Monday, November 29, 2010

Quote of the day

"Two Worlds, One Sun" - Inscription on the MarsDials

The Mars Exploration Rovers each carry an identical sundial, approximately three inches square. Space artist Jon Lomberg (a Planetary Society Advisor) designed the face of the MarsDial, and Louis Friedman, Executive Director of The Planetary Society, coined the MarsDial's motto: Two Worlds, One Sun. Their primary function is as calibration targets for the high-resolution Panoramic Cameras aboard each rover, so they are imaged frequently over the course of the mission. But these thousands of images of the MarsDials with their moving shadows calso serve to remind the public that Mars and Earth truly are two worlds with one Sun.

The idea of using the calibration target as a Martian sundial was a brainstorm of Bill Nye the Science Guy, then a Planetary Society board member.
For more on the inspiring story of the Mars rovers, see the 2006 Doubter Book of the Year pick Postcards from Mars.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Palin Beckifies feminist history

Glenn Beck has a terrible habit of trying to invoke figures who held views he regularly attacks as representatives of views that he holds. The ultimate case in point being Martin Luther King, who Beck has made a centerpiece of his anti social justice cause despite MLK being an advocate of social justice.

Michelle Goldberg has been looking through Sarah Palin's new book and sees that Palin shares the trait in common with her anti-intellectual pal Beck:

[Palin] sets earlier feminist heroines, who she seems to imagine were a lot like Sarah Palin. “What is hardest to take about liberals calling the emerging conservative feminist identity anti-feminist or even anti-woman is that this new crop of female leaders represents a return to what the women’s movement originally was,” she writes.

The historical revisionism here recalls that of Christian conservatives who try to paint our deistic Founding Fathers as devout evangelicals. At one point, Palin refers to Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s “Declaration of Sentiments,” which came out of the historic 1848 women’s rights convention at Seneca Falls, New York. Stanton deliberately echoed the language of the Declaration of Independence, referring to the rights that women are entitled to “by the laws of nature and of nature’s God.” To Palin, this mention of God proves that Stanton shared her faith: “Can you imagine a contemporary feminist invoking ‘the laws of nature and of nature’s God?’ These courageous women spoke of our God-given rights because they believed they were given equally, by God, to men and women.”

Not really. Stanton was a famous freethinker, eventually shunned by more conservative elements of the women’s movement for her attacks on religion. In one 1885 speech, she declared, “You may go over the world and you will find that every form of religion which has breathed upon this earth has degraded women.” Ten years later, she published the first volume of The Woman’s Bible, her mammoth dissection of biblical misogyny. Stanton was particularly scathing on the notion of the virgin birth: “Out of this doctrine, and that which is akin to it, have sprung all the monasteries and nunneries of the world, which have disgraced and distorted and demoralized manhood and womanhood for a thousand years.”

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Delayed by dog

I had hoped on trying to get some posting done today, but, as I say in the post title, that has been delayed by dog.

While out for a run earlier today on a local path I noticed an apparently stray/ultra-friendly dog running up to every person in sight trying to get someone to take account for it. Walking up to the path start a girl who the dog had been following told me that it had been following people all morning.

I started my run and as I jogged by the dog it began to run along with me, then sprinted out ahead of me for a bit, looking back over its shoulder every now and then to keep track of me. As it tired out it began to fall behind but would catch its breath then sprint up to me in an effort to keep up. This went on for a literal mile and a half, at which point I had to stop running (had planned on doing 4 miles) otherwise the dog would have run itself to death trying to keep up with me.

So I took it home and will be trying to find it (actually, her) a home or the original owner. And instead of blogging I'm babysitting. A dog.

Quote of the day

"Our natural tendency is to value our countrymen and co-religionists more than others, and we expect God's loyalties to reflect our own. How many times have you seen a sign that says, 'God Bless America'? How many times have you seen one that says, 'God Bless the World'?" - Valerie Tarico, Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light

Friday, November 26, 2010

Once upon a hack ...

I've been busy taking a mental health break this week (and will get back to blogging maybe tomorrow,) but for those still checking in I present for your perusal The War Room Hack Thirty list of the most hackish pundits.

