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Atomized junior- The Web log

Monday, 31 January, 2005
Tran leaves for Vietnam

In the last post, when I said it was hostile or arrogant to install democracy with armies; it is not that I don't desire a good outcome, or democracy, the best for the Iraqi people. All peoples of the middle east, who may be feeling less than free. It's not that I don't see the need to follow a course once the die has been cast - in a given direction. Provided that that continues -- under constant reassessment -- to be the right and steadfast thing. And truly benefits those it purports to benefit.

It's not that I doubt democracy, allowing that a distilled principle of democracy is what is being championed. Democracy is an ideal of which any particular democratic goverment is an evolved creature, manifested by a particular culture. Democracy has its small set of universal conditions from which it cannot wander far. The ballot is one of these. Against those who claim democracy is apostasy (Zarqawi And the D-Word), I champion rule of the people, and rule of law. Democracy; against those who see - in front seemingly in spite - of God's words and plan - a system that lets people do as they see fit. Ansar al Sunna's words. Only the self recognized will of a people allows them to see themselves as a community who can come together under law divine or otherwise. The true virtuous first ruler will allow this, speak to it and allow truth claims to stand before reason. Without reason and agreement, truth and falsehood are one. The ballot spoke in Iraq yesterday. Hopefully it asked democracy to move forward into Democracy.

This is not what this post is about. My co-worker Tran Nguyen going back to Vietnam is what this post is about. The title gives it away. She is going back with her parents for a whole month. Its the first time going back since she left in 1994. They are going back to visit relatives, see her oldest sister and her family, who didn't come with them. She said they'll be visting Saigon (I don't call it Ho Chi Minh city, she dosn't correct me) but also the towns her parents grew up in, the three river region, where she herself lived for several years. This is south of Saigon where the Mekong river divides into three branches. Work, in the McKeldin techinical services department. - never exciting or even interesting in the best of times - is going to be quite dreary for the next five weeks until she gets back.

I imagine that all the DC Maryland suburbs are collected into one large Vietnamese parish, but I noted in the Washington Post article yesterday, "Brilliant Student Mourned", that the funeral for the Johns Hopkins University student who was murdered last week, was at her church, where she also teaches Sunday school. It's just a mile or so up New Hampshire avenue here.

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Wednesday, 26 January, 2005
Cost of doing business

Having staked out the position that the dialogue on public affairs is and needs to be on-going. I want to offer some examples of the cost of not doing so. We are lead by people who cannot or will not admit to ever being wrong. If we hold our tongues, they will eventually lead us to catastrophe even as much as they protest they are leading us away from it.

Margaret Warner interviewed Paul Wolfowitz for the Newshour last Wednesday, Online NewsHour: Wolfowitz Discusses Tsunami Relief Iraq Elections -- January 19, 2005. I hadn't seen Wolfowitz sit for an interview for a while so I watched with some interest. The first part concerning the junket with Andrew Natsios and Gov. Jeb Bush to Indonesia was sincere and sensitive; although, the concurrent network coverage of that trip dealt little with the part of his mission (as deputy Secretary of Defense) which concerned lifting the current humans rights sanctions which prevent arms sales to Indonesia. It was the next part, his vapid denial-laden description of the Iraq war which stuck with me. Margaret Warner asked how Mr. Wolfowitz responds to feelings by some that the administration mislead the public about the rationale for the war. He leads with the Wmd: everyone thought they had them gambit.

-- I don't believe so. No, the intelligence was very strong on all these points. And frankly, I think if I may say so, I think some of the critics now are a bit too definitive about what we've learned. They say there are no stockpiles found. Well, at least so far that's true. Let me finish, okay? So far, that's true, but does that mean no WMD?... So I don't believe this discussion is helped by accusations of misleading. There was a very strong intelligence assessment which had to be taken seriously. If this -- turn it around, Margaret. If we had been wrong the other way and if the threat had really been imminent and we had been hit with an anthrax attack here that was tied to Iraq and the president had done nothing about it, what would people then say?

