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Archive for January, 2009

2@WwSsXx~`[tab]

No, that’s not some strange code. Those are the symbols I haven’t been able to type for the past week, for reasons that I finally sorted out with Apple tech support people. (There seems to be an incompatibility with some LaTeX font packages.) So, I haven’t given up blogging, and haven’t been suffering from clinical depression since the inauguration; it just took so long to type anything for the past week that I took a break. (Try cutting and pasting every ‘s’, ‘w’, ‘x’, etc., and you’ll see what I mean.)

Some thoughts on the week’s events:

  • Thank you, President Bush, for keeping us safe after September 11, for formulating a policy for combatting Islamic supremacy that will, I think, in the end prove to be successful, and for implementing that strategy in Afghanistan and Iraq at great political cost.
  • President Bush will be remembered, I think, much as Harry S. Truman is now. The Bush doctrine will be as significant as the Truman doctrine; the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are already more successful (at much less cost!) than the Korean War.
  • President Bush’s greatest failures: declining to veto spending bills, which damaged the Republican brand and allowed spending to grow unreasonably; failing to make a case for his policies to the public, allowing a biased and increasingly irresponsible or even treasonous media to undermine them; and failing to take military action to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons.
  • President Obama, as his decision on Guantanamo indicates, is frequently going to be caught between reality and his own glib campaign promises to the absurdly self-proclaimed “reality-based community” on the left. If this is any indication, reality is going to lose. As Richard Fernandez observes, this is a recipe for hypocrisy and much worse.
  • Glenn Reynolds on the stimulus package: “This is not so much a stimulus, as a massive transfer of wealth from the politically unconnected to the politically connected.” I think that’s exactly right. I noticed back in the 1980s that the Democratic party devoted itself primarily to exactly that kind of transfer. The rhetoric about asking the “haves” to invest in the “have-nots” for the sake of the future is only rhetoric. Since the politically connected are generally more affluent than the average American, Democratic policies, however they are sold, end up mostly transferring wealth upward, from the average person with no particular political clout to people who have political influence. Those people in turn contribute money to keep the Democrats in power and the upward transfers continuing. That’s what I meant a few weeks ago in saying that the Democratic party is essentially a criminal enterprise. It is essentially a scheme for expropriating the wealth of the average person and giving it to the politically connected and favored. This used to be called ‘theft.’
  • Richard Fernandez writes of deepening troubles in Europe, which may split the European Union. In the comments section, he becomes reflective and issues a warning: “If things go to hell in a handbasket we will probably see a transformation in human behavior the likes of which would surprise those who’ve never seen trouble up close. The very same people who only yesterday were the paragons of political correctness will be the most bloodthirsty of all. Paradoxically, it will be those who have always understood human nature who will be the most tolerant and humane of all. There is no greater fanatic than an ivory tower fanatic; no more enthusiastic murderer than a former pacifist. I would rather take my chances with a grizzled sergeant of marines than one of these disciples of Hope who’s suddenly had a lightbulb come on in his head…. I hope and pray that we find ways to solve our problems rationally and gradually and not stick our heads in the sand until it all pent up and all kinds of red lines are crossed because we attended to things too late; because on the day that man becomes an animal, there is no animal worse than man.”
  • Ezra Levant writes eloquently on the prosecution of Geert Wilders: “It is a national suicide note, a white flag of surrender flown by a once-great empire in the face of illiberal fascists and hoodlums. It is a homicide note, too — announcing the murder of freedom of speech and freedom of religion. And it is a warning note to other Western democracies. The warning is this: liberal democracy, multiculturalism and immigration — pick any two. Holland has picked multiculturalism and immigration, and has heaved liberal democracy overboard…. What a disgusting victory for fascism and censorship and Muslim fundamentalism. Louche, libertine, amoral Holland has lived down to its worst reputation: it stood for nothing, and it obeyed the instructions of those who ordered it to collapse without a fight. That’s what happens with a confident, militant, unrelenting, uncompromising foe meets a tired culture in decline: national suicide.” How can it be forbidden to quote the Koran in Fitna but acceptable to quote the Koran in the mosque, in speeches calling for jihad, and in anti-Semitic riots that do far more to harm Islam’s image than Wilders could?

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polamalu

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Bureaucracy

Combining the insights of two friends at a meeting yesterday:

Bureaucracy is the best argument against both intelligent design and the theory of evolution.

There’s nothing intelligent about it. And it’s not the fittest but the most spineless who survive and reproduce.

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Well, maybe you are….

If space-time is a grainy hologram, then you can think of the universe as a sphere whose outer surface is papered in Planck length-sized squares, each containing one bit of information. The holographic principle says that the amount of information papering the outside must match the number of bits contained inside the volume of the universe.

