Tuesday, June 28, 2005


Just sad. I read about the rendition program in the New Yorker back in the Spring, but I cried again.

And I thought the Situationists were extinct

Some articles are too inflamatory for my tastes, but this quote is dead-on:

The task before us is to do what we can to encourage independent thinking. First and foremost, we must insist on adult rationality in the public sphere. Religious institutions have managed, under the cover of decorum, to exempt themselves from critical examination. It is regarded as impolite to point out the ridiculous or dangerous when it comes to faith. In matters of belief, the operative norm is "anything goes." (Never mind that fundamentalists reject this and insist on complete conformity to their ideology. It is ironic that fundamentalism would have no place in public life were it not for the relativism that protects such illogic.)

Our public discourse ought to be based on a culture of evidence. Scientific rationality can protect us from the kind of logical errors that lead to tribalism. Now this does not mean that we all have to practice science or that only professional scientists should participate in public life. Anyone with normal intelligence is capable of the mental discipline that scientific rationality brings. We have to accept that we are part of the natural, physical world and seek to understand how it works. An openness to the world is part of the curiosity that such thinking encourages.

Scientific rationality is the foundation for aestheticization. The pursuit of beauty and pleasure requires contemplation of empirical facts. Human experience is an endless stream of empirical data. The aesthete investigates these data with the same curiosity as the scientist. (Recall the distinction between aesthete and artisan. The artisan can rely on rote repetition and traditional forms to produce art objects -- we've all encountered plenty of banal art -- but the aesthete thrives on experimentation.) This openness will lead to sympathy and away from tribalism.

The argument presented here, that aestheticization is incompatible with political violence, should not be taken as a claim that it is the only way to avoid collective violence. Other forms of secular humanism can lead to the same goal of a peaceful and prosperous world. The contrast between religious belief and aestheticization is instructive because it highlights the aspects of belief systems and moral judgment that promote violence. The most important lesson to be learned in this analysis is that religion is an indulgence that human societies can no longer afford. We do not need to believe in order to find happiness or peace of mind. And, as we have demonstrated, faith is an ethical dead-end. At this moment in history, religion is the most dangerous collective action frame in our world.

If communism were still around we could perhaps debate whether it or religion were more prone to political violence. Happily, we have relegated Stalinism to the reject pile of failed social experiments. That was a giant step forward for human progress. Now another step is required. Our future is at stake.

As Bertrand Russell succinctly put it, religion is "a disease born of fear" and "a source of untold misery to the human race." It stands in the way of intellectual and moral progress. This is as true today as it was in 1930 when Russell eloquently explained why he was an atheist. Religion breeds contempt for life and for the well-being of others. Fear drives believers to the most desperate acts. We ought to be mature enough to recognize that humans are capable of putting the beliefs of ancient communities where all artifacts belong, in the museum, and out of our daily lives. We have rightfully -- and wisely -- discarded the medicine of the Middle Ages. We should now do the same with these medieval traditions. It is time to throw all life-hating, pleasure-adverse ideologies into the dustbin of history.

Have you ever been here?

I agree with the blogger: definitely the most obscure neighborhood of NYC I have ever seen. Initially, I thought the pictures were from some Southern town.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

I roared like the Olympian gods

TOTALLY WRONG: In a highly unusual move, Atrios gets it totally wrong when he links to Media Matters and says that Klein “melted down” during his segment with Hannity. Let’s get real! Klein and Hannity achieved exactly what they intended in this segment; they played a game of “good cop/good cop” as they spread their steaming-hot tales to the excitable rubes. (They’ll come for Aruba; they’ll stay for the gay tales.) Each man pretended to be deeply concerned with the good, the true and the ethical—and as they pretended, they spent a whole segment trashing Clinton for the rubes. They told the rubes that she was a big lesbo. They told the rubes that Bill may have raped her. And they told the rubes that she had an affair with Vince Foster. In doing so, they mocked the dead and they mocked the sacred, and yes, they made a joke of your lives. It’s true—you have to be a total idiot not to see through such a performance, but the race is full of such rubes—and it doesn’t help when liberals pretend that a segment like this represents a meltdown. We would take a different approach. We would ask when the mainstream press will start to discuss this ongoing process, in which our capacity to conduct a democracy is being deliberately eaten away. Our democracy melted down Tuesday night when the rest of the press corps sat silent—when the millionaire press corps stared into air, as it has done for many years.

