Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Another quote:

"For me and you and everyone else around today, the universe will be over in less than 10^2 years," [Nobel Prize winner in physics Steven Weinberg] said. In his peculiarly sardonic way, Weinberg seemed as jolly as all the other cosmologists. "The universe will come to an end, and that may be tragic, but it also provides its fill of comedy. Postmodernists and social constructivists, Republicans and socialists and clergymen of all creeds—they're all an endless source of amusement."

From How Will the Universe End? by Jim Holt in Slate.

Quote of the day:

I have yet to see a problem, however complicated, which, when you looked at it in the right way, did not become still more complicated

P. Anderson, New Scientist, 1969

Former Bush aide Karen Hughes, on CNN's late edition with Wolf Blitzer:

BLITZER: In your opinion, Karen, how big of an issue will this abortion rights issue be in this campaign?

HUGHES: Well, Wolf, it's always an issue. And I frankly think it's changing somewhat.
I think after September 11th the American people are valuing life more and realizing that we need policies to value the dignity and worth of every life.

And President Bush has worked to say, let's be reasonable, let's work to value life, let's try to reduce the number of abortions, let's increase adoptions.

And I think those are the kind of policies that the American people can support, particularly at a time when we're facing an enemy, and really
the fundamental difference between us and the terror network we fight is that we value every life.

The comparison between pro-choice advocates and terrorists implicit in that last sentence has got to be the lowest, most digusting thing I've heard in years.

Monday, April 26, 2004

The Oklahoma house of representatives has been busy lately. It adopted an amendment which

...would allow for the castration of offenders who commit first- or second-degree rape or forcible sodomy. Inmates already convicted of those crimes could volunteer for the procedure.

Riight. I imagine they will have many volunteers.

(Found via Clayton Cramer)

Harvard University has just finished a thorough review of its undergraduate curriculum. The conclusion:

... students need more room for broad exploration, a greater familiarity with the world that can only be gained from study abroad, and a deeper, hands-on understanding of science.

After 15 months of study, a committee of administrators, professors and students has recommended that the university give students more time to choose their majors and limit the requirements for those majors, encourage students to spend time abroad and increase the number of required science courses.

That is a bad idea.

I believe the opposite should be done -- require students to select a major immediately and abolish all general requirements.

It all comes down to what you believe education should be. Historically, there was such a thing as an educated man. Back in the 18th century, this was someone who memorized Homer and Virgil in college and displayed more than a passing familiarity with Roman poetry and Greek drama. In the 19th century, an educated man read a lot fewer latin classics but much more English and continental literature. He was quite adept at recognizing references to Shakespeare at dinner parties.

There is no such thing as an educated man anymore. Knowledge has become fragmented and scholars have become specialized. Isaac Newton saw himself as an explorer of natural philosophy; it seemed only natural to him to write tracts on calculus, optics, and religion. His intellectual heirs in these diverse fields no longer talk to each other -- the very idea that someone who works in physics will publish scholarly monographs on religion seems ridiculous in this day and age.

Perhaps someone who has read the classic works of literature can be considered well-read? But what is a classic anyway? Who decides that a certain book represents the best of what has been thought and written? These are not pointless questions. To label something a classic is an exercise in authority -- authority that must derive from somewhere. Is there any theoretical basis that allows one to say that one book is better than another?

The idea of the classic is intellectually bankrupt. That certain books are remembered and others are forgotten says more about the community of scholars and writers charged with keeping the intellectual tradition than the books themselves (it is notable than in England the shift from Greek and Latin to English literature was driven in part by a desire to create a national identity). In fact, much of academic research in the recent past has followed along these lines, e.g. feminists arguing that the cannon has a tendency to exclude female writers, post-colonialists bring to light the works of non-Europeans, etc.

Perhaps an educated man is someone who is well-versed in the sciences? I am a scientist(-in-training) myself. Frankly, I find the idea that someone can be well-versed in the sciences ridiculous. There is no such thing as the sciences anymore. There is math and physics and biology and geology and so on. The connections between these fields exist, of course, but by and large they are separate disciplines. One can be well-versed in one area, but one cannot be well-versed in all of them -- it is simply too much to ask.

Forcing college students to dissect snails and make measurements with gyroscopes and mix fluids to observe chemical reactions won't make them any more educated. I should know. I've done all these things. And I've thoroughly forgotten the contents of the freshman laboratories where I've done these things.

Universities should stop trying to produce educated men -- a large crop of Harvard graduates who have vague notions about a variety of fields but no thorough grounding in any of them won't do the world any good. Universities need to become technical schools of sorts, producing graduates who know genetics but can't recognize a word of Shakespeare or maybe experts in history who couldn't do math to save their lives.

I hate to be pessimistic, but...

... the U.S. is going to lose the war in Iraq.

Ask yourself this question: where do you envision Iraq five years from now? Do you see a stable democratic government taking hold, ushering in an era of stability and security, an era where Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds cooperate in the governing of the Iraqi state? Or do you see more chaos?

Iraq is less a war in the conventional sense of the word than a war of public opinion. Militarily, we are far superior to our opponent; but when Iraqi rebels hide in mosques it becomes difficult to use superior firepower. Yes, if we wanted we could easily destroy every single cluster of resistance; the point, though, is that in doing so we would thoroughly alienate the Iraqi population.

The war for public opinion is not only in Iraq but here. Consider the results of the Pew poll which came out yesterday. In response to the question "Do you think the U.S. should keep military troops in Iraq until a stable government is established there, or do you think the U.S. should bring its troops home as soon as possible?" 53% of the people said they supported keeping the troups in Iraq and 40% said they supported bringing them home as soon as possible. Moreover, support for keeping troups in Iraq has decreased over time; the first time the Pew poll ran this question in Sept 2003, 64% supported keeping troups in Iraq as long as it takes.

So: we have reached the point where two-fifths of the American public want their troops brought home as soon as possible, regardless of the situation in Iraq.

More importantly: support for bringing the troops home immediately can only increase. Can you think of event that
will shore up support for the war? What could possibly happen to those who think our troops need to be brought home immediately change their minds? On the other hand, more violence in Iraq, continued over a large period of time, will make the 53% of the people who do support keeping the troops change their opinion. The numbers support this analysis: support for bringing the troops home has slowly but consistently increased over the nine months.

It is a war of wills. The terrorists realize that they do not need to defeat us militarily; they only need to create carnage and chaos for a sufficiently large period of time until the majority of Americans want to bring the troops home. Is the will of the American people greater than the will of the terrorists?