This by the way shows the importance of trying to swing the CIA. DIA's custom intelligence shops run by the civilian leadership (specifically here asst. deputy secretary Douglas Feith, it is interesting that he now is going off to spend time with his family : Top Pentagon Aide Who...) would have had little sway over the international intelligence community. It was necessary to get the CIA to buy into it a little, or at least bullied into not actively resisting it. Few aside from the Washington Post and Judith Miller of the New York Times ever really believed it. Mr. Wolfowitz still seems to believe in his definitive non-fact and signals with his words here, there is no contrary evidence that can ever change his mind. I liked the impatient dismissive "...wait let me finish", to Ms Warner who was basically serving up softball questions to him. Also his presence-of-mind to add "tied to Iraq" between anthrax attack, and President done nothing

Now between statements they are willing to make, and those they are less willing to make, we glimpse the widening war on terror soon to come. The Presidents own inaugural speech, and Seymour Hersh's article in last weeks New Yorker. A story initially denied but confirmed by the week-end, on DoD's paramilitay intelligence operations (see Bush's Father Warns Against Extrapolating From Speech, Ready for a fight, The Coming Wars, and New York Times > Intelligence: Pentagon Sends Its Spies to Join Fight on Terror). The post 9/11 blur, which is the administrations national security strategy - its entire foreign policy, can be summed up in the fearful phrase; 'Imagine what might happen...if we didn't/don't.' Call it the Cost of Not Doing it (making war on all our enemies), or CoNDi, for short.

There is rhetorical and logical looseness to this argument. One that either can't or doesn't wish to discern among these threats. Conflating all disagreement with U S interests with annihilatic intent, and leaves them to prove the negative that it doesn't. Again from Mr. Wolfowitz:

And the burden was on them to come clean, to declare everything they had and to not obstruct inspectors and they defied that resolution. At that point, the president faced a critical decision of how you weigh the risk.

Let me throw out a couple of analogies here, metaphors for war. In the first scenario two neighbors vie to put a garish neon display on their roof first, a laughing bare-bellied Santa Claus manufactured by Hotei Christmas decorations ltd. A community compact allows for such displays, putting up the more involved displays is referred to by area residents as 'going nucular'. By generally followed agreement these are limited to one per street. The first man buys such an object and installs it with gusto. It is a considerable middle-class coup, and he baths in the accolades and acknowledgment of the street. His neighbor is consumed with envy. Of the power, and of the glory. He can afford one he reasons, and he can put it together (comes as a kit). So he buys one and starts to put it up. At this, the first man runs up, slaps a ladder against his neighbors house scrambles up and starts to yank the Santa down. Yelling that his neighbor can't have it, because he has one already.

In the second scenario: A man becomes convinced that his neighbor has bought a semi-automatic assault rifle at the local flea market, and is going to use it to shoot up the school bus when it comes by on a certain day. Therefore; he purchases a gun similar to that which he believes his neighbor has himself. On the day, just before the bus arrives, he kicks in his neighbors door murders his neighbor and half his family, whom he believes to be accomplices, in a shocking and awful hail of bullets and blood.

These are charactertures, to be sure, but whatever argument we are using lies between them. Between reasonable men caught up in an emotional and unreasonable mood, and paranoid pathology. Many nations have achieved workable levels of weapons of mass destruction. Nuclear weapons are a djinn that came out of the bottle at Alamagordo, sixty years ago. They are never going back in. One reality of weapons politics is that those who can build a bomb and whom we can not stop are described differently than those we believe we can stop. It is an unfortunate artifact of our policy is that it becomes absurd and arbitrary as nations draw near completing a program of acquisition. Particularly when measured against the indifference accorded the disintegrating management of the arsenals of the former Soviet states, which is likely Al Qaeda's first choice for obtaining such weapons. All the good intentions in the world can not mask the arrogance and cold hostility of using armies to install democracy in order to feel secure in this world.

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Monday, 24 January, 2005
Politically conscious web logging

A keypad life journal from user land.

Mir from Dim Sum Diaries had a post last week that I copied a line out of because I wanted to think about it. "[M]entally disengaging from the world (at large). I don't track the news and politics like I used to. It seems like after Bush got re-elected, a sort of resignation set in. What's the point, it seems. It's sad but true" (Eh?).  She could have been referring to post-election ennui of all or any political or socially aware web logs. That distinction is aimed not the wholly political writers, who seemingly continued on with scarce pause like so many dogs with lockjaw, but all the others, the ones that follow events commenting on things only as they see particular significance.

