October 29, 2004
Speaking of the vote
Changes in voting practices and in the enforcement of voting rights are widespread. From the LA Times, registration required:
"Bush administration lawyers argued in three closely contested states last week that only the Justice Department, and not voters themselves, may sue to enforce the voting rights set out in the Help America Vote Act, which was passed in the aftermath of the disputed 2000 election.
Veteran voting-rights lawyers expressed surprise at the government's action, saying that closing the courthouse door to aspiring voters would reverse decades of precedent.
Since the civil rights era of the 1960s, individuals have gone to federal court to enforce their right to vote, often with the support of groups such as the NAACP, the AFL-CIO, the League of Women Voters or the state parties. And until now, the Justice Department and the Supreme Court had taken the view that individual voters could sue to enforce federal election law.
But in legal briefs filed in connection with cases in Ohio, Michigan and Florida, the administration's lawyers argue that the new law gives Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft the exclusive power to bring lawsuits to enforce its provisions.
. . .
In one case the Sandusky County Democratic Party sued Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, arguing that the county's voters should be permitted to file provisional ballots even if they go to the wrong polling place on election day.
The Justice Department intervened as a friend of the court on Blackwell's side.
Saturday's decision in that case, and in other recent cases from Michigan and Florida, gave the department a partial victory. On the one hand, the courts agreed with state officials who said voters may not obtain a provisional ballot if they go to the wrong polling place.
However, all three courts that ruled on the matter rejected the administration's broader view that voters may not sue state election officials in federal court.
Still, the issue may resurface and prove significant next week if disputes arise over voter qualifications. Some election-law experts believe the administration has set the stage for arguing that the federal courts may not second-guess decisions of state election officials in Ohio, Florida or elsewhere."
Machiavelli would've been proud, I'm just revolted
The large number of challenges by the Republican Party of registered Democrats based on undelivered mail appears to be based on, well, a sort of, er, truly disgusting anti-democratic tactics. (Via Crooked Timber)
"When Catherine Herold received mail from the Ohio Republican Party earlier this year, she refused it.
The longtime Barberton Democrat wanted no part of the mailing and figured that by refusing it, the GOP would have to pay the return postage.
What she didn't count on was the returned mail being used to challenge the validity of her voter registration.
Herold,who is assistant to the senior vice president and provost at the University of Akron,was one of 976 Summit County voters whose registrations were challenged last week by local Republicans on behalf of the state party.
She went to the Board of Elections on Thursday morning to defend her right to vote and found herself among an angry mob -- people who had to take time off work to defend their right to vote.
After hearing some of the protests, the board voted unanimously to dismiss all 976 challenges.
The move, ironically, came from Republican board member Joseph Hutchinson and was seconded by Republican Alex Arshinkoff after they determined that the four local Republicans who made the challenges had no evidence to back up their claims. [I'm glad to see that there are Republicans in Ohio who aren't willing to subvert the equality of the vote to gain power, but still . . . from the party of abolition to this?!?!?.]
. . . . .
The challengers, all older longtime Republicans -- Barbara Miller, Howard Calhoun, Madge Doerler and Louis Wray -- were subpoenaed by the elections board and were present at the hearings. Akron attorney Jack Morrison, a Republican, volunteered to represent the four.
Democratic board member Russ Pry suggested that the four could be subject to criminal prosecution for essentially making false claims on the challenge forms. The form states that making a false claim is subject to prosecution as a fifth-degree felony.
On Morrison's advice, Miller then refused to take part in any hearings after Herold's, invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination."
October 28, 2004
The Republic Will Survive
"When democracy turns ugly, it's good to take a deep breath and remember that the Republic has survived a lot worse than this."
From "The Blood Red Moon," by William Greider, at The Nation.
Anthony Hecht, 1923-2004
The American poet Anthony Hecht died on Wednesday, October 20th.
"Mr. Hecht, who was 81, had won the Pulitzer Prize and many other awards when he moved to Washington in 1982 as poetry consultant to the Library of Congress -- one of the nation's highest honors for a poet. In 1985, after his two-year term expired, he became a professor at Georgetown University, from which he retired in 1993. He continued to write poems until near the time of his death.
'Anthony Hecht is indisputably one of the greatest poets of his age,' said Dana Gioia, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts and a respected poet. 'He wrote unabashedly in the high style, but he did so with such emotional force and exquisite musicality that his poems went directly to your heart.'"
A poem, in memorium:
Chorus From Oedipus At Colonos
What is unwisdom but the lusting after
Longevity: to be old and full of days!
For the vast and unremitting tide of years
Casts up to view more sorrowful things than joyful;
And as for pleasures, once beyond our prime,
They all drift out of reach, they are washed away.
And the same gaunt bailiff calls upon us all.
Summoning into Darkness, to those wards
Where is no music, dance, or marriage hymn
That soothes or gladdens. To the tenements of Death.
Not to be born is, past all yearning, best.
And second best is, having seen the light.
To return at once to deep oblivion.
When youth has gone, and the baseless dreams of youth,
What misery does not then jostle man's elbow,
Join him as a companion, share his bread?
Betrayal, envy, calumny and bloodshed
Move in on him, and finally Old Age--
Infirm, despised Old Age--joins in his ruin,
The crowning taunt of his indignities.
So is it with that man, not just with me.
He seems like a frail jetty facing North
Whose pilings the waves batter from all quarters;
From where the sun comes up, from where it sets,
From freezing boreal regions, from below,
A whole winter of miseries now assails him,
Thrashes his sides and breaks over his head.
October 27, 2004
Mind controlled robots
From Wired (via DeLong):
"If a monkey is hungry but has his arms pinned, there's not much he can do about it. Unless that monkey can control a nearby robotic arm with his brain.
And that's exactly what the monkey in Andrew Schwartz's neurobiology lab at the University of Pittsburgh can do, feeding himself using a prosthetic arm controlled solely by his thoughts.
If mastered, the technology could be used to help spinal cord injuries, amputees or stroke victims. 'I still think prosthetics is at an early stage ... but this is a big step in the right direction,' said Chance Spalding, a bioengineering graduate student who worked on the project."
And then one day, we can implant our brains into well-armed robots that can fight wars in outerspace.
Another branch to human ancestry found
A new species in homo tree reveals that the pliestocene period was characterized by signifcant diversity in humanity.
"Scientists have discovered a new and tiny species of human that lived in Indonesia at the same time our own ancestors were colonising the world.
The new species - dubbed 'the Hobbit' due to its small size - lived on Flores island until at least 12,000 years ago.
