Monday, March 19, 2007


Final Proof...

(as if any was needed) ...that I am a total science geek: this story really warmed my heart:
During a timeout in the first half [of the CalBerkely-Arizona St. men's basketball game], the public address announcer introduced the crowd to James Watson, one of several scientists responsible for discovering the structure of the DNA molecule.

Donning a green blazer, Watson soaked up probably the loudest applause of the entire game. “The Bench” chanted, in perfect unison, “D-N-A, D-N-A.” Only in a place like Berkeley, huh?
Now I'm not a particularly big fan of Jim Watson, especially after reading "The Double Helix" and the way he addressed this controversy, but the idea that a bunch of college students would give a scientist such a rousing welcome during a basketball game makes me hopeful and happy.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Man the Barricades!

Looks like I've got my work cut out to counteract this disturbing trend:

I'm not really sure if it's possible for me to drink any more Guinness than I already do, but difficult times demand difficult sacrifices.


Billy Jim

Recently I've noticed a startling increase in the number of references to late 19th century philosopher and psychologist William James. It started here, and the very day after I read that piece, I came across a lengthy article on Henry's brother in Harper's magazine (unfortunately not available online). Since then, I've noticed several more Jamesian citations including this. I'm glad to see the upsurge because he's a really interesting guy; but is something going on here, or as William James would say, am I just "conscious of what [I] attend to"?

Feedback welcome.

Monday, March 12, 2007


Enemy Mine?

I was listening to the radio yesterday, and they quoted a Marine vet who characterized antiwar protesters as "giving psychological comfort to the enemy". Now this meme is widespread, and the idea behind it is dubious at best. But the most absurd part of the argument is the idea that Iraqis are our "enemies". The recent National Intelligence Estimate (PDF) on Iraq concluded that US troops find themselves in the middle of an "inter-sectarian struggle between Shia and Sunnis" in which Al-Qaeda type jihadists only act as "accelerators" of an already self-sustaining civil war.

So who is our enemy here? The best answer, as far as I can tell, is ourselves, because the US invasion of Iraq and its disastrously mismanaged aftermath created the conditions that allowed extremism to flourish in Iraq, where it had previously been non-existent. So we're giving psychological comfort to ourselves?

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


If You Knew Rudy...

As Rudy Giuliani moves to front-runner status among Republican candidates for president in 2008, it's incumbent on us New Yorkers to alert the rest of the country to what life was like when Rudy was in charge. One of my favorite essays about Giuliani's style of governance is "Letter From Occupied New York" written by John Leonard in 1999, about five years into the Dark Ages of Rudy. A quick google search found a copy here, and reading it again for the first time in eight years brought back all the anxieties I remember feeling as a resident of Rudy's New York. Every single paragraph is positively chock-a-block with reminders of the angry, ruthless, arrogant manner with which he ruled, but this graf stands out:
The last five years in New York have been less about government than they've been about obedience training. Rudy's a guy with a built-in balcony, from which he barks our marching orders. Lawful assembly, and such free-speechifying as may attend its occasion, are particularly sore points around here. Before he was even elected the first time, in October 1993, candidate Rudy opposed letting Louis Farrakhan speak at Yankee Stadium. In March 1995, a wall of cops surrounded City Hall, with horses, scooters, nightsticks, riot gear, barricades and Mace, to keep 20,000 high school and college students from marching on Wall Street. That June, Rudy kicked Yasir Arafat out of Lincoln Center. The following May, he would use armored cars against homeless squatters. The first official act of his second term, last New Year's Day, was to close his own inauguration to the public, after which he directed the Metropolitan Transit Authority to remove from buses and subways a New York magazine ad that took his name in vain, which was followed by checkpoints and roadblocks in Greenwich Village against anarcho-syndicalists and other rowdies, and video surveillance cameras in Washington Square Park.
Read it and worry.

p.s. What really worries me is that this may actually be exactly what America wants!

Thursday, March 01, 2007


Get Ready

During the 2000 campaign, candidate chimpy lamented the state of the military under Clinton/Gore during his speech accepting the Repub nomination:
"if called on by the commander-in-chief today, two entire divisions of the Army would have to report ..., 'Not ready for duty, sir.'"
This story from CNN shows that the criticism was a canard:
Bush was referring to a classified U.S. Army evaluation first reported on by the Washington Post that found that two divisions were considered to need additional manpower, equipment or training before being able to fight in a major regional war.

But the Pentagon said the rating did not reflect the combat-readiness of the divisions, but the fact that they were already deployed on peacekeeping missions in the Balkans. Therefore, the divisions could not be counted in the "first-to-deploy" units the Pentagon might send to fight two major wars simultaneously. Any division with units away from home is required by Army regulations to be listed as not combat-ready.
Bush's phony denunciation provides an interesting context for a report this week from General Peter Pace's office:
Strained by the demands of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is a significant risk that the U.S. military won't be able to quickly and fully respond to yet another crisis, according to a new report to Congress.

The assessment, done by the nation's top military officer, Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, represents a worsening from a year ago, when that risk was rated as moderate.
Does anything Bush says ever come back to haunt him, or does the "liberal media" regard his blatant hypocrisy as one of his charming features?

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