuff and it became known to my employer's customers, I would be out the door. And I'm not trying to sell an image of myself as my main product.

These two women were hired on the basis of what they were: active bloggers.

The weaselly non-apologies offered by the Marcotte and McEwan are completely pathetic:
"It has never been my intention to disparage people's individual faith, and I'm sorry if my words were taken in that way," McEwen's statement said.
It's not her fault if you can't get the joke.

But thanks for keeping them Senator. You have made the decision about whether to vote for you in the general election easy. You (or rather, your blogmasters) have pre-written a huge chunk of you opponents oppo-research.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Big Early Endorsements

It's only February 2007 and this race has already pulled outta Oddburg and taken the interstate for Bizzaro Springs, CA.

Chuck Norris has come out for Newt Gingrich.

First of all, I make no secret of my fondness for Newt, and I have every respect for Chuck Norris and his roundhouse kick.

But Holy Tamale, Chuck is quoting a 1790 sermon by Rev. Daniel Fosters! Chuck, I didn't know that you were familiar with the 18th century Great Awakening.

I feel as I did when I was a small boy and wandered into a hall of mirrors.

Monday, February 05, 2007

A Reason to Vote for Hillary!?

Via James Toranto:
...So she's going to end the war and give health insurance to everyone--all in the last 11 days of January! Okey dokey, artichokey.

...My daily newspaper recently included, in a diatribe against Hillary Clinton, that she often says -- I hope you'll forgive me for repeating this expletive -- "okey-dokey artichokey."

Hey, what's wrong with "okey-dokey artichokey"? First of all, this is the only endearing thing I (for one) have ever heard about Mrs. Clinton. Whether it is superlatives from the left or brickbats from the right, she is usually described in the warm glowing terms one reserves for a sci-fi movie's android. She is either the most brilliant mass of protoplasm ever gathered together in one organism, or else the most evil being since Lucifer voluntarily resigned from Heaven, citing creative conflicts over the future direction of the cosmos.

But there's something likable about someone who says "okey-dokey artichokey." This is a human being who sometimes just likes to say something a bit different from the ordinary cliches. Someone who just likes to say something corny, even if it is not likely to win her any points in the opinion polls, or sway focus groups.

Friday, February 02, 2007

The Vader Sessions

I cried. Like a little baby, I cried.

The Vader Sessions

Like he says: "Someone clearly has a lot of time on his hands, but at least he's putting it to good use."

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