The fact that little people feature in the legends of modern Flores islanders suggests we might have to take tales of Bigfoot and the Yeti more seriously.
Details of the sensational find are described in the journal Nature."
One apparent consequence:
"'The whole idea that you need a particular brain size to do anything intelligent is completely blown away by this find.' Dr. Henry Gee, Nature"
Is it common to attribute cognitive biases to others while being blind to our own?
The study of cognitive biases has come a long way since Francis Bacon began it. Since Bacon, Marx and his succesors gave an enormous amount of effort to the study of ideology, fetishes, local-global fallacies, and fallacies of composition and division. Despite their often illuminating insights, many of them came to suffer from what they analyzed. Some cognitive psychological studies suggest that this tendency may be itself a common cognitive bias.
"Psychologist Frank J. Sulloway of the University of California at Berkeley and I [Michael Shermer] made a similar discovery of an attribution bias in a study we conducted on why people say they believe in God and why they think other people do so. In general, most individuals attribute their own faith to such intellectual reasons as the good design and complexity of the world, whereas they attribute others' belief in God to such emotional reasons as that it is comforting, that it gives meaning and that it is how they were raised."
The Subway turns 100
Today is the 100th birthday of New York City's subway system. While I am snapped out of my occasional, OK regular, frustrations with the subway only by a recognition that it has held up well for its age, I do have a sense of comfort every time I stand on a platform late at night. For me, it's one of the city's true social spaces where some image of unity without conformity is played out daily.
"Paul Schneider, 24, a headhunter from TriBeCa, was getting off the 6 at Canal Street, along the route of the original subway line that ran from the old City Hall station through Midtown and up to 145th Street. Though his daily routine has blurred his appreciation of the great institution through which he travels, he grew almost patriotic when thinking about the landmark the subway would reach the next day.
'It epitomizes New York City,' he said, and then added, taking in the station, 'Look at all the trash people throw around. They wouldn't do that in an old church.'
As midnight approached last night at the Jamaica yard, a tower operator, Marianne Kreuter, was ending her shift. She was pulling the big levers in the room overlooking the yard, preparing to send trains out into a new century. 'It's like choreographing a ballet,' Ms. Kreuter said as she flipped the switches on the control panel. 'And you can call me Georgette Balanchine.'"
Hitchens flip-flops . . . back to a sort of saner position
"Subjectively, Kerry should be put in the pillory for his inability to hold up on principle under any kind of pressure. Objectively, his election would compel mainstream and liberal Democrats to get real about Iraq.
The ironic votes are the endorsements for Kerry that appear in Buchanan's anti-war sheet The American Conservative, and the support for Kerry's pro-war candidacy manifested by those simple folks at MoveOn.org. I can't compete with this sort of thing, but I do think that Bush deserves praise for his implacability, and that Kerry should get his worst private nightmare and have to report for duty."
October 26, 2004
Daniel Barenboim remembers Edward Said
"Edward Said was many things for many people, but in reality, his was a musician's soul, in the deepest sense of the word.
"He wrote about important universal issues such as exile, politics, integration. However, the most surprising thing for me, as his friend and great admirer, was the realisation that, on many occasions, he formulated ideas and reached conclusions through music; and he saw music as a reflection of the ideas that he had regarding other issues.
"This is one of the main reasons why I believe that Said was such an important figure. His journey through this world took place precisely at a time when the humanity of music, its human value as well as the value of thought, the transcendence of the idea written in sounds, were, and regrettably continue to be, concepts in decline."
More here in Daniel Barenboim's original and moving appraisal of the life and work of Edward Said.
Eric Drexler: Techno-prophet Outcast?
What's happened to the godfather of nanotechnology, K. Eric Drexler?
"[T]here have always been scientists who considered Drexler part of the lunatic fringe. Six months before the NanoSummit [held in June 2004 in Washington, DC], his critics landed what may be a decisive one-two punch. On December 1, the technical journal Chemical and Engineering News published a series of letters between Drexler and Smalley in which the Nobelist made his position clear: Molecular assembly is impossible. 'Chemistry of the complexity, richness, and precision needed to come anywhere close to making a molecular assembler - let alone a self-replicating assembler - cannot be done simply by mushing two molecular objects together,' Smalley wrote.
It was a public takedown from the man fast replacing Drexler as nano's leading light. But Smalley wasn't done. In remarks so overheated that they bordered on bizarre, he accused Drexler of terrorizing the world with the prospect that self-reproducing assemblers might escape the lab and devour everything in their path, turning the Earth into an inert, undifferentiated blob of gray goo.
'You and people around you have scared our children,' Smalley fairly shouted in print. 'I don't expect you to stop, but I hope others in the chemical community will join with me in turning on the light and showing our children that, while our future in the real world will be challenging and there are real risks, there will be no such monster as the self-replicating mechanical nanobot of your dreams.'"
An analogy to explain reforming Social Security
Issue 2 of The Economists' Voice is out. As would be expected, most of the articles address issues central to the election. George Akerlof, brilliant man that he is, offers this nice analogy to explain the Social Security crisis and the problems of privatizing the fund.
Sixty percent of seniors get almost all their income from their social security check. For the next thirty percent it is most of the income they receive.
The administration plans to take care of the problem by privatization. But once again we see a magic wand. Privatization won’t work. It won’t work because it can’t work.
Privatization begins with the necessity of paying the social security for a whole missing generation.
Consider an analogy.
Consider a family with 12 children. These children pass their clothes down as they grow out of them.
That’s exactly like how we pay for social security. Social security is on a pay-go system. In our current system each generation pays for the social security and medicare support of the next.
Let’s return to the analogy. If the 12-child family decides to privatize its clothes — if each child is allowed to keep her own when they grow out of them— then the kids will have nothing to wear.
Useful for explaining the dilemma to those who don't get it.
Columbia Pays Its Respects to Morgenbesser
One thing is for sure, Sidney Morgenbesser was much loved. The memorial at Columbia this past Sunday was touching, and it reminded me of his deep decency, humility and brilliance. Noam Chomsky told a story of his first encounter with Sidney. Chomsky, as a undergraduate, saw a flyer for a course on philosophy of the social science taught by the visiting Hillel scholar in residence at Swarthmore, a young Sidney. He described Sidney, I think accurately, as perhaps the most insightful thinker on the issue ever. The first lecture was apparently brilliant and left the young Chomsky riveted. He went back to the second class, where a morose Sidney walks in announces that he knows nothing about the issue and cancels the course. But most of what was said at the memorial was about how his mind and his compassion were so intertwined.
