The Writer

by Terry Hargrove

I own the most aggravating, and therefore effective, alarm clock ever invented. It moves around the bedroom while I sleep, then shrieks like a jet engine every morning at 4:55. My wife has thrown it away three times, but it always crawls out of the dumpster and makes it way back to the table beside my bed. Yes, I hate it too, but it keeps me and my neighbors from being late to work.

But I can’t shake the feeling that I’m always late for other more important things. I didn’t learn the alphabet until I was 6, didn’t get my driver’s license until I was 20, didn’t graduate from college until I was 26, and didn’t find the girl of my dreams until I was almost 40. I fathered a son at 48, moved to Connecticut at 50, and became a reporter and columnist at 51. Continue reading

Are liberals smarter than conservatives? Our nitwit media strike again…

CNN reported last week on a new study showing that liberalism, atheism and sexual exclusivity in males are linked to higher IQ scores. The findings are intriguing, for all the obvious reasons.

Evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa at the the London School of Economics and Political Science correlated data on these behaviors with IQ from a large national U.S. sample and found that, on average, people who identified as liberal and atheist had higher IQs. This applied also to sexual exclusivity in men, but not in women. The findings will be published in the March 2010 issue of Social Psychology Quarterly.

Reactions have been all over the place, but there’s been strong suspicion of the findings from both “liberal” and “conservative” corners (especially conservative, as you’d expect). Which is good. Continue reading

Time to change Ronald Reagan's 'trust, but verify' to 'verify, but trust'?

THE DEPROLIFERATOR — David Kay has “very bad news for you.” You may recall that he’s the man who led two teams to Iraq: one, after the Gulf War, determined that Iraq had a nuclear program; the other, before the Iraq War, that it then had no WMD program. Despite supporting the Iraq War anyway, Kay remains a credible voice on nuclear weapons.

His bad news, though, is about Iran, where, he recently wrote in the National Interest, “a weapons-inspection regime. . . will not work. Inspections themselves are most effective when both the state being inspected and the inspecting countries are fully on board — and even then there are limits.” For example, the “number of inspectors and level of intrusiveness necessary to ensure that [there are no nuclear weapons] in a country Iran’s size is far greater than anything that can be contemplated.” Continue reading

Meet my next smartphone – the Palm Pre Plus

It’s time for a new phone. After repeated drops on concrete and tile floors, my Palm Treo is starting to act up a bit. I haven’t been able to surf the web in a reasonable fashion since Palm and IBM had a falling out over the Java program the Treo needs to run Opera Mini. And with my AT&T contract up next month, it was time to figure out what my next phone would be.

After spending hours online and after playing with the available smartphones at both the Verizon and AT&T stores, I’ve concluded that the best touchscreen smartphone available, at least for my needs and wants, is not the iPhone. It’s the Palm Pre Plus.

In order to understand my reasoning, you need to something about me and why I bought my Treo in the first place.

I’m a trained electrical engineer with an advanced degree. That should suggest a number of stereotypes – nerdy, overweight, socially inept, and so on. While not all of the stereotypes apply, a couple of them do, and one more so than most. The stereotypical engineer is known for being able to focus on a task at hand to the exclusion of all external stimuli, a condition generally referred to as “tunnel vision” (and entirely distinct from the medical condition of the same name). I generally consider my tunnel vision as an asset because it enables me to focus and work very efficiently on one thing at at time. Tunnel vision makes multitasking more difficult, however, and so I rely on external stimuli to break into my concentration when I need to break out of my tunnel vision. So when I have to get to a meeting, I rely on my pop-up reminders on my Outlook calendar. Continue reading

Another foul nest of anonymice in a Times story

The New York Times parked a travesty of a story on its Web site today reporting that “the Iranians moved roughly 4,300 pounds of low-enriched uranium out of deep underground storage” to a small, above-ground plant, leaving it vulnerable to attack, sabotage or some other suitable, destructive fate. Interesting, but …

The story has no analysis or commentary tag, so presumably it’s a news story. It carries the byline of David E. Sanger, who has written for The Times for more than a quarter of a century and serves as the paper’s chief Washington, D.C., correspondent. He’s a foreign policy and nuclear deproliferation expert, which I am not. He’s a member of two Pulitzer-winning teams at The Times, an exceptional historian, and a damn good writer. But that doesn’t leave him immune from criticism.

It’s irritating that this piece carries only one — that’s one — named source. He expects his readers to swallow a steady diet of anonymice. Worse, Sanger provides no reason for withholding their names. That’s a disservice to readers, who have no way of assessing those grants of anonymity. And Times reporters do this frustratingly, irritatingly often.
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Free Willy?

