My son and his buddies all got together this weekend to watch The Day Of The Doctor, the 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who. I understand that Doctor Who long ago hit upon a formula of appealing to the audience’s instinctual reaction to predatory pursuit, with a touch of warped reality added alongside playful tweaking of unstated premises. What I don’t understand is why fans of the show have become so excited about its 50th anniversary, when the core of the Doctor Who narrative is time travel.
If anything, a 50th anniversary celebration of Doctor Who should remind Doctor Who fans of how very different their lives are from the lives of those who ride in the Tardis. A further wrinkle in my understanding originates in the eagerness of Doctor Who fans to all watch the Day Of The Doctor episode at the very same time, worldwide. If we are to celebrate the expansive vision of time travel, shouldn’t we be able to transcend this zeal for synchronization?
Is the appeal of time-centered celebrations of Doctor Who that the more fans are embedded in time, the more Doctor Who seems fantastic in comparison?
“Vast NSA spying undermines our democratic freedoms and threatens international relations.”
Wouldn’t it be great to have a candidate for national public office who was willing to say something like this in blunt, bold, terms? It would be great to have someone in the U.S. Senate who says “the Senate should open its work to the public and enact meaningful NSA reforms… it’s not necessary to compromise our core principles to advance meaningful reform.” A shared commitment to protecting the Constitution and the Bill of Rights transcends partisan politics.”
Wouldn’t it be good to find someone running for Senate willing to identify the U.S. Congress as a major source of blame for the current unconstitutional surveillance debacle? You know, maybe they could put it something like this:
“This isn’t the first time we have been down this road of tough rhetoric and weak action. Members of Congress are responsible for laws like the Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 that have enabled abuse of power by the NSA and other federal spy agencies. We need a special Congressional investigation into the nature and extent of spying in America, and we need a dramatic overhaul of our nation’s privacy laws to restore our constitutional freedoms and public trust.”
They’d have to be a good alternative, though. You know what I mean: they’d have to be working against someone who time and time again voted to allow U.S. Government agencies to spy on the American people despite the protections afforded to us in the U.S. Constitution.
One last thing: they’d have to have a track record of proven defense of the U.S. Constitution. Haven’t we had enough of political candidates who promise the moon but don’t actually do what they say they’re going to do?
Wouldn’t that be great?
Stop using the subjunctive “would.” It is great.
Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins is rotten on protecting Americans’ rights. Senator Collins has failed to support the Ending Secret Law Act that would tell us the basis for surveillance law. Susan Collins voted to reauthorize the Patriot Act with only minutes of Congressional debate. Senator Collins signed her name to a bill outlawing peaceful political protest. Susan Collins voted for a bill that lets the U.S. Government throw anyone into indefinite detention forever, without trial, without charges and without proof of any crime. Senator Susan Collins voted to reauthorize the FISA Amendments Act of domestic warrantless spying — without a single, solitary reform.
Running against Susan Collins for a U.S. Senate seat in Maine is Shenna Bellows, who has made every pledge to protect civil liberties that I listed above.
Shenna Bellows is better than a good talker, though. For 8 years until she resigned last month to run for office, Shenna Bellows was the state leader of the ACLU in Maine, and she didn’t just talk: Bellows worked hard to fight unconstitutional surveillance throughout her tenure.
If you’re looking at the current crop of candidates running for office and you think none of them stands for you, your concerns about unconstitutional spying, and your unpopular belief in civil liberties, you’re wrong.
Take a closer look at Shenna Bellows. Here’s a candidate who’s worth your support.
My son Noah was given an assignment today in his eighth grade Family & Consumer Science class. He tells the story:
We had to draw a stick figure and list next to it the qualities of the best employee. Instead of writing the qualities I was supposed to write, like ‘is hard-working, organized, works well with others’, stuff like that, I wrote down ‘subsists on cheap gray paste,’ ‘needs no sleep,’ ‘is perfectly content looking at a tiny screen forever.’ So then my teacher was like, ‘Ha ha, Noah, very funny, but please work with me here.’ So because I had to work with a group to put this together, I said ‘fine’ and wrote down ‘charming.’
For years, Green Party activists have excused their political party’s consistent electoral failures by complaining that they would do better, if only they were given equal ballot access, and if only their candidates were not excluded from publicized debates in which the Democrats and Republicans take part. Is it true?
The 2014 congressional elections are less than a year away, and campaigning has begun in most congressional districts across the country, so now seems like a good time to take an honest look at the state of the Green Party.
Thanks to the campaigning of Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala in 2012, there are Green Party affiliates on the books in almost all of the 50 states. However, in only 7 states is there even one Green Party candidate for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. There is not a single state in which there are Green Party candidates in the majority of congressional districts.
Here’s the condition of the Green Party in those states where there is some sort of activity in congressional elections:
In California, 98.2 percent of congressional districts have no Green Party candidate.
In Illinois, 88.9 percent of congressional districts have no Green Party candidate.
In Kentucky, 83.3 percent of congressional districts have no Green Party candidate.
