Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Wading into mega-nerdosity

So I saw Revenge of the Sith this weekend and I enjoyed it quite a bit. But like the other two it got me thinking about what I would have done differently. Of course, I can do this with the benefit of someone who did not have the weight of the most popular movie series of all time starting over his shoulder at every turn. And I have the benefit of hindsight. And I have the benefit of not actually having to write anything. So, with all those disclaimers out of the way, let me begin.

1. Yoda: Yoda was perhaps the biggest shock to my system in the whole thing. And he's indicative of a larger problem I had with the series. Namely, that the Jedi were an overtly political body. The way Ben Kenobi described it, and the way everyone in Eps IV-VI reacted to it, the Jedi were practically a myth. Han Solo barely even believed they existed. "I've flown from one side of this galaxy to the other and I haven't seen anything that would make me believe there's some all-powerful Force controlling everything." Really? But the Jedi had a seat in congress up till when you were about five years old.

I guess I alwyas thought of them more like Shaolin Monks, only coming down from their mountain hideaway to interfere when things got really dicey. If they had any political motivations, it would be done in the background like the Bene Gesserits. You don't establish a mythology about yourself if you've got an office on the equivalent of K street in D.C.

But even setting all of that aside, Yoda was even further over the line. From what we see of him in Empire and Jedi, Yoda would never have waded into the sewer of politics. He was a mystic. A priest in ultimate control of the force. He's the guy who ran the dojo where all the Jedis trained. It's as if Pai Mei had decided he wanted to run for office. That just wouldn't happen. I refuse to believe that his whimsical attitude upon first meeting Luke was all a smokescreen. He was serious when he needed to be serious, but when he didn't need to be, he was quite the little munchkin. Politics. Pffft.

2. The timeline: This is something I started thinking about before the prequels came out. But it really solidified for me after they came out. Movies in general tend to rely on a compressed version of time for drama and pacing. But this runs right in the face of the nature of an epic where size, scope, and time are all on -- for lack of a better word -- an epic scale.

The Holy Trilogy managed to sidestep this issue by relegating all of these epic events to merely passing reference and occurring sometime in "the past" (the Clone Wars, The Old Republic, The Jedi Purge). If you thought deeply about them, you'd realize that they all had to happen pretty quickly. No more than the span of twenty or so years (Luke and Leia's age). But the way they were referenced, it felt like they took place a long, long time ago. As long as you didn't look at it head on, the illusion held.

Unfortunately, the prequels required looking at things head on and then some. And in so doing, the illusion collapsed and we realize that the Galactic Empire, the most destructive force the galaxy had ever known, in fact, lasted less than a third as long as the Soviet Union. Suddenly it doesn't feel so epic.

I don't really know what Lucas could have done on this one. It seems that the conflict between showing the rise and fall of just one man and keeping the setting epic is too difficult to overcome. The only thing I could say that Lucas might have done differently is to remember the first rule of epics. They always start in medias res. Do what Star Wars did, relegate everything to the past. Don't show the beginning of the Empire. As far as any of our characters have knows, it's always existed. Keep the Old Republic a myth. It fell a thousand years ago. And so on. I don't know if this would actually work, or if it's even close to the story Lucas wanted to tell, but it's the only solution I have to that rather sticky problem.

3. Anakin's Fall: Something I didn't think of until after seeing Episode III. The first two movies made a point of showing Anakin being both a badass (well, at least in ability to wield a lightsaber and fly a starship) and also a very good candidate for "most likely to succumb to the Dark Side". But wouldn't it have been a much further and more tragic fall if he'd been nearly pristine. What if he really was the greatest Jedi ever? And yet something so human was what tripped him up. In Episode III, his love for Padme is what ultimately seals the deal, but he was already very far down the dark path. But Lucas didn't need any of those other minor moments of loss of control. They only made his antihero seem petulant and whiny. That was the problem. He never seemed like "the Chosen One" which is why his fall wasn't as tragic as it should have been.

That's all I have for now. Maybe more later.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Compromise

I'm still waiting for all of the details of this compromise to shake out. But for now, I agree with Digby on this one.

