30 June 2008

My e-mail address has changed!

The new one is "infidel753 [at] live.com" -- please make a note of this if you regularly send me e-mail. The "belay" address will stop working in a few days.

29 June 2008

Quote for the day

"Greenfield also badly needs to read Ray Kurzweil’s The Singula-rity is Near. Barring a global catastrophe, most of the changes to our brains she laments will certainly happen–and then some, and I would argue that’s a good thing. We need to dump the sentimental notion that somehow our unaltered humanity is something worth preserving. Technological development is on an irreversible course toward physical and mental enhancement and an inter-connectedness we can’t even fathom. It represents the next step in human evolution, except this time we will boldly decide our own directions based on our individual priorities.

"I’m continually amazed at how Luddites cling to ignorance and tradition. While technological progress certainly has its pitfalls, these must be weighed against the risk of failing to act. Our planet is beset with both severe structural problems and a burgeoning population. The same technology enabling changes to our brains also promises to revolutionize food and energy production as well as stabilizing greenhouse gases. Inaction or technological relin-quishment will guarantee ever-worsening humanitarian crises, and could never be enforced in any case. Whatever can be done in terms of human enhancement will be done. And there will be accidents and mistakes–as with any new endeavor. We cannot eliminate risk. But we need to press on bravely into the terra incognita.

"Sadly, technophobes spin every foray into these areas as some sort of existential threat. We should ignore them. The first salvo in this neo-Luddite rebellion was fired by Bill Joy in his infamous 2000 article 'Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us'. Greenfield mines the same rich vein of technophobia plundered by Joy. From the excerpt at least, she makes no new arguments, and shows no evidence of understanding even the concept of the Singularity. She seems to have a puritanical streak, fretting that we might be getting addicted to our machines or that (horrors) we might learn to derive direct pleasure from them and spiral down into a hedo-nistic cultural collapse. Sounds to me like an electronic version of the 'Reefer Madness' hysteria."

Wild weather

Today was supposed to be this year's first nightmare-heat day, with temperatures reaching almost 100 degrees. I'm not sure exactly how bad the afternoon was -- I was indoors most of the day -- but on the whole it hasn't seemed that hot.

A few minutes ago it started raining, hard. And there's almost continuous thunder.

No doubt there will be nightmare days to come -- this is the alien season, after all. But for now, I rejoice in the rain -- as I'm sure the huge trees that present such a soothing view from the bedroom window of my new home are, in their own way, doing too.

22 June 2008

Voices from under the bus

One of the things I've been doing while I was off line is trying to put my finger on exactly why it is that I -- who have been talking for months about how utterly vital it is to avoid another Republican administration -- now find it so hard to stomach voting for the Democratic nominee.

There is, to begin with, the matter of foreign policy and national security, always something of a concern when contemplating a Democrat as Commander in Chief. It wasn't until this that I became completely comfortable with Hillary Clinton on that score. I'm still not comfortable with Obama, partly because his record suggests that his statements are, shall we say, not always a reliable guide to his actual intentions.

Then there's the whole Wright/TUCC issue. Does Obama find rabid America-bashing and anti-white racism to be acceptable? There's no sign of that in his own statements, but if he doesn't, then why did he take as his spiritual mentor, for most of his adult life, a man who preached those things? Why did he attend that man's church for equally long? If I were religious, I would not stay for even a moment in a church whose preacher talked about blacks the way Wright talked about whites. If a white politician did have such an intimate, lifelong connection with such a preacher, black voters (and white voters with a conscience) would have every right and reason to view that politician with great suspicion.

It's also striking that so many Obama supporters on the internet seem incapable of addressing Clinton supporters except in the language of scorn, reprimand, and insult. Watching Obama trolls in action in the comments section of almost any pro-Clinton blog will confirm this. Clinton supporters wouldn't be human if we didn't feel increasingly alienated from the Obama camp by this. The relentless sexism and misogyny aimed at Clinton during the campaign (documented for months at sites like this one and this one), and the failure of Obama and most of his supporters to condemn it or even acknowledge it, also rankles.

But none of those points is the thing that really bothers me about Obama and what he represents. To get at that main issue, let me point again to this article from May, which I already linked to here.

[T]he Barack Obama campaign and its sympathizers have begun to articulate much more clearly what they mean by their vague slogan of "change" - nothing less than usurping the historic Democratic Party, dating back to the age of Andrew Jackson, by rejecting its historic electoral core: white workers and rural dwellers in the Middle Atlantic and border states.