Her feeling is shared by me, I think, and I was a Government and Politics major. I no longer hang on Move-On's or G. Soros' every pronouncement, or even listen daily to the Diane Rehm show - especially the Diane Rehm show. I find myself sizing up what else I have to write about. Part of this is realization that the prior arguments that seemed so convincing, were not, at least not to enough others. Still I feel the need to keep speaking, or rather see it - the way Poe saw that bird of his. I feel it the way I do when my fingers can't find the sounds in the strings of my guitar, I know have to be played next. As Ted Leo says: "When will we find a chord as resonant as to shake the sheets and make us move?"

There was another phrase of Alexander Meiklejohns', in the article I read for that last post. Glasser quotes him saying: "'not that everyone shall speak', but that 'everything worth saying shall be said.'" The tiresome and redundant are not guaranteed a voice. I followed the footnote (up to the six floor as it happens - the advantage of working in a library pp. 25-28). At the same time as he says only some need to speak: [yet] "No speaker may be declared out of order because we disagree with what he intends to say... When men govern themselves it is they - and no one else - who must pass judgment upon un-wisdom unfairness and danger." At the heart of the matter:

"Just so far as, at any point, the citizens who decide an issue are denied acquaintance with information or opinion or doubt or disbelief or criticism which is relevant to that issue, just so far the result must be ill-considered... it is that mutilation of the thinking process of the community against which the First Amendment to the Constitution is directed."

I sat through inauguration week listening to Bush's speech, asides from Cheney and Rumsfeld. Seeking some response to the idea that this is what we do in their democracy. Hold a four year referendum on the policies of the leadership, then refrain from commenting in any way once that's done, because the referendum has settled all issues whether raised or not. Yet continue to believe that democracy and free speech survive in the chilled spaces between elections.

There is no choice but to exercise our political freedoms. Freedom beyond the thin contracting  freedom they would allow the market to give us - freedom that belongs to our dollars - a freedom to consume. To exercise them individually collectively pluralistically; that is democracy's purpose. It is part of the demonstrable weight of being alive. The goal is the associated mode of living (society) where we realize our true nature as human beings.

Meiklejohn, Alexander, 1872-1964. 
Political freedom; the constitutional powers of the people. With a
foreword by Malcolm Pitman Sharp. New York, Oxford University Press,
1965 [c1960] McKeldin Library : Stacks - JC591 - .M42 1965

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Thursday, 20 January, 2005
Wither WHFS, or the Winter of our Dischordtent

I want to return again to the retired notion of format doctrine for U S
Radio. While people noted and mourned the passing of WHFS from the DC airwaves, no one bothered raising any objection to it. That's not how it used to be.

 I should try to give you an idea WHFS's history in the shadow of the format doctrine. A sense of WHFS's place as a DC and national alt/rock, new wave/punk institution. It was big - Rodney on the Rock big. I first heard WHFS soon after moving to Washington DC. I was still in the Navy at the time. They were conducting an interview with musicians from a band called Nightman, which had some connection with a band called the Razz, which in turn had some connection to someone named Tommy Keene. All they did was talk. It drove me nuts, this is not radio I thought. But I tuned in again a few nights later - they were doing the same thing with a guy named Syl Sylvain. The next time I tuned in, on a saturday, a DJ who called himself Johnny Walker played Minor threat and the Bad Brains. Its hard to characterize the effect Minor Threat and the Bad Brains had on me hearing them for the first time. If you have ever read the Wind in the Willows it was like that scene where Mr. Toad is sitting in the road by himself among the splintered remains of his caravan repeating over and over to himself "beep beep, beep beep." This was when they got their mail on Cordell ave. in Bethesda and broadcast at 102.3fm. In May of 1983 they played Joy Division's Transmission, then ended their transmission selling the frequency to someone else.  One pointless and ineffective listener petition to the FCC later. A Phoenix arose when Jake Einstein bought another radio station to keep his kids off the street, WHFS 99.1fm. Washington High Fidelity Stereo.

