Showing posts from January, 2009

Why don't we compare ourselves to other countries more?

What Yglesias said:
If you ask me, one of the most disturbing trends in American public discourse is the incredibly provincialism and solipsism of a lot of our policy debate. The idea that other countries are doing better than we are in various ways is totally off the radar. Instead, when foreign countries are mentioned at all you get stuff like this:“We have fundamental philosophical differences. We’re in an era of unfunded liabilities,” said John Culberson , R-Texas. “This stimulus is really a Trojan horse. It’s part of a plan that would turn the United States into France.”France! A country so impoverished that its citizens are fleeing in droves, washing up on our shores desperate to experience the good life as it’s lived in suburban Houston. I was reminded of that by this post from Tim Lee pointing out that broadband internet access in the United States is a lot better and cheaper than it was nine years ago so he “can’t get too upset about the possibility that in 2018 Americans migh…

Sign o' the times

From Global Nerdy, which I'm sure got it from somewhere else.

Quote of the Day

"We have this thing called impeachment and it's bleeping golden and we've used it the right way."

-- Illinois state Sen. James Meeks (D), quoted by the AP, mocking former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's expletive-laden words as captured by the FBI on a wiretap.

(From Political Wire)

The logical consequence of fetishizing virginity in a capitalist society

This person is auctioning off her virginity. Allegedly, the bidding is up to $3.8 million.

Question: How do we know she's really a virgin? For that much money, I can picture someone lying. Operations can be done to restore or fake a hymen. And I bet the cost of those operations is less than $3.8 million. And a hymen isn't really an accurate gauge of virginity in the first place: By the time you're 22 it's likely to have ripped for other reasons. Normally I think obsessing about whether someone is a virgin or not is weird. But she's making an issue of it by attaching a monetary value to it. I almost hope she's lying about it, that would make her more devious and clever and admirable.

Question: Why would someone pay $3.8 million for sex with this person?

Question: Does the person who bid $3.8 million actually have it? Are they bidding in good faith?

Question: Assuming the deal goes through, will the buyer feel they got their money's worth? I've had some good …

Term of the Day: Saddlebacking

Saddlebacking: sad•dle•back•ing \ˈsa-dəl-ˈba-kiŋ\ vb [fr. Saddleback Church] (2009): the phenomenon of Christian teens engaging in unprotected anal sex in order to preserve their virginities

After attending the Purity Ball, Heather and Bill saddlebacked all night because she’s saving herself for marriage. The term was coined by Dan Savage and his readers as a protest to Rick Warren's invocation at the Obama inaugural. (It didn't actually bother me too much, but so explicitly Christian! But we atheists have to endure that kind of thing quite often.) Anyway, Dan proposed several prospective definitions for "saddlebacking" in his Jan 14th column. Readers voted, and this definition won.

So does this happen a lot? Do Christian teens really engage in unprotected anal sex so they can preserve their virginities? (Are both their virginities considered preserved? Or just one partner?) Or is saddlebacking just something that strikes the less puritanical among us as h…

Not good: so many more Republicans on TV

Via Ezra Klein:
This is not good. Now some of this imbalance might be because they are showing Obama a lot. So they feel they have to show more Republican Congressfolk than Democratic ones. It's still a bit disturbing though.

Auto industry continues to try to block higher fuel efficiency

I guess you can't teach Detroit:
So, remember how we're going to dump billions and billions of dollars into the laps of the Big Three automakers, to rescue them from their own myopic decisions? And remember how automakers are suing the crap out of every state that tries to implement California's tailpipe emission standards? Remember how Obama green-lit the waiver for those standards yesterday, and how those standards are overwhelmingly supported by the public?Putting all that together, it occurred to New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert to wonder whether automakers will use that taxpayer money to fund their lawsuits against, um, taxpayers.So she contacted them, and the following day put up a second post: Yes. Yes, they are going to use taxpayer money to sue taxpayers. Bail out the people. Bail out the communities. Let the stupid companies fail. I hear there's global overcapacity in the auto industry anyway. At the very least, attach a bunch of strings to the money they g…

Yo, Obama, Republicans are not interested in compromising with you

Not a single Republican in the House voted for the economic stimulus package. So what were House Democrats and Obama doing watering it down with all kinds of compromises to placate Republican hissy fits? Republicans have no political incentive to get on board with Obama. So can we please not deny poor people contraceptive funding on at their behest?