I think the most important thing the Democrats could have done in this case was to stand firm. If the Republicans wanted to lay nuclear waste to the Senate, so be it. They have the power and, apparently, the will to do it. The Democrats were going to lose something in this battle one way or another. Although I hate the word, I think this was a battle to go down as martyrs. Stand firm. Scream as loud as you can while the Republicans tear apart the rules of the Senate. Hopefully, people will remember the screams and remember who turned the Senate into a wasteland.

Well, even as I wrote that I realize that relies on just about as much wishful thinking as the compromise does. Maybe Reid saw an opportunity to draw a little blood in exchange for... I'm not quite sure yet. Yeah. I'm back to my original thought. Better to give the Republicans a pyrrhic victory than to put any stamp of legitimacy or bipartisanship on this one.

I hope I'm missing something.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Supporting the troops

Okay, so I'm gonna inch ever closer to the latest third rail in the political world. Supporting the troops. Via Digby This report in the New York Times is enough to turn your stomach. A choice excerpt:
Even as the young Afghan man was dying before them, his American jailers continued to torment him.

The prisoner, a slight, 22-year-old taxi driver known only as Dilawar, was hauled from his cell at the detention center in Bagram, Afghanistan, at around 2 a.m. to answer questions about a rocket attack on an American base. When he arrived in the interrogation room, an interpreter who was present said, his legs were bouncing uncontrollably in the plastic chair and his hands were numb. He had been chained by the wrists to the top of his cell for much of the previous four days.

Mr. Dilawar asked for a drink of water, and one of the two interrogators, Specialist Joshua R. Claus, 21, picked up a large plastic bottle. But first he punched a hole in the bottom, the interpreter said, so as the prisoner fumbled weakly with the cap, the water poured out over his orange prison scrubs. The soldier then grabbed the bottle back and began squirting the water forcefully into Mr. Dilawar's face.

"Come on, drink!" the interpreter said Specialist Claus had shouted, as the prisoner gagged on the spray. "Drink!"

At the interrogators' behest, a guard tried to force the young man to his knees. But his legs, which had been pummeled by guards for several days, could no longer bend. An interrogator told Mr. Dilawar that he could see a doctor after they finished with him. When he was finally sent back to his cell, though, the guards were instructed only to chain the prisoner back to the ceiling.

"Leave him up," one of the guards quoted Specialist Claus as saying.

Several hours passed before an emergency room doctor finally saw Mr. Dilawar. By then he was dead, his body beginning to stiffen. It would be many months before Army investigators learned a final horrific detail: Most of the interrogators had believed Mr. Dilawar was an innocent man who simply drove his taxi past the American base at the wrong time.


Jesus Christ.

Now here's the thing. Damn, do I admire the people who would volunteer to put their lives on the line to defend us. I support the troops. I really do. But I don't support them unconditionally. And I condemn this.

So, the question is at what point does this sort of atrocity become prevalent enough that you can no longer support the troops as a whole. When have the "bad apples" grown so prevalent as to destroy the integrity of the entire institution. There is a line out there somewhere even if it's invisible to us right now. But will we even know it when we cross it?

And what really peeves me is that most of these bad apples probably wouldn't be bad apples were it not for the fact that they're in an impossible situation. And war "does stuff" to you. That for me is probably the biggest reason to always view war as a last resort and never for such touchy-feely things as spreading democracy. Because war breeds monsters. And those monsters will be doing your work.

I swear it's as if the guys in the White House running this whole shit storm have never seen a war movie or read a war book not written by Tom Clancy. It's the common theme. Apocalypse Now? Full Metal Jacket? War makes assholes out of everyone. How long before we're all assholes.

Jeebus.

You don't even have to believe the Brits. Lessons learned from A Few Good Men.

Digby, again in rare form talks about the Downing Street Memo, which is receiving all the traction you'd expect hard documentation of our worst fears to get. None. But I digress.

The Downing St. Memo contains another smoking gun that I haven't heard anyone mention. It says:

The Foreign Secretary said he would discuss [the timing of the war] with Colin Powell this week. It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbors, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran.