Since the volume of the spherical universe is much bigger than its outer surface, how could this be true? Hogan realised that in order to have the same number of bits inside the universe as on the boundary, the world inside must be made up of grains bigger than the Planck length. “Or, to put it another way, a holographic universe is blurry,” says Hogan.

This is good news for anyone trying to probe the smallest unit of space-time. “Contrary to all expectations, it brings its microscopic quantum structure within reach of current experiments,” says Hogan. So while the Planck length is too small for experiments to detect, the holographic “projection” of that graininess could be much, much larger, at around 10-16 metres. “If you lived inside a hologram, you could tell by measuring the blurring,” he says.

My friend Wil sees a parallel to Plato’s allegory of the cave. Maybe the world of experience really is a projection on the wall.

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The RPM Challenge

I’m thinking of accepting this challenge (HT: Lefty):

This is The Challenge – Record an album in 28 days, just because you can. That’s 10 songs or 35 minutes of original material recorded during the month of February. Go ahead… put it to tape.

It’s a little like National Novel Writing Month, (NaNoWriMo.org) where writers challenge each other to write 1,700 words a day for 30 days, or the great folks over at February Album Writing Month (fawm.org), who encourage artists to write 14 new songs in February. Maybe they don’t have “Grapes of Wrath” or “Abbey Road” at the end of the month, or maybe they do—but that’s not the point. The point is they get busy and stop waiting around for the muse to appear. Get the gears moving. Do something. You can’t write 1,700 words a day and not get better.

It’s good advice on any number of areas. Anybody intereted in joining me?

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Gerrymanders

Slate lists the twenty most gerrymandered districts in America.  All but one of the top thirteen are Democratic.  I’ve lived in 17 and 19!

I’ve often wondered how people like Barney Frank, Jack Murtha, and Alcee Hastings get elected.  This explains it.

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Huh?

The Austin American-Statesman just sent out an email update on the first day of the (thankfully, biennial) session of the Texas Legislature. The top headlines are baffling to the uninitiated and even to the initiated:

81ST LEGISLATURE

Craddick enters from the lobby

Session’s start means babies, food and drink

Tweet off at high noon

Pomp and circumstance

Straus begins historic day by walking his dog

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For Shame

Condi Rice abstains on a cease-fire resolution, which she later says the U.S. “fully supports,” apparently because Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called President Bush and complained about U.S. plans to vote ‘yes.’  Whose side are we on?  Voting in favor of a “cease-fire” that prevents a nation from defending itself while continuing to be a target of missile attacks is an outrage.  We should have vetoed the resolution.

Unfortunately, we shouldn’t expect any more moral clarity than this over the next four years.

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More Marches

Add Montreal and Florence to that list. And here’s Joe the Plumber’s video report from Israel. He’s doing an outstanding job. How many other reporters are actually on the scene of rocket hits in Sderot, interviewing the mayor of Ashkelon, etc.? Just before 13:00 he turns the tables on a German reporter and asks her a question about Hamas’s destruction of greenhouses that she refuses to answer. “It’s not about me,” she complains. “It’s not about me, either,” Joe responds.

Here’s a list of videos of demonstrations. And here’s astounding video from London of protesters chasing police for block after block, throwing sticks, stones, traffic cones, etc. Why are the police there at all, if that’s all they’ll do? (There is a scuffle in the final minute of the clip, but it’s very brief.) An interesting comment on that incident:

During the video, one cop took a swing at one of the demonstrators. I think two things are likely: first, that lots of other cops wanted to fight back, and second, that their shameful retreat had been ordered by their superiors and that the one cop who disobeyed orders will be disciplined. I wouldn’t be surprised if the English people will soon say, “Enough with this rotten multiculturalism” and reinstate traditional English patriotism. When that time comes, most of the rank-and-file police will be on their side. Then there will be a lot of scores for the London police to settle.

Who, by the way, are the people in the orange vests? March organizers? Notice that they don’t look Middle Eastern, and that the angry crowd seems to listen to them.

UPDATE: Add Calgary, too, where neo-Nazis joined in.

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Ten Sexy Careers…

including mine:

Behold the power of intellect: Someone who wasn’t even on your romantic radar suddenly becomes the target of your affection when you find out he or she is intelligent — or at least could be. Being a professor doesn’t make anyone an automatic genius, but chances are these academics have expertise in at least one field, can speak a second or third language and have ambition (seeing as they spent a hefty portion of their time earning a few degrees). Plus, if anyone can make glasses go from nerdy to sexy, they can.

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