Saturday, January 31, 2004

the american street: Jesus, Truth and Mel Gibson's The Passion

Just interesting. the american street: Jesus, Truth and Mel Gibson's The Passion I'm continue to find this whole furor over the movie fascinating, if only because Gibson seems intent on fueling it. He anticipates attacks, so he preemptively pisses off the people he thinks are going to attack him, so that when they respond to his inanities, he gets to say that he's been proven correct. Weird.

I haven't seen the movie, obviously, and I don't like to make judgements of things I haven't seen (or read or heard, for that matter), so I have nothing to say about the charges that it's anti-semitic. I just don't know. But ever since I heard about the film going into production, I thought that it was an interesting idea, and could potentially be a fascinating film. What bewilders me is the profession by Gibson that this is a project driven so intently by his faith, while his actions of showing the film only to conservative pundits and political (!?!?) commentators, along with clergy that share his points of view, suggest a much different agenda. Why sully your faith with such blatant political pandering?

Thursday, January 29, 2004


Very interesting post at The Volokh Conspiracy, found via Brad Delong's site, which itself was found via Atrios. The gist of this seems to be that rich white Republicans believe that they are an oppressed minority deserving of protection. The ridiculous notion that people would be better off as slaves in America in the 1850s than as taxpayers in the 21st century is almost, but not quite, as ridiculous as Grover Norquist's assertion that paying the estate tax is the moral equivalent to the Holocaust.

You know, if they gave away most of their money, they'd be just like the rest of us.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Whiskey Bar: Davos Discovers the Blogs

An interesting post over at Billmon about the present and future states of blogs, spurred by a session he attended at the Davos Economic Summit. Questions of who gets it, who doesn't, is it a threat or a compliment to mainstream media, is it ever going to be a self-sustaining form, or will its practitioners have to do it out of love (or hate or rage or pain) and absorb the costs themselves, among others.

Tricky, all of this, because the very idea of blogs is so encompassing of so many different purposes. It's like asking what the future of television programming will be. It depends on what channel you'll be watching. Some blogs are great at redirecting visitors to interesting content in other parts of the web, much like the vaunted "content portals" that were all the rage in the tech boom, while others engage in a revival of the almost-lost art of pamphleteering, posting long tracts on a variety of topics. Would Thomas Paine have a blog? Would James Madison, John Jay, and Alexander Hamilton post the Federalist Papers online?

Five, six, seven years ago, everyone tried setting up a website. Some struggled with HTML, others started using Geocities and the like to set up crude pages using templates. Netscape offered a rudimentary WYSIWYG editor in its Navigator suite, Microsoft Word started to offer a "Save As HTML" option, and every ISP account came with X MB of web space. Blogs are just the latest evolution of this. Their content can be added or edited online, via the web (as I'm doing with this), or by using programs run on an individual machine. Either way, blogs are created and abandoned at the same rate that fan sites devoted to "Dawson's Creek" were only a few years ago, but they're still an attempt by individuals (or small collections of individuals) to have some sort of say about the affairs of the day. Readership isn't as important to them as the expression of thought itself.

It will be fascinating to see how this evolves over the next few years, just as it's been fascinating to see how so much of the internet has impacted our daily lives over the last decade.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

More reading goodness.

Still reading the Lincoln biography. Fascinating that the candidate didn't campaign on his behalf at all. Not by choice, but by form. As Donald says, "Lincoln could not openly campaign for the nomination because tradition dictated that the office should seek the man."

Monday, January 26, 2004

2 Blowhards

I can't quite put my finger on what it is that I dislike so much about this site. There is something that lurks just behind its surface, some sort of...I don't know, agenda, or world view, that is not as hidden as the proprietors believe it is. For instance, the post about being a non-political person but, hey, what's so wrong about conservatives? It might have been fine as a throwaway comment, or a chance for a rumination of what makes a conservative versus what makes a liberal, and how much either side is defined by its opposite as well as members declaring themselves to be one thing or another without any clear-cut test to make an objective determination. But the post is almost immediately followed by a three-part series of interviews with a conservative author. Now, I doubt that just putting up the first post naturally led to a three part series, but the interview, having already been conducted, transcribed, edited, and broken into three parts, was in need of some sort of lame transition into the discussion. It seems like a hackneyed way of doing things.

