September 29, 2006
What happened last night is just so stunning and shameful that it's hard to know how to respond. Is it even possible to feel safe agitating against this law now that the executive has the authority to imprison US citizens indefinitely without trial for "purposefully and materially supporting hostilities against the United States"? And to the extent that the interpretation of this last point is left up to the president, haven't all the rights guaranteed in the Constitution been effectively taken away?
What we have here is the complete evisceration of the rule of law in the United States -- an executive whose consolidation of power is positively Stalinesque. How Bush uses his new power will determine whether he's seen by history as a tyrant or simply a benevolent dictator.
September 26, 2006
You can pick the content that matters to you
If you own any stock in the Sun-Times Media Group, sell it now. These fools just completed a redesign of their flagship site that reassigns all their old permalinks. I hate it because it means all the links I've made to articles of theirs over the years are now worthless. They should hate it because they basically just flushed a huge amount of web presence down the drain -- web presence that should hold significant value for a company that makes its money off advertising revenue.
September 25, 2006
Where interpretation is strongly subjective
Tyler Cowen reminds us that today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich and provides a taut list of recommendations for the uninititated. For me the real gem in Shostakovich's work is the 24 Preludes and Fugues a la Bach's Well Tempered Clavier; I'm not so enthusiastic about the Keith Jarrett recording, however (the real tragedy is that Glenn Gould never recorded them).
There's also the first cello concerto, which was introduced to me by this guy at the beginning of my freshman year of college. The first movement is one of the most deliciously sarcastic pieces of music I can think of; the second movement is one of the most despairing.
September 20, 2006
Soul-crushing dirt bike
Peter Northup talks sense to the Pope's critics. It seems odd to me, in any case, that the pope would apologize, since he's supposed to be infallible. And does this mean God has apologized?
Kudos to Harvard for eliminating early admission and to Princeton for following suit. I predict that other top tier institutions will begin to do the same, but that the rank and file schools will only eliminate the practice once US News changes its college ranking algorithm -- which it will, once the top tier schools' rankings begin to drift because their offer yield-stats decline. It's amazing that a simple stat like the offer-yield could result in a widespread admissions practice that, considered on its own, creates clear disadvantages for large groups of students. And it's impressive to see institutions at the top take steps that aren't in their own interest to eliminate these disadvantages simply because it's the right thing to do.
Other recent examples of this last game-busting phenomenon are Walmart choosing to promote compact flourescent light bulbs and Warren Buffett gifting most of his net worth to the Gates Foundation.
Noisy and ostentatious desperation
Is it even necessary to point out the irony of an op-ed columnist writing about other people's undiluted passion for self-publicity? I'm amazed that he could get to the end of the column without even a smallish self-deprecation, given the subject. Or maybe he has another column in the works praising the self-awareness of bloggers...
An aside: I wonder if a side effect of this huge outpouring of direct expression might be a decline (certainly a relative decline) in explicit fiction? Maybe I'm reading in the wrong circles, but it always seems to me that any fiction out there is drowning in a sea of confessional non. Or maybe I'm just missing that it's fiction, a la Miss Lonelygirl15. Either way it seems to me the potential for interesting fiction is really vast... particularly fiction that's coy about its own fictionality.
September 13, 2006
This morning I've added a new linkblog feature to the right, just on the main page. It's just a series of rotating links, similar to what I've had there in the past (under the title girasol). Mousing over a link will yield a description, if there is one. The feature at del.icio.us that I used to create this is quite powerful and customizable, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is using that service and wants to add content to a blog with minimal additional effort. It does introduce a slight delay when loading the page, but to me at least this seems tolerable (?).
September 11, 2006
Wanted (dead or alive)
Wow, five years since September 11. I've read some posts and articles talking about the profound changes we've seen since and others saying there hasn't been as much change as expected. I suppose both are true. On the one hand, there is our identity -- the whole idea of America and what it represents has changed -- and on the other hand our day to day lives are pretty much the same as ever. It's strange that that's even possible in the modern world, but apparently it is.
I didn't write anything on the first anniversary of Katrina, although it was an event I had (and still have) very strong feelings about. I expected the destruction of New Orleans to motivate change in domestic and possibly environmental policy in the same way 9/11 has led us to rearrange our security and international priorities. That hasn't happened, of course, and I suppose it was naive to think it would (certainly people told me so at the time).
September 1, 2006