Is it cheating to use a symbolic math computer to do your homework?

Fascinating demonstration given by Conrad Wolfram of Wolfram Research at TEDx, concerning the question of whether or not one cheats by using Wolfram Alpha to do your integrals for you.

The short answer to the question is that there is cheating going on, but not in the way someone who asks this question would think. The gist is that, as Wolfram claims, about 80% of math education consists of hand computations: computing integrals, derivatives, limits, roots, matrix inverses, etc. But not only is this all incredibly boring, but it also ill-prepares students for the real mathematical challenges out there. Really, the challenge is to teach students how to translate real-world problems in business, engineering, etc., into a mathematical language. Once the pure computation problem is set up, then a machine like Wolfram Alpha can turn the crack and generate data. The remaining challenge is to figure out how to interpret the data, and such an interpretation does not lend itself to a black/white solution.

Another point that Wolfram makes is that calculus should be taught a lot earlier than it is now. When, he does not say, but he makes the case that there are concept in calculus, namely the limit, that a “3 or 4 year-old” could grasp. He points to a terrific visual example of using inscribed polygons to approximate \(\pi\).  The greater point is that math education in the US needs a radical reshaping, and that computers are crucial in this reshaping.  The cheating done, in the meantime, is not by the students, but to the students, because they are being told that the computational tools they will use int he real world to solve problems are viewed as verboten in school.

In my opinion, Wolfram has a number of terrific points and his demonstration is valuable and should be viewed by anyone with an interest in math education.  But ultimately, Wolfram’s proposals would create a generation of students with too much trust in the computer, and by extension the people who program the computer.  One must remember that Wolfram is in the business of providing computational engines, and the stock of his company rises if the people behind his company are seen as the gatekeepers to a mysterious technology.  It is not unlike the trend of making automobile engines more computerized and less able to be worked on by average people.  By saying that the messiness of computation is boring and turns off students, we increase the reliance of math professionals on the computer and leave out the crucial skill of checking the computer for errors.

I have had quite a bit of experience with this issue in my work at IBM.  In semiconductor lithography, one of the main challenges is to simulate the physical processes involved in imaging circuit patterns on a wafer.  The calculations involved in this simulation are extremely complex and very heavy-duty.  We did rely on software packages to do a lot of this, but most of the time, the models we built with these software packages led us astray.  Was it a problem with the data, or was the computer lying to us, or, even more subtly, was the computer telling us the truth but we were making false assumptions about that truth?  The problems in trying to answer these questions were severe: taking data on the few running machines we had was expensive and getting time was difficult.  The software vendors were always too busy to answer our difficult questions about the integrity of their computational models.  The only practical way to deal with this was for IBM to have someone who could devise simple tests that would reverse-engineer the engine’s algorithm and assess from where mistakes were coming.

That someone was invariably myself, as I had all the necessary background, both from my schooling and my work experience.  I knew how to look under the hood.  More importantly, I knew how to derive the equations that went under the hood.  And many of these equations weren’t simple expressions that could be typed into Wolfram Alpha.  Rather, such equations required careful geometrical reasoning and pattern matching that was difficult, if not impossible, with which to trust such a tool as Wolfram Alpha.  In fact, I found it best to be completely distrustful of the computer as I was building my test cases.  These test cases would be designed so as to be hand computable, yet nontrivial.  Once these test cases were designed and computed, then the diagnosing of problems could commence.

Furthermore, without someone to understand how to plumb the depths of how computations are done, we would not get users who can diagnose incorrect results at the chip level.  That’s right, recall Intel’s Pentium FDIV error.  Finding this error took a forensic approach to computation – an approach that none of us would have in Wolfram’s world, as none of us would deign to even think about so lowly an operation as division.  And, irony of all ironies, Wolfram’s flagship product, Mathematica, has not been without its own problems over the years – not just standard-issue software bugs, but incorrect algorithms.

