Monday, August 29, 2005

New Orleans Still Standing

I don't mean to make light of the situation in New Orleans, but since we're on the subject of uninformed inferences, I take credit for the fact that Katrina didn't destroy that lovely southern city with 30 ft storm surges. After all, last night I directed my thoughts toward lessening Katrina's impact from a worst-case scenario, and that's what happened.

Also, I realized in my last post on Katrina that it sounded like I was saying the hurricanes last year in Florida were not so devastating. What I meant was the hurricanes were category 1 or 2 by the time they got to my city, so my experience, while frightening, was not as bad.

But now comes the second part of the awfulness...being homeless and without power, food, and water, or even a comfy chair to sit in.

Proof of Intelligent Design

Although it's also proof that the designer is a scheming reincarnator.

Our bodies break down a lot. If we were designed more intelligently, presumably we wouldn't have osteoporosis or broken hips when we get old.


Design implies a purpose. If someone or something took the time and effort to design something so complex as our bodies, surely there was a specific reason for designing them the way they are. If they are meant to break down in a relatively short amount of time, then there must be a purpose to that, too.

Lightbulbs can last a very long time. So can cars and appliances. They are, however, designed to break down so that consumers will buy new ones. According to the Bible, there was a time when humans lasted a very long time, as well. That our fragile bodies break and get old easily is proof that they were not only designed, but redesigned for a purpose.

We know why human designers make lightbulbs to wear down. Therefore, since we are reflections of that original Designer, we may infer that the Designer wants us to wear down our bodies to exchange for new ones. There must be some advantageous reason for the Designer to want such high turnover, but I'll leave that for the individual's religious beliefs.

Using simple logic to make uninformed inferences sure is fun.

(via Atrios)

Ailes Takes Over Local Fox Stations

As blatantly partisan as the Fox Network News is, at least you might think that your local newscast does a halfway decent job. Not anymore, if you live in a city with a Fox O&O (owned and operated).

Local television stations are not all owned by the networks. Some are owned by other companies that make deals with networks to run their programming, and are called affiliates. They may also run syndicated programs (like Oprah or Jeopardy, which are not related to any network), as well as their own local programs, like a CrimeStoppers show or something. Some have no network affiliation, so cannot run the high-rated shows that networks provide, and rely on locally produced crap (like Gimme the Mike), syndicated programs, and old movies and TV shows. Then there are O&Os which are owned by the networks and run their programs.

In all cases, if any news is run, it is local news. The News Director determines the general tenor of the news, what types of stories are covered, what the emphasis is on. News Directors are answerable to the bosses who own the station, not to the networks who are affiliated with the station.

Now, in the case of Fox O&Os, the man behind the tenor of the national Fox News will have more direct control over local broadcasting.

Observers believe that Ailes will strengthen the ties between the high-performing Fox News Channel and the stations group, particularly in the top dayparts of the morning and 10 p.m. newscasts.

On Monday, Ailes said the announcement is another way News Corp. is trying to improve synergies among its units. That includes expanding the logistical capabilities, allowing local producers quicker access to news feeds, among other things.

Expect heavier eye makeup, snide asides about "liberal" topics, and lots and lots of pseudo-patriotism.

(via News Blues subsc. req)

Read the Whole Thing & Understand Before You React

Reading comprehension takes time and effort:
At the pro-Bush rally several kilometres away, there were some heated moments when two members of Protest Warrior, a group that frequently holds counter protests to antiwar rallies, walked in with a sign that read Say No to War - Unless a Democrat is President.

Many Bush supporters only saw the top of the sign and believed the men were war protesters, so they began shouting and chasing the pair out. One man tore up their signs. When Will Marean of Minneapolis kept repeating that he was on the Bush side and tried to explain Protest Warrior's mission, one Bush supporter shook his hand and apologized.

Even an Agnostic Can Pray, in Her Own Way

My thoughts are with the city and people of New Orleans tonight. I hope they will come through the storm with minimal damage and casualties.

I was in Florida during the hurricane season last year, and felt two of the storms. Neither was anywhere near as bad as Katrina will be, but they were still frightening experiences.

Good luck, Nyalins.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Nice and Compact

A repository of links to the Raleigh News & Observer "wires" debates for convenient access. Make sure to read comments. Or at least skim them, looking for my name, of course.

Ms. Sill's first post in response to requests for the Gloria Wise/Air America loan scandal here.

The second post, where I first jump in the fray with my $.02, here.

The final post, wherein Ms. Sill explains the wires, here.

Also, JohninCarolina's coverage, with links at the bottom to his previous posts on the subject, here, with more here. JinC is capable of and open to honest debate, and I appreciated the exchanges, though we may ultimately disagree.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

I'm Hot-Blooded

Check it and see, I've got a fever of 100.3

Actually, it's 100.1, but that doesn't rhyme.

So light posting.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Ignorant MSM Watchdogs

If you want to be an outsider media watchdog, it might be good to maybe learn a little something about the industry.

I did a google search for information about Gloria Wise & AAR, and found a post from Redstate.org on 8/11 which sidetracked me from looking further into the story right now.

I discovered that the righties -- in addition to having little familiarity with definitions of words, compromised reading comprehension, inability to understand conditional language, and logic deficiencies -- also don't know much about how the media works, yet style themselves the watchdogs of the MSM.

Leon H.'s post at Redstate offers samplings of newspapers in which columnists and editors mainly summarize what is already known, blame Al Franken, and wonder why the MSM is not covering the story, while these newspapers they're published in apparently aren't covering the story.

Though that might soon change
Thanks largely to blogger coverage of this, Raleigh News Observer editor Melanie Sill is pushing the AP to do a story covering this.


Some readers of the Raleigh News & Observer are upset that the editor, Melanie Sill, has not covered the AAR story yet, as it should be big national news. After all, other publications are covering it, why not the N&O?

Ms. Sill first writes
We've checked our news services in recent days and do not find this story... if a story is reported and distributed we will look at publishing it.