I must say that this answers definitively one of the biggest questions I had in the run-up to the war. I had always wondered how, if anyone believed even for a second that Saddam had serious biological or chemical weapons, that we would ever have placed 100,000 American soldiers like sitting ducks in Kuwait over the course of several months before the war. It was an incomprehensible risk, I thought, considering that everyone knew that the war was unnecessary in terms of the terrorist threat. Even Bush couldn't be that craven and stupid. And he wasn't. He expected a razzle dazzle military "cakewalk," not a catastrophic loss of life, and that's what he got. It seemed clear to me then that we knew with certainty from the start that there wasn't a serious WMD threat in Iraq.


Now, I really like that 'cause it reminds me of A Few Good Men. Even if you think the Downing Memo is full of shit -- which I don't, but even if you do -- how do you square this military maneuver? It's along the lines of

KAFFEE
Your honor, these are the telephone
records from GITMO for August 6th. And
these are 14 letters that Santiago wrote
in nine months requesting, in fact
begging, for a transfer.
(to JESSEP)
Upon hearing the news that he was finally
getting his transfer, Santiago was so
excited, that do you know how many people
he called? Zero. Nobody. Not one call
to his parents saying he was coming home.
Not one call to a friend saying can you
pick me up at the airport. He was asleep
in his bed at midnight, and according to
you he was getting on a plane in six
hours, yet everything he owned was hanging
neatly in his closet and folded neatly in
his footlocker. You were leaving for one
day and you packed a bag and made three
phone calls. Santiago was leaving for the
rest of his life, and he hadn't called a
soul and he hadn't packed a thing. Can
you explain that? The fact is there was
no transfer order. Santiago wasn't going
anywhere, isn't that right, Colonel.


This is the piece of evidence that you look back at at the end of the movie and realize your worst fears have been confirmed.

I'd always given Bush the benefit of the doubt in the small area of, "Well, I think he cooked and exaggerrated intellegence, but I believe he honestly thought there were some WMDs in Iraq." But he sure as shit didn't act like a man who believed that.

Can we handle the truth?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Bartenders

I realized in my last post I gave short shrift to another pet peeve of mine. Motherfucking bartenders. Trained monkeys, the lot of them. And yet we revere them. We support them like we support the troops.

How the fuck do I make less than these assholes? Yeah, I'm bitter and I'm jealous. But should I not be? That a college education yields a job that pays less than that of a glorified Coke machine?

Every bartender on the planet thinks they're the greatest bartender in the world. "I make an awesome martini." No, you don't, fucktard. Ketel One makes a great martini. Grey Goose makes a great martini. You, my friend, pour shit in a glass. It's not that hard. I should know. I do it every fucking day.

But yet we're supposed to revere these people people who know the perfect ratio of Jack to Coke. But I already know the perfect ratio of Jack to Coke. It's three parts Jack, zero parts Coke. Everything else is just tipping the game in favor of the house. All jokes aside, do you really think there's that much skill in pouring a couple things in a glass? You've memorized a book. And often not even that.

And why do you think there are so many attractive bartenders and bartendresses? Because hot people like to rise to the challenges? Sure. Hot people who don't have to work for any aspect of their lives are just lining up for the challenge of alcoholic alchemy. 'Cause if there's one thing we know about hot people, it's that they love a challenge. That's why I tend to hang out at NASA and shit like that. It's shocking.

And, sexy bartendresses, please listen. I know you think that keeping the bottle opener in the waist of whatever butt-hugging getup you're wearing is sexy. And I'll admit. If I knew you, it would be sexy. But I don't. So all you are to me is a skank. And I don't need any skank thigh-sweat anywhere near the mouth-hole of my bottle. Just leave it on the bar in the spilled swill of the rest of the customers.

Off-duty bartenders. You're the worst. You're almost as irritating as non-smokers. I love to talk about alcohol as much as the next guy. But I don't need every conversation to steer itself to how you can rattle of the ingredients of some semi-obscure drink. Awesome. You memorized a book. Your parents must be somewhat proud. Maybe if you applied that book-learnin' to school you'd actually get a real job and not pouring drinks...

...making more than me.

Goddammit!

Monday, May 16, 2005

Tipping

God do I fucking hate tipping.

Settle down. Put down the scythe. Uncoil the rope. Extinguish the torches. I never said I didn't do it. I do it quite generously, thank you very much. But the mere fact that I have to throw out this disclaimer makes me hate it even more.

