Saturday, August 28, 2004

first photos

Here's the first photo from my new digital camera:

It's a picture of one of my favorite blogs taken from my favorite chair. The glare is from the autoflash. I tried to turn it off before I took the picture, but it didn't take. Here's photo 2 without the flash:

Not very good, but the light is low and it's mostly back-lit. I wanted to test it's low-light capacity but adding back-lighting is a bit too challenging so I had to get off my butt and go over to the wall where there would be no backlighting. A previous tenant of the office had put up this painting of an outside restaurant as seen by someone extremely near-sighted (I'm told it's Van Gogh).

That blurring is in the original painting. The camera didn't cause it. I did have to enhance the photo a little using the program that came with the camera, but all in all, it's not too bad for an indoor shot. Some detail is missing. Not as good as I hoped, but not as bad as I expected.

The camera is a --OK, I'm a little embarrassed to write this-- a Che-ez! Foxz 2. I expect that if they picked a less stupid name they could double their sales. Who wants to say, "Oh, I've got a Che-ez-with-an-exclamation-mark Foxy-that's-fox-with-a-z-on-the-end 2". If I'd looked at the name before I bought it I probably wouldn't have.

It's a neat little camera, though. Only 200 megapixels (which is fine for photoblogging) but it's also only about the size of six or seven credit cards stacked together so I can carry it in my pocket all the time. It has a good color LCD display, takes an SD memory card and has a lithium-polymer battery. And it's less than $90.

I'm planning to take it into the city tomorrow to try it out.

a mystery with magicians

Quian's serf village spilled out of the city's grim walls like rotten apples from an overturned basket.
That's the beginning of Donald Crankshaw's A Phoenix in Darkness. One of the best openers ever.

A Phoenix in Darkness is an on-line short story. The setting is a world of swords and sorcery, with mysterious hooded beings that protect the populous from unknown magical dangers. One of these beings is murdered. A young city guardsman investigates the murder. So do a couple of young mysterious hooded beings. In the process, they discover a deep dark secret. I love this stuff.

A Phoenix in Darkness is a prequel to Fire and I strongly recommend you read Fire first. Phoenix destroys too much of the mystery of the hooded men so if you read that first, you may not enjoy Fire as much.

Like all of Crankshaw's work, Phoenix is well-written and entertaining (well, OK, Stranger in the Library was a little too slow-moving for my taste). And I should warn you that both Phoenix and Fire leave us in, let us say, highly unresolved situations. Not cliff-hangers exactly, but enough to make me hope Crankshaw doesn't take up skydiving before he finishes the stories.

a question of flipping and flopping

Since I've been picking on Democrats for taking cheap shots, I thought fairness demands a comment on this post by my favorite junk-food blogger Andrew Stuttaford. Stuttaford quotes a newspaper account
'I'm pretty tough on Castro, because I think he's running one of the last vestiges of a Stalinist secret police government in the world,'' Kerry told WPLG-ABC 10 reporter Michael Putney in an interview to be aired at 11:30 this morning. ... Kerry volunteered: ``And I voted for the Helms-Burton legislation to be tough on companies that deal with him.''
”There is only one problem: Kerry voted against it.”
”Asked Friday to explain the discrepancy, Kerry aides said the senator cast one of the 22 nays that day in 1996 because he disagreed with some of the final technical aspects. But, said spokesman David Wade, Kerry supported the legislation in its purer form -- and voted for it months earlier.”
Stuttaford then comments, "There’s a bit of a pattern here, I think.".

I don't think this is entirely fair to Kerry. Without knowing the full story, I'd like to point out that there is nothing wrong with supporting a piece of legislation in broad form but refusing to vote for it over specific points.

The same applies to Kerry's vote on the Iraq War funding bill that he voted for and voted against. He claimed that he refused to vote for it without an addendum that raised taxes to pay for it. This isn't inherently disreputable. In fact, if Kerry had a policy of never voting for legislation that wasn't fully funded (without borrowing money), I'd think he was a hero and so would many other conservatives.