Not in this case. Now that no WMDs have been found, Bush can offer no coherent rationale for staying in Iraq except to help the Iraqi people create a democracy. So the primary reason to stay in Iraq is humanitarian;but the American people had no stomach for this in Somalia -- why should this case be any different? Call me a pessimist, but while I supported the Iraqi war from the beginning, and while I support staying in Iraq as long as it takes now, I just don't think the American public will be willing to tolerate Fallujah-type casualties for altruistic reasons.

The pictures in this article about the batterred Saudi tv host and women's rights advocate Rania al-Baz are emotionally gruesome.

(Found via Milt Rosenberg)

In this former industrial town north of London, a small group of young Britons whose parents emigrated from Pakistan after World War II have turned against their families' new home. They say they would like to see Prime Minister Tony Blair dead or deposed and an Islamic flag hanging outside No. 10 Downing Street.

They swear allegiance to Osama bin Laden and his goal of toppling Western democracies to establish an Islamic superstate under Shariah law...

This is from an eye-opening article titled "Militants in Europe Openly Call for Jihad and the Rule of Islam" in today's edition of the NYT. What is especially disturbing is that these sentiments are coming not from recent immigrants but from Arab-Britons that have lived in the country for a while:

On working-class streets of old industrial towns like Crawley, Luton, Birmingham and Manchester, and in the Arab enclaves of Germany, France, Switzerland and other parts of Europe, intelligence officials say a fervor for militancy is intensifying and becoming more open.

Some Muslim recruits are going to Iraq, counterterrorism officials in Europe say, but more are remaining home, possibly joining cells that could help with terror logistics or begin operations like the one that came to notice when the British police seized 1,200 pounds of ammonium nitrate, a key bomb ingredient, in late March, and arrested nine Pakistani-Britons, five of whom have been charged with trying to build a terrorist bomb...

The openness of the calls for jihad against the western world is alarming. I would have expected that there would be a few imams in England who would preach this sort of thing; but when these people feel comfortable enough to issue a public call for the overthrow of the government and the establishment of Sharia law in Britain, its an indication that their views are considered legitimate in the British Muslim community.

I hate to say it, being an immigrant myself, but the way to fight this is immigration reform. The western countries should be more selective about where their immigrants come from -- and they should profile the immigrants to weed out anyone who has the slightest possibility of being a fundamentalist. Further, how about revamping deportation laws? There should be no legal restrictions on deportation -- that way militants who openly advocate the overthrow of the government can be sent away without any legal burden.

Of course, these policies will adversely affect thousands of immigrants who do not belong to the above category -- immigrants who will be unfairly penalized due to the action of a select few -- immigrants like myself. But its a reasonable price to pay. What exactly is the alternative? Allow the number of people who hold the above sentiments to grow unchecked?

Quote of the day:

Anyone who considers arithmetical methods of producing random digits is, of course, in a state of sin.

John Von Neumann, 1951

Sunday, April 25, 2004

NY Times summary: today's edition describes the frustration of many porn stars with the video production shutdown following the recent HIV scare:

Nick Manning, 36, had started work on a film on April 13 when news of the shutdown came through. His restlessness was apparent. "One more day without sex here," he said on Friday. "It's ridiculous. We have nothing to do...

Read a book, perhaps?

In a different section, the Times profiles the wedding of Salman Rushdie to the Indian-Italian model and actress Padma Lakshmi. Rushdie saw her profile in a magazine during a promotional tour in Italy in '99; when he ran into her during a party in NY he asked for her number. Well done, Salman.

(Found via Slate)

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Conceptions of science, then and now: how many movies feature a mad scientist as one of protagonists? It was a theme as popular in the 19th century as it is today; its interesting to see how the character has evolved with time.

The modern mad scientist -- a figure typified by Dr. Strangelove -- is hyper-rational. He thinks and speaks in a jargon which, although technical, conveys precision and accuracy; he makes no secret of his disdain for the non-scientists he interacts with; he is slightly eccentric, peculiar, the kid who never fit in back in his school days.

By contrast, the mad scientist of the 19th century was a figure steeped in magic. He spoke in a language reminscent of the medieval mystics, using words that were readily understandable but in new and unexpected ways. Everything about him seemed slightly supernatural; and the schemes he proposed sound like enchantments to modern ears. Shelley's Frankenstein is one book that does not fit this trend, but consider how Hawthore describes the laboratory of a such a character in Dr. Heidegger's Experiment:

It was a dim, old-fashioned chamber, festooned with cobwebs, and besprinkled with antique dust... Over the central bookcase was a bronze bust of Hippocrates, with which, according to some authorities, Dr. Heidegger was accustomed to hold consultations in all difficult cases of his practice. In the obscurest corner of the room stood a tall and narrow oaken closet, with its door ajar, within which doubtfully appeared a skeleton. Between two of the bookcases hung a looking-glass, presenting its high and dusty plate within a tarnished gilt frame. Among many wonderful stories related of this mirror, it was fabled that the spirits of all the doctor's deceased patients dwelt within its verge, and would stare him in the face whenever he looked thitherward... The greatest curiosity of the study remains to be mentioned; it was a ponderous folio volume, bound in black leather, with massive silver clasps. There were no letters on the back, and nobody could tell the title of the book. But it was well known to be a book of magic; and once, when a chambermaid had lifted it, merely to brush away the dust, the skeleton had rattled in its closet, the picture of the young lady had stepped one foot upon the floor, and several ghastly faces had peeped forth from the mirror; while the brazen head of Hippocrates frowned, and said,--"Forbear!"

I simply had to post this; correction of the day from the NY Times:

Yesterday, the Times identified a man on page A21 as a Ku Klux Klan member found guilty of murdering a black sharecropper. Actually, the man was Pete Coors, head of Coors Brewing Company, and a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate. Coors is not in the Ku Klux Klan, and did not murder a black sharecropper. The Times regrets the error.

(Found via Brad Delong)

Friday, April 23, 2004

Slate runs an interesting bit of cultural commentary on the new remakes of the Cinderella story. The recent movies give our culture's answers to some fundamental questions: can a woman ever be happy without a man? to what extent should women be independent in a relationship and to what extent they should be caretakers and nurterers? Jill Pellettieri writes,

No matter how sassy, ambitious, and independent a girl might be, her life is only complete when she's Mrs. Prince Charming. At least that's the subtext of two "modern" Cinderella stories now in theaters—Ella Enchanted and The Prince & Me....

