Thursday, June 30, 2005
Transience & agnosticism
Believe that no human can go through life with an undecided belief concerning God. What makes humans agnostic are the existing religions: I never believed in the Christian god or the Jewish god, and that left me doubting God's existence. In actuality I was not doubting God's existence, but instead doubting the existence of God as presented by the extant religions.
When I've stated to the Ginger Haired Yank that I believe in God, her immediate response is "you believe in a white bearded father figure giving birth to man!" No, no, no. Unfortunately when you say you believe in God, what comes to mind are the images propagated by the planet's dominant religions.
Read that one of our founders viewed atheism & deism to be the same. Can tell from personal experience how false that belief is: One night fellow deist & ex-roommate Big Boy & I were having a semi-heated argument with our spouses & Gator Boy (all devout atheists). Anyone listening in would never consider deism & atheism to be the same. Of course beliefs of God are so core to our being that you'll never convince an adult to change their beliefs, so Gator Boy wasn't convince to convert by my bit of sophistry that "infinity is just another name for God" even though I believe it's true.
Too bad the term Deism isn't better known - Big Boy was arguing with his father-in-law, but didn't have the correct term to express his argument and either used agnosticism or atheism to inaccurately describe his religious belief.
Final Thought: Hands down my favourite film image of God has to be from Acid House. The first story's protagonist meets God & tells him that he's "just like i imagined you." "Of course i'm like you imagined me ya daft cunt, that's because I look just like you imagined me - yuv got no imagination" (paraphrase). Will leave final line to Welsh:
that c**t Nietzche was wide by the mark when he said I was deed. I'm naw deed, I just dinnae give a f**k'
Update: Big Boy informs me "I told him that I was an agnostic...but then you introduced me to the concept of Deist...that is what I am. He now knows that I am a deist."
Finally back up to snuff
Physical therapy is fairly impressive - truly a science. In addition to the exercises I've been doing, some balance muscle work that my chiropractor had not given me. I am impressed with healthcare in america. Both of my knee surgeries were first rate - stayed awake for the last one while watching it on a TV above me. Surgery took roughly 1 hour & the recovery off crutches less than a week. Neck surgery also first rate, but I waited too long to have the surgery not understanding the risk of putting it off. Sinus surgery top notch as well.
I read on one of the left wing blogs that folks in France prefer their health system to ours if they're not rich. I'm not rich & anyone working for a decent size company would have comparable medical insurance to mine, so believe the French have a false impression of the health care for the middle class in America, though I can't compare our systems directly. Now if Barbarian Invasions is any indication (and recent events sure back up that impression), than I'd rank our system far far superior to Canada's.
Friday, June 24, 2005
Friday Night Wine Blogging
2000 Woodbridge - Robert Mondavi Zinfandel
This wine was Awesome: amazing that a wine goes with lime. In a restaurant, this would be a $100 bottle of wine. - Ginger Haired Yank
Thursday, June 23, 2005
What do professional bloggers do on down days?
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
Rethinking finishing unfinished novels
Part IV is an encyclopedia of the life of Kazik - the title derives from a reference "See under:___". Have only slugged through 8 pages of the final section & certainly won't slug through any tonight.
To date, the novel has been a completely unsatisfying read making me rethink the "flog myself through a book" strategy. The only 2 novels that I've read after hitting a wall that were worthwhile were Die Blechtrommel and Ulysses. With See Under: Love, I keep thinking of the statement from Joe Orton how plays had to respect the tolerance of audiences, while novels such (To the lighthouse in this case) did not. The play made from See Under did just that - respected the audience's tolerances, while the novel does not.
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
5 down - 43 to go
Updating my metrics to judge Bush:
- Trade - CAFTA has more momentum now so perhaps it will be approved. The improvements in our sugar policy would be very minor, but the sugar industry worries that it would be a crack in the dyke - here's hoping they're right.
- Deficit - The current estimates are $370B which would mean a decrease to roughly 3.0% of GDP which would be a substantial improvement over last year's 3.5%.