By the way: Alan was off in Aruba chasing Natalee, so only Sean spoke with Klein. Last night, Alan showed tape of an “exclusive search” (of a small pond) in which he had engaged that day. An exclusive search! How the Olympian gods must have roared when they first heard that clownish new phrasing!

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

More good LttE

To the Editor:

Re the June 18 letter from Gov. Jeb Bush about Terri Schiavo's death and your editorial the same day ("Politics and Terri Schiavo"):

Governor Bush says "all innocent human life is precious." I have to assume that he is able to sleep easy in the certain knowledge that he knows which lives are innocent enough to be considered precious and which lives may be dispensed with at will.

Frankie Glass
Burbank, Calif., June 18, 2005

Indeed, I think Jeb and George W. Bushs' applications of the death penalty make them negligent and immoral people. I should check the statistics (such as comparing the false-positive rate in the Illinois system with the shoddy system in Texas), but I believe with high probability that GWB put at least one innocent man to death.

To the Editor:

Gov. Jeb Bush (letter, June 18) seems unaware that end-of-life decisions are routinely made in private discussions between family, advisers (like clergy members) and doctors. These decisions are most often made without the benefit of a clear, written advance medical directive.

Politicians with clear agendas and former medical professionals who have no expertise in neurological matters are usually not involved. This should not change.

David R. Neiblum, M.D.
West Chester, Pa., June 18, 2005

To the Editor:

After years of carping about liberal "moral relativism," the right has now succeeded in creating a dangerous new factual relativism in our press today, as Stacy Schiff illustrates ("The Interactive Truth," column, June 15).

In the name of "balance," news reporting has been replaced by an endless string of pundits and career commentators who bicker back and forth with no regard for the facts.

Whatever happened to doing the investigative legwork to tell us whether what either side is saying is true? Is it any wonder that the theory of evolution is under siege, or that many Americans still believe in a link between Iraq and 9/11, when facts and evidence can be dismissed as matters of opinion?

David Silverstone
New York, June 15, 2005

To the Editor:

Re "Prosecutorial Racial Bias in Texas" (editorial, June 14):

When the Supreme Court threw out Thomas Miller-El's death sentence (on the grounds that blacks were systematically excluded from serving as jurors in his case), the court paved the way for it, or a future court, to examine a more substantive question: whether any death penalty trial can ever be a fair one.

No defendant in a capital case in the United States - black, white or other - is afforded a fair trial under our current system. Each is tried by a jury from which the state has excluded anyone who says he or she opposes the idea of a fellow human's being put to death.

When do you suppose the court will acknowledge that barring potential jurors on such grounds is no different from excluding them on the basis of race, religion or gender?

Frank McNeirney
National Coordinator, Catholics
Against Capital Punishment
Bethesda, Md., June 14, 2005

Monday, June 20, 2005

Funny comment at Phrayngula

#3: pough — 06/16 at 05:09 PM
Religion can have the donuts that Homer doesn't eat.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Another good LttE

To the Editor:

So intellectuals destroyed American middlebrow culture? Was it the intellectuals who replaced Toscanini and "Playhouse 90" with "Mr. Ed" and "Gilligan's Island"? Was it the intellectuals who shifted resources away from opera reviews in Time magazine and toward celebrity puff pieces in People and its various epigones?

Ultimately, it was the bottom line that destroyed American middlebrow culture. It turns out that while profitable, it just wasn't profitable enough for those who put up the dough.

John E. Fields
Madison, Wis., June 16, 2005

Interesting links

Loompanics - An Interesting Book Store

Communists for Kerry

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Finishing quotes...

This librarian is sometimes funny, yet other times completely wrong.

"3. Life is like riding a bicycle - it's a lot of fun when you're a kid, much less fun when you get older - mostly because of the aching joints and also because you look like a giant dork. Adult bikers...look at yourself. Go on, look! You're wearing a helmet and spandex shorts and a Live Strong bracelet. You'll never be Lance Armstrong, even if you do have only one testicle. Sheryl Crow is not going to have sex with you, ever. Take off those ridiculous sunglasses."

