Friday, August 31, 2007

Links! Get Your Red-Hot Links Here!

Once more around the web, by categories. I may add to this post without further update labels, just 'cause I'm ornery.

Literary

• It was Andrew Rilestone's writings on J. R. R. Tolkein that first attracted my attention to his writing. And while those links are, at the moment, not working, Rilestone's most recent blog post on Tolkein is absolutely fascinating, with really interesting discussion of reading Tolkein's posthumously edited writing, and how that's presented, as well as about the various extant drafts of The Hobbit. Take a look.

Ayn Rand, Kafka and Ray Bradbury -- together at last! (That link is to the cover; see here for the table of contents.)

Michael Swanwick surveys contemporary SF (on his new blog).

Comics

Stuart Moore makes a persuasive case that the forthcoming volume of Fantagraphics' ongoing series of the Collected Peanuts cartoons -- the 1965-1966 volume (eighth of a projected twenty-five, being published at the rate of two per year) -- shows Schulz at the height of his powers, and is the one to get if you're only going to get one. I've seen a number of the volumes, and they're beautifully done -- and Schulz, of course, is a master.

Congratulations to Scott McCloud & family on completing the 50-state tour for Making Comics! (I saw him speak at the very beginning of the tour; you can read about it here if you're interested.)

The reason everyone's linking to this Star Trek-related item is that it's so bloody awesome, comics edition: What if Edward Gorey adapted the Star Trek episode "The Trouble with Tribbles"?

Politics

• Given Bush's recent citing (as "a historian") of John Dower work on Japan to urge the ongoing occupation of Iraq (which Dower reacted angrily to), this seems like a good time to revisit Dower's prewar article on why the history of the American occupation of Japan does not offer hope for the Iraqi occupation. (Bush said this in his recent speech more famous for mangling the history of the U.S. in Vietnam.)

Scott Horton has a good round-up of recent signs that "the next war draws nearer", i.e. that the Administration is actually going to commit the war-crime of aggressive war and attack Iran (something that would be deeply, irreparably stupid, even if you don't care about the gross immorality involved). If you think that they can't do this because Bush is a lame duck, or because even they aren't that dumb... you haven't been paying attention.

• For that matter, a non-Vietnam-centric speech of Bush's this week, was, at the very least, "what might actually be the most disturbing speech of his presidency, in which he issued more overt war threats than ever before towards Iran" as Glenn Greenwald described it in a characteristically insightful post. Arthur Silber, more simply, called it the formal declaration of war.

• Even some Serious People are starting to worry about the possibility that we're living out a rerun of the 2002 war run-up. New Yorker regular George Packer -- who, it's worth remembering, was on the side of the war-mongers last time -- says that "If there were a threat level on the possibility of war with Iran, it might have just gone up to orange."

• I recently mentioned the problems of undoing the structural, legal damage that Bush has done to our country and our system of governance, the problem of how not to make their crimes become precedents. (And there was some further dialogue on the issue in comments, so take a look.) One very interesting possibility was raised by Mark Schmitt here. Schmitt sees both the importance of the issue and the impracticality of impeachment, and so has an interesting idea. Not, honestly, much more likely than impeachment. But it's worth considering. This via Kathy G chez Ezra, who has further thoughts of her own on the topic.

Rev. Joe Fuiten: If you're not a Christian, you're an illegal alien. As Sara Robinson says about this in the linked post: "Fuiten's little toss-off statement is giving his fellow-believers a fresh rationalization -- pre-loaded with more connotations that I can reasonably list here -- for a cleansing campaign of eliminationism targeting anyone who doesn't share their beliefs... If they're willing to talk like this on national TV, you know that whatever they're saying in private among themselves is far, far worse.... He said it. Right out loud on CNN, without even trying to make it sound PC. We'd best start taking these people at their word."

The reason everyone's linking to this Star Trek-related item is that it's so bloody awesome, politics edition: Explaining right-wing discourse through the ST:NG episode Darmok.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

New Orleans Yartzeit (Year Two)

yartzeit candles2

Two years ago today Hurricane Katrina made landfall in New Orleans.

