Science!

If you’re going to read only one of Ben Goldacre’s excellent Bad Science columns, let it be this one.

Also: I know the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator isn’t exactly the height of scientific rigor, but I was impressed that this thing pegged me for an INTP solely based on a statistical analysis of my blogbound witterings.

Marxists under the bed

Sorry to go all Saint George on you but it just so happens I’m re-reading George Orwell’s collected journalism and I’m up to 1944:

It will be seen that, as used, the word ‘Fascism’ is almost entirely meaningless. In conversation, of course, it is used even more wildly than in print. I have heard it applied to farmers, shopkeepers, Social Credit, corporal punishment, fox-hunting, bull-fighting, the 1922 Committee, the 1941 Committee, Kipling, Gandhi, Chiang Kai-Shek, homosexuality, Priestley’s broadcasts, Youth Hostels, astrology, women, dogs and I do not know what else.

My recollection on this is probably faulty (thanks to the recency illusion), but I don’t remember the word “Marxist” being thrown about quite so loosely before about October. In fact I was still a bit worked up about “Marxisant” only about three weeks ago. But now it seems it’s absolutely commonplace to hear Barack Obama described as a Marxist. Today those who only go so far as to call him a socialist seem extraordinarily sober and measured in their criticism.

This is a helpful development in so far as it’s useful in identifying which commentators are probably best ignored for the next four years, if not forever. But it’s another useful word, one that actually used to mean something, that’s now on the verge of being ruined. I would just point out that to call Obama a Marxist is only to enrich our language with a superfluous synonym for “someone who wants to raise the top marginal tax rate from 35% to around 39%.”

Orwell again:

All one can do for the moment is to use the word with a certain amount of circumspection and not, as is usually done, degrade it to the level of a swearword.

It was already too late for “Fascist,” and now, at least in the United States, it’s too late for “Marxist.”

That’s nice

Someone has sprung another mind-leak.

Bush’s Treasury is about to open the way for sharia law to be imposed upon America’s banking system.

I’m sure that’s literally true. But apparently that’s the least of our problems.

Millions of Americans remain lion-hearted, decent, rational and sturdy. They find themselves today abandoned, horrified, deeply apprehensive for the future of their country and the free world. No longer the land of the free and the home of the brave; they must now look elsewhere.

Oh, the poor things. Meanwhile, take it from me: those of us who are weasel-hearted, indecent, irrational and flimsy, we’re fucking ecstatic.

[Via Unspeak]

Slow news month

I wonder if it’s a general fact of American life that everyone, at least everyone with political opinions, goes completely insane for a few months in advance of every presidential election, or if it’s something new. Even in 1996 I sort of hazily remember watching something about the Bosnian war on television at very nearly the last possible moment and coming away from it feeling like I had to register a protest vote for Ralph Nader instead of Bill Clinton. This was the one and only time I have ever been ahead of the political curve.

This time around, frankly, I was skeptical about the wisdom of nominating a woman and/or a black man to put an end to the Democratic party’s decade of uselessness. From the looks of it history is about to prove me a cynic. I see looking back over the archives that I was on record during the Republican convention as having said that the race was as good as over. And if I remember correctly it was about two weeks later that I actually started believing it.

Anyway the point is I’m sure everyone will be back to normal on Wednesday. I predict a quiet day around the newspapers and the blogs, with almost nobody, on either the losing side or the winning, saying anything totally ridiculous and embarrassing and un-live-downable. I certainly didn’t post anything melodramatic in the days after the 2004 election on the now-deleted blog I used to have, which no you will not ever ever see.