I mean, what kind of a fucked up situation is this? I go out for a nice dinner. I eat my food (which was wonderful, by the way). And the next thing I know. I've got to fill out an employee evaluation report in the form of cash that I leave on the table under a half-empty water glass. All of a sudden I'm judge, jury and executioner on whether or not this guy's getting 15 percent or twenty percent. And let's be honest. The social stigma for not tipping is so high that the waiter would have to take a dump on your plate for you to actually not tip them at all.

But why is any of this my problem? Shouldn't the fucking restaurant be the arbiter of what service is up to their standards? Are there no employee codes of conduct at restaurants? Or is that too logical? And it's not that hard. Every other goddamned industry on earth is able to get by without it.

And I love the excuses you get from people in the waiting/bartending industry. "We live off of our tips. We get paid less than minimum wage. Blah blah blah." You know what? Fuck you. I'm not the asshole who negotiated such a shitty deal with their employer. Seriously, if I walked into a job interview and the HR guy said, "Okay, we're going to pay you $2.20 an hour and the rest of your money will come from the kindness of strangers," I'd be like, "You can go to fucking hell, motherfucker. Pay me my money." You know what they call people who expect others to just give them money? Panhandlers.

Yeah, yeah. I know it's hard. Lot's of jobs are hard, however. Shoveling coal is hard. Painting a house is hard. But none of these jobs require any formal training nor any substantial brain power. Let's face it. Food services is a minimum wage job if there ever was one. It sure as shit shouldn't net you five hundred dollars a night tax-free. Course not everybody makes that, but the fact that anybody does is a travesty. And, don't even try to pull the "I pay taxes on my tips" line. Who the fuck are you kidding? Nobody becomes a waiter out of sheer love of food preparation and delivery. They do it because the pay ratio grossly overvalues the job they perform.

Oh, and a word to bartenders. Suck my ass! I'm supposed to give you a dollar or three for an activity that takes you exactly thirty seconds? SUCK MY ASS!

Then there's also the fact that tipping really fucks up any sort of social interaction that one might have with their waiter or waitress. "Oh look, my waitress is flirting with me. Oh no. She's just hoping for a bigger tip." Wow. That may not be 100% whore. But it's at least 30%. Fine. Thirty is too high. Can we agree that they're quarter-whore's then?

Speaking of percentages, why the fuck should I be expected to do math after dinner? Do you know why I don't bring my old calculus book to dinner? A) Because I don't have it anymore because I hate math and B) I'm not doing fucking math after dinner. No math at dinner!

And then you hear waiters complaining about [insert favorite nationality or ethnic group that traditionally doesn't tip]. And it's all like, "They suck. They don't tip." Well, motherfucker, maybe they don't tip where they come from. Either you suck it up or you specifically inform them of the fucked up customs around here and ask for the tip. If you want to go through that awkward social moment, be my fucking guest. You get someone who's never heard of tipping before, you'll get the exact same response from me. Fuck you!

And another thing. It's not always clear if you're in a tipping situation. So, because that shithead didn't tell me that he wanted a tip, suddenly I'm an asshole 'cause I didn't know. If you want some money, dick, ask for it. I'm easily shameable. But don't make me feel like shit 'cause I don't have fucking telepathy.

And just to reiterate again. I tip all the time (when I'm made aware that that's the deal). But I always hate it.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Patriotism and Nationalism

