Wednesday, August 31, 2005

New Orleans Memories

Hurricane Katrina: Blog for Relief Day

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I lived in New Orleans for five years. Went to college there and stayed there a year after.

I remember how much I loved being on my own in a city like New Orleans - it had been my favorite city even before I knew I was going to college there. I had even been a Saints fan, back when Bobby Herbert was the quarterback and Ironhead Heyward was the main star. I was there when they started so good, and then fell apart - the "Ch-Ching!" slogan years. Now the Superdome had to be used as the shelter of last resort for people, and was badly damaged in the hurricane.

I remember going to the Quarter and watching all the street performers - one guy on stilts, several card players, a guy who offered to play chess with you for ten dollars. Late one night, someone came up to us and showed us some tricks the three card players would use on you, and laughed when he did it, taking the small money he asked us to bet as he showed us what they did. Now there's looting, and damage, and no one will be that happy for a while.

In New Orleans, there was a wind off Lake Pontchartrain that was as cold and biting as the summer heat was humid. There was one night where there were harsh, strong winds, and the lake would crash against it edges and send spumes of water all the way to the road. I went out and got drenched, loving the feel of the wind. There was a levee just behind me when I did that.

I remember the Jax Brewery downtown, and the chocolate store where they made a batch right in front of you, slamming their paddles down on the marble table. I remember when they opened the Aquarium downtown and we went down there. They had a penguin display, half of it underwater, where the penguins would swim and dive for the crowd. I bought a stuffed penguin for my fiance, and one penguin would follow it everywhere. I ran up and down that display and Pongo followed me everywhere. I don't know if those animals were able to be evacuated, or if they were killed in the hurricane.

I remember Mardi Gras, and the three hour bus trip to and from it. I remember parades where women would beg for beads for their kids. There will be parades to come, but they will go past destroyed houses and devastated places.

But most of all, what I remember from New Orleans is meeting my wife for the first time. She was on a couch downstairs in our dorm, with her group of friends. Her group and my group were going to out that night to a movie in a theater close by - Batman. She was wearing jeans that were a little too short for her, a black shirt, and a jean jacket, and I fell in love with her in that moment.

The college, last I heard, was surrounded by water. That couch, if they still have it, is probably ruined. The church where she and I got married is probably damaged, and they'll have to fix it.

I don't mean to speak of New Orleans in the past tense. I know it will come back, and probably better than ever. It's just it will never be the same to me now. All of these memories and places can be rebuilt, but I will always see the join.

Please give to one of these charities.

Gulf Coast Memories



I was born on the Gulf Coast. My grandparents lived there, and I visited them often. One set lived in Pascagoula, the other in Ocean Springs. It's likely that both houses are now at the least damaged, possibly destroyed.

One of my grandparents lived right off the Gulf - you could walk to it in five minutes. When you started to get near her house, you could smell the water and salt in the air. She went through many hurricanes, even the previous "worst one" of Camille, and her worst loss was a tree down in her yard and shingles blown off the roof. She had a driveway paved with little shells that rolled under your tires. She shopped at a Jitney Jungle just down the road - I don't know if it's still there, looted, or destroyed. Market Street was the main street of town, with lots of small shops and little diners and ice cream places. Six blocks of it were destroyed by Katrina.

To get to my other grandparent's house, you crossed a bridge. That's gone now. Maybe the rest of their surroundings are okay. There was a McDonalds, and this was back in the day when going to McDonald's actually meant okay food. There was a mall in between their houses, where they would usually stop and get me books, and a offshoot of some college by the mall. Maybe safe - they were further away from the Gulf, but the wind and rain...

I have relatives on the Gulf and further upland, and we haven't been able to get in touch with them. They probably left - but we don't know, can't know. We don't know if their houses are whole, we don't know if they are where water and power works, or have the hope of working soon. We don't know.

I remember going to the Gulf, both walking there and driving along the road just off of it. It was always wavy, usually small but sometimes as high as your knees. To think those waves were probably taller than I was...that's something. The Gulf was always warm, and rarely had a wind coming off of it. The winds seemed to come only with bad weather. Sometimes there would be dark clouds out there, flashing lightning in themselves, and if the weather was clear you could see an oil rig far off, some shrimping boats. There were posts and remnants of piers and ports that had been destroyed before that no one bothered to tear down. Gulls would stand on them and wave their wings to balance if the wind blew.

Katrina took most, if not all, of that. I'm inland, and we didn't get much from it, just some rain and wind. The others, who still live there, need your help.

Please consider helping them. Here's a page full of news, so you can see how much they need help.

Bush and Iraq

I stated before I was against the Iraq war. I had several reasons, including my doubting the WMD intelligence, my feelings that Saddam was not an immediate threat, the Administration's way of making the case (which was basically mention "Iraq" and then "al-Qaeda" or "9/11" within six words or so of each other), and some other reasons.

But one of the most important ones was I felt that if we went into Iraq, we would have to be prepared for a long haul of nation-building, recovery efforts, etc. We couldn't leave until we did it right. And I didn't think that Bush and co. were ready for that, or had even considered the thought.

