6/22/2006

Bill is not Bill

Behold yon quote from CNN.com:
An op-ed piece in Thursday's Washington Post by William Perry, secretary of defense under former President Bill Clinton, and Ashton Carter, Clinton's assistant secretary of defense, advocates a pre-emptive strike to destroy the missile.

"The United States should immediately make clear its intention to strike and destroy the North Korean Taepodong missile before it can be launched," it said.

Cheney, however, told CNN that, while "I appreciate Bill's advice," such an action could worsen the situation.


"William Perry" and "Ashton Carter" wrote an op-ed and Cheney rejected "Bill's advice."
While normally "Bill" would refer to the same person "William Perry" refers to, in the above quote the phrase "President Bill Clinton" also appears prior to the use of "Bill" in "Bill's advice." Hence someone reasonably might think that Cheney was referring to former President Clinton. There is some ambiguity in the article at least as to whether Cheney is being deliberately misleading or whether the authors should have simply included a clarificatory "William Perry (also known as Bill)" or " I appreciate Bill (and Ashton)'s advice."

To find out the answer I will now have to go read the Washington Post. Thanks CNN.

5/28/2006

The Many Flowered Oven Mitts of Jerome Horton


Someone has finally realized the power the humble oven mitt can bring to a political campaign. That someone is Jerome Horton and he is running for something called the "Board of Equalization."

I and many other democrats, almost none of whom had ever heard of the "Board of Equalization," recently received a thick envelope. Inside the envelope, was a letter from either Jerome Horton's wife or Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante (depending on how lucky you were)and an oven mitt (above).

For those of you playing at home, if you've never heard of the "Board of Equalization," you're not alone. I have been keeping my many flowered oven mitt in my purse and asking people if they've ever heard of this "Board of Equalization" thing the oven mitt mentions. No one yet had heard of it before I showed them the oven mitt. But they have heard of it now! Jerome Horton's oven mitts are putting this "Board of Equalization" thing on the map.

Why oven mitts?

At first I thought I had received an oven mitt because my name is obviously female. (Maybe they were sending the obviously male names many flowered Jerome Horton screwdrivers?) But no, thankfully all genders are getting these oven mitts.

So why oven mitts?

Nothing else fits in an envelope, is cheap to mail and won't be thrown away immediately by the potential voter.

Who would throw away an oven mitt?

Everyone could use an extra oven mitt. Even voters who haven't decided to vote for you yet will keep your oven mitt. They aren't like pens which get lost, pins which don't get worn, bumper stickers which you don't want to mail to everyone since they will only be used by voters committed to you. The oven mitt is unlike an informercial CD which will not be played or a four-color ad which will not be read.

In fact, I have been walking around my house all afternoon trying to find something, anything, which like the oven mitt would fit in an envelope, is cheap to make and wouldn't be thrown away by a potential voter. I'm drawing a blank. A keyring just doesn't cut it. They've already got a key ring. What they don't have is that one extra oven mitt.

All across the land democrats are receiving their oven mitts and saying to themselves "An oven mitt? Well I guess I can't throw that away."

Jerome Horton , future household name.

Looks like the competition, Judy Chu, is out of luck.

CANDIDATE PAGES:
JEROME HORTON
JUDY CHU



*NOTE: The Board of Equalization is the entity to which you apply when you want to sell things. You even need to register with them to sell Christmas trees for thirty days. They make sure that the tax is collected fairly and in an "equitable" manner.

5/22/2006

The Orange Chair

There is an orange chair in my office. Every time I cast about for an example of an external object with easily describable properties, mine eye lands upon this orange chair.

This has certain results.

Students who come to office hours end up hearing lots and lots about this orange chair. Is the orange a dispositional property of the chair? Is the orange merely something mental and not properly ascribable to the chair except perhaps for convenience sake? Does the chair exist in the mind of God? Is the orange property separable from the property of extension? Is the chair really an extended thing? Do I know the chair through my senses alone? What makes my thought about the orange chair in my office a thought about that orange chair, rather than of some green chair or some other orange chair?

I can tell how much time a student has spent in my office by how often they refer to the orange chair in their paper.

