Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Gonzales' Testimony

Firedoglake liveblogged the testimony: part I, II, III, IV, and V, where Leahy makes his displeasure clear:

I have a lot more questions, but we aren’t going to get answers to them. I’ll think about submitting them in writing where I also won’t get answers. The tragedy on this is the decent civil servants who deter crime and prosecute crime — who work long hours at difficult jobs protecting the public. I’ve never once asked a DOJ employee or law enforcement personnel what their political affiliation was because it doesn’t matter — what metters is facts and evidence. You come here seeking our trust. Frankly, Mr. AG, you have lost mine, and I have never said this to another cabinet official in my entire career in government. Once the system of justice loses credibility and the public loses faith in it — when that credibility is lost, those career professionals have an uphill battle to do their jobs. This committee is going to do what it must to restore that credibility. I take no pleasure in saying this, but I am seriously, gravely disappointed.

The Galloping Beaver sums up this whole debacle: "Either he's lying or he has the worst memory of attorneys-general in US history."

Harry Potter Complex System Commentary

Rather than pick something out of thin area, recognize the diverse threads that came together to make HP such a success. Easily Distracted identifies 9 tributaries that made it happen.

I’ve been thinking about what it means to rewrite many similar kinds of events using the vocabulary of complex-systems theory. Such a shift isn’t necessarily radically unlike anything we know, but it does strike at the heart of one kind of common explanatory framework that many of us turn to when we’re trying to explain why a social or cultural event has occurred. I’ll call this “popular social science”, a kind of generalized, public-sphere version of the disciplinary practices of economics and political science. It’s regression analysis without the math. People try to explain an event by identifying its causes or inputs and then proceed to identify the single most important independent variable through common sense or observed assertions about the effect size of that variable. So we end up with stories like, “It was going after the squeegee men that reduced crime in New York”, “The reason that 9/11 happened is US training and arming of jihadis in Afghanistan during Soviet occupation”, or “Pirates of the Caribbean 2 sold as well as it did because of Johnny Depp’s performance in the first film, not because the audience liked the second film better than the first.” These are popular arguments about causation, echoed by a variety of scholarly arguments.

When the real causation can be so much more...well, complex.


John Yoo, hypocrite. Short version of Yoo's argument: "Oh, it's awful when Clinton invokes Executive Privilege, but just dandy when Bush does it." That's hypocrisy, my friends.

Great Point

What FDR and [Martin Luther] King understood is that the truth needs help. It needs stories told about it, works of art made of it, it needs to use symbols and be embedded in myths that people find meaningful. It needs to be yelled from the mountaintops. The truth needs help, but helping it along doesn't mean abandoning it.
-- Stephen Duncombe

What he's saying is, truth needs to speak to the heart and the gut, where the instinctual responses come from, not just the mind, where the rational responses come from.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Spoiler-Free Harry Potter Post

PSA: Your friends taking the bar exam this coming week have probably not read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows yet, even though it's a whole 36 hours or so after the book became available for sale.