Near Earth Archive

A backup of Near Earth Object by Paul Fidalgo

Month: December, 2010

Sam Harris Survives Dan Harris

Nightline‘s Dan Harris is not on my good side after what I thought was a hit job on nonbelievers back in July. He’s just interviewed Sam Harris, and not surprisingly he simply doesn’t seem to understand his subject at all, and everything out of this mouth seems to come with a “can you believe this guy?” undertone. That said, Sam Harris comes off pretty well by virtue of his own forthrightness, and despite Dan Harris’s obvious bemusement of atheists and his extremely selective editing of Sam Harris’s public appearances.

Have a look:

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The Palin-as-Insurgent Myth

Despite the usually vile, xenophobic and laughably macho substance of the campaigns, from the perspective of a student and spectator of politics, I love-love-love GOP presidential primaries. They have to be the most entertaining contests in all of American politics, perhaps because they usually stick to such easy-to-follow narratives; insurgent populist versus establishment suit, with a gaggle of wacky right-winger fringe candidates.

Matt Bai has a good piece on this, and how this cycle might be a little different, now that teabaggers are making things a little more volatile than usual. But he committed a common error that is all the more stark in the context in which he writes (emphasis mine):

Without any odds-on favorite, then, Republican voters will spend most of next year sorting through some difficult and divisive questions about where the party is headed, in a way they haven’t really had to do in decades. How conservative can a nominee be, in the post-Bush era, and still be electable? Does the party choose an insider with Washington credentials, like a Senator John Thune of South Dakota, or an outsider like Ms. Palin, who trades governing gravitas for searing populism?

The long-shot, insurgent outsider accepts the GOP nomination for vice-president.

This has to stop. Only a press corps with its head utterly stuck in the Beltway Borg Brain™ would think of labeling Sarah Palin an “outsider.” I understand that in contrast to the Guy Smiley-like Mitt Romney or the milquetoast Tim Pawlenty, Palin seems insurgent, and her mob of teabagger followers gives her populist cred  á la 90s-era Pat Buchanan. But come on, she was a governor (if for a weirdly short time), is a fixture on Fox News, the press follows her every ill-informed chirp, and, oh yeah, she was her party’s vice-presidential nominee.

I can can safely use Bai’s own words categorizing Bob Dole in 1996 to describe Ms. Palin today: “It’s hard to get more establishment than that.” Perhaps she doesn’t get her talking points from the same pool of DC-based consultants that the rest of the pack do (and then again, maybe she does), but an outsider she most certainly is not. Only someone totally entrenched in the so-called “inside” would mistake her for one.

Hopelessness Watch: Semi-automatic Stupid

Dumb and dangerous-er

Rep. Joe Wilson, the guy who barked “You lie!” at the president during the State of the Union, has been rightly dismissed as a moronic, lightweight hack by most of the thinking world. But of course, the willfully ignorant mob that makes up the teabagger right thinks he’s a hero for standing up to the devil. Wilson being honored for his cro-magnon behavior is not news.

But something about this latest example somehow hurts one down to the soul. Yes, Joe Wilson is being honored. With a gun part. Named after his outburst. No, I’m not kidding.

Palmetto State Armory would like to honor our esteemed congressman Joe Wilson with the release of our new “You Lie” AR-15 lower receiver. These lowers are the same great quality you have come to expect from Palmetto State Armory and feature “You Lie” as the first six digits of the serial number. Only 999 of these will be produced, get yours before they are gone!

There’s nothing that gives me more peace of mind than to know that there’s a semi-automatic rifle out there, the very identity of which is tied to deep, idiotic hatred of a black president.

(Hat tip: tweet by Rude Pundit.)

Update 2/6/2011: Since this was written, and following the assassination attempt on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Rep. Wilson expressed his approval of the suspension of this gun part’s production.

The Palin-as-Insurgent Myth

Despite the usually vile, xenophobic and laughably macho substance of the campaigns, from the perspective of a student and spectator of politics, I love-love-love GOP presidential primaries. They have to be the most entertaining contests in all of American politics, perhaps because they usually stick to such easy-to-follow narratives; insurgent populist versus establishment suit, with a gaggle of wacky right-winger fringe candidates.