The news that an orca has killed a trainer at Sea World comes as a shock, but not really as a surprise. As has been widely reported, the killer whale, named Tilikum, grabbed his trainer, Dawn Brancheau, by her hair and pulled her under water, shaking her. The trainer apparently died of “multiple traumatic injuries,” although there hasn’t been much further on the cause of death since the incident. It sure looks as if she was just shaken to death. This all took place in front of an audience at Sea World in Orlando, Florida, which was evacuated shortly after the whale started playing, or whatever it was he was doing. This is part of the problem, of course—it’s often difficult to interpret motives to animals whose facial and body expressions we think we can make some sense of. For whales and dolphins (and orcas are actually dolphins) this difficulty is compounded immensely. At the moment, no one has a clear idea what Tilikum actually had in mind.
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Nota Bene #106: [no title due to budget cuts]

“Working for a major studio can be like trying to have sex with a porcupine. It’s one prick against thousands.” Who said it? Continue reading

The first day of the rest of my life

I walked into the classroom hopped up on caffeine and adrenaline. I’d gotten to the room early—a drab box on the second floor of of our largest academic building—with the intent of staking out my territory well in advance of the freshmen, but a few of them had already beaten me. Looks like I wasn’t the only one who wanted to get a jumpstart on the first day of class.

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Pole-dancing (and other proposed Olympic events)

The move is afoot to add pole-dancing to the Olympics. No, I’m not making that up, and no, I’m not talking about what happens every Saturday night in clubs all over Warsaw. If you’ve suffered through “athletic” competitions like synchronized swimming (Busby Berkeley choreography in water), curling (there’s a pregnant woman on the Canadian team) and ice dancing (really, wouldn’t we all enjoy it more if it were ice line dancing?) you probably figured it was only a matter of time. My guess is that the judges will stuff dollar bills into the athletes’ thongs, and whoever closes the cabaret down with the most cash wins gold. From a development standpoint this one would be easy on the organizing committee, since there are already a lot of venues out by the airport. Continue reading

Lincoln today: The people don't count any more?

On November 19, 1863, as President Lincoln stood to deliver the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, he could not have foreseen how the nation he envisioned as the home of “a new birth of freedom” could become an intolerable refutation of much of what he said that sad day.

He could not have imagined that the exorbitant and still-rising cost of electing the members of Congress would argue that not “all men are created equal.” Rather, men, and mostly men, of considerable financial substance worth in sum about $650 million would sit on Capitol Hill. Nor would he have imagined that the most powerful interests in this nation “conceived in Liberty” would be about to spend $3.7 billion to position those (mostly) men in November to immediately forget, polls might suggest, “the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.”

President Lincoln could not have imagined, at least on a 21st Century scale, how the enterprise of government would become precisely that – a business enterprise riddled with corruption brought on by the enticements of money primarily intended to lubricate the interests of the powerful who wish to remain that way.
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Toyota is the Tiger Woods of the car business (but one observer thinks there's hope)

In case you missed it, Toyota seems to have developed a little public relations problem. And, like most PR issues, this one ultimately has very little to do with PR. Instead, the company, which was once famed for quality, seems to have fallen into one of the most common traps in the book – it grew too fast. At least, that’s what its president, Akio Toyoda, thinks.

Scheduled to testify before a congressional committee overnight, Toyoda linked his company’s problems to its expansion in the past few years.

“We pursued growth over the speed at which we were able to develop our people and our organisation, and we should sincerely be mindful of that,” he said in a transcript of his testimony. “I regret that this has resulted in the safety issues described in the recalls we face today, and I am deeply sorry for any accidents that Toyota drivers have experienced.” Continue reading

A tale of two cities: Baghdad and Kabul

by Michael Brenner

Operation New Dawn! How disarming it would be were this a sign that a bit of dry wit had penetrated the mental fastness that is the American defense establishment. Alas, the truth is that the Pentagon’s public relations machine is still grinding away. This administration’s dedication to continuing the tradition of dishonest public communication bequeathed it by the Bush bunch is of cardinal importance. For its implications for how we conduct the nation’s affairs are deeper and more enduring than this ridiculous try at casting the mantle of success over our gory, corrupt and inept escapade in Iraq. First a few thoughts on the dimensions of our failure there.

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Bode Miller, Lindsey Jacobellis, and an Olympic-sized lesson on what to do when opportunity knocks

Complete this sentence: “When opportunity knocks, ___________________________.”