Historically, fairy tales have reflected the values of the society in which they were written or revised--mirroring its preoccupations, obsessions, ambitions, and shortcomings. So the question inevitably arises: What do these updates say about our culture's view of women and marriage?

In Ella Enchanted, Ella of Frell (played by Anne Hathaway), a poor but beautiful young woman desperate to escape the constraints of her awful stepfamily, sets out to rid herself of a curse she's had since birth—excessive obedience. (Gail Carson Levine, who wrote the novel Ella Enchanted, set her defiant protagonist in opposition to Disney's Cinderella whom she saw as blindly obedient.) Along the way, Ella and the kingdom's much sought-after prince, Prince Charmont ("Char"), fall in love. In The Prince & Me, Paige, a poor farm girl (played by Julia Stiles) fervently pursues her dream of becoming a doctor by working her way through college. When she falls in love with "Eddie," the crown prince of Denmark, she is faced with a choice: Should she attend medical school or stay with her true love?

It's interesting to examine the transformation that occurs in each young woman's life after meeting her prince. Prior to their courtships, Ella and Paige are role models for what modern women are taught they should be: smart, confident, career-minded. They are in control of their destinies and undistracted by men...

And yet their admirable moxie finds its demise in romance. Pair Ella and Paige with their better halves and they differ little from their Disney predecessor: They're submissive and invisible, women behind their men.

Paul Krugman writes in his latest column,

[The Bush administration has committed] a chain of blunders: doing nothing to stop the postwar looting, disbanding the Iraqi Army...

It is interesting to me that disbanding the Iraqi army is cited a mistake by Mr. Krugman without any further comment -- the sort of thing that would be obvious to any casual observer. And it very well may have been a mistake. But something tells me that had the Bush administration chosen to use the Iraqi army to keep the peace, it would have been assaulted with mountains of the criticism from the left charging that this sort of thing is morally reprehensible. Had it hapenned, I bet Krugman himself would have written a few columns describing the moral bankrupcy of Bush's foreign policy.

Hindsight is 20/20. Given the situation in Iraq now, its easy to cite the disbanding of the Iraqi army as a blunder committed by an incompetent administration. Yet it was a bold and courageous decision at the time: the United States refused to be associated with the previous Baathist regime by using its law enforcement tools, even if it meant sending thousands of disgruntled, unemployed soldiers into the streets.

Too interesting from an anthropological perspective to pass up: Friday's New York Times notes how the reaction of the Japanese public to the homecoming of recently-released hostages from Fallujah markedly differs from the American reaction in similar circumstances.

"You got what you deserve!" read one hand-written sign at the airport where they landed. "You are Japan's shame," another wrote on the Web site of one of the former hostages. They had "caused trouble" for everybody. The government, not to be outdone, announced it would bill the former hostages $6,000 for air fare.

Beneath the surface of Japan's ultra-sophisticated cities lie the hierarchical ties that have governed this island nation for centuries and that, at moments of crises, invariably reassert themselves. The former hostages' transgression was to ignore a government advisory against traveling to Iraq. But their sin, in a vertical society that likes to think of itself as classless, was to defy what people call here "okami," or, literally, "what is higher."

Treated like criminals, the three former hostages have gone into hiding, effectively becoming prisoners inside their own homes...

The Foreign Ministry, held both in awe and resentment by many Japanese, was the okami defied in this case...Defying the okami are young Japanese people like the freed hostages, freelancers and members of nonprofit organizations, who are traditionally held in low esteem in a country where the bigger one's company, the bigger one's social rank. They also belong to a generation in which many have rejected traditional Japanese life. Many have gravitated instead to places like the East Village in Manhattan, looking for something undefined.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Dead man working: Given that the bidding on Erdos number 5 is up to $354.00 at the time of writing, this seems to be a good moment to note a little-known fact about Paul Erdos- his publication rate has only increased after his death.

Erdos died in '96. According to my count on MathSciNet, he published roughly 80 papers from '97-now. Pretty impressive, given that he is dead.

What probably happenned is that everyone who discussed a mathematical problem with Erdos at some point has written a manuscript and put Erdos' name on it -- and who in the world would have to effrontery to reject a paper by Erdos in this day and age?

So if you want to increase your publication rate, consider dying.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

To the visitor from Nigeria who stumbled onto this site by doing a search on Israeli google for "email address of churches in Saudi Arabia that can finacial help to the poor:"

I am impressed by your multiculturalism. You have come to the right place.

I am a director in the foreign affairs department of the American
National Petroleum Corporation (ANPC). I wish to use this opportunity to
notify you of the existence of a certain amount we wish to transfer
overseas for the purpose of investments and importation of goods from
your country.

In May 2001, a contract of sixty-six million United States dollars
($66,000,000) was awarded to a foreign company by my ministry. The
contract was supply, erection and system optimization of supper polyore
200,000-bpsd, system optimization of 280,000-monax axial plants and the
computerization of conveyor belt for Kaduna refinery. With only the
consent of the head of the contract evaluation department, I over
invoiced the contract value by thirty four million United States dollars

The contract has been completed long ago and the foreign company fully
paid off. But in the office files and paper work, the company is still
owed USD34M representing the over invoiced amount. Because this amount
is derived from the award and execution of a foreign contract, there is
no way the money can be paid locally. That is why I contacted you so
that we can do the project together for our mutual benefit. We have
concluded every necessary arrangement to transfer this amount to a
foreign account as the final phase payment for the said contract. What
we need is your bank account into which we can deposit the money and
after we shall share the money with you.

We sincerely need an honest person to work with and have agreed to share
the money in the following percentages, 70% will be for us who will
effect the transfer and 30% will be for you whose account is used to
secure the funds. There is no risk involvement because applications
will be made to the concerned Federal ministries and parastatal with
official approvals given by the Federal government before the Central
bank of America will be officially empowered to wire the funds to your
account by telegraphic transfer.

If you are interested, contact me by Email at pierremenard-at-list.ru
indicating your full names or company name and address. Your direct
telephone and fax numbers. The name and address of the bank you will
like us to deposit the money, the telephone and fax numbers of the bank,
your account number etc. Everything has been arranged and I will send
more information about the business transaction to you as soon as I hear
from you. For obvious reasons, please keep the proposal top secret and
highly confidential.

