Reversing the myth of lactic acid

From what I hear, Armstrong is a freak of nature with highly efficient lungs which prevent him from developing as much lactic acid as other mere mortals from the same amount of exercise.

That's Neal in the comments to this post. But it turns out that lactic acid is something entirely different:
The notion that lactic acid was bad took hold more than a century ago, says George Brooks, a professor in the department of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley. It stuck because it seemed to make so much sense.

"It's one of the classic mistakes in the history of science," Brooks says.

As for the idea that lactic acid causes muscle soreness, Gladden says, that never made sense.
"Lactic acid will be gone from your muscles within an hour of exercise," he says. "You get sore one to three days later. The time frame is not consistent, and the mechanisms have not been found."

And yet, this is going to take forever to filter out to the peoples. One reason is that the lactic-acid-management method of coaching works, just not for the reason they think it does.

War on Meth's chilling effect on science

Wired's Steve Silberman suggests that the difficulty in controlling methamphetamine production has led to an absurd level of criminalization of chemicals and chemistry equipment, having a chilling effect on budding young chemists.
“To criminalize the necessary materials of discovery is one of the worst things you can do in a free society,” says Shawn Carlson, a 1999 MacArthur fellow and founder of the Society for Amateur Scientists. “The Mr. Coffee machine that every Texas legislator has near his desk has three violations of the law built into it: a filter funnel, a Pyrex beaker, and a heating element. The laws against meth should be the deterrent to making it – not criminalizing activities that train young people to appreciate science.”|Wired|

This strikes me as another example of the disneyification of our society where our obsession with making everything G-rated for the little kitties drains our society of anything even remotely interesting or useful.

On a related topic, I recently quoted Danah Boyd, who suggests why this generation of kids are so attracted to online spaces:

As the real world is perceived as more dangerous with child abductors lurking on every corner, kids flock online to hang out with friends, express their hopes and dreams and bare their souls with often painful honesty -- mostly unbeknownst to their tech-clumsy parents. "We have a complete culture of fear," said Danah Boyd, 28, a Ph.D student and social media researcher at the University of California, Berkeley. "Kids really have no place where they are not under constant surveillance."

Driven to and from school, chaperoned at parties and often lacking public transport, today's middle-class American kids are no longer free to hang out unsupervised at the park, the bowling alley or to bike around the neighborhood they way they did 20 years ago. "A lot of that coming-of-age stuff in public is gone. So kids are creating social spaces within all this controlled space," said Boyd. |Wired| (emphasis mine)

Success minus sweat equals sacrifice

Mixed news this week for those of us who rest our futurian hopes on the development and acceptance of chemical enhancement of human capacities. On the one hand, Barry Bonds finally passed Babe Ruth for second place on baseball's career home-run list. On the downside, there's this:
Independent Dutch investigators cleared Lance Armstrong of doping in the 1999 Tour de France on Wednesday, and blamed anti-doping authorities for misconduct in dealing with the Austin, Texas, cyclist.

A 132-page report recommended convening a tribunal to discuss possible legal and ethical violations by the World Anti-Doping Agency and to consider "appropriate sanctions to remedy the violations."|ESPN|

So it's starting to look like Armstrong's feats might have been due to inborn talent and hard work after all. This could set our movement back by decades.

Or, maybe not.



[from Greek 'horei', hour, season]

The science of measuring time.
2. The art of making timepieces.


A true man of principle

I don't really know whether the Jefferson raid violated the Constitutional principle of the seperation of powers, though Josh Marshall seems to think that it didn't. What I do know is that this is ridiculous.
Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, the F.B.I. director, Robert S. Mueller III, and senior officials and career prosecutors at the Justice Department told associates this week that they were prepared to quit if the White House directed them to relinquish evidence seized in a bitterly disputed search of a House member's office, government officials said Friday.

Mr. Gonzales was joined in raising the possibility of resignation by the deputy attorney general, Paul J. McNulty, the officials said. Mr. Gonzales and Mr. McNulty told associates that they had an obligation to protect evidence in a criminal case and would be unwilling to carry out any White House order to return the material to Congress.

Gonzales, of course, is a guy whose most notable contribution to the Bush presidency was as the chief pettifogger in charge of an effort to provide legal cover for a worlwide program of secret detention and torture.

Now we know that there's a line he just won't cross.


I still say that ninja aren't cool anymore

More: askaninja.com

New frontiers in comment spam

We've gotten a couple of hits today from this thread over at Feministing because a spambot has been leaving comments linking to this post of Jason's from a few days ago. For the life of me I don't have any idea what the spambot gets out of the deal, but let me just say that Feministing is a good blog (it's on our blogroll!) and the spambot ought to be ashamed of itself.