In Maryland, 87.5 percent of congressional districts have no Green Party candidate.
In Michigan, 92.9 percent of congressional districts have no Green Party candidate.
In Ohio, 93.7 percent of congressional districts have no Green Party candidate.
In West Virginia, 66.7 percent of congressional districts have no Green Party candidate – and there are only three congressional districts in West Virginia.
Just what are people doing at Green Party meetings? Listening to subcommittee reports about the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
The brutal truth is this: Even if the Green Party had universal ballot access in all 50 states, and had guarantees of participation in all debates, the Greens would be guaranteed to lose in almost every election in the country in 2014 – because the Green Party hasn’t succeeded in finding a single person to volunteer as a candidate.
Let’s indulge in the fantasy that instant runoff voting could be instituted in time for the 2014 elections, as wonky Green Party activists say would be necessary to break the corporate duopoly. We can see, from the state of congressional elections across the country, that an instant runoff election system wouldn’t make any difference at all for most Americans, because they wouldn’t have any Green Party congressional candidate to vote for.
The Green Party can talk all it wants about how corporations control the system, and how the electoral system is rigged, but these complaints are insignificant in comparison to one much more basic problem facing the Green Party: Most of the time, it forfeits the match before it has even begun.
I don’t see any sign that the Green Party of the United States is acknowledging this problem. Instead, I see the Greens celebrating that one of their candidates won a seat on board of the Norwalk-La Miranda Unified School District.
Last night, the Secular Coalition for America sent us the following statistics as part of its call for an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to provide for the hiring of nontheistic chaplains in the U.S. military:
Religious Preference of Servicemembers and Chaplains
Some say that secular chaplains in the military would be beside the point, that religious counseling for the nonreligious would be like a visit to the doctor for people who believe that medicine is a sin. Why bother with such an oxymoronic exercise?
On the other hand are those who say that the very notion that chaplaincy must be a religious exercise is set forward in order to exclude the nonreligious. The SCA argues that when we think about the many nonreligious roles military chaplains play, it is downright discriminatory to require that servicemembers receive them through a religious filter. Another excerpt from the advocacy materials the SCA sent to Irregular Times:
Chaplains do much more than just faith counseling. They handle moral and ethical dilemmas with complete confidentiality not granted to mental health professionals. They listen to everyday fears and concerns, like missing your family. They also control a variety of administrative tasks such as requesting bereavement leave to attend a funeral back home. Still, the prime objective of the Chaplain Corps is to provide for the religious, spiritual, and conscience needs of the servicemembers. How is this possible when almost 30% of servicemembers are being ignored?
What do you think?
“Fix the Debt,” a front group for billionaire social security privatization fanatic Peter G. Peterson, has been caught red handed by the New Hampshire Alliance for Retired Americans in a case of letter fraud. It seems that a letter to the editor had appeared in the Portsmouth Herald on November 3 in which the author declared, “I urge everyone to visit www.FixTheDebt.org”:
Who was the purported author? State Senator Lou D’Allesandro:
I can’t show you the actual letter, because the Portsmouth Herald and indexing search engines swiftly yanked the letter from their pages and caches. Within a day or two, even the search results will come up blank.
Because, when contacted, it turned out that Senator D’Allesandro hadn’t written the letter at all. D’Allesandro has disavowed Fix the Debt in disgust.
This is in the same month that Fix the Debt has been caught stuffing identical letters into newspapers under names of various different college students.
Fix the Fraud.
A few weeks ago, a friend of mine expressed a need for a magic wand – not a wand that really performs magic, but a wand that looks like what people think a magic wand would look like. It was for her daughter, she said, a big fan of Harry Potter.
I had just so happened to have met a professional wand maker a few days before, and so I told my friend that I would order a wand for her daughter, and get it to her by next Tuesday, for a birthday party. This week, I discovered that the wand maker has skipped town. No one knows where he is.
I feel responsible, as I had recommended the wand maker. So, this morning, I cut a small branch off an ash tree, and whittled a wand, which you see here. To fit with my friend’s request, I will stain the wand black. This wand also has a few lines carved into it, to match the original wand maker’s design, seen online by my friend.
Ethically, should I tell my friend about the problem with the wand maker, or should I just pretend that the wand is a professionally made wand, from the source that she had expected? Is the magic wand less magic because I made it, instead of getting it from professional magic wand maker?
The world is an absurd place, but some things are more absurd than others. Here are the most prominent absurdities in today’s news:
The government of China says it’s absurd for the government of Spain to issue arrest warrants for former Chinese leaders over their role abuses in Tibet.
The Unofficial Apple Weblog declares it to be absurd for consumers to sue Apple for selling devices that were incapable of performing the functions that Apple claimed the devices were made for.
Phonedog says that spending a lot of money for a smartphone is absurd.
In Queensland, the Opposition Party charges that the state government is engaged in an absurd rush to pass a new law intended to clamp down on motorcycle gangs.
Gawker says it’s absurd that a father in Tennessee was arrested for complaining about the child pick-up policy at an elementary school.