As to the point Wolfram makes that calculus can be taught a lot earlier – making allusions to 3 or 4 year-olds.  I’m not so sure.  Yes, the basic calculus concept of the limit is easy to grasp, but beyond the most superficial level it is essentially a deus ex machina.  Further, applying those limits to sequences and series involves the culmination of everything a typical calculus student has learned.  Sloppy analytical techniques leads to an inability to solve problems, even if the calculus concepts are well understood.  I have a terrific example of this from my days as an undergraduate tutor in the Math Dept at UMass.  I used to sit in the calculus drop-in centers for students taking the business calc [Math 127/128 for those of you who know of which I speak].  Now, I admit, this was not the calculus that one with serious mathematical curiosity took, but still.  Anyway, at some point in time, the students were required to perform double integrations of polynomials over 2 variables, and come up with a number as an answer.  The drop-in center got real busy with folks who were simply perplexed.  A typical conversation would go like this:

  • Me: So, tell me, what’s troubling you?
  • Student: I can’t do these integrals!
  • Me: Well, why don’t you do this one in front of me, and let’s see what’s wrong.
  • Student: OK.  So first I do the integral over y…is that right?
  • Me: Yes.
  • Student: Now I do it over x.  is that right?
  • Me: Looks good.
  • Student: Now I plug in the limits and…it gives me a different answer than what the answer key tells me.
  • Me: that’s because you added wrong.  1/2 – 1/3 = 1/6, not what you wrote.
  • Student: huh?  I don’t understand?
  • Me: Do you know how I got 1/6?
  • Student: No.

So, what we learn here is that the student understood the mechanics of integration, but couldn’t add fractions.  How is such a student supposed to comprehend a result from Wolfram Alpha?

So, I disagree that the mechanics of computation are best left to the experts.  I do think that there is a place for learning the mechanics of a root solve, or an integration – in fact, many, many such operations – as a part of math education.  I do agree that computers should play a greater role in math education, and perhaps elements of calculus could be taught earlier.  But hand computation is essential if we are going to educate a class of people ready to question authority.

Which is bigger?

Problem: Which is bigger…\(3^{\pi}\) or \({\pi}^{3}\)?

Solution: Write …\(\pi=3+\delta\), where \(\delta>0\) is the fractional part of …\(\pi\).  Then, in terms of \(\delta\):

\({\pi}^{3}=(3+\delta)^3=27+27 \delta+9 \delta^2+\delta^3\).

On the other hand…

\(3^{\pi}=3^{3+\delta}=27 \times 3^{\delta}=27 e^{\delta \log 3}\).

Now we make the observation that \(\log 3>1\), and use the expansion for the exponential function

\(e^x=1+x+\frac{1}{2} x^2+\frac{1}{6} x^3+\ldots\)

Given these facts, we can then state the following:

\(3^{\pi}>27+27 \delta+\frac{27}{2} \delta^2+\frac{9}{2} \delta^3>27+27 \delta+9 \delta^2+\delta^3\)

And therefore \(3^{\pi}>{\pi}^3\).

Is there antisemitism on the right?

Another odd story begets an odd claim from my favorite Jewish crank, Norman Podhoretz.  We begin with a rather crude remark from Rush Limbaugh [OMG OMG!!], who claimed that Obama’s remarks about bankers was really an attack on Jews, and geez shouldn’t they be regretting electing such an anti-semite?  This earned a denunciation from Abe Foxman at the ADL because in reading so zealously so as to accuse Obama of antisemitism,  it was Limbaugh himself that propagated such an antisemitic canard:

Limbaugh’s references to Jews and money in a discussion of Massachusetts politics were offensive and inappropriate. While the age-old stereotype about Jews and money has a long and sordid history, it also remains one of the main pillars of anti-Semitism and is widely accepted by many Americans. His notion that Jews vote based on their religion, rather than on their interests as Americans, plays into the hands of anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists.

But since Rush is such a hero of the Right, he has his defenders.  And here he must have a Jewish defender.  NPod, take it away:

Foxman has a long history of seeing an anti-Semite under every conservative bed while blinding himself to the blatant fact that anti-Semitism has largely been banished from the Right in the past forty years, and that it has found a hospitable new home on the Left, especially where Israel is concerned. … Now Foxman has the chutzpah to denounce Rush Limbaugh as an anti-Semite and to demand an apology from him to boot. Well, if an apology is owed here, it is the national director of the Anti-Defamation League who should apologize for the defamatory accusation of anti-Semitism that he himself has hurled against so loyal a friend of Israel as Rush Limbaugh.