I like to think that I look pretty good on a bike with my team kit. I have no idea why she thinks Oakley sunglasses are ridiculous. Possibly the really enormous ones, but Half Jackets are quite nice. And no, I do not wear a Live Strong bracelet.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Unicycles and Moons

"I am riding a unicycle with my pants down. This should be every kids dream." - Bart Simpson

[Bart crashes.]

"I made the first aid kit spring loaded for quick access. AHhhhhhhh!" - Homer Simpson

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

I have never started a career before

Twenty-something angst:

AIM IM with a fellow Cornell graduate
9:28 PM
whats up
what up
not much
sitting around
tired as shit
are you going to boston soon
imjust sittin around too
yeah im in boston
i start tomorrw
are you nervous
heres a hint: dont pee your pants
yeah im really nervous
9:30 PM
ive never started a career before
that sounds so funny
but so true
its just weird
i agree
being in boston alone is really weird too
i have roommates that seem cool
are you gonna travel?
but later
9:35 PM
im making money
i will probably leave the country in october
how did you find roomates?
i just picked some randomly, from a sublet
ill be moving into my own place pretty soon
how are you making money
bike shop
selling expensive bikes to rich dumb folks
oh sweet
its decent
when did you get to boston
9:40 PM
and now you are by yourself?
9:45 PM
no with roommates
well... right... but you dont know them well?
9:50 PM
did they just graduate?
no, 25,27,30
are they dorks like you?
not really
two are electrical engineers though
so thats kinda dorky at laest
do you know of any other cornell alum there?
10:10 PM
10:45 PM

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Did you ride (naked) today?

The old manager at my local bike shop loved asking, "Did you ride today?" He used it for his answering machine. He recommended using it to welcome customers to the bike shop. And the shop he now owns uses it for a slogan. So when I heard about the World Naked Bike Ride today, 11 June 2005, I immediately thought of him. Not naked though. That would be gross. He was a tall lanky bald bastard. I rode my bike to and from work, but not naked. So did you ride (naked) today?

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Bob Somerby is the best.

THE TIMES JUST LOVES A GOOD MYSTERY: Meanwhile, for another look at the Times’ High Foppist Values, just drink in its coverage today of Los Alamos whistle-blower Tommy Ray Hook. Who authored the savage beating Hook endured last Saturday night? Her at THE HOWLER, we simply don’t know—but at the Times, it’s just the latest good mystery. The headline is straight from a Hardy Boys tale: “The Case of the Battered Whistle-Blower.” In her text, Sandra Blakesley settles in for some good solid fun:

BLAKESLEY (6/9/05): Los Alamos National Laboratory, which unlocked the secrets of the nuclear age, is pondering a new mystery: Who beat up the whistle-blower?
Early Sunday morning, Tommy Ray Hook, an auditor who has accused the laboratory's management of accounting irregularities, was severely beaten in the parking lot of Santa Fe's only topless dance club.

Mr. Hook, 52, is not sure how many men attacked him but he told CBS News they delivered a message: He should keep his mouth shut.

Mr. Hook suffered a fractured jaw, concussion, herniated disk and other injuries, including boot marks on his face. He was released from the hospital Tuesday night.

As in any good mystery, multiple versions of what happened are playing out as the local police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, private investigators, reporters and people from a variety of organizations interested in nuclear issues vie to uncover the truth.

For Blakesley, Hook’s savage beating is the latest “good mystery.” The High Foppist Values of a millionaire press corps are put on display in the tone of this piece. But then, remember what Margaret Carlson told Imus (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/2/05): “As sport, Gore coming up with another whopper is greatly entertaining to us...Bush’s [misstatements] should matter more but they don’’s really easy, and it’s fun, to disprove Gore.” Carlson revealed the code that day, showing a foppist press corps’ real values—their work is now entertainment and sport. And so it was when the Times reported on “the case of” the whistle-blower’s shattered jaw. It was just the latest “good mystery.” Can’t you hear what these foppists are saying? At the Times, it’s all amusement. As with Carlson’s foppist cohort, they can no longer be bothered pretending that they actually care.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Funny, yet sad and true

Q: When I die in a few minutes, will my death help the cause of freedom?
A: Not really. But in a way, isn't death itself just freedom from life - the greatest prison of all?
Q: Wow... you've *HRAAACK* totally blown my mind - and my lung and ribcage and my kneecaps!
A: Oh, don't thank us - it's all part of being tortured to death in an American military prison!