What makes that particular vote disreputable is that Kerry never shows any concern over the budget deficit except when the subject is military spending or tax cuts. That's what makes his explanation on the Iraq vote hypocritical. In the absence of more information, we can't assume that there was anything wrong with his voting on the Helms-Burton bill.

sense and denotation

I'm sorry to have to inform my readers that Parableman has provided a link to Philosopher's Carnival I. This unfortunately means that I'm going to be doing some more metaphysical blogging. Or possibly some transcendent blogging, depending on how the mood strikes. Sorry to all you readers who tune in for crude humor and political rants...

So let's start with Exists and Type-Raising by Brian Weatherson over at Thoughts Arguments and Rants:
Back in the day there was this old problem about how we could make sense of propositions like (1).
(1) The King of France does not exist.

Very roughly, the worry (or at least a worry) was that if this is to really express a proposition then the denoting term in it must denote something...Just as roughly, Russell solved this problem by noting that the (putatively) denoting term is a quantifier, not a proper name, and quantifiers can make contributions to propositions without actually denoting anything.
With all due respect to Weatherson, Frege had already solved this problem by distinguishing between the sense and the denotation of a noun phrase. Russell's solution was a nominalist re-working of Frege's solution. All of the problems discussed in Wetherson's article and the comments (well worth reading, by the way) are more properly viewed as problems with nominalism (or at least with Russell's nominalist solution to the original problem).

The denotation of a noun phrase is the thing that you refer to when you say the phrase. For example "the president of the United States" is a noun phrase that denotes George Bush (for the moment). Consider this sentence:

(2) The president of the United States likes peanuts.

Sentence (2) can be analyzed like this: "The president of the United States" denotes an individual x. "likes peanuts" denotes a proposition P. Sentence (2) means that P is true of x.

This sort of analysis doesn't work for sentence (1). The phrase, "the King of France" doesn't denote anyone so there isn't any x to use in the analysis.

Frege didn't deal with this problem directly (AFAIK). Instead he dealt with the problem of why "is" is useful. It isn't very useful to say

(3) George Bush is George Bush.

Sentence (3) doesn't provide any information. But this

(4) George Bush is president of the United States.

does tell us something useful. But under the analysis I described above using denotations, this is impossible to account for. Sentence (4) would be analyzed like this: "George Bush" denotes some object x. "president of the United States" denotes some object x. Sentence (4) asserts that x=x.

You might have expected that I would say "president of the United States" denotes some object y and then (4) asserts that x=y, but that would just push the problem down to why "x=y" is meaningful. The point is that the denotation is extensional and x is just the name of this extensional object.

Frege's solution is that noun phrases have both a denotation and a sense. The denotation is the object that the phrase refers to and the sense is the concept that the phrase expresses. "George Bush" is a noun phrase that expresses the concept of some guy named George Bush (the context helps to refine this concept to a single George Bush). "president of the United States" expresses the concept of being the top political executive of the United States.

Sentence (4) is now analyzed like this: George Bush expresses a concept C1, "president of the United States" expresses a concept C2, and (4) asserts that the concept C1 has the same extension as the concept C2.

Now let's go back and analyze (1) with Frege's semantic machinery: "The King of France" expresses a concept C1 and sentence (1) asserts that C1 has no extension.

Now, take a look at Weatherson's problematic example:

(5) Leopold Bloom does not exist.

Weatherson doesn't say who Leopold Bloom is. I googled the name and found out that Leopold Bloom is the fictional character in a James Joyce novel. Presumably that's who he meant. In any case, the analysis remains the same. "Leopold Bloom" expresses a concept C1, sentence (5) asserts that C1 has no extension. I don't see any problem here. The analysis works just as well with the example of a fraudulent character.

Oddly enough, Weatherson claims to have a very "expansionary" ontology, so I don't know why he prefers Russell's stilted nominalist solution to a full-blown realist one that works much better.

Actually, Weatherson seems to be realizing quantifiers in a way that makes them somewhat homomorphic to Frege's concepts (though I must confess, I'm not sure I understand what he's doing). In this homomorphism, Weatherson's type raising would correspond to what in Frege's account is the process whereby the overall meaning of the sentence determines whether a sentences expresses a concept or denotes an object.

In the example

(7) a. Red is my favourite colour.
b. ??Red exists.
c. The colour red exists.