Man, in that little passage, NPod has managed to say two things that are ridiculous on their face, and an additional one that is at best questionable.  Let’s start with the first:

Foxman has the chutzpah to denounce Rush Limbaugh as an anti-Semite…

Wrong.  He denounced Limbaugh for making the link between Jews and money.  Even I don’t think Limbaugh is an antisemite.  [I do think he’s a racist, but never mind.]  Rush’s goal was to paint the President [who is pure evil in his eyes] as an antisemite, which is even more ridiculous than his being an antisemite.  In order to do this, he had to make insane leaps in logic, which led him to the bankers = Jews canard.  Foxman’s job is to refute such lies and call out those who propagate them, which he did.  Limbaugh is guilty of insensitivity in his quest to mow down his enemies.  NPod, as I have observed before, has a bizarre system for labeling antisemitic material.


[A]nti-Semitism has largely been banished from the Right in the past forty years…

Really.  I guess Pat Buchanan is a leftist.

Writing of “group fantasies of martyrdom,” Buchanan challenged the historical record that thousands of Jews were gassed to death by diesel exhaust at Treblinka: “Diesel engines do not emit enough carbon monoxide to kill anybody.” (New Republic, 10/22/90) Buchanan’s columns have run in the Liberty Lobby’s Spotlight, the German-American National PAC newsletter and other publications that claim Nazi death camps are a Zionist concoction.

Joe Sobran, as NPod has more than help point out?  [Getting booted by Bill Buckley doesn’t mean that you are a Commie all of a sudden.]  And has NPod ever read the Occidental Quarterly and its even more obnoxious little brother, the Occidental Observer?  I will not reprint any of the garbage in there, not on this blog.  But I will state that, however NPod and his allies would say that they are not representative of the right, they are a fringe, so be it.  But, all the same, they are well-funded, are staffed by educated nutjobs, and claim to represent the Right.  NPod may ignore and marginalize these folks at his peril.  I refuse to do such a thing.  [And we should recall the publishing of incredibly anti-Semitic stereotypes, without irony, by Jennifer Rubin in his magazine last month.]

Finally, there is this observation by NPod:

…so loyal a friend of Israel as Rush Limbaugh.

For NPod, a loyal friend of Israel is one that assumes that everything Israel does, even in its maximalist behaviors, is a-OK.  Even when those behaviors will obviously lead to all-out war, apartheid, or the loss of Israel as a Jewish state.  For NPod, anyone who criticizes Israel at any time for any reason is not a friend of Israel.  For NPod, Rush and Sarah Palin are friends of Israel.  You know, I’ve seen friends of alcoholics encourage their drinking.  In reality, Rush and his ilk are no friends of Israel.  True friends are supportive of policies that will keep Israel a thriving democracy for the long-term.

It is time for NPod to retire to a quaint West Bank outpost, where he can safely ignore the neo-Nazis on the Right here in the US and elsewhere.

A plea to my friends who plan to vote tomorrow

No, I’m not going to try to talk you into voting for Coakley.  I really don’t think I have that ability, nor do I really think Coakley is worth such an effort.  [This is where I thank G-d I am not a highly-visible Democrat.]  I have spoken with a number of you over the past week and asked why you are all ready to vote Brown.  I will not judge you for that, because, honestly, I don’t blame you.  Coakley’s campaign is too little, too late.  They made the assumption that MA was so blue that anything she said would go against her, so she said nothing.  She made little effort to meet you and learn about you.  She was delivered as the candidate from a primary in which few folks took interest, where the really interesting candidates [Khazei and Capuano] were shoved aside.  Martha was safe, she was an heir to the Kennedy’s, and she really didn’t need any of you.  When pressed with these annoying facts as Scott Brown surged, she grunted about her effort.  “Look at my website,” and “You expect me to stand outside Fenway Park, in the cold, shaking hands?”  To her, meeting SEIU leaders to get the vote out was her campaign.

Meanwhile, Scott Brown has really impressed.  He’s put together a campaign from nothing.  Nobody gave him a chance.  He scored perfect sound bytes like “This is the people’s seat” [which Coakley has stolen], and has terrific ads that crush Coakley in her weaknesses.  [The one where he’s in S Boston greeting people is killer.]  Coakley’s ads grate and some border on untruth, all evoke a sense of desperation.

But, but, but…yes, you know that I am holding my nose and voting for Coakley anyway.  Even though there is a chance she will remain entrenched, given MA politics.  [Brown, OTOH, could be given the boot after 3 years, which isn’t such a bad proposition.]  Even though her campaign is a farce.  Even though I voted against her in the primaries.  Even though her stance on law and order is contrary to my being.  [Her participation in the Amirault case is one hell of a black stain.]  Why?