  From there followed a multi year struggle for nation level advertising. You have to show up in arbitron to get it and WHFS wasn't. If you don't whatever else your doing your not really running a radio station as a business. In 1987 the Einsteins sold the station to Duchossois Communications. Before long the remaining Einsteins and holdover dj's left, but the songs remained the same. Ironically this opened into the Heyday of WHFS and what it stood for in the light of grunge and the "HFStival". They became popular and profitable and salable and passed through several hand before ending up with Infinity in 1995. The Post had a good feature on WHFS last saturday, which covers all this and more: WHFS: For Many, The Only Alternative (
   This obscure notion of a format doctrine, and FCC's market approach  to all broadcasting issues is central. For this I turned to books on shelves:
Glasser, Theodore L.
    Competition and Diversity Among Radio Formats: Legal and Structural Issues.
    Mass Communication Review Yearbook 1985, Vol. 5, p547    
     (orig. pub. in) Journal of Broadcasting Spring 1984, Vol. 28, Issue 2, p127.

   In the 1970's there were four cases that went before Judge McGowan of the 2nd circuit Court of Appeals. In aggregate McGowan's opinions formed something that people referred to as the Format Doctrine. Simply put Judge McGowan cautioned the FCC that when significant public disgruntlement was apparent, manifested perhaps by listener petitions, or when programming changes would leave a broadcast area without a unique format, the FCC ought to take that into consideration at license renewal time, the FCC having been organized to oversee the airwaves to the 'public interest'. This nearly drove the FCC around the bend. In 1976 they wrote a long memorandum (Memorandum Opinion and Order, 41 Fed. Reg. at 32953) in which they described this format doctrine as a "fearful and comprehensive nightmare". They did not have to tremble long in sickness and dread the Supreme Court took up the last of the format doctrine cases on a writ of certiorari (WNCN, 101 S. Ct at 1269) and ruled in favor of the FCC's view,  ending forever anything the public might have to say about radio, as the public.   The future of entertainment formats wound down a long road of increasing niche marketing, while American culture and technology changed around it. One of these changes is rock and roll no longer has the market share to splinter into subformats or maintain multiple enterprises within a market. Another element is technological change - the era of digital reproduction. Again I'm going to stop here because the Washington Post covered well on Monday: Rock, Rolling Over. Four words  satellite radio, iPod, streaming radio.  Dj's at some college radio stations just run their entire shows into the board, out of their iPods.  The old school mind (mine) reels, it even reel to reels. Compressed Digital audio moves digital beyond the lp model - the CD into competition with radio itself. I also note a news item which uses 'format' in a lateral sense as a technological fork in the road.  DRMS in compressed digital audio players prevents interoperability and dampens the effect of the overall MP(x) base  BBC NEWS | Technology | Format wars could 'confuse users'

  Beyond entertainment formats, I still have some questions left over concerning diversity, the market, and the public. Glasser seems curiously relevant. Supporters of diversity were a little nonplussed at the FCC's attitude: the marketplace- most desirable, least objectionable. a soft-focus vision of laissez faire. The Format Doctrine had evolved in a perfect vacuum at the FCC in the first place. Now they insisted on the right to do nothing for the public on the eve of a generation of broadcasting consolidation into limited sets of hands, much of it requiring positive action to negate inconvenient rules,and call this their duty. Glasser appears to have had a sense of this from where his article goes next.

   In the section headed consumer welfare, pluralistic programming, first amendment values he examines what might make cultural pluralism a value worth preserving or facilitating. It is not an accidental adjacency that leads the 1rst amendment from free speech into free press. The Press gets all the benefit of doubt due free speech because only a free press can meet "public communication needs of a democratic society." Only a press free to assume a natural pluralism is "[a] press able and presumably willing to accommodate divergent points of view." This is a "Public understanding". A "Political Freedom." Glasser notes this is Alexander Meiklejohn's term (Political Freedom, 1965). A 'cultural interpretation' essential to self government" Glasser sees shading into John Dewey's thought.    Political Freedom, a cultural interpretation of Meiklejohn, is to see this freedom dedicated not just to a level of information exchange some degree of enlightenment but to the principle of plurality itself, From which these thing will emerge. The principle of associated life; democracy as a "conjoint communicated experience" (Dewey, Public and its Problems, 1927).  "Only a culturally plural society ... can embody the spirit of democracy"