This is another reason I am not a fan of Bush, to say the least. His glib responses to actual problems, his mismanagement of the rebuilding, his continued defense of Rumsfeld, his fumbling of the insurgency, the "meddling" in the Iraq Constitution done with the finesse and skill of a drunk person doing brain's been a long list of errors and misdeeds.

And how has he responded? With cliches. With comparisons of himself to FDR and Iraq to WWII. With accusations that people who don't agree with how he's screwing up Iraq are against the troops and the war on terrorism by association. With a month long vacation. With his mismanagement of Cindy Sheehan, which has now given the fervent anti-war people an icon, and if not a tipping point at least a large weight on the scales of public opinion.

And what is the consequence of all this ineptness? People are starting to lose faith in our mission in Iraq - maybe "lose faith faster" would be a better thing to say. Which will make it harder to stay in there for as long as we need to. I'm not saying that if Bush had done a better job of, oh, say, treating the citizens of the United States as actual ADULTS people would be more behind the Iraq efforts. But his facile sound bites and smears didn't help anyway.

So thanks, President Bush. Not only have you managed to screw up Iraq, you've also managed to make more people feel we can't win anyway. Forget the media...take a look in the mirror. If you ask people to help on a job you swear will only take a month and not be hard, and they're still working and sweating hard two years later, people WILL tend to not believe you anymore and lose faith.

More New Orleans

The scary thing is it's getting worse as the days go by. Biloxi, Mobile, and several other cities were also blasted by Katrina, but at least now they can start the long process of fixing things. New Orleans can't - its problems keep on growing. The attempts to fix the levees have failed, either due to not ever starting or simply being unable to. There's a prison takeover by the prisoners. The waters are still rising, people are still stuck on roofs, the looting is getting worse and even police and firemen are joining in. Not only is the environmental situation getting worse - i..e flooding and its aftereffects - anarchy appears to be growing.

The old saying "It's going to get worse before it gets better" has never applied with such truth.

For news from the city, try It's a blog from the last TV station to stay in New Orleans, as I understand it. They update every few minutes with one to two sentences of news. (Update: is also a good source of news, where I just read that the rivers feeding into lake Pontchartrain are at flood, so the lake isn't falling as it floods New Orleans - it's rising, which means more water to flood.)

Again, please donate. Red Cross, Salvation Army, a local blood bank, what have you. Check to see if your business is matching donations. Find some things you don't need. But, as said on several TV stations, don't go down there yet. Give from a distance for now.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

New Orleans

When Katrina swung a little to the east of New Orleans, I thought - like everyone else - that it had avoided the worst case scenario. The "Atlantis scenario".

Come Tuesday, and we see that if it avoided the worst case, it got the next worst. The levees failed, and lake Pontchartrain began to empty out into the city. Katrina started a calamity. The levees started a cataclysm.

Hearing the news and seeing the pictures of the damaged city is watching a city die. I honestly don't know how they can come back from this. I know they will...but for the life of me, I don't see how. Please donate now. They'll need every cent they can get.

And by the way, Rush Limbaugh and Jonah Goldberg are bastards. (Correction: Jonah Goldberg at least had the class to post an apology. His excuse that he was making fun of it before all the destruction is lukewarm, since it did happen after it hit Florida, when some people did die. Still and all, I note his apology. Should Rush Limbaugh offer one, I'll post it as well.)

Monday, August 29, 2005

Oh. My. God.

From Eschaton, we see this column. Go read it.


Problem #1: The argument is that successful athletes are successful because of design. Um...isn't this another way of saying natural selection? Only those who are designed to be successful in sports are the ones who get to be professional athletes. You see very few small, underweight professional football players, or tiny and weak basketball players, or race car drivers with bad eyes and bad reflexes. Those that can, did. Those that can't, didn't. Which is pretty much natural selection.

Problem #2: The argument also ignores the vast effect training had to have on athletes. It looks at professional ones, ones who have been around for a while doing their sport and have had much training in it. For example, when Jeffrey Schwartz claims he can't see how Tony Stewart's success is "is a result of nothing more than random processes coming together in a machine-like way", he completely ignores the fact that Mr. Stewart had to learn to drive, had to learn to drive in races, and has been practicing this act for many years. It's not random if you've been trained to do it! Same with football players and the like - if you're trained to build up reflexes/strength/speed and play a specific sport, that can hardly be called random processes. If they found someone who had never heard of a car that could instantly win races like Tony Stewart, THEN they may have an argument.

Problem #2a: If the argument is that the people HAD the raw talent to be developed by practice, and that is the design claim, my question is this: Why is it that athletics is the end goal of the raw talent? Couldn't all of this raw talent be placed in use in other fields? And if so, could that mean the design is being used wrongly or for the wrong purpose, which would seem to be an argument AGAINST intelligent design. Or is it that these people found an area where their natural talents could help them be the best they could be...which is natural selection.

Problem #3: How in all the worlds ever imagined can "making a connection with something deep within nature itself, which lends itself to deepening our intelligence" be ever scientifically provable? Which is also a key structure of ID - it can't be proven by any means.

Problem #4: How is it that the "strict Darwinist" would raise an argument that pretty much fails to address the claims in the article? Seems like a false argument to me.