Matt Bai has a good piece on this, and how this cycle might be a little different, now that teabaggers are making things a little more volatile than usual. But he committed a common error that is all the more stark in the context in which he writes (emphasis mine):

Without any odds-on favorite, then, Republican voters will spend most of next year sorting through some difficult and divisive questions about where the party is headed, in a way they haven’t really had to do in decades. How conservative can a nominee be, in the post-Bush era, and still be electable? Does the party choose an insider with Washington credentials, like a Senator John Thune of South Dakota, or an outsider like Ms. Palin, who trades governing gravitas for searing populism?

The long-shot, insurgent outsider accepts the GOP nomination for vice-president.

This has to stop. Only a press corps with its head utterly stuck in the Beltway Borg Brain™ would think of labeling Sarah Palin an “outsider.” I understand that in contrast to the Guy Smiley-like Mitt Romney or the milquetoast Tim Pawlenty, Palin seems insurgent, and her mob of teabagger followers gives her populist cred  á la 90s-era Pat Buchanan. But come on, she was a governor (if for a weirdly short time), is a fixture on Fox News, the press follows her every ill-informed chirp, and, oh yeah, she was her party’s vice-presidential nominee.

I can can safely use Bai’s own words categorizing Bob Dole in 1996 to describe Ms. Palin today: “It’s hard to get more establishment than that.” Perhaps she doesn’t get her talking points from the same pool of DC-based consultants that the rest of the pack do (and then again, maybe she does), but an outsider she most certainly is not. Only someone totally entrenched in the so-called “inside” would mistake her for one.

Bryson’s “At Home”: A Delightful Slog through Human Misery

About halfway through Bill Bryson’s At Home: A Short History of Private Life, one can’t help but come to a couple of stark conclusions. One, that most of humanity’s domestic life, for the vast majority of time time we had domestic lives, was full of suffering and misery the likes of which we moderns can barely imagine. Two, that the tiny percentage of the species blessed with an overabundance of money and/or status have not been content to simply live well, but have wasted vast economic resources to spoil and aggrandize themselves in ways that would make Ozymandias cringe.

Bryson is a wonderful writer, and his storytelling is as usual conversational while remaining high-minded, as he clearly glories in his research and discoveries while allowing the space for the reader to catch up to him.

Some of the stars of the chapter on household pests.

But his subject, I suppose, necessitated the retelling of these two central themes I’ve mentioned: The misery of the underclasses (disease, vermin, cold, being overwhelmed by feces, etc.) and the unabated vanity of the rich (who also, it should be noticed, were subject to disease and other unpleasantness, but often in Bryson’s telling faced ruin by their own ignorance or hubris). But if it is necessary, it is also relentless. Story after story, anecdote after anecdote is a tail that either makes one feel deep pity for those who are crushed under the weight of their poverty or nausea over the largess of the aristocracy. In between are the triumphs, the brilliant ideas, the advances, but it becomes almost exhausting when one contemplates the mayhem from which the victories emerge.

Here’s a good summation from the book, a quote from Edmond Halley (of comet fame), that I feel gets to the heart of the long crawl of human domesticity — human daily life — over the centuries.

How unjustly we repine at the shortness of our Lives and think our selves wronged if we attain not Old Age; where it appears hereby, that the one half of those that are born are dead in Seventeen years.… [So] instead of murmuring at what we call an untimely Death, we ought with Patience and unconcern to submit to that Dissolution which is the necessary Condition of our perishable Materials.

And in the meantime, invent the telephone and the flush toilet and make it a little easier.

A recommended read; a slog, but a delightful slog.

Bryson’s “At Home”: A Delightful Slog through Human Misery

About halfway through Bill Bryson’s At Home: A Short History of Private Life, one can’t help but come to a couple of stark conclusions. One, that most of humanity’s domestic life, for the vast majority of time time we had domestic lives, was full of suffering and misery the likes of which we moderns can barely imagine. Two, that the tiny percentage of the species blessed with an overabundance of money and/or status have not been content to simply live well, but have wasted vast economic resources to spoil and aggrandize themselves in ways that would make Ozymandias cringe.

