PS... A Column

on Things

By Paul E. Schindler Jr.

Some things are impossible to know, but it is impossible to know these things.

I have a day job. So every word of this is my opinion, not that of my employer. This offer IS void in Wisconsin. Except, of course, that some material in this column comes from incoming e-mail; such material is usually reproduced in the Sans Serif type font to distinguish it from the (somewhat) original material.

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Tales of Teaching 2004
Tales of Teaching 2005

November 15, 2004: P.S. A Column On Things

November 15, 2004 Vol. 6, No. 45

Table of Contents:

General News

  • No News
  • Marlow in the Netherlands
  • Political Notes

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs on vacation


  • None


  • Guest: Polar Express


  • Onno Visser, Best Films, Dan Grobstein File, Steve Coquet on Blue Family Values

General News

No News

They say no news is good news. I hope that's true. I'm off for a three-day weekend in SF.

Marlow in The Netherlands

Marlow is in The Netherlands right now, at Leiden University, working on her degree in International Relations. Here's what's new from her: nothing this week.

Political Notes

This graphic, comparing exit polls with paper and electronic ballots should both scare and anger you. More at They stole another election from us, folks.


From Richard Dalton:

This intriguing set of maps shows the limits of traditional mapping as a means to understanding complex events--like elections. It does reduce the need for hand-wringing that comes from the traditional red state/blue state approach.


Beware the IQ comparison to electoral votes, which shows Kerry taking the smart states, Bush the dumb ones. It's a fake. Alas, the real story is more complicated, according to hyper-conservative columnist Steve Sailer. Is he cooking the books? Probably, but at least he's doing so plausibly.


Thank you, Don Davis. It is amazing how well Mencken stands up. It's as if politics never changes.

"As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."

--H.L. Mencken (1880 - 1956)


I am developing a real taste for

George W. Bush: A powerful pro-drug argument

Monday, 15 November 2004

It dawned on me tonight that George W. Bush himself may be the most powerful argument ever made for the use of recreational drugs.

After all, if Bush was still drooling half-conscious on a couch covered in Cheetos... think how much better off we'd all be.

OK See you in Guantanamo...


An election poem:

The election is over, the results are now known.
The will of the people has clearly been shown.
We should show by our thoughts, our words and our deeds
That unity is just what our country needs.
Let's all get together. Let bitterness pass.
I'll hug your elephant.
You kiss my ass.


Questions the White House Press Corp failed to ask:

a. Reports indicate Saddam Hussein retains the support of 42% of all Iraqis, that he is eligible to run for office in Iraq, and that Iran is proceeding with plans to develop nuclear weapons. Given an Iraqi electorate which is 20% Kurdish, 20% Sunni, and 60% Shiite, what do you think will be the result of a referendum in a democratic Iraq on the issue of whether Iraq should merge with Shiite Iran?

b. What do you think will be the result of a referendum in democratic Iraq on the issue of whether Iraq should as a mark of respect and gratitude emulate and continue United States policy. It could do this by organizing a coalition of the willing (say, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Libya, Egypt, staunch U.S. nuclear ally Pakistan, Iran, Lebanon, and Jordan) to go to war. No need for U.N. Security Council approval to remove, by force, all weapons of mass destruction (other than those held by the countries in the coalition) from the Middle East?


The Central Intelligence Agency is broken. Newly installed Director of Central Intelligence Porter Goss is out of touch. George Bush and Dick Cheney (as manifested by their deliberately and knowingly reckless disregard of information which was more than sufficient to prevent and ameliorate the events of September 11, 2001) don't care and don't seem inclined to lift a finger other than to advocate continued wasting of the better part of $40 billion of the taxpayer's money every year on a broken system.

The New York Times settled for the press release about the departure of Deputy Director of the CIA John E. McLaughlin. The diligent reader, after slogging through to find the news where The Times always puts it (in the last paragraph) finally learned that McLaughlin was terminated with just slightly less than extreme prejudice (he is allegedly planning "to explore opportunities for jobs in the private sector"). Because Goss is clueless, those opportunities will presumably include returning to work for the CIA at triple or quintuple his current stipend. That is, he'll be a contractor to whom the Agency (along with the Defense Department) has assigned work previously done by full time employees without the glaring conflicts of interest just about every contractor brings to the Agency and the Department.

Talk about admitted incompetence. Rep Jane Harman (D.-Calif.) who is a member of the House Intelligence Committee and projects a facade of being knowledgeable and concerned about intelligence and defense policy admitted on Meet The Press (Nov. 14, 2004) that she did not know and had never met Michael Scheuer the recently resigned ex-CIA employee who allegedly directed the search for Osama Bin Laden for about three years, who wrote a book highly critical of the Agency, and who recently has been willing to talk to just about any reporter in sight to expand on his critical views of the Agency's counterterrorism center and other related topics.

