11 Hard Questions For Bush

In which our columnist sits down with the prez for some truly tough talk. Can Dubya handle it?

“Dubya, as you’re apparently comfortable with the fact that more than 700 young U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq (over 125 this month alone!) and thousands more have been wounded and hundreds more will doubtlessly die in the coming months, not to mention the countless thousands of innocent Iraqi/Afghan civilians who’ve been killed, all as a result of your aggro-American policy to rid the world of all those who would stand in the way of your oily corporate stratagems, does this mean you are able to laugh in the face of death and mock the vagaries of time and fate?

Are you able, in other words, to transcend the physical body and the ego and attain a superhuman spiritual mastery of the earthly form? Are you a god? Or just a petty and small-minded warmonger controlled by thin-lipped master puppeteers? Did I just answer my own question?” — Mark Morford, SF Chronicle

You know me, always a sucker for some good derision directed in Dubya’s direction. Morford satisfies my thirst here… My scorn for Bush is being fueled just at this moment by the appalling dance of “disgust” at the exposure of American troops’ torture of Iraqi prisoners, with no acknowledgement of his responsibility, given that the arrogant swagger of the Boy King of the Free World’s unilateral contemptuous foreign policy translates directly into a mindset enabling — no, promoting — the attitude of the troops acting at his behest.

“You have a secret, Dubya. Deep down, you really don’t know the difference between Fallujah and a fajita. Shiites and Baathists? Sound vaguely familiar to your twangy Texas ear, reminding you of what you holler when you stub your toe and fall into the mud at the ranch: “Shee-yite! Now I need another bubble baath.” That joke always cracks you up.

This gul-dang Iraq mess has turned far more complicated and nasty and primal than Uncle Dick ever warned you it might. Don’t you wish you were back at Yale, hammered on rum and Cokes and dreamin’ ’bout baseball and playin’ Go Fish with Dad? Can you point to North Korea on a map? How about Vietnam? Never mind. “

Attacks halt rebuilding of Iraq

“Disaster facing power network as contractors pull out

Vital reconstruction work in Iraq has almost completely ground to a halt after being ‘screwed up’ by the deteriorating security situation in the country, senior coalition officials have told the Guardian.

Unless the situation improves dramatically in the next few weeks, essential work on the electricity network will not be complete before the extreme heat of the summer arrives, raising the prospect of months of power cuts similar to those that led to riots and widespread discontent last year, the officials warned.”

The Enchanted Glass

Michael Shermer:

We have a cognitive bias to see ourselves in a more positive light than others see us.
“Francis Bacon and experimental psychologists show why the facts in science never just speak for themselves…

In the first trimester of the gestation of science, one of science’s midwives, Francis Bacon, penned an immodest work entitled Novum Organum (‘new tool,’ after Aristotle’s Organon) that would open the gates to the ‘Great Instauration’ he hoped to inaugurate through the scientific method. Rejecting both the unempirical tradition of scholasticism and the Renaissance quest to recover and preserve ancient wisdom, Bacon sought a blend of sensory data and reasoned theory.

Cognitive barriers that color clear judgment presented a major impediment to Bacon’s goal. He identified four: idols of the cave (individual peculiarities), idols of the marketplace (limits of language), idols of the theater (preexisting beliefs) and idols of the tribe (inherited foibles of human thought).

Experimental psychologists have recently corroborated Bacon’s idols, particularly those of the tribe, in the form of numerous cognitive biases. The self-serving bias, for example, dictates that we tend to see ourselves in a more positive light than others see us: national surveys show that most businesspeople believe that they are more moral than other businesspeople, and psychologists who study moral intuition think they are more moral than other such psychologists. In one College Entrance Examination Board survey of 829,000 high school seniors, less than 1 percent rated themselves below average in ‘ability to get along with others,’ and 60 percent put themselves in the top 10 percent. And according to a 1997 U.S. News and World Report study on who Americans believe are most likely to go to heaven, 52 percent said Bill Clinton, 60 percent thought Princess Diana, 65 percent chose Michael Jordan and 79 percent selected Mother Teresa. Fully 87 percent decided that the person most likely to see paradise was the survey taker!” — Scientific American

"We hold these freedoms to be self-evident… "

“Do you want to block traumatic memories from scarring your mind? Perhaps you do, but would you be happy if someone else did it for you? Or how about receiving marketing messages beamed directly at you in hypersonic waves? Mind control is getting smarter by the minute, says Richard Glen Boire, co-founder of the Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics in California. And, as he told Liz Else, we ain’t seen nothing yet…” — New Scientist

Hacking the cheap "single-use" digital cameras

I wondered if the disposable camera craze would extend to digitals. Apparently, they are here and ‘not bad for the price’, especially because it is apparently not difficult to transform them into multi-use cameras. And you are being an environmentally responsible resource conserver in the process. “(There are) several inexpensive ($10.99 MSRP) single-use digital cameras currently on the market in the US. Picture quality is a bit lacking, but acceptable for Web images and the like, and certainly not bad for the price… The camera is easily adapted from single-use to many-use following the instructions below, and is powered by two easily-replaced AA batteries. While they are sold with the intention that you return them at some point for processing (they give you prints and a photo CD, but keep the camera), there is nothing (no contract, rental agreement, deposit, etc.) that actually requires you to return it–once you buy it, it’s yours to do with as you please.”