Really simple math

Is the purpose to raise the funds necessary to run the government? If so, then I doubt that having CEOs pay more (even much, much more) will actually make a real difference in the sum of all government revenue. There really are not THAT many CEOs making so much money that the revenue stream will be significantly enhanced.

That's from a comment by rick on this thread over Gladwell.com way.

Is he right? Well, as of 2002 the top 5% of income earning households had an average annual income of $278,790, the top 20% an average annual income of $159,298 -- source. I'm not sure how many households that covers, but the 2000 census said that there were 105,539,122 households in the U.S., which should be in the ballpark.

Using really simple math we can estimate that raising the effective tax rate on the top 5% by a single percentage point will generate close to $15 billion in revenues, while raising the effective tax rate by a single percentage point on the top 20% would generate around $34 billion.

The most recent federal budget weighed in at $2.466 trillion with revenues of only $2.119 trillion, leaving a deficit of around $350 billion.

You can't pay all of that off with a tiny tax increase, but who says the tax hike has to be tiny? Right now rumor has it that the richest households pay about an effective tax rate of about 31%. Bump that up to 41% for the richest quintile of earners and the deficit pretty much disappears.

In short, rick is wrong.

The kids call it a bleg

"Without a plan there can be no attack. Without an attack there can be no victory."

Where is that quote from? And don't tell me One Crazy Summer[1], 'cos I ain't buying it.

1 Little known fact: Savage Steve Holland remains alive.

Friday dumb game blogging, uninspired edition

I got nothing. The truth is that I haven't been playing many games lately, even though I work about 35 feet above this.


Can Gorillas Sue for Malpractice?

The answer, of course, is no. Even gorillas with a 2000 word English vocabulary may not be party to lawsuits. But this post isn't about the semantic and legal differences between gorillas and Gorillaz. I just have some questions about Senate Majority leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), providing medical care for a silverback gorilla.

Did he take silverback gorilla anatomy courses in med school? Does the gorilla have insurance? Is this representative of Frist's health care plan for the tens of millions of uninsured Americans? Did he have nothing better to do 18 minutes before meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert? Did he think gorilla musk would give him an edge in diplomacy? Were the four veterinarians, three technicians, animal keeper and veterinary dentist not adequate?

Perhaps the Senator can clarify the situation.

"Gorillas, people, men. You look at the people here, a symphonic flow of people pitching in. It's the oneness of humanity." He continued, "There's an almost spiritual, poetic component to it. This oneness, this wholeness. You can't compare it to the Senate floor. I immerse myself in it. This is my real life."


[Late Latin 'ossuarium', from neuter of Latin 'ossuarius', of bones]

A container or receptacle, such as an urn or a vault, for holding the bones of the dead.

Who knew people really talked this way?

I thought it was a particular convention of Anime, but at least on Japanese game designer talks the same freakin' way:
There is something that only I can create, and it is desired now. If I'm not going to show my strengths now, when will I? And among all the activities I could undertake, the best way to satisfy the most consumers, including those overseas, would probably be to create Smash Bros.
"Our guys have played Smash Bros. more than 10,000 times!"

It had to be a lie. But when I saw their battle records, it showed a terrible number of matches that were not fabricated.
This had to have been fate.
But we will not flinch! By which I mean, there will be no question about whether or not its fun.

The table has been set, so if I can't enjoy developing this game I will have failed.
Let's take it to the edge with a lot of weird stuff!


By the way, this guy makes the best games ever.

The future of audio: Vinyl records

Who knew?

Playing Vinyl with a Laser

Morgellons Disease revisited

It's more serious than we thought. Read on.
If these fibers are the result of highly advanced nanotechnology then we have found the disease, and possible who is behind it. But what would be the purpose of forcing this ailment on the population? Torture? To create a new pandemic in order to sell a new drug for a "treatment?" According to the Texas television news report, one young man who recently contracted the painful disease has committed suicide as a result of trying to deal with the pain.

Black nodules, long and short fibers that can't be pulled out and great pain are all highly effective in destroying relationships between couples. Put another way, the suffering is so great that participating in sexual acts are the last thing that victims of the disease will think about doing. The symptoms clearly make population control one important side-effect that cannot be denied. Perhaps south Texas has been selected as an experimental hot-spot. However, the disease has also been found in every state. |Ted Twietmeyer|

Update: Hoax? (via)


Unsurprising news from the world of science

We already knew, of course, that video games make you smarter and that kids who play video games make better soldiers. Now:
Surgeons who warmed up by playing video games like "Super Monkey Ball" for 20 minutes immediately prior to performing surgical drills were faster and made fewer errors than those who did not, said Dr. James "Butch" Rosser, lead investigator on the study slated for release Wednesday.