Kind regards,

Detached Observer

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Back in the day when Dean was riding high in the polls, the far-left Daily Kos seemed to be the epicenter of the new democratic party. And one of the recurrent themes on Daily Kos were repeated rants about The New Republic, a (brilliant) centrist-liberal magazine. Fast losing its relevancy, declared one. The Pretentious Wing of the Democratic Party, alleged another, under the ironic title "Shock! TNR Writes Something Stupid". The New Republic happens to be my favorite magazine.

And then....Dean lost the nomination. Suddenly, this new populism looked significantly overestimated. It seemed as if the Democratic party is the same centrist Democratic party it has always been, not terribly enthusiastic about embracing a radical agenda touted by a small minority.

Recently, kos made some denigrating comments about the contractors who died in Iraq. "Screw them," he said. Conservatives had a field day. In the end, John Kerry pulled his ads from the Kos webpage.

Whose irrelevant now, bitch?

Monday, April 19, 2004

Lucianne Goldberg's suggestion as to how Clinton should title his memoir: "Blowing It: Memoirs of a Less-Than-Great President."

I caught the tail end of Oliver Stone's Looking at Fidel on HBO. Apparently, Castro likes OS's movies and granted him a special 60-hour interview. Stone produced a sympathetic pro-Castro movie which was not aired when Castro jailed 75 dissidents soon after the interview was conducted; OS went back to Cuba for more interviews and ended up with a movie that is slightly more skeptical. Slightly.

What struck me about this movie -- and granted I did not see it in its entirety -- is its naivete. In one scene Castro surrounded by a crowd on the street; the crowd ecstatically shouts praises; one short,young woman screams "All that we have -- our education -- is due to the revolution"; a youthful-looking (black) man shouts "where else in the world can a black man be accepted like here?" Their screams look oddly robotic.

Yet OS takes these effluvient outpourings of emotion at face value. Slate's Ann Louise Burdach interviewed OS for Slate. The man is delusional:

ALB: Let me ask you about the part [in the film] where Castro's in front of eight prisoners charged with attempting to hijack a plane [to Miami]. He says to them, "I want you all to speak frankly and freely." What do you make of that whole scene, where you have these prisoners who happened to be wearing perfectly starched, nice blue shirts?

OS: Let me give you the background. He obviously set it up overnight. It was in that spirit that he said, "Ask whatever you want. I'm sitting here. I want to hear it too. I want to hear what they're thinking." He let me run the tribunal, so to speak.

ALB: But Cuba's leader for life is sitting in front of these guys who are facing life in prison, and you're asking them, "Are you well treated in prison?" Did you think they could honestly answer that question?

OS: If they were being horribly mistreated, then I don't know that they could be worse mistreated [afterward].

ALB: So in other words, you think they thought this was their best shot to air grievances? Rather than that if they did speak candidly, there'd be hell to pay when they got back to prison?

OS: I must say, you're really picturing a Stalinist state. It doesn't feel that way...

He reminds me of Leon Feihtwanger, who visited Russia during the height of the terror in 1938, interviewed Stalin, and ended up writing a sympathic account of Russian society.

The more I look at the transcript of Bush's press conference, the more ridiculous statements I find. In response to a question that ended "how do you answer your opponents who say that you took this nation to war on the basis of what have turned out to be a series of false premises?" President Bush offered the following rationale:

I went to the U.N., as you might recall, and said, either you take care of him, or we will. Any time an American president says, if you don't, we will, we better be prepared to.

So we went to war with Iraq because we did not want to lose face?

Memo to the White House: try to avoid unscripted events from now on.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

This segment from Bush's press conference has been making the rounds for a week now but I thought I'd post it here anyway:

QUESTION: Mr. President, why are you and the vice president insisting on appearing together before the 9-11 commission...

BUSH: ... And, secondly, because the 9-11 commission wants to ask us questions, that's why we're meeting. And I look forward to meeting with them and answering their questions.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) I was asking why you're appearing together, rather than separately, which was their request.

BUSH: Because it's a good chance for both of us to answer questions that the 9-11 commission is looking forward to asking us. And I'm looking forward to answering them.

Let's see. Hold on for a minute. Let's see. Oh, Jim... I've got some must-calls, I'm sorry.

I'm voting for Kerry. America needs a President that can duck questions more gracefully.

In his recent press conference, Bush said:

One of the interesting things people ask me, now that we're asking questions, is, can you ever win the war on terror? Of course you can.

This seems obvious enough to our President. Its not so obvious to me.

There will always be terrorists. There will always be those who hate modernity and wish to reverse the couse of world history. Like Al Qaeda, these people may be driven primarily by what they perceive as a religious war against the infidels; like the ETA they may be driven by desire to achieve independence for their region; like Timothy McVeigh they may be driven by a paranoid fear of the encroaching power the government. Whatever. They will always be around. We can uproot one cell, destroy an organization, but new cells and new organizations will inevitably sprout up.

Its also going to get a lot easier with time to blow things up. Its pretty easy right now; there is little to stop a potential suicide bomber located within the US from walking into the middle of Times Square and setting off a bomb. As time goes on, new ways to build weapons will be found; new weapons will be invented.

There is no way to fight this. There will always be terrorist organizations plotting to inflict damage to the US; there will always be a war on terror.

The solution? Well, realizing the inevitability of terrorism is the first step. By repeatedly stating the war on terror will be won, the Bush administration is creating false expectations.

We should realize that the actual damage terrorists inflict is minimal. Tens of thousands of people die in car accidents in the US every year; the few thousand who died in the WTC is small potatoes. The economic damage is also pretty small; 9/11 led to the destruction of two buildings. Step outside the "9/11 was horrible" bubble for a second and ask yourself: can the destruction of two buildings be so damaging to the US?

The real damage the terrorists inflict is PR-based. We see the towers burn; we see them collapse; we replay the images thousands of times in our minds. It strikes fear into us. It changes our behavior: suddenly we don't want to fly on planes; we are anxious about trips to NYC; we come away feeling vulnerable and demoralized.

The solution: we have to accept terrorism as a simple fact of life. We have to think about it the way we think about car accidents: worrisome yet unavoidable. When terrorism is treated with cold detachment in the daily papers and when it has little effect on policies, the rationale for it will cease.

Will this ever happen?

Sort of.

I think that as terrorism gets more and more common, as the public gets more and more detached, and as the rationale for it eventually drops, terrorist acts will at some point begin decreasing in number. In turn, this will prompt the public to think of terrorism once again as something out of the ordinary; which will prompt to terrorists to redouble their efforts; which will return the public to detachment. My prediction: in the future terrorism and public detachment will end up oscillating around an uncomfortable equilibrium.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

The problem with Chomsky & company: You can't rail for years about how the US did nothing to stop the massacres in East Timor in 70's; about how the US did nothing to stop the Rwandan genocide; and then break out in hives when the US does invade a brutal dictatroship with the aim of establishing a democracy.