Let us remember, again, our fellow citizens who died because of that.

Let us remember our historic city of New Orleans -- still abandoned by its government, the collective agent of its people. Still abandoned, therefore, by us.

And let us remember, once again, that while it was the storm that struck the blow, it was our government that left it half-dead by the side of the road -- saw it and passed by on the other side; and it was our government that had so weakened its defenses that a storm could take it from us.

It was our government -- which means that, in some very real sense, it was us. We did this. And we have still not made it right.

In addition to the dead to remember, there are living victims to help. There is a city to rebuild.

There are debts to pay.

For the dead: rest in peace.

For the living: Remember:

New Orleans Yartzeit2

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

New Springsteen Song -- Free!

Starting today, and for a week, the first single from Bruce Springsteen's upcoming new studio album Magic -- "Radio Nowhere" -- is available for free on iTunes. (Yeah, it comes with iTunes' crappy DRM. But hey, it's free.)

If you want a direct link, there's one here, along with more information about the album.

Based on one listen, it's great. But hey, it's Springsteen, what do you expect?

Incidentally, while I'm sorta vaguely on the topic, I should mention that Springsteen's all-covers album We Shall Overcome: the Seeger Sessions, is one of my favorite of his albums, and one of my favorite albums period from the past few years. If you like either Pete Seeger, or Springsteen, or either folk or rock music at all (but I repeat myself), and you haven't heard it, do check it out.

But in the meantime, go download "Radio Nowhere" while the price is right.

(Via Altercation.)

Monday, August 27, 2007

Exit the Criminal, Stage Right

So Alberto "Fredo" Gonzales -- serial perjurer, underminer of the constitution and abettor of torture -- has resigned.

On what the Democrats must do next: what Glenn Greenwald said. I'm not placing any bets, though, given their incredibly craven record to date.

But it seems to me that the other crucial thing here -- and this connects to the larger issue of starting the process of repairing the extraordinary damage that the Bush administration has done to the fabric of our country over the past six-and-three-quarter years* -- is that just because the criminal is leaving his job doesn't mean that his crimes have been in the slightest way accounted for. He -- like every other member of this most corrupt and malevolent of American administrations, from the highest to the lowest -- still needs to be held accountable. If his record of evasion and perjury is allowed to stand, then testimony before Congress will have been permanently reduced to not even a formality. If his record on executive power, and the criminal and unconstitutional programs (I'm thinking the surveillance programs here), is allowed to stand, the balance of power in our country will be permanently eroded. And if his record on torture is allowed to stand, we will continue to stand immoral and unjustified before the moral law, different only in degree, not kind, from any dictatorships we claim to oppose.

This is a larger point, as I said: but for now, let's make it about Gonzales: if we do not hold him accountable for the crimes he committed, and those he abetted, then our country will be permanently damaged even beyond what he has already done.

Gonzales is gone: but he must not be forgotten. Not yet. We still have work to do.

______________________________
* Yes, I'm counting from November, 2000. I think we need to.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Link Round-Up

Recent things read, watched or heard, and recommended:

Politics

Digby, guest-blogging chez Rick Perlstein, reminds us of the racism that saturated the multiple responses to Katrina. (Update: Digby has another Katrina post chez Perlstein here.)

• There's been a lot of back-and-forth about the foreign policy community on the blogs recently. Two of the best pieces from it are Glenn Greenwald on the now-notorious Pollack-O'Hanlan op-ed, and on Gideon Rose's recent attack on the blogosphere (there's a follow-up to that post here). On a (somewhat) related topic, Hilzoy on pro-Iraq-war mea culpas is worth reading.

• Another good recent Greenwald post is this one on why the democratic congress is so unpopular. (Follow-up here.)

Bad 70s Outfits

• I remember singing this song in my childhood... but I'd never seen the original 70's video before. Man, those 70's style outfits and haircuts (watch through where the men start coming on) could strike you blind.

