|log (2002/07/05 to 2002/07/11)|
Thursday, July 11, 2002
A reader writes:
You have said everything that is worth saying. From now on, simply publish what I say.
Going along with that idea, we will note that a(nother) reader writes:
"mightn't it be that people like the ones who signed that pinko declaration get some of the credit for that?" The boy who cried wolf as savior? I don't agree that hysterical ravings positing non-plausible future scenarios is a public service. "in danger of losing habeus corpus." When it happens I'll eat my words. Until then, this ranks up there with "in danger of melting the poles" and "in danger of overpopulating the Earth" and similar unhelpful chicken-little pronouncements.
I'm not sure what non-plausible future scenarios you mean; the events mentioned in the "statement of conscience" are pretty much entirely events that have already happened. There's room for disagreement about the proper interpretation of those events, but I don't think anyone denies that they've occurred. That things are unlikely to get a whole lot worse (at least around here, and at least I hope not) is, I would claim, due at least in part to the fact that there are people who get really upset (perhaps even more upset than the specific situation actually warrants) when governments start to get too enthusiastic in certain directions.
Losing habeas corpus a chicken-little pronouncement? The executive branch has filed legal papers claiming the right, at their sole discretion, to imprision American citizens without judicial review. Now go look up what habeas corpus means. If you're not worried, I envy you.
Various readers point out my ignorance:
Ralph Nader is the son of Lebanese immigrants and is fluent in Arabic.
Whoa, this is shaping up to be another day of political pessimism, eh what? I'm somewhat happier about the mess tonight, for whatever reason; but it's still a mess. (What a complicated game this is.)
So we've had some discussion of Antonin Scalia in these pages before. I've been meaning to read more of "Federal Maritime Commission v. South Carolina Ports Authority", in search of possible material to twit him about his "The Constitution is Not a Living Document" stand (since in FMC v. SCPA the Court, including Scalia, basically read something into the Constitution that they admitted it didn't actually say; on the other hand, it was what they supposed that the framers would have said if they'd considered the issue, so it's a bit complicated).
Now, though, I've been driven pretty much entirely back to my "fascist loon" opinion of the man, due to his recent piece in First Things. I'd been putting off reading the piece, since it's nominally about the death penalty, and I'm pretty much an agnostic on the subject. But then Medley pointed out a Times op-ed about the piece, and about Scalia, and it was interesting and scary enough that I had to read the original.
It's really frightening! Rational and educated as this guy sounds, I would really rather he were not on the Supreme Court. He thinks (or at the very least implies that the people as a whole ought to think) that government derives its authority from God, and that (for instance) civil disobedience is a bad thing, since it represents defiance of Divine authority. He strongly hints that the proper attitude of citizens toward government is obedient submission.
He's a fascist loon.
Or maybe a theocratic loon, which is at least as bad.
Sometimes I wonder if I've said everything. Not of course everything that it's possible to say, or even everything that it's possible for me to say, but perhaps everything that it's possible for me to say that's worth saying.
I mean, the snail thing is very nice, but if you do it too often, what's the point? Or maybe it would become a point in itself.
Snail, pails, rail, nails, sails.
A reader who trusts the government with his life, but not his money or his mp3's, writes:
PLEASE. "We believe that peoples and nations have the right to determine their own destiny, free from military coercion by great powers." Ok, pollyanna. But we've got important work to be done. Go play with your dollies elsewhere. No-one is going to lay a finger on Ed Asner or Nader or any of the other idiots who signed that statement. Nor has any of the other doom predicted at the outset happened. I'm more worried about DTPA and progressive taxation than I am by legitimate use of our military.
Part of me agrees with that; generic niceness is easy to express in a manifesto, but perhaps harder to convert into a successful foreign policy in practice. I was never quite convinced by the suggestion that we ought to have just sent INTERPOL after Bin Laden and Co.