If the students are happy and many are coming to my office hours on a regular basis, I have to read about the orange chair over and over again as the students discuss Hume, Locke, Malebranche or what-have-you. Every philosopher seems to have something to say about this orange chair in my office. As far as I can tell, solving the problem of the orange chair in my office is a most difficult task which philosophy could never hope to accomplish. All we can hope to do is to get closer to the truth about the orange chair and remedy some of our ignorance of it.

So that's why, if anyone is listening, I want to make a public statement that I'd like a red ball for Christmas.

Krugman on the Modern Centrist

I just thought I'd share with you Krugman's take on the modern "centrist"
Mr. Lieberman's defenders would have you believe that his increasingly unpopular positions reflect his principles. But his Bushlike inability to face reality on Iraq looks less like a stand on principle than the behavior of a narcissist who can't admit error. And the common theme in Mr. Lieberman's positions seems to be this: In each case he has taken the stand that is most likely to get him on TV.

You see, the talking-head circuit loves centrists. But a centrist, as defined inside the Beltway, doesn't mean someone whose views are actually in the center, as judged by public opinion.

Instead, a Democrat is considered centrist to the extent that he does what Mr. Lieberman does: lends his support to Republican talking points, even if those talking points don't correspond at all to what most of the public wants or believes.

But this "center" cannot hold. And that's the larger lesson of what happened Friday. Mr. Lieberman has been playing to a Washington echo chamber that is increasingly out of touch with the country's real concerns. The nation, which rallied around Mr. Bush after 9/11 simply because he was there, has moved on — and it has left Mr. Lieberman behind.

5/20/2006

Ned Lamont

For anyone who doesn't know, Ned Lamont is challenging Joe Lieberman in the Connecticut primary. Just last night at the Democratic Convention, Ned won the right to be on the primary ballot. To get on the primary ballot, he needed 15% of the vote. He got over a third.

It sure would be a big story if Lieberman were defeated in the primary.

It's unclear, however, if his defeat would be a good idea for the Dems.

On the one hand, Lamont defeating Lieberman in the primaries might be disastrous for the Dems because it decreases their odds of regaining a majority in the Senate.
Say someone really thinks that the interests of all the people would be served by a Democratic majority in the Senate. If you don't like that, say that the interests of the people would be served by implementation of certain policies which would only be implemented if the Democrats were in power.

Increasing the chance of losing Lieberman's seat to a Republican by running a non-incumbent decreases the chances that the interests of the people will be served, regardless of what Lieberman actually does.

So it seems that any Democrat whose central concern is what actually is going to get accomplished in the next term, should support Lieberman as long as it looks likely that whether or not the Democrats will regain the Senate is still up in the air.

On the other hand, maybe somebody could be disloyal enough to justify unseating him or her
Party infighting is in full primary season swing. Partially because the stakes are so high, anyone seen as "rocking the boat" is depicted as a "problem." Challenging an incumbent is definitely rocking the boat, even if the incumbent has publicly stated (threatened?) that they might sever allegiance to the party.

The people who are doing the challenging in the during-Bush era, face scorn and hurtful, derisive remarks from their fellow Democrats, not all of it undeserved. After all, are they willing to throw the baby (Senate majority) out with the bathwater (incumbent sticking around)?

Senate majority is important, but all this means is that a Senator's record as a Democrat would have to be seriously offensive, and the Senator fairly powerful if an effort to unseat him or her really is to be justified.

If we conceive our job as voters as voting for that which best promotes the interests of the people, then our job is to do this math and find out whether Lieberman should be challenged or not.

Is our job as voters to vote for what's in the best interest of the people?
But we need not understand our job as voters to be to vote for what's in the best interest of the people. That's actually the job of the legislature. Our job is to vote for the individual most likely to work and vote for the best interests of the people.

There has been a division of labor here. Congress votes for laws that are in the interest of the people. We vote for people who are observant, intelligent, hardworking, wise and moral enough to be able to figure out what's in the best interests of the people, precisely.

We aren't doing our job if we work to get individuals elected who don't respect fundamental rights. It's in the interest of the people to be able to enjoy these rights.

So if someone really thinks that Lieberman doesn't respect fundamental rights then it seems that person should vote against Lieberman.

Given what fellow Democrats have said to me about how they feel about Lieberman, I have to ask myself, why did 2/3rds of Democrats at the Connecticut convention vote for the man?