The War Room Hack Thirty is a list of our least favorite political commentators, newspaper columnists and constant cable news presences, ranked roughly (but only roughly) in order of awfulness and then described rudely. Criteria for inclusion included writing the same column every week for 30 years, warmongering, joyless repetition of conventional wisdom, and making bad puns.
And as Eric Boehlert noted on his twitter feed, the list marks a good point to remember his chapter on The Note from Lapdogs.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Quote of the day

"[B]ecause the Bible was written over a time period spanning centuries and was integrated 'by committee,' the biblical God is a mass of contradictions. The more carefully and completely one reads the Bible, the more incoherent the image of God becomes. If one attempts to build an image of God that integrates all of the characteristics, attributes, and behaviors the scriptures describe, the resulting description is nonsensical. Words have to be redefined so thoroughly that they become meaningless." - Valerie Tarico, Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The original birther conspiracy theory

"Democrats had tried to discredit the Republican president, Chester Arthur, alleging that he had been born half a century earlier in Canada, and had at some time purloined his dead brother's Vermont birth identity." - David Aaronovitch, Voodoo Histories: The Role of Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Baleful quote of the day

"Habeus corpus had less of a constituency in 2007, in the Congress of the United States, than it had in the field at Runnymede in 1215." - Charles Pierce, Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Quote of the day

"The great secret of morals is love; or a going out of our nature, and an identification of ourselves with the beautiful which exists in thought, action, or person, not our own. A man, to be greatly good, must imagine intensely and comprehensively; he must put himself in the place of another and of many others; the pains and pleasure of his species must become his own. The great instrument of moral good is the imagination; and poetry administers to the effect by acting upon the cause. Poetry enlarges the circumference of the imagination by replenishing it with thoughts of ever new delight, which have the power of attracting and assimilating to their own nature all other thoughts, and which form new intervals and interstices whose void forever craves fresh food. Poetry strengthens the faculty which is the organ of the moral nature of man, in the same manner as exercise strengthens a limb." - Percy Bysshe Shelley, "A Defense of Poetry"

America, land of the free ... war criminals

Thanks to the Obama administration's vow to "Look Forward, Not Back", which in practice amounts to an ongoing disregard for the rule of law, a continuance of human rights and civil liberties abuses, and a cover-up of criminal malfeasance, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are free to tour the country (but perhaps not the world) bragging of their authorization and support for torture.

Dahlia Lithwick comments on this as well as anything I could think to say. But I would like to note that when given the opportunity, liberal bloggers who spent years denouncing the attrocious human rights record of the Bush administration, failed to question President Obama about his active efforts to continue many of those same policies and shield members of the previous administration from criminal accountability.

This is especially frustrating when it is so easy to point out the sheer hypocrisy of this all. Given that our Versailles media class - the Chuck Todds and such - are nihilistic relativists when it comes to government actions who have managed to see their moral compass dissappear, it's not likely that many in the mainstream press will be bothered by the torture rehabilitation tour that Bush 43 is now on.

Thus, you would think that people who previously recognized torture as a grave crime might have attempted to ask the President to defend his betrayal of the values that he campaigned on.

Update: This link is merely an elaboration on the point I made above about nihilistic relativists in the press - those who, in the name of "objectivity," would do damage to objective truth. They, too, along with the current administration and an apathetic public, have helped make America safe for torture.

Update II: I believe this Amy Goodman quote speaks for itself

Which brings us back to Guantanamo. While the U.S. preaches to Cuba about its lack of democracy, maintaining an embargo against the country for decades, you would think it would set up a model of democracy on the piece of Cuba that the U.S. controls. Instead, it has formed a globally reviled concentration camp there, a Kafkaesque land beyond the reach of law. About 180 men are now interned at Guantanamo Bay, with diminishing prospects of a day in any real court, for years subjected to interrogations and to extended isolation that is both legally and actually torture. President Obama promised to close the prison camp. Congress now is unlikely to fund any Guantanamo shutdown and prisoner transfer, leaving the president shackled to Guantanamo, consigning the prisoners there to indefinite detention and despair, and deepening the disgust with which many in the world view the U.S.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

On the phrase "faith-based"

"It's a cheap salesman's term of art, something you'd use to pitch a television program or a breakfast cereal. It even sounds like an additive - 'faith-based' - an artificial flavoring to make crude biases taste of bread and wine. It's camouflage under which religion is sold like smuggled goods in places where it doesn't belong." - Charles Pierce, Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free

Friday, November 12, 2010

Quote of the day

"It is not a major exaggeration to say that [Michael] Savage makes Gordon Liddy sound like Bertrand Russell. Not to put too fine a point upon it, Michael Savage ... is a raving public nutcase." - Charles Pierce, Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Beck becomes absolute living embodiment of the paranoid style

Beck, yesterday, during his demented hour long, para-antisemitic program accusing George Soros of pretty much controlling the world and having nefarious plans to destroy America:

Eighty years ago, George Soros was born. Little did the world know then, economies would collapse, currencies would become worthless, elections would be stolen, regimes would fall. And one billionaire would find himself coincidentally at the center of it all.
Richard Hofstadter in "The Paranoid Style"

