Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Dialogue of the day
He: I do. But I'm a polytheist.
I picture this as a New Yorker cartoon.
What's actually gonna kill ya
Monday, May 24, 2010
Quote of the day
-Sir Charles on Cogitamus
Term of the Day: The Bechdel Test
- The movie must have at least two named female characters.
- These two female characters must talk to each other.
- The conversation must be about something other than a man.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
What is Arlen Specter really like?
[I sent this from my iPhone, so please excuse any excessive brevity or typographical errors.]
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Unemployment at 10.2% and nobody in DC seems riled
The most astonishing and surprising thing I find about Washington DC today is the contrast in mood between DC today and what DC was thinking a generation ago, in 1983, the last time the unemployment rate was kissing 10%. Back then it was a genuine national emergency that unemployment was so high--real policies like massive monetary ease and the eruption of the Reagan deficits were put in place to reduce unemployment quickly, and everybody whose policies wouldn't have much of an effect on jobs was nevertheless claiming that their projects were the magic unemployment-reducing bullet.One reason might be that the Fed as already lowered interest rates to essentially zero and the government is already running a large deficit. But obviously these measures are not working, at least not in the near term. Is 10% unemployment the new normal? Does anyone in power think this is a crisis? Or are they all so intimidated by deficit scolds that they're afraid to do anything about the problem? Seems people are still willing to lend money to Uncle Sam at 3.56% as of May 12th, 2010. Maybe they should put the country back to work. It's not like there isn't stuff for people to do: infrastructure, schools, research, green energy (or if you're a conservative, border security, crime prevention, re-tooling the military). I think there are plenty of places the US Government could get more than a 4% return on its money.
Today.... nobody much in DC seems to care. A decade of widening wealth inequality that has created a chattering class of reporters, pundits, and lobbyists who have no connection with mainstream America? The collapse of the union movement and thus of the political voice of America's sellers of labor power? I don't know what the cause is. But it does astonish me.
Obviously, I have a personal stake in this: I'm seeking a job, and I'd be fine if inflation went up a bit in order to bring unemployment down to reasonable levels.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Oh my God, so many homeowners are so screwed
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Ta-Nahesi on the dangers of ageing
Age, like all power constructs, (race, gender, class) encourages it's own ignorance. To not know is a luxury of power. You don't have to know Their Eyes Were Watching God. But I damn sure better know The Scarlet Letter. (It's bad enough I'm slipping on Twain.) Age turns ignorance into a luxury, and worse, if you don't recognize it as a luxury you start to think everyone is as clueless as you. And of course you're clueless that any of this is even going on. It's just a bad look all around.Sarah and I have this fear as well, and we've promised not to let each other sink into it. I think this relates to the backlash against Obama's recent disparagement of some new electronic devices:
With iPods and iPads and Xboxes and PlayStations--none of which I know how to work--information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation.Not knowing how to work these devices is understandable. But it's nothing to brag about. And it sounds rather odd coming from a notorious Blackberry addict like Obama.
So, what do I need to get hip too? Good new music is probably one of those things. It's hard for me to expand my taste. I just bought tickets to see Roger Waters perform The Wall, fer cryin' out loud. That album came out in 1979. I was five years old.
Interesting 1860 review of Origin of Species
Meanwhile, Mr. DARWIN, as the fruit of a quarter of a century of patient observation and experiment, throws out, in a book whose title at least has by this time become familiar to the reading public, a series of arguments and inferences so revolutionary as, if established, to necessitate a radical reconstruction of the fundamental doctrines of natural history.But does the reviewer actually agree with Darwin's central thesis? No:
Not enough transitional organisms in the fossil record. Sounds familiar, actually. Opponents of natural selection cling to this objection to this day.
Ten times the space given to this article would not suffice for any adequate treatment of this vast and complicated subject. In a very general way, though, we may touch on a few topics. To this and every hypothesis which assumes the gradual transition from species to species, from genus to genus, geology opposes the irrefragable fact of the utter absence of all transitional links, and the clean and clear identity of specific forma. As on Mr. DARWIN's theory an interminable number of intermediate forms must have existed, linking together all the species in each group by gradations as fine as our present varieties, we have a perfect right to ask, why do we not see these linking forms all around us? Why are not all organic beings blended together in an inextricable chaos?
Mr. DARWIN answers this difficulty by urging the extreme imperfection of the geological record. That the geological record is imperfect all will admit; but few will be inclined to admit that it is imperfect to the degree Mr. DARWIN's doctrine requires.