- Iraq - the death toll increased to 80 last month & this month there are already 58 deaths which means roughly the same. For deaths of Iraqi police/military, their death toll has increased from 200/month and looks to be roughly 300 this month. What has stood out of course is the calls from Republicans like Walter "freedom fries" Jones sponsoring a resolution to leave Iraq. Even though it's only 2005, I am curious how presidential candidates will deal with Iraq in 2008 (shades of 1968). Will someone imply that he has a "secret plan" (to be fair to Nixon, he never actually used that term though I doubt that was sorry about the inference). Will anyone propose an exit strategy? I doubt that anyone will give a departure date, but given that our death toll will be roughly 4,000 by the presidential campaign I'm guessing that some candidate will push hard for Iraq to take over their security & some implicit "declare victory & get the hell out" approach, though no one will ever repeat McGovern's "I will halt a senseless bombing of Indochina on Inaugural Day....And within 90 days of my inauguration, every American soldier and every American prisoner will be out of the jungle and out of their cells and then home in America where they belong."
- 2 wagers that OBL will not be caught: still extremely safe despite any nebulous comments from Porter Goss. Don't believe that we've made a serious effort since Operation Anaconda over three years ago.
- 1 wager that the draft will not be renewed: still extremely safe. Any politician worth his salt knows how "The politics of the draft are radioactive." Must be a sign of the times that my sister would even make such a wager. Will expect the number of mercenaries to stay in the current range 15-20,000 range (not well publicized, so best guess).
- 1 wager that our troop level in Iraq will not go below 50,000 (feeling alot safer so will upgrade to 10:1). Since Cheney & Goss are obviously delusional about the last throes of the insurgency, what options does that leave Bush? If there's no exit strategy and a steady supply of Saudi & Syrian insurgents & a pissed off local populace pissed off by the Green Republic then there's no realistic way for Bush to withdraw troops much below 75,000.
- Mark Warner vs. Hillary. No updates. Hillary still gets most of the news & bashing from the right. Still hoping that the Dems will nominate a Southern or Western governor (i.e. Richardson, Warner or Bredesen).
And now I found the Blog of Luca Turin, making me a happy man. An inspiring thought and smell every day. What more do you want in life.
Friday, June 17, 2005
Friday Night Wine Blogging
Bodega Norton Malbec (2003) - Argentina
Plum & Blackberry aroma with Oak so you can smell the alcohol. And then has a peppery black fruit taste, but is very dry and full bodied. That's how it differs from Zinfandel, Zinfandel's sweeter - reviewed by Ginger Haired Yank
A hearty wine - t.c.
Thursday, June 16, 2005
Guns, Germs, Steel...& food & animals & geography & language
Best review is from Christopher Smith of Amazon who states
According to Diamond, four factors are responsible for all historical developments: 1) availability of potential crops and domestic animals, 2) the orientation of continental axis to facilitate the spread of agriculture, 3) transfer of knowledge between continents, and 4)population size.
That would explain the Europeans' conquest of the Americas, but not Europe's colonization of Arabia and India and China, or its non-conquest of Japan.
According to the Hobe, Collapse is a better book, so will give it a try when LAPL acquires a copy of the CD.
& a disappointing Movie
Buñuel had an odd career: part amusing social commentaries - El Ángel exterminador & Le Fantôme de la liberté (which I'd like to see again as an adult) but also an incredibly boring social commentary Los Olvidados that I could not force myself to watch until the end, before ending with the thoroughly entertaining Cet obscur objet du désir, which used the distracting trick of having a French & Spanish actress play the Object of desire. Overall a masterful director with an amazing scope, but certainly his fair share of misses - it may be heresy but I'd include Belle de Jour i that category. Never really cared what happened to the character in contrast to Tristana, which cut far deeper.
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Knees on the mend
ugly lookin' nobs
It is amazing how minimally invasive surgery has advanced. Only 2 tiny cuts needed to access my meniscus & cut it out. If I had better tools & a server, I'd link the video from the doctor to this site so you could watch my meniscii being cut.
The other amazing aspect is the recovery time:
- Day 1 after surgery - no pressure on left foot
- Days 2 through 5 - needed 2 crutches
- Days 6 & 7 - needed 1 crutch
- Days 8 through 12 - need cane
I can hobble around without the cane for short periods now as long as I wear my knee brace & I haven't even started official physical therapy yet (I have the exercises memorized so have started the quad exercises on my own, but no E-stim or ultra-sound).
Don't know if other eras were so negative - focus on the mess of healthcare, but rarely discussing the incredible medical advances that have occurred in a relatively short time.
- 20 years ago, the doctors would have had to cut my knee open.
- 4 years ago and 4 incisions were needed.
