Saturday, April 30, 2005


This is just a gentle reminder to myself that I got to comment on this piece by stanley fish. Wow.

Slick move, Mr. Brooks

Does anyone actually believe that Harry Reid made that secret promise to Frist? With Howard Dean as DNC chairman? Does Brooks think the democratic party is all about unilateral decision making? I think David Brooks here is doing something far, far more sneaky. He is trying to use his clout on the NYtimes op-ed page to make it look like Reid is re-nigging on the 'secret promise' when they actually reach a fair compromise about the filibuster. That way, months from now, he can point back to the article and say "You know what, Frist was right, these demo-gogues should not be trusted." Does he not realize, he still has sometime to go before he becomes Thomas Friedman?

But the times op-ed page is slowly evolving to what I think is quite a strange beast. With Safire out of the picture, its becoming a constant debate about the republican party. Even today's Frank Rich article really does have something interesting to say, and its certainly not what Mr. Rich thinks it is. I must attest that I am slowly moving towards political atheism, the divide now is no longer about issues or even ideology, but about making sure you are the chosen ones who will redeem the earth. Rich thinks the republicans are merely trying to be hip; what he is really revealing is that the party is tearing apart at the seams. South Park insults the Christian Coalition in ways we haven't even begun to understand, regardless of what the libertarians still in the party would want to believe. This party, like any large hegemonic religion, is prone to sectarian tendencies. The Chalcedonian debates have yet to take place, but somewhere in Comedy Central a media-exec is smelling blood. It certainly won't come from the major news networks, which today seem to be reporting about a fantasy realm that is appropriately only 2 channels away from Nickelodean and the Cartoon Network.

I have argued in the past that it will be a split between fiscal conservatives and social conservatives, but I've always wondered about the form it would take. It might be a more cultural split, which in this case means the fiscal conservatives will begin feeling the ire or even restrictions imposed from their church-going buddies. Or it could certainly be one based on self-interest; when the lower middle classes begin realizing that they have been primarily voting for religious issues and failing to monopolize on what the government can do for them. When they realize that ordering drugs from Canada is such a short term solution that you could miss it if you blinked, they'll be hankering for Hillary Clinton's health care plan. Prayer can only go so far to pay the doctor bills, and unlike other religious groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, the evangelicals do not have a good track record in building hospitals.
Post on Plagiarism

I posted this comment on an interesting discussion on plagiarism in the Becker-Posner blog:

Two points:

First, I was surprised Mr. Becker did not mention counterfeiting in scholarship. For example, one can state what is effectively his or her opinion, and then call it "the Durkheimian position". This is something I admit I have done on occasion to strengthen my argument, the academic equivalent of a fake "Gucci" insignia. Though it may have some semblance to the original product, but like a counterfeit the idea is to be impressive at first glance, especially when you don't expect too much scrutiny.

My other point is what happens when plagiarism happens through osmosis? What I mean is that it is hard to sometimes remember where certain ideas come from, and one might confuse what they think is their own original thought to what they heard on NPR on the drive to work. The Rolling Stones a couple of years ago got into trouble when a single of theirs actually sounded a lot like a song by K.D. Lang. Keith Richards stated that he owns no records by her, but he acknowledged that he might have heard it over the radio or somewhere else, and that the tune might've stuck. He actually blamed it on old age, and said something along the lines "We try so hard not to sound like our older albums, that we really don't pay attention to when we start sounding like someone else". This one is harder to pin down, when is the plagiarism intentional, and when is it a mistake? On the other hand, didn't Newton and Leibniz both develop calculus independently and at roughly the same time?

Monday, April 25, 2005

Fatties Fighting Back

David Brooks and whoever this guy is have gone on the fatty offensive it seems. Is it just me, or is this just a facet of a larger trend, if you will, one that is also responsible for that bacon-fest known as the Atkins diet? Are Americans beginning to fully accept their excesses and begin shedding one of the last forms of guilt that I believe was in some measure responsible for american greatness? Say what you want about American prudishness, but how Spanish male drivers keep their eyes on the road with naked boobies on billboards everywhere is beyond me. Can you imagine what would happen if there was an open amsterdam-style red-light district in New York? Or hash bars in berkeley? Nothing would ever get done.

This slow dissolution of the Weberian protestant work ethic is somewhat disconcerting, but to be honest the american homeland has been ahead of the curve by at least decades. My dad when he went to school here in the 70's later commented that the average american woman looked like Roseanne Barr. Now that might be an exaggeration, but the recent trends and warm weather have induced scantier clothing patterns in the Georgetown female population. No doubt thanks to Paris Hilton (who her parents aught to be shot for picking such a coy name), exposed midriffs are all the craze, but while some expose a patch of continuous flesh, others have been rather oozing out of their low-waist jeans. There just simply must be a better way out. Tight sometimes just ain't right.

I guess the moral should be is that putting up such high physical standards no longer makes sense. Working out should be tempered and perhaps fun, not a training regiment fit for a marathon runner. America is certainly the land of excess, but whether or not that is a good thing is somewhat up for debate. I am sure that for previous empires, excess was the ultimate display of imperial success. I like the point Tierney (really, where did they dig him up from? Is he Safire's replacement?) made about how only the wealthy can afford the personal trainer, the nutrition plan, the tummy-tuck/stomach stapling. Is the underlying thing behind obesity is not how well fed you are, but rather how economically distinctive it makes you? If its more expensive to be thin in an america where you can stuff yourself for a couple of dollars a night, then that will be the desired ideal? Perhaps, but then again, my fat cats in the middle east don't seem to carry that baggage around. Well, I guess that is partially why they try to get married early, then go on lifelong binge towards heart failure.