After commenters' "sarcasm and barbs" were posted, Ms. Sill attempted to clarify
...I found the same stories on Air America that you all mention a couple days ago in Internet searches and by using Factiva, a paid service we use for research. I've asked the Associated Press to move a story and mentioned the interest among some local readers. So far this investigation has been reported as a local story in New York.

To publish stories from other publications, we must have rights to them through the news services to which we subscribe.

Since I'm familiar with the concept of news services (having a background in television and a husband with a Journalism Degree), this is fairly straightforward. As she said, the only coverage of the story is local to New York media outlets, and the news services her paper uses haven't covered this particular story yet. If her paper were to print a story they didn't have rights to from the New York Post, it would be called "stealing."

The commenters who would be MSM watchdogs don't appear to understand any of this. Nor the difference between covering a story and wondering why a story isn't being covered, nor the difference between a news story and a column or editorial.

Comment from: J. Stuart [Visitor]
08/10/05 at 16:13
"So far this investigation has been reported as a local story in New York." Really? The Oregonian, that's a local NY paper is it? Pittsburgh Tribune Review? Is that published in the Bronx?


To J. Stuart, the fact that editors and columnists in these papers wrote their opinions on a story they read in another paper means that the N&O should be able to write a story they read in another paper. Ms. Sill could certainly write an editorial wondering why the national media isn't covering the AAR story, especially since she's not a member of the national media, just as the other editors and columnists have done.

J. Stuart also imagines himself to be an investigative journalist, even though he doesn't understand any of the basics of journalism or publishing. So he did a search of Lexis/Nexis and discovered that the N&O has recently published five verbatim articles from the New York Daily News.

Looking in the archives for one of his examples, I found this,
August 14, 2005
News & Observer, The (Raleigh, NC)

New Stones song lashes out at Bush
Helen Kennedy New York Daily News
The News & Observer does not own the rights to republish this article. See microfilm for full


The N&O had the rights to republish the original article because they got it from one of the news services they share with the New York Daily News, but not to republish it into their own archives. The N&O also doesn't have the rights to republish three of the other articles, and one of them doesn't even appear to be a verbatim article at all, though it does mention what someone said to the Daily News.

But even if she doesn't print the story verbatim, she could take the information from the NY Post and write her own story, right?

Another commenter with a blog, JohninCarolina, believes this is true, as he has gotten a scoop from four anonymous "editors of major newspapers."
"...we can take stories from each other,” one editor explained. “We do it all the time. You can’t lift the whole story; and you’re supposed to give credit..."
...
Another editor, who in all major respects agreed with the first editor, mentioned the term “précis.”

“It’s a journalistic expression, newsroom.” the editor said. “We all know what précis means. Basically, the lead paragraph. Maybe a little more. You get the basic meaning of the story. You tell someone to lift a précis from, and you name the paper.”

Ms. Sill admits in a comment in her own post, How We Work "the Wires," she could in fact use the information from the NY Post in précis

Comment from: Melanie [Member] · http://www.newsobserver.com/
08/22/05 at 10:00

John Stuart: Point of fact, I never said we could not have gone out of our way to report a story on Air America, citing the NY Post.
...
You can criticize us for not taking steps to do a staff story on this, fair enough. It would have been pretty unusual for us to take such a step. The story didn't have much local impact, and still doesn't seem to.


Précis is a summary of a story which must be attributed. It's the jumping off point for an entire article that must be independently written, not the whole story itself. The N&O could summarize the AAR story from the NY Post and give the attribution in an opening paragraph or two, but Ms. Sill would still have to assign staff to do original writing on the AAR story and contact the sources directly, not through a third party such as the NY Post. That's why her paper pays news services, because it doesn't have the resources to independently report on national news.

That's the reason nearly all, if not all, local papers and television stations pay news services. They cannot send people around the country or around the world to cover stories, or even spare a reporter to get on the phone or internet to contact sources and do original reporting. It takes time, time costs money, and local papers and television stations are staffed only enough to cover local events, and often barely enough for that.

So why the disconnect? Why does JinC think Ms. Sill is being dishonest?

Because he doesn't understand the process that he is watchdogging, and he's confusing the process for the content and a perceived political bias.

And if there's something insofar as process that should be criticized, it is the last point of staffing, and what that leads to. Journalistic outlets are businesses. They want to make money. Like most companies, they will cut whatever corners they must to make more money for themselves, and that often means (on the local level) that they will hire green reporters and pay them very little to the job of two reporters. So, with deadlines looming: press releases and wire stories will get rewritten (sometimes inaccurately) and substituted for real news reporting; facts will get fudged and not fact-checked thoroughly, if at all; some stories will be missed out entirely.

To a great extent, the days of Woodward and Bernstein are over. You should see TV producers as they monitor the other stations. If another station puts something on the air two seconds before theirs, they got "scooped." It's ridiculous, because no one is watching both stations simultaneously except the producers themselves. And how many journalists are willing to go months without publishing while they court sources, gather facts, and try to cover all the bases? How many news outlets would let them?

That's the process that should be criticized. But you have to know at least a little bit about the process before you can be qualified to criticize it.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Light Posting Weekend

If anything gets posted besides this.

Ben is sick, and the in-laws are visiting.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Homeless Panhandler With a Home and a Job?

There's an article about Denver's homeless panhandlers, and how they don't make much money. I read the caption for the picture, but didn't think anything of it until my husband read it to me out loud and stressed two words, which I will highlight.
Robert Smith, 57, of Centennial, panhandles on the sidewalk at West Colfax Avenue and Speer Boulevard Thursday afternoon. Smith, who holds a sign asking for help paying a $479 fine for drunken driving, admits that he spends up to $5 a day on alcohol.

The picture has a caption in the paper, but none online.

The article describes Mr. Smith as being homeless. I'm wondering, does he stay at a shelter or with someone in Centennial and then commute downtown to panhandle like it's his job? He looks very clean and groomed in the picture. If he can be bothered to get up every morning, shower and trim his beard, put on clean clothes, and commute to his panhandling "job" on a street corner with a sign, why can't he do that at a job where he actually contributes to society?