Look, I am not going to attack Brown.  You all know why I cannot vote for him.  But what I ask is that you all look beyond your personal likes and dislikes, because these have NOTHING to do with how the election of a candidate impacts your life.  Nothing.  The sound bytes, the zingers, the mistakes…in a year, nobody will remember them.  What matters are the issues that surround the election, and whether you are voting your interests.  And, from what I have heard this past week, not enough of you are doing that.  And that includes a lot of you voting for Coakley.

I fear that our elections, especially this one, have become a war of symbols.  From “The Coming of the Third Reich” by Richard J Evans:

The decay of parliamentary politics was graphically illustrated by the increasingly emotive propaganda style of the parties, including even the Social Democrats…[T]he political struggle became reduced to what the Social democrats called…a war of symbols.  Engaging a psychologist – Sergei Chakhotin, a radical Russian pupil of Pavlov, the discoverer of the conditioned response – to help them fight elections in the course of 1931, the Social Democrats realized  that an appeal to reason was not enough.  ‘We have to work on feelings, souls, and emotions so that reason wins the victory.’ In practice, reason got left far behind.  In the elections of July 1932 the Social democrats ordered all their local groups to ensure that party members wore a party badge, used the clenched-fist greeting when encountering each other, and shouted the slogan ‘Freedom!’ at appropriate opportunities…In adopting this style, the parties were placing themselves on the same ground as the Nazis, with whose swastika symbol, ‘Hail Hitler!’ greeting and simple, powerful slogans they found it very difficult to compete.

Seeking for an image that would be dynamic enough to counter the appeal of the Nazis, the Social Democrats…and a number of other working-class organizations…came together…to form the ‘Iron Front’ to fight the ‘fascist’ menace…Long, boring speeches were to be replaced by short, sharp slogans.

No, Scott Brown nor the Republicans are Nazis.  The proper context is that the absence of examination of the issues and the replacement of them with sound bytes and snippets can have disastrous consequences for a democracy.  I hear women voting for Coakley because Brown is anti-woman.  [Brown is quite moderate on this issue.]  I hear loads of people voting for Brown because he won’t coddle terrorists, he’ll lower taxes, he’ll really stick it to the libs.  But ask yourself, what will either of these candidates do for your family?  How will they contribute to making your life better?  How, for example, will Brown seek to cut taxes without hurting whatever you care about?  How will we pay for the health care reform, and what are the provisions of the bill?  Is abortion REALLY the number one issue affecting you and your family?  [Maybe it is, I don’t know.]

Please consider this before you go to vote tomorrow, and take a minute or two to read up on the issues.

Why I am holding my nose and voting for Martha Coakley

Maybe it’s not Martha Coakley’s fault.  Likely, she was just given the same advice that anyone else would have received.  She’s a Democrat in a Democratic state, filling in for the venerable Ted Kennedy, miles ahead in terms of name recognition, running away in the primaries.  She was very probably told to lay low, establish relationships with the union bosses and other Democratic heavy hitters whose support she would need down the line.  It’s a special election with a short time span, any time she opens her mouth brings risk.  Best just to run a silent campaign, with her ahead by over 35% in the polls, the election would take care of itself.

Then this happened:

Coakley bristles at the suggestion that, with so little time left, in an election with such high stakes, she is being too passive.

“As opposed to standing outside Fenway Park? In the cold? Shaking hands?’’ she fires back, in an apparent reference to a Brown online video of him doing just that.

That quote was in an article meant to portray Coakley in a positive light.  But in my opinion, it stands for everything that is wrong with her candidacy and MA Democrats.  What I think she was trying to say was that, in such circumstances as this special election, she has to carefully budget her time, and it is better spent dealing with people who can bring out larger blocs of voters, rather than individuals.

The problem is, this is no longer the world in which we live.  We now live in the world of The Interwebs, where the individual has a lot more power to cause a ruckus.  So, when Coakley publicly eschews – even appears to deride – meeting the people who will vote for her, it reveals an arrogance, a taking for granted of the very voters who can vote her in, to whom she says she will be responsible in one of her ads.