Asahi Shimbun calls it absurd for the Japanese Prime Minister to be named the “third party” to conduct oversight of decisions by the government about whether to withhold information from the public.
Wednesday, November 13 2013: Hawaii’s Governor signs into law a bill passed by the Hawaii State Legislature that legalizes same-sex marriage.
Wednesday, November 13: no hurricane hits Hawaii.
Thursday, November 14: no hurricane hits Hawaii.
Friday, November 15: no hurricane hits Hawaii.
Saturday, November 16: no hurricane hits Hawaii.
Sunday, November 17: no hurricane hits Hawaii.
Monday, November 18: no hurricane hits Hawaii.
Tuesday, November 19: no hurricane hits Hawaii.
Is it just me, or am I starting to see a pattern?
Let us proclaim the mystery of faith in divine anti-gay hurricanes.
I am not an academic. It’s been something like 15 years since I last took a course from any university. Nonetheless, I read a fairly high number of academic articles, especially in the “social sciences”, in order to inform my work. In this way, I feel at once estranged from academic culture and familiar with academic writing.
I’m looking for help from genuine academics, therefore, in an effort to deal with a linguistic habit I’ve encountered, over and over, in academic writing. It’s the Curse of Then.
As I read through academic articles, seeking to gain some insight concepts or research findings, I keep stumbling into extra thens. The word then is inserted into otherwise straightforward sentences, without any apparent need. The extraneous then is often present next to a statement about how something can be understood. For example:
“The question of feminism’s contribution to bioethics can be understood, then, as a question about how and why bioethics might benefit from excursions into this sort of theory.”
“Racism in the novel can be understood, then, as a set of rather ridiculous prejudices that exist in society, not a universal or stable system based on truth, which in turn makes its brutal effects (such as slavery in general and the rape of Nanny and its aftermath), particularly devastating.”
“Affect can be understood then as a gradient of bodily capacity – a supple incrementalism of ever-modulating force-relations – that rises and falls not only along various rhythms and modalities of encounter but also through the throughs and sieves of sensation and sensibility, an incrementalism that coincides with belonging to comportments of matter of virtually any and every sort.”
“Noddings ethic of care can be understood, then, as a special case of Martin Buber’s I-Thou or subject-subject relation.”
“The rule of law can be understood then as a set of ideas that institutionally protect the social and dialogic process of exposing and critiquing reasons for decisions, rather than as a set of ideas that institutionally entrench the hierarchical or hieratical process of announcing them.”
“Psychotherapy can be understood, then, as a middle-class, Western invention.”
All these academic writers seem to be saying that certain things can be understood in certain ways, not now, but then. When is this then? Next Thursday at 5:03 PM Greenwich Time? On the Ides of March? After I finish my bagel and lox? After awhile, the use of then in academic writing begins to sound like the use of them in the ramblings of conspiracy theorists – representing a shadowy zone that can never be seen directly, disappearing as soon as one attempts to define it with specificity.
Is this somehow related to quantum mechanics, and Schrodinger’s mangy cat? There certainly seems to be some kind of pursuit of relativity motivating the periodic insertion of then into academic articles, and an uncertainty principle of some sort, though I’m no theoretical physicist, so I couldn’t possibly differentiate a Weberian Boson from a Foucauldian Quark Field with enough precision to nail this relationship down.
There is some association of random utterances of then with the perhapsification of academic language. They write:
“Though Russia is no longer Communist, under Vladimir Putin it can perhaps be described as a post-totalitarian regime.”
“What emerges can perhaps be described as a radical relativism under rigorous restraints.”
“The ability of the therapist accurately and sensitively to understand experiences and feelings and their meaning to the client during the moment-to-moment encounter of psychotherapy constitutes what can perhaps be described as the ‘work’ of the therapist after he has first provided the contextual base for the relationship by his self-congruence or genuineness and his unconditional positive regard…”
Are these academic writers proposing the creation of alternate realities as they construct their articles, so that the act of publishing in a journal validates the academic’s ideas, while simultaneously, in an antimatter universe of some kind, exposing these same ideas as complete hogwash?
If this is the case, the academic’s style of writing can be understood, then, as perhaps the least confident form of language ever known to humankind.
What can be done? Must I wade through an swamp of thens and perhapses and as it weres to get to the ideas in every paper I find? Is there, then, nothing that instructors grading papers could do, perhaps, to eradicate this linguistic plague, as it were?
Michael Pickens, the executive director of the Libertarian Party of Washington, is eager to spread the word about Libertarian ideology, so he’s published an article this morning in which he explains what being a Libertarian is really all about. Pickens writes, “The word Libertarian essentially means, ‘Believer in liberty.’ For example, vegetarians believe in only eating vegetables.”
Maybe the reason that the Libertarian Party has failed to catch on in the state of Washington has to do with kind of logical glitch. If being a vegetarian means that you eat vegetables, doesn’t being a Libertarian mean that you like to rip off chunks of liberty with your mouth, chew it raw and swallow it down to be digested in your stomach?