- My video from the doctor has a pre-recorded section mentioning 3 incisions.
- Now 2 very tiny cuts that would never be noticed if someone didn't know to look.
Friday, June 10, 2005
Friday Night Wine Blogging (dissertation defence edition!)
Thursday, June 09, 2005
More Revelations 'art' forms
- Pure guy stuff. Believe there was 1 woman & she was "helpless female". "you're not going to leave me here to die?"
- Definite page turner - at the end of this book, even I'm wondering "what happens next?"
- Odd juxtaposition of the religious discussion. Guess I was expecting the characters just to keep referring to Revelations to discern the next act by the anti-christ, but they'd stop planning their counter-attack to discuss God's love, which interrupted the narrative flow. I guess that I was expecting the plotting to be more along the lines of the recent TV show.
- The bodies are raptured (from book 1). I talked to Pentecostal friend at work, and her belief is that your body stays where it is, but your soul is raptured to heaven. The body being just the shell for the soul, but I'm guessing that it would not be as dramatic to just have people "pass away" on a plane vs. disparating.
Dutch government in disarray
We will have to wait and see another 2 years before the Dutch choosers can take their revenge. I am getting excited already (goosebumps everywhere).
Monday, June 06, 2005
Constitution still in exile
First the simple math of the present Supreme Court make-up from Orin Kerr (my personal favorite member of the Volokh Conspiracy).
In federalism cases, moreover, there is no clear majority on the current Court. Four Justices -- Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer -more or less share the same basic view that the Court has little to no role enforcing federalism constraints. The other five Justices would impose some limits on the scope of federal power, but don't really share common ground on exactly what those limits should be.
Other comments I enjoyed were from my least favorite member of the conspiracy David Bernstein (too strident & quick to take umbrage for my tastes).
The mathematics of federalism on today's Supreme Court, then, is that the four Justices who do not favor judicial enforcement of federalism constraints only need one additional vote to form a majority. Conversely, for the Court to rule in favor of a federalism limitation, common ground must exist that ties together the differing viewpoints of all five of the right-of-center Justices. The odds are that the former will happen more often than the latter, which is why victories for federalism principles have tended to be rare and on relatively narrow (that is, symbolic) issues.
A decade later, the Republican Congress is vying with the Democratic Congresses of the 1930's and 1960's as the biggest supporter of increased federal power in American history.
It seems we do to some extent live under a system where the personal preferences of the Justices, having nothing to do with the history, text, or logic of the Constitution, dictate when the Supreme Court will or will not intervene to overturn particular regulations.
(4) There are essentially two strategies for those who are concerned with civil liberties for limiting the government's ability to abuse the rights of the public. One is the standard ACLU strategy of being a liberal supporter of broad government power, and then insisting that the government respect individual rights, especially constitutional rights, when using that power. The other strategy, followed by libertarians, is to try to limit the government's general power to begin with because the government cannot abuse power it does not have.
The drug war provides a least one example of the superiority of the libertarian strategy. The drug war has run roughshod over the civil libertarian accomplishments of the Warren Court, leading to a weakening to various degrees of the First, Second, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth amendments, not to mention a huge increase in the prison population, and the denial of the basic right to use relatively innocuous recreational drugs, even for medicinal or health purposes. Far better to have denied the federal government the power to regulate intrastate use of and sale of drugs to begin with, as, I recall,
Justice Van Devanter advocated on Commerce Clause grounds way back in the "dark ages" of the 1920's.
I'm not familiar with Sam Bagenstos posting on SCOTUSblog, but this comment hit home with me:
I don't think there was *ever* a majority -- not in 1995, and not now; not in the Court, and not in Congress -- for a massive shift in the federal-state balance that existed in the period immediately prior to Lopez. There are too many issues for which social and business conservatives like federal power, and libertarians like Randy and David are, and always have been, a relatively small faction within the conservative movement (though a faction whose ideas -- which are often really interesting, provocative, and persuasive -- have been cherry picked by other conservatives).