It could be he's a moocher and a bum, in which case I don't feel very sorry for him. Some people really just don't want to work.

But it could be he has a medical condition which prevents him from having a real job. Not that he is incapable of holding down a real job, just that he gets Medicaid that just covers his medical needs, but he'll lose the benefit if he gets any kind of real job, so he pandhandles to get extra beer money and pay off DUIs.

That's the area in which Medicaid and Welfare need to be reformed. Even if someone has a job, they should still be able to get Medicaid and Welfare to help cover basic costs of living. Then the working poor who contribute to society via work and payroll taxes receive supplemental income that they help pay for themselves instead of being encouraged be to total burdens on society by not working at all.

Public Dissent Makes America Weak?

I haven't had much to say about Cindy Sheehan, but there was perfect storm in the Rocky Mountain News today.

Bill Johnson, in his column in RMN, is right,
That what she is doing has become a saga, that the influential and powerful in this country feel free to attack and belittle a woman who lost a son in the war and now refuses to remain silent in her grief, pretty much tells you everything you need to know of 2005 America.
...
Cindy Sheehan, like Vicki Bosley, ought to be afforded the same exportable freedom to express her views and beliefs as loudly or, perhaps, whacked-out, as she feels comfortable.

Yet in 2005 America, to our alarming detriment, way too many people disagree.

Mike Rosen also agrees both sides have the freedom to publicly spout their opinions.
While she's free to speak her mind, those who disagree with her are every bit as free to criticize her views and tactics.


Perhaps if that's all her critics were doing, it might be okay. But they are going after her personally.

Both columnists also play the "What would Casey say?" game. Bill Johnson

Were he still alive over there, and if his mother was still standing in the Texas heat and dust and calling for George Bush to account for the war, there is little doubt he would be personally embarrassed by the attention his mom's actions would bring to him.

And when reporters like me found him and asked him about it, I have no doubt that Casey Sheehan would have looked around, thought a little, spat and replied: "What the hell do you think I'm over here fighting for, if not at least for that?"



Mike Rosen
Her grief has metastasized into bitterness and rage as she turns her son's coffin into her own soapbox. Is that what Casey would have wanted? [emph. added] Or is this all about her?


It's an easy game to play, and while I agree more with Bill Johnson about what Casey Sheehan's sentiments might be if he were alive, I think it would be even more strident than that. Let me put words in his mouth, too
"You wanna argue with my mom about the facts, go right ahead. I may argue with her, too. But if you're only going to open you mouth to call her names and question her right to speak, then please just STFU."


I would add to that, in my joking way, but only if I were standing right next to my mom to put my arm around her, "No one gets to talk about my mom like that but me."

Perhaps Casey Sheehan would prefer his mom to be quiet, or more likely to change her mind, to convince her the war was worthwhile. But why don't the people who claim to support the troops and care so damn much about Casey Sheehan, but who are calling his mom names, have concern for how that might make him feel? Don't they have mothers? Would they want strangers saying nasty things about their own moms? DUH!

To top off the day, there was a letter to the editor in which the brilliant writer actually disagreed with the columnists about robust national debate
Let us not forget that we hired President Bush to do a job. His job is not an easy one.
...
While I certainly sympathize with [Cindy Sheehan's] loss, this type of behavior only creates a divided country. This type of behavior makes our country look weak and unfocused.

Since public dissent and discourse divides us and makes us weak, we must apparently agree with the letter writer's political views. The aforementioned Vicki Bosley, while agreeing that people have a right to speak, apparently doesn't believe that the American public has any business meddling in the affairs of state

"Yes, I was (angry) at Bush after Justin was killed.


"But you know, today I take the attitude of my son: 'He is the boss, and we have to do what the boss tells us to do. That is our job.'"



Is the President our boss or our employee? Is this a democracy or a dictatorship? Is there freedom of speech or isn't there?

These people who pay lip service to freedom of speech and democracy really seem to not want the responsibility that comes with freedom of speech and democracy. "Sure," they say, "Americans have the freedom to have political opinions and express them, but they shouldn't; and the fact that they are speaking out proves that they hate our freedoms and democracy."

The truth is, these people just don't want to have to deal with the subject matter, so they surrender all thought and action. It's easier just to tell people to shut up because they're aiding the enemy than to deal with the fact that the war in Iraq is not going well and that, despite all the evidence, the Administration is not taking measures to correct anything.

"War is hard," comes the answer. "Let us do our job. Even WWII had failures and mistakes. Support the troops, support the President, support the country."

I support the troops by expecting them to be armed and properly staffed or by bringing them home; I would support the President (though not vote for him) if he were actually taking steps to curb terrorism rather than just "[striking] down with great vengeance and furious anger" random evildoers; I do support my country by demanding that it act rationally and correctly, and by expecting vigorous debate, not quiet acquiescence.

"Cindy Sheehan, Michael Moore, Janeane Garofalo give aid and comfort to the enemy, weaken and divide our country, blahblahblahblah." Empty rhetoric from people who don't know how to debate issues, have nothing of substance to say, and would surrender their freedom and democracy to people who really don't give a damn about either one.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Trolls, Flames, Spam -- To Respond or Not to Respond

This blog is called They Get Letters. So here we go.

I'm moderating comments over at the Mahablog while she is away in Wales, lucky girl. That means I check for obvious trolls or spam and delete them. That's my only job.

A minor controversy erupted right before she left, and it has snowballed into my backyard since then. Mine is a new, minor blog, and I have had no trolls or flames or spam as yet. Whenever I have, in the past, come across trolls, flame wars, or spam on a message board or in someone else's comments (generally Atrios) I have ignored them, or given a couple of comments myself and let it go.

So I have to say I had no real appreciation for why maha would delete trolls, or what bloggers sometimes have to go up against. I'm glad I heeded warnings from veteran bloggers to remain (mostly) anonymous. I think maha has a good policy, especially considering that when a blog gets to a certain size, you have to start paying for the bandwidth to keep up with the volume. Who has time or money to deal with trolls? I'm not sure how I'll handle a similar situation yet, but when I get to that bridge, I'll cross it and deal with the troll lurking underneath.