Either you oppose war as a method to promote democracy and end ethnic cleansing -- which puts you in the position to oppose US actions in Kosovo and Iraq -- but also puts you in no position to complain about East Timor or Rwanda -- or you support war as a legitemate means of achieving humanitarian ends -- which allows you to rail about Rwanda and East Timor -- but puts you in the logical position of supporting US actions in Kosovo and Iraq (or, at least, supporting the humanitarian justification for Iraq Bush latched on when WMDs were not found).

Remember the "fifty tons of mustard gas found on a turkey farm" Bush mentioned every other sentence in his press conference?

At the time, I couldn't help but think how rednecky it was. The man has problems thinking in abstractions -- nuclear proliferation,
inspection regimes, national soverignty. But he likes specifics -- 50 tons of mustard gas he can understand. Turkey farms -- he
knows what those are.

Now the latest snippet from the White House:

...the White House said the accurate figure for the Libyan mustard gas was 23.6 metric tons, or 26 short tons, not 50 tons.

Moreover, the substance was found at different locations across Libya, not at a turkey farm. And observers did not find mustard gas on the farm at all, but rather unfilled chemical munitions, the White House acknowledged.

Reminds me of an old jewish joke: "Is it true that Cohen won a million in the state lottery? Yes, it is true, but it was only ten dollars, in a poker game, and he actually lost it".

Thursday, April 15, 2004

In one of his regular anti-gay columns (too drab to link to here), John Derbyshire of the National Review recounts the following conversation conducted with Martin Gilbert about his biography of Churchill:

Gilbert: ... When Churchill was 20 and a young soldier, he was accused of buggery, and you know that's a terrible accusation. Well, he ended up prime minister for quite a long time.
Lamb: Why was he accused of buggery, and what is it?

Gilbert: You don't know what buggery is?

Lamb: Define it, please.

Gilbert [clearly flustered]: Oh, dear. Sorry, I thought the word would — buggery is what used to be called "an unnatural act of the Oscar Wilde type", is how it was actually phrased in the euphemism of the British papers...

In America, we call it ass-fucking.

Graph of the day: US defense spending per GDP, 1940-2002

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

From a summary of Thomas Sowell's Affirmative Action Around the World in Commentary Magazine:

[In Malaysia] Chinese laborers were first brought to the peninsula to work the rubber plantations, Indian laborers to work the tin mines. Both have become substantial ethnic minorities, with Malays remaining the great majority. The three groups are quite distinct.

The Chinese, adopting a frugal style and investing heavily in the education of their children, pulled themselves from the plantations and built businesses across the country; they have come to dominate retail establishments in Malaysia, of which they owned 85 percent by 1980. Corporate ownership by Chinese has also soared. Chinese incomes are double those of Malays.

In 1965, Malaysians willingly divested themselves of a great mass of powerful Chinese by expelling Singapore, which became a separate country and remains very largely a Chinese city—and greatly prosperous. But, although the expulsion of Singapore made the Malay majority politically secure, and somewhat reduced its economic domination by the Chinese minority, it did not stop the intellectual advance of the Chinese who remained. In 1969, more than half the officers in the Malaysian army were ethnic Chinese; as long as university admissions were determined by examination results, only 20 percent of the places went to Malays, and most of the rest to ethnic Chinese.

The majority, competing unsuccessfully, had to be protected. The Malay government set out to achieve racial balance in employment, giving formal preferences to Malays in hiring. But there seemed no alternative to continuing reliance on the better-educated Chinese and Indian minorities in fields where their technical skills were needed. And so admission to universities was altered as well. Group membership was emphasized over individual performance, and, to increase the number of Malays yet further, the Malay language became the only medium of instruction in schools as well as in universities.

The ethnic preferences that have pervaded Malaysia in recent decades were not designed to pull an oppressed minority from the depths; their purpose was to protect the relatively less competent majority from the intellectual and economic advances of more competent ethnic minorities. What, then, do we learn from Malaysia?
We learn that the inferior performance of some ethnic groups is not always a consequence of discrimination against them. On the contrary, even the imposition of discriminatory advantages favoring a majority cannot obscure the fact that some groups prove less competent than others.

This is infuriating. Google's email service will provide over a gigabyte of storage data for each user, in contrast to Yahoo and Hotmail which only offer a few megabytes. In exchange, Google will scan your email for keywords and attach ads based on those keywords.

Sounds great? Not exactly. California state legislators and consumer advocate groups want to shut this down because its an invasion of your privacy (as if your privacy is not yours to sell). Eugene Volokh previously wrote about this under the title "Please save us from ourselves, Ms. Legislator" reffering to State Sen. Liz Figueroa and her efforts to bully Google.

This is liberalism run amock. These people are driven by an intense desire to play the hero, to rescue the misguided consumer from the evil overtures of corporate America. Its interesting that at their extreme liberals are not that different from the religious right; both end up trying hard to force a certain set of values on society at large (thou shalt not commit adultery vs. thou shalt not sell thy privacy).

One other thing about Bush's press conference I couldn't help but notice: he complained of the pressure to come up with pointed answers to the reporters' questions.


Isn't this what every politician has been expected to do since the dawn of time?

I watched Bush's press conference yesterday. I skipped the opening statement (rehearsed statements are a tad bit dull) and tuned into the questions. I was struck by how much Bush actually rambled; in response to questions he went into a series of relatively unconnected statements punctuated with pauses used to come up with the right words. This made this press conference especially interesting because, more than other public appearances by Bush, it offered a window into how the man thinks.

Bush is something of a mythical creature to me, like the unicorn. I've read a lot about him. My understanding of him is constantly mediated by the praises I read coming from conservatives and the criticisms I hear coming from liberals. It has been a long time since I actually watched an event by him that was not rehearsed to the last detail -- and it was a bit eerie to watch the man struggle to find words (how ordinary).