Problem #5: "Schwarz finds little or nothing in natural selection to explain the ability of athletes to reinterpret physical events from moment to moment, the super-awareness that they seem to possess. He has a term for it, the ability to be an "impartial spectator" to your own actions." about the idea that those w/o this ability won't be professional athletes? Again, a form of natural selection.

Problem #6: "The idea, so contentious in other contexts, actually rings a loud bell in sports. Athletes often talk of feeling an absolute fulfillment of purpose, of something powerful moving through them or in them that is not just the result of training." If this is actually meant as an argument for ID, I can only sigh. I was once able to change out the shower ball bearing in our guest bathroom. I felt a sense of absolute fulfillment of purpose that couldn't have been the result of training. However, if I ever opened a plumbing business, I would turn my area of town into a place Aquaman could summer at. THIS is evidence?

Observation #1: At least in Jose Canseco's case, he has admitted he used steroids. So...still design?

Friday, August 26, 2005

Intelligent Design

Well, thank God someone of major importance in science has come to straighten out all us dumb, naive, heretical evolutionists:

Pat Boone. The same man who was roundly reviled by the religious rabble when he donned a dog collar. I wasn't against the epithets heaped on him - watching Pat Boone try to be metal is like watching the old folks at the nursing home throw they hands in the air to Nelly. I wonder if he's trying to get back into their graces.

He says, “The idea that all of this could have happened mindlessly with no blueprint is sheer stupidity and very unscientific.” As compared to ID, whose "scientific" answer is, "God did it!" Pop quiz, gentle readers: A tenet of science is that its claims are ___________

b.)secret codes for buried treasure
d.)having the full requirement of vitamins B and D.

Pop Quiz 2: "God did it!" as a scientific claim is _________

a.)not testable
b.)not testable
c.)REALLY not testable
d.)No, Like, REALLLY not testable

The Skeptical Dictionary sends out e-mails, which I recommend, and here is their portion dealing with Intelligent Design:

So, the question must be asked: Should we teach ID in our biology classrooms even though ID is not a viable alternative to natural selection? The answer is "yes, if we teach ID properly." The answer is "no" if we are asked to teach ID as a viable scientific theory worth spending precious classroom time on. To teach ID properly would be to demonstrate to the students that nothing of scientific interest follows after one posits an external agent to explain something. To say the eye was designed by God or an alien race is to say: Stop, go no further in trying to understand this. Students might be taught that ID is just the kind of theory that some philosophers and theologians find interesting but since it doesn't lead to any deeper understanding of biological mechanisms, doesn't lead to new discoveries or research ventures, and doesn't have any practical scientific applications, it is left to those in other fields to pursue. A good biology teacher ought to be able to explain why ID, even if true, is of little scientific interest in about 15 or 20 minutes. That should leave plenty of time for them to instruct their students in science.

It's an excellent point - one you say "God did it", you can't go anywhere else with it. And you have no need to either.

Faith is one thing. Science is another. The twain have differing areas and should not overlap - however, it seems like many people want religion to overrun, not overlap.

I can't even begin to comment on Boone's using the Declaration of Independence as evidence of ID, except to wonder if that previously mentioned dog collar was too tight:

He cited America's founding documents, quoting the Declaration of Independence as he stressed, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator ... ."
"That's how opposed to God Thomas Jefferson, who wrote that, was. Yet he is credited with trying to keep all mention of God out of public life. I wish Jefferson could be back here today just for 30 minutes to set things straight."

What that has to do with evolution, I dunno. I mean, if God is real, couldn't He have come up with evolution, or do Boone, Colson, Frist, Bush, and all the other ones feel He's omnipotent...but evolution is just not something He can do?

The Moderate Voice also deals with Boone's bumblings and his comments about Cindy Sheehan...funny, I thought right wingers hated it when musicians and movie stars made comments about politics. Must be misremembering. Brendan Nyhan has good comments about ID as well.

Fox News: We Report Wrongly, You Decide Wrongly

There are several people who argue that Fox News is biased, just as many who argue CNN is biased. That's a judgment call. However, no one who is sane can doubt that Fox News f*cked up BIG TIME here. But accidents happen, granted. How does Fox News correct itself?

A ONE LINE STATEMENT TO THE L.A. TIMES. The moronic lawyer who started the whole thing on Fox News has e-mailed the family. None of which matches the initial impact. It's like sending a Pick-Me-Up bouquet to the country you accidentally bombed.

This kind of error should be met with the same response people demanded CBS do for Rathergate: a full, widely disseminated apology and retraction. And John Loftus should be sued for, I don't know, "public endangerment"? Since "stupidity" is still a protected status.

What's that? Bad polls? Let BLANK-Man see that!

So now the conservatives have a new superhero: BLANK-Man! He has the power to get poll results he wants, no matter how contradictory the findings! SEE him take a 38% approval and show wide support! WATCH as he shows that people don't mean what they say on polls, they means what he THINKS them to mean! And THRILL as some conservatives rely on more and more desperate means to show the American people believe in them!

But seriously, as Brendan Nyhan points out, this type of reading is a joke. Blankley is attempting to a.)add up numbers until he gets what he wants and 2.)move the goalposts to match his argument. All I can see is "It depends on what the meaning of "is" is."