But to give those who do not blog a taste of the inanity, I thought I'd post excerpts from the exhanges.

Read the post that started it all with this paragraph

It's fun to check in with Memeorandum now and then to see what the righties are linking to. Yesterday they were gathering like flies to a carcass to a story that appears to be phony.

To get more of the increasing frustration of maha, read the comments, as well. She had already dealt with the very issue the Troll brought up, namely that the truth or falsehood of the allegation was not her point.

The troll took the flies/carcass analogy personally and, taking the high road, sent an email to maha here

You lefties just don't understand that there are some times that the high road is available and should be taken instead of your deflection, denials, and ludicrous attempts at moral equivalency.

...

And by the way your blog format sucks...especially the archiving without an archive search. And you wrote a book on blogging??? Hope its better in concept than you show in actuality. I suggest you get a day job.

Maha blocked

I explained to Mr. Evad that if he continued to harrass me I'd post his name and email address and let you regulars explain things to him. In his most recent email, he expressed interest in receiving such correspondence.


Troll confirms that he was interested in receiving emails in his emails to me (no link)

Well I must have miffed her a bit when I, with extreme daring, posted my email address myself in a comment on her blog. It only lasted about 3 seconds before it was quickly removed and I was banned from commenting on the site.


Troll receives a flaming email!

Barb WAS able to conjure up one mighty warrior by the name of John Pitt who in a matter of a couple emails proceeded to:
  • call me "a little asshole"
  • call am "a lame ass"
  • told me I didn't have "have a fucking thing to say"
  • that I had fictional characters running around my "pathetic little head"
  • that I was a "sorry little schmuck"
  • he said that "Idiots like you are just too funny for words"
  • that I was "just some smelly brown crap that I scraped off my shoe"
  • that I was "nothing more than a pathetic little annoyance.
  • And an extremely boring little hemorrhoid to top it off.
  • suggested that I lived with my "mommy" while sleeping with other men.
  • that I have "dimwit philosophy"
  • told me to "STFU"
  • that I was an "immature little piece of detritus". (WOW)
  • and finally leaving me with "Bye-bye you little wussy".
~
Bonus insults: troll complains of maha's nasty response to his nasty email

she proceeded to:
  • suggest that I had "reading compehension level of a turnip" (I think that would be "comprehesion" Barb) [ed. TeeHee]
  • and that I "clearly lack the intelligence to understand"
  • oh and now the ever popular "cognitively challenged"


In response to the solicited email from John Pitt (troll did invite correspondence and published his email) the troll emailed all the people who made "back-patting" comments in a comment thread at the Mahablog.

...I sat all weekend armed with "robust rhetoric" to respond to the huge onslaught of intelligent retorts in the form of prolific emails that were suppose to appear and never did.

Nope! NOT ONE intelligent retort arrived...


And from the second email

as Vernon and the others chose to chime in with Barbara back-patting they are not without connections to this issue and until my email is removed from the mahaha web site they will continue to receive tidbits from Treeear (be careful they might learn something).


Then he learned that I was the "Hall Monitor," and appealed to the grown up to make the other kids stop picking on him

Hi Julie,

Sorry I forgot to include you in on the below as I see where you are the Hall Monitor now that Ms. Barbara is away.

Please read it. As you can see, I also have copied all those who commented on her diatribe against me so they can judge for themselves who actually is aTroll.

And lastly, I just received an email from a Vernon Westphal politely asking that I not email him anymore. I will only refrain from doing so when MY email is removed permanently from the Mahaha home page and anywhere else. As we all know...politeness begins at home.

Thanks!

Treeear



Unfortunately, I do not have a copy of my first reply, but I explained that I thought he was a troll as he behaved like one, and that he should not punish Vernon and the others who had not emailed him and who had no power to remove his email address from the Mahablog.

He did not accept that I and John Pitt have no power to alter maha's posts. He thinks John Pitt helps run the blog

John's response was understandable as it was obvious that he must have a hand in the creation of the Mahaha web site as he seemed most taken aback by my criticism of it structure and my suggestions for improvement.

...

I suggested improvements while seriously being surprised by the fact that someone who writes abook on blogging would put up with such incompetence in her web design staff.


In the last email

Third, I KNOW John Pitt must be associated with the blogsite, so your attempt to distance yourself from him is a bit disingenuous.


I'm distancing myself from John Pitt, who runs the blog, ostensibly because I run the Mahablog, too. Get the feeling this guy is new to the blogosphere? I think the last two exhanges are worth reading in their entirety. I tried my hardest to use non-insulting, conditional language.

Dear Dave,

I think the sequence of events is irrelevant. You were behaving like a troll, and you got banned and flamed. If you have a problem with a flamer emailing you, warn him that you will turn his IP address in to his provider.

Well I must have miffed her a bit when I, with extreme daring, posted my email address myself in a comment on her blog.
...

I called her on her threat by commenting on her site in terms much more civil than anything she said originally or in her email to me.


You admit that you were the one who elevated the situation to a public one by commenting on it in her blog and publishing your own email address.

As an aside, maha can't be a troll on her own blog. What she wrote could be called troll bait. Another aside, the archives are sorted byweek, so 7/30 would be in the archives of the week beginning 7/24.

Here was maha's point.

The Commissar does not address or disprove my point, which is that this entire “swarm” is based on the word of ONE writer, published in a very minor “newspaper,” and this one writer says he got the information from two anonymous “informed sources” of unspecified origin. All other news stories that claim Air America is under investigation are basing this claim on the Horowitz article.


It's mainly about process, not content, which she said might be true. If she said it might be true, you have no basis for claiming she was trying to dissuade believability of the story. And if you took personally her fly/carcass analogy, I can only think it's because you are pushing the storyline that AAR and Al Franken stole money from widows and orphans instead of Evan Cohen inappropriately funnelling money from Gloria Wise to Progress Media, which may have diverted some or all of that money to AAR. The former is a stinking carcass, and those who spread that false story are the flies.