The negative ads have more than a whiff of desperation.  I got one in my email, announcing a rally with Pres. Obama.  But here’s a juicy line:

With right-wing reactionary Scott Brown and his Swift Boat allies launching new attacks every day, we need to get out there and show our support for Martha Coakley.

Uhhh…no.  That’s not even close.  And how exactly is Coakley being Swift Boated?  The Brown campaign has not spread a single lie about her.  They have had no reason to do so.  Coakley apparently is Swift Boating herself.

This election, however, is about bigger things than the idiotic campaign by Coakley, or Brown’s great zingers.  It’s about whether or not we wish to see the most progressive piece of legislation in our generation pass.  It’s about giving help to a President who I believe in and I feel deserves it.  So I will hold my nose, take a Dramamine, and vote for Coakley because I care about these things.  But the MA Democrats are officially on notice as of this campaign.

Why [non-self-hating] Jews Hate Commentary

Having read Hitler’s biography and various historiographies on anti-Semitism and racism in general, I have come to the conclusion that there is no more offensive phrase to me than “The Jews”.  Enemies of Jewish people everywhere lump in some set of characteristics attributable to The Jews.  There are no individuals, just The Jews.  And what of them?  They are overeducated, over-represented in the professions, overly liberal, hate work that gets the fingernails dirty, hate the military, love big words and complicated reasons.  Responsible for the mess we find ourselves in right now.

You can find this rationalization for this stereotyping of Jewish people in tracts like Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf.  You can also find it in the article recently written by Commentary‘s Jennifer Rubin, “Why Jews Hate Palin”, in order to get at the [incomprehensible] reasons why most Jews retch in disgust at the sight of Sarah Palin.

Yes, I am serious: I am equating an article in Commentary with Mein Kampf.  I am left with little choice after passages like this:

Palin calls herself a “hockey mom” and brags aloud about the athletic prowess of her children, while Jews are more likely to sport “My child Is an Honor Student” bumper stickers. Palin’s oldest, Track, has joined the military, while many Jews lack a family military tradition.

Or this:

Pro-life Americans saw Palin’s son Trig, born with Down syndrome in April 2008, as an affirmation of Palin’s deeply held beliefs, a rare instance in which a politician did more than mouth platitudes about a “culture of life.” But in affluent communities with large Jewish populations, Down-syndrome children are now largely absent due to the widespread use of diagnostic testing and “genetics counseling.” Trig was not a selling point with many Jewish women who couldn’t imagine making a similar choice—indeed, many have, in fact, made the opposite one.

Or this:

For those for whom an Ivy League education is the essential calling card for leadership of any sort, an elite-bashing populist with a journalism degree from the University of Idaho who lacks both a mellifluous grasp of policy and a self-consciously erudite vocabulary was always going to be a hard sell. As Continetti observes with savage irony, “The American meritocratic elite places a high priority on verbal felicity and the attitudes, practices and jargon that one picks up during graduate seminars in nonprofit management, government accounting and the semiotics of Percy Shelley’s ‘To a Skylark.’” Given that Jews are overrepresented in these sorts of professions, it is not surprising that they would be among those most put off by Palin.

Or this:

Jews…are swayed by the notion that the presidency is a knowledge-based position requiring a background in the examination of detailed data and sophisticated analysis. They assume that such knowledge is the special preserve of a certain type of credentialed thinker (the better the university, the more unquestioned the credential) and that possessing this knowledge is the key to a successful presidency…The argument that such knowledge might be acquired or accessed when necessary by a person who has demonstrated a more instinctual skill set—the capacity to make decisions and to lead people—does not resonate with those for whom intellectual rigor has been a defining characteristic and a pathway to success.

The mind reels.  I have never in my life read a more obvious instance of Jewish self-hatred than the one on display within the pages of Commentary, a magazine more recently known for placing that epithet on anyone that disagrees with its concepts.  Let me see if I can summarize Rubin’s view of the great majority of her co-religionists:

Jews’ hatred of Palin goes beyond liberal/conservative divide.  They hate who she is.  Palin is sexy, Jews like frumpy.  Palin is blue collar and has worked jobs Jews won’t touch.  Palin’s child is in the military, Jews never do that.  Palin has 6 (or 5) children, Jews never have that many kids [oog, unless their frum, then they’re OK].  Jews read, but they have been misinformed about Palin, who loved to read as a child, and they simply don’t appreciate “instinctual” leadership anyway.  O, and Palin has a Downs baby, while Jews love to abort.