Quote of the day

Quote of the day:
It's a recession when your neighbor loses his job; it's a depression when you lose yours.Harry S Truman, in Observer, April 13, 1958
33rd president of US (1884 - 1972)
via McArdle. Her post on the paradox of thrift is a good one:
If we (hypothetically) decide to eliminate takeout from our menu and eat tuna sandwiches instead, we are saving money. But the restaurant loses it. By foregoing spending, we are pulling money out of the economy. This is the insight behind the liquidity trap--if everyone tries to hoard money by selling more goods and services while buying fewer, the total demand for goods and services will drop, and we will make ourselves worse off.

There's a problem with this crude, version, of course: it's only true if we hoard the money in the form of cash. If we put it in the bank and the bank lends it out, that money will be spent by whoever borrows it.


The problem is that the banks aren't lending. We're hoarding money, and …

I support this constitutional amendment

This proposed 28th amendment would require special elections to replace U.S. Senators who vacate their offices mid-term, rather than allow governors to appoint replacements. That seems like a very good idea to me. It's more democratic (small "d"), and it would avoid some of the recent political circuses we've had. Apparently, the House already requires this. Kos agrees.

Why posting has been light

I originally started this post ("The tentacles of obligation") for Internal Monlogue, but it really belongs on Love and Survival with Fragile X. I am not in a good mood, but it is something of a relief to actually say this stuff, and say it publicly.

Keep track of Obama's promises

Hold our new president accountable with the PolitiFact Obameter, a compilation of about 500 Obama campaign promises and how he'd doing on them. The scorecard right now:
Tracking Obama’s promises Promise Kept 5 Compromise 1 Promise Broken 0 Stalled 1 In the Works 14 No Action 488Keep at it, Mr. President! I give you good marks for your first few days. Spend more energy trying get things done than trying to convince Republicans to sign on to things. You'll get a few, but don't bend over backwards too far. They're going to blame you when things go bad anyway (and even if they don't go bad, they'll still blame you). So you might as well craft the best legislation possible rather than spending your time and effort trying to convince the remaining Republicans to get on board.

Dude, Forbes thinks Andrew Sullivan is a liberal

Andrew Sullivan is for small government, is against progressive taxation, and identifies himself as a conservative. He wrote a book called The Conservative Soul. He supported Bush over Gore and initially favored the invasion of Iraq. And he doesn't like Michael Moore. (See his Wikipedia entry for more on his political stances)

So Forbes has decided that he's an influential liberal. In fact, one of the 25 most influential liberals in the U.S. media. Influential, certainly. But the fact that Forbes calls him a liberal shows how wacky our political spectrum has become. Sullivan certainly doesn't fit in the mainstream of Republican-style conservatism (which is anything but mainstream), but that doesn't mean he's a liberal. These days, the word "liberal" gets thrown at anyone who didn't agree with every single darn thing Bush tried to do. I hope this rights itself in the Obama era. (Of course, there are more important things than political labeling that nee…

China censors Obama's inauguration speech

James Fallows thinks this is a rather lame move on China's part:
I find myself more more incredulous with each passing hour that Chinese media authorities could have thought it as necessary or smart to censor live coverage of an event being watched intently in every other corner of the world: the inaugural address of America's first black president and current champion orator.

I have been trying to think: in what other country might this occur? Burma, perhaps. North Korea, no doubt. Perhaps other tinhorn states. But a real, important, powerful, rich country that in many ways (eg, finance) is America's most important partner? It is almost literally incredible.He goes on to discuss why they might have done this. It is strange to think how completely different some societies are.

Jumbled Star Wars plot summary

I've seen several of these already (where someone tries to summarize the plot of the Star Wars movies and gets it gleefully wrong), but they don't fail to amuse:

Star Wars: Retold (by someone who hasn't seen it) from Joe Nicolosi on Vimeo.

Via Sullivan.

Obama mentions non-believers

I was happy to hear that according to Obama, I get to be included too. Amanda Marcotte on Pandagon had a similar reaction:
Hey, I can’t be the only person who had a “holy shit” moment when Obama recognized non-believers in his inaugural speech. Nor can I be the only one bracing myself for the wingnut outrage, since there’s so much effort dedicated to vilifying atheists as the ultimate cancer eating away at our supposedly secular nation. Or maybe not. Perhaps even the most hardened wingnuts will realize that Obama included non-believers in the spirit of inclusiveness he’s been trying to foster in his speeches for awhile now. There was quite of bit of God talk, too. But I'm pretty used to translating that kind of ceremonial deism into something that makes me feel included. So it didn't bother me all that much.