I would argue that concepts are often (but not necessarily) expressed with prefixes to insulate them and keep them from being reduced to an object:

"being George Bush" rather than "George Bush"

"that he would go" rather than "he would go"

"the relation of equality" rather than "equality"

"the color red" rather than "red"

Bob Dole's opinion

Chris Suellentrop at Slate is reporting (link from Atrios) that Bob Dole thinks George Bush should be ashamed for his campaign activities four years ago. Let's leave aside the fact that they got the footage in a way that would have caused hyperventilation if it had happened at FOX News and embarrassed a Democrat. They have footage with Dole apparently agreeing with John McCain that Bush "should be ashamed" for his tactics in the primaries in the last election. Suellentrop says:
Democrats now have an unlikely ally in their quest to prove that Bush has a history of these kinds of dirty tricks: Bob Dole.
But of course this is false. Dole has no first-hand knowledge of events. If he thinks Bush did something shameful, he is merely taking the word of John McCain or the media. To a rational commentator, this would suggest that Dole is even-handed about these things. He thinks Bush was over the top in 2000, so he isn't a pro-Bush zombie who thinks that Bush can do no wrong.

If Suellentrop draws such a conclusion it isn't apparent from the article. Instead he asks the rhetorical question to Bob Dole:
If President Bush should be ashamed of his behavior four years ago, why aren't you ashamed now?
Maybe because Dole thinks the situations are different? I don't know what Dole thinks Bush did to McCain four years ago, but he damn sure doesn't think Bush got a couple of hundred of people who served with McCain to go on record contradicting everything McCain said about his war record. For any rational person, that has to give you something to wonder about. As Dole said "not every one of these people can be Republican liars."

Suellentrop writes that Dole "made several demonstrably false statements about John Kerry's war record ...". But Suellentrop gives us no clue what these "demonstrably false" things might be. Could that be because the only thing that demonstrates their falsehood is that they disagree with Kerry's side of the story? That would make the whole thing a bit rhetorically weaker than the simple but manly "demonstrably false", wouldn't it?

And speaking of being ashamed, Chris, are you a little ashamed of that dodge? Just saying "demonstrably false" without actually demonstrating anything false? I would be. Sure, you might convince a few idiots, but anyone with any brains will suspect that you are being deceptive. Aren't you worried about this coming back to haunt you?

In a comment, Donald Crankshaw points out that Bob Dole said he thought Kerry got two purple hearts in one day. If that's what Suellentrop was referring to, it is no less shameful. Kerry did get two medals in one day and one was a purple heart. Bob Dole was simply misremembering and even qualified it because he wasn't sure he was remembering correctly. No honorable commentator would refer to this honest and insignificant error as "several demonstrably false statements".

He could have criticized Dole for it honorably. He could have said that this error shows that Dole has a predisposition to exaggerate Kerry's flaws or to believe the worst about Kerry. Not true I think, but it would be an honorable criticism. What Suellentrop said was deliberately deceptive.

Friday, August 27, 2004

two and a half new good guys

I got an inadvertent instalanche from my post on Atrios and the Swift Boat Vets. I almost didn't notice it because it was just in a paragraph where he mentioned Atrios and the name was a link to my post. I assumed it was a link to Atrios as I'm sure many other readers did.

I'm sure a lot of readers assumed the same thing and that's why I only got about a thousand hits out of it. That's small for an instalanche but it's fifty times my average daily traffic. Cool.

I met a couple of good bloggers through it:

Jerry from Milblog says he's going to link to me. I hadn't read his blog before, but it doesn't look like a straight military blog. Lots of personal and political stuff. I actually think I prefer blogs that do lots of different stuff.

Flying Space Monkey is cool because he not only writes funny posts, he also has a pseudo super-hero blog name so the blog fits well in my good guys/bad guys list. It's like a theme, see?

Roscoe's blog has been on my list for a couple of weeks but he never updated his blog. I was dissapointed. Then, in adding the new blogs, I noticed that I was linking to an archive post rather than his main page. Doh! I've updated the link to his blog and I'm calling him half a new good guy. Not because he's half good but because he was already a good guy and ... well, it's complicated.