The whole site feels hackneyed. What starts with a gee-whiz, I don't know nothin' about painting/film/literature/biology/advanced mathematics/politics/quantum theory/dance/culinary arts, and then proceeds to deliver a 1,000-word essay on just what's wrong with the accepted wisdom of any of the above topics (among many others) and how, on vacation, one of them just finished reading half-a-dozen 600-page books about the very subject and they're all really worth checking out and, hey!, we just happened to conduct fawning interviews with many of the authors that have miraculously been transcribed and posted within 48 hours of our return from our so-called vacation.

The writing can be smart and provocative, but it feels like a wolf in sheep's clothing or a Trojan horse, that there's something hidden from view that's not quite what it seems. It's like imaging Dick Cheney and Karl Rove sharing a political blog, but insisting, "We just know what we read in the papers."

Friday, January 23, 2004

The Party of Lincoln.

I've been reading a very good biography of Abraham Lincoln by David Herbert Donald lately. It's slow going, and I'm only as far as the Dred Scott decision and about to get into the Lincoln-Douglas debates, but there are some interesting tidbits in it all the same. On page 189, we get a description of the formation of the Republican party:
Lincoln was ready to take the lead. In January 1856, when Paul Selby of the Jacksonville Morgan Journal proposed a conference of anti-Nebraska editors to plan for the next presidential election, Lincoln endorsed his idea, and when the editors met at Decatur on February 22, he was the sole nonjournalist in attendance. With his guidance the group drafted a conservative declaration that called for restoration of the Missouri Compromise, upheld the constitutionality of the Fugitive Slave Act, and pledged noninterference with slavery in the states where it already existed. To appease the more radical antislavery element, the resolutions also affirmed the basic free-soil doctrine, which Salmon P. Chase and Charles Sumner had most forcibly enunciated, that the United States was founded on the principle that freedom was national, and slavery exceptional. To win foreign-born voters, the platform advocated religious toleration and opposed any changes in the naturalization laws, and to attract the Know Nothings it denounced "attacks" on the common school system -- meaning catholic efforts to secure aid for parochial schools. Still avoiding the name "Republican," the conference called for a state fusion convention to be held at Bloomington on May 29.

So the Republican party, as it was originally conceived, was opposed to faith-based education and school vouchers. Who would've thought?

Good enough for government work.

Just a stray thought I had about the current resident of the White House:

GWB doesn't want to be a great president. If he ends up being a great president, he's not going to complain, but he really just wants to be good enough. He'll work just as hard as he needs to, but no more than that. He wants to improve the economy, and he wouldn't object to everyone he knows getting stinkin' rich in the process, but if it only improves enough to get him reelected, that's okay. It's good enough. He touts missions to the moon and to Mars, and then doesn't mention them in his State of the Union address only a week later. It's not polling well, so why stick his neck out? There's no great, burning desire in him to be an explorer, no grand plan for a bright, shiny American future in space. Go. Don't go. Whatever. If people are happy with the space program we have now, then we'll leave it alone.

It's good enough.

Something else to play with.

BLOGGER - Knowledge Base?-?What is BlogThis!

Just trying out the BlogThis! feature. Quick way to post something without having to log into the Blogger website, I guess.
I have to see how this handles things like hyperlinks.
Yep. 'T'worked. The only disappointment is that the Subject line from MacJournal doesn't translate over as the title of the blog post. Small quibble, for the moment. Maybe an e-mail will be in order.

(And it even shows up on the web-based Blogger! This is just what I wanted. I'll bet there is a way to do this with iBlog, but until I can figure it out, this'll do.)
I was going to use an old version of MacJournal to simply keep the text straight, but it looks like a new version will actually let you upload the entries to Blogger. This may have really tipped the scales. If you can read this, it worked.

Further justification of my decision.

Not that anyone cares anymore, but I think I've updated my blog on Blogger more in the last 24 hours than I have then entire time I've owned iBlog. Just sayin'

But I guess, for now, this is the better solution. Yes, Blogspot has some issues of spotty service. I can't remember the number of times that I've gone to Atrios or TBogg and found instead the screen telling me how easy it would be to set up a Blogger account. But there is some software I can use to keep track of blog entries offline if I wanted to (MacJournal works well for keeping the basic text in tact), and the ability to access the blog from any computer that has a working connection to the web is definitely handy.