"'There can be no taking the measure of Sidney, there can be no putting one’s finger on him, not on this occasion not on any other,' said David Albert, after welcoming attendees on behalf of the Columbia philosophy department, describing him as too vast, deep, complicated, funny, and fast.
'Most of us are going to be talking about him for the rest of our lives. And other people are going to be talking about him after we’re gone. And I suspect we are never going to hear the end of him.'
Mr. Albert described Morgenbesser as a 'philosopher in the nearly gigantic, primordial sense of the word' who knew better than most that knowledge is hard.
Mr. Albert recalled how at Morgenbesser’s funeral, sociologist Allan Silver said that Sidney had raised embarrassment to a place of high moral dignity."
And it was a sight to see.
The Election and What to do About It
As we come down to the wire, take a look at the beautifully designed NYTimes.com 2004 Election Guide, which represents the best potential use of the web as a uniquely capable transmitter of information. Be sure to have a browse - if the scary closeness of the race worries you, channel that anxiety by doing some volunteer work, perhaps here (full disclosure: I work with them). You will feel much better, and will certainly make much more of a difference than if you simply vote.
October 25, 2004
Sympathy for the Devil
"The British Armed Forces has officially recognised its first registered Satanist. Naval technician Chris Cranmer, 24, has been allowed to register by the captain of HMS Cumberland, based at Devonport Naval Base in Plymouth. The move will mean that he will now be allowed to perform Satanic rituals on board the vessel."
Really? Huh. Read more from the BBC here.
October 24, 2004
Michael Jackson, Cult Stud
In an uncharacteristic move, the NY Times has printed excerpts from a Yale conference on Michael Jackson, with remarkably few snarky contextual comments. My favorite makes an understated but convincing observation of the similarities between the public sexual images of Michael and Ricky Martin. Another, more obvious excerpt analyzes the screwdriver held by Wesley Snipes' character in the video for 'Bad.' You'll never guess what it represents.
October 22, 2004
The temporary free access to Sage journals to expire on Halloween
For those who do not have access to a University account and/or things like JSTOR but do want to browse the academic journals, Sage publications free access to all its online journals ends on October 31st. So, go ahead and take a look while it's still convenient.
What to look for on election night, to start feeling anxious early
Via Crooked Timber, Contrapositive has a cheat-sheet for the Presidential election results, what's expected by each camp, what each needs, and what to look for by every half hour of election night. Illuminating; though, the bottom reads "Bush needs: 266" electoral college votes (269 for each candidate is a tie, and heaven help us if it goes to the House).
The first clear sign to look for:
But first and foremost: If Bush wins New Jersey, it's over. Find a bad movie on cable, break out the booze, and cry yourself to sleep.
And in Pennsylvania: If Kerry is down here, it'll be wise to at least keep the booze close at hand.
But it's really hard to imagine that New Jersey would go to Bush.
Another take on nature and normativity
Inspired by Giblets and Fafnir's debate on October 16th on whether "sucking" reduces to the natural properties of the Yankees and Lindsay Beyerstein's thoughts on the matter of naturalizing normative propositions, I thought I'd link to this review of Joseph Rouse's How Scientific Practices Matter: Reclaiming Philosophical Naturalism. (via politicaltheory.info)
Rouse. . . argues that the real problem isn’t the failure to show how the ontologically separate worlds of the normative and the natural interact, but the splitting of the two in the first place. According to Rouse, the split is indicative of a lingering Cartesian representationalism, and the only solution is to stop conceiving of the normative and the material as separate–the two are constitutive of each other. As he explains in one of those sentences that immediately call out for a sticky note: 'The articulation of what we are accountable to is inseparable from the practical process of holding ourselves accountable to it.' . . . What Rouse contributes to the debate is to argue the reverse point as well, viz., that the field of meaningful human activity is best construed as 'intra-active' with and constitutive of the natural world.
And he appears to try to defend the point through many challenges, Quinean indeterminacy, the sociology of science, science as convention and practice . . . you get the drift.
October 21, 2004
Howells on "The Philippine Problem"
"Yes, I think we should stop hostilities at once. Why not? I don't see why we can't order a truce, and then, when the President and his Commission have reported to Congress, let us make the Filipinos a final offer of a scheme of government, and abide by their acceptance or rejection of it."
From the American writer William Dean Howells on the U.S. invasion of The Philippines, originally published on October 17th, 1899, in The New York Evening Post. Read the whole essay here at Jim Zwick's archive of Anti-Imperialist essays from 1898-1935.
"The war in Iraq has become a costly trap from which the United States should extricate itself soon."
From Stanley Hoffman's essay "Out of Iraq" in the October 21st issue of the NYRB.
Memorial for Morgenbesser
For those of you who knew him and/or are interested, Columbia will hold a memorial service for Sidney Morgenbesser this Sunday (October 24th) at Low Library at 3:00 p.m.
October 20, 2004
Thinking about an American Imperium
Somewhere in The Ruin of Kasch, Roberto Calasso offered the observation that one day the United States woke up and discovered that it was an empire, but it didn't know what an empire was. So it ran its empire like a giant corporation. I don't think that's true, but the question--what, if anything, is the American empire--is one that a lot of people grapple with.
Tony Judt reviews some recent attempts and offers some things to ponder.
"The challenge facing American voters in the coming elections is not to find a president who can convince the world that the US isn't an empire—or else, if it is an empire, that its intentions are honorable. That argument has been lost and is now beside the point. Nor is it even a question of choosing between being loved and being feared. Thanks to America's performance in Iraq—and our evident inability to plan one war at a time, much less two—we are neither loved nor feared. We have shocked the world, yes; but few now hold us in awe.
. . . we should not be surprised that America has ceased to be an example to the world. The real tragedy is that we are no longer an example to ourselves. America's born-again president insists that we are engaged in the war of Good against Evil, that American values 'are right and true for every person in every society.' Perhaps. But the time has come to set aside the Book of Revelation and recall the admonition of the Gospels: For what shall it profit a country if it gain the whole world but lose its own soul?"
How some public figures are intending to vote
Speaking of evolutionary psychology, Reasononline surveyed some noted journalists, thinkers, and public figures on how they plan to vote. Some responses:
"Steven Pinker . . .
2004 vote: Kerry. The reason is reason: Bush uses too little of it. In the war on terror, his administration stints on loose-nuke surveillance while confiscating nail clippers and issuing color-coded duct tape advisories. His restrictions on stem cell research are incoherent, his dismissal of possible climate change inexcusable."
The one that surprised me:
[Supply-side guru] "Jude Wanniski . . .