You know, I was all set to write a post about how much Blogger has improved since my last post trashing it. And now, all day I've been waiting over a minute for each update. I've really got to move...

the haunting

I can't get this really bad song, Morgana Jones out of my head. I don't know how I got infected because I haven't heard the song in twenty years. It was on a Kenny Rogers album that I liked back in high school (I think it was The Gambler). I used to listen to the album a lot but always hated that particular song. The tune is annoying and the lyrics are disgusting.

I never sang along with it and I had no idea I even knew the words. As it keeps going through my head, I keep remembering phrases I didn't recall before. Really annoying phrases that I don't want to recall. I've tried everything to get this crap out of my head. I've tried singing other songs. I've tried the "no-no-no-no" litany when it comes into my head. Nothing works. For three days now this awful song has haunted me.

Is this perhaps some magical geas bound upon me by an evil warlock? A sorcerous compulsion that will torture me until I complete some evil task? Like assassinating Kenny Rogers, for example? And really, how evil would that be?

OK, that would be pretty evil. But I still blame him for my current suffering.

Does exorcism work in cases like this?

Have I maybe spent too much time playing Dungeons and Dragons?

concepts and knowledge

My post on sets and numbers was adapted from the of the work of Gottlob Frege (1848-1925), a brilliant German logician, mathematician and philosopher. The article I linked to with his name credits him with founding modern mathematical logic and modern analytical philosophy. I thinks that's a bit extreme, but he was certainly influential.

Frege was a logicist --he believed that arithmetic can be reduced entirely to logic. Much of his work (including the part I adapted in that post) was intended to prove this thesis. Although the logicist conjecture is interesting in its own right, the real significance of the logicist project was that it was intended to disprove an argument of Immanuel Kant.

I'll get to Kant in a moment, but first a comment on the logicist project. It is generally accepted that the logicist project foundered on the incompleteness theorem of Kurt Godel. I've never quite understood how this works. Godel's incompleteness theorem basically proves that any calculus that is powerful enough to do arithmetic is incomplete --there are theorems of arithmetic that are true but cannot be proven in the calculus.

Clearly the incompleteness theorem is devastating to the formalists --people who believed that all of mathematics is just a calculus-- but I don't see how it effects the logicists. The logicists claim that arithmetic can be reduced to logic, not that it can be reduced to a calculus.

Here I'm going to give a brief synopsis of part of Kant's metaphysics of knowledge and then present an adaptation largely inspired by the famous anti-Kantian: Gottlob Frege:

Kant argued that there are two kinds of knowledge. Analytical knowledge is what we know just by understanding. The most common example is that we know all bachelors are unmarried just because we understand how being a bachelor is related to being married. There is very little knowledge of this sort and in a sense it isn't even real knowledge, just understanding.

By contrast, synthetic knowledge requires more than just understanding, it requires sensing or grasping something outside of the thought itself. For example I know that all dogs live on the earth. I can't just know this by understanding how being a dog is related to living on the earth. I have to know something about actual dogs and something about the earth. I have to sense or grasp something outside of my own understanding. Kant called this ability to sense or grasp something "intuition".

So far so good. What Kant did that really upset a lot of people, including Frege, is to argue that arithmetic and geometry are synthetic knowledge. He argued that we have to grasp numbers with our intuition. There is nothing in the thought of 5 and 7 that tells you they must sum to 12 --it's a form of outside knowledge. Keep in mind here that Kant did not claim that you can't do arithmetic purely in the mind, quite the contrary: he claimed that we can know arithmetic with no outside knowledge at all. He argued that although arithmetic is purely done in the mind it still requires something more than pure understanding. It requires a special intuition about numbers that tells you things like "if x is a smaller number than y and y is a smaller number than z, then x is a smaller number than z."

The logicists wanted to prove that no special intuition is needed. They argued that logic is analytic and that arithmetic is just logic. Therefore arithmetic is analytic. And Therefore arithmetic only requires the faculty of understanding --mysterious faculties of intuition need not apply.

Now, on to the Fregean/Kantian/Gudemanian theory of concepts: In the post on sets and numbers I explained that properties (as I define them) are intensional objects as opposed to extensional objects. Intensional objects are distinguished by the concepts we have of them. Being an odd number between 2 and 8 is a different concept from being a prime number between 2 and 8. These two concepts describe the same numbers but they are distinct concepts. We say that the extensions of the concepts are the same, but the intensions --what we understand of the concepts-- are different.

