Monthly Archives: May 2005

A Question That Must Be Answered

I’ve just read this Harper’s article by Jeff Sharlet (which I found via Cliopatria); and it contains the following puzzling passage:

The mastermind behind the coup was Ralph Reed, once of the Christian Coalition, who had been reborn as Georgia’s Republican chairman. Reed remains a fundamentalist, the same man who once tested employees’ commitment to “Christian values” by asking them if they supported the death penalty for adultery, but he was too canny to talk like that in public. The term “Christian,” he’d learned, is a “divider,” not a “unifier,” so he had left overt faith behind. He backed candidates who ran under the mantra of the exurbs: “Shorter commutes. More time with family. Lower mortgages.”

“Too canny to talk like that in public” implies to me that Reed is expecting the answer to his question to be “yes,” which is comically anti-Christian. Though having to weed out those who’d answer so is perhaps equally disturbing. The scare quotes around “Christian values” make it seem clear that Reed is expecting people to answer “yes” to this question; and I don’t want to seem like I expect more out of Ralph Reed, here, exactly, but wtf?

Clear Policy Choice for General Motors

Its 5.2 billion yearly spending on health care is having a tremendous impact on its profitability, whereas only 18,000 people in the U.S. per year die because they’re uninsured.

GM employs 324,000 people (not all Americans, but let’s not get bogged down in details). If it dropped all of its insurance, approximately 20 of its employees would then die in the next year (since they’ve previously had health care, this wouldn’t quite be as likely, but the stress of losing it would compensate).

Now, is one life worth 260 million dollars? No. Of course not. What kind of damn fool question is that?

People Nowadays

Talk a lot about media restructuring consciousness and the like. I’m sympathetic to some of these arguments to an extent, but a lot of the trick is defining what “consciousness,” particularly “social consciousness,” means at any given argumentative moment. Since I pointed the site’s immense readership to two Washington Post articles last night, I’m continuing the trend.

I’ve never watched an episode of CSI: Anywhere, I should say. What then should we think of this?

“There is an increased and unrealistic expectation that every crime scene will yield plentiful forensic evidence,” said Alexandria Commonwealth’s Attorney S. Randolph Sengel, who talked to jurors after the drug trial. “As a result, we spend time now explaining to juries the absence of evidence.” And when interviewing potential jurors, Sengel said, he and his team of prosecutors have “recently taken to reminding them that this is not ‘CSI.’ “

Butterflies, zebras, moonbeams, and now this. Readers of C.P. Snow’s Varieties of Men may remember his remarks about Stalin and what a real literary culture does to your worldview. Mutatis mutandis, but this is nothing new. Note that a Chaminade University forensic scientist is quoted here, and he does not mention that institution’s heroic triumph over UVA. I’d be curious to know to what extent so-called behavioral forensics, profiling à la Will Graham, has played in the comparatively and thankfully rare jury selections where it was relevant.

Pesticides and Renditions

The Washington Post has a story about the House’s decision to ban the EPA from conducting tests that measure pesticide-levels in humans. Apparently, there was a program that would pay $1000 to 60 Florida families over two years to measure their children’s exposure to these chemicals. A Bruce Sterling novel tosses off that health-conscious humans of the near future no longer eat fruits and vegetables because the chemical defenses were linked to cancer. I’m not sure why I mention that, really, but it seemed like it was time.

It’s unclear to me whether the proposed study simply measured children in what I would presume to be agriculturally intensive areas to see what their natural exposure level was or if it reached into the cartoonish-level villainy of actually increasing their exposure somehow. A quote in the article seems to suggest this was the case, but even I find it hard to believe.

Also in the Post is a story about our favorite Gulfstream V and its wacky adventures. I wonder how many people offer to audit the “Efficient Scandinavian Suppository Anesthesics Methods” course at Langley.


Any reader of Lem’s Fiasco will know both why you would want to weaponize space and the disastrous consequences (and be a better speller).

Missile defense, particularly in space, should of course be called “missile offense.” It is designed to eliminate an enemy’s deterrent, not prevent attack.


Go read Cosma Shalizi, frequently referred to as “the most erudite scholar of his generation,” on labor trends, a proper May Day posting that I should be emulating.

Instead, I’m going to point you towards this business again. I think I might be the world authority on these at this point, but there are no more than ten people who have any interest in them at all, as far as I can tell. Clancy talks my head off about her various theories, but I am the richest of them all, a thousand times, and I hoard it like the sea.

Actually, I’m not at all sure what they are. I mean sure, if you overlay a one centimeter grid over the 12×18 original, it’ll spell out the lyrics to the Louvin Brothers’ “Satan’s Jeweled Crown,” but that’s probably a coincidence.

Do let me know if you can identify the picture in the top left of the cross that looks like someone holding a palantir by Gandalf and Saruman, though.