On the other hand, how do you know that this really is a legitimate use of our military? Is it because the government says it is, and you believe everything the government says? I hope not. Perhaps it's because you have some faith that if anything really bad were going on, the free and independant press would find out about it and tell you. But a free and independant press is a somewhat fragile thing, based on complex stuff like freedom of speech (but Ari Fleischer says "watch what you say") and habeas corpus (but the Bush administration says that they can unilaterally override that with the magic words "enemy combatant").
Will Ed Asner or Ralph Nader be indefinitely detained? Probably not; they're famous and non-Arab. Will some other American citizens be indefinitely detained without benefit of counsel or judicial review? Already happened, friend, already happened.
None of the predicted doom? It's only been ten months, and we're already in danger of losing habeas corpus. That actually seems like a pretty good (bad) start. I agree (and hope) that we probably won't lose it all; mightn't it be that people like the ones who signed that pinko declaration get some of the credit for that?
But of course we've already discussed this.
To help keep things in perspective, a reader writes:
Jemmy-Jemmy-Jemmy boooo-langenhamenreimer, buh-zhang.
Some nights I think it'd be nice to be a game of Tic Tac Toe. Or a cellular automaton. But maybe they have their problems, too.
Probably whatever I was last time around said to itself "some nights I think it'd be nice to be a creature made of matter, living in only three dimensions; but maybe they have their problems, too". What a complicated game this is!
Vestiges: I think it's cute when I take the laptop out of its docking station, or when I unplug the radio card, or when the wireless access point gets turned off, and this little message appears on the Windows desktop, saying "network cable unplugged". There's no actual cable being unplugged in any of those cases, of course, but the message is left over from the days when the way that you attached a computer to a network was to plug a cable directly into it.
Sort of like how we "dial" a telephone number, or (thanks to Steve I think it was for this one) how we "cc" people on email. (Not much carbon in that, is there?)
Here are the top phrases searched:
So a long time ago we prompted y'all readers with "Now Playing", and among the pithy and gem-like responses we find all sorts of games and movies and thoughts that we've never seen before (and some we see all too often). And other stuff, too.
I'll let you Google up the more enticing-looking of those yourself.
Where does the time go? I haven't even had a chance to read the school vouchers decision. But now I've at least written down the link to it...
While MentalPlex does have the potential of probing your deepest darkest secrets and desires, this information is only used in aggregate and rarely sold to advertisers unless they ask very, very nicely.
As longtime readers may have guessed, our brief hiatus was due to the Fourth Annual July 4th Outing. It was once again a great success, although this year it was just me and the little boy (the little daughter having decided, after being very torn, to stay home and do the important things that her summer Stage Camp was doing those days).
Two of the four days were challengingly hot, two were lovely. One isolated thunderstorm passed through the campsite and soaked things while we were all at the ocean, but the campground had effective dryers. We saw really cool fireworks and a very fine ocean at Sea Isle City (and were clever enough to avoid both parking tickets and hour-long traffic jams this time), we went to the Zoo, we played lots of ping-pong.
The campground store had a great collection of old paperbacks, six for a dollar, and I bought a bunch. Some of them were wonderful sexploitation books from the 60's and 70's: "Satan in Silk" (originally published as "One Flesh"), two "Man from T.O.M.C.A.T." books, two early books in the "Destroyer" series. I've finished one T.O.M.C.A.T., and am well into "Satan in Silk".
Synchonically, one of the folks at the July 4th outing left on Saturday because he had to get to Spain for the XIV International AIDS Conference. This got me thinking.
Eventually, we're going to get rid of AIDS. There'll be a vaccine, a cure, probably both. I have no idea how long it'll take, but we'll get there. Then what?
Reading these old, amazingly innocent, "sexy" books from a few decades ago, I wonder what will happen, post-AIDS. How shag-o-rific will things get, once Mrs. Grundy and the abstinence folks no longer have that (well founded) fear of death to wave around? How long will it take until we can be happy and silly about sex again? Years? An instant? What changes will the women's movement (and the men's movement) go through? Will polyester leisure suits come back into style?