Bush's rhetoric was surprisingly neoconservative. Typically, liberal narratives of the last three years emphasize the role played in the administration by neocons like Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz in "hijacking" the administartion's agenda. In fact, Bush seems to strongly believe in neoconservatives principles -- that America can be a force for good in the world, that liberating people from brutal dictatorships is worth any damage to international law. He clearly shares the idealism that drives neoconservatives and rejects the realism that drove the first Bush administration -- which was skeptical of forcing democracy on dictatorships and sought instead to cut deals with the various dictators around the world. Time and time again when asked a question, Bush would retreat into a ramble that played on one of these neoconservative themes -- freedom, idealism, a war on tyranny and opression.

There were also a few embarassing moments. Bush was stumped when he asked about mistakes he made since 9/11; he did not have a good answer on the question of WMDs -- retreating into "the weapons may still be found", "I look forward to reading the reports of the weapons commission," and "regardless, Saddam was still a threat." Of course, if Saddam did not have WMDs he was not more threatening than scores of other anti-American dictators around the world.

Bush has been vilified to no end by his critics, including myself. It is difficult for me to reconcile a policy I can only describe as evil -- a policy that involved misleading the American public about the likelihood of WMDs in Iraq -- a policy that supported an anti-democratic coup in Venezuela while using pro-democratic rhetoric to justify war in Irq -- a policy that has allowed Afghanistan to degenerate into a state torn apart by rival warlords with a weak central government -- with this rambling idealistic man that came out on stage yesterday.

Update: An example of ithe idealism and neoconservatism I was talking about, from a transcript of the press conference:

I believe so strongly in the power of freedom.

You know why I do? Because I've seen freedom work right here in our own country. I also have this belief, strong belief, that freedom is not this country's gift to the world; freedom is the Almighty's gift to every man and woman in this world. And as the greatest power on the face of the Earth, we have an obligation to help the spread of freedom. We have an obligation to help feed the hungry. I think the American people find it interesting that we're providing food for the North Korea people who starve. We have an obligation to lead the fight on AIDS, on Africa. And we have an obligation to work toward a more free world. That's our obligation. That is what we have been called to do, as far as I'm concerned.

Of course the rhetoric falls far short of reality -- we are not leading the fight on AIDS in Africa for example.

This administration and WMDs

In Instructions to Raffaello Girolami Machiavelli wrote,

Occasionally, words must serve to veil the facts. But this must happen in such a way that no one should become aware of it; or, if it should be noticed, excuses must be at hand, to be produced immediately.

Monday, April 12, 2004

Alex's adventures in the blogosphere: recently, I stumbled on the following quiz. It asks you to distinguish between statements made by the commenters on the pro-Israeli website Little Green Footballs and statements made by various Nazi leaders in the 1930's. I got a 77%.

To be fair, the quiz took a lot of things out of context.

Following this, I engaged in a discussion about this topic at this thread at Crooked Timber. You can find my comments by searching for "Detached Observer."

Next, I went to LGF -- see this thread. For your entertainment, search for "Detached Observer;" read Charles' response at post #281; and then read starting with post #295, after which many of the posts deal with the issue.

The response my claim -- that there is a double standard regarding comments at LGF -- received is interesting. Charles (who runs the LGF site) called me Heartless Observer. A commenter named Morgan wrote "please explain why you are obsessed with Jews to the extent that you compare the murder of Jewish children to an angry anti-Muslim comment on a pro-Israel website." And the most interesting response was by a commenter named Iron Fist which I'd like to quote in full:


You aren't really that detached.

You are on the other side. You support the Islamonazis against the Americans and the Israelis. I'm proud to support the Americans and the Israelis. I don't hide my affiliation.

Instead, I proudly fly my colors, and I'll be happy to waste those who have a problem with it.

Why do you hide your colors?

Ashamed of your affiliation?

Or are you just a coward?

I can only hope that some of these folks clicked on my name and are going to leave comments here.

"Bush says memo did not spell out attack" -- this is the title of a Chicago Tribune story on the President's response to the release of an August 6, 2001 memo titled "Bin Laden determined to strike inside United States." The NYT quotes Bush as saying "I am satisfied that I never saw any intelligence that indicated there was going to be an attack on America — at a time and a place, an attack."

He is building up a straw man. No one claimed Bush knew terrorists were going to strike America on 9/11. Clarke never said that on Sept 10,2001 an FBI agent burst into the oval office and told the President about the terrorist plot but in response Bush only laughed maniacally and said, "So much the better." Clarke never even claimed that Bush could have prevented 9/11.

What Clarke did claim is that terrorism was not a high enough priority in the administrations pre-9/11 universe; that the administration repeteadly brushed off his warnings that a big terrorist attack was in the works; that his plans for precautions the United States should take were boggled down in endless committee discussions. Clarke admits that even if all his plans were implemented, 9/11 would have most likeley occured anyway. But just because 9/11 was impossible to prevent does not mean that it was OK for the Bush administration to put terrorism on the backburner.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

These days Iraqi democracy is touted as the reason we went to war in the first place. The Bush people say they want to create a functioning democracy in the middle east; they argue that the only long-term solution to terrorism is better government in the muslim world. Fair enough. But how deep is the Bush administration's commitment to democracy?

Its worth remembering that two years ago the Bush administration supported a coup in Venezuela which briefly ousted the democractically elected President Hugo Chavez. Chavez returned to power after three days of demonstrations. It turned out later that Bush administration officials met with the plotters to discuss ways of ousting Chavez.

Immediately after the coup, various Bush officials (Powell, Rice) offered cautious words of support. Once Chavez got back in power, Condoleeza Rice went on Meet the Press and urged him, without any apparently intended irony, to "respect constitutional processes."

Forgive me if I'm skeptical of this newfound appreciation for democracy.

Why I am a Democrat, reason 1,537: I don't have to battle urges to nuke Iraqis.

Kathleen Parker writes,

I suppose it would be considered lacking in nuance to nuke the Sunni Triangle.

Ya think?

She continues,

But so goes the unanimous vote around my household...

Has your family ever considered group therapy? It might be a good investment.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Click through at your own risk: a meditation on the bandwith of ejaculation.

This is my 100'th post. How appropriate.

Scientists from a Shanghai technical university have tried to rank all the top universities in the world. A press release is can be found here; links to the various rankings can be found here; and a ranking of only North American universities is here.

First, a good thing about the rankings: they avoid the ridiculous slant towards high-tuition upper class institutions exhibited by the US News & World Report ranking. US News ranks such mediocre universities as Dartmouth, Northwestern, and Washington University at St. Louis ahead of such research powerhouses as Berkeley, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, and NYU. US News is biased in part due to the ridiculous criteria it uses to measure quality of schools; these criteria include alumni giving rate (which measures the percentage of graduates felt that their 20's were the best time of their life) and graduation rate (which rewards colleges for giving students a pass). Dartmouth College, for example, has no strong departments in any particular area that I'm aware of; I've certanily never seen it appear anywhere especially high in US News' own survey of graduate program reputations (which accurately measure the prestige accorded to different departments). Yet US News ranks it the ninth best school of the United States, one spot below Stanford and Caltech.