From the opinions themselves:
"Wickard thus establishes that Congress can regulate purely intrastate activity that is not itself commercial....if it concludes that failure to regulate that class of activity would undercut the regulation of the interstate market in that commodity." - Stevens (majority opinion)
"[T]he authority to enact laws necessary and proper for the regulation of interstate commerce is not limited to laws governing intrastate activities that substantially affect interstate commerce." - Scalia (concurring with the majority)
[I]n order to be "necessary,"the intrastate ban must be more than a "reasonable means [of] effectuat[ing] the regulation of interstate commerce....It must be plainly adapted to regulating interstate marijuana trafficking - in other words, there must be an obvious,
simple, and direct relation between the intrastate ban and the regulation of interstate commerce. - Thomas (opposition)
At this point, I believe even Sisyphus would be willing to give up. Too sad to continue blogging, so will hobble around the block as emotional & physical therapy.
UPDATE: the hobble helped. Guess it's good that we have folks like MPP who do their best to "rally the troops" when the news is disappointing - I've never had that ability and since the results of the court cases & (too many) state ballot propositions are so disappointing, it does not seem promising that marijuana will be legalized in my lifetime.
Sunday, June 05, 2005
Happy to have bandages gone
Saturday, June 04, 2005
Friday Night Wine Blogging (on a Saturday)
Trinity Oaks - 2000 Zinfandel
Ginger Haired Yank: the only red wine that I've tasted that goes well with lime. I think it has a little bit of juniper.
Why Bush lost momentum
- Low hanging legislative fruit gone
- Misreading of mandate
- Unintended consequences of the 51% campaign approach
- Misreading the Democrats response to Daschle's defeat
- Unintended consequences of the redistricting in Texas
- Unintended consequences of GOP cutting Dems out of legislative writing & committee discussions.
- Iraq not going well
- Push for more power to executive vs. Legislative branch
- It was Al Hunt who pointed out that Bush's main legislative successes were tax cuts, war & drug give away (don't have link to specific WSJ editorial), but now his goals were not items that are easy to gain a consensus.
- During the campaign, the main issues were GWOT & Iraq War. Clearly Bush has a mandate to stay-the-course in Iraq, but any other issues pretty much got lost in the noise of the campaign. Social Security 'privatization' was not a dominant topic in the campaign, so Bush's primary legislative goal was not part of his electoral mandate.
- Mark Warner commented how trying for 51% of the electorate wins election, but is not a good governing strategy. This fits in the with the mandate argument - winning 51% of the electorate doesn't give you a huge ground swell of support when trying to effect substantive change since 48% voted for your competitor.
- The GOP thought that after they defeated the Dems Senate leader, the Dems would be cowed or at least more amenable to compromise - didn't happen. Perhaps if the GOP had tried for a non-sacred cow the Dems unity would not have been so strong, but trying to 'privatize Social Security' guaranteed party unity.
- Believe it was also Al Hunt who pointed out that once Charles Stenholm was defeated, there went the key Democrat who would have supported Social Security reform. By defeating conservative Democrats in Texas the GOP ensured there would be few conservative Dems who would be amenable to a compromise, and thus greater opposition unity.
- This goes to a trust issue - by excluding Democrats from committee meetings has ensured Dem obstinacy from even starting legislation on 'social security'.
- Bush claimed that he had earned political capital with his re-election and would agree with that claim, and also he earned capital with the Iraqi election. However since that time the ongoing death toll in Iraqi has largely spent much of that capital. As Kevin Drum pointed Americans like winning wars not waging them.
- Cheney wanted to restore power for the executive branch. In Bush's first term, the legislative branch largely went along with Bush's desire, but now that he is a 'lame duck' the resentments of that approach are showing through. Now folks like Frist are out for themselves & not for the Bush agenda (believe his push for the 'nuclear option' was to collect chits with the conservative branch & not because of helping Bush). At some level folks do not like being bossed around and misled even by the leader of their party. Believe part of the push for additional federal financing of embryonic stem cell research is in part a push back at the executive branch for trying to usurp too much authority from the legislative branch. Too much arrogance by Bush officials to both parties in Congress has engendered blowback.
Happy to see that running roughshod over folks has had its costs.
Happy to see the Dems not being cowed & finally showing some backbone.
Addendum: 1 other issue contributing to lost momentum is the GOP dissipating capital on issues that do not match the popular will. The two most prominent issues are Terri Schiavo intervention & the proposed "nuclear option". Have read several postings from the right on their opposition to the "nuclear option" - my favorite being from redstate.org - happy there's common ground between us.
Friday, June 03, 2005
Wednesday, June 01, 2005
Stayed up too late watching pilot episode of LOST
Oh, kinda neat watching the first episode after seeing all but first 3 episodes. Looking forward to next season already!