Facts are facts ONLY when I like them!

From Chris C. Mooney, we see this story. It's a chilling sign that some people are willing to ignore all kinds of inconvenient facts and ideas when they don't mesh with that person's worldview, and how eager they are to force other people to believe as they do. Soon every schoolbook will report that our country has done everything right, nothing wrong, and everything good comes from us and us alone with God's help

Just like North Korea's does, minus the God part.

Robertson 3 - The Revenge of the Soundbite!

Pat Robertson has finally apologized halfheartedly for his calls to assassinate Hugo Chavez. Fitting his image, he at first denied he had said "assassination", claiming his words were "take him out", which could have multiple meanings, like kidnapping. While I agree the calling for the kidnapping of a duly elected foreign leader is MUCH BETTER than calling for his death, I'm still not so sure where the Robertson's supposed guide to life says this behavior is okay.

Oh, wait, I do see it. See, "Turn the other cheek," well, that means take the cheek of the person bothering you, and turn it away from you, which means move it away, which can mean kidnap! Ah-ha! Not only has Robertson given us an apology, he's given us a new way to interpret scripture!

Lessee, Exodus 22: 18, "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." Well, see, you shouldn't SUFFER a witch, and suffer can mean "to appear at a disadvantage." Therefore, you can't let a witch appear at a disadvantage to live. So, dammit, if you know a witch who is disadvantaged, give her some money, take her shopping, spruce up her house. Follow the good book.

How about this one, Leviticus 20:13, "If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them." (You know, the only part of the Bible some Christians read.) Well, it only says "lie". So any act standing, kneeling, leaning or with artificial aids to brace are hunky-dory! Or, how about this one: If a man lies to a man like he would to a women, THEN kill the SOB! This is why men are genetically incapable of telling one another, "Hey, you don't look fat in that." or "Sure, I'd love to go to the gardening show with you."

However, I don't think we can adjust the meaning of this one: "But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction." (2Peter 2: 1)

Getting off Robertson's stupidity, you will notice that his comments have actually strengthened Chavez's hand down in Venezuela. Way to go, Pat!

ChristianAlliance has some good comments on Pathetic Pat, as does Sojourners. I also note that some religious organizations have condemned him, but still no comment from Focus on the Family and FRC. Hm....

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Lead by Example, Part 2

Crooks and Liars has a rundown of who has and hasn't spoken out about Pat Robertson's call for murder. From Bloomberg, we see that Republicans Norm Coleman and Mel Martinez call his remarks "irresponsible" and "incredibly stupid". To say the least. The Carpetbagger Report shows a few people in the Bush Administration not agreeing with Robertson, such as Rumsfeld and McCormack - of course, not agreeing and condemning are two different things. They also show that this isn't the first time Robertson has had verbal diarrhea.

And that brings up two damn interesting questions - Pat Robertson does this kind of thing a lot. His warnings that Florida would be nailed by hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes and meteors (!) for Gay Day at Disney should have moved him into the "nutcase" file for good. (And his claims that his prayers diverted a hurricane may also have been a tipoff.) Yet the Republican party still feels he's a central part, a needed part, due to his control of the Christian Coalition.

So, how nutty does Robertson have to get before the Republicans actually start slamming him and refusing to allow him any influence? And how crazy does he have to act before the members of the Christian Coalition decides they'd rather have a leader with, say, sanity?

And the scariest question of all - how does a nutjob like Robertson claim to be acting in God's name...and people still follow him?

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Hypothetical Part 2

In the post below, "A Hypothetical Example", I said what the Smithsonian did was uncalled for. I still stand by that statement, but what I felt was one of their more egregious attacks turns out to be understandable.

If you read the original OSC letter, it mentions that the Smithsonian painted von Sternberg as a "young-earth creationist" as the whole mess went down. This was to me a brazen attack, akin to a creationist calling someone who believes in evolution a Nazi - guilt by association. I thought the Smithsonian saw a man who followed Intelligent Design (pretty out there by itself) and thus ASSUMED he had to be a young earth creationist, i.e. one who holds that every single scintilla of evidence the Earth is over 6,000 years old (as per the Bible) is wrong/a lie. If ID is pretty out there, young earth creationism is fantasy as its most straitjacket worthy.

However, as Chris C. Mooney links to today, there was a lot of evidence to go on that Mr. von Sternberg was, indeed, a young earth creationist. (go to the Panda's Thumb link) Even though the assumption was wrong, it was understandable, and therefore more than likely not an outright attack. While I still feel the Smithsonian acted badly, I was wrong in my beliefs about the creationist label.

Lead by Example

One of the criticisms of Islam recently dealt with how the majority responded to the suicide bombers. "Why don't the leaders speak out against it? Condemn the people who do it, who call for it?" was asked, and it is a good question. I know there are various reasons, such as Islam being very splintered so no one person speaks for the faith like Catholicism, but it was a justifiable question: Why don't the rank and file, or other leaders, condemn calls to violence?

Here's a chance for the people asking that question to show 'em how it's done. Pat Robertson, that walking caricature of religious intolerance, has called for the assassination of Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan President. Here's his exact words:

You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war.


We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability. We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator. It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with.