Comics & Cartoonists

Fun site of drawings of literary characters and authors by comics artists, collected over the years by a fan (they're drawn for him specially, I think). There's some great stuff here. A few that caught my eye: Howard Cruse draws Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde; Neil Gaiman draws Chesterton's Sunday (from The Man Who Was Thursday); Y the Last Man artist Pia Guerra paints SF writer William Gibson; Mark Badger paints Samuel R. Delany; and Walt Simonson draws J. R. R. Tolkein and Michael Moorecock (a famous Tolkein critic) together. But really, the whole site's good, with indexes by artist & subject: just explore.

Everything I know about diversity I learned from superhero comics. Ouch. (Via).

And Miscellaneous

• In comments at Charlie's Diary, Cory Doctorow gives (in the name of Patrick Nielsen Hayden) a very concise and interesting summary of precisely what publishers do.

• Interesting blog post on the notion that religion is not disprovable.

• I read the first volume of historian Saul Friedl√§nder's two-volume history, Nazi Germany and the Jews (which covered 1933 - 1939) for a class some years ago; it's an amazing book. At the time the second volume hadn't yet been published, but apparently it's now out. In connection with this, there's an interview with Friedl√§nder in the most recent issue of Dissent that is well worth reading. The most interesting bit was his suggestion that the proximate cause of the shift in Nazi Germany's Jewish policy (in late 1941) from one of expulsion to one of extermination was Hitler's frustrations over his stalled invasion of the USSR. I don't know enough to evaluate the claim, but it's interesting.

Monday, August 20, 2007

How Much to Trust Wikipedia

I was thinking the other day about the reliability of Wikipedia, and for what purposes one should and should not trust it, and I came up with the following metaphor, which I thought I'd share with my Noble Readers.

Knowing something from Wikipedia is just as reliable as knowing something because somebody told you.

That's vague, of course, but that's the point. Somebody told you -- at a party or sitting next to you on a bus or in class (but was it the teacher or some auditing crank?) -- and that's it. Should you believe it?

I think that a lot of people's reaction to Wikipedia is to say we shouldn't trust it because, well, anybody could have written it (told it to you). And I have a lot of sympathy with this view, and the concerns that give rise to it.

But it's worth pointing out that in a great many instances in our lives, we do believe things that people "just tell us". We have to. Verification is a complex procedure, one that is time-consuming and resource-intensive.

If, in the course of recommending that you see the Lord of Rings movie, someone mentions that it won the Oscar for best picture, you're unlikely to interrupt them and inquire into their epistemological basis. You'll probably just nod.*

If someone's bitching that the city council has just cut the school budget again, you might disagree with them about whether or not it's a good idea, but you probably won't think to wonder if they're right on the facts. (Even though, every so often, complainers are wrong on their facts.)

And if we stop and ask someone directions, we rarely follow the question up by asking, "and how do you know?"

Of course we don't always. Sometimes something sounds fishy to us -- the CIA had a secret program to....! -- and, based on nothing else, we disbelieve it -- or suspend judgment, perhaps. This is an important filtering mechanism -- but one which is itself deeply flawed.

When should we trust Wikipedia? When we'd be comfortable with saying to the person next to us, "Hey, when was the battle of New Orleans anyway?" and believing their answer.

If you're just curious, then yeah, ask: maybe they'll know. Maybe they'll tell you. Maybe they'll be right.

If someone uses a word that you don't know, and you ask what it means, you'll probably get an answer. Usually it'll be right; sometimes their definition will be off or odd or tendentious. Sometimes it will be flat wrong. But you ask anyway, and keep going, because it's a decent procedure, meaning it works often enough to justify it.

If you are, say, a student turning in a school paper, though, you might want to actually look it up somewhere more reliable.

If you're a scholar, of course, you'd be wise to second-guess even the more reliable sources, and wonder what sort of errors creep into them, and why, and what is the basis of the supposedly reliable source anyway.

So should we trust Wikipedia? Sometimes. For some purposes. To some degree. It's neither the end of human understanding nor the sum of all human knowledge. It's just... somebody telling you something. Sometimes they're right, sometimes they're half right, sometimes they're wrong. That's all there is to it.

Trust me on this.