The research involved 303 surgeons participating in a medical training course that included video games and was focused on laparoscopic surgical procedures -- which use a tiny video camera and long, slender instruments inserted through small incisions. |CNN|

It becomes clearer every day that the path to human salvation lies in video games. I only wonder how it is that video games were developed by a generation of engineers who had never themselves played video games. Truly, that is among the deepest mysteries of our modern world.

Dumb joke blogging, testudines and gastropoda edition

A turtle is walking down an alley when a gang of snails surrounds him and beats him up. He staggers to street and finds a police officer.

"Officer, officer," the turtle says, "help me! I've been slugged!"

The officer pulls out his notebook and asks the turtle to describe his assailants.

The turtle pauses, lowers his head and says, sorrowfully, "I can't. It all happened too fast!"

Bonus dumb joke:

Q: What did the snail say while riding on the back of the turtle?
A: Wheeeeeee!


Your Hip Hop moment for May 23, 2006

I finally figured out what it is about The Calling, by Aussie hip hoppers the Hilltop Hoods: It's the sampling. The sampling is heavy, textured, and all around awesome. It reminds me of the heyday of sample-heavy hip hop. They sample Del, the Poor Righteous Teachers, the B-boys, Public Enemy, Tribe, as well as many non-traditional sources. Once I realized why I was liking it so much, I realized that it couldn't possibly be legal.

Well, I'm guessing it isn't. For one thing, the album is not available in the U.S. And after reading this, I think they didn't even know what they were doing:
"... but to be honest I'd rather not talk about that because..." he hesitates, "um, we're not having legal issues, but it's not sorted out completely and I really shouldn't be talking about it."

He does openly speak of how that whole exercise has changed the way the group approaches sampling, however. "We had to either use things on this album that didn't need sample clearance, or the ones that did need sample clearance we had to chase after and get it," he explains. "You can sort of take care of it in the processes [of making a track]. If you're sampling a funk artist, they're sampled so much they've got the process in place: you just need to contact their people, they're people tell you how much it'll be and how much royalties they want, blah blah blah, and that's sort of easy. If you go into other genres and sample someone not used to it, it can become difficult. And also during the process you try not to sample records you know you're going to have trouble with," he adds with a smirk.

I've learned two things. First, the loss of the ability to sample freely is really, really hurting hip hop. Second, the followup Hilltop Hoods album is likely to suck rocks.

Since I can't legally link to a song of theirs, here, I'll leave you with some lyrics:
I'll fold your lyrics into origami.

(hey man, what's that)

It's a swan


See No Evil: Gas prices edition

I'm not one to take the side of journalists (see posts below), but Ken Shepherd's attack on CNN's business reporting is transparently silly. First of all, Serwer's claims about the FTC report are all accurate, despite not being reflected in summary of the "major findings" Shepherd offers. A "smattering" means that some gas stations were gouging locally, something only possible in the midst of a catastrophe. You can almost see Shepherd waving his finger and yelling "Aha!" even though he has basically misunderstood what Serwer even said.

But furthermore, Serwer's "derision" (Sherpherd's word for it) of the FTC might have a little something to do with the bang-up job that agency did in declaring that there was no price manipulation going on in the energy market in the late 90s. Now, of course, you and I and Andy Serwer and the U.S criminal justice system all know that there was blatantly illegal price manipulation going on then. The FTC just couldn't find it.

I'm not saying that there is price manipulation in the oil or gasoline markets (other than the obvious and non-controversial manipulation), but are you going to trust the new and improved (by George Bush) FTC, or the conservative toadies at Right Angle, to give you the final word on it?


How hard do our journalists work?

Not even hard enough to avoid being ridiculous. "Stuck" on Air Force One, they decide to watch King Kong rather than the Hayden hearings. Tony Snow is also on the plane, but now he has a real job, so he opts for the hearings. This only gets reported, by the way, because a journalist wanted to make Snow look good. She wasn't even aware that she was making herself and her colleagues look ridiculous. I can't believe these people have jobs. And, since they do have jobs, I can't believe the people who hired them have jobs.

Update: It's been suggested that I'm too hard on the White House press corp. They work odd hours, so this might have been a legitimate break time for them. Most of them work for institutions that had other people covering the Hayden hearings, of course. So, maybe they aren't as incredibly sucky as The Howler thinks.