So I was reading Jonah Goldberg (I don't really know why, just because). He was dissecting the ins and outs of what it means to be a conservative. Agree, disagree whatever. But he did have this paragraph about patriotism that got me thinking...
Now, patriotism and nationalism are very different things and there are many people on the right and left who think nationalism is definitionally conservative or right-wing. This is nonsense on very tall stilts, but I’m writing a book about that. Patriotism, however is merely the devotion to a set of ideals, rooted in history, and attached to a specific place. And once again we are spun back to Hayek. To a certain extent patriotism is conservatism, in the same way that being a Christian involves some level of conservatism. It is a devotion to a set of principles set forth in the past and carried forward to today and, hopefully, tomorrow. (I wish it weren’t necessary to point out that this is a non-partisan point: Patriotic liberals are holding dear some aspects of our past as well.) What we call patriotism is often merely the content we use to fill-up the amoral conservatism discussed above. Axiomatically, if you are unwilling to conserve any of the institutions, customs, traditions, or principles inherent to this country you simply aren’t patriotic (and, as a side note, the more you think the U.N. is the savior of the world, the less patriotic you are — see my General Rule on Patriotism).
Okay, that's a pretty convoluted definition, but if it allows him to sleep at night, so be it. But to me, when I look at it patriotism and nationalism seem outwardly to be nearly identical things, perhaps differing by degree of intensity, but for all I can see their sole difference is that patriotism is a priori good and nationalism is a priori bad. And here's my question to my wonderful audience of perhaps one. Is there any other country on earth that uses the term patriotism or something that is a definitional equivalent? I always think of patriotism as a red, white and blue minuteman type thing so maybe it is strictly an American thing. But if it is, then why are we the only country that makes such a distinction between these two things? Certainly if the differences between the two concepts were so vast and so different, other cultures would have picked up on them as well, no? Does it say anything about us that we are the exception?

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Check out this blog

Just added another one of my favorite blogs, Orcinus, to the sidebar. This guy really knows his stuff. To an absurd degree, actually. He tends to talk about domestic militias and stuff a little bit too much for my taste, but his theoretical arguments are always insightful and extremely detailed. I was just reading this one about totalitarianism and how it's more than just a despotic ruler. It fulfills a certain psychological need in the populace that follows it. But don't listen to me. Take the time to read it.

Here's the funny thing though. He opens with a passage from "1984" and it kind of occurred to me. It seems like the only thing Orwell got wrong was the date. Go figure.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Dancing = Bullshit

I'll admit it. I watch Footloose and I see a town that's got the right idea. For the wrong reasons, I'll grant you. God doesn't hate dancing. Dancing just sucks.

To be clear, I'm not talking about dancing like ballet or... well, basically just ballet which, honestly, looks like pain set to music to me. But the music is generally pretty good and the pain looks like it took a lot of practice to pull off.

No. I'm talking about most other forms of dancing. Like your Britney Spears type stuff with the people just kinda jerking around and thrusting their pelvises around. Oh my god? I don't like thrusting pelvises? What kind of a prude am I? A prude who prefers porn I suppose. It's so fucking stupid.

And the worst? The amateur kind. The kind that all you ladies seem to enjoy. The kind where you basically kinda stand in place doing some sort of a rocking motion from one foot to the other. Maybe there's some snapping of the fingers, raising of the hands over the head, pretending to be of the robot. Basically, if one was deaf they might mistake it for a grand mal seizure.

Can we please face reality here? Everyone who dances looks like an asshole. And I'm not just saying that 'cause I'm self-conscious (which I am). I've watched other people dance when I didn't need to be out there feeling self-conscious. You still looked like assholes.

People tell me, I should just go out there and not care what other people think. No one's watching. If no one's watching, then they should probably be a little more judicious with the "you dance like an asshole" comments on the dance floor. I could get the wrong idea. But even if I didn't care what other people think and crave their approval like it was the greatest drug on earth, I'd still not want to dance 'cause I care what I think. And I think I look like an asshole.

But not as much of an asshole as the real assholes out there. You know, that dude that thinks he "can dance" or "just doesn't give a fuck." The guy who, with no formal training whatsoever and a complete lack of a superego as well, has a small group of people surrounding him because he's thrashing all over the place. He's never actually dancing with anyone. Just doing his thing. I pray for him. I pray for you all.

Much like my feelings on fashion, it wouldn't really bother me so much except for the fact that it's a gateway to much more pleasant endeavors that don't involve such a large audience, unless that's your thing. I think it has something to do with the hoary cliche about "dancing is a vertical representation of what we'd rather be doing in a horizontal position." Sure. Sure. That makes sense. But, you know, if we'd both really like to be doing something else, then WHY THE FUCK ARE WE STILL ON THE DANCE FLOOR?! That has got to be the most ludicrous fucking logic I've ever heard. Why? Why this weird bullshit kabuki ritual involving simulated sex to bad music just so you can have real sex later on? Why not just eliminate the middle man, here?

And don't even get me started on kabuki.

