Tuesday, July 26, 2005

I'm sorry, but

...when I finished reading this story my first thought was, "Well, there's a candidate for next year's Darwin Awards."
"Just before it happened he was looking in the air towards the roof. He put the microphone down and crouched down before leaping off the stage which was about a metre high and trying to grab the lighting rig.

"I don't know whether he caught it or not but his momentum carried him forward and basically he went upside down and hit the floor head first. The whole thing lasted about five seconds, it was horrendous.''

Our fearless leaders

You look at this story and you just have to shake your head. I mean, these civic events don't just pop into being in an instant. There are committee meetings and organization and signage and advertising and public hearings...didn't anybody think twice about this before putting out a news release for it?
Miami city leaders are apologizing for a news release that invited summer campers to a “Ghetto Style Talent Show” and “Watermelon Eating Contest.”

The release said that children participating in the summer camp who “know the meaning of ghetto style” would have a chance to “prove just how ghetto they are.”

Monday, July 18, 2005

Biblical retribution?

I don't wish ill of the French. I took French for eight years in primary and secondary school. French historical figures (Lafayette and Napoleon, to name two), French mathematicians (Laplace, Pascal, Poisson, Fermat, Descartes, Poincare, and Hadamard), French wine, French pastries, the Tour de France (since Lance Armstrong began to dominate it!)...mais, oui! But French philosophers (Rousseau, Derrida, and Sartre), French politics, the Maginot Line, French politics, French whining...did I mention French politics?

But I don't wish ill of the French. It's just that a story like this made me think of the increasing ratio of Muslims living in France and the fact that France was a vocal opponent of the war in Iraq while at the same time being heavily involved with Saddam Hussein as a supplier.

So, comes this story and I just naturally thought of the Egyptians and the Jews with a decidely modern twist: "the only insecticides which might make a difference are banned." Can't have locusts dying from deformed mandibles!

France faces drought, locusts

Jul. 17, 2005 at 9:41 pm

On top of a severe drought, France is fighting a plague of hundreds of thousands of locusts.

The locusts are devouring everything from crops to window-box flowers, reported the Observer.

"At the beginning they seem small, insignificant insects but they grow very quickly," said Aveyron region farmer Gerard Laussel. "They eat everything that is green, leaving only stalks, and when they have finished they leave some kind of scent so the cattle do not want to graze on what is left."

The French environment ministry said drought could be felt across most of France, but it mostly impacted from the Atlantic Ocean to Paris.

"There is nothing we can do for the 700 or 800 farmers affected," said Patrice Lemoux, an agriculture official. "The locust has no known predator and the only insecticides which might make a difference are banned."

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Can we now shut up about 'tax cuts for the rich?'

The New York Times reports:
For the first time since President Bush took office, an unexpected leap in tax revenue is about to shrink the federal budget deficit this year, by nearly $100 billion.

Mr. Bush plans to hail the improvement at a cabinet meeting and to cite it as validation of his argument that tax cuts would stimulate the economy and ultimately help pay for themselves.

Well, hallelujah! Now the question is, will this shut the mouths of the anti-tax cut weenies, or will they complain that the deficit reduction isn't big enough? Hey! Maybe this could lead to more tax cuts to get bigger deficit reduction!

Monday, July 11, 2005

Democrats looking for their Core Values

The Orlando Sentinel has a story today about the "town meeting" held by Democrat Florida Senator, Bill Nelson. He brought in Senator Barak Obama (D-IL) to lend "star power" to Nelson's campaign. Here's the complete article. The choicest part of the story involves the answer to a tough question from the town meeting audience (emphasis mine):
"I see a Democratic Party afraid to say they're Democrats, who voted for the war in Iraq and voted for tax cuts for the wealthy," said Glenn Anderson of Orlando. "Why should I remain a Democrat?"

It was a tough question. But Nelson and Obama tried to answer it. "The Democrats at times have lost their way," conceded Obama. "We are trying to decide what our core values are."

The criterion for judging the party isn't whether it's to the left or right, "but are we true to our core values," he said. Nobody defined core values.

This is one of those stories where you can almost feel the writer pushing you to a conclusion. I mean, really! Obama says the Dems are "trying to decide" what their core values are, but they're "true" to them, whatever they are -- nobody thought it necessary to cough up a sample.

"Core values:" that's the hottest buzz phrase for the Dems now; maybe that's what Professor George Lakoff came up with as a winner. Doesn't matter if they can actually be articulated or enumerated; as long as the Democrats say the words, everything will be all right.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Just for fun I

From the old book, Felton and Fowler's Best, Worst, and Most Unusual, comes this entry for Worst Commercial:
Oxydol detergent ran an ad campaign in 1965 that included a TV commercial showing black women discussing their wash. This early attempt at representing the black buying public in advertising was marred by an announcer saying, "When it's whiteness you're after..." and at the end, "Colored things come out nice, too!"

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Don't forget the Sokal hoax

Nine years ago, New York University physics Professor Alan Sokal submitted a paper to the prestigious cultural studies journal, Social Text, entitled Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity. It was a complete and utter hoax. You can read the paper here. It is one of the best comeuppances delivered to the pretentious academic left ever written. We need to remember that lots of people (especially professors of non-materialist sciences) take themselves way too seriously, and that the Emperor's new clothes really aren't there. Here's a sample of Sokal's paper, which purported to show that quantum gravity is affected by politics:
In quantum gravity, as we shall see, the space-time manifold ceases to exist as an objective physical reality; geometry becomes relational and contextual; and the foundational conceptual categories of prior science -- among them, existence itself -- become problematized and relativized. This conceptual revolution, I will argue, has profound implications for the content of a future post-modern and liberatory science.

Some choice commentaries about the hoax:


...and from Sokal himself:
The displacement of the idea that facts and evidence matter by the idea that everything boils down to subjective interests and perspectives is -- second only to American political campaigns -- the most prominent and pernicious manifestation of anti-intellectualism in our time.

( http://www.physics.nyu.edu/faculty/sokal/noretta.html )

An interesting definition

Jerry Pournelle came up with a description of democracy in action that is worth pondering
(paraphrasing) Most citizens are too stupid to manage their own affairs, so we only consult them about running other people's business, but never allow them to run their own.

The Dysfunctional Pooh

I found this once again today, an article from the Canadian Medical Association Journal: Pathology in the Hundred Acre Wood: a neurodevelopmental perspective on A. A. Milne. Pooh has ADHD with a capacity for developing Tourette's syndrome. Piglet has Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Eeyore has Dysthymic Disorder. Rabbit "has missed his calling, as he clearly belongs in senior-level hospital administration." Give it a read.

Recent commentary: Am I my brother's keeper?

Who is responsible for helping the Hmong still in Thailand?

(published 11-Jul-2005, Appleton Post-Crescent)

They are themselves. Oh, there's no doubt that they're in a pickle. Laos doesn't want them. Thailand considers them illegals. But there IS a Hmong insurgency. Good for them! Who's responsible for helping ANY of the benighted people on this mixed up planet? The one million people a year that die from malaria because we're too squeamish about the possible harm to birds from DDT. The victims in the "conflict diamond" trade in the Sudan. Remember when the Hutus went mad and started chopping up a million of their Tutsi neighbors? Americans that contribute to bringing the Hmong to Minnesota or Wisconsin may not be aware of the meaning of "Chinese obligation." Perhaps the Hmong that are already here can teach their Laotian brothers what they've learned about American-style self-reliance and can-do spirit. Just remember what Cain asked God and be prepared to answer the question for yourself.