2004 vote: Bush does not deserve to be re-elected, and Kerry does not deserve to be elected -- Bush because of Iraq and Kerry because his economics are dreadful. I’m leaning toward Kerry because I prefer recession to imperialist war . . ."
How quickly it all boils down to debates on evolutionary psychology
Quite often, I'm amazed how discussions of some topic become discussions of evolutionary psychology and (d)evolve into soci-odicy vs bi-odicy. Being Millian on these things, I think that these fights are by and large good, save the ad hominem attacks that spring up regularly.
Kieran Healy over at Crooked Timber has a post on explanations of why one is more likely to find older and richer men married to younger women than older rich women married to younger men and on evolutionary psychology. The post evolved, so to speak, from a back and forth with David Bernstein at The Volokh Conspiracy on gender and stereotypes.
"Relations between the sexes provide the most fertile soil for the proliferation of the MSU [Make Shit Up] branch of EP [evolutionary psychology]. Gender roles are deeply institutionalized — that is, they are highly scripted and chronically reproduced — and we like nothing better than to think of our institutions as inevitable or natural. I can see how very widespread trends — such as men being slightly older than women at first marriage, for instance — might be traced back to very ancient social arrangements, though even here there’s enough variation to make it a difficult sell. Neither am I opposed to the idea that there are very basic drives or predispositions that go back very far which might reliably generate patterns of social organization or culture. But it also seems obvious to me that ideas about the appropriate relations between the sexes — or races, classes, nations, or whatever you like — thrive best if they appear to be emanations from the mind of God or the structure of DNA."
Read the whole thing, threads included.
At heart I think is the periodic reconsideration of something else, the reductionism (of values and value terms to physical properties) that G.E. Moore sought to refute (by the 'naturalistic fallacy' argument). (Yes, I'm reading into all this my own thought and interest on intellectual, cultural zeitgeists.) Now seems to be such a moment; for example, Abbas, to out him on this, thinks that the naturalistic fallacy is itself wrong, at least globally on various stability criteria. (I'm skeptical.) In either case, the very open question nature of these positions make them reoccuring.
But read around back to the original piece, and you'll get a sense of how far EP has come in the popular consciousness.
October 19, 2004
New Nigerian Fiction - Adichie
"The secret of Adichie's style is simplicity, rhythm and balance. She writes a poet's sentences. On the cashew tree outside the bedroom window, 'the bell-shaped yellow fruits hung lazily, drawing buzzing bees that bumped against my window's netting.' There is no wilful exoticism: no playing to the gallery of Western expectation; but surprising and elegant juxtapositions keep the reader's attention poised: 'Dust-laden winds of harmattan came with December. They brought the scent of the Sahara and Christmas.' She works through delicate insights and half-glimpses; despite the tough and intractable material, and her rigour in confronting it, the final impression of the novel is of gentleness, gravity and grace."
From "I have washed my feet out of it," Hillary Mantel's essay on Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at the LRB.
October 18, 2004
Iraq's intellectuals as targets
Iraq's descent into chaos is leading its best and brightest to leave, as academics become targets of kidnappers and murderers.
"Since the war ended 18 months ago, at least 28 university teachers and administrators have been killed, while 13 professors were kidnapped and released on payments of ransom, according to the Association of University Lecturers. Many others have received death threats.
The result: an exodus of academics and other intellectuals, who are urgently needed by a shattered society, from their schools and often the country, joining an earlier generation of exiles who fled the regime of Saddam Hussein."
I have two reactions to this. First is frustration with the US for not providing stabilty and security for a population living under its administration. Second is a sense of belwiderment at the Left for seeing these mafia types and theocrats as carrying the torch of Iraqi liberation.
Americans, er, respond to letters from The Guardian and its readers
A few days ago, I posted lettters published in The Guardian from John Le Carre, Antonia Fraser, and Richard Dawkins to American voters about the upcoming election, urging them to vote against Bush. The Guardian had also lauched a project named "Operation Clark County". British readers would write letters to undecided voters in Clark County, Ohio and urge them to vote for Kerry (or to get Bush out of office.) I wondered whether these would have no impact whatsoever or would simply provoke a backlash.
Now the U.S. writes back in response to both.
Shame on you for using the people of Ohio like this. The US presidental election isn't just about foreign policy, it's about healthcare, taxes, education, transportation, natural resources and all manner of issues with little to no impact on the people of Britain.
We live in a globalised, interconnected world. If China shuts its borders to US imports, you better believe American companies, shareholders and workers are affected. Should US citizens therefore have a direct say in Chinese policies? No - Americans should demand that their own elected leaders address the issues with their Chinese counterparts. The British have a similar voice in US policies - through your own elected representatives who have any number of diplomatic, economic and military tools at their disposal. You vote for your leaders and we'll vote for ours. Your problem is with your leaders, not ours.
Real Americans aren't interested in your pansy-ass, tea-sipping opinions. If you want to save the world, begin with your own worthless corner of it.
I enjoy reading your paper and agree with your politics, but this is really too much.Your plan, if carried out, will hurt the Bush opposition TERRIBLY. We cannot afford to have this associated with John Kerry or anyone else. It will be; the press is going in for a kill, days before the election.
Dear British friends,
I think you have an interesting idea to encourage international grassroots efforts, but I sincerely doubt most Springfielders are going to be influenced by letters from a country they probably can't even point to on a map. I wish you luck with your campaign, but I warn you that you're not likely to accomplish much.
Read the rest.
October 17, 2004
John Stewart on Crossfire, for those of you who haven't seen it
John Stewart's skewering of the media and especially Crossfire on Crossfire has made its way around the net and media, so why post it here? It's so good and feels like a collective outcry about a media that's become a joke that it deserves to be posted all over. Watch it here; or read the transcript here (scroll down half way).
STEWART: . . .And I made a special effort to come on the show today, because I have privately, amongst my friends and also in occasional newspapers and television shows, mentioned this show as being bad.
BEGALA: We have noticed.
STEWART: And I wanted to -- I felt that that wasn't fair and I should come here and tell you that I don't -- it's not so much that it's bad, as it's hurting America.
CARLSON: But in its defense...
STEWART: So I wanted to come here today and say...
STEWART: Here's just what I wanted to tell you guys.
STEWART: Stop, stop, stop, stop hurting America.
BEGALA: OK. Now
STEWART: And come work for us, because we, as the people...
CARLSON: How do you pay?
STEWART: The people -- not well.
BEGALA: Better than CNN, I'm sure.
STEWART: But you can sleep at night.