Is it party loyalty?

But this should never enter into our deliberations except as a practical consideration. Being a party loyalist shouldn't mean being committed to the party no matter what. It should mean being committed to its ideals. Sometimes the party is going to want the right things, the things which would be most in the interests of the people. Other times, the party is going to stray from its ideals and start voting for judicial nominees who should never have even come up for nomination. In the cases where the official party position is at odds with the party's ideals, the ideals win because it is to them that we are committed as Democrats (or what-have-you).

This idealism in voting for candidates is not useless, it results in higher quality candidates being elected - e.g. candidates less likely to be e.g. shills for special interests.

It's looking to be a scorcher in August. I can't vote in Connecticut so I am not so well informed regarding what is going on there . All I can say is may the best man win!

Candidate Websites
Ned Lamont
Joe Lieberman


5/17/2006

Midterms: Why Bush is acting like a moderate

Bush gave a speech the other night the content of which stands in need of explanation. In the speech, Bush outlined a plan to address the immigration problem. Here's the "plan":

THE "PLAN"
1) 6,000 National Guard members will be deployed to the US-Mexico border.
2) Increase federal funding for state and local authorities
3) End "catch and release"
4) Create a guest worker program
5) Biometric identification card system to assist businesses in verifying the status of employees

If you read this plan, you'll notice that it seems like something which would pass nowadays for moderate. Now actually this plan is mostly nothing new. It's just what Bush has been saying since the 2000 campaign. On rare occasions he used to slip up and say that he opposed amnesty (possibly his actual position?), but his conservative handlers presumably stepped in and corrected that. This now moderate, conservative, position is something businesses employing illegal immigrants can live with because it doesn't take away their excessively large pool of undercompensated employees.

So the plan itself doesn't stand in need of explanation. What does stand in need of explanation is why in the world Bush would be proposing an immigration plan which nowadays would pass for moderate in a television address.

I will explain it to you.
The first thing to notice is that it has nothing to do with protests.
The Republicans couldn't care less about protests even when they think all of the protesters are voters. We saw as much at the beginning of the Iraq war. Too bad setting yourself on fire has such negative externalities associated with it. But I digress.

The real reason for Bush's plan is midterm elections. The fact that Bush made this proposal and made it on national television will work for the right wing of the Republican party.

Oh pray, let me explain.
Bush and the right wingers are losing the conservative base. A 29% Presidential approval rating is bad for midterms. Everything which goes into explaining that approval rating reflects badly on the President and the right wing.

What to do? What to do?

Well what you do is divide Bush and the right wingers into two entities. You need to set up a contrast between the people you want to get elected and those nasty so-and-so's of whom the voters do not approve.

How do you do this? You have Bush give a very public speech containing portions his normal allies would cringe at.

What's the effect?

Well now the drifting conservative base can feel more confident in the people who are being "real conservatives" you might say, regarding the immigration issue.

They can now vote for a Republican and not feel like they are supporting Bush, whom they very likely have grown to dislike.

You might ask: But haven't they also grown to dislike the right wingers?
Yes, somewhat, but a) they don't dislike any particular winger as much as they dislike Bush and b) that which was one has become two, at least for the moment. The dislike of Bush and the right wingers has gone, as it were, hand in hand. But now for this crucial period, the dislike of Bush and right wingers can progress separately. And the particular way these two entities have been temporarily separated will transfer some momentum, anti-Bush momentum, to the right wingers.

So, my prediction is that the administration will put up a little bit more of a fight on this issue to solidify for the purposes of the midterms the oh so subtle temporary divergence of Bush and the right wingers.

The kicker is that this may work for Bush's approval rating in the long term, since it is a moderate plan.

5/09/2006

Pain and Suffering

Imagine the worst headache you ever had. You can't work. You can't sleep. You can't eat. The pain is so intense you can barely see. You begin to understand how someone could prefer death to life. You shun the light and all you want is for the pain to end. You curl up in your bed and wait for it to be over.

Now imagine it never ends.

This is the world of someone with chronic pain.

Oftentimes chronic pain is contrasted with acute pain by reference to the intensity of the pain. This isn't at all a good way to contrast the two sorts of pain. Pain that lasts can be very intense. Just ask the Spanish Inquisition.