Remove it and the "troll" will never set foot in Mahaha again and the emails from Treeear will stop. Sounds fair to me...I'm waiting.



You'll have to wait some more, as I, appropriately, cannot edit maha's posts. Only maha can. If you continue to email people after they've asked you to stop, especially considering they have no power to remove your address from maha's site, you may find your IP address turned into your provider.

Since you published your own email, you can hardly blame maha or her readers for any of this.

Sincerely,
Julie O.



His response. I wasn't being polite enough, so he took off the gloves.

First the sequence of events IS relevant to me.

Second, SHE elevated the situation by responding in the first place in the manner she did and by making threats.And since this was an email exchange she CAN be a troll invading MY mailbox. Not sure who died and made you Funk and Wagnell anyway.

Third, I KNOW John Pitt must be associated with the blogsite, so your attempt to distance yourself from him is a bit disingenuous.

Fourth, YOU make a huge jump to conclude ANYTHING about what storyline I may or may not be pushing. If you want to arrive in the same category as I have placed Mr. Pitts then keep up the illogical arguments. Actually I generally just push the truth. Stick to the facts. Read the quote again ...she says "a story"...and in her post talks of a number of references to it not any specific entity. Nobody really gives a rats ass about Al Franken.

Lastly, I published my email along with MY associated points. The points were removed and replaced with ridicule. So here again YOUR point falls flat.

Oh well...I tried to be polite.

This is a perfect example of why it is pointless and a waste of time and energy to engage a troll, though it may be a diversion during a perverse mood.

Update: I've been pondering Dave's emails, and I think I understand his point now, which is obviously orange baboon bucket of plaster. My apologies.

Update 2: Dave has decided to leave us alone and drop his demand.

Back to School

Today is Ben's first day in Kindergarten. Yes, two weeks early, and it has nothing to do with snow days. However, it looks like he gets out at the end of May. As I recall, back in California we started school right after Labor Day and got out for the summer in early or mid-June.

Kindergarten here is only half day, unless you pay for the second half. Also as I recall, Kindergarten in California was full or nearly full day, as Wednesdays were early days when we got out about 12:30.

Ben is such a social little boy, he already has friends. No problem leaving him in school his first day. Unlike his father and I, he is an extrovert. In fact, it's very difficult to blog sometimes because he wants to much attention. Now that he'll be gone for three hours in the morning, you'd think I'd have more time. Nope, Andrew is now crying for a nap at 9 in the morning. He's a little sick, and I do appreciate the opportunity to get some sleep myself.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

How Timely

I recently had a conversation with my conservative mother that went something like this:

Mom: You just shouldn't protest in a time of war because it aids and abets the enemy.

Me: You might have a better point if certain Congressmen and TV pundits hadn't criticized Clinton during Kosovo.

Mom: Oh, well, Kosovo wasn't a war.

Me: It was a "time of war."

Mom: No, it wasn't a real state of war. I look at it more like Grenada.

Me: So you'll come up with any justification for your side, huh? It's okay if you're a Republican, I guess.

End of Conversation, commencement of movie watching.

This list from Crooks and Liars doesn't address whether or not Kosovo was a real state of war. But it does highlight the rank hypocrisy of those quoted. When they said these words, they were being responsible watchdogs, making sure war is justified to protect our troops and world status. When the Left says them, they are traitors who hate America.

A sampling:
"You think Vietnam was bad? Vietnam is nothing next to Kosovo."
-Tony Snow, Fox News 3/24/99

"I cannot support a failed foreign policy. History teaches us that it is often easier to make war than peace. This administration is just learning that lesson right now. The President began this mission with very vague objectives and lots of unanswered questions. A month later, these questions are still unanswered. There are no clarifiedrules of engagement. There is no timetable. There is no legitimate definition of victory. There is no contingency plan for mission creep. There is no clear funding program. There is no agenda to bolster our overextended military. There is no explanation defining what vital national interests are at stake. There was no strategic plan for war when the President started this thing, and there still is no plan today"
-Representative Tom Delay (R-TX)

"You can support the troops but not the president"
-Representative Tom Delay (R-TX)

"This has been an unmitigated disaster ... Ask the Chinese embassy. Ask all the people in Belgrade that we've killed. Ask the refugees that we've killed. Ask the people in nursing homes. Ask the people in hospitals."
-Representative Joe Scarborough (R-FL)
No American Troops were harmed by this treason.

Leaked Documents about Menezes

It may be that, instead of police noticing a suspicious looking and acting person at the tube station, he was followed from his home to the tube station where, when he ran to catch an approaching train, he was chased down, restrained, and shot.

(via Atrios)

Intelligent Design Should Not Be Taught as Science

I was glad to see this sentence:

Evolution is the cornerstone of the study of biology and has survived attempts by creationists to replace it with a religious-based theory of how species evolved.

Even though it still elevates creationism to a theory, at least it identifies it as religion-based. I can accept a colloquial use of theory to describe evolution or Intelligent Design, as long as the examination of that theory is limited to religion. If they want to use science as evidence for their religious beliefs, go for it.

But, while the religious can use scientific evidence to try to explain their "theories" of Intelligent Design or creationism, scientists should not use religious belief to try to explain scientific evidence

For example, Neurotheology.

Scientists have discovered that religious experiences, feelings, and beliefs are reflected in brain patterns. Some people with epilepsy have religious "visions." Also, people who meditate shut down their parietal lobes and experience a sense of selflessness and oneness with everything. Religious experience and brain activity are connected.

How could one interpret this? It could mean that religion is an illusion, that God does not exist outside a compromised brain. Or it could "amount to an antenna to make us receptive to god." Why would such a function develop in the brain?
There is evidence that people with religious faith have longer, healthier lives. This hints at a survival benefit for religious people. Could we have evolved religious belief?


