Saturday, February 01, 2003

Government as God

Bill Clinton several times referred to a "new covenant" between the US government and the American people. You'll recall that the original covenant was that between God and Israel, followed, according to the Christian faith, by a new covenant between God and Christians, mediated by Christ.

Am I alone in being disturbed by such language and the implied equating of government with a god? What a monstrous ego it must take to liken oneself to Moses or Christ, and how different from the point of view of the Founding Fathers, who at least tried to carefully limit the powers of government!

Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master. —George Washington

Why bring this up when Clinton is, thank goodness, no longer President? Because George W. Bush, while not exalting himself as Clinton did, still uses religious imagery. "Power, power, wonder-working power" belongs in the old hymn to the blood of the Lamb of God, but Bush attributes it to "the goodness and idealism and faith of the American people." Is there any operational difference between that and Clinton's deification of government? Considering the stream of massive new federal government spending programs GWB proposed in the same speech, I fear that there might not be.

(Side note: despite what you might guess from the above, I am effectively an atheist.)

Assorted Despicable Things and People, Part Two

Dr. Laura

I actually listened to some of one of her shows (not voluntarily; I was traveling with a friend, and we were scanning the AM band for something to listen to). Callers to her show must either be desperate or masochistic, to put up with her rudeness and verbal abuse, and the fans must have a sadistic streak. Dr. Laura (whose doctorate is in physiology, having nothing to do with how she makes a living these days) is big on family...but a few weeks ago her mother's dead body was discovered in an apartment, apparently having been there unnoticed for months. Dr. Laura tells callers to stop sniveling and "face the day," but check out her behavior on a trip to Dallas to give a talk to the women's division of the Jewish Welfare Federation.

Thursday, January 30, 2003

Same Song, Opposite Aisle

These days there are a number of web sites where people mostly post quotations from news articles and/or commentaries on said articles. (The sources of the news articles don't much appreciate the quotation; there's been at least one lawsuit over the matter.) is the right-wing flavor. There you'll find a lot of creationism threads--there are either a lot of creationists or a few really vocal ones at (OTOH, there are rational people there, too.) You'll find a lot of religious ranting and bashing of homosexuals, and people who dare point out that GWB is pushing big government despite the posturings of the Republican Party are flamed at great length. There's a libertarian contingent that regularly points out the idiocy of the Drug War, and is just as regularly flamed for their troubles, and simultaneously told that (1) they're too few in number to be significant and (2) they're helping the Democrats by "stealing" votes from Republican candidates. During the Clinton administration, there was a tinfoil hat contingent that went somewhat off the deep end (and considering Clinton, that requires some work). is the left-wing flavor. There you'll find a number of religious threads, mostly arguing that "true Christianity" favors income redistribution and the welfare state. There's an astrology contingent, so one certainly can't say that the left is immune to pseudoscience and other such claptrap. There's a Green contingent who's mostly told that they're helping the Republicans by "stealing" votes from Democratic candidates. There's a large, or at least vocal, tinfoil hat contingent who wholeheartedly believes GWB let 9/11 happen so his buddies could make money, that the Republicans assassinated Paul Wellstone, etc.

To's credit, they're a lot more willing to tolerate varying opinions than, which bans people for thoughtcrime, and back in 2002 prohibited posts that the moderators thought might hurt the Democratic Party...but upon reflection, it seems like what we have here in large part are two batches of True Believers, just working opposite sides of the street.

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Assorted Despicable Things and People, Part One


Once upon a time, only technical people knew the details of how Microsoft rose to power. Now, you have to have been comatose or living in the outback not to know. If you don't know, go read Wendy Goldman Rohm's The Microsoft File and you'll find out.


The PL/I of the 90s; a bloated obscenity of poorly thought-out, ill-fitting features and kludged syntax that no one person can keep in his head. These days, people say that the day of programming languages that try to be all things to all men is gone, but nobody bothered to tell Bjarne Stroustrup.

The Clintons

The most loathsome, amoral, corrupt person to ever occupy the White House, and his equally vile and power-hungry wife. To quote Dick Morris, "It’s a good thing those two are sociopaths. Otherwise their consciences might bother them..." Time for a "reality show" parody, if that's not a redundancy.

A flashback and analogy

You've probably heard about how the notion of sum types (e.g. Algol 68 union s, Rust enum s, Haskell type s) and product types (e.g. tup...