Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Going Cable

Libby-Palooza - Andrew Sullivan

Sullivan's hopping mad about the Libby pardon. I don't think I've ever seen such a generally calm and reasonable man like Sullivan pull out the knives before. Loving it.

Urban Running

Parkour and Freerunning in the United States - NY Times

I first heard about this from a Warren Ellis comics naturally. The idea behind parkour is to move from one point in a urban area to another in the shortest time possible. That means using rooftops, stairwells, the tops of cars and just about anything that previously looked like an obstacle as a new means of getting across town. The urban runner's style is similar to that of a Brazilian form of fighting that looks more like a dance than a martial art. The whole system is fluid, rolling the body to match the terrain while maintaining forward momentum. If you look at Bruce Lee's style of fighting (which is what the Cowboy Bebop character Spike Spiegel's fighting style is based around) you'll see striking similarities. The whole concept is perfectly supermodern.

Terrorist Special Olympics

London Bombers = Beavis? - Danger Room

I do so love it when security experts ridicule would-be bombers for their ineptitude. There's something comforting in reminding oneself of the incredible stupidity of your average criminal.

Rules or Guidelines?

What Rule of Law? - Andrew Sullivan

Wow, Sullivan is pissed and I like it. I think part of his anger stems from his conservative roots while someone like me isn't all that surprised by the president's actions. So we have a president who doesn't respect the rule of law. And this is new and different how? Actions like the president's pardon of Scooter Libby are exactly the reason why impeachment exists. Problem is though, you have to go for a twofer in impeaching both the president and the vice-president, preferably the vice-president first. The likelihood of this happening isn't all that great however.

Monday, July 02, 2007


Quote of the Day - Andrew Sullivan
Honor Amongst Thieves - Matt Yglesias

So the president decided that Mr. Libby's conviction was 'excessive' and thus commuted it. I'd call shenanigans but I'd probably end up in a detention facility for my trouble. It's bunk and we know it's bunk. What's amusing to see is the reaction of the kool-aid right. Defend at all cost, spin no matter how fast you have to go. Part of the reason why President Bush commuted the conviction lies with his polling numbers. The hope is that his numbers among the base will stabilize. Pollster.com has the president at just under 30% so right now everything is on the table in terms of what the president might do. Yet I don't think the half-measure of commuting the sentence will fully succeed. Those in the rightist base who still wholeheartedly agree with the president might take offense to a simple commutation. At the same time, I think the metastasizing effect of a pardon will still occur despite the president only commuting the sentence. Those in the middle who are still on the fence will probably move further against this administration. Personally, I don't see any immediate serious effects but I have the feeling that nearer the end of his term the president will begin to feel the drop-off in support.

Philosophical Musings on Texting

I had a thought this morning while lying in bed and smoking a cigarette. I've seen studies that note the common tendency of people to misinterpret the meaning of words when sent via e-mail, text or various other forms of context-free communication. While I don't believe that such communication is entirely context-free I do think it gets as close as you can to it. Still, what popped into my head this morning stems from my understanding of Wittgenstein's 'meaning-as-use' theory of language and the advent of a culture increasingly based around highly contextless communication. Language is a public act wherein the meaning of words is conveyed in how the words are used in relation to the language-game being played. Much like how a deck of cards are used to play a variety of games with the game itself determining what the meaning of each card is, words are the cards of language. Meaning isn't attached until a word is used in public and that meaning is constantly negotiated. Puns are a perfect example of such negotiation.
Wittgenstein also did something else when he formulated the idea of language as a purely public act--he did away with the idea of a private language. In other words, a language you create in your head holds no meaning, no real meaning, until you use it to communicate with someone else. By making this proposition Wittgenstein overturned about four hundred years of metaphysics by turning on it's head the Cartesian statement, "I think, therefore I am." Descartes used that formula as a way of proving that his mind existed. But if language is a public act and a private language is impossible then the formula is illogical. That "I" of Descartes is a public "I", not a private one. Thus did Wittgenstein prove that other minds exist while removing the one proof that your mind exists.
So what the hell does any of this have to do with the texts and e-mails you get every day? Obviously if language is a public act then it makes sense for one to misinterpret this kind of contextless communication. Yet I think we may be on the verge of something new in our understanding of communication and other people's minds. In order to get the meaning of a text or an e-mail you need a deep understanding of the mind of the person sending the message. What I think is that through the use of this near-contextless communication we may actually develop a heightened sense of context in personal relationships. The required understanding of someone else's mind for text-based communication to work properly would revolutionize how we interact, the ways we express ourselves in our behaviors and convey meaning. The philosophy of language will have to adapt to incorporate the rise of this kind of contextless communication.

The Social Darwin Strikes Again

Two Were Doctors - Andrew Sullivan

What strikes me about the fact that two of the British bombers were doctors is how similar to the proto-fascists this starts to sound. One of the more famed proto-fascist writers, Georges Sorel, was a well-educated engineer turned social critic. Those who argue that the more soul-sucking aspects of modernity were the catalyst for fascism make the point that the fascist leaders came from middle-class backgrounds, were well-educated and generally respected in their fields. At the same time however, class issues became more apparent as the mobility engendered by such an education did not translate into a higher social status. Hence the struggle against modernity that marked fascist ideology. What this means for those who pick the path of the 'great' jihad against the West is that it is possible these well-educated Muslims living in the West have not found spiritual peace amongst the trappings of modernity. This is something we are all struggling with in the West, but fortunately most of us have not chosen a path of destruction as these bombers have.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

What Goes On

Obama on a Roll - Andrew Sullivan

I think the basic question a lot of Democrats will have to ask themselves in the coming presidential election is whether they want Sen. Clinton as the Democratic nominee or if they want to win the presidency. I honestly have a hard time seeing how someone who inspires such a knee-jerk reaction in so many people can succeed in a national election. Sen. Clinton is in the same position as someone like Mitt Romney. Sure, they will carry the base if the base has no choice, but votes beyond the base will be hard to come by. Sen. Obama has the advantage of less negative associations while being a liberal Democrat through and through. I think what makes Sen. Obama so appealing to independents and disenchanted Republicans is his ability to state convictions. He's not afraid to voice his opinion, or at least something that looks like a genuine opinion. He has an aura of authenticity that is hard to beat.