Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The reason why I don't read anymore.

Back in 1998 or 1999, I started to read a few columns from Mostly it was because of the tone of "insider knowledge" about the military situation in Kosovo that was brewing. But at a certain point, the conspiracy theories got so crazy that they just weren't credible anymore. The posts that drove me from on a permanent basis were a lot like Attack of the Oxymorons. Here is one of the tamer paragraphs:
Only Bush can save Sharon, now. Under cover of a regional conflagration, the ultra-nationalist dream of a Greater Israel could be quickly accomplished. While all eyes are on Baghdad, what is happening on the West Bank could be contained to the back pages, a sidebar, at most, to the main event. Pressure on the President to make war is increasing, with hotheads like Charles Krauthammer demanding to know why the President is "going wobbly" while others confidently predict the outbreak of hostilities sometime early next year, or perhaps even sooner.
The recent news from Israel: Prime Minister Sharon is seeking a withdrawal from the Gaza strip. Until that "Greater Israel" shows up, and I'm not holding my breath, I'll continue to boycott the offensive filth that boils up from that website.

Suprisingly enough, the post I linked to is one of the tamer posts. Paul Craig Roberts (who, amazingly, coauthored an op-ed in the New York Times with Senator Chuck Schumer some time ago) published an article that is literally insane with hatred. If there is one thing that conservatives and liberals can agree on, it is that this Buchananite Right must be stridently opposed.

A shift in the conventional wisdom

Old conventional wisdom: The evil neoncons are using a mind-controlled President Bush to put into effect their long-standing plan to conquer Iraq: their first step towards achieving total world supremacy.

New conventional wisdom: an independent-minded President Bush decided to invade Iraq on a snap judgement.

It seems that the success of the Iraqi elections has earned Bush a promotion from "stupid idiot" to "gifted amateur" in certain liberal circles.

Monday, February 21, 2005

A comment about "Annihilationism and Eternal Conscious Suffering"

In an article titled "Annihilationism and Eternal Conscious Suffering", Parableman uses an example based upon relativistic physics to demonstrate that the doctrines of Annihilationism and Eternal Conscious Suffering (the destruction of the soul in Hell versus the eternal torment of the soul in Hell) are not necessarily mutually exclusive. The argument is to suppose that observer Bob has piloted his starship sufficiently close to a black hole to suffer an extreme amount of time dilation from the point of view of observer Alice, who remains at rest a large distance away from the black hole. Bob would therefore experience some finite period of suffering (presumably due to radiation orbiting the hole or tidal forces due to the extreme curvature of spacetime there) followed by destruction at some point inside the event horizon of the black hole. On the other hand, Alice could observe that this finite period of suffering for Bob has been dilated to an infinite amount of time in her reference frame.

My comment is that Bob's consciousness of suffering will at some point not have any kind of meaningful counterpart for Alice. As far as Alice is concerned, Bob will eventually be time-dilated to the extent that even the motions of his constituent molecules will essentially cease. Insofar as consciousness is based upon the motion of molecules such as neurotransmitters within the human body, Bob's consciousness will have ceased according to Alice's observations.

To be specific (and what follows assumes that I haven't made some terrible error in black hole physics), we could observe that it would take a finite amount of Alice's time for Bob to reach an arbitrarily choosen distance x (as measured by Alice) from the event horizon and an infinite amount of time to cross that distance x. In Bob's reference frame, it would take him a finite time t to cross his measurement of the distance to the event horizon. The smaller we choose x, the smaller t will be. I would argue that t could be choosen sufficiently small to preclude Bob having any type of conscious awareness of suffering over the interval t. If Bob is not suffering over the interval t, then from Alice's frame of reference, he cannot be suffering over the infinite amount of time it takes him to cross the distance x.

Since Parableman's adopted definition of the doctrine of Eternal Conscious Suffering for his argument does not apply if Alice only observes Bob to be conscious for a finite duration of time, Bob cannot be both Enternally Conscious and Annihilated in this case.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Bugs Bunny on crack

It looks like a new animated series derived from the classic Bugs Bunny and friends is in the making (hat tip: Double Canister and Vodkapundit). The premise is that in 700 years the descendents of the classic characters will have superpowers and fight crime wearing the obligatory tight-fitting costumes. Whether or not Duck Dodgers will make an appearance in the new series remains to be seen.

The concept of animals with superpowers in outer space has also been attempted in the past, although with little success in this case. The one aspect of "Bucky O'Hare and the Toad Wars" that really impressed me was that, despite the apparent lack of overt Christian content in the storyline, Bucky still had the guts to name his starship the "Righteous Indignation".