Other moderate and liberal blogs I read have jumped all over this moron: Eschaton, the Washington Monthly, Crooks and Liars, the Moderate Voice, and Balloon Juice. But as of now, 10:30, neither Instapundit or Power Line, two right-leaning blogs I read, have entered anything about it. It may be coming, though.

But the real test will be if the leaders of the Republican Party - a group thoroughly linked with Robertson and the "Christian" Coalition - will at least disavow these remarks, and will other religious groups like Focus on the Family step up to the plate and say, "We don't agree with this"? Or will they, like many Muslims, decide to just let it slide.

Here's your chance, guys. Walk the walk.

Monday, August 22, 2005

A Hypothetical...

Let's say there's a college that holds to a Christian standpoint, including Intelligent Design. One of its teachers publishes a piece in favor of evolution. In response, the college tries to find ways to fire the teacher, and when that falls through, creates a hostile work environment.

This would raise my blood pressure. And it does when it's the other way around. I hope I've made myself very clear: I am against Intelligent Design. I think it's the equivalent of solving a math problem by writing the equation, the answer, and "THEN A MIRACLE HAPPENS" as the body of work, to rephrase an old cartoon. It's a joke theory and is nothing more than religion masquerading - badly - as science. (If we are created by an Intelligent Designer, can anyone explain the appendix still hanging on? Or the fact we have genes to synthesize vitamin C even though we can't? The New Republic has an excellent article about ID here which mentions these unasked questions.) I am against it.

But I have to be honest - reading the letter linked to in the article, I find several actions that I would consider over-the-top if the teams had been switched. Even taking into account the oddities Chris mentions in the report - all true - as of now, the evidence is that the Smithsonian did try to basically force von Stromberg out for his article. I cannot agree with that. I can hope that the report is wrong, but as of now I see no way to defend the Smithsonian. I hate that - when people on your side do dumb things, it REALLY stings.

Let me make a plug here as well to get Chris's book "The Republican War On Science", which you will see linked on the side of his blog entry. I've preordered it and can't wait to read it.

A Personal Note

I'd like to take some time and wish my wife a happy birthday. I love you, and thanks for being with me.

Hey, it's MY blog. Just be glad I decided to leave off the poetry.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

New London Blitzes Residents


Now front runner in "Mean MFing Bastard" race, virtually a lock

from Satire News Services

The Kelo v. New London case dragged on for five years. The residents claimed condemning perfectly fine homes so an office, hotel and convention center could be built on the space was wrong. New London took an opposite view. The case was decided by the Supreme Court in favor of New London and ordered the residents to leave their homes. This, by itself, should have guaranteed New London as the "Mean MFing Bastard" award winner.

However, the city government has decided not to take any chances, and has sued the previous residents for back rent on the property for the length of the case. Asmodeous X. Moneysniffer Jr., head attorney on the suit, said, "We've been passed over for five years now for that award, and we want it by any means necessary."

"If this doesn't work, we are prepared to move to tarring and feathering," he added.

The nearest competitor for the Mean MFing Bastards award, Erewhon City, put out a statement. "We welcome the challenge from New London, and are as we speak preparing a special "Screw the homeless kids" bill to keep the pressure on them." In a interview with Mayor Bal Z. Bubba of Erewhon City, he chuckled, "Well, hats off to New London. I mean, we thought we had it tough with the whole Kelo case, and now they do this!" He paused to kick a puppy and cut off power to some old people. "They're a player, for sure."

New London states that since the property had been condemned all the time of the lawsuit, the people were living on government property and therefore owe rent. The minor consideration that the city never paid them at any point of the five years only adds to the luster of the maneuver, and is sure to make the Mean MFing Bastards judges take notice. One, speaking off the record, said, "A work of art - even better than Utopiaville's "Take the tax money and run" act of 1987. And that's high praise," they added.

Another judge said, "I'd have to say barring some major moves from anyone else - moves on the order of actually sending police to kill people who vote against them - it's a lock for New London."

New London may also get another honor - the Oxford English Dictionary is said to be mulling including the word "Newlondonly" in their next edition. The definition of "Newlondonly" is "something far above effrontery and chutzpah".

The mayor of New London was informed of this this and was pleased. "We feel this is a direct reflection of who we are and what we stand for," he said.

"And God help you if you get in our way."

More Schisms in Views...

So it comes out that the State Department in 1996 was warning that bin Laden could become a major player in terrorism when he went to Afghanistan. I feel sure this will be headlined on talk radio, Fox News, and various political chat rooms as "proof" that Clinton was the ultimate cause of 9/11.

Of course, when the memos to Rice came out that listed "al Qida" as a major threat, that was of no importance whatsoever to all the people who will now be screaming - and the people who were screaming that it WAS important, by gum, will now say the State Department was just a straw in a haystack or something like that. The more things change, the more it's the other guy's fault somehow.

Here's the reality - neither party did anything to stop al-Qaeda before they had to. Okay?

Clinton was lackadaiscal for a while, and near the end did try a little harder, but was weighed down by several factors - not the least of which was his incredible stupidity in getting involved with Monica. It's his private life, yes, but when you're the President and you KNOW the other party is out to get you by any means necessary (how many investigations of Clinton were held, and how many came to anything?) you don't paint a target on your chest and dare them to take a shot. Clinton didn't do much.