(In the previous post I used "property", but the text flows better with "concept" so I'm switching to that. If I use the word "property" again, consider it a common term, not the technical term I made it in the previous post. In this post I use "concept" as the technical term.)

Given any concept C and any object o, we can ask whether o falls under C. This means that o satisfies all that we think of in C or that o is one of the C's. For example 3 is one of the prime numbers between 2 and 8 so 3 falls under the concept "prime number between 2 and 8". Of course 3 also falls under the concept "odd number between 2 and 8". In general, every object falls under many concepts.

Given an concept, there may be one, many, or no objects that fall under it. The concept "person writing this post" only has one object that satisfies it. The concept "prime number between 13 and 17" has no objects that fall under it.

In order to know whether any given object falls under a given concept, you have to understand the concept and have some knowledge that tells you the object satisfies the concept. Where does this knowledge come from? It must come from some grasp of the object, some intuition. Objects are not concepts and are not even capable of being understood in the sense that concepts are. So whenever you judge that some o is a C, you are using synthetic knowledge.

One concept can entail another. If C1 and C2 are concepts, we write C1 |- C2 and say "C1 entails C2" if and only if being C2 is part of what we mean by being C1. For example being a bachelor entails being unmarried. Don't confuse this with the relation "every C2 is a C1" as in "every dog is an earth-dweller". The "every-is" relation is extensional: it only depends on the extensions of C2 and C1. By contrast the relation of entailment is intensional: it expresses our understanding of C2 and C1. And since it only relies on our understanding of C1 and C2, entailment is analytic knowledge.

Entailment implies the every-is relation. Since being a bachelor entails being unmarried, we can conclude that every bachelor is unmarried. But every-is does not imply entails. Just because every dog is an earth-dweller, that does not imply that being a dog entails being an earth-dweller. To know where dogs live, we have to use synthetic knowledge.

One concept can disentail another. We say that C1 _|_ C2 and say "C1 disentails C2" if and only if C1 entails that not C2. For example being a bachelor disentails being married. Disentailment is analytic. To judge whether one concept disentails another, we need only understand the two concepts.

Under this theory of concepts --which I believe is consistent with both Frege and Kant-- Frege has a serious effort ahead of him. He has to define all of arithmetic using only concepts, entailment, disentailment, and similar intensional relations between concepts. As soon as he appeals to an object and asks for us to grasp some property of the object, he has slid onto the synthetic side of the field.

Frege would be in trouble even for asking us to believe that some object exists. Our mere understanding of a concept can never let us know whether there is anything that falls under that concept. In order to know that, we need some intuition of the objects that fall under the concept.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Christian Carnival

The Christian Carnival is up.

mystery solved

In my rampage against talking toilets I quoted an article about a device to get German men to sit down when they pee. I actually wondered why this seems so much more important in Germany than elsewhere. I didn't actually discuss my curiosity because it didn't fit the post, but I think a perceptive reader could see the idea floating there under the seat, as it were.

Well, now the mystery has been solved (link from a comment on SpaceMonkey). It seems that German toilets don't have a deep water-filled bowl like the toilets of the civilized world. Instead, they are only a few inches deep in the center, with a deeper trough around the edge. There are two problems with arrangement. Problem number one would be that when one pees standing up on this shallow platform, it splatters all over. Problem number two doesn't concern us here, I recommend you read the article if you want details (hint: you probably don't).

Anyway, this revelation rather drastically changes the story doesn't it? I mean, I'm no neat freak. Rather than clean the bathroom, I just move every couple of years and forfeit the cleaning deposit. (It's sort of like having a housekeeper who comes on a biannual schedule.) But these German toilets are rather much. I mean you have to get major, major splatterage from that sort of arrangement.

How is it that this significant piece of evidence didn't turn up in the article about the talking toilet? Or did it? I confess I didn't read the whole boring article. Who wants to read a whole long boring article about men who sit down when they pee?