Reclaiming Martin Luther King, Jr. for the political left

In observance of the day, let us remember that, along with issues of race, MLK was deeply concerned with economic justice and peace. Here's a quote that reminds us of that:
“I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”We like to pat ourselves on the back for electing a black president. Which is fine, but let's not spend too much time congratulating ourselves. Those "giant triplets" are still there, and there is still so much to overcome.

Businesses that should never exist

Johnson's Gravel Hauling & Auto Glass Repair

(I just made that up. It doesn't exist as far as I know.)

Fourth arm problem solved

This is the best solution to the notorious fourth arm problem* that I've seen:
Finally, an answer to this age-old predicament has arrived! Winner of the red dot design concept award in 2007, the idea of the Love Mattress is simple: A solid unit makes up the middle portion of the bed, with several adjoining strips of foam connected at either end. Between these slats one can drop their shoulder or arm, allowing for a much more comfortable sleeping position while remaining all snuggled up.Each polyurethane-injected foam strip is covered with a smooth fabric which allows for easy sliding, and after assembly the whole mattress can be covered with a standard bed linen. Not only is it good for sharing with another, but it also works for other positions, like stomach sleeping, where you can let your foot dip into the gaps.So, say goodbye to that slack arm. Right now it’s still only a concept, but if the Love Mattress hits production mode you’ll be good to go for hours of fine spooning acti…

Hitherto unexplored depths of the uncanny valley

It's not a baby. It's a "Reborn Doll".
Via Auguste at Pandagon, who is a bit more freaked out by this than I am: Look what you did.
You clicked on the link.
And now you know about ”reborn babies.” And now you’ll have to browse the site, marveling at how these things first prove the uncanny valley, then flood, scar, shatter the uncanny valley with a series of unnatural disasters. But that’s not even the bad part of all this. No, the bad part is Rush Limbaugh, as it forever will be:
Would it be—would it be over the top, ladies and gentlemen, to suggest maybe a charitable donation of a bunch of these dolls to the Planned Parenthood? As gifts to their customers and clients...Yeah, so you go into Planned Parenthood as a customer, you walk out after the deed is done; they give you one of these Reborns.Leave it to Rush to actually up the baby-fetishism factor on this whole thing. My definition of the uncanny valley.

What shapes people's worldviews

This guy claims a lot of people working for Homeland Security (what a hideous name!) take the show 24 very seriously:
In my work I interact and assist folks from TSA, Homeland Security or other consultants supporting them. On a couple of occasions I have been in meetings with such folks and have made the mistake of making a joke about the absurdity of 24. I was met with unamused stares which communicated that I was no longer to be taken as a serious person. Something one often hears from these folks is "if you knew what I know....." -- they take 24 quite seriously.I find that pretty frightening. From what I hear, in the world of 24, torture is often a good idea. That is not a concept I want brought into our world.

American Priorities

This is pretty sad:
Doesn't it seem a little odd that when you have a ball player (Roger Clemens) who lies to Congress about steroid use in baseball, the U.S. Attorney or DC convenes a grand jury to consider a perjury indictment, but when an official of the Justice Department (Bradley Schlozman) lies to Congress about trying to politicize the civil service within DOJ, the U.S. Attorney fo DC passes on further investigation or prosecution? Which really seems like the more significant problem for the country?Lame. Then again, I spend a lot more time choosing powers for my D&D characters than I do helping people still suffering from the civil war in Congo. But then again, helping people in Africa isn't my official job, whereas prosecuting people who lie to Congress about major political mafeasance is the official job of a U.S. Attorney. Tell you what: I'll give a small contribution to the Presbyterian Disaster Relief Fund for aid in Congo. Then you government lawyers go do…

Afghanistan is a potential quagmire

I want to challenge the meme that invading Iraq was a wrong war but that occupying Afghanistan is a right war. I think occupying Afghanistan has good consequences and bad consequences, but I suspect that the bad outweigh the good, and that the good consequences could probably be obtained by other methods.

digby has a post on this that goes into more detail. I'm glad that some debate on this is starting. During the campaign, every time Obama said we need to get out of Iraq I cheered. Every time he said we need to escalate our military presence in Afghanistan, I cringed.

I'm not opposed to military force as part of some overall strategy. But hanging around trying to shoot all the Taliban just isn't going to work.