If I wanted to fit this into the Biblical creation myth, I could argue that Adam & Eve were the first Homo Sapiens, evolved from the lower order, and that part of that evolution was to develop a sense of religious faith, the "knowledge of good and evil."

But some people who have this extra developed "god center" do not believe in God, such as many Buddhists. They have a sense of oneness with the universe and a greater sense of serenity. Lowering the blood pressure is certainly an evolutionary benefit. So it is certainly no proof of God's existence or non-existence.

We also often see patterns where there are none, at least not deliberate patterns. I see faces in wallpaper and linoleum all the time. And a test showed that dopamine seems to be the chemical which alters our brain's chemistry to make us more likely to see patterns.

Believers were much more likely than sceptics to see a word or face when there was not one, Brugger revealed last week at a meeting of the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies in Paris. However, sceptics were more likely to miss real faces and words when they appeared on the screen.

The ability to see patterns is another evolutionary plus, as it would help us see predators or prey. It could also help us perceive of a Grand Design, even if one didn't exist. The evolutionary benefit is also no proof of God, or the lack thereof.
Both the detection of a "god center" in the brain and the effect of dopamine are science. They are observable, measurable phenomena. The interpretation of what they mean is not science.

Update: It's Post #100. Hurrah!

Update 2: I'm totally stealing this quote from World Pantheism:
A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty - it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude; in this sense, and this alone, I am a deeply religious man.

Albert Einstein
The World As I See It

Reference Section

I added a reference section in the sidebar, so if arguments ever ensue, we will all have easy access to the definitions.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Fairtax

Jesse Taylor at Pandagon dissects The Fairtax Book by Neal Boortz and Congressman John Linder (R-GA). Because every once in a while someone's gotta drag out the old flat tax nonsense again.

Excerpts

Part 1:
Boortz and Linder are asking you to absorb the taxation costs of businesses,which will result in goods being the same price. They also propose that the same money which is covering the sector of business taxes will simultaneously cover the sector of personal income and payroll taxes, contributed by individuals and not a part of any intrinsic cost of goods and services. The money is being effectively doubled (actually, more than doubled, as those "embedded taxes" don't make up half of all taxes collected), even as it becomes obvious that the Fair Tax only replaces one kind of tax revenue, not all of it. Long story short - the rate would have to be raised significantly to actually make up for the loss of all federal taxes...which would in turn dampen all those wonderful benefits of the Fair Tax, which is guaranteed to grow our economy tenfold within the blink of an eye.


Part 2:
It's an elegantly simple deception, and taken at its face value, seems like a good way of raising all the revenues that the current tax system does. Unfortunately, it doesn't, and Linder and Boortz make the case against their tax wonderfully.

Today, we'll discuss that 23% tax rate.

...

"I've read some critical articles claiming that the sales tax will really be 30 percent or more, not 23 percent. Who's telling the truth?

In a sense, both sides are. But critics of the FairTax have a way of dewlling on this 30 percent figure, so we're going to spend some time on the answer to this question. LEt's see if we can make it interesting as well."

...

Boortz and Linder are arguing that the more complex syntax that's completely non-predictive and serves no useful purpose is the accurate one, and the syntax that predicts exactly how much tax you're going to pay is the dishonest one.


Part 3:
Every single purchase a government makes, whether it be schoolbooks for schools, firearms for police officers, gardening tools for park services or construction materials for roads, is subject to a 30% tax (and this isn't taking into account that an actual tax in this plan would, by necessity, have to be at least 10 to 15 points higher), in comparison to a purchase by a private business which would be entirely untaxed.

This makes the cost of the government doing anything prohibitive. The individual consumer and government now bear all taxation costs for business - they're paying for all the services that help business go, while businesses contribute nothing back to the system. It also makes private industry doing anything cheaper, but also insures that privatization can never take place - state and local governments would still have to pay 23% on anything that private company did for them, since the service would be paid for by the government.

For a small-government Republican and an even smaller-government libertarian, this is beyond bizarre. The federal government expandsmightily (in relation to state and local governments), while propogating a tax system which decimates state and local governments by gaming the system towards private replacement of all non-federal government. Private business can do everything cheaper than non-federal government, not because of any natural superiority of the market, but because the federal government enforces a system that overtly favors private business. State and local governments would become little more than dispersed bureaucracies serving in lieu of the now-defunct IRS.


Part 4:
So, we now have a way to avoid taxes altogether, and an unparalleled nightmare for states. But wait - this system screws over businesses, too! Right now, if there's a question about your federal tax return, you deal with one entity - the IRS. The envisioned IRS 2 puts all enforcement powers in the hands of the states, meaning that a cascading error in tax collection would result not in one audit or question, but likely dozens. This doesn't even address interstate fighting over who gets to collect tax revenue for a national corporation - if you run Gadgets, Inc., based out of Ohio, would you rather coordinate 50 payments for the same tax to 50 states, or one payment for the same tax to one state? States will push for the former, businesses for the latter. If transactions are taxed based on point of sale rather than place of incorporation, the current headache of tax compliance turns into the headache of potentially paying the right tax to the wrong branch of the IRS.


More Parts when they become available.

Remembering a Right Wing Smear Job at Newsmax

The Cunning Realist was reminded about the outrage by some over Hillary Clinton refusing to meet with mothers of slain soldiers.

Upshot: it wasn't true. But I'm sure the same meme remains; Hillary hates the military. It is as it will always be with irrational Clinton-haters. Though nearly every scandal is shown to be false, the Clintons are still guilty as charged.

(via DailyKos)

Supporting the Troops

Larry Northern used his pick-up truck to knock down crosses that had been erected to memorialize soldiers killed in Iraq.


And yet yellow ribbons are allowed to billow in the breeze all across America. Larry Northern must be freed to get back in his pick-up to plow into traitorously mocking trees and fences.

Maybe he could take out a few of these while he's at it.

Get Thee Behind Me, Satan, and Tattoo a Rose on My Left Buttock


The marginalized and oppressed are finally stiking back against the Establishment that seeks to destroy them.