Renaissance

I was listening to some new tunes and a thought struck me. Could it be that after the Dark Ages of Limp Bizkit, we're entering into a musical Renaissance? Really good bands like the Shins, the Killers and the White Stripes (these are all just off the top of my head, or top of my Ipod as the case may be) are in popular ascendance and are ushering in a whole slew of awesome bands that have been bubbling beneath the surface for years.

Yeah, shitty pop music will always be around, but right now it's on the run. And on the other side it looks like the Britney Juggernaut may have jumped the shark. American Idol is embroiled in its own scandals. And when was the last time you heard a Creed song?

And good music is finding its way deeper into the popular culture. Thank you Josh Schwartz for taking a show that by all accounts should have been a hotbed for music shittiness and turning it into something that actually promotes quality.

Dare I say we're standing on the brink of a new era?

Thank God.

Monday, May 09, 2005

In Defense of Paris Hilton

Something's been bothering me for a little while. I've heard a lot of liberals railing against Paris Hilton when talking about everything that's wrong in America and using her as the poster child for reinstating the estate tax. Even Paul Krugman uses her as an example today.

These are people who denounced you as a class warrior if you wanted to tax Paris Hilton's inheritance. Now they say that they're brave populists, because they want to cut the income of retired office managers.


And (bless you, Paul Krugman) the op-ed is one of his best in months, but in regards to Paris, can't we just leave her alone?

I know. I know. She's a terrible person. She's a media whore. She's famous for being famous. She's got that weird smirk. She's dumb. She likes fucking on film (no, wait. That's good. Yay, Paris!)

But really of what consequence is it? I fear that most of this rage is actually fueled by jealousy. Because, and I hate to admit it, I envy her life. And not just the billion dollars. It's the way she uses that billion dollars. Solely on herself. No looking back. Just pure unvarnished selfishness. Hell, she's actually proud of it. To have that kind of money and that personality is absolutely perfect.

Does that make her a bad person? Sure. Do I understand it? Fuckin-A I do. But ultimately, she's of absolutely no consequence. Nobody dies 'cause she's a shitty person. Just some celebrities having to change their phone numbers.

She's not the problem. The American public's fascination with her is. But that isn't going to change either. Why? Because, let's face it, most people are stupid. But liberals, I think, muddy their points when they use her as an example. They heap the whole of class warfare on her when, though she's deserving of plenty of derision, her class is not her fault. She's just a girl who won the lottery on life. Be happy for her and ignore her. If you don't pay attention to her, then there's absolutely nothing she can do that in any way affects your life.


P.S. I want to defuse the argument that I'm only giving Ms. Hilton a pass because she's hot. And I'm often (as we all are) guilty of that. And, you know what, if she was really unattractive, I probably would be a little harder on her. But let's face it, she's not all that attractive. She's kinda weird looking and has that droopy left eye. So it's not entirely due to her level of attractiveness. But that's also an interesting thing to look at. Is her life better because she's super wealthy or because she's considered super-attractive. I'd have to put my money on the latter.

The Evolution Debate

I was reading some more stuff about the Kansas evolution debate, and kept on coming back to this particularly hilarious excerpt from the LA Times.

The hearings in Topeka, scheduled to last several days, are focusing on two proposals. The first recommends that students continue to be taught the theory of evolution because it is key to understanding biology. The other proposes that Kansas alter the definition of science, not limiting it to theories based on natural explanations.


But after simultaneously sputtering and laughing for a few minutes, I started to think about it, and the second proposal ironically is taking the better angle of attack on this notion. Because they realize that we are playing from two entirely different decks of cards here. The IDer/creationists aren't even working off the same definition of "science" as the scientists. Now you can argue until you're blue in the face that science is

  1. The observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena.
And you'd be right. But pay attention to the final definition...

5. Science Christian Science


And I'm sure other dictionaries may differ, but the underlying problem is still the same. Their definition of science isn't even remotely close to the same thing as ours. And it's impossible to have a rational discussion with someone when you don't even agree on the basic rules of the game. It's like trying to play chess against someone who believes you are playing checkers. One player triple jumps over a knight a rook and a bishop, making his way to the far end of the board and then shouts out "king me!" The chess player would think he's playing the game with a lunatic. And vice versa. That's why I think the creationists are on the right track on this one. They are trying to codify science to mean something that is conducive to their ends. Trying to legally make the rules "checkers" rather than "chess."

