It’s dangerous to go alone

June 27, 2002

Credit where it’s due: My lozenge post for 600 seconds was inspired by a similar scene in Topsy-Turvey, which I had been reminded of the previous evening. Incidentally, there is also a typographical character called the lozenge (◊) whose purpose is mysterious to me. (The old Mac OS character set had it, too. I don’t know why.) #

Remember when?

The big technologies are the ones that become so commonplace you have trouble remembering what things were like without them. There was a time when the idea that millions of people would be using Internet e-mail was laughable, as this interview with James Gleick reminds us.

I still remember the first time I heard about the web (which I think the article misidentified as “Mosaic”, after the then-dominant web browser). My thoughts were something along the lines of “That’ll never work.” Looking back, I can see now that I was way wrong, but those were the days when “on-line” meant America On-Line, Prodigy, Compuserve, or Genie. (Guess which one added web browsing first.)

The problem with these things is that they’re hard to call. I’m hoping that wireless Internet access becomes ubiquitous and that telephony and broadcasting become net-based, but perhaps we’ll end up with DRM in every digital device instead. (Or something in between. It’s wide open.) #

Pledge of Allegiance found unconstitutional

In a move no one saw coming, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has declared that the Pledge of Allegiance constitutes establishment of religion, primarily because of the phrase “under God”, which was added in 1954. This means that schoolchildren (at least, those in the west) can’t recite it, except presumably as an expression of individual fealty.

It’s about damn time. The “under God” phrase was one of the reasons I started abstaining from the Pledge back in high school, but even without it I’d question the practice. What good is accomplished by making children swear allegiance to a flag every morning? For one thing, it starts so young that they don’t understand what it means, and by the time they do grow old enough to understand it they’re just repeating it by rote and not paying attention to what they’re saying. And why are we professing our devotion to a flag? Why not the country or the Constitution, both of which are significant to our lives? What good is an oath of loyalty spoken daily with no thought or significance given to it?

I can’t remember the last time I said the Pledge. Certainly, I haven’t become disloyal or un-American in that time. It’s an empty ritual, drained of meaning through overuse.

Predictably, politicians are falling over themselves to decry the decision. Dennis Hastert says:

I strongly believe that parents, teachers and local schools should encourage children to recite the pledge to start the day, the same way those of us in Congress begin our daily business, not allow a liberal judge to take it away.

Wouldn’t be more useful for parents to teach children to actually be loyal? (As for the “liberal judge” crack, remember that Mr Hastert is trying to get President Bush’s conservative judicial appointments approved. Of course, the actual judges involved were appointed by Presidents Carter and… Nixon. Hmm.)

Judge Fernandez (a G.H.W. Bush appointee) complains in his dissent that the logic in the ruling would prohibit us “from using our album of patriotic songs in many public settings” and the “faulty logic” would also apply to the phrase “In God We Trust” on our currency. I don’t know about the patriotic songs (weren’t those artistic endeavors?), but I’ve always felt that the presence of God on our currency—first seen 1864 but not made mandatory until 1955—qualified as establishment of religion, which has been forbidden by the First Amendment since 1791. (So much for the theory that our Founding Fathers are “spinning in their graves”, as Senator Kit Bond suggested.)

Unfortunately, everyone seems to feel that the decision will be overturned by either the full court or by the Supreme Court.

(It’s purely a coincidence that I’m posting a sharply opinionated piece right after adding a message board. There’s no money to be made here, so I’m not trolling for angry replies. If you disagree with my stance, please don’t bother to question my patriotism. I dislike the Pledge of Allegiance because I believe the in the values and ideals of my country. That also means that I respect your right to see things differently.) #

Still here?

I had some technical stuff to post related to my web threading ideas, but I’ll save them for a day when they’re less likely to be overshadowed by politics. In the meantime, feel free to check out the example RSS channel. It’s actually generated by a script which reads ZedneWeb’s home page and uses the web-thread convention to determine what posts are present and what their titles are. #