Archive for June, 2007

Setec Astronomy

June 29, 2007

In response to the recent Washington Post 4-part series on Vice President Cheney, some conservative pundits have argued that they still approve of the way Cheney operates because they believe he has the nation’s best interest at heart.

If good intentions were all that mattered, that might be persuasive.

Unfortunately, they aren’t. And power wielded in secret doesn’t just corrupt intentions; it corrupts wisdom.

Aside from engendering the tendency to behave badly, power wielded in secret also engenders a tendency to behave foolishly. Even if the current president and vice president were saints, immune to the morally corrupting influence of secret power, they still would make many more foolish mistakes as a result of having it.

It’s a simple enough principle. Secrecy, by its definition, means less input from fewer people, which almost always leads to more mistakes. There’s a reason the executive branch has a department devoted to diplomacy, another devoted to defense, and several specializing in collecting and analyzing information. Those departments aren’t pork barrel projects. They came into being because executives needed expert input to make good decisions.

The Bush/Cheney approach cuts off that expertise in the name of secrecy. It leaves the two of them and a handful of their immediate aides talking inside a barrel; the only ideas they hear are their own, echoing back to them as if everyone outside the barrel were agreeing with them. How often does that — and the lack of expert advice — lead to fewer mistakes? If the vice president’s record is any indication, almost never.

Secrecy isn’t just corrupting. It’s extremely error prone. And that remains true even with the best of intentions.

Secrecy breeds incompetence.

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Archbishop of Boston Declares NAMBLA the Model for the New Church

June 28, 2007

Whatever our political persuasion, I think we can all agree on 2 things: things are not going as well in Iraq as we’d like; and an Arab/Muslim version of “My Favorite Things” likely would not include Israel. Not only can we all agree on those things, I would think we all take them as rather obvious. I mean, I don’t know when you last forgot that the Arabs and Israel don’t get along, but it’s been a good while for me.

So why, oh, why is the President of the United States saying Israel is our model for the new Iraq?

That thumping sound you hear is me banging my head on my desk. I mean, sweet Italian Jesus, who thought this would be an appropriate comparison to make? Which White House speechwriter is so tin-eared he doesn’t understand how that’s going to sound in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East? How is saying it supposed to be helpful to our cause?

Honestly, I’d give most anything at this point for mere competence in the executive branch. Nothing fancy. It could still be hardcore Republican. Just competent hardcore Republican. Is that really so much to ask?

Licensing and Whatnot

June 26, 2007

So I I get to work a while ago and go to Pandora Radio and find the following message.

“I’m sorry to say that today Pandora, along with most Internet radio sites, is going off the air in observance of a Day Of Silence. We are doing this to bring to your attention a disastrous turn of events that threatens the existence of Pandora and all of internet radio. We need your help.

“Ignoring all rationality and responding only to the lobbying of the RIAA, an arbitration committee in Washington DC has drastically increased the licensing fees Internet radio sites must pay to stream songs. Pandora’s fees will triple, and are retroactive for eighteen months! Left unchanged by Congress, every day will be like today as internet radio sites start shutting down and the music dies.”

Okay, so I wouldn’t call this “disastrous,” as much as just a head-scratcher. I don’t understand licensing well enough to say anything interesting here. I’m not a fan of illegal downloads, so it’s not like I’m trying to get something for nothing here. I’ve heard a lot of new bands by listening to Pandora and have bought a few albums that I wouldn’t have otherwise.

So I guess my question is: why would this be a big deal for RIAA? Why would they want to hinder potential consumers from hearing about their products? Is there something larger at work here that I don’t know about?

(And for some reason I have it in my head that DeJon knows all about this stuff….so DeJon? Thoughts?)

Flibbertigibbet

June 21, 2007

I’d like to take this opportunity to point out that “flibbertigibbet” is spelled “flibbertigibbet.” I have no point here; this was just news to me, and oddly fascinating. One wonders if it has nautical origins, which fact probably makes one a flibbertigibbet.

The Gray Net of Abstraction

June 20, 2007

(A slightly modified sharing of today’s post from my personal journal-type blog)

An intense thunderstorm rolled through late yesterday afternoon, changing my evening plans. My youngest daughter emerged from her colorful room, wanting to be with me, and I wondered again if we Gulf Coast citizens are a wee bit more sensitive to the weather than folks in other places. Maybe not, but I wonder…

Anyway, after the storm settled down, my change in plans allowed me some time to do a little more reading in The Jesus Way by Eugene Peterson. I finished an interesting chapter on “Isaiah of the Exile,” and at its conclusion the author shared a quote from famed novelist, Saul Bellow.The quote is a bit heady for me, but after sorting through it I realize that it reflects a theme with Peterson, one that I’ve been buying into for some time now. Here’s the quote from Bellow:

“…the gray net of abstraction covering the world in order to simplify and explain it . . . that must be countered . . . by insisting on the particularity of detail and the immediacy of place, giving us access to life firsthand so that we are not ‘bossed by ideas.'”

Like Gomer Pyle, I had to put a bucket on my head and “have a think” on this for a while, but I think I get what Bellow is proposing: that the tendency to simplify the world into concepts can keep us from participating in life.

I’m afraid this betrays a church scandal. We’re big into concepts at church (the gray net of abstraction): we talk a LOT about things like love and mercy and justice and salvation. And yet, I’m afraid we may end up so “bossed by ideas” that we may miss out on participating in these very ideas – loving the person in line at the grocery store, showing mercy to the waitress at lunch, seeking justice for the lonely nursing home resident, experiencing salvation from our personal addictions.

It is becoming an increasingly important aspect of my life to spend less time dwelling on ideas and concepts and more time in “the particularity of detail and the immediacy of place.”

Maybe even today.

Voting Trends. And Happy Father’s Day.

June 16, 2007

This is an interesting map of the U.S., showing voting trends by district over the past 40+ years in Presidential elections. I just thought it was interesting to see how the voting changes from election to election. So anyway — just watch the map and it’ll do the work for you, changing every few seconds from one election to the next.

More importantly, though.

Happy early Father’s Day. My dad’s a keeper. On more than one occassion he’s driven for hours just to give me a hug and take me to lunch (and by hours, I mean from Arkansas to TN or NY — and he’d start out for CA tonight if he thought I needed a hug and a steak). The Houseflies I actually know have some top-notch dads. I kind of adopted JU’s entire family a few years ago, and his dad is one of the best. I’ve been on several outdoors-y type trips with C-Love’s dad (other than his questionable skills of navigation, he’s a hoot). Golfed a few rounds with Doc Watson’s dad (he always pays!). So yeah, happy Father’s day.

Politics, Protestantism, Postmodernism, and Agape

June 14, 2007

Here’s Laura Miller reviewing Terry Eagleton’s new book, The Meaning of Life. Miller is my favorite book reviewer, edging out Sven Birkerts, and Eagleton is an uncommonly good writer with a sharp wit, so this was a promising combination. Sure enough, it’s a really interesting review.

I don’t have all that much to say about it that isn’t in the review itself (which, if you’re wondering, is not very long). I thought it might be of interest here because of where it fetches up — the ethics of agape — and because it ties together a set of interesting ideas in a really interesting way.

Also, I thought I’d link to it because Eagleton’s book (if Miller’s review is accurate) is a good example of how to offer a non-religious argument for public policy that’s consistent with one’s own religious beliefs.* This is something I’ve harped on occasionally, here’bouts, as being important in Christian ethics, so I though it might be useful to link to an example.

I’ll be interested to hear what the Houseflies think.

* It should be noted, as Miller does, that Eagleton is no longer religious. Nonetheless, he is talking about an idea — agape — that is still rooted in his Catholic upbringing, which he still values.

Sharing Time

June 12, 2007

I’m not on the cutting edge of things most of the time. This is no exception. A number of students this past year kept telling me about Pandora Radio. I didn’t know what they meant. But in the last month or so, I’ve become addicted. If you have any interest in music whatsoever, I highly recommend the site. How it works: you simply type in the name of a band or musician you like. That’s it. The site will play continuous music by artists and musicians with a similar sound. So you get to hear songs by your favorite musician as well as songs by artists you’ve never heard of. If you don’t like a song they are playing, you just click a button saying you don’t like it and it immediately quits playing it and moves on to the next song. It’s free, but you do have to register. I don’t think I’ve received any spam from signing up with them, but I’m not positive about that. It’s at least worth a look-see.

Carribean Cruise

June 10, 2007

Our Cruise

Sorry to be so absent around here lately. I was literally out of the country this past week on a family vacation cruise to Mexico. You can check out some of the pictures in the slideshow above, and you can read my cruise journal at my personal blog HERE in its six short installments.

In years gone by, friends would invite you over to show you their boring slideshow from their summer vacation. Now, your friends put them on a blog! Yippee!!! Progress!!!

Checking on Sandi

June 5, 2007

We haven’t heard from our expectant Housefly in a while, so I just wanted to find out: how you doin’ and, while I’m at it, when is it you’re due?