Globalization debate, round II: David Held responds to his critics
"But the polemical stances of some contributors – notably Jagdish Bhagwati, Meghnad Desai and Martin Wolf – make me uneasy. In the search for what they take to be enemies of economic globalisation, they too often misconstrue, mischaracterise and mislead. If they were my students they would be lucky to have a pass; I would probably send them back to the original source and ask them to reread it!
Worse, I fear that they wilfully refuse to take on board the fact that those of us who are critics of the present form and character of economic globalisation do so from a positive point of view. We recognise the material advances the global economy has achieved, but cannot accept the high costs to many communities and the environment. I strongly support international trade, but argue that it needs good, strong government to achieve its full potential. Bhagwati, Desai and Wolf misrepresent my argument and too often project it as a form of opposition to globalisation in general.
The most important argument today, in my view, is over how globalisation can and should be governed."
October 15, 2004
The Evolution of Cooperation and an end to the 20 year reign of "tit-for-tat"
This is the 20th anniversary of Robert Axelrod's The Evolution of Cooperation, which showed how cooperation could emerge from egoistic maximizers through a prisioner's dilemma tournament. The tournament's winning strategy "Tit-for-tat", submitted by Anatol Rapaport, illuminated phenomenon as diverse as salmon mating habits and spontaneous cease-fires in World War I. The tournament, held in 1980, long preceded the book, and the findings, along with their implications for biology, had been publish in Science in 1981. (Robert Axelrod and William D. Hamilton, "The evolution of cooperation." Science 211:1390-6, 1981)
Ever since the tournament, new strategies for maximizing payoffs in an iterated prisioners' dilemma are developed all the time, but "tit-for-tat" has consistently outperformed all challengers . . . until now.
"[T]he Southampton [University in England] team submitted 60 programs. These, Jennings explained, were all slight variations on a theme and were designed to execute a known series of five to 10 moves by which they could recognize each other. Once two Southampton players recognized each other, they were designed to immediately assume 'master and slave' roles -- one would sacrifice itself so the other could win repeatedly.
If the program recognized that another player was not a Southampton entry, it would immediately defect to act as a spoiler for the non-Southampton player. The result is that Southampton had the top three performers -- but also a load of utter failures at the bottom of the table who sacrificed themselves for the good of the team."
UPDATE: Cosma Shalizi at Three-Toed Sloth is skeptical and makes somes good points.
The clever thing the Southampton group did was to engineer a situation that TFT couldn't cope with, namely collusion among the competing players. If, indeed, one agent is willing to be stomped on, forever, to the greater glory of another, without getting anything out of it, then its master will indeed get all the benefits that the dilemma is capable of providing. (At this point, you can add your own allusions to Hegel, or "safe, sane and consensual" jokes, as you prefer.) This does not seem to me at all an evolutionarily stable situation, however, since the slave agents have, by construction, exactly no incentive to participate in the arrangement. In fact, a mutant which used the coding scheme to recognize supposed masters and always defected against them, but played TFT with everyone else, should do better than a slave, and without slaves the master-type agents are not going to do well. (I will leave it to others [Bill? Gary? Tim?] to draw the obvious morals.) So I strongly doubt that in the wild, e.g., in actual social dilemmas, we will ever see Southampton-type strategies, which means that TFT should still be robust, and strong reciprocity is saved for another day.
(For the really hard core people. I can't begin to imagine Southampton strategies appearing in biological evolution. Case 1: slaves are not related to masters. Then slaves obviously go extinct, after which masters are not long for this world. If memory serves, Darwin, in the Origin, gives basically this case as an example of an observation which would refute evolution by natural selection. Case 2: slaves are related to masters. Then we've got the usual kin selection case of, e.g., sterile castes in eusocial insects. Since the pay-off function has to be inclusive fitness, we don't really have the Prisoners' Dilemma at all!)
I guess we'll watch this unfold.
People Are Human-Bacteria Hybrid
"Most of the cells in your body are not your own, nor are they even human. They are bacterial. From the invisible strands of fungi waiting to sprout between our toes, to the kilogram of bacterial matter in our guts, we are best viewed as walking "superorganisms," highly complex conglomerations of human, fungal, bacterial and viral cells. "
More here from Wired News. (Thanks to Anthony Porter.)
October 14, 2004
A couple of poems by Wendy Susan Walters
In case you haven't seen it, our friend Wendy has a couple of poems over at Nth Position. I've always liked Wendy's poetry. And on the likely chance you will as well, here's a snippet of one to whet your aesthetic appetite and a link to the poems.
Serving several purposes
Because the sky was black with duck. Why we laugh
at them when they can not help but to fall in love with us
because we are so damn beautiful. . .
(Read the whole thing, and "Lips" as well here.)
KITP Future of Physics conference, now online
The lectures from the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics' conference on The Future of Physics are available online. Among the speakers were David Gross, Steven Weinberg, Frank Wilczek, and Edward Witten. Panels participants included Juan Maldacena, Roger Penrose, and Leonard Susskind.
"The conference opened with a review of all the exciting developments in theoretical physics in the last 25 years and closed with a special session in which the participants were asked to predict what exciting developments will occur in physics in the next 25 years."
Le Carré, Fraser, and Dawkins offer advice and pleas on the US elections
John Le Carré, Antonia Fraser, and Richard Dawkins offer some thoughts on the US elections in the form of letters to Americans . . . unsurprisingly encouraging us to support Kerry.
Le Carré: "Probably no American president in all history has been so universally hated abroad as George W Bush: for his bullying unilateralism, his dismissal of international treaties, his reckless indifference to the aspirations of other nations and cultures, his contempt for institutions of world government, and above all for misusing the cause of anti-terrorism in order to unleash an illegal war - and now anarchy - upon a country that like too many others around the world was suffering under a hideous dictatorship, but had no hand in 9/11, no weapons of mass destruction, and no record of terrorism except as an ally of the US in a dirty war against Iran."
Fraser: "First of all, if you back Kerry, you will be voting against a savage militaristic foreign policy of pre-emptive killing which has stained the great name of the US so hideously in recent times. A policy that Bush and his gang are set to continue - if they get the opportunity."
Dawkins: "In the service of his long-planned war (with its catastrophically unplanned aftermath), Bush not only lied about Iraq being the 'enemy' who had attacked the twin towers. With the connivance of the toadying Tony Blair and the spineless Colin Powell, he lied to Congress and the world about weapons of mass destruction. He is now brazenly lying to the American electorate about how 'well' things are going under the puppet government. By comparison with this cynical mendacity, the worst that can be said about John Kerry is that he sometimes changes his mind. Well, wouldn't you change your mind if you discovered that the major premise on which you had been persuaded to vote for war was a big fat lie?"
