Brin on Star Wars vs. Star Trek

A great article that I’d lost track of by David Brin“Star Wars” despots vs. “Star Trek” populists

Anyway, when it comes to portraying human destiny, where would you rather live, assuming you’ll be a normal citizen and no demigod? In Roddenberry’s Federation? Or Lucas’ Empire?

See also his “incautious and heretical re-appraisal of J.R.R. Tolkien”… this latter article should be mandatory reading for would-be fantasy writers.

Now, this just about begs some Amazon links, but I’ll spare you the blatant shilling today. Just go look at the links, instead.

Today’s post is brought to you by the letter “R”

The word for the day is “reification”

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Reification, also called hypostatisation, is treating an abstract concept as if it were a real, concrete thing. The term is often used pejoratively by epistemological realists as a criticism of epistemological idealists. Epistemological realists often regard reification as a logical fallacy.

Wikipedia rocks. As a word and as a concept worth knowing, so does “reification”; see for example Stephen Jay Gould‘s discussion of the reification of “intelligence” in The Mismeasure of Man.

What’s the relevance of the word? Well, I’ve been in some arguments on rec.arts.sf.fandom on “intellectual property” and why I think subsuming copyright, patents, and other related rights into a single reified concept of “intellectual property” is a bad thing, and the concept of reification is key to my sense of the argument – although they’re critical to the functioning of modern society and a modern economy, these rights are specific and of limited duration – and granted by society for the mutual benefits of creators and of society as a matter of social contract.

Property rights, on the other hand, are a legal recognition of an existing natural state of material objects (and in some ways, places) insofar as most material objects that we care about can only be in one place at a time, and thus usually only in one person’s physical possession. Or, in the case of space, only one person can occupy a given precise location, although clearly this is not enough to justify the complex legalities of land ownership.

This is not an area I know enough about to really get through the argument fully, but this is kind of a hot button for me and figure it’s better to try to think through it here – on my own soapbox – than to end up in public and all-too-likely vituperative arguments about it on rassf.

A final thought, from the U.S. Constitution:
Article I, Section 8 (enumarating the powers of Congress), clause 8: “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;”

Norwegians know the truth about Bush…

Norwegians Confused by Bush Salute

OSLO, Norway – President Bush’s “Hook ’em, ‘horns” salute got lost in translation in Norway, where shocked people interpreted his hand gesture during his inauguration as a salute to Satan.

That’s what it means in the Nordics when you throw up the right hand with the index and pinky fingers raised, a gesture popular among heavy metal groups and their fans in the region.

For Texans, the gesture is a sign of love for the University of Texas Longhorns, whose fans are known to shout out “Hook ’em, ‘horns!” at sporting events.

I hadn’t any idea that the same sign was used for anything but the heavy metal thing, and while I’d heard the phrase “Hoom ’em horns” I’d never had any idea what the f it meant or referred to. Some UT team, as it says above? Sports fans, weird folks…

Lighter, faster, cheaper?

From Stars & Stripes:

One serving officer, who asked not to be identified, said Rumsfeld “didn’t even let us go to war with the Army we had; he made us leave half our armored vehicles at home in pursuit of lighter, faster and cheaper.”

Apparantly, we had a lot of Bradleys and similar APCs, and never deployed them. That’s almost forgiveable in the initial invasion, but c’mon – it’s only happening NOW, 19 months later? How about in the first month or two…?

Oh, and that quote was the last paragraph of the article. Can we say “burying the lead” boys and girls?

via The Isle of Balta

“That’s all he has, and he knows it.”

I am going to make this short but sweet: The only weapons Pres. George W Bush has in his intellectual arsenal are book burning, brainwashing, and intimidation. That’s all he has, and he knows it. For complete details, I refer you to my forthcoming book on the subject. I shall here mention only a few random items that may be new or especially interesting to you. For instance, it is more than a purely historical question to ask, “How did his reign of terror start?” or even the more urgent question, “How might it end?”. No, we must ask, “Why does he want to inflict more death and destruction than Genghis Khan’s hordes?” Here’s the answer, albeit in a somewhat circuitous and roundabout style: He possesses no significant intellectual skills whatsoever and has no interest in erudition. Heck, he can’t even spell or define “erudition”, much less achieve it. To deny that Pres. Bush bases his treatises on the belief that the most valuable skill one can have is to be able to lie convincingly is effrontive nonsense and political irresponsibility. It is nonsense because the horny and testy nature of his prank phone calls should indicate to us that something needs to be done. And it is irresponsible because someone has to be willing to summon up the courage to take a proactive, rather than a reactive, stance. Even if it’s not polite to do so. Even if it hurts a lot of people’s feelings. Even if everyone else is pretending that the cure for evil is more evil.

It’s amazing how apt an automatic complaint generator can be, in this case.

See Scott Pakin’s automatic complaint-letter generator or generate one specifically about our idiot-in-chief (I don’t recommend going to the White House web page and emailing it, though.)

New “Visit America” tourist slogans

Pretty funny…

Now that the Bush administration’s mandate has been extended for another four years, President Bush has indicated that improving our image abroad will rank very high on his list of priorities. To that effect, he has commissioned the Department of Homeland Security to increase the flow of foreign tourism by adopting a catchy slogan for our country. A highly-placed source at the DHS, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed the highly confidential list of options being considered at the present time.

10. Come see where your job used to live.

9. Our religious nuts only rarely kill people for violating their own particular interpretation of scripture.

8. How much weaker does the dollar need to get for you to visit? (no really, tell us)

7. Come for the loose morals, stay for the systematic erosion of civil liberties.

6. Give us your spry, your wealthy, your huddled masses yearning to buy commemorative shot glasses. And for God’s sake,
keep the Mexicans.

5. Visit America, or we’ll send our army to visit you.

4. America: Because you miss hereditary monarchies.

3. Forcing the world to adopt democracy since 1776.

2. Baby, I didn’t mean it… The CIA told me to do it.

1. America, byotch!

Sadly, this was from an unattributed forwarded email. If you know the origin of this, please let me know in the comments.

Why we need a bigger House of Representatives…

See primarily (after the Constitutionally minimum size of a Congressional district)

See also this diary on DailyKOS and this post on DailyKOS

These in turn seem to be spurred on by a Boston Globe article:

Divide Iraq’s 25 million people by the number of members in the new parliament (275), and the result is one legislator for every 91,000 people. That will make Iraq’s government almost exactly as representative as Great Britain’s — each member of the House of Commons also represents, on average, about 91,000 citizens. Other democracies are comparable. The ratio for Italy’s Chamber of Deputies is 1 to 92,000. For the French National Assembly, 1 to 104,000. For Canada’s House of Commons, 1 to 105,000. For Germany’s Bundestag, 1 to 136,000.

But in the US House of Representatives, each lawmaker represents, on average, a staggering 674,000 citizens. That makes the “people’s house” in Washington one of the least democratic bodies of its kind in the world.

Whatever the impetus, this is a heck of a good idea, and one which does not require a change to the Constitution.

OK, in my case this is just gloating…

…and to be honest, my original post was mostly “look at these silly red-stater’s” but according to this news article, Virginia HB 1677 has been withdrawn largely thanks to blog publicity:

“I’ve never been blogged before,” he said. “The tone of the e-mails has been disgusting. It’s, ‘You’re a horrible person. You ought to be crucified.’ And those were the nice ones.”

(via AMERICAblog)

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