  The FCC's format policy is fundamentally flawed, Glasser argues, because it accepts competition not diversity as the goal of the first amendment. He agrees with former FCC commissioner Nicolas Johnson that a pricing mechanism [set up on these terms] represents a 'normative not an empirical judgment'. What he means by this is that for free marketors, that the market delivers the best of all possible worlds is an a priori truth judgement - they don't let facts interfer with it. Variety is mistaken for diversity. Variety equals intraformat diversity; true diversity equals inter-format diversity. One can see these same arguements in play today As Sinclair, Infinity and clear Channel and only a few others take up ownership of all media outlets across the country. Not to worry we are told with cable and satellites and your internets you can get your information many ways. I'm grasping for an analogy that voices my disquiet. Consider a content management engine in a XML publishing process: many looks, feels and ways. One ultimate document in serving database of unified information with mere associated extensible (or is that expendable) style sheets. Format variety masks the message.

 Glasser views the essential difference between what he terms variety and diversity as the difference between wants and needs. Wants are private and idiosyncratic a personal preference, an individual gratification. Needs are public and shared, transcending personal preference to the purposes and interest common to a class of people. When the mechanics of governance conspire to supply one without the other. It is all mere bread and circus.

Addendum: Even before I manage to finish typing this I see that Infinity is letting the old WHFS alt-rock programming back on - as internet streaming radio. I don't know yet whether Djs come with that. Also I heard on the news tonight that Michael Powell is stepping down as Chair of the FCC. I suppose the stress of being a free market deregulator on one hand, and responding to the "there oughta be a law" social conservatives who want the heck regulated out of all broadcasting, got to him.

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Saturday, 15 January, 2005
Giving the People what they want.

I looked in on another web log the other day How to Save the World. Written by a Canadian named Dave Pollard, does a nice job on environmental concerns (lying between me and the bachelors degree I don't have is a economics class on externalities, I actually registered for it a few semesters ago but never made it out of the wait list). His site is maintained on a much higher plane of existence than Atomized here. He is a writer by profession, and he's trying to save the world. In my defense I want to point out my job - affixing barcodes to library books - that's my knowledge base (you stick 'em on up at the top). This takes me away for several hours nearly every day. It does better work as curse, than as provider of living wage. Something Nancy (Micaela) once said to me - She had been thinking. She said: "When I was a little girl I went to my older sister and told her 'when I grow up I want to save the world', My sister looked at me blankly, and answered 'save the world, from what'?" That's my circumscribed ambition, simply to figure out what.

Saving the world, when I looked in on it, had a post on web log metrics and reader's interests which was triggering off the recently released Pew Trust survey on Blogosphere (Pew internet report). He had a table up, which looked at A list web loggers, B list and 'up and coming' web logists by the daily hits each catagory might expect. At 4 to 6 hits per day my catagory: also ran. The press is only obligated to report on win, place and show. No one cares about the ponies who are just out for a Sunday stroll.

I resolve this year; then, to give the people what they want. Which I will determine first by the handy list of what people want Dave Pollard provides on a sidebar, and by logical deduction, and by my referer logs.

People want:
  • pictures of Vigi's. The North American Rockwell RA5c Vigilante .A picture named RVAH7_AZ.jpg Here are two from my old outfit RVAH 7 (note the logo), over Arizona. The tail markings: NE, were for the USS Ranger. LCDR Habel would be flying the third plane which took the picture. The RAN ran, the camera's they sat by that tiny square window behind the pilot .