Bryson is a wonderful writer, and his storytelling is as usual conversational while remaining high-minded, as he clearly glories in his research and discoveries while allowing the space for the reader to catch up to him.

Some of the stars of the chapter on household pests.

But his subject, I suppose, necessitated the retelling of these two central themes I’ve mentioned: The misery of the underclasses (disease, vermin, cold, being overwhelmed by feces, etc.) and the unabated vanity of the rich (who also, it should be noticed, were subject to disease and other unpleasantness, but often in Bryson’s telling faced ruin by their own ignorance or hubris). But if it is necessary, it is also relentless. Story after story, anecdote after anecdote is a tail that either makes one feel deep pity for those who are crushed under the weight of their poverty or nausea over the largess of the aristocracy. In between are the triumphs, the brilliant ideas, the advances, but it becomes almost exhausting when one contemplates the mayhem from which the victories emerge.

Here’s a good summation from the book, a quote from Edmond Halley (of comet fame), that I feel gets to the heart of the long crawl of human domesticity — human daily life — over the centuries.

How unjustly we repine at the shortness of our Lives and think our selves wronged if we attain not Old Age; where it appears hereby, that the one half of those that are born are dead in Seventeen years.… [So] instead of murmuring at what we call an untimely Death, we ought with Patience and unconcern to submit to that Dissolution which is the necessary Condition of our perishable Materials.

And in the meantime, invent the telephone and the flush toilet and make it a little easier.

A recommended read; a slog, but a delightful slog.

Hopelessness Watch: Liquidation of the Fourth Estate

Studying the media’s reaction to the Wikileaks’ releases, Greenwald watches agape as the establishment press willfully renders itself irrelevant.

What an astounding feat to train a nation’s journalist class to despise above all else those who shine a light on what the most powerful factions do in the dark and who expose their corruption and deceit, and to have journalists — of all people — lead the way in calling for the head of anyone who exposes the secrets of the powerful.   Most ruling classes — from all eras and all cultures — could only fantasize about having a journalist class that thinks that way, but most political leaders would have to dismiss that fantasy as too extreme, too implausible, to pursue.  After all, how could you ever get journalists — of all people — to loathe those who bring about transparency and disclosure of secrets?  But, with a few noble exceptions, that’s exactly the journalist class we have.

It’s even sadder when you remember that the DC power structure to which these journalists are aligning themselves is itself laughably incompetent, a parody of itself. So I suppose it’s no surprise, then, that we have one self-parody becoming the redundant organ of another.

Hopelessness Watch: Liquidation of the Fourth Estate

Studying the media’s reaction to the Wikileaks’ releases, Greenwald watches agape as the establishment press willfully renders itself irrelevant.

What an astounding feat to train a nation’s journalist class to despise above all else those who shine a light on what the most powerful factions do in the dark and who expose their corruption and deceit, and to have journalists — of all people — lead the way in calling for the head of anyone who exposes the secrets of the powerful.   Most ruling classes — from all eras and all cultures — could only fantasize about having a journalist class that thinks that way, but most political leaders would have to dismiss that fantasy as too extreme, too implausible, to pursue.  After all, how could you ever get journalists — of all people — to loathe those who bring about transparency and disclosure of secrets?  But, with a few noble exceptions, that’s exactly the journalist class we have.

It’s even sadder when you remember that the DC power structure to which these journalists are aligning themselves is itself laughably incompetent, a parody of itself. So I suppose it’s no surprise, then, that we have one self-parody becoming the redundant organ of another.

Gee, Thanks William Penn

From Stephen Prothero’s Religious Literacy:

Quakers played an important role in early American history. Quaker William Penn (1644–1718) founded Pennsylvania in 1681 as a safe haven for Quakers and granted liberty of conscience to all but atheists.

I didn’t want to live in his stupid state anyway.

Gee, Thanks William Penn

From Stephen Prothero’s Religious Literacy:

Quakers played an important role in early American history. Quaker William Penn (1644–1718) founded Pennsylvania in 1681 as a safe haven for Quakers and granted liberty of conscience to all but atheists.

I didn’t want to live in his stupid state anyway.