DCI Goss refused to meet with four ex-deputy directors of operations (the man who runs what the public thinks of as spies or the clandestine service) who wanted to provide advice about how to make major changes in operations (if that's what Goss wanted to do) without harming the Agency. Three paragraphs form the end comes the real news of the Agency's cluelessness: The CIA thinks its station chief in London is "undercover." About the only place the London station chief's identity is unknown is in the pages of American newspapers.

The CIA's goal should be to maintain an agency staff loyal to the constitution of the United States and not to any particular politician. Further proof that Bush is clueless and uninterested when it comes to protecting the United States and developing a strong intelligence agency and a vibrant national defense.


By the way, the next reader to meet Sen. John Kerry (D. - Mass.) should report Kerry's answers to these questions: In the recent Presidential campaign voters were concerned about attacks from terrorists. Why did you not mention even once Bush's lack of interest in preventing terrorist attacks in that when confronted with a clear warning of a terrorist attack, George Bush's only response was to stay on vacation for the next three weeks? Why did you not mention even once Bush's inability to deal with or protect against terrorists in that when a terrorist attack occurred, George Bush's initial response was to continue a reading lesson with elementary school students for about 10 minutes while his fellow citizens were being murdered?



  • There should be a full investigation as to why these two tanks just happened to appear at the site of a demonstration in LA. When were they ordered to be in the area?
  • Bet on future political developments at Thank you, Richard Dalton.
  • Who says Liberals don't have a sense of humor. Gitmo humor from the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Computer Industry News

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Taking a week off.




Had a movie weekend that took all the time I would have use to write the movies up. Saw Polar Express, The Incredibles (again), After the Sunset, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, Birth, Sideways, Being Julia and Prisoner in Paradise (a holocaust documentary). Writeups will follow next week.

Guest: Polar Express

Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump, Contact) has taken Chris Van Allsburg's award-winning 29-page children's book, "The Polar Express," spent over $165 million, and crafted a luminous Hallmark-esque ode to the magic of Christmas. Zemeckis literally starts and ends with Van Allsburg's words and images, but adds extensive and at times exhilarating details and detours along the way, fleshing out the brief impressionistic tale into 100 minutes. The film succeeds in some areas - its sumptuous look and feel, capturing the melancholic flavor of the book, leads the list of achievements. Using motion- and performance-capture technology as the basis of the characters, though, produces a rather chilly, distanced end product. For me, The Polar Express tapped into and mirrored my personal sentiments about Christmas more than it generated emotional connections of its own. But as a loving tribute to how fantasy and imagination can and should overwhelm reality, The Polar Express is still likely to become a family classic for the holidays.

--Neal Vitale


Onno Visser, Best Films, Dan Grobstein File, Steve Coquet on Blue Family Values

Onno Visser, my Netherlands correspondent, points out this page by and about John Pilger, an ITV journalist who does what journalism is supposed to; afflicts the comfortable and comforts the afflicted.

Check out CNN coverage of The Best Films You've Never Seen. Thanks, Kevin Sullivan.

Dan Grobstein File:

New York Times:


A wonderfully thoughtful mini-essay by Steve Coquet, in reaction to last week's item about the better family values in blue states:

TheBoston Globe article on family values mentioned several times that a possible factor in the northeast's lower than average divorce rate is the Roman Catholic demographic. As a recovered Catholic, it has been my observation that since about 1965, the Catholic church's prohibition has had a continually decreasing ability to keep Catholics married. The article didn't address the number of couples who simply separate, sometimes forming new families, sometimes even remarrying without benefit of divorce. Presumably someone would have to bring a complaint for the authorities to get involved.

I can't imagine anyone in a disastrously bad marriage letting a rich celibate have much influence on their sexual behavior.

Then again, I have trouble imagining anyone who can think rationally remaining with that organization. But they do. Good, ethical, otherwise intelligent people remain members of that morally bankrupt organization. I may not have much room to talk: I believe that you are more likely to come home to find that all the oxygen molecules have migrated to the back of the house and all the nitrogen to the front, than that you are to find Jesus, and only slightly more probable that there really is a God that mettles in the affairs of men. And yet I am a member of the Episcopal Church.

How can I justify this? The people in the church (from my small sampling anyway) are generally not just good by accident; they make some effort at ethical behavior.

And the power structure is not morally bankrupt.

My explanation of how people can do intellectually discordant things or hold two mutually exclusive beliefs at the same time is that they keep two sets of books -- one for the real world, one for the realm of philosophy, religion, etc. It's not an either/or proposition, but a continuum. People at either end may have trouble functioning at all, while people nearer the middle don't need to refer to the"other" set of books very often. See Isaac Asimov's essay on security beliefs in (now probably out of print) Science, Numbers And I.

Some clever person could probably shoot my own belief system full of holes. I believe that good and evil exist independently of a deity: that the questions are not anything like identical, and that good and evil exist only as human acts. I believe that a person is responsible for his or her actions. I believe that all emotions are results of the complexity of the wonderfully complex and wonderful human brain. They still effect me profoundly, but they're all right there between my ears.

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