Saturday, October 29, 2005

Karl Rove, conspiratorial mastermind

It's good to finally see more attention being brought to the wild claims of conspiracy repeatedly thrown against Karl Rove, the man who apparently has a hand in just about every pudding bowl, if you will, in the United States.

Drudge, talking about a David Brooks editorial set to come out tomorrow in the NYT, writes:
Hofstadter argued that sometimes people who are dispossessed, who feel their country has been taken away from them and their kind, develop an angry, suspicious and conspiratorial frame of mind. It is never enough to believe their opponents have committed honest mistakes or have legitimate purposes; they insist on believing in malicious conspiracies.

"The paranoid spokesman," Hofstadter wrote, "sees the fate of conspiracy in apocalyptic terms -- he traffics in the birth and death of whole worlds, whole political orders, whole systems of human values. He is always manning the barricades of civilization." Because his opponents are so evil, the conspiracy monger is never content with anything but their total destruction."

Brooks summarizes: "So some Democrats were not content with Libby's indictment, but had to stretch, distort and exaggerate. The tragic thing is that at the exact moment when the Republican Party is staggering under the weight of its own mistakes, the Democratic Party's loudest voices are in the grip of passions that render them untrustworthy."
I think a similar argument applies nicely to the WMD intelligence situation before we went into Iraq. It's not as fun to believe that the administration was operating under faulty intelligence as it is to spin tales of conspiracy at the highest levels of government.

Friday, October 28, 2005

The NYT lies, who dies?

That has to be, along with "No blood for oil", my least favorite slogan from the left.

A few excerpts from a Washington Post story from yesterday:
The Judith Miller-Valerie Plame-Scooter Libby imbroglio is being reduced to a simple narrative about the origins of the Iraq war. Miller, the story goes, was an anti-Saddam Hussein, weapons-of-mass-destruction-hunting zealot and was either an eager participant or an unwitting dupe in a campaign by Bush administration officials and Iraqi exiles to justify the invasion. The New York Times now characterizes the affair as "just one skirmish in the continuing battle over the Bush administration's justification for the war in Iraq." Miller may be "best known for her role in a series of Times articles in 2002 and 2003 that strongly suggested Saddam Hussein already had or was acquiring an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction." According to the Times's critique, she credulously reported information passed on by "a circle of Iraqi informants, defectors and exiles bent on 'regime change' in Iraq," which was then "eagerly confirmed by United States officials convinced of the need to intervene in Iraq." Many critics outside the Times suggest that Miller's eagerness to publish the Bush administration's line was the primary reason Americans went to war. The Times itself is edging closer to this version of events.

There is a big problem with this simple narrative. It is that the Times, along with The Post and other news organizations, ran many alarming stories about Iraq's weapons programs before the election of George W. Bush. A quick search through the Times archives before 2001 produces such headlines as "Iraq Has Network of Outside Help on Arms, Experts Say" (November 1998), "U.S. Says Iraq Aided Production of Chemical Weapons in Sudan" (August 1998), "Iraq Suspected of Secret Germ War Effort" (February 2000), "Signs of Iraqi Arms Buildup Bedevil U.S. Administration" (February 2000), "Flight Tests Show Iraq Has Resumed a Missile Program" (July 2000). (A somewhat shorter list can be compiled from The Post's archives, including a September 1998 headline: "Iraqi Work Toward A-Bomb Reported.") The Times stories were written by Barbara Crossette, Tim Weiner and Steven Lee Myers; Miller shared a byline on one.

This was the consensus before Bush took office, before Scooter Libby assumed his post and before Judith Miller did most of the reporting for which she is now, uniquely, criticized. It was based on reporting by a large of number of journalists who in turn based their stories on the judgments of international intelligence analysts, Clinton officials and weapons inspectors. As we wage what the Times now calls "the continuing battle over the Bush administration's justification for the war in Iraq," we will have to grapple with the stubborn fact that the underlying rationale for the war was already in place when this administration arrived.
The glaring problem with this story is that this isn't news, it is something apparent to anyone without anterograde amnesia.

I'll not post any of the hilarious quotes from Clinton administration, but if I see one more reference to it on SNL, or one single UN Weapons Inspector on October 31st, it's handbags at dawn.

