Day: May 18, 2003

Bruce Sterling loves Donald Rumsfeld:

In this Wired piece, he calls him “my favorite Bush administration figure”:

Rummy thinks outside the box. He talks in aphorisms, adages, and apothegms, rather like a magazine columnist. So I find it hard not to like him.

Essentially, he thinks the main problem with the administration is that they don’t follow Rumsfeld’s maxims closely enough.

US rivals turn on each other as weapons search draws a blank:

“(T)op officials are worried by repeated failures to find the proof – and US intelligence agencies are engaged in a struggle to avoid the blame. Guardian-Observer/UK

And:The Bush administration has changed its tune on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, the reason it went to war there. Instead of looking for vast stocks of banned materials, it is now pinning its hopes on finding documentary evidence. The change in rhetoric, apparently designed in part to dampen public expectations, has unfolded gradually in the past month as special U.S. military teams have found little to justify the administration’s claim that Iraq (news – web sites) was concealing vast stocks of chemical and biological agents and was actively working on a covert nuclear weapons program.” Yahoo! News

Terror’s myriad faces:

“Jason Burke, a world expert on international terrorism, says those leading the war against the bombers misunderstand the true nature of al-Qaeda… Al-Qaeda, conceived of as a tight-knit terrorist group with cadres and a capability everywhere, does not exist in that form. It barely existed before the war in Afghanistan in 2001 destroyed Osama bin Laden’s carefully constructed infrastructure there. It certainly does not exist now. Instead, we are facing a different kind of threat. Al-Qaeda can only be understood as an ideology, an agenda and a way of seeing the world that is shared by an increasing number of predominantly young, predominantly male Muslims. Eliminating bin Laden and a few hundred senior activists will do nothing to counter this al-Qaeda. Hundreds more will come forward to fill their ranks. Al-Qaeda, however understood, will continue to operate. The threat will remain and it will grow.” Guardian-Observer/UK [thanks, adam]

Getting Science Into Literature:

On the Nature of Human Romantic Interaction reviewed: “How do you get science into literature? (Let’s skip the argument over whether this is a good thing to do.) There would seem to be two different ways. The first is to be a writer of literature with a grasp of science…The second way of getting science into literature is to be a scientist who happens to have a literary gift…

Karl Iagnemma is a research scientist at M.I.T. who specializes in robotics. He is also the author of short stories that have won a Paris Review Discovery Prize and a Pushcart Prize; another of his stories appeared in ”Best American Short Stories 2002.” Such honors amount to a series of presumably independent judgments by the literary establishment that Iagnemma is indeed a man with a literary gift — a verdict from which I would not dissent. But how well does he use this gift to illumine the scientific mind?” NY Times Book Review

Politicians being economical with the truth is the price of a healthy democracy:

Democrats should accept that some political deception is not only inevitable in a democracy but can be legitimate where it is conducted by elected politicians in the public interest where they have the tacit support of the electorate [emphasis added — FmH].

That is the key conclusion of Dr Glen Newey, a reader in politics at Strathclyde University, in his new research which is published today. The research was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.

–snip–

“We try to apply different moral standards to the public and to politicians, yet the more we do so the more likely it is that politicians resort to deception,” he argues. “Demands for openness and accountability create a culture of suspicion which makes it even more likely that politicians will resort to evasion and misrepresentation.


“These demands often arise because of increasing alienation by voters from the political process that they democratically control. Yet the greater the demands for truthfulness, the less autonomy we give to our democratic institutions and the harder it is for democracy to function effectively.”


Dr Newey adds that the electorate will decide in the end whether deception is justified: “In a democracy, the popular will is sovereign. The only general way to determine that will is through democratic procedures which must decided whether the people have willed a given course of action. They can make clear their support or opposition in subsequent elections.”

Slain Gay Soldier’s Case Slows a General’s Rise

“The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee has delayed for the second time a vote on the promotion of an Army general who commanded a base where a gay soldier was beaten to death by a fellow soldier. The delay gives the committee more time to consider the general’s responsibility for what happened.


Maj. Gen. Robert T. Clark was commander of Fort Campbell, Ky., in 1999, when Pfc. Barry Winchell, 21, was bludgeoned to death in his barracks at the end of a beer-soaked evening.

–snip–

Private Winchell’s mother, Patricia Kutteles …said that he should not be promoted. “He doesn’t have the command authority or responsibility,” Mrs. Kutteles said. “The promotion would be another obstacle in the way of everything we have tried to do to honor our son.” NY Times

Science argues to keep bones:

The repatriation of human remains currently held in UK museums and universities to indigenous peoples around the world will do immense damage to science.That is the claim of leading researchers who fear many hundreds of specimens that hold vital clues to our evolutionary past could soon be dispersed to be reburied, burnt or even smashed up.


The scientists have been speaking ahead of a report due to be published this summer by a working group that will recommend changes to the legal status of human material held by UK institutions.” BBC

Eat the rich –

The Natural History of the Rich reviewed: ‘Having asserted that the rich are so different that they constitute a “pseudo species”, whose behaviour needs interpreting to the rest of us, Conniff spends a good part of his book serially contradicting himself.’ Guardian/UK

Children before cash:

Better childcare will do more for our wellbeing than greater affluence Guardian/UK. In taking sides on the ‘nature’ vs. ‘nurture’ controversy (which sophisticated behavioral and social scientists have long since come to think of as an outmoded false dichotomy), Oliver James comes close to identifying the evolutionary biology viewpoint with a reactionary social agenda. He also uses the observation that we have yet to determine a single gene responsible for a single mental illness as arefutation of genetic determinism, the reductiveness of which specious argument I hope is clear to readers…

Science argues to keep bones:

The repatriation of human remains currently held in UK museums and universities to indigenous peoples around the world will do immense damage to science.That is the claim of leading researchers who fear many hundreds of specimens that hold vital clues to our evolutionary past could soon be dispersed to be reburied, burnt or even smashed up.


The scientists have been speaking ahead of a report due to be published this summer by a working group that will recommend changes to the legal status of human material held by UK institutions.” BBC