On that last point.  Does Rubin have children?  Has she ever had a Tay-Sachs test?  Would she knowingly bring a Tay-Sachs baby into the world?  Would Sarah Palin?  And as far as Downs babies are concerned, we have Jewish friends that have kept theirs: Shalom Lowell is now 26 years old and is, from what I understand, a happy young man.

Commentary is no longer of any use as an intelligent forum for American Jewish issues, as it once was.  They are a right-wing Republican vessel, taking sides with whoever has the most maximalist Israel policy, at all costs.  They can gai kaken so far as I can care.

An interesting sequence and its limit

Problem: Consider a sequence of numbers \(a_m(j)\) such that \(a_m(j+1) = a_m(j)^2 + 2 a_m(j)\) for all \(j \geq 0\) and \(m \geq 0\) with \(a_m(0)=\frac{d}{2^m}\) for some real number \(d\). Determine \(\displaystyle\lim_{m \to +\infty}a_m(m)\).

Solution:  The above recursive relation can be rewritten as follows:


One of the most underrated tricks in solving recusive relations is to substitute in a new sequence whose pattern has a clear path to solution.  In this case the substitution glares at you. Let \(b_m(j)=1+a_m(j)\).  The new sequence satisfies the recurrence


and has an initial condition \(b_m(0)=1+\frac{d}{2^m}\).  We then can step through the first few cases:



until we get to the desired case:


Using the known limiting relation \(\displaystyle\lim_{m \to +\infty}(1+\frac{z}{m})^m=\exp{z}\), and the relation \(b_m(j)=1+a_m(j)\), we get the desired result:

\(\displaystyle\lim_{m \to +\infty}a_m(m)=\exp{d}-1\).

Bullies and genocide

I plead with you to read this piece by Shalom Auslander.  I am ashamed to have thought of this myself.  Then again, no I’m not…

Brian is a fat dumpy turd who is going to get his ass kicked one day. Not by me, because I’m almost 40, and he’s not yet eight. But he’s a bully, and he’s been bullying my son, who is not yet five. I look at Brian—almost half my height and damn near double my weight, his barely-fitting XL “Transformers” t-shirt covered with bits of cake and ice cream, his fat little legs already starting to splay out in the manner of the morbidly obese, the cursed beams of his insufficient structure already too weak to cope with the oversized load they are being asked to support, his hollow, heavy-lidded eyes blinking out at the world in the sort of dumb, mouth-breathing incomprehension you see in mall kids and SS men and Glenn Beck—and I think about the genocide books I’ve been reading. They all wonder why. They all seem to think there’s a reason, and that if they can identify that reason, these horrible crimes will never happen again. The reason, they say, is poverty. The reason is racism, the West, the East, religion, atheism, capitalism, communism. But it isn’t.

The reason is Brian.

There is no reason for Brian. I’d like there to be. But there isn’t. Brian just is. Brian happens. Is Brian going to lead Hutus to slaughter Tutsis? I don’t know. Perhaps he’s not that ambitious. But if Brian were a Hutu, Brian would hack a Tutsi, no question about it. Brian would hack a lot of Tutsis. Brian would be the Hutu in that news footage, dancing around the mangled corpse of a young Tutsi with his bloody machete raised triumphantly overhead. Only fatter. And eating a Twinkie.

“That fat little asshole,” my wife said.

“Who?” I asked.


She had just come upstairs from tucking our son into bed, which was when he told her what had happened. Brian had been teasing him on the bus, poking him and trying to steal his GI Joe doll.

“That fat little asshole,” she said again.

“Okay,” I said, putting down The History of Torture and Execution from Early Civilization Through Medieval Times to the Present. “Just calm down.”

My wife is Middle Eastern; if you don’t stop the rock-throwing right away, pretty soon you’re shutting down East Jerusalem. I reminded her that our son has a vivid imagination, and that while something probably did happen, we don’t know for certain exactly what it was, and after all, this is Woodstock, it’s not like he was attacked by the Crips, and eventually, by the way, he is going to have to learn to fight his own battles.

“Okay,” she said. “You’re right.”

My son began to cry. I went downstairs, sat on the edge of his bed, and asked him what was wrong.

“I was having a bad dream.”