Monday, October 24, 2005

"The Man Who Would Murder Death"

Via the Drudge Report, The Chronicle of Higher Education has an interesting article on a rogue gerontologist at Cambridge who believes that within our lifetime, the average human lifespan can be increased to over 1,000 years.
Growing old is not, in his view, an inevitable consequence of the human condition; rather, it is the result of accumulated damage at the cellular and molecular levels that medical advances will soon be able to prevent — or even reverse — allowing people to go on living pretty much indefinitely. We'll still have to worry about angry bears and falling pianos, but aging, the biggest killer of all, will cease to be a threat. Death, as we know it, will die.
Now, the article is rather fanciful, and takes the line of, "Yes, he has detractors, but when they really get to know his ideas, they're converted to his cause". Toward the end, the author writes:
The question is whether that stuff will prove to be true. Gregory M. Fahy, a biologist and vice president and chief scientific officer of 21st Century Medicine, a biomedical research company, was very skeptical at first. While they still do not agree on everything, Mr. Fahy has been largely won over. And, like Mr. Finkelstein, he respects Mr. de Grey for his courage in the face of ridicule. "If you think you're right, you have to stand up and say what you believe even if people think you're nuts," says Mr. Fahy. "Now, if they prove you're nuts, you have to shut up. But that hasn't happened yet."
There is also a subplot of the article dedicated to the offer of $20,000 to any researcher who could write a nice piece that proved (or at least worked toward proving) the man wrong:
Mr. Pontin then decided to put a bounty of sorts on Mr. de Grey, offering $10,000 to any gerontologist who could prove to an independent review panel that his ideas about radical life-extension had no merit. Mr. de Grey then upped the ante, matching the $10,000 through his Methuselah Foundation, making the prize for debunking him a generous $20,000.
The author should be more willing to admit that a failure to disprove something is not the same as positive proof of that hypothesis. For example, no one can disprove that I ate a pile of vegetables for dinner, but that's hardly likely. Positive proof might include finding rinds and Green Giant wrappers in my garbage can, instead of an empty box of Wheat Things, a small tub of this onion dip stuff, and an empty bottle of Champagne.

While it's nice to see eccentric researchers out there, goading normal folks on and causing them to challenge their usual assumptions, it would be nice to read an article whose author didn't oh-so want the proposition (of 1,000-year lives) to be true, to the point of abandoning a healthy skepticism.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Bill Watterson still around somewhere

It's good to see Bill Watterson (of 'Calvin and Hobbes' fame) still around and not selling out.

Brings back memories...

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Firefox is Movin' on Up

Downloads of Firefox hit 100 million. Good work, boys.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Resolutely smash the Yankee imperialists! hits

NK News is an archive of official press releases of the North Korean communist government. It's also doubles as an archive of hilarious kitsch. My favorite terms to search include:

1) resolutely smash (50 hits)
2) peerlessly great man (150 hits)
3) brigandish (440 hits)
4) sea of fire (20 hits)

Whoever runs the government press bureau over there is genius.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Kennedy: No one will remember what I say two days from now

Ultraliberal "Tax"-achusetts senator Edward Kennedy has said that he will support Kerry if he were to run in the 2008 Presidential elections, "even if Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton also pursues a White House bid" (quoting the article's author, not Kennedy).

It's hard to say what Kennedy's motive would be for saying this, since if Hillary becomes the frontrunner (which is certainly a reasonable if not probable proposition), Kennedy will be left with his drawers down. My guess is that he's betting no one will remember this statement two days from now, which is probably a safe bet. And in the meantime, he's won some free publicity.

Viva Chile po!

That is my favorite line from The Motorcycle Diaries (a superb film), a line which was probably missed by 99% of the movie's viewers (Che's buddy Alberto says it as they cross over a river into Chile for the first time). My my, my writing sure has gotten convoluted with all the parentheses and dependent clauses and whatnot.

Anyway, apparently Chile still has an outside chance at that World Cup berth. It always surprises me how long it takes for teams to qualify for the World Cup; they were in the midst of going so back in 2004, which now that I think about it isn't THAT long ago. But still.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Yuppies have too much money

I have now decided what to do: I'll just keep a browser (or tab, since I'm cool and use FireFox) open and post random things that I come across while I surf (or swashbuckle acrost, since I'm half pirate by birth, and full swashbuckler by chess) the information superhighway, a phrase which doesn't get nearly as much use as it used to. Odd, if you ask me.

Apparently REI will let you pay $3499 for a trip around the Patagonia (the moutainous region in the south of Chile and Argentina, renowned for its beauty). That's right, $3499, a price tag which does not include airfare (or alcohol, by jeeves!) of any sort. That a normal traveler could do an equivalent trail for a couple hundred dollars seems to be lost on anyone connected to REI, including their corporate management, sales people, customers, and people who happen to know someone who is a customer.

They say you should post at least once a day

Even if you don't post much (a link to an interesting article or blog, say), it's an important signal that your blog is "current", "not stale", or whatever.

Not a bad idea, I say. I frankly haven't been feeling very creative recently.