Military-industrial complex is too... complex

Here's Gizmodo summarizing an article in Popular Science:
Looks like the “shock and awe” campaign in Iraq is not so awesome after all. The top-down data network communication that was going to be so devastating seems to be lost in a quagmire of missed connections. According to a report from the Army War College:

“There is a connectivity gap. Information is not reaching the lowest levels.”

On the other hand, the Iraqi insurgents, with their peer-to-peer network consisting of cellphones and ad hoc e-mail connections, seem to be able to communicate easier than the US forces with their cumbersome infrastructure. Mission accomplished? Yeah, right.

Ouch. Even the geeks are displeased. In other news about overhyped technolgy, you probably don't need a five-bladed razor.


[from Latin 'parturitus', past participle of 'parturire', to be in labor]


The act or process of giving birth; childbirth.


Song Tapper!

So you've got a tune stuck in your head, and you don't know if it's Mozart or a TV jingle (or both)? Go to this link, tap the rhythm of the song on your space bar, and the internets will tell you what it is!


Friday dumb game blogging

Invader 360

(via Jay is Games)

Knowledge is (almost) power

So, I tend to agree with Zwichenzug's take on the conservative subconscious. I've held some variant of this to be true for many years.

However, from a rhetorical standpoint, it's a non-starter. "You don't know what you want," is too close to "you are too dumb to rationally pursue your own self interest." One doesn't persuade very many people when one starts off with an insult.

So over the years I've made no progress on the inevitable follow-up question: How can we craft our rhetoric to either save Republicans from their subconscious irrationality OR use that irrationality to our advantage?

I lean towards trying to save them. As Bill Clinton said, "when people think, we win." I'm just not that good at getting people to think unless they need a "C" or better from my lit class in order to graduate from college.


Can this be true?

I'm considering putting Farscape in my Netflix queue, but if I read things right they've got the episodes oddly divided among the disks. Disk one of season one, for example, supposedly contains episodes #1 and #7. Disk two then has episodes #2 and #4, disk three episodes #3 and #6, disk four #5 and #8 and so on.

I could, by devoting all of my Netflix resources, manage to watch the episodes more or less in order, but that would mean returning disk one as soon as I finish with episode #1 and, later, quickly returning disk three so that I can rent disk one again. The only honest[1] way around this would be to expand my account to four rentals, which seems like a pretty steep premium considering my low hopes for Farscape.

On the other hand, it's at least possible that Netflix has the wrong information[2] about the content of the disks. Surely someone out there has the Farscape 411. Help me out.

1 The dishonest approach, of course, would involve lying to Netflix and claiming that I had returned a disk that I still had, thereby tricking them into sending me a fourth.

2 My advice? Don't even try to rent the first season of Battlestar Galactica through Netflix. The transition from miniseries to series introduced all kinds of noise into their tracking system.

Carbon Dioxide: we call it life

Paradoxically, these two commercials are both the talk of left blogistan and kind of hard to find. Anyway, here's a link.

"If the hippies ... will shut up ... I will lower my voice."

Listen to Spiro Agnew yakkin' about hippies. There's a lot of other Historical Sounds in MP3 Format over at the Free Information Society.

And now for something completely different

Neal says blogging is getting a little serious in these parts. So, via Thoughts from Kansas, these are likely to be my final words:

Your Famous Last Words Will Be:

"I dunno, press the button and find out."


A rambling post about immigration and the Republican mind

"What a distressing contrast there is between the radiant intelligence of the child and the feeble mentality of the average adult." -- Sigmund Freud

I pulled that quotation from a web page of Freud quotes, so I don't really know whether Freud actually said it or what else he had to say on the subject. It seems to me, though, that one reason kids seem so smart is that their motivations are easy to see. The working of the unconscious may not make you stupid, but it can sure make you seem stupid.

Which brings me to our country's fantastical debate about the, ahem, problem of immigration. Over at TAPPED, Ezra Klein made an interesting observation earlier today:
In that way, Mexicans, along with terrorists, are to this decade what blacks were to the last -- a blank canvas on which to paint our fears of The Other. Terrorists, lawless immigrants -- it's all the same. When Rep. Patrick McHenry says "the simple truth is that is that if you break the law to come to this country, you will not respect it once you're here," he's not concerned about visa issues, but violent crime. They’re evil bad men who would do us harm, and who've proven it by subverting our desire for order and control at our own state lines. That the linkage doesn't make sense doesn't much matter, just as sucking up massive quantities of data won't make us safer. It's about feeling safer, believing we're in control. |Ezra Klein|

There's nothing there that I disagree with, but I would add that the psychic utility of the immigrant as other isn't limited to service as a dumping ground for our fears of violence and chaos.