It's a smart strategy. I think the IDers who know enough of the scientific method know that there's no way they can win the argument on scientific grounds. Despite what they may say publicly, the "science" IDers know that the evidence for evolution is truly overwhelming. But the scientists have a basic weakness. They're coming at this assuming that everybody can agree on the basic rules of the game. This is a serious tactical error given that both parties don't agree on the rules. And by failing ot see that, the scientists are severely hamstringing their case. The creationist can (and does) simply say "why aren't you open to alternative viewpoints." The only rational response (by the rules of chess) is "Because it's not science!" End of story. There is nothing further you can add to the argument. Creationism simply is not science. But the creationist are setting themselves up for a powerful rebuttal. "That may be your opinion. But I also have mine. And didn't you get the memo?" -- Holding up the latest copy of the legal definition of science -- "We're playing checkers."

Who's up for fun video of Pat Robertson

God bless you secondary feeds!

Although, not quite as damning as I'd hoped, Rev-Mykeru has this clip of Pat Robertson on a talking heads show in between commercials. It gets good at about the two minute mark.

And actually, even if it wasn't Pat Robertson, I imagine that all the guests go through these little coaching sessions. It's interesting to see how it all works.

Friday, May 06, 2005

The Second Manhattan Project

I hear a lot of talk about alternative forms of energy and energy independence (a delusion, apparently). Thomas Friedman and others talk of a Manhattan Project for alternative energy. "We need a Manhattan Project to research alternative energy." I'm on board, but I think people tend to confuse the idea of what a Manhattan project is and what it can do. Friedman tends to talk about about the three familiar alternatives, nuclear (fission), solar, and wind. All of those sound great to me. Even nuclear, provided we actually plan in advance what we're going to do with the shit left over (suck it up, people of Nevada).

But these aren't really things that fit well into paradigm of a Manhattan Project. In that we already know how to do these alternative forms of energy. It's more of just getting the public and corporations on board with it. Laudable as it is, that's not MP, that's PR.

But there is one alternative energy source that fits perfectly into the MP paradigm. The Holy Grail of energy. Nuclear fusion. Not to get all pie-in-the-sky but fusion is not only an option, it's the inevitable option. Clean reliable fuel with only minimal radioactive leftovers and virtually no chance of a major accident (I'm not fully up on my stuff here, but from what I've read, when fusion reactors fail, they don't go boom. They just kinda stop working.)

The MP paradigm as I understand it, is not to sell the public on something that we already know how to do. It's something that, in times of extreme strife, as we are now, the country assembles the greatest minds in science to solve a very specific problem. Fast. And price is no object.

The physics of hot fusion reactions and how to contain them are reasonably well understood. The only problems (and, granted, they are legion) are engineering. But engineering problems can always be overcome. The only thing that they need are time and a whole lot of money. But no one is even mentioning it.

My best guess at why we don't hear anything about hot fusion is from the aftermath of cold fusion. One of our biggest setbacks in the past twenty years. Oh god, what I wouldn't give for a time machine to go back and undo all the hullabaloo over cold fusion. Yes, it didn't work (or didn't work well enough to withstand rigorous scruting). But it's not the same thing as hot fusion. Hot fusion works quite well. Look at the sky. Hot fusion, doing it's thing. Watch archival footage of an h-bomb test. Hot fusion. Really doing its thing. But you never hear of it.

Why are we not busting our asses on this? Why isn't there a group of the top minds in physics sitting in some sort of nerd summer camp in the middle of the New Mexico desert figuring this shit out? For god's sake, we're at war. Can we not fucking act like it?

I admit to admiring a certain poeticism to all of this. The first Manhattan Project brought the West's greatest minds together to combat unspeakable evil by building the biggest horror humanity has ever known. The Manhattan Project II would combat unspeakable evil by building one of the greatest benefits the world has ever known. But, that's just me.

Rest assured this will happen. That's not up to George Bush or anyone else. Whether or not it happens before the oil runs out or destroys the environment is.