Monthly Archives: June 2005

Up late, up early

I am departing for the airport, and thence for Chicago, at the rapidly-approaching and inhospitable hour of 4 am. Any blogging I do tomorrow later today is likely to be in a semi-conscious state. In the meantime, here are some links for your perusal.
Fun: Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith: The Abridged Script. I’ve linked to The Editing Room before; he’s done an excellent job with this one.
Serious: A critique of the morality underlying Orson Scott Card’s novels Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead.

Pull over, this is the Grammar Police

So I’m listening to the new Embrace album, and a major lyric is “a light is gonna shine on you and I“. Maybe it’s just that I’m trying to proofread a paper simultaneously, but damn that’s annoying. I thought the British were supposed to be better at this sort of thing.
The first track, “Ashes”, is really good though. That was one of the songs I really liked when I saw them open for Snow Patrol.

Is there hope for the U.S.?

Finally read that Harper’s article on the Colorado Springs megachurch that’s been drawing a lot of commentary on the liberal blogs. Result: I am scared. These people are crazy, and militant, and in control of all three branches of government.
Here are some sample thoughts from a man who “talks to President George W. Bush or his advisers every Monday”:

So the Catholics are out, and the battle boils down to evangelicals versus Islam. “My fear,” [New Life Church Pastor Ted Haggard] says, “is that my children will grow up in an Islamic state.”
And that is why he believes spiritual war requires a virile, worldly counterpart. “I teach a strong ideology of the use of power,” he says, “of military might, as a public service.” He is for preemptive war, because he believes the Bible’s exhortations against sin set for us a preemptive paradigm, and he is for ferocious war, because “the Bible’s bloody. There’s a lot about blood.”

This is amazing—the notion that the U.S. could become an Islamic state is completely insane. The fact that anyone at all thinks the major threat of Islamic terrorism is that they will take over the country is deeply disturbing. And this isn’t just anyone, he’s a powerful religious figure who advocates drastic measures based on his hallucinatory delusions. Of course Islamic terrorists are a threat insofar as they could cause massive casualties in a successful attack, but the political threat is basically nil. On the other hand, Pastor Ted has succeeded in raising my concerns about the United States being ruled by religious extremists.
There’s a second article in the series, this one on the National Religious Broadcasters, which I plan to read when I get a chance tonight.

Between L.A. and Chicago [Open Thread]

Posting an open thread in the spaces between traveling. This week’s destination: Chicago. Soundtrack: The Hold Steady (which I’ve learned is really good music for driving on the 5 at xx mph).
And, the new music:
Maxïmo Park: A Certain Trigger: This record reminded me a lot of The Futureheads, due to both the music style and the great, unrestrained English accents. They have a longer attention span than Futureheads, though. I really like “Once A Glimpse”.
I posted a broken link to the Sleater-Kinney track last week; I’m leaving it up now that the link is fixed so people have a chance to listen. Meanwhile, I am listening to a bunch of metal albums today. I assure you I have a good reason for this.

Congressional Committees and Partisanship

Those of you who read the comments regularly may have seen references to Mason’s work on network analysis of congressional committees. The paper (subscription required) appeared in the May 17th PNAS, and some mainstream coverage has appeared in the form of an AP article:

Although the Congress study is incomplete, some early findings have emerged from the labyrinth of line graphs it has already produced. One major trend: Since Republicans took over control of the House in 1994, the connection between membership on various committees has become more defined.
Also, during the 107th Congress in 2002, the mathematicians found great carry-over from membership on the Rules Committee and a Homeland Security panel established after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
No mathematical formula is necessary to explain that phenomenon, explains Rules Committee spokeswoman Jo Maney. In the early days of the Homeland Security Committee, lawmakers most familiar with the rules — disproportionately from the Rules Committee — were assigned to get it off the ground.

Science Now had a good writeup, but it is subscription-only. It mentioned an interesting result that didn’t appear in the AP report:

Porter’s team, which reports its findings online this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, also related the network connections between committees to the political positions of their members. To avoid making any prior political assumptions, the group used a different mathematical method called single value decomposition to analyze the roll call votes of each member during a session of Congress. The method pinpoints groups that voted similarly on many votes and assigns each member two numbers that enabled the researchers to rank them from least to most partisan. Combining the partisanship measures with the network map, the team found that not only is the Select Committee on Homeland Security one of the committees most tightly linked to another committee (House Rules), but it is also among the most partisan.

Maybe this helps explain why our domestic security policy is so focused on scaring people rather than taking actual effective measures… or maybe that would be true with any set of current congressmen.

I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning

My summer travel begins! I’m about to leave for Los Angeles. In the unlikely event that anything interesting happens on the 5, I will be sure to blog it.
Those of you who may need to contact me should call my cell phone, or e-mail my berkeley.edu address.