  • a Solution to the solitare marble game. I don't have one, but here's an ascii diagram.
    o o o
    o o o
    o o o o o o o
    o o o x o o o
    o o o o o o o
    o o o
    o o o
    the idea is that you move by jumping one marble (represented by o) over another , there has to be a empty space (represented by x)on the other side you repeat this until all the marbles are gone except one and the last move leaves this in the center ie the solution is the logical opposite of the start
  • Philippino recipes. I wonder if they weren't looking recipes for philipics rather? But who am I to second guess google? Maybe I'll ask my friend Nina. I'll see what I can come up with.
  • stories from Personal experience. Hey! more sea stories from my Navy days, random bus train or car trips, stories other people have told me but who don't have web logs.
  • Maybe some fiction, I've been trying to put together a story around solution 22(b) - berserkers. Possibly there are people out there who know what that means.
  • Poems. Sure why not (I) fell through small break-foot ice down to stillsoft earthmud below, which told its no word world roundness. What could be simpler?
  • Somehow, more charts and diagrams. If I have too I will simply start writing the drafts of my posts in a spreadsheet and saving them down as bar charts. Note to self: Source Forge's Freemind requires java 1.4.0. Apple OS X.i.iii does not have this, dang!
Someone once said to Me "Writing doesn't really capture the way you think -- and frankly, speaking doesn't either". That's ok, I can always draw you a picture.
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Wednesday, 12 January, 2005
Channel flipping or Ceca de ti

 I was flipping channels last Saturday ended up on channel 14; Telefutura in my neighborhood. A show was on called "Pepsi Musica". A lively paced show. Theme that week was rock/pop women singers, singing in spanish, of course. They were in music video mode. No degree of channel surfing was going to improve on it, so I stopped and watched. Most of it was more pop than rock. I didn't mind not following the plot lines, It was better that way. Car windshields golf clubs flying shards of glass; clearly a love song.

  One of them seemed much better than the rest a song called 'Ceca de ti', which I think also exists in english as 'closer to you'. The singer was a women named Thalia (not Thalia Zedek though). She must be famous already. People who have dropped down to one name are always famous, or immune to ridicule. Since that song seemed fine, I guess she's famous.

  The strange demise of WHFS-FM brought this back to mind - that was DC's supposed alternative rock station. Changed into a modern latin pop station during a commercial break earlier today. I thought about that: which would I rather listen to Thalia or Korn? Turns out I'd rather listen to Thalia. Besides the Format Doctrine has been dead for twenty years. Long live the doctrine of formats.

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Friday, 7 January, 2005

Whistling and swearing, the sailor said: "There'll be something to pick up here." (Voltaire, Candide ch. v)

Holding God accountable. After the Tsunami I noticed in the Web logging world first but then in other media, commentary that took to hold the divine accountable for the wave in one fashion or other.

The routine run of these commentary plow a boundary around the position that there can not be a wise and benevolent God if disasters like the one on 26 Dec 2004 occur among us. That loss, pain and suffering contradict the existence of a good and living God. Religionists - the theocratic minded see disaster as punishment, directed at wickedness. The slackness of their own people, or as proof of their enemies disfavor. Always in contrast to their own believers favor, the facts such as can be determined are sorted to fit this.

Our minister over at First Congregational W.DC, Rev. John Mack, made that a topic of the sermon Sunday. I imagine most preachers dealt with the Tsunami in degrees. Rev. Mack seemed personally confronted by the doubting. He reiterated the true voice of God is to be found not in the wind or shaking of the earth but in a still small voice. The position of God, he pointed out lies in the whole of creation. It's a very large whole, but noting how John's gospel begins with a brief retelling of Genisis. For the purpose of establishing that providence coexists with creation.

I had run along similar lines of thought during the week. I noted these articles, as I saw them, but found myself dismissive of the debate. It never seemed to me that Man gives God mission, or outlines God's duty. Neither fealty nor prayer, constitute orders to an adjunct. If it seems a cop-out not to see God as something rubbed out of an oil lamp, and owed fortune from, I can only reply: that wouldn't be God. The ocean - the land beneath it is the terrestrial sphere. The disaster at hand is part of Mans relation to nature. Nature the realm where man exists fragily and transiently is not moraly willfull, it is chaos, offers no recognition to particular life, but is not evil. Mankind's mortality is not the cause or result of nature, but part of it. I think some would like to view ambient evil (suffering) as freefloating response to original sin -- something deserved, even to the good and innocent. The toiler by the sea, and child. Opposed I suppose to evil that springs from man's ill opinion and desire. What some might call man's nature, borrowed as it seems from wolves, where virtue is known by the identity of the pack.

Another post where my writing became too unwieldy to gently lay relevant links in line. So I'm leaving them all off here. If you do read any of these - read the pdf by Dynes first. That link is in the text where it belongs mysteriously. The Metafilter thread on Tom Delay's unfortunate session opening prayer last week is here just for fun. If I did not already consider him a borderline psychotic things like that would worry me.