This seems like an incredible business opportunity for an enterprising manufacturer of plumbing fixtures. I'll bet a well-designed marketing campaign could sell a million American-style toilets over there in a year. To help overcome the political resistance to American culture, they could call it the Kerry John. Cuz he's like, you know, a multilateralist as opposed to those mean unilateralists.

Read the whole thing as they say. But not too near a meal.


Donald Sensing quotes the following by Ralph Peters:
Honorable soldiers or sailors don't brag. They let their deeds speak for themselves. Some of the most off-putting words any veteran can utter are "I'm a war hero."

Real heroes (and I've been honored to know some) never portray their service in grandiose terms, telling TV cameras that they're reporting for duty. ...

... Bragging is for drunks at the end of the bar, not for real vets. And certainly not for anyone who wishes to trade on his service to become our commander-in-chief.
I've read comments like this several times from veterans. And although I'm not a veteran myself, I have to admit that I don't have a lot of respect for braggers of any type: athletes, academics, war heroes or anyone else. OK, you're a war hero. I once ate a two-pound T-bone in one sitting and then had desert. Top that.

Since I think my reaction is pretty typical, I wonder how it is possible that the Democrats ever nominated such a tedious, preening, egotistical blowhard as John Kerry. (Remember the Harley?) And I felt that way about him back when I believed his war stories.

But I have a Theory.

Recall that many Democrats (the Michael Moore wing of the party) think that the military consists of young men too poor and stupid to make it in the real world. Other Democrats (the Ted Ralls wing) think that the military consists of hate-filled racists thugs. What do the rest think? Well, now we have a clue.

The Michael Moorites and Ted Rallites didn't want Kerry. John Kerry was nominated by the Other Democrats --the Democrats who where were still largely in control of all their faculties. The Democrats who wanted a military guy to help them conceal all the anti-American wackos in the party. They wanted a manly soldier to run for them. Someone that would have the respect of all us independents who actually respect military service. So they nominated a tedious, preening, egotistical blowhard. That's who they thought we would admire. That's their idea of a respectable military man. Hmm.

I think if I were a retired or serving military person, I would be annoyed by this.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Adeimantus: Let It Alone

This post on the Vietnam "truce" and how Kerry broke it is one of the most impressive pieces of analysis I've seen in a blog. We're talking Belmont-Club quality here.

(link: instapundit)

Atrios on the Swift Boat Liars

Atrios has taken to calling the Swift Boats Vets the "Swift Boat Liars". So clever. I only wish I had his gift for words. Interestingly enough, he was calling them that long before any evidence of any actual lying had turned up. It's almost like he first picked his position and then looked for evidence to back it up. Would Atrios do such a thing?

Atrios's first use of the term "Swift Boat Liars" seems to be here where he compares the Swift Boat Vets account of Kerry's Bronze Star with that of Kerry's biographer. The Swift Boat Vets say there was no gunfire and Kerry says there was. Atrios offers no motivation for calling the Swift Vets liars except that one of the Swift Boat Vets also received a Bronze Star.

And that proves .... exactly what? That a young naval officer was presented a medal based on a highly exaggerated report by another officer and didn't bother to refute it? And that means that thirty years later he isn't allowed to refute it either? Or does the medal have some other significance that I don't grasp? Atrios doesn't say.

He also doesn't say why we should take more seriously the claims of men who think there was enemy fire from men who think there wasn't. By all accounts there was a lot of gunfire going on --from the boats to the bank. But some observers claim there was no return fire. Who is more reliable in this sort of situation, people who hear shots and think they are being shot at or people who hear shots and say, "Nope, no one shot back." Anyone who knows human nature --and is honest-- would have to agree that it's far more likely to panic and think you are being shot at than to space out and miss the fact that someone is shooting at you.

Atrios gives us no evidence. No argument. Just the bald-faced assertion that the Swift Boat Vets are lying. How would he know? The only answer I can come up with is that he knows because he is determined to make it so.

His next use is in this short post approving of a bizarre tirade by Digby. It seems that Ted Samply, who Digby calls the "Godfather of the Swift Boat Liars", criticized George Bush senior's military valor. Does Digby conclude that therefore Samply is not a partisan hack? That this shows his non-partisanship? That this casts doubt on the speculation that he is in cahoots with Bush Jr.? No, no, no. That wouldn't help Kerry at all. Instead Digby concludes that Bush Jr. hates his father.