Having said this, the methodology of this new Chinese study is flawed as well. First, they measure the number of Nobel Laureates at a given university for 20% of the net score. This is a terrible choice because this number reflects very, very little. Nobel prizes are typically given decades after the research in question was done; they are also typically awarded for a single important discovery and tend to overlook researchers with patters of important discoveries in a variety of different subdisciplines. And not all fields have a Nobel prize associated with the field, and this overemphasises some disciplines at the expense of the others.

Secondly, the Chinese study measures the number of papers published in the journals Science and Nature. Again, this skews the picture towards certain disciplines that tend to publish papers in those journals. Mathematicians never publish papers in Science or Nature. Neither do engineers. Physicists rarely do. Its mostly biologists, chemists, and doctors.

Finally, the numbers used are net numbers, not scaled per number of faculty members (actually, this scaling is done but accounts for only 20% of the net score -- the other 80% depends only on the net values). This tends to reward schools which are big and penalize those that are small -- and I really can't see why a school with a large number of mediocre faculty is better than a school with a small number of exceptional faculty.

But despite these flaws, the ranking is useful. Its fun to look through. My conclusions: Caltech is the best university in the world. On a per-faculty-member basis, it beats the closest competitor (Stanford) by about 25% with a score thats roughly double the score of such universities as Oxford, MIT, and Yale.

Addendum: One other reason why this ranking is not accurate: it measures citations using the ISI citation index. This index overemphasizes English-language journals. Russian scientists, for example, publish papers in Russian journals; French scientists have their own French-language journals, and so on. None of these journals are included in the ISI ranking. The European press relase I linked to above notes with alarm that the best universities in the world tend to be English speaking and wonders why the quality of continental European education is so low; this is why. Its a flaw in the index.

To put in my two cents: in my fields (applied mathematics, electrical engineering) the best European universities are KU-Leuven and Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, which have arguably better departments than any American competitors.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Should be sold at every playground:

Vodka flavored ice cream, launched by the Australian company Arnott.

The case for torture: Lets say that you are the head of state of a democratic nation. Your intelligence service has just apprehended a known terrorist; among his possessions they found evidence of a terrorist act in the works. They figure out that the act will occur the next day but they do not know where and when; they interrogate him but he is not talking. They come to you asking for permission to torture the terrorist. After all, they argue, if they find out more about the terrorist act thats about to go down they could prevent it; hundreds of lives would be saved. Would you accept their argument?

We tend to think of torture as morally repugnant; something a free nation simply does not do. We instinctively believe that it should never happen; that the act is morally indefensible, barbaric, something we have grown out of. It conjures out the idea of medieval torture chambers one sees in museums. This makes the choice rather difficult; we are torn between the desire to save lives and our emotional recoil.

Not to mention that your intelligence service may be wrong. The man may not be a terrorist after all. Mistakes happen. Even if he is a terrorist, the information extracted from him might be insufficient to stop the terrorist bombings. Even if it is, the bombing might be prevented by acting based on the clues alone, rather than torturing the terrorist. We live in an unpredictable world and we must make decisions under considerable uncertainly.

I'd argue that we need to adjust our morality; that we must overcome the repugnance at the idea of torture; that we must, in some ways, become more base and barbaric. Faced with a choice between saving lives and avoiding torture, its difficult for me to see how one can choose the latter. And even if the information we act upon is imperfect, as long as we believe it is reliable, the prospect of saving lives must ultimately prevail.

We are moving toward a world that looks like an extended version of the Israeli microcosm, a world where terrorism is a constant disruption that never goes away. The bombings in Madrid; the terrorist act averted in Britain last week; the more recent bombing in Spain; constant threats against the US by Al Qaeda -- this is just the past couple of weeks. We need to realize that this world has changed substantially since Sept. 10th, 2001 -- and this new world demands a substantially different morality.

We will adapt to this new world sooner or later. More terrorist acts against the US will no doubt occur at some point in the future; each act will bring about demands by the public that the government take a harder line against terrorism. Eventually, the public and the politicians will understand that terrorists must be fought by any means necessary.

Tyler Cowen at the Volokh conspiracy posts the following quote:

I don't want to hear anyone complaining about the deficit unless they immediately begin to list ways of taking things away from old people and making them work harder and longer. Otherwise you aren't really bothered by the deficit at all.

I'm ready to do this! My guide to balancing the budget in the 21st century:

1. Big raise in taxes
2. Big cut in spending
3. Screw old people. Raise the retirement age for Social Security and cut benefits.

Yes, I know its harsh. But it's the only way to avoid bankrupcy while facing a demographic time bomb.

I have to watch this: Ari Fleisher, Al Franken, Tucker Carlson, Bob Woodward, Peggy Noonan, and Tim Russert face off in a special edition of Jeopardy. Airs the week of May 10th.

(Link via Wonkette)

Dear fellow liberals,

I was watching Bill Maher's HBO show the other day when I saw something quite annoying. Former Bush speechwriter David Frum was arguing that once you embark on a mission of freing the world of dictators, there's no reason why you can't start with those most menacing to you personally (i.e. Saddam). Another guest on the show -- some famous musician everybody but me has heard of -- replied, "wouldn't that be North Korea?" Due to the applause of the audience and Bill Maher's move to change the topic, Frum never managed to respond.

It's not a good argument. We can't attack North Korea because they have nuclear weapons. Iraq didn't have them -- this is why we had the option of military force. This option does not exist with North Korea; they can blackmail us by threatening to drop a nuke on Tokyo (we have a military pact with Japan) if we attack.

So please, please stop raising this objection.

This Associated Press dispatch on the anniversary of the 1964 Brazil coup contains a helpful bit of history:

At that time, the U.S. was involved in the feverish competition against communism known as the Cold War.

Who knew?

Monday, April 05, 2004

Its old news now, but the case of Maher Arar deserves a fresh look, given all that's happened since the story first broke. Arar is a Syrian-born Canadian citizen who was detained in the United States allegedly for having ties to Al Qaeda; he was then deported to Syria where he was tortured.