As some of these articles mentioned all this has been chewed through before in a dialogue between Voltaire and Rouseau concerning the Lisbon Earthquake. In 1755 on November 1 between earthquake Tidal wave and Fires perhaps 70,000 people lost their lives. It was the first disaster to the western world to occur in the modern era and one of the worst. After the quake Voltaire wrote a short poem with a brief introduction called 'the Lisbon earthquake'. It was intended as response to writings by Pope (essay on man), and Liebnitz. It proceeded against Optimisim: that this is best of all possible worlds. That what is, is good or right. This is the precurser to today's technological optimism, What we call progress. A belief that technology through innovation will solve all mankinds problems a process that automatically leaves our affairs on a higher level. This is a different from adaptation a way of thinking of evolution (or evolutionary change) as a response to nature - which despite an innate complexity may be viewed as lateral in essence and not reflecting mastery. Voltaire writes: "when man groans under such a load of woe, he is not proud, he feels only the blow. Later: Or else the God who being rules and space untouched with pity for the Human race indifferent, from both love and anger free still acts consistent to his first decree". This is Voltaire's dubious view of Enlightenment Deism - Man deals with but a small portion of creation, Where god created immutable moral and physical laws then withdrew. Man left in his proper and particular place place. Voltaire asks: if this is the right way to see God, What are we to understand or believe about God?

Rousseau replied in a letter to Voltaire dated 18 Aug 1756. He wished to reaffirm the principle of providence - that a caring God is the agent of a human destiny, It is irrevocable that mans destiny unfolds in a world of laws of matter, motion and reason. It's an open question what reason could develop outside discoverable material causality. Rousseau also wanted to point out that our ills are generally of our own making. Either direct of mans active inhumanity to man. This is what some recently would regard evil, specifically a supernatural evil supernaturaly placed into some mens hearts our enemies; whomever, but never ours. Or else indirect ie through inattention, unreasoned engagement with natural world. Our expectation that our least manmade environment is set free from natural forces. The natural world persists. Nature is a chaotic machine whose gears are partialy visible and turn relentlessly. In response Voltaire wrote Candide.

While doing an obligatory Google sweep on this subject before leaving it. I turned up a paper by Russell Dynes : Dialogue between Voltaire and Rousseau on the Lisbon earthquake: the emergence of a sociol science view. Dynes offers a number of interesting and critical observation about this debate between the two philosophers. One is a notion that disasters are in addition to all other things a social construct "occuring...within a specific social and cultural context" from which we draw what meaning we can of it from it Significant to the Lisbon earthquakes memory it struck hard at the wealthier parts of Lisbon. Another is the prevalent notion of disasters as technological failings seeking after a technological fix. Dynes also considers the role of the modern state a role government would not have played until the advent of the monolithic nation state. Disasters are among all else disruption and threat to social order. In response the state has assumed role of responsible agent for recovery and prevention, if not of disaster itself then at least of its worst effect.

Put into Dynes frame of mind. I recalled that I always previously held a special contempt for those governments unable or unwilling despite the monopolies they hold, of coercive force of state resources, respond effectively to natural disasters. No helicopters fly, no one is pulled from the mud, no water or food is delivered. The elites fade back into the recesses and finger their riches nervously while neighboring nations step in. The scale of this catastrophe is such that all nations must consider themselves affected and step in, and that step will be a further step of destiny.

[I know I'm posting this on Monday even though it has a post date of Friday. This is due to optimism, but not providence.]

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Wednesday, 5 January, 2005
One Line

A line for the day. From A C Newman's album the Slow Wonder (op cit), which I've been listening to the past few months. The song "On the Table" : Copping a plea, is the new - innocent.

That's it I'm done, I'm in a single thought framing of mind, see you all tomorrow.

...Later that very next day... Allright; when I finally got around to looking it up I see that line actually reads: Copping a plea as they went. Innocent. Do re mi innocent. Now the plain blondes are playing along with you. I dunno I think I like my version better. Maybe I can impress on Mr. Newman to change it for the next edition. Some of you may be thinking right now- "record albums don't have second editions, Paul." Why not? If it were a live recording by a large symphony orchestra that might pose some logistic difficulties, but this is a modern pop record. An edit like that ought not be more difficult than a cut 'n paste using Garageband [dot accent] on a powerbook with a 17 inch monitor.