The fact that most people already live traditional lifestyles (they're heterosexual and religious and not pierced or tattooed) is not enough. Anyone who does not conform to the norm must be labelled evil and corrupt. No one must know that there are other ways to live, think, or believe, otherwise we will have
crappy music, hideous freaks who alter their God-given visages, and sexual deviance.


I can only assume that is the message of this book, as I will never read it. The fact that it is endorsed by Limbaugh, Malkin, and Schlessinger means I would rather pierce my skull through the temples with a train spike. It seems David Kupelian wrote a full-length book to further explore two essays he wrote in 2004 for WorldNutDaily in which he initially despairs at his son's new (temporary) interest in wearing a choker, a "gateway" accessory that would lead to "bug chasing," the hot new trend.

Kupelian elevates the marginal to the dominant, and thinks that those who live what are marginal lifestyles but do not hide are a danger to our entire way of life. Satanists and Pagans, tattooers, piercers, homosexuals...they don't hide anymore, and are thus luring our Christian children to evil and sin.

But here's a weird logic. According to Kupelian, Satanists and Pagans, tattooers, piercers, and homosexuals have anger and self-loathing because they had bad parents, which is why they do what they do. And a spirit of evil and corruption, which has infected our society much in the way Sodom and Gomorrah were infected, is creating an environment which does not condemn such activity, but celebrates it and makes it cool. Therefore normal kids -- who have good parents who raised their children with values, discipline, and love -- will want a tattoo, a belly-button ring, a choker, and AIDS to be cool.

But if you are raising a child with certain values, discipline, and love (which is what pierced kids lack, apparently), and that child has self-respect, then that child won't want to get a tattoo, piercing, or have sex during the "rebellious" years, or if they do it won't be out of anger and self-hatred, right? So what's the problem?

The problem is having too much knowledge of different people and opinions and not having enough control over of the world. The solution, says Kupelian, is for the righteous to cover their childrens' eyes and ears and create a Subculture of Righteousness:

Just as today's homosexual culture, for example, used to be a miserable subculture lurking in public toilets and seedy clubs, and has today become the sophisticated culture of the "beautiful people" and Hollywood, so must your true American culture – if it's ever to come back – start off as a subculture.

True Americans must push the miserable freaks back into the toilets.

I wonder what it means when a 30-something mother of two harbors a secret desire for a tattoo and has three piercings in each ear. I must hate myself.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Generous Republicans

Repubs like to say that Dems are generous with other people's money.

Here are a couple of Republicans being generous with other people's children.

Their little posters have a picture of Casey Sheehan which say "Freedom Isn't Free."


In related news, Bob Odenkirk ate a yellow ribbon in support of our troops. It came out the other end wrapped around a giant turd. (See picture).

(via Atrios)

Something Not Considered in Public/Private Debate

It was mentioned by Shirah at Unbossed.
Private entities are not covered by [FOIA] laws and, thus, have no obligation to provide information. (This means that, as more public services are privatized, less information is available to the public.)

In order for the citizenry to hold private companies accountable for their costs, expenses, and actions, the citizenry needs to know what those companies are doing.

At the very least, if the government is going to hand over utilities or infrastructure (like roads) to private enterprises, there need to be laws requiring government oversight and public disclosure.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Atrios and the Human Debris

It has to go double platinum.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Light Posting Weekend

I'm visiting the parents, and my dad's computer is, like, really secure -- security settings must be fiddled with -- so I'm not posting much this weekend. If I read something in the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle or the Denver Post that gets my interest, then maybe. I have lots of movies to watch on their HDTV with surround sound, so don't expect much. Plus my nephew Joey likes to play lots of online games (I told him to get a sandwich, take a walk and a nap, or he'll pull a Lee), so I'm just saying...

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Could It Have Been a Butt Embolism?

Oh great. Computer gaming has claimed its first victim. And just when I was thinking of starting to play video games.

It is somewhat nice to know that the loser in his mom's basement who quit his job so he could spend more time playing computer games is not solely an American phenomenon. It is also a Seoul-y phenomenon (ooooh, that was a stretch).

Hidden Democrats of the Interior West

Colorado Luis says even a turd like Cheney could win the Presidency by keeping the swing states of Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada from swinging to the left, just by virtue of his being a westerner. I don't know that I agree, since I know several Colorado Republicans who despise the man. I think even my mom (who lives in Wyoming) would have to hold her nose to vote for Cheney.

But I do agree in the importance that the interior west (that is, not California, Oregon, or Washington) is in gaining power for the Democrats. As Dan Slater of DemNotes points out, Democrats need to become more involved in the interior, and understand the priorities that westerners have: "land use, the environment, and individual rights issues..."

The evidence for that is pretty graphic. If you look at population density on the funny electoral maps, you see that large swaths of unoccupied land are voting Republican. If land is keeping neo-cons in power, it might be a good idea to understand the needs of those who occupy that land, speak to their concerns, involve them more.

I am originally from California, so I know how little coastal Democrats think of the interior west. I don't mean Californians think they are better, just that they don't think about it much at all. But I moved to Wyoming, then Michigan, then Florida, and now Colorado, and I've lived with my midwesterner husband and gotten to know his large family, most of whom have generations of farming in their blood.

It occurred to me, while living in these different areas, that a very large difference in political ideology between those who live in cities and those who live in the country has to do with population density.

For one thing, the more people there are living in close quarters, the more necessary it is to have rules and regulations to control behavior to maintain a somewhat peaceful and safe environment. As Oliver Wendell-Holmes said, "The right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins." In an urban area, people's noses are a lot closer together (the impulse to control sexual and moral matters has a different motivating factor, and I'm not talking about that).

Also, if the environment is a high priority for the west, the Dems should jump all over that. Democrats want regulations to force industry to stop polluting, but people in sparsely populated areas don't necessarily see the effects of pollution -- especially in the west, where lower humidity contributes to clearer weather -- and look at it in terms of the Federal Government meddling in local economic concerns.