“What about, buddy?”

“About Brian.”

That fat little asshole, I thought.

“What about him, buddy?”

“We’re on the bus,” he said, “and he’s picking on me and stealing my toys and then the bus stops and it’s my turn to get off but he won’t let me and the bus leaves and I can never get home.”

That fat little asshole.

I wanted to tell him that he didn’t need to worry, that there was a man who lived a long time ago named Charles Darwin, and that Darwin figured out that we all evolved from monkeys and apes, and that some of us are more evolved, and some of us are less evolved, and some of us—the Brians of the world—have actually devolved somehow into something less than apes. But I heard my shrink in my head, telling me that all your children need to know is that you love them, and will always love them, and that’s all that matters. And so I told my son that I love him, and that I would always love him, and that was all that mattered. I may have mentioned something about the fact that if Brian ever touched him again, I would cut him up into tiny bits, stick them on skewers, put him on the grill until he was all cooked up, and then feed him to the dogs. And that I really, really love him.

My son laughed.

“Will you mash him up into peanut butter and put him on a sandwich?”

I laughed and said I would.

“Will you drop him off a building and drop a piano on his head.”

He’s been watching a lot of Bugs Bunny lately.

“Will you…”

“Okay, buddy, it’s time to get some sleep.”

“Okay. I love you, Dad.”

“I love you, buddy.”

I went upstairs.

“That fat little asshole,” I said to my wife.

I picked up my History of Torture and Execution, and forced myself again to find the humor in it. Because it seems for some things—like the seemingly-genetic, obviously-incurable bestiality of man toward his fellow man—laughter isn’t the best medicine.

It’s the only goddamn medicine.

Sarah Palin: The political equivalent of herpes

O.  My.  G-d:

Palin on Being Qualified for President

O’REILLY:  Do you believe that you are smart enough, incisive enough, intellectual enough to handle the most powerful job in the world?

PALIN:  I believe that I am because I have common sense.  And I have,  I believe, the values that are reflective of so many other American values.  And I believe that what Americans are seeking is not the elitism, the kind of a spinelessness that perhaps is made up for that with some kind of elite Ivy League education and a fact resume that’s based on anything but hard work and private sector, free enterprise principles .  Americans could be seeking something like that in positive change in their leadership.  I’m not saying that has to be me. [Emphasis mine]

This shit comes from a woman who can’t even educate her own children properly.  BTW Sarah, you’ve said nothing, nothing that distinguishes you from the unwashed masses for which you really, behind the scenes, have so much contempt:

No, she is the most unqualified person in history to even consider the office.  She is a product of the elites, the Ivy-educated ones that have never worked in the private sector, the ones for which she pretends to have so much scorn.  But it is really those who follow her like sheep that she really fears.  And it is those idiots that give her any non-noise numbers in the polls.  The mere thought drives one to despair.

The incorrect – and correct – way to deal with Islamists

II guess Dick Cheney won the torture waterboarding debate, because Rasmussen said so:

[A]ccording to today’s Rasmussen survey:

Fifty-eight percent (58%) of U.S. voters say waterboarding and other aggressive interrogation techniques should be used to gain information from the terrorist who attempted to bomb an airliner on Christmas Day.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 30% oppose the use of such techniques, and another 12% are not sure.

There’s this, too:

Seventy-one percent (71%) of all voters think the attempt by the Nigerian Muslim to blow up the airliner as it landed in Detroit should be investigated by military authorities as a terrorist act. Only 22% say it should be handled by civilian authorities as a criminal act, as is currently the case.

My conclusion: the debate is over, and Dick Cheney won it.

Aaaah…Rasmussen.  Two things about the post from the really patriotic folks at Powerline:

  • Rasmussen polls have this weird tendency to tell Republicans mainly what they want to hear.
  • Even if Rasmussen did not have some inherent bias, the results of the poll matter not a whit.  What matters is the law, not public opinion.  Of course, public opinion informs the law, so that if public opinion is strong enough, we should have the debate and change the law.  But that hasn’t happened.  Cheney broke the law and as such is a criminal.  His thinking and therefore the thinking of folks such as those on Powerline are that of fear, so much fear that the Constitution will not survive if allowed to flourish.  It is folks like this, and not Andrew Sullivan and Jack Goldsmith, that are anti-American.

If you really want to fight radical Islam, this is how you do it: