Saturday, November 28, 2009

Scenes from a Thanksgiving

Only one month to recover for Xmas

All five of the great-grandchildren were present. So were all nine grandchildren. Mom & Dad had a full house of family members. By the time you added in the various spouses and the cousin with no place else to go, over two dozen people were jockeying for position at the dinner tables—of which there were three.

We have the big holiday meal in the middle of the day. As usual, it began without the benefit of either a starter's pistol or bowing our heads to say grace. (I am not complaining.) People started helping themselves as the heaping platters arrived on the tables and it was every man, woman, or child for him- or herself. Though, to be fair, some of the smaller family members were tucked in next to parents who fed them. Occasionally a dinner roll arced over the tables in response to a request. The bread-tossing irks me more than it probably should and I was considered a spoil-sport for merely handing someone a roll instead of tossing it to them.

The grandchildren and great-grandchildren ranged in age from 32 to zero. The newest grandchild is actually younger than some of the great-grandchildren. I said to the college-age niece sitting next to me that “We ought to consider putting nametags on all of them.” She sweetly replied, “Some of us aren't so old, Uncle Zee, that we can't keep track of the family members.”


Of course, when she later asked her beloved uncle to pass the mashed potatoes, I said, “Oh, honey, I'm afraid I'm too old to stretch out my arm that far.” We struck a truce and she got her potatoes.

Little B, one of the two-year-old great-grandsons, is in a babbling phase. He keeps up a semi-comprehensible running commentary on his activities and observations. There are occasional complications. Little B has learned the names of the dining utensils, but still has problems with pronunciation. His manner of saying “fork” is particularly unfortunate. He recently dropped his fork at a restaurant and burst out with “Oh, fork!” Every head in the place swiveled toward the apparently profane toddler while his father grinned and his mother turned bright red.

We were not treated to a re-enactment during Thanksgiving dinner and I think a few people were disappointed.

The family was all on its best behavior in honor of the holiday, so most snide remarks were politely delivered behind people's backs rather than to their faces. Dad occasionally forgets this rule, however, and delivers his blasts directly. When a family member noted the extremely crowded condition of Mom & Dad's dining area and suggested a change of venue next year to the large space of his enclosed back-porch recreation room, Dad was duly appreciative: “Yeah, that would be great. Just like eating in a barn.”

That's a kind of executive veto. The family member fell quiet for the rest of the meal.

Later people began to disperse to various locations in front of the television or outside in the yard. My parents observed that Little B's parents took turns accompanying him as he wandered amongst the leaves under the walnut tree and took delight in picking up and tossing random walnuts.

“They watch that kid every second,” they commented. “They hover over him like a hawk.”

It is their considered opinion that their great-grandson is being smothered by this overweening parental solicitude. They repeated this every time the parents moved out of earshot.

While Little B was playing under this oppressive supervision, his contemporary second cousin, Little Z, was strolling about while munching on a banana. Someone eventually noticed that he had discovered Mom & Dad's fly abattoir, a low bench next to the house on which they had sprinkled a thick layer of red crystal insecticide. In the fly-infested environment of a working dairy, it had quickly acquired piles of dead insects atop the poison crystals. Little Z stuck his banana into the mix. Who wouldn't like a banana with red sprinkles and dead flies?

Someone noticed before he could sample his confectionary creation. At least, we think it was before. His mother peered into his mouth for signs of red and interrogated the little man whether he had tasted the poison. Little Z denied that he had with a stubborn expression suggesting he wished he had acted more quickly. Thereafter he was watched as closely as Little B. It turned out that Little Z was still able to play despite the fact that people had their eyes on him.

I suggested to my parents that they relocate their fly trap out of the reach of their great-grandchildren. They professed surprise that toddlers would go anywhere near it.

Who are these people?

Friday, November 20, 2009

The S.F. Chronicle flips over creation

The San Francisco Chronicle ran an Associated Press story on Thursday, November 19, 2009, about a new book that discusses Michelangelo's approach to creating the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel. What would a story about famous artwork be without an appropriate illustration? The Chronicle ran an image provided by the AP—a detail of the famous “Creation of Adam.” With a fine sense of artistic taste and discrimination, the Chronicle's layout artist determined that Michelangelo made an elementary mistake in his composition and was good enough to correct it for him. And it's not as though anyone is going to notice, right?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

An abuse of abuse?

The happy ending that isn't

Do you like stories about determined individuals who struggle against long odds and unremitting opposition until they eventually win through to victory and vindication? So do I. Usually.

The Sacramento Bee carried a story on Friday, November 13, 2009, about a 29-year-old woman who finally succeeded in punishing the man who sexually abused her when she was a child. The man is her stepfather and he had refused to acknowledge any guilt. In fact, he strenuously denied that he had ever improperly touched his stepdaughter.

What else would you expect from a child molester?

The woman's mother had also denied that her husband had abused her daughter. She sided with her spouse in the court battle.

Well, what would you expect from an enabler in denial? Right?

Of course, that's also what you would expect if the stepfather were innocent and his wife was defending him against a delusional daughter. One presumes that the evidence must have been pretty strong to cause a Superior Court judge to award Jeanne Schreib a $1,345,645 judgment against her stepfather. Or maybe not.
The judge said he sided with the plaintiff based on “the uncontradicted expert testimony” from two therapists who said Schreib suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and that “the most likely cause is the abuse reported by the plaintiff.”
Oh, oh.

I admit to being suspicious of the reliability of “expert” testimony in this context. In my mind, the real question it raises relates to the competency of the stepfather's legal counsel. Expert testimony is a commodity readily obtained for a price (although not necessarily a reasonable price). There is a counter-expert to any expert you care to name. Why didn't they have one or two?

The woman in question has a criminal record that she now blames on childhood trauma inflicted by her stepfather.
Schreib said she first sought help after her 2006 arrest in Placer County for embezzlement, for which she was later convicted, sentenced to probation and two weeks in jail, and ordered to pay $54,000 restitution.

She said her “past started to make sense to me” as a result of the therapy sessions and some additional reading.
I can't tell from this report, but was Schreib saying that she had to figure out that she was molested in the past? Did she not recall the alleged incidents that she now insists occurred? If so, we're talking about recovered memory here, and that's an exceedingly slender reed on which to accuse a man of heinous crimes, even if it gives the supposed victim an exculpatory excuse for her later behavior.
She said she then approached her family about “the elephant in the room,” but they didn't want to talk about her abuse allegations.

“From the very beginning, even before I started meeting with the therapist, I reached out to them,” Schreib said.
What did she think was going to occur when she started leveling accusations of child abuse? An apology and a big group hug?

I acknowledge the possibility that Schreib's story is true, but I also acknowledge the possibility that she is (probably inadvertently) making things up under the tutelage of therapists who want to help her find explanations for the way her life has gone off the rails.

The case is now on appeal and the end is not yet in sight. Whatever the end may be, I'm certain it won't be a happy one.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Ageless wisdom gets older

One from the vaults

Sometimes I describe myself as an archivist. It's a nice cover story. What I really am is a packrat who could easily turn into one of those eccentrics who lives in a tiny corner of his home because the rest of it is packed solid with junk. (In my case, “junk” would be books and papers and various disks—floppies, LPs, CDs, DVDs.) Sometimes, however, an impulse comes over me and I start to clear off shelves, dump out boxes, and paw through drawers. I've even thrown a few things out!

Recently I opened a drawer in my computer room and discovered a trove of 3½-inch floppy disks (although they aren't really very floppy in that form factor; the more flexible 5¼-inch floppies are stashed in my garage). It was an exciting opportunity to try out my new Teac drive, an inexpensive USB device that permits us old-timers to read our legacy media.

It was the end of my clean-up effort, of course, as I got distracted by the rediscovery of long-lost documents, pictures, and miscellanea. I laughed out loud while reading some ASCII capture files from some BBS sessions dating back to the nineties. Anyone remember the hey-day of electronic Bulletin Board Systems? In 1991 it seems that I was already using “Zeno” as my on-line handle. It was how I logged in to a BBS that was hosting an intriguing chat room titled “Ageless Wisdom.” It smelled of New Age cant and I was curious.