Despite disagreeing with Darwin's central thesis, the reviewer correctly predicts that Darwin's ideas will provoke a revolution in taxonomy (the classification of organisms into groups):
And in respect of the great spinal thought of Mr. DARWIN's theory, we are persuaded that the doctrine of progressive modification by Natural Selection, will give a new direction to [???]ry into the real genetic relationship of species, existing and extinct, -- will, in fact, make a revolution in Natural History.The reviewer also sees the revolutionary philosophical and metaphysical implications of what Dennet calls "Darwin's Dangerous Idea":
It will give a new and sure basis of classification. Indeed, this grand fact of the grouping of all organic beings seems inexplicable on any other theory. Read the interminable disputes of the naturalists as to what are species and what varieties, and you will see what a scientific chaos classification up to this day is. How the cumbersome catalogues of species increase ! Meanwhile the difficulties increase, also, instead of diminishing with the extension of their researches.
DARWIN puts himself abreast these same tendencies. And just as LYELL has banished from Geology the notion of sudden cataclysms, DARWIN threatens to banish from Zoology the notion of sudden creations. Together, we feel justified in saying, they have laid the foundation of one of the mightiest changes in philosophical thought.Some reactions:
- I thought this was a pretty good review. It lays out the ideas in the book quite clearly.
- I like the archaic feel of the capitalization of names.
- I love reading this kind of prose: the elevated diction, flowery vocabulary, complex sentence structure. It feels like writing for grown ups. So much of what I read these days seems hastened, dumbed down. It feels refreshing to go back to that kind of writing. How much better would blogs, Facebook, and Twitter be if people knew how to write? If they struggled to write better, to compete to see who could craft the most beautiful prose? Not everyone will be a great writer. But we can certainly be better writers. Maybe we should critique each other or something. But what a public service it would be if we could but raise the bar a little, or better yet, help people to see that raising the bar will make the world more beautiful and is worthy of at least some small effort.
Saturday, May 08, 2010
Thursday, May 06, 2010
Guy who notified police about Times Square dud was Muslim, too
[O]ne fact being ignored in the American media’s sensationalist narrative about the failed bombing is that the man who was responsible for police finding the bomb was Muslim. The UK’s Times Online reports that Aliou Niasse, a Senagalese Muslim immigrant who works as a photograph vendor on Times Square, was the first to bring the smoking car to the police’s attention[...]
Wednesday, May 05, 2010
Quote of the Day
Did he also work for BP and sleep with Tiger Woods?
The suspect in the Times Square bombing attempt defaulted on a $200,000 mortgage on a Connecticut home and the Shelton property is now in foreclosure, according to court records.
The foreclosure records show that Faisal Shahzad took out the mortgage in 2004 and that he co-owned the home with a woman named Huma Mian.
Chase Home Finance LLC sued Shahzad, 30, in September to force the foreclosure. The case is pending in Milford Superior Court.
Tuesday, May 04, 2010
Fantasticus the Wizard Explains Derivatives
See this scrap of paper? It's not worth anything, right? Right. It's just a scrap of paper. But I'm a financial wizard. I'm going to cast a financial spell. I'm going write some magic words on the paper. Those words are:
"If the price of gold drops a lot, I, Fantasticus the Wizard, will pay the owner of this scrap of paper a bunch of money."
Using magic, I have just turned this useless scrap of paper into a derivative!
Don't tell me BP is going to be shielded from liability
Under the law that established the reserve, called the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, the operators of the offshore rig face no more than $75 million in liability for the damages that might be claimed by individuals, companies or the government, although they are responsible for the cost of containing and cleaning up the spill.This spill will probably cause tens, if not hundreds of billions of dollars in losses for businesses, individuals, and governments, to say nothing of the unpriceable ecological damage. It had better cost BP every penny it has. I hope there's some legal way around this $75 million nonsense.
One thing's for sure: I'm not buying any BP gas ever again if I can help it.
UPDATE: More on this issue here. Looks like there's an effort in Congress to remove the $75 million dollar cap. And if BP is found "grossly negligent" then the cap is removed without any changes to the law. I really hope BP has to pay for the full impact of this spill, and not just for cleanup costs.
Monday, May 03, 2010
Can we figure out a way of acknowledging Israel's nuclear weapons?
Here's something from the Washington Times that I didn't know:
It is illegal in Israel for newspapers to print that the country has nuclear arms.What?!?!? How can there be any serious discussion of Israel's military or geopolitical situation in Israel's newspapers if they can't state such a fundamental reality? It would be like trying to talk about the Viking's offense without mentioning that Favre is quarterback. It makes all such discussions laughably silly.
No wonder forging peace is so difficult: the taboos and weirdness are so deep that we can't even talk about obvious things. Can we please figure out a way to acknowledge basic realities in public?