The Obama advocates declare, though, that we have entered an entirely new political era. It is not only possible but also desira-ble, they say, for Democrats to win by turning away from those whom "progressive" pundits and bloggers disdain variously as "Nascar man," "uneducated," "low information" whites, "rubes, fools, and hate-mongers" who live in the nation's "shitholes."

Obama's campaign and its passionate supporters refuse to acknowledge that these voters consider him weaker -- and that Clinton's positions, different from his, as well as her experience actually attract support. Instead they impute racism to working class Democrats who, the polls also show, happen to be liberal on every leading issue. The effort to taint anyone who does not support Obama as motivated by racism has now become a major factor in alienating core Democrats from Obama's campaign.

Gallup figures presage a Democratic disaster among working-class white voters in November should Obama be the nominee. Yet Obama's handlers profess indifference - and, at times, even pride -- about these trends.

Everyone knows there is truth in this. During the primaries it was commonly observed that Obama and Clinton were emerging as the choice of "wine track" and "beer track" Democrats respectively. But we don't like to talk explicitly about class or even admit it exists in our country. As commenter "The Chaplain" ironically observed on my earlier posting, "The concept of "Class" is so European, my dear. It's an issue that Americans want to believe doesn't apply to us. We are (allegedly) the great meritorious society full of Horatio Algers." What makes the quotes above unusual is their bluntness.

This is ugly. Very ugly.

My head is still saying that a Republican Presidency would be bad for the country. My heart is starting to say that the Democrats don't deserve to win if they're going to do it like this, by beating down the very people they should be championing and allowing a lot of rather nasty, shallow, and bigoted types to revel in triumph over them.

In the primaries of Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky, etc., these rural and working-class Americans were struggling to make their voices heard -- to a party which is turning away, to an activist base which gleefully dismisses them as yokels or hillbillies or even racists, to a commentariat (in the MSM and blogosphere alike) which brushed aside millions of votes with the dismissive bleat of "it's over". The message is clear: We don't care what you think, we can win without you.

Is this healthy for our country? Can it be good for our country that the party which is supposed to stand up for the interests of the working class against the party of privilege, now brushes off the working class as a dispensable distraction from its glitzy and flashy "new coalition"?

The situation reminds me of the disgusting and Orwellian "debate" over illegal immigration. Illegal immigration mostly benefits business interests and the wealthy, so it is hardly surprising to see the Republican establishment favoring it, as with President Bush's enthusiatic support for the amnesty bill last year. What is shocking is the Democratic party's attitude. Illegal immigration mostly damages the interests of unskilled and semi-skilled American workers -- the very people the Democrats should be standing up for. Yet the party prefers to play ethnic politics, and call everyone who opposes illegal immigration nasty names. If you want the United States to enforce the same control over immigration that every other country on Earth takes for granted, then you are a racist, a xenophobe, and all manner of other repellent things.

So where do you turn, when what was once your party can ignore your voice in choosing its Presidential nominee -- because they have cherry-picked enough yuppies, college kids, and yearlings to drown you out?

Then there is the matter of the other major Clinton-leaning demo-graphic: women, especially older women. The party establishment seems to view them as nothing but an obstacle, and an easily-surmountable one at that, to the Obama coronation. The immense historical significance of electing our country's first woman Presi-dent -- especially in the eyes of those who actually experienced the struggles for female equality which today's twentysomethings are too young to remember -- is unworthy of mention. They are old and therefore out of touch, old and therefore probably racist, and that explains everything.

So, as I asked above, where can these two insulted and rejected constituencies turn? There is an obvious answer: they can turn to McCain. Blue-collar and rural voters in the rust-belt swing states have historically been open to both Democratic and Republican appeals, finding the former more willing to defend their economic interests but the latter, in many ways, less culturally alien. That's why those states are swing states. The Democratic party's current tack seems almost calculated to drive these voters into the arms of McCain, who is no fool and did not build a 22-year Senate career by insulting people whose votes he needs and has a solid chance to get. The feminist contingent's options are less clear, but my sense from the blogosphere is that their anger and disappointment are intense -- perhaps intense enough to help shift the political course of the nation.

But wouldn't a McCain Presidency be a disaster? I'm no longer so sure. McCain is not a typical Republican, as many conservatives' deep unease with him demonstrates. Unlike Bush, he supports stem-cell research. He recognizes the reality of anthropogenic global warming and favors serious action to combat it. The biggest issue is, of course, Roe vs. Wade and the Supreme Court, but even there, McCain may not be as bad as we think. And Democrats will surely strengthen their dominance in the Senate this year. They should be able to block extremist judicial nominees.