The sponsor of the Ageless Wisdom discussion was an enthusiast bearing the name “Phandaal.” He quickly sniffed out my skepticism (I wasn't keeping it under a bushel basket) and accused me of rudeness and worse. (Of course, I was slightly amused when Phandaal tried to explain that the result of shuffling Tarot cards is not random!) I think I was unfailing polite. What do you think?
*--* Qmodem Session Capture File *--*
*--* Qmodem Capture File 12/06/91 20:44:47 *--*

Ageless Wisdom> forward read

91Nov29 Fri 16:08 from Phandaal
There are many things about our world that are little understood. This room is dedicated to discussing the mysteries of life. Please post your observations on life-experiences, and any guidelines, mental tools, or ways of thinking which help you in your life. Postings concerned with inner-knowledge techniques, like meditation, divination (Tarot cards, runes, astrology), and esoteric religious practices are welcome. I would like to hear from those of you interested in runes.

91Nov30 Sat 09:03 from Starblaze
I don't read runes but have done tarot cards since I was five.

91Nov30 Sat 09:30 from Zeno
But do you take them seriously?

91Nov30 Sat 11:49 from Phandaal
Since you were five! Starblaze, I am impressed! Do you still do them? I do runes, tarot cards, I Ching, and sometimes other card-type divination systems (there are quite a few, actually!). The former three I have found to be most useful, though for different applications: I read tarot cards for other people, runes and I Ching for myself. Runes seem to be better for more spiritual questions, while the I Ching is decidedly more grounded. Using more than one system allows you to cross-check results, and although there is usually a shift in emphasis between readings (because you can't step in the same river twice!), there is good agreement; also, additional points of view can give a more holistic impression of the situation.

91Nov30 Sat 12:14 from Silverleaf
Tarot cards don't work. The only way to predict the future is to stand on your head, shove pickles up your nose, yell Milli Vanilli three times, and then do a double head spin. It works, believe me!

91Nov30 Sat 12:21 from Phandaal
That I want to see. Seriously, though, divination is a lot more than future prediction, but most people don't understand that. It is an "inner wisdom" tool, and if it makes things clear enough so that you can figure out what is going to happen next, well, that's just icing on the cake!

91Nov30 Sat 14:08 from Zeno
Certainly we must all arrange a live demonstration of Silverleaf's remarkable divination technique, which cannot fail to be entertaining even if it falls a bit short in other respects.

Phandaal, what do you mean by "inner wisdom"? I have a utilitarian turn of mind ("turn of mind" not to be confused with Silverleaf's "head spins") and would appreciate it if you could articulate what it is and the benefits you derive therefrom.

91Nov30 Sat 17:06 from Phandaal
OK, here goes. Inner wisdom is a catch phrase for levels of awareness which we tend not to operate on frequently. "Inner" is used to describe them because they tend to be disrupted by the types of consciousness we use to deal with the "outer" world. Inner levels of consciousness/awareness tend to be more abstract and we tend to make more obvious use of symbols when we operate on them. People are interested in these levels of awareness because they do not seem to have the same constraints as more familiar levels. In other words, we can figure things out sometimes by changing to a more appropriate type of awareness. Inner wisdom, for instance, is generally not so good at math! But deeper levels of awareness are often useful for solving life-problem and understanding the personal significance of experiences. Hope this suits your pragmatic tastes, Zeno! :)

91Nov30 Sat 20:40 from Zeno
That was certainly a good start, Phandaal. Now perhaps you can enlighten me further.

Given that one believes that tapping into inner wisdom has solved various life problems or provided an understanding of a personal experience, what does one then do with this inner wisdom? (I'm trying to get a functional definition of what you mean.) That is, what sort of things does one actually *do* in response to the promptings of inner wisdom? Can you give me examples?

91Nov30 Sat 22:48 from Phandaal
Zeno: Is it that you are interested to know how much faith one should put in "inner wisdom"? If not, I am not sure what you want to know. There are so many examples of this phenomenon that to describe only a few would be misleading. If you could be more specific in your question, that would help me or someone else in giving a more specific answer. Thanks!