Maybe I'll change my mind once I scrape together enough money for the laptop that I've been oggling and drooling over for months now.

(Addendum: However, I wanted to make a small change to the PowerBook link above, and the distinct disadvantage of using a web-based blog-entry system became clear: It's pretty damn slow sometimes. And I'm sure that there are a lot of people at 7:09 in the morning who've decided that now is the time to update the world about their activities.)

Much done in one day.

This may prove to be disastrous, but I added (quite clumsily, too) a "Linkroll" off there to the right. It's basically a blogroll, via Blogrolling, but because I'm tending to put all of the sites I check with any regularity into it, blogs and non-blogs alike, I'll just stick with Linkroll. At least until I can think of something that doesn't sound like something that would be served at a Scandinavian picnic.

I'm getting annoying with this.

I've been playing around with the templates. I want a barebones style, which is another advantage the Blogger has over iBlog. The iBlog templates start with just about everything you could ever imagine wanting on a page already there. It becomes tedious trying to search through things and remove them. This is working out a little better because it's sparse. For the moment, anyway.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

A conundrum

So, I'm a little unsure of what to do here. I've had a Blogger account set up for almost a year now, but I've never used it. I've also acquired, through my .Mac account, a piece of software called iBlog that allows me to keep a blog on my .Mac account. (Who possibly could have imagined such a thing, huh?) I want to start a blog of some sort, but I don't know which to use.

The advantages of Blogger:
- Accessible anywhere.
- A certain amount of flexibility when it comes to templates.
- Free hosting on

The advantages of iBlog:
- Can edit the blog and its entries while offline.
- Even more flexibility when it comes to templates.
- Actually, a lot more flexibility when it comes to templates.

Now, the greater number of templates and the ease with which I can revise them might be overcome on Blogger with a little HTML knowledge. But it's also nice to think that I can have the entire blog site on my hard drive and know exactly what everything is going to look like before I publish it. It would be really nice if I had it running on a laptop, so that I would have ready access to those files wherever I went. But I don't, and since that means all of those files are always going to be on the desktop computer at home (for the next several months, at least), then the accessibility available via Blogger may have just tipped the scale.

Pick a candidate, any candidate

So, it looks like I have to write my hypertext links by hand. That really sucks.

There's an interesting site, President Match, that lets you answer a bunch of questions about various hot topic issues and then generates a list of which of the remaining presidential candidates are a best match for your worldview. I was a little surprised by my results:

1.) Kucinich. Okay, I guess. I didn't think I was this far to the left, but okay.

2.) Sharpton. What the --? I love that Sharpton ran and that he's stayed in it this long, if only because he's kept some of the candidates honest. He can't win, so what's he got to lose? But I've never been able to get past the Tawana Brawley stuff from the 1980s.

3.) Kerry. I, honestly, never gave Kerry a real thought. Iowa may have changed that, along with the place he took in this little exercise. There's still another 5 weeks and some change before the California primary, so we'll see how he looks.

4.) Dean. Midway through the list. A lot lower than I would have expected. But I'm in the minority, and I thought his barbaric yawp at the end of the Iowa caucus was great. He's a fighter, which I think the Democratic Party needs.

5.) Clark. I can understand why Clinton likes this guy. They're just very tempermentally in sync.

6.) Edwards. He's a blank slate to me. I suppose some people think that's a good thing, but I'm looking for someone with strong ideas this year. We'll see, but I'm not hopeful. He's young, though, and I'd like to see him make another run in 2008 or, even better I think, 2012.

7.) Lieberman. The more he talks, the less I like him. As Jon Stewart said on The Daily Show a couple of weeks ago, "He's the only candidate who's based a campaign entirely on scolding."

8.) Bush. I think he should be everyone's last choice. But then again, what do I know?

And that's it.

(Edited: I had the order Clark and Edwards came back mixed up. It has now been fixed.)

Um, uh...what?

Hello. Why does the blogger window look so darn strange?

How do I do this again?

Just wasn't sure if I could remember how to update this remotely. I guess I did. Good.