I don't know if these things backfire (at the margins of course) or have no effect whatsoever.
Gehry Is Selected as Architect of Ground Zero Theater Center
"Frank Gehry, admired for his voluptuous buildings of undulating titanium and steel, is to be the architect of a new performing arts center at ground zero, his first major cultural project in Manhattan, the development corporation in charge of rebuilding the site said yesterday.
The selection of Mr. Gehry for the arts center - which is to include the Joyce Theater and the Signature Theater - brings to Lower Manhattan a celebrity architect who has been notably absent from perhaps the most closely watched architectural site in the world."
More here by Robin Pogrebin in the New York Times.
October 13, 2004
Stats on your city and neighborhood, with just a few clicks
My sense of my neighborhood and social spaces are imprecise and vague, based on a general feeling about how fun or wealthy or diverse they happens to be. I suspect that this is true for most people. More importantly, I’m skeptical whether quantifying these things adds to any of my experiences of them.
In any case, this web site, city-data.com (via preposterous universe), provides a host of statistical information on cities and neighborhoods in the United States. Surfing around it is fun. To compare my old neighborhood, in the East Village (zip code 10009), with my new one in Boerum Hill (zip code 11217):
Population (2000): 58,595
Housing units: 30,199
White population: 35169
Black population: 6136
American Indian population: 310
Asian population: 5925
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander population: 33
Some other race population: 8323
Two or more races population: 2699
Median age: 36.0
Average household size: 1.98
Median household income (1999): $40176
Population by age and gender
Population (2000): 35,353
Housing units: 16,474
White population: 16925
Black population: 11160
American Indian population: 198
Asian population: 1363
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander population: 22
Some other race population: 3932
Two or more races population: 1753
Median age: 33.8
Average household size: 2.15
Median household income (1999): $49567
Population by age and gender
The return of the Chinese juggernaut
The war on terrorism occupies the bulk of our attention in the international arena, as wars usually do. There are, however, some profound secular shifts underway, most notable among them, the development of China and, to a lesser degree at least for now, of India. This piece in Le Monde Diplomatique puts the issue in historical perspective.
"An article in the New York Times this year asked whether the 21st century would be a 'Chinese century'. This may be overstating the case: the Chinese transition is under way but is far from complete. None the less, assuming that the growth dynamic is maintained without major social or political disruption, China will indisputably become a dominant player in the international economic and financial system this century.
This represents a huge tectonic shift. Its distant origins are to be found in the position that Asia occupied in the world system before the North-South divide and the creation of third world countries . . . - a divide brought about by the European industrial revolution and colonialism. In a long-term perspective China, like Asia as a whole, can be seen to be resuming its precolonial history and gradually reclaiming the place that it occupied before 1800, when it was one of the main centres of the world economy and the world’s principal manufacturing power."
How inequality will shape the biotech revolution, and vice versa
Among the concerns ushered in by the approaching revolutions in genetics and biotechnology is the issue of what they will mean for the distribution of health and, indeed, genetic traits themselves.
On the former, some worry about development of a "health genomics gap" between the rich North and poor South and suggest that genomics should be included into the Millennium Development Goals set forth by the UN in 2000.
But it is the latter issue that raises sharper and more dire concerns. Francis Fukuyama's Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution raised the spectre that a revolution in genetic engineering will undo the by and large natural, genetic equality upon which equal humans rights and liberty are (ostensibly) predicated. (Here's a review of the book.) In the extreme, he fears, speciation among us will create uncomfortable issues for politics and ethics. Some opponents of restrictions on genetic engineering and Fukuyama debate the issues here.
Jerry Fodor reviews a new book on Saul Kripke's contributions to philosophy
"By pretty general consent, Kripke's writings (including, especially, Naming and Necessity) have had more influence on philosophy in the US and the UK than any others since the death of Wittgenstein. Ask an expert whether there have been any philosophical geniuses in the last while, and you'll find that Kripke and Wittgenstein are the only candidates. Again, as far as I can tell, Hughes's exposition is accurate and sophisticated, and his coverage is more than adequate. Unless you are yourself a practitioner, this is all the Kripke that you need to know about."
October 12, 2004
A Curtain of Cold, Primordial Hydrogen
"Detailed analyses of mankind's deepest optical view of the universe, the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF), by several expert teams have at last identified what may turn out to be some of the earliest star-forming galaxies. Astronomers are now debating whether the hottest stars in these early galaxies may have provided enough radiation to 'lift a curtain' of cold, primordial hydrogen that cooled after the big bang. This is a problem that has perplexed astronomers over the past decade, and NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has at last glimpsed what could be the 'end of the opening act' of galaxy formation. These faint sources illustrate how astronomers can begin to explore when the first galaxies formed and what their properties might be."
And here at Space-Talk, devotees have an ongoing forum for conversations all about space, space, space.
Nation States on the Web
An interesting, and sometimes terrifying, thing to do is to visit websites of nations that are isolated from the world community, or doing bad things, or simply otherwise troubled.
First stop, The Democratic People's Republic of Korea, otherwise known as North Korea. Don't forget to check out the section on becoming a member of the Korean Friendship Organization. In this section you can also watch the video (with lyrics) of the Song of National Defence (sic).
Next stop, Uzbekistan. The site is still being worked on and is less exciting than the North Korea site. Still, one can learn a thing or two. The section on the Status of the President can provide, at least, an Orwellian chill down the spine. Read the account on the website first, then check this report from Human Rights Watch. Most charming Karimov quote? Perhaps its "I'm prepared to rip off the heads of 200 people, to sacrifice their lives, in order to save peace and calm in the republic…If my child chose such a path, I myself would rip off his head." How nice that the US counts such proud allies in the War on Terror.
Moving from the brutal to the outright bizarre, we would be remiss not to include Turkmenistan on the tour. There is no official government website, though the Embassy of Turkmenistan in DC has a rather extensive site. The message from President Niyazov Turkmenbashy includes the claim,
"Turkmenistan has undertaken the first and, therefore, most difficult steps on its way of revival, virtually re-formation of its own sovereign history and state system. It is ancient and event-wise exuberant. But today given the past, we continue it from the scratch."
Niyazov's cult of personality has become legendary especially with his recent re-naming of the months of the year in homage to himself. He is also fond of publishing his own works. Here's what the State Information Agency of Turkmenistan has to say about his Great Book, the Ruhmana.
Next stop, Albania, one of the most isolated countries in the world during the dictatorship of Enver Hoxa. So far, it has been a difficult legacy to emerge from with any great stability. There is an official website here.