Alfred Hitchcock would be pleased

The Birds are apparently capable of at least rudimentary self-awareness:
#30: Magpies Recognize Themselves in the Mirror
People don’t have a monopoly on the ability to recognize themselves in mirrors. Great apes, bottlenose dolphins, and Asian elephants have also passed the mirror test, showing a capacity for self-recognition that is believed to be a sign of a rudimentary sense of self. In August, in a paper in PLoS Biology, scientists described the first nonmammalian species that can claim membership in this exclusive club: the European magpie, a member of the corvid family, which also includes crows and ravens.
HT:Mad Latinist via email.

Thought of the day

Who decided that it was OK for a bunch of xenophobic apes to have nuclear weapons? Clearly, such power should be kept out of the hands of human beings.

Ha! Now the Internal Monologue feed has ads!

Thought you could get way from the ads by subscribing to the feed? No longer! Now there are Google ads in every post in the IM feed! Think of how many more cents of revenue I'll generate!

Wireless electricity

photo from here.

It's coming. I actually saw a demo of this at the Intel Developers Forum keynote I was part of last year. I remember in the old science fiction RPG Gamma Worldthere were robots that operated on "broadcast power". I remember thinking how utterly cool that was. Let the liberation from the battery begin! HT: Polina on Facebook

D&D oh yeah!

Looking forward to my D&D trip this weekend. Thank you so much to my wonderful wife Sarah for making this glorious venture possible!

Porn industry requests federal bailout

Ha ha ha:
Another major American industry is asking for assistance as the global financial crisis continues: Hustler publisher Larry Flynt and Girls Gone Wild CEO Joe Francis said Wednesday they will request that Congress allocate $5 billion for a bailout of the adult entertainment industry.Congressional Republicans will no doubt demand "strict oversight" over what Larry Flynt produces with taxpayer money.

The Onion on Apple's design philosophy

Low expectations

DailyKos' Bill in Portland Maine doesn't have high hopes for the new congress:
An Open Letter to the 111th CongressDear Congress,Let's get this out of the way right now: I think you're gonna suck balls.I base my opinion on your performance during the previous administration, and I see no reason to change my mind just because y'all have a bunch of new members and America has a new president.It's all so predictable. With virtually no exceptions, Republican members will continue insisting that the policies of shitting on the little guy are the only ones that they'll support, and Democratic members will continue to give these idiots serious thought and consideration in the futile hope that we can all just get along. In essence, you'll continue governing as if we are a "center-right" nation, which we most assuredly are not.You'll continue to act quickly on things that should be acted on slowly, and you'll act slowly on things that should be …

Quote of the Day

From Nate Silver at
Let's be frank: Norm Coleman doesn't have much of a future in electoral politics. Defeated Presidential candidates sometimes have nine lives, but defeated Senatorial candidates rarely do, and in his career running for statewide office, Coleman has lost to a professional wrestler, beaten a dead guy, and then tied a comedian. He doesn't have much to lose by fighting this to its bitter conclusion. But it's hard to envision how he'll come up with enough ballots to overtake Franken.

Vehement Anti-Cell-Phone Guy Finally Caves

zdrake recommends a page from The Onion:. Vehement Anti-Cell-Phone Guy Finally Caves

Further thoughts on the Bo Diddley cover problem

Douglas Hofstadter was good enough to solicit some of his friends for
their thoughts on the "Bo Diddley" cover problem and forward their
answers to me. Once I get a moment or two I'll share the latest
developments with Internal Monologue's fortunate readers.[I sent this from my iPhone, so please excuse any excessive brevity or
typographical errors.]
--Zachary Drake

Laws we shouldn't need

I saw something very depressing on the freeway information signs as I drove into work this morning:



Douglas Hofstadter on the Bo Diddley cover problem

As I said I would do in my seminal post on the Bo Diddley cover problem, I emailed Douglas Hofstadter (Pulitzer prize-winning author of Godel, Escher, Bach and director of the Center for Research on Concepts and Cognition at Indiana University) for his opinion on the matter. With his permission, here is our correspondence. First, my query:
From: Zachary Drake
To: Douglas Hofstadter
Subject: Should singers covering Bo Diddley's "Bo Diddley" change the lyric to their own name?

Dear Professor Hofstadter,

I was writing a blog post on the following question: Should singers covering Bo Diddley's song "Bo Diddley" change instances of "Bo Diddley" in the lyrics to their own name? I know from Le Ton Beau de Marot that you are not a fan of rock music, but the issues involved in addressing this question reminded me quite strongly of themes in your work.

I see this question as somewhat analogous to the problem of how to translate "This sentence, written in Eng…