Consider that one of the great contradictions afflicting the typical Republican psyche is the fact that the individual has thrown in his lot with a political party committed to policies which undermine his economic self-interest. This is a situation which cries out for scapegoats and, Tom Frank notwithstanding, that's a role that need not be limited to godless gays and their Democratic fellow travelers. Mexicans, it seems, will do as well.

For example:
Dear Jorge plans to address the nation tonight, a speech wherein he will almost surely attempt to deceive citizens into believing that he does not wish the mass migration from Mexico to continue unabated. He will likely offer some negligible resources for law enforcement and border security – resources which will never materialize – in return for an amnesty program that will grant American citizenship to the Mexican nationals who have helped lower America's wage rates by 16 percent over the last 32 years. |Vox Day|

Playing the culture war card invites the prospective Republican voter to weigh his economic self-interest against his cultural preferences. The GOP has been winning that gamble, but it's a dangerous game for a party that's ideologically committed to the free market. Better by far to find one's scapegoats in the economic realm.

A final point. Whenever lefties start talking about the unconscious motivations driving the Republican masses there's a tendency to move from the premise that there are such motivations to the conclusion that the masses are being pulled back and forth by some nefarious GOP puppet master. One of the striking things about the current situation, though, is that the nativist paroxysms of the Republican base are pretty clearly out of the control of the party's brain trust.


"Strange fibers that pop out of your skin in different colors"

Lovely. Morgellons disease:
He'd have attacks and fibers would come out of his hands and fingers, white, black and sometimes red. Very, very painful," said Lisa Wilson, whose son Travis had Morgellon's disease. While all of this is going on, it feels like bugs are crawling under your skin.

So far more than 100 cases of Morgellons disease have been reported in South Texas.

Insta police state

I am so busy I can't absorb all of this quite yet, so I'm going to set it down here for your comments and my later reflection.

In increasing order of alarm:

Arlen Specter bends over for the NSA. My first thought is that this will end up before the courts somehow, but maybe not until the first gross violation of civil rights resulting from this program becomes public.

An "expert on the NSA" says we should be terrified of what's happening. This would be more alarming if I knew whether Matthew Aid was credible and/or prone to exaggeration. When I have some time to investigate, perhaps I will be (more) terrified.

Kevin Drum is so alarmed he is talking very slowly:
The FBI is now harrassing [sic] reporters in a way that previously required the consent of a judge — which usually wasn't given except as a "last resort." NSLs, by contrast, are issued by the FBI itself. There. Is. No. Oversight. At. All.

Hey, on the other hand, here's some unexpected good news. FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps thinks the FCC...
... should initiate an inquiry into whether the phone companies’ involvement violated Section 222 or any other provisions of the Communications Act. We need to be certain that the companies over which the FCC has public interest oversight have not gone – or been asked to go – to a place where they should not be.


Substantively, I'm not sure where I fall on the question of whether or not writing counts as doing something, though of course I think the 101st Fighting Keyboardists battle patch is pretty funny. Anyway, I came across this passage via Crooked Timber and I'm a little bit confused.
I think all three [conservatives who have broken ranks with Bush over runanway deficit spending or his immigration policy] may be suffering some variant of PTSD, worn down by defending difficult positions at the forefront of the battle against irredentist Democrats in Congress and their fifth-column in the media.
|Democracy Project|

"irredentist Democrats"? What?

Now, it's not like I've never looked up the word irredentist. I just don't understand what it's supposed to mean here. My suspicion is that the writer is an idiot and thinks that it means something that it doesn't.

But let's suppose for a moment that he really thinks that the Democrats advocate the recovery of territory culturally or historically related to the United States but now subject to the control of a foreign government.

Which territory are we talking about? And which foreign government? I'm so confused.


Speaking of malaria

1927: J. Wagner von Jauregg received the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his work in treating syphilis using malaria. Patients were innoculated with the malaria pathogen from which three or four bouts of fever resulting from this infection were enough to burn up the temperature-sensitive syphilis bacteria (Treponema pallidum). Once cured of syphilis, the patient was give quinine to get rid of the malaria. In the 1950s this treatment of syphilis was replaced by the use of antibiotics.
|iziko: History of malaria|

Bringing it all back home

According to family lore, my paternal grandfather was stationed on the U.S.-Mexico border while serving in the U.S. Army during the first world war. While there he shot off the ear of a guy who was sneaking across the border. He also came down with a case of malaria that he never quite got over and which contributed to his death in 1953 while still fairly young.

