If you scroll to the bottom of this page, you’ll see a map that shows where this blog’s readers come from. I’m corrupting them far and wide.
Tuesday, 30 January 2007
How can it be? Many of you know Will Nehs (of Oconomowoc, Wisconsin) from reading his comments on my blog posts. It’s been three years to the day since Will first wrote to me. His short letter, which I posted, was snarky, but instead of abusing him, which he richly deserved, I took the high road. He wrote back apologetically, which told me a lot about his character, and the rest, as they say, is history. I’m glad to have known you for the past three years, Will. I enjoy your comments and e-mail messages, not least because of their wittiness. Keep ’em coming! (Perhaps Will will explain how he found my blog. I hope it wasn’t by typing “anal” into a search engine.)
Bicycle racing is not for the meek, the squeamish, or the risk-averse. Here is a scene from yesterday’s stage of the Tour of Qatar. Click “Next photo” a few times to see how the crash unfolded. (Keep going until you can go no further.) Belgian Tom Boonen won both yesterday’s stage and today’s stage. He appears to be in top form already. Will he retain it through the spring classics? He will certainly want to repeat his 2005 victory in the Hell of the North, which is the hardest one-day bicycle race in the world. Don’t believe it? Look at the great Greg LeMond afterward.
Addendum: Here is George Hincapie during the 2002 Paris-Roubaix. If the image doesn’t give you chills, you’d better check to see whether you have a pulse.
Much political debate about democracy is a mere rhetorical competition. Everybody favours ‘democracy’ in the abstract, but very few favour the direct rule of public opinion even when it appears to agree with them.
(Lincoln Allison, Right Principles: A Conservative Philosophy of Politics [Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1984], 159)
Here is a New York Times story about climate change. The role of a scientist, natural or social, is to give us the facts, i.e., to inform us of how things are. It is to describe, not to prescribe. It is to get things right, not to make things right. It is to make words fit the world, not make the world fit words. Science, in short, is value-free. Scientists are well-equipped by their training and experience to tell us such things as (1) whether the climate is changing, (2) what caused (or is causing) the change, and (3) what can be done about it, if anything. What can be done, not what should be done. What should be done is a matter of public policy, and, ultimately, morality. It is not within the province of science. This doesn’t mean that scientists don’t try to influence public policy, for surely they do. But they shouldn’t. Their values have no more weight than anyone else’s. (Why would they? Is there a course in graduate school where scientists learn correct values?) The rest of us must resist their attempt to transfer their expertise from one realm to another.
I like the final paragraph of the story:
“We basically have three choices: mitigation, adaptation and suffering,” said John Holdren, the president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and an energy and climate expert at Harvard. “We’re going to do some of each. The question is what the mix is going to be. The more mitigation we do, the less adaptation will be required and the less suffering there will be.”
Dr Holdren appears to grasp that the most science can do—and it’s a lot—is confront us with choices. There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, either in the natural world or in the social world. Scientists can say, for example, “If you do X, then Y will happen,” or “If you want A, then you’ll have to put up with B and C.” Scientists can tell us which bundles of goods are accessible to us; they cannot, as scientists, tell us which bundle to choose. Scientists can supply means to our ends; they cannot, as scientists, supply our ends. I’m not sure how to take Dr Holdren’s statement that, “We’re going to do some of each.” If it’s a prediction of what society will choose, I have no problem with it; but if it’s a value judgment, I have a big problem with it. He should stick to science and let society (of which he’s a part, obviously) decide what’s most important to it.
Dear Professor Burgess-Jackson,
I noticed earlier today that I was mentioned on your blog. I thank you for your kind comment.
Maybe you would like some of the things on my website. The Chomsky article that you refer to was a scissors-and-paste creation of items already on my site.
You probably know the story of the six blind men who touched the elephant. One touched the elephant’s side and said the elephant was like a wall. Another touched the ear and side [sic] like a fan. Another touched the tail and said like a rope. Another touched the leg and said like a tree. Another touched the tusk and said like a spear. The last touched the trunk and said like a snake.
After living for five months in Baoding, China, before we left to return to America I asked our translator what part of China we had been touching by living in Baoding. “The asshole,” he answered. I guess that was an anal experience.
Note from KBJ: I’ve been poking around on Dr Jochnowitz’s site. It looks terrific. See here, for example.
Suppose (God forbid!) that Hillary Clinton is elected president in 2008 and serves for eight years. There will have been a Bush or a Clinton in the White House for 28 consecutive years (1989 to 2017). If you count the eight years that George H. W. Bush served as vice president, you get 36 consecutive years (1981 to 2017). Do we really want that? And suppose it happens. Then we have Jeb Bush to worry about. And then Chelsea Clinton. And then the Bush grandchildren. And then Chelsea’s children. Maybe the Bush and Clinton clans will run this country forever, alternating between conservatism and progressivism, with the Bush clan getting us into wars and the Clinton clan extricating us from them, with the Bush clan cutting taxes and the Clinton clan raising them, with the Bush clan living righteously and the Clinton clan sexually exploiting the interns. Okay, I’m getting silly. See here for Michael Barone’s column.
To the Editor:
President Bush says that if I don’t like his escalation plan, I am responsible for coming up with an alternative. He also claims that I didn’t vote for failure. He is correct. I voted for getting out of Iraq now.
I did not vote for failure. I have been stuck with it by President Bush, who started the war under false pretenses, who lied about its progress for three years, who kept on an incompetent defense secretary, whose idea of diplomacy with Iran is public intimidation, and whose plan for Iraq continues to be “stay the course.”
Given all of this, I am supposed to trust his judgment.
I believe that the “way forward” lies directly through the president. He and his administration said the November vote will not stop them. It is time for the Senate to stop quibbling about a nonbinding resolution. Congress needs to take forceful action against the president, or there will be no progress in Iraq.
David P. Bloomfield
Santa Fe, N.M., Jan. 26, 2007
Today’s the big day. Microsoft launches its new operating system, Vista. I’ve heard and read a lot about it. As much as I would like to upgrade from Windows XP (Home Edition) to Vista (Ultimate Edition), I’ll be patient and wait until summer, when I expect to buy a new desktop computer. By then, the bugs should be identified, located, and exterminated. If and when you use Vista, let me know how you like it. What’s better? What’s worse?
Addendum: I purchased a Microsoft Zune music player a few weeks ago. It’s still in the box. I hope to set it up and use it soon. Report to follow.
Addendum 2: Here is a New York Times story about Vista.