91Nov30 Sat 23:08 from Zeno
Phandaal: Maybe there are too many examples to make it possible to cover them all in a simple description, but a few examples *would* be helpful. Just what is it that you are putting "faith" into and how does it actually affect your life? I am curious whether the idea can be framed in such a way as to permit its worth to be validated.

91Dec01 Sun 01:40 from Phandaal
Zeno: I'm sorry, I have no idea what you are talking about. I think we have very different viewpoints on the subject of whatever it is we think we are talking about.

Unfortunately, most books on, say, Tarot, are not written in the language of hard science. My approach has always been to suspend my disbelief while reading, then test what I have read by seeing if it works. I know what you mean, though, sometimes it seems like some books are possessed of "the missionary spirit". I can't say my experience is vast, though; if I knew everything I wouldn't be soliciting the opinions of you guys. I really enjoyed a book called "Evolution through the Tarot" by Richard Gardner.

91Dec01 Sun 01:53 from Phandaal
Waitaminit -- Zeno, you used the word "faith". Are you interested in the religious ramifications of all of this? Just a stab in the dark! Am I close?

91Dec01 Sun 07:14 from Zeno
Not exactly, Phandaal. I used the word "faith" in the simple sense of "believing in". What I am trying to get at, Phandaal, is why you believe in "inner wisdom" and what has inner wisdom ever told you that had any effect on how you behave or live your life. You've described it as a way of obtaining understanding, but I'm not at all certain what it is that you obtain understanding of. Although you earlier said that there are so many examples it would be misleading to list only a few, I'm willing to be misled for a little while in hopes of starting to get some clue what it is that you're describing.

91Dec01 Sun 14:03 from Silverleaf
I am enjoying this lively discussion, but I would like to know, are there, if any, books available written in "hard science"? It would be interesting to see what sort of actual effect this has on neuro-biological functions etc.

91Dec01 Sun 16:03 from Phandaal
Zeno: Say that you are having trouble communicating with others, for example. Maybe you have no idea what it is that you are doing wrong, even after protracted thought. Sometimes laying down a few cards or whatever can stimulate your thought processes in new ways, helping you to understand what you are doing wrong and what you might concentrate on to improve the situation. Basically, any time you are "stuck" and don't know what to do, inner wisdom techniques are helpful. One might also use inner-wisdom techniques when confused about relationships with others or when you can't understand why you behave or react in certain ways. For instance, why do X and I argue all the time? or why am I oversensitive about authority figures? Hope this helps!

91Dec01 Sun 16:13 from Phandaal
Silverleaf: Good luck with finding the type of books you describe. I agree, I like to be scientific about this stuff; that is, I like to use the scientific method. However, I DO try to avoid the "scientific attitude" which has a great deal of trouble with subjective observations (that is, observations which cannot be readily shared). If you don't worry about the fact that others cannot observe your observation (because they are mental/intuitive) I feel you can make some real progress in understanding some of the more subtle things in our world.

91Dec01 Sun 22:38 from Zeno
Okay, Phandaal, that gives me something to mull over. It sounds as though the *particular* approach doesn't matter that much, as long as it gives you an opportunity to organize your thoughts and calm any emotional distress or disquiet. I have no problem grasping that and seeing it as a positive thing. However, to me it's a much, much greater step to say, for example, as Starblaze is inclined to do, that the Tarot has high-order predictive power. (That, in fact, is a step I can't take, as it makes no sense to me.) Am I correct that the particular approach is not of major concern in tapping that inner wisdom that you speak of?

91Dec02 Mon 00:20 from Phandaal
Zeno: Yes, I think that the particular approach doesn't matter, except that some systems of divination are better suited to particular frames of mind. The concept of high-order predictive power truly intrigues me... what would this be, in your opinion? What are the implications, should such a thing exist? I look forward to hearing what people have to say about this!