__________________________________
* Interestingly, we're probably more apt to question an assertion that is someone's central point than we are one made in passing. On the other hand, we're probably more apt to remember it too, so maybe that's fitting. But our instincts on these sorts of things are often based on quite non-rational factors; it's worth remembering.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Thomas Friedman, Advocate of Terrorism

That's what Digby is saying here, in response to various posts from Atrios. She doesn't quite come out and say it, limiting herself to the implications of what she spells out, plus the comment that his comments from before the Iraq war "really calls Friedman's morals into question."

But that's the sum of it. As she shows with the quotes in her post (go read Digby for chapter and verse), Friedman was advocating that the U.S. invade an Arab country just to show that we were tough. It didn't matter which one -- could've been Saudi Arabia or Pakistan, he says, it's just that Iraq was convenient. An easy target.

Apart from noting that he was hopelessly stupid on that latter point, it's worth emphasizing that this is the morality of a gangster translated to an international scale.* The belief is that they need to respect us -- and for "respect" read "fear" -- and if we invade and occupy an Arab country, they'll fear us. Leave us alone.

Perhaps it's worth spelling out clearly why this is advocating terrorism -- or, in other words, mass murder. If you invade a country -- start a war -- not because it's self defense (against a specific and imminent threat), then what you are doing is ensuring that you will kill a lot of people to make your point -- to be feared.

Killing -- because that's what war is, remember, mass violence -- people who do not threaten you, not even to get at people who are threatening you (which under some circumstances might be considered legitimate "collateral damage"), but simply to gain a rep. To make a point.

When gangsters do this, we call it murder. When politically motivated criminal syndicates do it, we call it terrorism. When nations do this, we call it a war crime -- aggressive war, the chief crime charged against the Nazis at Nuremberg. When pundits call for it, they keep their weekly columns at the NYT and get invited on talk shows to pontificate.

Worth remembering next time someone goes on about the evils of terrorist groups who target civilians. They are indeed evil. And the same impulses reside in our foreign policy elite -- such as the most prominent foreign policy columnist in the nation.

I suppose, if you want to be generous, you can say that Friedman didn't really mean it. He likes folksy anecdotes, and obviously he was pleased as punch at that anecdote about the turkey. So maybe he didn't really think that we should go and kill a bunch of innocent people in order to make a point -- in order to be feared. Maybe he thought that there were better reasons for invading Iraq.

But that's not what he said -- not there. And advocating terrorism through carelessness and the love of the sound of your own voice is, well, pretty despicable.

Let's remember this as they try to talk us into war against Iran, okay?

_______________________
* Although I suppose (I don't know for sure, but I'd guess) that gangsters are a bit pickier about killing people who actually hurt them when retaliating; Friedman is advocating going after just any old Arab country at all, it seems.

Friday, August 17, 2007

New to the Blogroll

I just pulled a dozen links from my "add to the blogroll file" and, well, added them to my blogroll. As usual, it's a rather eccentric collection of blogs which discuss a diverse set of issues; I doubt anyone besides me would find all of them interesting. For each blog I've linked below to a sample post, one of those that makes me find that blog interesting.

Standard Disclaimer: blogs on my blogroll are (some of the) ones that I find interesting. I may not agree with everything (or anything) on them; and your mileage may vary.

Abecedarian Web Log
- the blog of Craig Conley, whose atlas of blank maps I was recently plugging. He posts excerpts of his published work and other interesting things here. See, for example, his collection of oldest tricks in the book.

ADD Blog -- Alan David Doane was one of the first comics bloggers I ever read. He was on extended hiatus for a while, but he's back, and so he's in the blogroll. Lately he's added a bunch of peak oil blogging to his comics mix. Sample posts: ADD's pair of posts on good comics stores: one, two.

Charlie's Diary - blog of SF writer Charlie Stross. Check out his essay on why he doesn't support the notion of space colonization.

Crooks and Liars - One of the major left blogs, which I'd somehow managed not to include before. C&L specializes in video clips, such as this clip from the best news show on television.

Dykes to Watch Out For -- the blog of cartoonist Alison Bechdel (a favorite of mine), which includes recent episodes of her ongoing comics strip of the same name.