I was pretty hard on Bode Miller after his no-show in Torino four years ago, about as hard as I’ve ever been on anyone who wasn’t in a position of political authority. Looking back, I don’t regret a word of it. He established himself as the archetype of American sports marketing, and his all-hype no-results performance was about as embarrassing as anything in the history of the US Olympic team.

And while I didn’t write about her, my friends certainly heard some choice words on the subject Lindsey Jacobellis, who decided that showing her ass was more important than winning. Continue reading

Even if states balance budgets, services cuts, high taxes, fees likely to stay

For the first time in many years, the state of New York owes me a tax refund — all of $13. But our governor, David Paterson, doesn’t want to give it to me — at least not right away. (And he wants to be re-elected?)

I’m not alone. Paterson wants to hang on to about $500 million in tax refunds due the state’s citizens. It’s an accounting dodge brought on largely by the political failure of the governor and the state Legislature to balance the budget. By law, the state cannot run a budget year in the red. So, rather than face the realities of a $1.4 billion budget deficit, New York’s incompetent, selfish leaders do what they always do — punt, in this case, until next year. That half billion will be rolled out of fiscal 2009 and into fiscal 2010. Out of sight, out of mind. That’s New York’s insanely inept government: Never deal with reality.

Maybe, state officials promise, I’ll see my $13 in April, two and a half months from now. Well, I’d rather be the one collecting the interest on that $13 over that time rather than the state. Sheesh.

Of course, New York’s financial woes aren’t that simple, and it’s not always (but mostly?) Albany’s fault. Recession + people out of work = higher costs + lower tax revenues + increased fees + fewer services. And New York’s not alone. One estimate puts the total fiscal 2010 budget deficit of all states at nearly $150 billion.
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Nota Bene #105: The Illustrated Dick

“When all you are becomes defined as the amount of information traceable to you, what are we then? What have we become, in a world where there is no separation, no door, no filter beyond which we can say, ‘No. This is my personal space. Not yours. Here I am alone with my thoughts and free of any outside influence or control. This, you cannot have.’ I don’t know, but I don’t want to find out.” Who said it? Continue reading

ArtSunday: "With love, there are no rules"

What is the nature of love, and how can it transform our lives?

Writers have tackled that question for centuries, but Paulo Coelho makes a worthy contribution to that tradition in his 2006 novel By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept. Coelho offers a relatively brief but intensely thoughtful rumination.

“Rarely do we realize we are in the midst of the extraordinary,” Coelho writes. “Miracles occur all around us, signs from God show us the way, angels plead to be heard….” In fact, he says God gives us each one “magic moment” every day to change our lives, but most people don’t notice those moments or they’re too afraid to take advantage of them.

“But that moment exists,” he says—“a moment when all the power of the stars becomes a part of us and enables us to perform miracles.” Continue reading

Today at 11 EST: the most important story in the entire world, live

Finally, after all these months, Eldrick Tont “Tiger” Woods is going to apologize. To you, to me, and to all the other people around the world that he cheated on. I know, I know, it’s not really his fault. He has an addiction. To cocktail waitresses (I think this is on page 486 of the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual V, due out in 2013).

Most importantly, his apology will be carried live by CBS. By NBC. By ABC. By CNN, CNBC, HLN, Fox News, Fox Business and MSNBC. That makes it a bigger story than health care. It’s bigger than the guy who crashed a plane into the IRS building in Austin. It’s bigger than Iran’s nuclear ambitions. It’s even bigger than the Winter Olympics, which are offered on tape-delay.

And it’s sure as hell bigger than this assortment of crybaby hippie socialist bullshit. Continue reading

RIP Martin Bosworth, original Scrogue

One of our original scrogue colleagues has passed away. Martin Bosworth, who helped us found Scholars & Rogues in April of 2007, was a central member of our community for our first year. He wrote frequently and energetically about progressive political issues of all sorts, and had a particular expertise in Internet policy issues. His death is a significant loss for progressive causes across the country.

I believe we’ll all remember Martin as committed and passionate, and his many followers and friends have set up a Facebook page where everyone can pay their respects. Continue reading

Libraries and other miracles

by Terry Hargrove

I love libraries, especially the old, creepy ones. However, most people don’t realize that libraries weren’t built to hold books. That was a function they picked up somewhere along the way, because they‘re hollow, have lots of shelves and are mostly waterproof. Libraries were built to house librarians, because librarians are the smartest, wisest people on earth, and who wants to be bothered by that? So we need a place to keep them away from the rest of us, and nothing does that so well as a library. Continue reading