This Photographer's Diary by David Brauchli is worth looking at.
And a brief glance at Sudan, about which there have been many posts in recent weeks here at 3quarksdaily. The restructuring of Sudan Airways seems to figure more prominently on the site than Darfur.
"I do not avoid women, Mandrake, but... I do deny them my essence."
Arriving Friday at Film Forum is Stanley Kubrick's most overtly comic film, "Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb." If, as is likely, you've already seen it, you may be surprised at how precisely calibrated its satire once again appears. Perhaps this is because the political thrust of our times perfectly suits the movie's gleeful skewering of both the American cowboy ethos and the diastrous results that ensue from its boneheaded application to international relations (all phallic puns intended). In three roles, Peter Sellers is in absolute peak form, particularly when his Lt. Mandrake tries to get the recall code from a suicidally deranged Sterling Hayden ("And I can swear to you, my boy, swear to you, that there's nothing wrong with my bodily fluids. Not a thing, Jackie!") and during Strangelove's climatic speech, but the two phone calls Sellers' President makes to Dmitri Kissoff, the Russian premier, rise to the level of historical greatness. The utter genius of the film's comedy extends its relevance far beyond the merely topical - by comparison, see the deadly serious "Failsafe," made in the same year. And, as with all of Kubrick's work, I defy you to find a lighting scheme that is less than painterly, a cut that is less than essentially motivated, a composition that is less than photographically brilliant, a form that is less than art.
Nemesis by Shazia Sikander, a traveling exhibition
Shazia Sikander, a friend of 3QD, we proudly boast, never fails to impress us with her talent, insight, and reserve; others are similarly affected. A recent New York Times article on her travelling exhibition Nemesis article begins:
"DEXTEROUS and clever, Shahzia Sikander continues to surprise with an exhibition at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, Conn. In addition to a suite of 51 drawings, a wall painting and a dazzling digital animation, there is video documentation of a collaborative performance with the Indian dancer Sharmila Desai. How does she find the time to do all this?"
"If Ms. Sikander were still cranking out her glitzy miniature paintings, you could probably dismiss her as a victim of the art market merry-go-round. But she is not, and that takes some courage. This show suggests that she is a far more sophisticated and ambitious artist than her previous fare has led some to believe."
Read the whole thing.
October 11, 2004
The continuing debate on Che as hero
A while ago, in a post on Che Guevara and Regis Debray, I made the obvious point: "There has been a lot of reflection on the life and legacy of Ernesto 'Che' Guevara," adding, "The release of the movie of The Motorcycle Diaries, I suspect, will help add to it."
The blogosphere has been abuzz with a debate on Che. Brad DeLong has entitled the virtual seminar "The Concept of the Hero in Twenty-First Century Civilization" and has taken the trouble of summarizing and linking to the major posts on the topic.
The (old) Dictionary of the History of Ideas is now online
Via Three-Toed Sloth, one of the smartest and best blogs around with posts like this: the Dictionary of the History of Ideas (Philip P. Wiener, ed., 1973/1974) is now online. (Read Cosma Shalizi's take on the Dictionary of the History of Ideas, as well.) A new "updated and rethought" edition, entitled New Dictionary of the History of Ideas, edited by Maryanne Cline Horowitz, is in the works.
The Dictionary of the History of Ideas has some excellent, albeit by now outdated, entries; for example:
Kenneth Arrow on Formal Theories of Social Welfare; Isaiah Berlin on The Counter-Enlightenment; George Boas on Macrocosm and Microcosm, on Primitivism, and indeed on Idea; Dietrich Gerhard on Periodization in History; Sidney Hook on Marxism;Stuart Kauffman on Biological Homologies and Analogy; Frank Knight on Economic History; Richard Lewontin on Biological Models; Oskar Morgenstern on Game Theory; J. P. Nettl on Social Democracy in Germany and Revisionism; John Plamenatz on Liberalism; Judith Shklar on The General Will; and Rene Wellek on Periodization in Literary History.
"Contemporary British and American writers are in love with what might be called irrelevant intensity."
"Writers and literary academics have never been closer, and never further apart."
"There used to be something thought of as 'a Booker novel' - a big, ambitious balloon sent up to signify seriousness and loftiness of purpose."
The literary critic James Wood, responsible for all three of the above quotations, is nothing if not a serious book reviewer. He lectures at Harvard and writes mainly for the LRB and The New Republic. The first sentence comes from his unkind outing at the expense of Zadie Smith's second novel. The second is from a rather more thoughtful review of The Oxford English Literary History, Vol. XII: 1960-2000: The Last of England? The third is from his mixed-bag musings on D.B.C. Pierre.
So, Wood is serious - and, refreshingly, not coy about being learned. ("Shakespeare would probably have read earlier versions of the psalm, such as those of Miles Coverdale and the Geneva Bible, which the King James translators adapted very closely and in places word for word," Wood notes in this New Yorker piece about the making of the King James Bible.) A serious man who is seriously concerned about the state of contemporary letters.
But is he on the right track? Two views:
A very flattering piece on Wood by Adam Begley of the New York Observer, entitled "Lit Crit as It Ought to Be: Open-Eyed, Recklessly Committed." Begley argues that Wood is "the most promising young critic around, but now that he’s pushing 40, let’s drop the qualifiers and say it loud and clear: He’s the best."
A case against Wood from John Reuland, the Editor of Bridge Magazine Online:
"Wood is a critic in the wilderness. He’s unconcerned with things of this world, and his spiritual authenticity gives us faith in his judgments. Those judgments, we presume, issue from a belief system that’s transhistorical, never anachronistic because it doesn’t belong in time. Yet Wood’s problem as a critic is exactly that he is so principled. Just as some theologians claim we have a priori knowledge of God, one could easily claim that Wood had a priori knowledge that things don’t get any better than the nineteenth-century novel. Wood wants novels that chant the creed of his orthodoxy. He dismisses the art that shakes his faith, which raises the troubling question of whether faith that admits so little doubt is faith, or mere prejudice."
Reuland's full essay is here.
The Age of Nonfiction?