Bush also didn't do much. As I recall, terrorism was a very distant priority on his list, coming in six out of seven or something like that. He was more worried about "Star Wars". (Not the picture)

They both had warnings that al-Qaeda was a bad group, they both could have done a lot more. They didn't. Neither party is "right" and neither party is "wrong" - they're both wrong.

Trying to say one party or the other is all at fault not only is immature and wrong, it's also dangerous. Since both parties messed up, neither party can claim that what they did was completely right - yet they will. We need to root out all the faults in play here, not just the ones that are associated with the other side.

The Moderate Voice feels the same way I do. Nice to know someone does in this world of fanatical political devotion taking the place of thinking.

Monday, August 15, 2005

What is News?

Hot on the heels of the last post comes this question: What is news?

Skipping the obvious and correct answer, "News is what the media prints," I'd like to address issues such as Malkin's printing of the divorce rumor/confirmation. Was this news?

Yes, it was, and it will be covered as such by several outlets. Cindy Sheehan is in the news, and anything that happens to her will be covered as such. For example, if she and her husband decided to renew their wedding vows where she camps outside George Bush's ranch, I bet that would have been news. In the same spirit, when the Bush twins were caught trying to buy drinks while underage, that was news as well. (A good litmus test of people getting incensed over instance A or B is to ask them what they felt about B or A. And then, if different, why.)

I don't have a problem per se with Ms. Malkin's printing the story - it will be out there in the papers anyway. My problems are twofold:

A.) As pointed out in John Cole's original article, she's a hypocrite. When it's a Republican personal issue, it's invasion of privacy. But when it's an anti-war person, all's fair in politics and partisanship.

B.)Her little thrust about "Assuming this report pans out, it will be interesting to see if Cindy Sheehan continues to insist that she and her husband "are on the same side of the fence" with respect to her anti-war activism." This is nothing more than speculation to back up her views (and don't forget, she's been wrong once about Cindy's story changing, preferring to follow Drudge rather than read the original story) and, you can feel it coming, a cheap shot. If you can't argue rationally, take a cheap shot. Nowadays, that's seen as wisdom and sense. The news itself doesn't condemn her - her take on it and her use of it does.

Ms. Malkin decides to guess that Mr. Sheehan is divorcing his wife due in part to her activities on the anti-war side. She's already shown a propensity to be a psychic, claiming Cindy's son wouldn't like what she was doing now, so saying she can just tell the divorce is over this protest/anti-war activity is par for the course. Of course, now she shouldn't be surprised if several people decide to read her mind to know exactly why she felt the need to trumpet this as proof of something. Of course, she will be. When you have flexible beliefs and standards, it always boils down to the simple axiom:

If I do it, it's okay. When you do it, it isn't.

See? Who Needs A Cheap Shot?

I defended Michelle Malkin from a cheap shot about her feminine attributes a while back, saying that hey, if you got a problem with her, make it a REAL problem and not just some snide, unfunny, cheap shot. I also mentioned that there were several items to have a REAL problem with her.

And here we go. Please note the way she felt about other instances, when they happened to Republicans.

So, yes, she has got tits. The more important question is, does she have scruples, or variable levels of outrage depending on the target? (see this post for my opinions of those people.)

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Jim Henson

Kermit turns 50 this year. Jim Henson has been dead for over 15 years now.

Jim Henson is a hero of mine. I still watch The Muppet Show on DVD - we have the Time-Life series and are getting the complete season as it comes out. It's held up remarkably well - it's like the American Monty Python. I think that watching The Muppet Show and Sesame Street is one of the reasons I've gotten what sense of humor I had. The shows were so good at working on two levels - the kid's humor and the adult's humor as well. Unlike almost all the kids shows out there now, parents could watch along with the kids and not be a.)bored b.)lost or c.)offended.

And of course, there's the ultimate - Sesame Street. Along with Joan Ganz Cooney, Jim made a show that helped kids learn and have fun. It's been on for 35 years now and still teaches. There are only a few people who have done so much for kids. And again, there are little moments that can make the adults laugh too.

Perhaps most of all, you watch the Muppet Show and some of Sesame Street and they make it look so natural. You would swear much of the show is ad-libbed. (Some was - the Swedish Chef was Jim managing the head and Frank Oz doing the hands, and Frank would do stuff to try and make Jim react - juggle, clap, throw a Muppet..) They are so good at what they did that in the early days, when Jim's main Muppet was Rowlf the dog, the cue-card guy would hold the cards where ROWLF could see them, not Jim. A level of humor and excellence was reached by Jim Henson and the rest of the Muppeters that has been sadly lacking since.

Here's to you, Jim Henson. You are missed.

In A Race to the Bottom, No One Wins

One of the reasons I've given up on the Republican party is their modus operandi when it comes to political arguments - use anything and everything but the truth. It gets old to be lied to in a commercial fashion all the time - "We can cut taxes and fix the deficit with my economic plan, and it'll scrub your laundry whiter than white and make you a better person as well!" I would ask how stupid do they think we are; however, that question always gets answered with a "Wait and see, we'll get worse" reply. No thanks to the press, our bastion of swallowing and regurgitating talking points without mentioned these facts are, oh, wrong. The Democrats aren't innocent at all in this, but it seems like the Republican have internalized this tactic into a reflex.