Now, when you have a headache, normally you can just take a pill or wait for it to be over. But chronic pain can last for years.

For almost two years now, I have had unexplained chronic pain in my right arm, shoulder, and chest and in my left arm as well. I can only really explain how it feels using analogies. Imagine that a midget with a Swiss Army Knife is hanging off your right shoulder and stabbing you continually in the right elbow with the knife. This midget has a less enthusiastic buddy who also has a Swiss Army Knife but who is too lazy to hang off your shoulder and instead contents himself with standing on the ground while poking you halfheartedly in your left elbow with his knife. When he gets bored, he sticks the knife in to the hilt and twists it.

Damn midgets.

And if you have chronic pain, you can't just lie in bed waiting for it to be over. It may never be over. You have to live your life despite the invisible midgets of the Spanish Inquisition.

Imagine how hard it is even to have a simple conversation when you have that headache. It's about all you can do to muster the strength to ask someone to make you that herbal tea. If you have chronic pain, not only do you have to make your own tea, you also have to go to work, go to school, do everything you would be expected to do if there were no invisible midgets stabbing your elbows.

In short, chronic pain is a serious issue.

Most chronic pain patients can look forward not only to derision and disbelief from doctors (oh did I mention most were women *wink*), but also to only limited help from physical therapy, supplements and medications.

In the past two years, the only thing which has seemed to slightly reduce the pain for more than fifteen minutes (sorry physical therapist and psychologist, I think you guys were just really relaxing), was Amitriptyline, a tricylic antidepressant. Goodness knows why these things work on pain but the Amitriptyline certainly reduced the level of pain somewhat. After a few weeks on Amitriptyline I could barely feel the midget of my left arm! But the pain was never gone. Oh sometimes it seemed so much better than how badly I normally felt that it almost seemed that there was no pain but this was merely a comparative judgment. Other medications either did nothing (NSAIDS) or had bad side effects (Neurontin).

I now realize that I have never been without pain in the past almost two years. How do I know? Because I have finally found a medication which gives me some relief! (Take that little people!) I've been on the medication Lyrica for almost four weeks now. It is an anticonvulsant but can be effective in dealing with certain kinds of pain. On the eighth day of my being on Lyrica, I experienced ten minutes of no pain in the late evening hours. I felt like the moon had been placed back in the sky. I felt like the man who asks for just one last glance at his daughter before he is put to death and whose wish is granted.

The little people are still intent on torturing me I'd say about 60% of the day and they can be quite brutal about their business. But I have a time where my life is wholly my own now and I intend to make some use of it!

5/04/2006

A Modest Proposal and Colbert

In 1729 Jonathan Swift published A Modest Proposal, which was at once a scathing indictment of how economic arguments were then being used to justify policy and a demonstration of how deplorable conditions were in Ireland at the time of its writing. For those who don't know, A Modest Proposal advocates cannibalism as a solution to the problems of starvation and poverty. The essay goes into detail regarding what sorts of individuals (very young children!) are to be sold and eaten by preference, how the market would operate and even provides suggestions for preparing the meat. Best of all, it reads as though it is completely serious. It was so good, many people did not even understand that it was satire. Satire does not get any better than A Modest Proposal.

Beat.

Or so I had thought until the other day when I finally got around to seeing the Video of Stephen Colbert at the White House Press Correspondent Dinner. As it turns out, there is one dimension along which A Modest Proposal could have been improved.

A Modest Proposal exposes the gravity of a problem and the indecency of how the problem is being addressed by seeming to propose seriously a solution which ideally fits the way the problem is currently being addressed but which is so completely absurd that anyone can see the indecency of the way actual proposals are being generated via this absurdity.

But Colbert's performance takes things one step further and reveals the problems which are his subject as themselves being as completely absurd as the cannibalism proposal in Swift's famous essay. Moreover, he is standing mere feet away from one of the problems, President Bush, while he is revealing this problem for what it is, just by seemingly quite seriously engaging in the same sorts of behaviors the problem itself exhibits. The impact of his powerful statement is made all the greater by the presence of this problem mere feet away from him.

Say what one will about Swift's essay, I don't think that in the end it's very plausible to say that poverty and starvation are therein depicted as being as absurd as cannibalism of infants.

Bravo Stephen Colbert!