Emes Ve-Emunah - Rabbi Harry Maryles' blog. Largely about Jewish cultural issues. Rabbi Maryles's perspective is solidly and non-defensively modern Orthodox, but he does critique enemies to his right as well as his left. I found it when I was looking for comments about Noah Feldman's recent NYT Magazine article; his post on this topic is here.

Eye on Comics - Don MacPherson's comics reviews. See, for example, his review of Fun Home, the recent memoir by Alison Bechdel (q.v.).

Greta Christina's Blog - Greta blogs about atheism and sex (she writes erotica among other things) as well as sundry other things; some of her posts will be NSFW. I liked her post about the atheist's version of Pascal's wager.

The Magnes Zionist - the pseudononymous blog of a left-wing Orthodox Israeli academic, "Jerry Haber", on Israeli politics. An example of the sort of post he does that I find interesting: No, Rivkele, The Jews Weren't Driven into Exile by the Romans.

Rootless Cosmopolitan -- Tony Karon's blog, largely politics, largely international, fairly left. An example of the sort of post he does that I find interesting: How the 1967 War Doomed Israel.

Whatever - How could I have forgotten to add this blog to my blog roll after I gave his post "Being Poor" the fifth official Attempts Best of the Blogosphere™ award? Well, somehow I managed. Better late than never, I guess. Whatever is the blog of SF writer John Scalzi, and is so-titled for its miscellaneous nature.

The Whole Five Feet -- Christopher Beha is reading the Harvard Classics at the rate of one a week, and is blogging it (linking to the full text online each time.) Here's what he wrote about part one of Don Quixote.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Another Step Towards Aggressive War Against Iran

From tomorrow's NY Times:
The Bush administration is preparing to declare that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps is a foreign terrorist organization, senior administration officials said Tuesday. If imposed, the declaration would signal a more confrontational turn in the administration’s approach to Iran and would be the first time that the United States has added the armed forces of any sovereign government to its list of terrorist organizations.
I suppose the optimistic reading is that this leak is a move by the forces in the administration who don't want to wage idiotic, aggressive, immoral war against Iran.

But I'm not feeling very optimistic these days. I'm feeling helpless and hopeless.

If I could think of anything to do, I'd do it. If you, Noble Reader, can think of anything, by whatever gods you hold holy do it now. And soon. For I fear it will be too late before long.

Update: Attytood has some speculations about the specific reasons for this this move. They're not reassuring.

Update 2: In case you think I'm being too optimistic and easygoing about this, read Arthur Silber (who has been nobly screaming warnings about the forthcoming aggressive war against Iran for some time now). I wish I felt confident that he was being too pessimistic.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

I Find It Extraordinarily Depressing...

...that, despite the catastrophic and undeniable failure of conservatism over the past six and a half years (if not the past twelve and a half or, hell, twenty-six and a half years), that the best that the pathetic excuse for an opposition party can offer is a counterfeit withdrawal that will in fact extend the Iraqi occupation for years. Why can't these fools see that it is above all Iraq that has destroyed the credibility of the conservative movement -- and that now is the time to offer a full-throated defense of liberalism, not pathetic, cringing excuses for caving in to a failed presidency? And that to extend the occupation -- rather than bringing troops home as fast as is consistent with basic security -- is the way to make this the Democrats war as much as the Republican's?

Between this (which is going to be a bigger & bigger problem as we get closer to it being a real and not hypothetical issue) and the terrible cave-in on civil liberties this week it's hard to know what to do. I am a die-hard opponent of Naderism, on the grounds that third parties are simply structurally unsuited to American politics... but if at this moment none of the front-runners will actually stand up for ending the war and restoring the constitution, what hope is there for any change? What do we do? What can we possibly do that might work?

And a little voice in my head whispers: you're making the mistake that so many have made on Iraq since the war began: assuming that the existence of a problem implies the existence of a practical solution, to believe there is always something we can do, when sometimes there simply isn't....

I know, I know: to give up is a sure way to defeat; the one plan we know is useless is despair. But it's hard to know what to do. I am quite disappointed in Obama, from whom I expected better. I'll probably still vote for him, as the best realistic alternative to Clinton (who is quite clearly farther to the right and worse on almost every issue), but I must admit I am thinking of voting Kucinich just to vote for a genuinely anti-war candidate. I am torn between two true things: lesser-of-two-evilism promotes a slow slide to, well, evil; and protest votes are useless.

I am happy -- well, willing -- to fight the good fight in the face of terrible odds. But I wish I saw some tactic that at least had a prayer of working.

I wish that the opposition leaders were not so mired in the very failed thinking we want them to oppose.

As a man on the street put it in an interview (about what Thoreau at Unqualified Offerings aptly called "the East Germany restoration act") --

(from the newspaper that published the single article that summed up this decade before it happened.)

So what do we do now?

I don't know. I just don't have a !@#$%ing clue.

Update: Typos fixed.

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Carte Blanche Atlas of Uncharted Territories and Other Useful Reference Works

I just discovered Craig Conley's The Carte Blanche Atlas of Uncharted Territories. The CBA is a total delight: it is an Atlas collecting 75 noteworthy blank maps.

Isn't a blank map just a blank page? Not at all, writes Conley:
There are crucial differences between a blank map and a blank page. Unlike a blank page, a blank map:
  • is designed by a cartographer
  • is a frame
  • represents a space or “territory”
  • has orientation
  • is readable
  • has accuracy
  • suggests scale (though may sacrifice exactitude in favor of visual utility)
  • is informative (unavailability of data does not equal nonexistence of data)
  • is something unexpected
In practical terms, what Conley has done is to collect 75 blank maps from literature (at times pulling just a sentence out of a long work), including the relevant text and images, along with a brief description of his own.

Thus Conley includes the "Sleeping Beauties" of Forgetfulness from Nabokov's memoir Speak, Memory (and if you have forgotten that bit of the book (as I certainlly had), click the link!), and the map of Uberwald from Terry Pratchett's novel The Fifth Elephant (which is also a map of the future). For personal reasons, one of my favorites is the Bellman's map from Lewis Carroll's poem "The Hunting of the Snark" (that's the text; this is a link to the image, on the next page).

And on and on -- who knew that the blank map was such a venerable notion in world literature! How wonderful of Conley to dig all these up!

As of this writing, 52 pages of Conley's book are available online; more are promised soon. Check it out -- it's quite wonderful.

Nor, it turns out, is this Conley's only such work. There's an entire page called Strange & Unusual References which has descriptions of (and in some cases links to onine copies of) Conley's various works. Thus Conley's latest work is a dictionary of one-letter words -- which, alas, is not online. This is not, apparently, just a 26-line joke, however: Conley has dug up dozens of meanings that various letters can have each standing on their own -- 50 for "a", 34 for "g", and so on.

But others of his works are online: his dictionary of all-consonant words; his dictionary of all-vowel words and his Field Guide to Identifying Unicorns by Sound. Apart from his Atlas, I've just begun to explore Conley's work; but it all seems to be marked by humor, a broad iterary erudiction and a marvelous sense of the absurd.

So check out his work -- especially his marvelous atlas, good for navigation anywhere you want to go.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

What Digby Said

Stealing a riff from Duncan, what Digby said. And, again, what Digby said.

I swear, Digby hits more home runs than Barry Bonds. Unless you (like the NY Times and Stanley Fish) think that political commentary should be complaints about fancy coffee shops, there isn't a commentator in this country better than Digby. Read her -- and weep.

Quote of the Day

Pitcher Mike Bacsik on giving up Barry Bonds's record-setting 756th home run:
I dreamed of this as a kid. Unfortunately, when I dreamed about it, I thought I'd be the one hitting the home run, not giving it up.
(Quote from here.)

Monday, August 06, 2007

A Memorial For Those Killed at Virginia Tech

SF writer Michael Bishop was one of those who lost family in the Virginia Tech massacre just under four months ago: his son, Jamie Bishop, was among the 32 innocents (to use Bishop's word) murdered there on that day. Yesterday, Michael Bishop proposed a fitting memorial to the dead. Along with other relatives of those killed, he
...urge[s] the administration to convert a part of Norris Hall into a center for the study of international peace and crime prevention -- as one component in a campaign to promote peace and campus safety everywhere.