Sombody said something smart at "The Corner"

Most people who provide useful information about those who pose threats to our nation do it under the threat of prosecution (or to win leniency for what would otherwise be mega-sentences).  Obviously, upstanding members of the community tend not to know much of anything about the inner-workings of terrorist organizations — it's the bad guys you must induce to cooperate.  For all the admitted problems of marrying up competing skill-sets, the reason combining the law enforcement and intelligence functions makes sense is because you can seamlessly leverage prosecution to obtain intelligence.  Wouldn't we be losing a lot by dividing those functions?  An MI-5 is going to want to horde its sources for pure intelligence purposes rather than turn them over to the FBI and DOJ for prosecution; but if you don't threaten them with prosecution, you very likely will not get the most deeply held intelligence secrets.
Britain’s 7/7 bombings demonstrate that having a dedicated domestic intelligence agency is far from fool-proof.  (Judge Posner, to his great credit, has been superb in explaining why intelligence is such a difficult challenge, and why we may never have a very high batting average when it comes to preventing attacks.)  While his piece today is typically thought-provoking, I don’t think it makes the case that an American MI-5 is either possible or necessarily desirable.

-- Andy McCarthy

A prediction (and a rant)

In the highly unlikely event that Bush's plan to deploy the national guard actually succeeds in closing the border, the agribusiness lobby will quietly succeed in convincing the Bush Administration to open things back up.

I swear, politics makes me tired these days.

The most absurd thing about this whole brouhaha is that there's a perfectly reasonable policy option available that would resolve every issue that has any bearing at all to reality. All we have to do is make it easier to get a green card. It's really that simple. We don't need an amnesty, we don't need a fence, and we don't need to put together a brute squad to round up illegal immigrants.

Make it reasonably easy for people to obey the law and they will. Jesus fucking christ, how difficult is that?

On this day in history

On this day in 1252 - Pope Innocent IV issued the papal bull ad exstirpanda, authorizing the use of torture on heretics during the Medieval Inquisition.

At least, according to Wikipedia.


A Collection of Unrelated Facts

The General who oversaw the NSA's domestic spying program is nominated as director of the CIA. The NSA's domestic surveillance (which began before 9/11) includes a database of millions of domestic calls with identifying information, even though terrorists don't use telephones these days. The Justice Department has shut down its domestic spying investigation after being denied security clearance. The United States continues to kidnap and torture individuals, who are sent to secret prisons in foreign countries for indefinite detention with no legal recourse.

Also, the new Nintendo Wii looks really cool.



The anger festering on the Democratic left will be taken out on the Democratic middle. (Watch out, Hillary!) I have seen this anger before -- back in the Vietnam War era. That's when the antiwar wing of the Democratic Party helped elect Richard Nixon. In this way, they managed to prolong the very war they so hated. |Richard Cohen|

I know I'm in the minority here, but I blame Nixon voters for Nixon's election.


Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by itslef but the wrod as a wlohe.

Mark Dilley posted that snippet on a page over at the labor union organizing wiki.

Can you read it? I can. Not so sure that I believe the putative explanation.


Honesty in high places

Said Jackson: "He didn't get the contract. Why should I reward someone who doesn't like the president, so they can use funds to try to campaign against the president? Logic says they don't get the contract. That's the way I believe."

via TPM

In lieu of a substantive post

Rita Kühn, of the protestant church's welfare programme, said: "They are in general very good at dealing with people, in addition to which they don't get squeamish and have absolutely no fear about touching or being touched."
|Prostitutes retrain as geriatric nurses|


The tic of the excluded middle

A little while back I had a very frustrating conversation. It went something like this:

    ME: So, either this thing or that thing.

    The OTHER: No, that's not right.

    ME: But wouldn't you agree that in the case where this thing isn't so, that thing is?

    The OTHER: Yes, of course.

    ME: And wouldn't you also agree that in the case where that thing isn't so, this thing is?

    The OTHER: Certainly.

    ME: So, either this thing or that thing.

    The OTHER: You can't say that!

    ME: Why not?

    The OTHER: Because you don't know if it's true.

By this point in the conversation my left eye was displaying a noticeable tic. My interlocutor's point was that we didn't know, owing to a number of epistemic vagaries, whether this thing or that thing was the case. And my point...

Well, I didn't really have a point. I agreed about our epistemic vulnerabilities and, moreover, with my interlocutor's practical recommendations as to how we should proceed given those vulnerabilities. There would have been no disagreement at all were in not for the fact of my intimate and committed relationship to the law of the excluded middle.

With difficulty I let the matter drop. Though not with the degree of grace that I strive for.