Of the dozens of rolls he photographed, there are a few shots of me with my shirt off, folk-dancing in a downpour with some other girls. I remember stepping back toward him, breathless and ecstatic, my face hot in the cool rain. "You're amazing," he said, and raised his camera again. Today those photographs could be called child pornography, and Jake could be arrested for taking them.
John Searle thinks that a computer that merely appears to be conscious might not be, because it might lack the causal powers of the brain:
I believe that there is no objection in principle to constructing an artificial hardware system that would duplicate the powers of the brain to cause consciousness using some chemistry different from neurons. But to produce consciousness any such system would have to duplicate the actual causal powers of the brain.
He's been saying this for a long time, and I've never understood what he meant by it, beyond "a particular physical system can't cause consciousness unless it's capable of causing consciousness". Here are a few more hints of what he might mean by it; but not enough to convince me there's actually anything there beyond gut feelings.
I signed up for Salon Premium awhile back, and just recently set my preferences so that I get email headlines now and then. For some reason, I keep misreading the subject lines of these emails as
Today's headlines from Satan
Unclear on the concept: I get most of my news from NPR, which means I don't have to suffer through MSNBC's frequent obsessions or Dan Rather's hair; but it also means that when they have a little space to fill I have to listen to random academics rather than, say, looking at video of wet T-shirt contests.
So this morning on the way to work they had the author of "Influence" talking about The Six Principles That Make Persuasion Work. The author teaches at Arizona State University, and apparently they don't have television yet in Arizona, because his Six Principles all have lots to do with the way door-to-door salemen try to sell vacuum cleaners, and very little to do with the way modern advertisers try to sell everything else.
Maybe it was just that the quick radio piece didn't give him a fair chance to spell out his thesis, but I doubt it. The main example he gave was of Michael Jordan selling cologne or cellphones. This, he said, is an attempt to appeal to Authority (one of his Six Principles), and when you point out to people that Jordan isn't really an expert on fragrance or electronics, they're more resistant to this kind of advertising, at least in one experiment.
But that's completely wrong. As the advertisers know, no one thinks "Oh, Jordan recommends this cellphone, and Jordan is an expert on consumer electronics, so I will buy one." In fact no one thinks at all. When deciding which cellphone to buy (or, at one more remove, when deciding what to buy next) the image of Jordan (which has lots of very positive connotations for lots of people) is associated with the image of that cellphone, and the probability that the victim will buy that phone is thereby increased.
This isn't an attempt to convince anyone that Jordan is an authority on electronics, this is Lifestyle Association. And, despite being the way that the vast majority of modern advertising works, it doesn't seem to be one of this guy's Six Principles.
(Read the book? Of course not, why do you ask?)
Read in Wired or somewhere offline about someone's plans to mass-market (like, you can buy them at the corner convenience store) prepaid access cards for porn sites ("enter the 32-digit access code from your Adult Card here"). This sounds like something it'd be tough to avoid making lots of money from. But this is not investment advice.
dwl points out the Oddity of Fame and Fortune:
"Harry is wondering in his bath how long it will take to wash away the creamy cake from his face. To a grown-up, handsome young man, it is disgusting to have filthy dirt on his body. Lying in a luxurious bathtub and rubbing his face with his hands, he thinks about Dudley's face, which is as fat as Aunt Petunia's bottom."
Googling on some of the words in some recent amusing spam lead to someone who got the same one, and thence to this very funny reply. (Although schizophrenia is probably not all that funny seen from the inside.)
And also from geegaw, how the Iocaine Powder algorithm wins at Rock Paper Scissors. Not a joke, really (it doesn't win against an opponent who plays at random, but it does a good job of exploiting those who play some other way).
So, do I still remember how to do this "weblogging" thing?