Now it appears the Democrats - or at least those that are supposedly some major players in the Democratic party - have decided to plummet off the cliff as well. The NARAL ad against John Roberts was just about equal some of the Swift Boat ads (I'm thinking of the guy who said "I served on John Kerry's boat" w/o mentioning he had served on the boat AFTER John Kerry had gone home. By this logic, he also was involved in the My Lai massacre too, since he was in Vietnam w/John Calley) and was rightly repudiated by many on both sides of the political fence, since it was garbage. So, lesson learned? From The Daily Howler, we see:

"Republicans don't mind running an ad that's entirely false, but Democrats have never learned, and I'm not sure many of them want to learn, how to play that kind of politics," said Robert Shrum, an adviser to several Democratic presidential campaigns. NARAL had to pull the ad, he said, because "they weren't getting support from any substantial quarter."

Bob Shrum has managed his way to greatness in the Democratic Party by losing the last two elections against George Bush. Not only that, he has risen to a level of power by being completely incompetent while managing these campaigns. One need only look at how Kerry and Gore responded to the attacks against them - by doing nothing. But now Shrum sees the light! We should have learned how to do the same thing, by Socrates!

Jesus wept. I would rather he rained fire and brimstone on this moron.

Here's an idea - let's give credence to Shrum's thoughts as soon as he does something to show he can actually think.

Friday, August 12, 2005


You probably have heard of Cindy Sheehan, the woman who is camped outside of President Bush's ranch demanding a meeting with him. There's a lot of controversy about her, about her supposed switching of views, and about whether or not President Bush should meet with her. My take:

She can have any views she wants and she can associate with any group she wants - and at the same time, people can look at the groups she associates with and judge them and her. Same as for the other side.

Her supposed switching of views - she didn't. She's always been anti-war, she's always been against Bush's handling of the war. She didn't change her mind - Drudge creatively cut and pasted. Editor and Publisher points this out, along with a link to the original article Drudge hacked and slashed. Here's the specific quotes


"'I now know he's sincere about wanting freedom for the Iraqis,' Cindy said after their meeting. 'I know he's sorry and feels some pain for our loss. And I know he's a man of faith.'"The meeting didn't last long, but in their time with Bush, Cindy spoke about Casey and asked the president to make her son's sacrifice count for something. They also spoke of their faith."The trip had one benefit that none of the Sheehans expected."For a moment, life returned to the way it was before Casey died. They laughed, joked and bickered playfully as they briefly toured Seattle.For the first time in 11 weeks, they felt whole again."'That was the gift the president gave us, the gift of happiness, of being together,' Cindy said."

Actual story:

"I now know he's sincere about wanting freedom for the Iraqis," Cindy said after their meeting. "I know he's sorry and feels some pain for our loss. And I know he's a man of faith."
The meeting didn't last long, but in their time with Bush, Cindy spoke about Casey and asked the president to make her son's sacrifice count for something. They also spoke of their faith.
While meeting with Bush, as well as Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, was an honor, it was almost a tangent benefit of the trip. The Sheehans said they enjoyed meeting the other families of fallen soldiers, sharing stories, contact information, grief and support.
For some, grief was still visceral and raw, while for others it had melted into the background of their lives, the pain as common as breathing. Cindy said she saw her reflection in the troubled eyes of each.
"It's hard to lose a son," she said. "But we (all) lost a son in the Iraqi war."
The trip had one benefit that none of the Sheehans expected.
For a moment, life returned to the way it was before Casey died. They laughed, joked and bickered playfully as they briefly toured Seattle.
For the first time in 11 weeks, they felt whole again.
"That was the gift the president gave us, the gift of happiness, of being together," Cindy said.

Drudge omitted the parts of the article that imply Mrs. Sheehan was speaking of meeting with other
families, not the President. This was a conscious omission. The way he phrased it, at first she said Bush had given her happiness and now condemns him. At the very least, the article doesn't state it that plainly. Drudge SHOULD be ashamed, but yeah right.

In that same spirit, Michelle Malkin and Bill O'Reilly should both apologize for stating that her story didn't add up. It does indeed, when you actually read the original story instead of some person's view of how that story should have been. They are free to criticize what she says, they are free to call her whatever they want to, they're even free (as Michelle Malkin has done) to say that her dead son wouldn't want her to behave that way (although she should definitely be ready for a major backlash that has nothing to do with her feminine attributes). However, they were wrong when they said her story didn't add up.

Should President Bush see her? Personally, I'd say no. Sorry, but publicity doesn't, or shouldn't, equal access. I don't see the need to go out and meet with a person calling me names and saying I'm a killer. She can SAY it all she wants, but that doesn't mean Bush has to respond to it. In the same fashion, Clinton certainly didn't have to meet with all the people who accused him of, well, everything. I don't fault Bush for not meeting with her.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Cheap Shots

Doing my usual rounds of my favorite blogs (linked helpfully over there on the left) I came across this post from The Moderate Voice. Follow it back and you come to the quote that was so upsetting: "If she didn't have tits, she'd be stuck writing at", referencing Michelle Malkin.