I remember reading once that REM were so out of sorts with the way "Feables of the Reconstruction" (no wait I think that actually reads "Fables...") turned out, that they wanted to re-record the whole thing and release it as a new album. F.o.t.R/R.o.t.F - 2nd ed. revised. Think about it. Better to light a candle, than to curse the darkness.

11:35:41 PM    comment [];trackback [];

Monday, 3 January, 2005
Ehrlich or good (government) grief

I don't get some of this new-style republican stuff. The chaste and pure, logical and responsible. Uncorruptable. 'Good Government' through loathing government; though, still being in (and around) government mind you. Its not just the righteous pose or the garlands laid at the feet of efficiency and efficacy, the moral justification of the free market (or are we beyond it needing justification). It's not that, or only that. True I suspect that somewhere in our thrall to efficiency. growth, and innovation that there is something that isn't what it seems to be. Something either slightly more or slightly less than we take it for. The answer there, is hidden somewhere in the words themselves. It's that I'm not seeing it - the purity I mean.

All last week the Governnor of Maryland Robert Ehrlich held the state legislature in session because he insisted on an emergency recess session to deal with the Malpractice Crisis. Everything's a crisis these days and must be solved quickly, before thinking sets in. At the end of the week there were at least four versions of a plan to fund the malpractice insurance subsidy and keep medical practitioners in Maryland: one from the Governor, Md state house, Md state senate, and the compromise joint resolution bill put together in an all night session. The Governor allowed that none but but his were acceptable the others were miles off the mark and that he would veto it all at his leisure. The next day He was quoted admitting he might not be able to get a veto to stick Ehrlich Foresees Trouble With Veto Frankly he had nothing, the other plans placed a tax on HMO's, his plan called for the money to come out of the general fund on his call some time down the line. An empty and self-serving gesture. Also he had provisions and caps to largely end the ability of the public to effectively sue a HMO, doctor or insurance company. And no oversight regulation to bring any other sense of account to their practices. In the background to all this is the Federal governments intention to restucture medicaid, which could knock most state budgets off their foundations.

Over the past month a little scheme came to light where the governor's office arranged for park land the state had bought (at market price) to keep it non-developed, to be placed back on the market (at set-aside price) - to a particular customer a friend and campaign donor of the governor's who was simultaneously arranging for it to be re-classed as developable land: Sellout in Maryland, Protecting Maryland's land, and Top Aides To Ehrlich Knew of Land Deal ( All other things being equal I usually like to see people go to jail for stunts like that. In this case reporters from the Baltimore Sun Newspaper who cover the Governor have been barred from his presence NPR : 'Baltimore Sun' Suing Maryland Governor. These are your New Style Republicans. No sense of corrupt - what is corruption, nothing to do with them. They do management. Corruption is a thing belonging to Old Style Democrats, its owned by them. My father never tires of bringing up Mayor Curley of Boston; hobgoblin of his transplanted youth (from the midwest) in the Hub. Curley was (in)famously elected Mayor from his jail cell. To be sure there is more than a little truth in these opinions my father holds, but they belong to previous times. There is a set of shifting realities occurring now for which perception is lagging. Arrogance is flowing across caucuses, like water over land. Corruption is a function of power in the hands of the weak, the ignorant, the un-reflective. It will come to all of those every time.

Addendum: There appeared to be a brief interruption to this process last night when the Republican house voted to reinstate the robust version of their ethics rules GOP Abandons Ethics Changes ( Note though that this did not come from the leader ship but from the republican rank and file. Even though mag. leader DeLay assures us that he no longer believes he will be indited and be asked to step down. Likely others have assured him he won't be. Perhaps also coming into play here was that the democratics had been trying to arrange that the vote to change the ethics rule be a formal vote on public record and not a voice vote. Which may have left some feeling the Ring of Gyges had been unfairly taken from them.

11:35:29 PM    comment [];trackback [];

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2005 Paul Bushmiller.
Last update: 2/01/05; 02:34:08.