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Return of the self-refuting column

It looks like my thought that incoming DNC chairperson Howard Dean could be repositioned as a moderate has been taken up by New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. In his article The Fighting Moderates, Krugman insists that the selection of Mr. Dean "doesn't represent a turn to the left" and that "Mr. Dean is squarely in the center of his party on issues like health care and national defense." Krugman goes on to write that:
It was always absurd to call Mr. Dean a left-winger. Just ask the real left-wingers. During his presidential campaign, an article in the muckraking newsletter CounterPunch denounced him as a "Clintonesque Republicrat," someone who, as governor, tried "to balance the budget, even though Vermont is a state in which a balanced budget is not required."
Krugman also states:
But Mr. Dean, of course, wasn't quiet. He frankly questioned the Bush administration's motives and honesty at a time when most Democrats believed that the prudent thing was to play along with the war party.
If at some point in the past Dean was one of the few Democrats to openly attack the Bush administration's motives and honesty, but now Dean is at the center of his party, doesn't that immediately imply that the Democratic Party has made a shift to the left?

Monday, February 14, 2005

I am never watching television ever again.

I used to play a turn-based simulation game called Civilization III. Basically, one starts off with a single group of settlers in the Stone Age and slowly builds and develops institutions and technology until an advanced, technological state emerges. One of the problems that I encountered in the game was dealing with a newly conquered, populous yet rebellious city. One way of dealing with the rebellion was to switch workers from food production to entertainment in order to rally morale; for an especially intransigent city, it would take switching the entire population into entertainers to quell the rebellion, thus reducing food production to minuscule levels. The city would literally, slowly entertain itself to death.

Unfortunately, American culture seems to have condemmed itself to a similar fate. The latest news from the Michael Jackson trial is that Jackson plans to call a glittering list of Hollywood stars to testify on his behalf.

That the latest overexposed "trial of the century" will now become "THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN YOUR LIFE EVER!" in the eyes of the mainstream media is guaranteed. That a large segment of the viewing public will actually view the media coverage with the same level of scrutiny and dedication that a Right-Wing blogger dedicates to parsing a Hillary Clinton speech is simply pathetic (in both cases, to be honest). The thought of an entertainment journalist launching a new career and earning fame, fortune and accolades by arranging an exclusive post-deposition interview with Elizabeth Taylor's lawyer, with hastily snapped photographs printed on the cover of Star magazine, is too depressing to contemplate.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Vacuum Energy: Ahead of its time

Here is my entry into the past presidents game from January 2004. Here President Bush plays the role of Democratic President Polk and the contemporary Democratic party plays the role of the Whig party. Geoff Metcalf's latest article about the Democratic party is titled Democrats Going the Way of the Whigs. Of course, my post was actually a serious analogy instead of an excuse for bashing the Democrats; on the other hand, I don't have a deadline to meet every week.

A key problem facing the Whig presidential candidates was the need for a sectional straddle over the issues of the day. In other words, they had to be able to tell different parts of the country different things to placate public opinion in order to win enough votes to be elected. To pull this off, the one thing that a candidate obviously needed to avoid was the different sections of the country comparing notes, or at least coming up with some reasonable compromise position when that comparison took place.

Fast forward to 2004 and you see Senator Kerry facing the same problem of a sectional straddle and horrifically botching it since "comparing notes" is a lot easier in 2004 than it was in 1844. Kerry's strategy on gun control is a good example of a botched straddle in action. In the mainstream media, Kerry was the gun-toting hunter that average gun-toting folk could understand and that was flirting with the NRA for its support. In the Senate, Kerry was supporting the assault-weapons ban (presumably something the NRA opposes) on the grounds that it would keep assault weapons out of the hands of terrorists. Presumably this was a great strategy for winning Rosie O'Donnell's vote, but the possibility that the NRA might instantly draw the inference that Kerry was equating gun-owning Americans with terrorists doesn't seem to have crossed Kerry's mind.

The really interesting question that the comparison brings up is what would have happened in the 2004 election if Howard Dean had been nominated instead of John Kerry. Could a newly-nominated Dean have positioned himself for a successful straddle over the issues better than Kerry did?

Friday, February 04, 2005

The beginning of the clone wars

A few weeks ago, Senator Kennedy warned Democrats not to be Republican clones. Now here's Susan Estrich's latest column in support of Howard Dean as Democratic National Committee chairman (my italics):
Republicans would be well advised to stop licking their chops at the prospect of Howard Dean taking over the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee. Because when it comes to energizing the base and developing a grass-roots fund-raising organization, there is no one on the Democratic side who does it better than Howard Dean. And that is precisely what helped the Republicans win last time around.
As Master Yoda says in Attack of the Clones, "The shroud of the dark side has fallen, begun the clone war has."