91Dec02 Mon 13:23 from Zeno
I think that predicting the future is not something within our power, except to the extent that we choose our own personal futures by our choice of actions. In other words, I think it would be a waste of time to consult a Tarot reader or astrologer on the likelihood of a good grain crop in the Ukraine in 1997. However, if you're not especially happy in your line of work, a consultation with a reader (of whatever stripe) could give you the necessary nudge to start taking the steps required to get you out of your rut. One might then say "And isn't it amazing, the card reader predicted I'd be changing jobs!" The prediction might have been, in a way, self-fulfilling, because it brought into the open an idea that was already germinating. "Love and life" questions can, I perceive, be handled with some success in this manner. On the other hand, my grandmother wasted huge amounts of time and money on spiritual counselors with questions about her health. (She was in remarkably good condition most of her life and kept insisting that the doctors were missing hidden illnesses she was certain she had. Maybe her investment of money in these psychic consultants was worth it to her, since they told her what she wanted to hear.)

91Dec03 Tue 09:24 from Phandaal
It seems like the idea of predicting the future is disturbing people. Stock market analysts constantly try to predict the future, as does any corporate entity. And the way they try to do it is by collecting information about the past and present, for the future will ultimately depend on these. So, although it is not the main thrust of divination, the future CAN be predicted using them, for they are information gathering systems (divinatory techniques, that is). They work so well because 1) the information gathering is very specific -- usually about a single person's life, or a few people and 2) they make use of varieties of information that are not usually accessed. But they also do all that neat "focusing" stuff described earlier. Also, like anything, there are disreputable practitioners. For instance, it is against my ethics to accept anything for a reading. Accepting money creates a conflict which can only degrade the whole process.

91Dec03 Tue 14:35 from Zeno
I know quite a lot about that other kind of "prediction," Phandaal, since I used to work for an state agency whose job it was to project fiscal year revenues and expenditures. That sort of stuff is based on a lot of number crunching and computer programming. But I think this "divination" that we're talking about is quite another matter entirely, isn't it? Publishing a trend line generated by a computer and predicting a future event via Tarot cards seem quite distinct (even if both techniques do share a high rate of failure).

91Dec03 Tue 23:16 from Phandaal
The concept is the same, sorry it isn't apparent to you. In order to predict the future, you have to know about the past and present. If "educated approximations" require tons of data, maybe its because their data is not so good, or because they are not asking relevant questions. I keep seeing the word "faith" coming up, which is really weird, because the word doesn't apply. Also the phrase "how some cards fall", which implies that the cards which show up during divination are random -- btw, they are not. I think it is bothersome to some folks, the idea of being able to predict human destiny. I think it insults the notions people have about how complex, free-thinking and unpredictable humans are. In fact, such thinking is quite narcissistic. Humans have a lot less control over their own lives than they would like to believe -- just watch yourself next time someone jerks you around. There are deep patterns in our behaviors that mere insistence of free will does little to erase. So, everybody looking forward to Christmas?

91Dec04 Wed 05:24 from Zeno
Phandaal, if you shuffle cards and deal them, they come up randomly. Whether you're doing divination or not. Are we to believe the cards somehow "care" or "know" what to do? Or that someone's state of mind affects how they shuffle?

I think "faith" is quite precisely the word that fits in this situation, because I cannot see how else one can believe that shuffled cards reflect anything having to do with objective reality. Once displayed, the shuffled cards *may* trigger thought processes or ideas that an individual may find useful -- but these will, of course, vary dramatically from individual to individual, even given exactly the same cards. On the other hand, given the same data, any individual number-crunching a trend-line should get the same results (with much less room for subjective interpretation). These look like very distinct situations to me.

91Dec04 Wed 13:56 from Nimue
I think you guys are missing the point. First of all, Phandaal, you should make your point about using the scientific method more strongly, I think Z completely missed it. That's the most reasonable path, right? Secondly, Zeno, you are talking about a lot of idealistic BS, like free-will and "objective reality" when there is no evidence for those either! Also I think Phandal may be jerking you two around a lot -- he certainly seems to have pushed a few of your buttons. Enough posturing, all of you! -- Love,

91Dec05 Thu 06:20 from Zeno
Hmmmmm? While it's easy to oversell objective reality, Nimue, there's enough of it around to be worth talking about. If someone says there's an Italian restaurant in downtown Sacramento at the corner of 20th and N Streets, we could go look whether it's there. I think such a statement is pretty simply either true or false and that there are enough such testable true/false statements to deal with plenty of things in a very objective way. On a slightly more subtle level, if someone says that cards drawn from a deck during divination aren't random, there ought to be some evidence of that.