Reading about the American military's rendition program is incredibly depressing. It actually makes me cry.

NYTimes Letters to the Editor

Maybe I will try to make this a daily tradition: reprint a Times letter to the editor. Unfortunately, so many of them are just awful, I doubt I could find a decent one each day. Surprisingly, yesterday, the Times printed two good letters. Here they are:

To the Editor:

Thomas L. Friedman assumes a dismal social Darwinism rewarding only those desperate enough to work "a 35-hour day." In his world we're stripped of freedom, strapped to a treadmill controlled by an inexorably globalizing "market." Many can't make it to his "top," and even the lives of those who do are unsustainable.

No. We have choice. Instead of assuming a corporate globalized everything, we can further ecologically sound local production and exchange. Instead of resigning workers to increasing powerlessness, we can seek universal enforcement of international labor standards. Building on these and other practical strategies, we can reject economic determinism and choose a sustainable, satisfying future that includes all of us. Frances Moore Lappé

Cambridge, Mass., June 3, 2005

The writer is the author of several books about hunger and the roots of democracy.

To the Editor:

Re Nantucket exclusivity: The rich do have more money, and it buys the isolation they desire from those whose labor provides them with the ability to live in their chosen, isolated manner, or manor, as the case may often be.

Michael J. Kittredge boasts about his material possessions and ascribes his own success to hard work. John Sheehan, the construction worker who rises at 4:30 a.m. to catch a plane in order to build homes for the super-rich, considers himself to be doing well.

The fact that neither he nor the local school principal and his wife, a nurse, will ever be able to live in closer proximity to the community that provides their livelihood says a lot about what we really think about the values of hard work (which include labor), community, education and opportunity, and about "being" versus "having." Lelde Gilman

Portland, Ore., June 5, 2005

Monday, June 06, 2005

It's me!

This image isn't going to fit inside in the column, but it's the first decent cycling picture I have seen of myself.

I crashed the day before thanks to a generous teammate who braked hard in a team time trial.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Racing in America v. Europe

Cyclingnews caught up with British champion Roger Hammond during one of the rest days before the USPRO championship on Sunday, and the Discovery Channel rider had a few comments about Cyclingnews diarist John Lieswyn's take on the race in Trenton when asked what the differences are between racing styles of Europe and North America.

"It's completely different. In Europe, you go into a corner and nobody passes you in a corner. There are only one or two occasions late in the year where somebody comes underneath you in a corner. Here it feels like it's always the last corner of the race. It's ridiculous. They almost seem to do it to spite their own face. [In Trenton] this guy, one of your diarists, chopped into a gutter just so he could make up one place. Fair enough if it's the last corner, you expect it, but when you are five laps from the finish as we were, it is totally unnecessary. Then they get upset when you get upset about it, and what do you expect? Putting someone into a wall for what... one place with six to go?

"But we're in America and that's how they race here so we have to adapt to how they race. I had a good race [in Trenton] but I had to take my brain out, chopping people left, right and center in the last lap - I'm not proud of how I rode - if I rode like that in Europe they would hang me out to dry! You'd find yourself in a ditch for sure."

Let's just say I'm excited to go to Europe.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Thoughts on Birks

Manolo says, here you see the Birkenstock Boston, perhaps the ugliest, most unstylish shoe ever manufactured. This shoe, it looks like it was put together by the blind medieval monks, for wear by the peasants of the mud.

For some of the reason, unknown to the Manolo, this shoe it has the cachet with the bohemians and the pot-smoking hippies of the crunchiness. Indeed, you would have to be high to wear this

Like many of the worst of the shoes, it's defenders they trumpet the comfort of this "shoe".

Ha! The Manolo he laughs!

There are many shoes that they are perfectly comfortable without making the wearer look like the dork.

Manolo says, if you insist on wearing these ugly shoes, be certain to wear the wooly socks of grey for the full effect.