Digby "can't think of anything worse than standing with the scum who smeared your own father's war record." Digby seems to have a poor imagination. And Atrios links to this tripe approvingly. Anything to attack Bush, you know, no matter how stupid.

In this post, Atrios quotes Tapped telling how in 1992 the Bush Senior campaign sued to stop someone from dirty campaigning for them. A letter from Bush Junior informed all of the alleged dirty campaigner's funders that they didn't approve him. Ah. Finally, Atrios is lightening up, right? Admitting that maybe there is more to this story. Maybe Bush isn't engaging in smears this time either. Bush has shown his integrity in the past so Atrios is willing to give him the benefit of the doubt now, right? Wrong. Atrios starts the post with the comment: "How things have changed". No, there is no evidence that could possibly effect Atrios's opinion in the slightest.

And now Atrios has this gem arguing both that is not comparable to the Swift Boat Vets and that the media is biased for not treating them comparably. Lovely. Of course he's right on two counts, but for opposite reasons. Swift Boat Vets is a non-partisan group of actual witnesses to Kerry's mendacity. Not just the medals. Other Vets can testify that they were not running around the countryside raping and pillaging as Kerry claimed in his congressional testimony. These are people who have a story to tell., by contrast has no special claim to knowledge or unusual authority on any subject. They are just a bunch of political activists with money.

But the media is treating them differently all right. The Swift Boat Vets are getting a media rectal exam. Their funding and their past political activity, anything they've ever said in public is being examined in minute detail in an effort to find something to discredit them. Nothing comparable has happened to

Atrios writes:
On one hand we have proven liars contradicting existing Navy records and 35 years of public comment, and on the other hand we have legitimate questions, raised by many prominent news organizations, about whether George Bush bothered to show up for national guard service as he was required. There are many legitimate questions about Bush's failure to fulfill his duty, including his failure to take a required flight physical, as well as the fact that Bush lied about his military record in his autobiography. Kerry has Navy records to back up his claims, Bush does not.
Notice that he is comfortable just calling them proven liars without actually having proven any lies. It's dishonorable for vets who were there and witnessed the events in question to disagree with Kerry on what actually happened, but it's just fine and dandy for Atrios and McCain, who have no personal knowledge of events at all to up and call the Swift Boat Vets liars. And Atrios likes to criticize other people for having double standards.

Notice also that he is suggesting that Navy records deserve special presumptions of authority. Let's see if Atrios is so confident in them when they show that Kerry was never in Cambodia. I'm guessing that Atrios is going to suddenly find the Navy to be an untrustworthy organization.

Notice that we have "legitimate questions, raised by many prominent news organizations." And what makes those questions legitimate? Just because they are raised by "prominent news organizations"? That have no special knowledge of the events they are asking questions about? What makes their questions more legitimate than the signed testimony of eye witnesses?

And even if all the worst things Atrios and Kerry claim about Bush's military service were true, it would be no big deal. It still wouldn't be a legitimate issue in the campaign. Who cares what Bush did as a national guardsman 35 years ago? He isn't running on his record as a national guardsman. He isn't claiming that he has led a perfect life. He isn't claiming that he has never done anything he regretted. If all of those charges were true, Bush could just come out and say so and say that he regretted them. And no one who doesn't hate him would care. If a Democrat were accused of trivial and ancient things like this, Atrios would be the first one to pipe up about how unimportant it is. But Bush is a Republican and Atrios is a hypocrite. So it's a big deal.

And that thing about Bush "lying" about his military service is one of the more silly things Atrios harps on. It seems that Bush told his biographer that he served for "the next several years" after training. According to Atrios, the accurate time was 22 months. Bush was talking informally about events decades in the past and he was a little off on his years. Any reasonable person would say that Bush had no motive to lie and it's an easy mistake to make and he probably expected the biographer to fact-check it anyway (isn't that the biographer's job?) so it's just a minor mistake.

But not Atrios. To Atrios, this is a pivotal and damning bit of mendacity. It proves what a pathological liar Bush is. He writes, "Tell me again why the liberal media doesn't care that Bush lies about his military service?" I'll tell you, Atrios. It's because they know it would only help Bush to have the media continue to bash him over something so silly and trivial.