Since the state of Nevada has an entire industry based on the validity of the laws of probability, it would be intriguing to learn how these laws get suspended during a Tarot reading, for example. (I assume Phandaal is simply being sincere when he says that he doesn't think it's random.)

91Dec05 Thu 13:55 from Nimue
I think that there is no such thing as objectivity! There is no way to prove that there is because everything is subjective. Your restaurant example is also subjective. You went to see if it was there. It doesn't matter what there answer was because you were involved. As for science and occult matters being two different things I think that dichotomy doesn't exist. It is all a matter of whether or not we can detect supernatural occurrences. Right now I have to say that western science is not interested in being able to detect them. If you look at other cultures you can see how many of them still retain spiritual beliefs while using western technology. But Western technology has pushed away many helpful "folkloric" remedies. Even today acupuncture is still poo-pooed by the AMA who rule the health of Americans.

91Dec05 Thu 16:09 from Zeno
Huh, Nimue? Do you doubt that Italian restaurants continue to exist even when I'm not around them? You can go look for yourself. I think it foolish in the extreme to dismiss objectivity out of hand because a great deal of what we do and say is based precisely on the assumption that there is some commonality of meaning among people.

I think I am writing messages to you on an electronic BBS. I believe the sysop's handle is Starblaze. Do you agree with these two statements? If you chuck out objectivity entirely, then obviously no one can talk to anyone about anything.

As to whether western science is interested in detecting occult phenomena, the millions of dollars spent in psychic research suggest that some people are very interested indeed. The Pentagon has certainly spent money on it, too, although here it's very difficult to get an objective (excuse the expression) accounting of just how many dollars the military has spent in this area. Labs at Princeton and UC Davis and SRI International have also spent time and money investigating psychic phenomena. The results continue to be pretty poor, but it's not for lack of trying.

91Dec05 Thu 21:21 from Phandaal
Zeno: You should understand the concepts you are toying with. Objectivity BY DEFINITION cannot exist because nothing can be viewed without a viewpoint. I can't put it any simpler, so I hope you got it. However, we habitually say things are objective truth because we all agree on them. That is, we have decided what the rules are for calling something objective. The aesthetics for determining the criteria to use are subjective.

Nimue, I think you, and now that I think about it, anyone, is wasting their time trying to help Zeno out with this stuff, he is pretty set in his ways. The purpose of this room is to discuss ideas about unconventional belief-systems. Unfortunately, we have had some people asking "questions" who were far more interested in tearing things apart and not in being constructive.

Zeno, for all your vast experience and superior will-power, you are BORING. I am sorry that it took me so long to realize what your agenda was. You shouldn't have posted in this room in the first place, and you know it. I started this room up, so I feel it is my responsibility to say that your rudeness and predatory self-interest is not welcome here.

91Dec05 Thu 22:25 from Starblaze
Sysop stepping in here.... Phandaal, Zeno is allowed to disagree w/your viewpoint provided he does not get rude or put people down for their beliefs... Zeno, do keep in mind what the purpose of this room was for... Phandaal, you created this room and made it public. If you wish I can make it private. Since everyone is already in here, the only advantage in making private would be I could deauthorize someone if you request.

Now, with that lecture out of the way can we PLEASE be civilized? I know you guys would want me or one of my aides to end up deleting most of your messages just to clean up a cat fight.

91Dec05 Thu 22:26 from Zeno
Of course we have rules for agreeing on objective truth. If we didn't, we could never get anything done at all. Is this a major point of disputation? So if we are agreed that some kind of working definition of objective truth is essential, then why the fuss over saying it cannot exist. Certainly viewpoint enters into it, but viewpoint, like almost anything else, can be shared.

Otherwise we all reside in hermetically sealed boxes and may as well all sink into solipsism. I am not "toying" with these concepts, and I believe my grasp upon them is as firm as that of most other people.