I would far rather see Hillary as President, but I'm starting to feel that I could accept McCain. And I'm starting to feel that I couldn't accept Obama -- not when his victory would mean the vindication of his "new politics" and of the tactics which were used against Hillary. A McCain Presidency would be an acceptable price to pay, if it meant defeating those tendencies and getting the party back on track.

The Democratic party establishment and too many of Obama's followers have betrayed the people whom the party is supposed to represent. They need to be punished, and the party brought back into line. It is as simple as that.

Link roundup for 22 June 2008

It's a good idea to look in your closets occasionally. You never know.....

I could have used one of these in my old apartment (link sent by Blurber).

Behold the Great Seal of Obama!

So this is what "the politics of change" means.....

Here's a discussion on the counterproductive behavior of some of Obama's followers.

The economic gap between the US and Europe is widening.

A religious cult brings horror to a Czech town.

The majority of the British believe Christianity will disappear from their country within a century.

This chilling video segment delves into the early development of the Nazis' plans for mass murder.

The Taliban are on the brink of defeat, with high-tech weapons having played a key role.

A computer has achieved a speed of 1,000 trillion calculations per second over a sustained period of time -- fully one-twentieth of the maximum processing capacity of the human brain itself.

There's more evidence that resveratrol protects the heart from aging -- and compounds duplicating its effects but up to 1,000 times more potent could be commercially available in a few years. Further advances in anti-aging technology are closer than most people realize.

A new cloning-based treatment has completely cured a man with advanced skin cancer.

Here's a brief overview of some of Ray Kurzweil's ideas.

Note: Thanks to the people who continued sending me links while I was off the internet. I haven't been able to read all of them yet, but I will.

21 June 2008

Back online

Apologies for the long absence. I was absorbed with all the work involved in moving to my new apartment, and even though all my stuff has been here for a week, I've only just now got a working internet connection at home.

Still a lot of unpacking to do, but at least now I'm no longer being woken up at night by the neighbors' music.

An amusing note: back at the old building, the people in the apartment on the other side of the noisetards from mine also moved out at the same time I did! If that doesn't convince the management those people are bad news, I don't know what will.

But it's no longer my problem.

05 June 2008


Hillary Clinton will concede the race on Saturday. While I've been expecting this for some time, it's still a disappointment to finally know that the best one of the original eight major candidates for President will not, this year at least, get a shot at the job.

I've been reading comment threads at the various high-traffic pro-Clinton blogs which have been part of my regular political reading for months, trying to get a sense of how others are reacting to the news. The "fall into line and vote for Obama" option is clearly the least popular, with almost no commenters willing to even consider it; and the ongoing barrage of scorn, reprimands, and insults from Obama supporters seems likely to guarantee that it will remain so. Voting for McCain appears to be the most popular option, with not voting at all running a very close second -- consistent with the exit-poll results in some of the recent primaries, which routinely found numbers like 30% to 40% of Clinton voters saying that they would not vote for Obama in November, or would even vote for McCain. Protest options such as writing-in Hillary or voting for a third candidate are also favored by some.

The conventional wisdom of the punditocracy seems to be that Clinton supporters will mostly rally around Obama with little fuss; Obama's own advisers seem to feel that there is little need to worry about the problem. Based on all those exit polls and on what I'm seeing around the internet, they are seriously mistaken.

What do I think? The full reality of defeat having only just today sunk in, in all honesty I don't know. I consider both McCain and Obama to be unacceptable, for different reasons. Right now my dominant feeling is that I simply don't have much of a dog in this fight any more.

Two things I do know:

(1) The superdelegate system did not work. The whole point of having the superdelegates was that, in a close race, experienced politicians could swing the nomination toward the most electable candidate. Even though this race was about as close as it's possible to get, they did not do so.

(2) Hillary should not become Obama's running mate. When Obama loses to McCain in November -- and make no mistake, he will lose -- his infuriated followers will desperately try to evade responsibility for what they've done to the party by pinning the blame for the defeat on her. It probably won't wash; by that point the nomination race will lie five months in the past, and during those five months the focus will have been on Obama's own flaws (the Republicans will see to that). But Hillary needs to be as far away from that train wreck as possible in order to stay viable to challenge McCain in 2012.