The enemy is clearly delineated: he is a perfect model of malice, a kind of amoral superman—sinister, ubiquitous, powerful, cruel, sensual, luxury-loving. Unlike the rest of us, the enemy is not caught in the toils of the vast mechanism of history, himself a victim of his past, his desires, his limitations. He wills, indeed he manufactures, the mechanism of history, or tries to deflect the normal course of history in an evil way. He makes crises, starts runs on banks, causes depressions, manufactures disasters, and then enjoys and profits from the misery he has produced. The paranoid’s interpretation of history is distinctly personal: decisive events are not taken as part of the stream of history, but as the consequences of someone’s will. Very often the enemy is held to possess some especially effective source of power: he controls the press; he has unlimited funds; he has a new secret for influencing the mind (brainwashing); he has a special technique for seduction (the Catholic confessional).
Never mind that part of the supposed sinister plot ("regimes would fall") happened to be funding democratic organizations that helped to accelerate the fall of communism. Only in Idiot America can such be sold by a charlatan to a credulous audience as a global communist conspiracy against the United States.

And speaking of "para-antisemitism" ...

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Fifty cents worth of inspiration

Seeing a paperback edition of Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio on sale at the library for fifty cents while recalling that the short book served as an inspiration for Ray Bradbury's - one of my favorite authors - choice of format in The Martian Chronicles - my favorite Bradbury book and the first of his I read - I was obligated to purchase it.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Quote of the day

"[I]n respect of riches, no citizen [should] ever be wealthy enough to buy another, and none poor enough to be forced to sell himself." - Jean-Jaques Rousseau, The Social Contract, Bk. 2 Chp. XI

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Phantom Left

If you follow my twitter feed, you will have noticed that I was less than thrilled by Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity. Although I only had the heart to write 140 character or less comments, I can not whole heartily endorse any commentary more than I endorse what Chris Hedges has written in response, about the way that the political establishment (both Republicans and Democrats) use the "phantom left" - the non existent political left-wing in American politics - as a tool to divert the public's attention from the real sources of the erosion of our democratic institutions.

The American left is a phantom. It is conjured up by the right wing to tag Barack Obama as a socialist and used by the liberal class to justify its complacency and lethargy. It diverts attention from corporate power. It perpetuates the myth of a democratic system that is influenced by the votes of citizens, political platforms and the work of legislators. It keeps the world neatly divided into a left and a right. The phantom left functions as a convenient scapegoat. The right wing blames it for moral degeneration and fiscal chaos. The liberal class uses it to call for “moderation.” And while we waste our time talking nonsense, the engines of corporate power—masked, ruthless and unexamined—happily devour the state.
Hedges goes on to excoriate Stewart for attempting to equate those who are outraged by the damage being done to democracy with shrill extremists, without acknowledging the very real grievances that they have.

The Rally to Restore Sanity, held in Washington’s National Mall, was yet another sad footnote to the death of the liberal class. It was as innocuous as a Boy Scout jamboree. It ridiculed followers of the tea party without acknowledging that the pain and suffering expressed by many who support the movement are not only real but legitimate. It made fun of the buffoons who are rising up out of moral swamps to take over the Republican Party without accepting that their supporters were sold out by a liberal class, and especially a Democratic Party, which turned its back on the working class for corporate money.
Fox News’ Beck and his allies on the far right can use hatred as a mobilizing force because there are tens of millions of Americans who have very good reason to hate. They have been betrayed by the elite who run the corporate state, by the two main political parties and by the liberal apologists, including those given public platforms on television, who keep counseling moderation as jobs disappear, wages drop and unemployment insurance runs out. As long as the liberal class speaks in the dead voice of moderation it will continue to fuel the right-wing backlash. Only when it appropriates this rage as its own, only when it stands up to established systems of power, including the Democratic Party, will we have any hope of holding off the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party.

On Epictetus

"There is great sincerity and simplicity in the writings which record the sayings of Epictetus ... His morality is lofty and unworldly; in a situation in which man's main duty is to resist tyrannical power, it would be difficult to find anything more helpful. In some respects, for instance in recognizing the brotherhood of man and in teaching the equality of slaves, it is superior to anything to be found in Plato or Aristotle or any philosopher whose thought is inspired by the City State. The actual world, in the time of Epictetus, was very inferior to the Athens of Pericles; but the evil in what existed liberated his aspirations, and his ideal world is as superior to that of Plato as his actual world is inferior to the Athens of the fifth century." - Bertrand Russell, The History of Western Philosophy

For more on Epictetus, see his entry at the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Today's discount book buy

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (pb) for fifty cents.