So rather than belabor the point that you apparently concede, at least in part, I ask only by what measures you gauge the success of the procedures you espouse. Will you simply reply that it is unknowable? Surely there must be standards you adhere to. And it would be nice if someone could articulate them.

I apologize if you find my curiosity and skepticism offensive, but please let me point out that I try in all things to be polite and mild-mannered, even when disagreeing with people. You are confusing disagreement with abusiveness, Phandaal, when you accuse me of "rudeness" and describe my motives as "predatory." It is unkind of you.

91Dec05 Thu 22:35 from Phandaal
I realize we have the right to express our opinions here -- you might have noticed that I expressed mine! Actually, I would recommend deleting this room entirely, but I think you should ask Zeno, for he is deriving the most stimulation from it, Sysop. Anyway, I do feel like I have been over-using this room, so I will wait until some constructive postings show up before writing any more in here. Sorry if I came on strong, but I think sometimes subtlety has limited application. See you!
Thus ends this long flash-back from eighteen years ago. It's a peculiar document that could have easily vanished into the digital ozone, but it's survived till today as a peculiar historical artifact.

The age of the BBS is long over and I have no idea what happened to the participants in Ageless Wisdom. I stopped bothering them after it became apparent that no one had good answers to my questions. And, of course, I had no idea who the pseudonymous participants were, although I heard that Starblaze was a student. And one other thing: I also know that Silverleaf became a doctor. A real one, with an M.D. and everything (but no pickles up his nose). I guess Ageless Wisdom didn't manage to screw him up.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Democrats Sweep Congress!!!

The right way to write headlines

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has the right idea:
“From my perspective, we won last night. We had one race that we were engaged in—it was in northern New York. It was a race where a Republican has held a seat since the Civil War, and we won that seat. We had a candidate that was victorious who supports the health-care reform. So from our standpoint, we picked up votes last night, one in California and one in New York.”
There were two special elections for congressional seats last night and the Democratic Party won them both. The 10th District race in California was a romp by Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, who bested his GOP rival by more than ten percentage points. Garamendi thus retained for his party the seat that had been occupied by Democrat Ellen Tauscher. In New York's 23rd District, Democrat Bll Owens seized a seat that Republicans had controlled for more than a century. Pending a final tally (including some additional absentee ballots), Owens defeated Conservative Doug Hoffman by four percentage points. Hoffman's defeat suggests that his fellow teabaggers are not as numerous in upstate New York as right-wing pundits would have us believe. There are just enough to poison the Republican Party—not enough to supplant it.

The election night results produced a one-seat increase in the Democratic majority in the U.S. House of Representatives—just in time for the vote on health care reform.

In the light of this excellent news for Democrats, what are we to make of the hub-bub concerning GOP victories that affect state offices rather than federal offices? These may turn out to be unsatisfying consolation prizes in the long run. If the mainstream media were run in Fox News mode, but as tilted toward Democrats as Fox is toward the far right, we would be reading the following headlines:

Democrats Sweep Congress!
Big Boost for Obama Agenda
GOP gains meaningless victories in loser states of VA and NJ

NY-23 Elects First Democrat in 140 Years
Teabaggers Wail in Despair
Palin's blessing didn't help Conservative nominee

Glenn Beck Cries Real Tears
Vicks Stock Plunges
Trappist monastery offers sanctuary to big-mouthed ranter

Sunday, November 01, 2009

The placebo solution

Take two nothings and don't call me in the morning

The Associated Press covered House minority leader John Boehner as the Republican congressman made his party's case for its position on health care reform. First of all, the GOP doesn't really think there's a health crisis. The socialized medicine programs we have now (Medicare, Veterans Administration) are fine the way they are and don't need to be expanded. Furthermore, the Democratic plan is just too darned big. The Republicans don't see any reason that a national program should require as many pages as found in the current consensus plan being advanced by House Democrats. In a telling AP photo, Boehner mockingly poses with the stack of paper representing the Democratic plan. You can see the multi-ream pile on Boehner's right. Meanwhile, that's the GOP plan that Boehner is brandishing in his left hand. The entire plan.