03 June 2008

Satan's nightmare

Many years ago, I read an odd little fantasy story which has stuck in my mind ever since. I can't remember the author or the title or where I read it, but the basic theme was unforgettable.

The story was about Satan. Satan, of course, according to Christian mythology, has resided in Hell ever since his unsuccessful attempt to overthrow and replace God as ruler of the universe.

In the story, Satan went to sleep one ordinary night in Hell, and he had a dream.

In Satan's dream, the great battle in Heaven went the other way. He succeeded in overthrowing God, and in seizing the throne of omnipotence. He became the absolute ruler of the universe, taking God's place.

And in his dream, he saw his subsequent reign unfold.

He saw himself, not God, creating the Earth and mankind. He -- Satan -- not God, created man as an utterly innocent creature, without knowledge of good and evil, and then planted the Tree of Knowledge in the midst of the Garden of Eden, and commanded man not to eat of it, presenting the newly-made innocent creature with a temptation far beyond its power to resist.

Satan saw himself, not God, casting man out of the Garden of Eden as punishment, condemning him to mortality and suffering and toil for the sin he himself had made man scarcely able to avoid.

Satan saw himself, not God, raging insanely at the cruelties and sins of the race whom he himself had made unable to do any better, finally sending a vast flood to drown the whole Earth, slaughtering the guilty and innocent alike, even children and babies, even the bewildered and terrified animals who knew nothing of the concept of sin.

Satan saw himself, not God, testing the faith and devotion of Job with torments that the vilest monster who ever lived would scarcely visit upon a dog; he saw himself, not God, similarly test Abraham's faith by commanding him to sacrifice his own son.

He saw himself, not God, send his own son to Earth to preach and then be killed by excruciating torture in a bizarre and convoluted scheme to offer redemption, via this revolting sacrifice, to those human individuals who managed to believe in its power; when of course he, Satan, as omnipotent ruler of the universe, could easily have granted salvation to as many humans as he felt deserved it, by a simple act of choice.

Awakening at last from this hideous nightmare of unrelenting cruelty, Satan understood its meaning immediately. If he had indeed won that battle in Heaven, he thought to himself, then the absolute power he would have gained would have ruined him. He would have become just as evil and sadistic and corrupt as God, and would have perpetrated all the same horrors and insanities.

No, Satan thought to himself, it is better to have been defeated than to have become like that. And so, despite his situation, he achieved a certain contentment.

I would be curious to know whether anyone else has read the same story and recognizes it.


01 June 2008

The man whom the people trust

I was going to try to de-emphasize politics for a while, but this Rasmussen survey is just too much. Americans in general now consider McCain more trustworthy than Obama on the issues of the economy, national security -- and Iraq.

Think about that. After seven and a half years of the Republican brand being relentlessly trashed by the most egregiously failed Presidency in living memory, it's the Republican candidate who is viewed as more trustworthy to handle what many people consider to be that Presidency's most definitive blunder.

This is partly due to McCain's "maverick" reputation, which has allowed his personal popularity to remain far higher than that of the Republican party as a whole. But it also reflects many voters' understandable concern with Obama's lack of experience, and his apparent naive stance toward foreign policy challenges in general.

Give the Republicans credit for realism -- in what's shaping up to be their worst electoral year in decades, they have managed to nominate one of their only two candidates (McCain and Giuliani) who have a serious chance of winning the Presidency. Our side, by contrast, is about to nominate probably the only major Democrat who has a serious chance of losing it -- when we have another candidate available who is a virtually-guaranteed winner.

HELLO?! Is there anyone in the Democratic party establishment capable of any sort of higher brain functions whatsoever?

Yesterday's fiasco at the Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting in Washington does not inspire confidence. Clinton supporters are infuriated -- see here and here and here, just to pick out reactions at sites I regularly visit.

In what's probably the last fleeting gasp of hope for a Democratic Presidential win this year, Clinton is apparently sweeping today's Puerto Rico primary by more than two to one -- perhaps enough to give her a lead in the popular vote by most counts. Will the party establishment have the brains -- or the guts -- to get the message?

Update (2 June): The MSM is starting to notice our anger -- though predictably dismissing it with sneering words like "crazy" and "frenzied". It will be interesting to watch their condescension evolve into alarm as they realize that we're not falling into line.

Update 2 (3 June): This reflects what I've been seeing around the internet. If Obama ever did have a chance at beating McCain, his supporters have probably blown it for him with their attitudes and behavior over the last few months.