This makes me think: why do we need Syrians to torture Canadians? Lets cut out the middleman. We're capable of torturing Canadians ourselves.

Put this in context: its another insensitive move by the Bush administration. First, the administration's chief economist, Gregory Mankiw, declares that outsourcing is a good thing. Next, the Treasury Secretary John Snow echoes his comments. And now to put the icing on the cake, we find out that the administration has outsourced torturing to the Syrians.

People, lets not lose track of our ultimate goal here: job creation. Think of how many jobs would be created in the U.S. if we did our torturing locally. Its not just the torturers. The benefits ripple into other sectors of the economy. Think about companies that would spring up to manufacture torture equipment. Think of the employees of these companies. Think of the companies that supply the suppliers of torture equipment.

Some might appeal to the principle of comparative advantage: let the Syrians specialize what they are good at (torture) and let us specialize at what we are good at (sitcoms). These people -- and they are usually academics insulated from the danger of outsourcing -- just don't get it. People, these are american jobs. Lets be clear about this: every torture chamber in Syria means one less torture chamber in the U.S. There's no way around it.

Dear readers: write President Bush and tell him that torture is an American business.

Friday, April 02, 2004

I find myself trying to resist the urge to diagnose conservatives with psychological disorders. I swear, its getting harder every day. Today, for example, I came upon this post, linked by Instapundit. I liked this post. I liked it a lot. Its interesting because it shows you a conservative thinking out loud.

The man puts two pictures of Kerry snowboarding side by side. One picture was printed in the Times. The other came from an Associated Press photo. The catch: the AP photo has Kerry wearing a flower. The Times does not.

Now any normal person reading the NYT would gloss over this and move on to the sections that deal with things like politics, international relation, or cultural notes. But no! Flowers, you see, are feminine. Real men don't wear flowers. Real men wear cowboy boots and own Texas ranches. Real men are tough, masculine, and it doesn't take much to get them in a fight. Kerry's not like that. Kerry's a sissy. Who else would wear a flower?

Now I can see a light bulb coming on. Wait a second! The New York Times is a liberal paper! They must have digitally edited the flower out! And so the blog-reading public gets a post entitled Did the NYT deflower John Kerry?

Now comes the time when a conservative starts the actual process of thinking. I don't want to imply that conservatives don't think; far be it from me. The thinking just comes a bit late in the game. And the thinking this time was prompted by a reader pointing out that not only is Kerry not wearing a flower in the NYT photo, he's wearing a different jacket. After some examination, the reluctant conclusion is that these pictures were taken on different dates. The NYT did not doctor the photo after all -- the bastards.

But its not over yet! The blog-reading public gets an update pointing out that, although the NYT did not doctor the photos, they selected the more masculine one to publish and this reflects bias on their part. Those staffers at the NYT, breaking all the laws of journalism.

What can I make of this? What of the obsession by Instapundit, Bill Hobbs, and Hugh Hewitt with John Kerry's flower? These people need therapy.

Update: Oh what the hell. If I am going to be a blogger, I might as well have fun. I'm going to diagnose Instapundit with a psychological disorder -- his collection of links to Kerry and the flower strikes me as most obsessive. It seems to me that Instapundit and the rest of the flower-commentators are insecure about their own masculinities.

Here's the thing: Real men are not afraid to wear flowers. Real men don't have to maintain a macho image all the time. Real men are not afraid of appearing feminine. Sure, real men can be macho at times, but they can also be sensetive. They're not afraid to reveal their own feelings, they're not afraid of being vulnerable.

By contrast, people who are insecure about their masculinities try hard never to appear feminine; they rarely appear sensetive because it doesn't square with their image of what a man really is; and when they see someone else -- like Kerry -- do something distinctly unmasculine, they mock him. Surely, they think, they are better than that.

Reading the posts by Instapundit, Hobbs, BoifromTroi, and others, I was struck by the way these people peddled stereotypes of masculinity. Why can't a man like flowers?

My guess would be that the Kerry flower critics had tough times growing up(you knew this was going to end up by examining their childhoods, didn't you?) I think they got made fun of a lot as kids. I think they aspired to be tough and manly and brave. I think they tried hard never to show signs of weakness. Why else would they be so annoyed by the idea of a man with a flower becoming President?

Thursday, April 01, 2004

I realized something when I was watching Clinton's speech on C-Span this Wednesday.

I miss him.

No, I don't miss him in a vague I-liked-his-policies sense. I miss the man. I miss listening to his speeches. I miss his tone of voice. Sure he was a slimeball once in a while. But caught with his hand in the cookie jar, he would crawl back to you with that babyish face thats impossible to resist. Of course you forgive him. I miss the ritual of forgiving him.

And now he's gone from public life.

A paean to Angela: Angela is significant to me because she comprises exactly 50% of the readership of this blog. I also like her because she has darn good shoes. Shoes, dear reader, are important.

Angela was born in 1983. The next 20 years of her life proceeded rather uneventfully. All this changed in 2004 when she fell in love with her pony-tailed teacher, whose name has been changed for his own protection. We'll just call him Dick Price.

Angela's journal entry on Dick Price is worth quoting in full:

dick price is still hot. he just walked by. when someones arse is a work of art, jubilation consumes my being. go price go, work the hallway, buchanan c is your building, baby, yeah. strut like you own this bitch. thats it. you walk on up to that office, takin the stairs, workin that arse. you know youre beautiful, dont you. cant be more of a sexy beast than this, can you. dr. price?

With such finely honed prose, Angela is well on her way to becoming the star reporter of the New York Times -- or the Globe and Mail, whatever floats her boat. We were just discussing the desirability of seducing Dr. Price when Angela utterred the following words of wisdom:

angela: part of me wants to shag him just once
angela: but another part of me says why not shag him many times
me: a part of you is very logical
angela: but lets say we shag
angela: then after weve done the nasty in his office or whatever
angela: he'll say something sexy and liberal constructivist
angela: and I'll get attached

Angela has a glow in the dark Jesus to give her direction in life. She also has a potted plant named Jurgen that give her oxygen. Both are equally important.

Angela likes diamonds. But what about all the little kids laboring in mines in Sierra Leone to provide diamonds to the western world, I ask? Screw the kids, she replies.This one goes with my dress. Angela is heartless like that.

Lately, Angela has been getting more and more conservative. Its quite disturbing. Maybe Jurgen isn't giving her enough oxygen. I'm starting to be afraid that the next time I see a picture of her room, it will have a giant Stephen Harper portrait in the center...