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

A new conspiracy theory

A few influential readers of this blog have asked for more postings on the "orbital mind control laser" theme. In order to help them out, I posit the following conspiracy theory suggested by certain trends observable in the media over the past few weeks.

First, observe that Howard Dean is poised to become the new leader of the Democratic National Committee, with his tenure in office presumably leading to a sudden lurch of the Committee into a Left-wing Wacky-land.

Second, observe that prominent liberals see the need for building an alternative to "a very effective conservative message machine." Presumably, this would include a "liberal Fox News" and a "liberal Rush Limbaugh" (and maybe even the liberal blogosphere) as key players. Given Dean's amazing rise in popularity in the months leading up to the 2004 Iowa caucases, he is an obvious candidate for the job of putting this new media machine together.

Finally, observe that Senator Hillary Clinton has made a much-analyzed move to the center. The Right is for the most part considering this pre-positioning for a Presidential bid in 2008. However, when you really think about it, how likely is it that Senator Clinton would start drifting to the center, at the exact moment that her party's major fundraising appaaratus has started drifting away from the center, if she was planning a Presidential candidacy?

Thus, the conspiracy hiding beneath the surface appearances is that what we're really seeing is the Liebermanization of Senator Clinton.

Vacuum Energy and the Star Wars saga? Heresy!

In advance of the next episode of the Star Wars saga being released, and since I'll be up late tonight, I'm going to put down some random thoughts about the Star Wars movies over the next several hours. If writings that differ from the Lucus-approved interpretation of the movies offend you, consult your Star Wars canon lawyer before proceeding.
  • Remember the death stick peddler from Attack of the Clones? According to the official Star Wars website, his name is Elan Sleazebaggano. There's even a scuzzy, slythmongering, street punk action figure! But at least he's not nurf-herding.

  • The Jedi Council is run by idiots, part I: did anyone else notice that the mythical Chosen One who will bring balance to the Force alluded to in The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones seems to apply to Luke rather than Anakin Skywalker? Maybe the charge of idiot being leveled against the average Mace Windus on the Jedi Council is a little harsh, but it seems to me that maybe Yoda might have been able to guess that "Dark Side starting to cloud the future" plus "powerful Force-sensitive kid shows up at the exact same time" equals "kid becomes a Dark Lord of the Sith someday".

  • The Jedi Council is run by idiots, part II: the Jedi Council considers romantic relationships by Jedi to be a major transgression, but orders Anakin to sit around guarding his childhood love interest on impossibly romantic planet Naboo.

  • The Jedi Council is run by idiots, part III: the Jedi Council knows that Anakin betrayed the Jedi Order and massacred a village of Tuskan raiders, but (as reported in the official site) the Jedi Council will give Anakin a starfighter and send him into battle anyway (and Anakin really starts to like being in battle). If I were a betting man, I'd be wagering that one or more "Colonel Killgore" or "Apocalypse Now" references show up in Episode III.

  • The Old Republic is run by idiots: in the timeframe between The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, Queen Amidala gets demoted from Queen to Senator while Jar Jar Binks gets promoted from nothing to Representative. Obviously, the fact that Jar Jar Binks even shows up in the Senate chamber at some point is clear evidence that the Old Republic has decayed into a terminal state.

  • Does anyone who doesn't get a paycheck from LucasArts believe in the virgin birth of Anakin Skywalker from The Phantom Menace? Shmi Skywalker's explanation that Anakin just didn't have a father really came across like a polite euphemism for her usual duties as a slavewoman. An alternative theory that I've heard, given her non-emotional response to forever handing her child over to Qui Gon Jin, is that she was too hopped up on drugs (or death sticks?) to remember.

  • One of the few people to actually intrigue me about Attack of the Clones was Jango Fett. Early in the movie, Jango's murder of the assassin who attacks Padme, the leading opponent of the formation of an Army of the Republic, looks like a coverup to protect someone such as Chancellor Palpatine (presumably the leader of the pro-Army faction). That Jango is working for Palpatine is only underscored by his use of a kamino saberdart (gotta love the Star Wars official site) that was obviously a "message" that the clone army was finished. Yet, when a Jedi Knight shows up on his doorstep, presumably as expected, Jango not only throws the blame for the whole thing on Darth Tyranus (i.e. Count Poopie) but makes an immediate beeline for Count Poopie headquarters.

    Given the ease with which Yoda commandeers the clone army to attack Darth Tyranus on Geonosis, it seems pretty unlikely that Darth Tyranus was the one who paid for it all. Thus, Jango Fett comes across as some kind of double or triple agent; sort of an intergalactic version of the Lee Harvey Oswald of Deep Politics And The Death of JFK.