I'm still waiting to hear what Atrios thinks of Kerry's now-admitted lies about being in Cambodia on Christmas, 98. Kerry told that lie several times, not just once. He intended to benefited from the lie, it wasn't just a meaningless bit of trivia. Remembering being illegally in Cambodia on Christmas Eve is not any easy mistake to make. Kerry didn't expect anyone to fact-check him on the story. So I'm betting that Atrios thinks Kerry just got confused.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

my protest

I am outraged:

German men are being shamed into urinating while sitting down by a gadget which is saving millions of women from cleaning up in the bathroom after them.

The WC ghost, a £6 voice-alarm, reprimands men for standing at the lavatory pan. It is triggered when the seat is lifted.
(via Mostly Cajun)

Have they no shame? I mean the German men who let themselves be hounded this way. I mean, well, since it's supposed to shame them into peeing like women they must have shame or it wouldn't work... er...

Have they no dignity? Not that it's especially undignified to sit down but... er...

I'm outraged! This cannot be allowed to stand! Something must be done! Men cannot let the most personal and masculine part of their lives be dictated by women! What's next, will they tell us how to eat and how to dress? OK, they already do that, but are they going to prevent us from farting or picking the wax out of our ears in public? Well, they do that too.... er...

Someone has to stop this! It cannot be allowed to stand! I'm going to stage a protest to bring public attention to this vital issue. I'm going to go outside and pee against the wall. Don't worry, I'll hose it off afterward, but there's a principle here. I encourage all real men to emulate my protest. We'll show those women that they can't run our lives for us! I'm going to go do it right now. I'll post an update when the mission is accomplished.

UPDATE: Well, I'm afraid that I didn't plan well enough for the protest. I didn't actually have to go. I'm preparing for another assault on the wall at this very moment by drinking a Diet Coke. That carbonated caffeine goes right through me. And I had a large glass of water before drinking the Coke, just to be sure. I'll keep you updated.

UPDATE: OK! My teeth are practically floating! There's no stopping me now! I'm going to drench that wall like a fire hose. I'll update you on how it goes.

UPDATE: Bad news. A car drove by as I was unzipping. They couldn't see me where I was standing but I got stage fright anyway and couldn't perform. If I'd had a few more minutes I might have been able to do my duty, but I had to go real bad so I ran inside and used the usual facilities. But I did it standing up, darnit! I'm preparing for the next attempt with a more gradual strategy. The caffeine just creates a bit too much urgency. I'll keep you posted.

UPDATE: The team is about to attempt a third assault on the south wall. I haven't let circumstances go as far this time, so we can expect a less impressive dousing than we were anticipating before. Still, I expect a satisfactory performance. And in any case, it's really the principle that counts, not the volume.

UPDATE: I'm sorry to have to report another incidence of stage fright. There was a bird watching me. Besides, it was a bit cold and breezy. I guess I'm too used to doing this sort of thing in a climate-controlled atmosphere. Without an audience. I zipped up to have my hands free so I could throw a rock at the bird. Just to chase it away. I successfully chased off the interloper, but by then my ardor had cooled and frankly, I was beginning to doubt the significance of my protest.

I mean, how can I bring attention to the plight of hen-pecked German men with such a private activity? It's not like I'm going to invite a television crew to record the event. Talk about stage fright. And beside, why do I care about a bunch of weenies that would let women bully them into sitting down when they pee? Let them stage their own protest.

UPDATE: It turns out to be fortunate that my protest plans were frustrated. The article left out some important information that would have made my demonstration rather pointless.

book buying

After reading this articles telling how the Democrats are trying to intimidated booksellers into not carrying Unfit for Command, I went out to buy a copy. I went to two big bookstores and they were both sold out. This is just about ten miles from San Francisco. At one bookstore, they told me the problem was that the publisher had dramatically underestimated how many to print and they were hurrying to catch up.

The Barnes&Noble had a table of books on current events. I counted two supporting Bush, one supporting Kerry, two on Bush that claimed to be non-partisan, and five with snotty anti-Bush titles. This is the San Francisco Bay area after all.