Friday, March 10, 2006

Points of Interest

Interesting items I've come across today:

I loathe malls. They exhaust me. I'm not a low-energy guy, but an hour or so in my local commercial wonderland and I'm ready to hit up some hibernation.
Me too. When I'm around my mother, museums and art galleries have the same effect on me.
Which is why I was interested to hear a friend tell me that it was all intentional. Apparently, the demon familiars designing these things have laid hands on some data connecting blink rates to shopping behavior: as it turns out, the sleepier you get, the more likely you are to simply spring for some big ticket items and hightail it home to bed. So the lights, the layout, the sounds, the scent -- it's all designed to drain the life force right out of you.

They're probably the same people who figure out how to light casino's just so to keep you disoriented but awake. Bastards.

[H]ere’s my point. If you spend your time bouncing from city to city, you become completely rootless. Your family is probably far away, as are your high school friends. The closest thing you have to a family is whatever subset of college or grad school friends happen to be in that city. You don’t go to church, you don’t really participate in your local community. You have no stable micro-social structures of any kind.

In short, there’s a big void there. And so people fill it with work.

For reasons that might trace back to our pre-historic roots, I think there’s some inherent urge in humans to seek order. And so, many yuppie tribesmen fill the void with work. There’s little to come home to, so they don’t come home much. In this sense, work becomes a form of religion in that it provides order and meaning to one’s life.

Read the whole thing, also, check out Publius' post about the background to the Network Network Neutrality issue (which appeared in AHW a few weeks back)

  • Next, in the context of the ongoing debate (or perhaps BlogWar to end all BlogWars?) spawned by the SD anti-abortion law Amba illustrates the manner in which the opposing camps are constantly talking past each other. Essentially, each side is speaking to a different moral paradigm, and since morals are self-evident, figure that if the point is made forcefully enough it cannot fail to convince any opponent with morals. Since they are not convinced, they must be immoral and thus arguing in bad faith. Thus the left tells the right that they are only interested in subjugating women and the right tells the left that they are mass murderers. Not so much common ground there. Anyway, read it.
  • Bruce Schneier points out why datamining for terror is likely counterproductive. Part of the reason the whole capitulation on the NSA front is galling to me is that FISA may indeed be obsolete. So let's update it to match current needs and available technology while doing our best to prevent future abuse. By holding investigations at least on that front. Makes too much sense to ever happen though.
  • Glenn Greenwald has a compelling post on the GOP's "Catholic Strategy", which disturbs me in its possible implications. His conclusion:
It would be preferable if our elections were decided exclusively on the substance of the issues. But they just aren't, and pretending otherwise ensures defeat. The Republican Party is no more the party of Catholicism than it is the party of moral piety or the restoration of honor and integrity in government. Not only does adherence to Catholicism not compel a vote for Republicans; if anything, it can be argued much more persuasively that Catholicism precludes such a vote. Democrats have to aggressively make that case, and related points, no matter how much they would prefer not to have to. If they don't, we will continue to be a country whose elections are decided by filth merchants and rank religious manipulation.

Admittedly, Glenn can be florid with his prose, but I agree insofar that I've always been somewhat confused by the Democrats ceding the 'moral values' debate to the GOP. I don't want to get into a pointless empirical debate about who's better on that score - there's plenty of mud to sling to put it gently. But aside from single issue Abortion voters, why is it that "faith" must implicitly mean "Republican"? That being said, it makes me queesy to think of future elections being dominated by 'religious swift-boating' from all sides.

We'd be much better off if faith was not an issue aside from the manner in which actual (as opposed to professed) faith might guide someone's actions if elected. Show me, don't tell me. At this point, that isn't the world we live in, so it might get uglier. If possible.

Civilised discourse analyses and defines scientific truths, historic truths and matters of fact relating to knowledge, not to faith. And it does this irrespective of race or confession. We may believe these facts are profane or undignified, yet they remain distinct from religious truths. Our planet is not in the grips of a clash of civilisations or cultures. It is the battleground of a decisive struggle between two ways of thinking. There are those who declare that there are no facts, but only interpretations - so many acts of faith. These either tend toward fanaticism ("I am the truth") or they fall into nihilism ("nothing is true, nothing is false"). Opposing them are those who advocate free discussion with a view to distinguishing between true and false, those for whom political and scientific matters – or simple judgement – can be settled on the basis of worldly facts, independently of arbitrary pre-established opinions.

A totalitarian way of thinking loathes to be gainsaid. It affirms dogmatically, and waves the little red, or black, or green book. It is obscurantist, blending politics and religion. Anti-totalitarian thinking, by contrast, takes facts for what they are and acknowledges even the most hideous of them, those one would prefer to keep hidden out of fear or for the sake of utility.
Read the whole thing, and especially Amba's post and comments.

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