Which brings me to this display of idiocy from Mark Glassman in Sunday's New York Times. The key grafs:
Of course, diplomacy depends upon stylized language, and other administrations have been equally adept at recycling it. But "no better friend" seems to imply an intimacy at odds with too frequent use.

Thomas E. Patterson, a political scientist at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, notes that the term is semantically clever. "You could at least argue that there could be more than one in a 'no-better-friend' category," he said.
|The Best (Almost) of Friends|

Zwichenzug, a blogger with no discernable credentials, notes that you would win that argument. Not that anyone would notice.

What could possibly go wrong?

Hugo Chavez is going to ask the people of Venezuala to allow him to stay in office for 25 years, with his second term expiring in 2031.



the direct vote of all the members of an electorate on an important public question such as a change in the constitution.
in Roman History a law enacted by the plebeians' assembly.

Not much to look at. Yet.

Mark Dilley and I are getting a wiki started for various labor union related stuff. My own personal pet project is to use a wiki as a workspace to produce something similar to the old labor blogging roundup. If you want to drop by, the site is currently at: laborunionorganizing.info/mediawiki

We'll probably move it to the parent url once we're sure that we want to leave it on mediawiki. So far, all that's happened is that I've installed the software. But I think we'll have some semblance of structure over there by the end of the week.


Not the omerta, but something

Last night I saw Alejandro Sosa give a talk at the LaborNotes conference. Sosa is the president of United Electrical Workers Local 1110 in Chicago and part of his talk had to do with the struggle the workers at his shop had engaged in to bring in the UE after throwing out what he described as "one of the last corrupt, mobbed up unions," and "little more than a dues collecting scam."

One of the striking moments of the talk came when Sosa declined to name the union that he and his fellow workers threw out. He said, "I won't even waste my breath telling you their name."

"Hah!" I thought. "Google will know."

And surely google does know, but I can't figure it out. The best I could do was this, which didn't answer any questions.
Local President Sosa described a process that took three years and involved ridding the shop of gangster-union control as well as fighting the company to gain UE recognition and a fair first contract. The company stubbornly resisted organization and the contract workers deserved, but Republic workers remained united and tough, Sosa said.


The future of the internet: Clintonomics edition

A bunch of liberal bloggers are smacking Mike McCurry around for opposing a specific brand of "net neutrality." Personally, I think McCurry has a point. The internet--in its current form, the form which can support all our email and web traffic, as well as a couple gajillion World of Warcraft games at once--is largely the result of massive investment in the infrastructure by some very large companies. They aren't going to keep doing that unless they figure out how to get paid.

I think the folks like Atrios are laying out a false dichotomy. In their world, the options are

1) to let Big Telecom ride roughshod over our precious internets, locking out minority voices and content, and squashing innovation, or

2) to regulate (or perhaps even nationalize) the internets.

Sure, we could lay down the regulatory smackdown and make sure that no one can offer any sort of tiered service, but one consequence of this will probably be that there is far less capital available for laying big, fat internet pipes all over the place. For some in the liberal blogosphere, this point is either ignored, or it is responded to with an argument that the internet is already built. (That last argument is so insane that I won't even respond to it here.)

I am not entirely clear on what Mike McCurry is arguing for. In fact, I've never been entirely clear on anything McCurry says... it's one of the reasons he made such a good press secretary.

But what I think is that there has to be a Clinton-esque third way. We can find a way to encourage companies to keep laying the pipe we need to build the actual Internet-with-a-capital-I. And, between careful policy and the inevitable innovation in technology, information design, and communication protocols, we are bound to keep the internets.

In the words of our own Monkey, "You can't stop the internet, bitches!"


While reading Dahlia Lithwick's excellent analysis of the Moussaoui verdict I was reminded of an episode last week that left me puzzled. What happened was that one of the jurors asked for a dictionary, the judge refused, and the juror looked the word up at home.


For the record, the word was 'aggravating' and this is what my dictionary says:
[Latin 'aggravare', from 'ad-', to + 'gravare', to burden (from 'gravis', heavy)]

Making worse.

Incidentally, after the episode the judge did tell the jury what aggravating means. She said, "The word 'aggravating' essentially means to make something worse."

Actually, that's the definition of 'aggravate', but close enough for horseshoes and capital murder cases is what I say.

What I'm really curious about, though, is the judge's rationale. One thing's for sure, the ex post facto explanation doesn't scan:
The juror later admitted to the judge that he made the investigation contrary to Brinkema's instructions, saying he thought her mandate against research was limited to Internet surfing. Brinkema ruled that the breach of her directions was not intentional or material, but told jurors that they all had to work from the same information, and encouraged them to send her notes if they were not sure of something. |Jurist|

If the concern is that every juror work from the same information, then the judge should have provided a dictionary when asked. Also, she should have taken measures to insure that every member of the jury pool had precisely the same experiences from birth onward.