I'm not sure if it's due to sunspots or historical circumstances, and I know my friends who write fiction and poetry will be unhappy that I'm saying this, but it seems to me that nonfiction is sometimes more exciting than fiction right now. Certainly the stastistics show a decline in fiction sales even while publishers are putting out 17% more titles. (Bowker has the full story.) Biography, history and religion showed double-digit increases for 2003. Some account for this as a post-September 11 reaction - unprecedented American interest in the outside world. It is also possible to view the trend aesthetically and suggest that perhaps fiction hasn't been keeping pace with current events. (Indeed, how can it?) If this turns out to be the Age of Nonfiction - for talent follows the money - then this could explain the increasing interest in what is detestably called "Creative Nonfiction." (Detestable because all writing ought to be "creative," and because "creative" is a cruel term for good writing, so that the phrase "Creative Nonfiction" is doubly appalling from an artistic point of view.) Aldaily.com recently posted a link to an essay called "The Age of the Essay" by Paul Graham. Graham, famous for his work on Spam and Spam filters, has this to say about writing essays:
"What should you think about? My guess is that it doesn't matter - that anything can be interesting if you get deeply enough into it. One possible exception might be things that have deliberately had all the variation sucked out of them, like working in fast food. In retrospect, was there anything interesting about working at Baskin-Robbins?"
Read the whole essay here.
October 10, 2004
Space Ship One wins the Ansari X-Prize
"On October 4, 2004, SpaceShipOne rocketed into history, becoming the first private manned spacecraft to exceed an altitude of 328,000 feet twice within the span of a 14 day period, thus claiming the ten million dollar Ansari X-Prize.
In addition to meeting the altitude requirement to win the X-Prize, pilot Brian Binnie also broke the August 22, 1963 record by Joseph A. Walker, who flew the X-15 to an unofficial world altitude record of 354,200 feet. Brian Binnie's SpaceShipOne flight carried him all the way to 367,442 feet or 69.6 miles above the Earth's surface."
In related news, "Sir Richard Branson hopes his new company will be the first to send adventurous tourists into space.
The high-flying entrepreneur announced Monday that the Virgin Group, his amassing of airline, entertainment and telecommunications companies, has entered into a technology licensing agreement with Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's Mojave Aerospace Ventures. Under the deal, Branson's Virgin Galactic plans to become the first business venture to carry commercial passengers on space flights.
"We've always had a dream of developing a space tourism business, and Paul Allen's vision, combined with (aircraft designer) Burt Rutan's technological brilliance, have brought that dream a step closer to reality," Branson said in a statement.
Virgin Galactic will privately fund the building of spaceships and related equipment, as well as operate the tourism company. The company is expected to open early next year, with the first flights operating in 2007.
Space tourists, who are expected to receive at least three days of preflight training, will pay approximately $190,000 each to travel toward the stars in a two-hour trip aboard the "VSS Enterprise." The company said it plans to begin taking deposits early next year and is now accepting registrations for prospective astronauts."
Click here for full text.
What Is Life - and How Do We Search for It in Other Worlds?
Spaceref.com, purveyors of "Space news as it happens", on the surprisingly knotty problem of determining what counts as life on other planets:
"The obvious diversity of life on Earth overlies a fundamental biochemical and genetic similarity. The three main polymers of biology—the nucleic acids, the proteins, and the polysaccarides—are built from 20 amino acids, five nucleotide bases, and a few sugars, respectively. Together with lipids and fatty acids, these are the main constituents of biomass: the hardware of life (Lehninger 1975, p 21). The DNA and RNA software of life is also common, indicating shared descent (Woese 1987). But with only one example of life—life on Earth—it is not all that surprising that we do not have a fundamental understanding of what life is. We don't know which features of Earth life are essential and which are just accidents of history...
...The practical approach to the search for life is to determine what life needs. The simplest list is probably: energy, carbon, liquid water, and a few other elements such as nitrogen, sulfur, and phosphorus (McKay 1991). Life requires energy to maintain itself against entropy, as does any self-organizing open system. In the memorable words of Erwin Schrödinger (1945), “It feeds on negative entropy.” On Earth, the vast majority of life forms ultimately derive their energy from sunlight. The only other source of primary productivity known is chemical energy, and there are only two ecosystems known, both methanogen-based (Stevens and McKinley 1995; Chapelle et al. 2002), that rely exclusively on chemical energy (that is, they do not use sunlight or its product, oxygen). Photosynthetic organisms can use sunlight at levels below the level of sunlight at the orbit of Pluto (Ravens et al. 2000); therefore, energy is not the limitation for life."
Full article can be found here.
October 09, 2004
Politics, Ideas and Religion Today
There was a wonderfully heartening discussion at Trinity Church in Boston on Friday evening, Oct 8th. Taking place immediately before the 2nd Bush-Kerry debate, the crowd was energized, excited, and keenly receptive.
"MIT professor and author Noam Chomsky and Boston Globe columnist and author James Carroll discussed the domestic and international consequences of US foreign policy, and its relation to traditional American values, including religion. The session was moderated by Amy Goodman, host of National Public Radio's DEMOCRACY NOW!"
Here are some details about the most recent writings of all three:
"With the phrase "this Crusade, this war on terror," President George W. Bush defined his purpose in the immediate aftermath of 9-11. And just as promptly, James Carroll, Boston Globe columnist, son of a general, former antiwar chaplain and activist, as well as recognized voice of ethical authority, began a week-by-week argument with the administration over its actions. In powerful, passionate bulletins, Carroll dissected the president's exploitation of the nation's fears, his invocations of a Christian mission, and his efforts to overturn America's traditional relations -- with other nations and its own citizens.
Crusade, the first collection of Carroll's searing columns, offers a comprehensive and tough-minded critique of the war on terror. From Carroll's first post 9-11 rejection of "war" as the proper response to Osama bin Laden, to his prescient verdict of failure in Iraq, to his never-before-published analysis of the faith-based roots of present U.S. policy, this volume displays his rare insight and scope. Combining clear moral consciousness, an acute sense of history, and real-world grasp of the unforgiving demands of politics, Crusade is a compelling call for the rescue of America's noblest traditions."
"From the world's foremost intellectual activist, an irrefutable analysis of America's pursuit of total domination and the catastrophic consequences that could follow.
For more than half a century, the United States has been pursuing a grand imperial strategy with the aim of staking out the globe. Our leaders have shown themselves willing -- as in the Cuban missile crisis -- to follow the dream of dominance no matter how high the risks. Now the Bush administration is intensifying this process, driving us toward a choice between the prerogatives of power and livable Earth. In Hegemony or Survival, Noam Chomsky investigates how we came to this moment, what kind of peril we find ourselves in, and why our rulers are willing to jeopardize the future of our species.
"In The Exception to the Rulers, award-winning journalist Amy Goodman, with the aid of her brother David, exposes the lies, corruption, and crimes of the power elite -- an elite that is bolstered by large media conglomerates. Her goal is "to go where the silence is, to give voice to the silenced majority." As Goodman travels around the country, she is fond of quoting Margaret Mead: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."