I'll be honest and say I'm not as upset. I don't agree with the sentiment and think it's pretty unfunny, so whether he was going for scathing observation or laugh-out-loud line he failed either way. But I don't think a comment like that would make me ashamed to be associated with the same party as the person who penned the phrase, which by inference has to be left wing. I'd just ignore said member and what they said as worthless or at the least not worthy of repeating or considering.

However, it does lead me to another thought: If you actually CAN criticize a comment or an idea about someone else, you don't have to lie or go for the cheap shot. In some earlier postings, I slammed CNSNews for misrepresenting a quote from Paul Begala. It was possible to make several comments about his speech that would have been intelligent and factual - but apparently the people there found this mental challenge to be above their capabilities, so they had to lie about a quote he made. In the same fashion, Ms. (Mrs.?) Malkin has written several articles that could easily be argued against in an intelligent, mature fashion. Unless you can't, in which case take a shot at some odd imagined affirmative action deal instead. The easy way to argue - no thinking or facts required, just add insult and voila! Punditry achieved.

So the next time someone is making fun of how a person looks, or having to resort to outright lies about a person, that tells you about how deep the attacker's thought processes go. The odds are this person who can't master up enough brain cells for a good discussion will be a person on the radio or TV, highly respected for his "skills", and completely convinced of their near omniscience.

Sound like anyone you know?

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Bush says more facts needed!


Facts for war only needed from one source

From Satire News Service

President Bush answered a a question on intelligent design today by responding, "I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought," and "you're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, and the answer is yes."

"Unless, of course, the subject is going to war, in which case only one source is needed - and it doesn't matter how questionable it is," he added.

In making his statement in favor of teaching Intelligent Design in school, Bush may have been playing to his base or reflecting deeply held beliefs. However, his next comments confused the issue even more.

"In fact, I think we should teach craniology with psychology, dowsing with hydrogeology, alchemy with chemistry, and entrail reading with meteorology. After all, different schools of thought are important. We should also teach all theories of life, from Hawaiian stories to Aboriginal folklore as well. The more information you have the better decision you can make, so we need every theory and school of thought around to make a decision. Except when it comes to WMD issues - why confuse the issue?"

John West with the Discovery Institute had qualified praise for Bush's statements.

"We are obviously for teaching Intelligent Design in schools as a alternative to evolution - we just want to make sure that the right Designer is credited," he said, raising his eyebrows meaningfully. Perhaps coincidentally, these exact same words and gestures were used by Hawaiian shaman Hali Ae'Kulo'ee and Aboriginal storyteller Runs With Wallabies. However, Elias Runcible of the Alchemists of America was more forthcoming with his praise.

"At last, the science of alchemy gets its day in the sun! I would have gotten more attention for this branch by myself, but the lead into gold thing is still coming along slowly. However, I was glad to help Rumsfeld determine where Iraq kept its WMDs."

Bush was also asked in the press conference if he believed the world was round or flat. "Round, of course - only fools go against a mountain of evidence and scientific facts for a theory. I'd sure hate to be one of those people," he added, laughing.

The press corps was silent.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Wal-Mart Part 2

Retreat! Retreat!

I'm glad they overturned the censoring of the papers. I'm stunned they had something this stupid to be overturned in the first place.

Maybe the next Wal-Mart smiley face will clutch a red pen for reason besides a price markdown.

Are you a terrorist?

To the Patriot Act, you can be one very easily.

From, I found this article. Short version: The Patriot Act helped shut down a drug-smuggling operation. It did so by allowing a "sneak-and-peek" warrant to be filed to monitor the tunnel being used as a pipeline, on the grounds that it could, at some point in some way somehow, be used to smuggle in weapons.

As you may recall, one of the provisions of the nobly-named ignobly-implemented Patriot Act was a loosening of the requirements for search warrants. The usual warrants requires notice to be served to the person searched, notice to be served as to what is being searched for, and notice to be served about what items were removed. Under a sneak-and-peek, the police basically cat burgle your home, leaving no trace they were there and not notifying you until some time later - "within 30 days" is quoted in the article - as to what they took.

It's hard to rail against a drug smuggling operation being taken down, which is one of the problems enemies of this Act have to go against. You know, "What, are you for the terrorists?" and all that crap. And if this act ever is used to shut down an actual terrorist branch, I don't think many people would complain.

However, look at how the authorities justify using a sneak-and-peek warrant here: "...federal officials said their concern was not only drug smuggling but the possibility it could be used to transport terrorists or smuggle weapons."

The "possibility" was the reason a sneak-and-peek warrant was requested. Not to be too paranoid, but think of some other things that "could be used" for terrorism. There's a wide range, from criminal acts themselves (drug smuggling, people smuggling) to innocent things (PGP, certain web pages, having guns) that "could be used" for terrorism. But each one could be used for terroristic acts - the drug and people smuggling are obvious; PGP could be hidden instructions for a cell, web pages can of course be suspicious, and the guns, well.

Again, bravo in shutting down a drug operation - but was this the only way to do so? Getting a warrant under the possibility something could happen?

I would call this a pretty low standard. Anyone else?