[Medieval Latin 'homologare', from Greek homologein, 'to agree']

trans. v.
To approve, especially to confirm officially.

Limited war is stupid

Here in Left Blogistan lots of folks are upset at Shelby Steele for linking America's impending defeat in Iraq to white guilt. And, to be fair, most of what Steele has to say is transparently stupid and much of the rest of it is a transparent attempt to preemptively blame lefties for the consequences of neoconservative foreign policy. Still, there is a grain of truth in Steele's analysis. Namely, that war is a brutal affair and that a fighting force which shrinks from violence will do less well in battle than a force which uses all of the resources at its disposal.

All of which I mention by way of saying that when Billmon writes the following he's a little bit right and a little bit wrong:
His little dissertation isn't just a Hoover Institute seminar on criminal justice run amok. It's an ingenious, if muddled, attempt to push the old law-and-order buttons in order to justify a more directly genocidal approach to warfighting. Just as filling prisons with bad guys (or, if you're Charles Bronson, gunning them down in the street) is still the conservative answer to crime, massive firepower is still the conservative way to win a guerrilla war. |link|

Yes, Steele is arguing for 'a more directly genocidal approach to warfighting.' The thing is, that's about the only thing Steele has to say that's exactly right.

I'm reminded of the hand wringing that sometimes follows police shootings, where the complaint focuses on the number of bullets fired. My own view is that most police shootings are unjustified, but it still seems to me that emptying the magazine is a reasonable course of action once the shooting has begun. Partly this is just prudence. When a conflict has escalated that far, prudence dictates that the police should employ sufficient force to guarantee that the confict won't go any further. More importantly, it seems to me that the decision to fire a gun at someone should always be based on the assumption that the person you're shooting at is going to die. Anything less allows deadly force to be used without sufficient justification.

The great merit of Steel's genocidal proposals is that they lay bare the essential inhumanity of war. There's no benefit to pretending, as too many Americans seem inclined to do, that it's possible to fight a war without committing untold atrocities. On the contrary, maintaining the fiction that war can be less than excessively awful contributes to a political climate in which it is easier to choose war than to live with the compromises of peace.



[From Greek 'dia', through + 'noesis', understanding]

Pertaining to the discursive faculty, its acts or products.
2. Proceeding to a conclusion by reason or argument rather than intuition.

O, spirit of love, how quick and fresh art thou

Every night, they drained their toilets to talk, going on for hours, interrupted only when a cellmate needed to use the station for more pressing needs. Occasionally, Spencer said, the toilet talk veered into bedroom talk. |link|


Yesterday a creakingly familiar email came through on a grad school listserv that I'm still subscribed to. Here, stripped of identifying names, is the text:
[asshole teapot despot professor, redacted] just informed [TA who consistently gets exemplary rankings on student evaluations] and me that our summer classes may be cancelled. [Serial exemplary TA] is teaching an intro to philosophy class. I am teaching intro to logic at 9am. No wonder nobody wants to enroll in my class.

If you could advertise my classes handing out brochures that would be great. Has anyone of you ever had a class cancelled? I suppose that in the case our class gets cancelled, we don't get paid.

For the record, you don't get paid.

And so two grad employees who had been lucky enough to be promised employment by the department for summer[1] are told, just as they enter the busiest stretch of the semester, that they might not have summer jobs after all. And now they're hustling for students.[2]

It's ridiculous. A few years ago one of my colleagues actually got a buddy of his to walk around campus wearing a sandwich board advertising his class. I think it was cancelled anyway.

1 And, by the way, finding a summer job in a college town -- especially when you get a late start -- is no picnic. In my five some years of grad studentism, there wasn't a single summer that didn't include the ritual of buying groceries with the loose change I'd accumulated over the winter.

2 Why, you might ask, does responsibility for these matters fall on the backs of the graduate employees rather than on those who made the promise of employement? Good question, though I think the answer is pretty obvious.


A Guy Walks Into a Talent Agent's Office. . .

Stephen Colbert treated us to a hilarious, albeit painful, dinner treat. Salon.com is hosting the video in the "Video Dog" area. If that link goes down, don't worry, I'm sure you're already watching C-Span. They'll even sell you the DVD.

I won't spoil it with a bunch of preamble, but Colbert realized that no matter what he said, President Bush and the assembled members of the press had to sit there and take it. There are two files, the brutal monologue and a pre-recorded skit that imagines Colbert as White House Press Secretary.
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