Many of those slain, wounded or emotionally scarred by the April 16 shootings were international students or faculty members. There could be no more fitting memorial to the dead, or tribute to the survivors, than to redeem the horror that occurred in Norris Hall by establishing such a center within its walls.
Read the rest. (Via)

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Cowards and Traitors

I don't have much to add to what everyone else has said about this, but I need to add my amen: the 16 Democrats who voted to give Bush yet more unchecked surveillance power are cowards (if you can't stand up to the Bush bunch now, when they're this low, when will you?) and traitors (willing to kick the already bullet-ridden corpse of our constitution to give themselves a bit of political cover). Calling these poltroons an opposition party is like calling coke an alternative to pepsi.

So what do we do? Not go the Nader route: we've seen how that ended. We have to challenge people within the party -- run believers in the constitution and proud liberalism against these villains in the primaries. Yeah, I would say every one of these Vichy Democrats--
Evan Bayh (Indiana); Tom Carper (Delaware); Bob Casey (Pennsylvania); Kent Conrad (North Dakota); Dianne Feinstein (California); Daniel Inouye (Hawai‘i); Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota); Mary Landrieu (Louisiana); Blanche Lincoln (Arkansas); Claire McCaskill (Missouri); Barbara Mikulski (Maryland); Bill Nelson (Florida); Ben Nelson (Nebraska); Mark Pryor (Arkansas); Ken Salazar (Colorado); Jim Webb (Virginia). (list from here)
--should be challenged in the next primary race. Otherwise we're going to "lesser of two evils" ourselves right into oblivion.

It's too bad. I really liked Jim Webb.

Until yesterday.

(Update: links added.)

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Recommended Reading, Particularly on Religion

Another round-up of recent (or not) things to read. This time we have (for no particular reason) a lot of religion-related links. So it goes.

1. Religion

• "I do not want the messiah": this is a post by an orthodox Jewish blogger, talking about why she does not want the messiah to come. You sort of have to know the context, but if you do, it's bloody fascinating.

William Lobdell's story in the LA times on how being a religion reporter caused him to loose his faith has been getting a lot of comment. So far I think the most interesting post about it has been this one by Hugo Schwyzer.

• Also getting a lot of comment has been Noah Feldman's recent NYT Magazine article "Orthodox Paradox". (If you need a disclosure of the fact that Feldman and I were friendly in college -- though I haven't seen him since -- then this is it.) I won't even try to round up the extensive commentary on it, although I think that this article is representative of the Orthodox Jewish response. (Does anyone know of a comprehensive collection of links to responses? I haven't found one.) Mostly I wanted to point to what was the most interesting response piece for me, namely this one at Gene Expression.

This review essay in the Nation by Ronald Aronson on the so-called "New Atheists" (Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens) is one of the more interesting pieces on the (largely publishing) phenomenon that I've read.

• On a similar topic, this post at The Valve about Terry Eagleton's review of Dawkins is quite good; I particularly like Adam Roberts' description of the "new version of Pascal's Wager". (Dennett, by the way, has a Roberts-like, not Dawkins-like, take on this issue; that's why I think it's inaccurate to lump him in with Harris, Dawkins and Hitchens.)

2. Politics

The first step in how the Republicans plan to steal the 2008 election -- this particular step isn't even illegal, it's just stacking the deck, setting up another situation where the popular vote winner looses in the electoral college. If this doesn't scare you, than you haven't been paying attention.

Digby's always extremely good, of course. This post is just particularly good, that's all.


3. Art

A fascinating essay on SF writer Samuel R. Delany's three pornographic novels, including an aesthetic defense of the genre.

The Watchmen movie cast has been made, which presumably means that the movie is that much closer to being made. This is really, really bad news to those of us who love the comic -- actually, it's really bad news to those who love good art of any kind. It can't possibly be any good, and will simply tarnish a great book with whatever dirt rubs off due to its memetic proximity. Here's hoping that there's still time for this project to fall through.