But local pollution does not stay local. Texas A&M University geoscientist Robert Duce:
"Most of the haze in wilderness areas comes from wind-blown pollution from many sources spread over hundreds of miles, including sources well outside Texas and far from the border in Mexico.

...

"But global industrialization, coupled with natural patterns of atmospheric circulation, means that some of the pollution we see today could have been generated in Asia two weeks ago. Clearly, cleaning up Big Bend will require a lot more than just overhauling the situation near the border."

The Eastern States actually contribute to the pollution in the West. Put in those terms, it might make go further to convince some that controlling polluting industries really is a national, as well as an international concern.

As I said, I'm a recent transplant to Colorado, and I'm a city girl. So my insights into the importance to westerners on issues of land use, the environment, and individual rights is very limited. But there are plenty of native local sources to be tapped in these areas, and a compelling reason to do so. Just look at the picture.

Olbermann Rocks

Yesterday we learned that Keith Olbermann was chewed out by his boss right after making health-related anti-smoking comments on the air. Today, Olbermann has announced he will make health-related anti-smoking comments every damn day, thank you very much.

Douche Bag or Douchebag?

Besides the humorous news that Sean Hannity was threatening to sue an indie group called "Kids Against Combs" who were set to release an album featuring Hannity's home phone number and address, this final line in the Boston Phoenix (via NewsBlues paid subscription required) stood out:
Despite the fact that 66 percent of our Style and Usage Panel prefer that "douchebag" be written as a compound word, they’re in unanimous agreement that the new title works just as well.

Good to know.

Is God Trying To Tell You Something?

A Trinidad, Colorado man's house was struck by lightning, then by an earthquake minutes later. He seems to think this means his luck has changed for the better, so he bought a lottery ticket. I think he'd get more out of a life insurance policy, and possibly an animal sacrifice.

Letter to Editor, Turtles All the Way Down

Dear Editor,

It took me a couple of days to recover from the shock of reading in Paul Campos' column "Turtles All the Way Down," August 9, 2005, that "everyone who believes in the theory of evolution...does so largely for the same reasons that 13th century French peasants believed in the doctrine of transubstantiation: that is, because they've been successfully socialized to accept on faith what they've been told by certain authority figures."

I hadn't realized that the doctrine of transubstantiation was based on evidence, was tested, and was subjected to review by European Jews. Oh, if only those ignorant peasants had the mindset of today's columnists. They wouldn't have taken the word of the priests that there was a consensus amongst religious authority figures that there was overwhelming evidence of the fact of transubstantiation, and we would be a much more enlightened society today.

If only there were somewhere we literate but ignorant peasants could read about evolution to learn why so many scientist authority figures say it is a fact.

Sincerely,
Julie O.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

O'Reilly's Ass Was Showing

What I noticed most about Bill O'Reilly's interview of Dolores Kesterson (via Crooks and Liars) was how clear it was that he hates certain people irrationally and simply uses his national platform to execute his puny vendettas.

That's because he was low key in this one, which made it seem to go in slow motion. Normally, when someone is disagreeing with him, he starts getting loud and talks fast and furious. My heart starts to pump if I watch those types of interviews, not only because I'm an introvert who generally dreads confrontation, even when I'm not involved, and not just because the subject matter makes me anxious.

It's because the pacing is disorienting. He tosses off so many offensive, stupid, and illogical statements so quickly, not giving the other side a chance to respond coherently, by the time it's finished, a viewer can't remember any one thing and is mainly left with the emotion it stirred up. People who can't reason or process information quickly, and who are predisposed to agree with him anyway, might think he won the argument on merits rather than by bullying.

But a slow interview style requires some kind of substance, because people can listen, process, understand, and remember. So this interview, in real time, displayed Bill O'Reilly's substance, and it is nothing but petty, vindictive, ad hominem attacks. Dolores Kesterson was not thrown off by being offended. She wasn't spluttering for answers against a barrage of invective. She was able to calmly state the obvious answers to his assertions, and her answers basically translated to "you are full of shit."

Fox's Murdoch Fixing the Ratings Game

Seems Americans are not interested in Fair and Balanced News. Or, they are, which is why they're not watching Fox. According to NY Daily News (via NewsBlues requires subscription):

Instead of having people fill out diaries of what they watched, Nielsen began hooking televisions to electronic "people meters" that track channel flipping.

While Nielsen had long used the system nationally, local results showed that viewers were switching from broadcast to cable in larger numbers than realized, and that some Murdoch programs had fewer viewers than believed.


So Murdoch, honest businessman dedicated to truth, is reworking Fox's programs to be more attractive to more people. Or not.

Rupert Murdoch's entertainment and publishing empire, is trying to buy and bully its way into burying new TV ratings that could cost it millions of dollars in revenue.

News Corp. has fielded an army of Washington lobbyists and is throwing campaign gifts at both Republicans and Democrats in a naked effort to protect its bottom line. Responding to the mogul's money and muscle, pliant lawmakers have rewarded him with what is essentially his own private bill now pending before Congress.

...

Having played the race card and failed, Murdoch turned to the GOP Congress, where his bill would give a private broadcast industry panel the power to bar any new ratings system. In other words, he would strip Nielsen of the independence that's so crucial to advertisers, which explains why the ad industry strenuously opposes the measure.

Four Republican senators and Rep. Vito Fossella of Staten Island, are behind this Fox fix. And make no mistake, it is a fix. Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, found that a Murdoch lobbyist wrote an early draft of the bill for lead sponsor Sen. Conrad Burns of Montana.

Local Blog Advertising

I remember Atrios suggesting recently that there was success to be had and money to be made by focusing one's blog on local matters. Seems to be true:
Borrell has been working on projections for online ad spending through its newly created 400-member panel of ad executives, and their current thinking is that online advertising will surpass $30 billion in 2010.

...

Much of this new growth will be in local advertising. And if you can stand another prediction from me, I suspect people will begin figuring out the unbundled media revenue models within the next couple of years, so these numbers could be even higher. If and when online advertising crosses the $30 billion barrier, it will be competitive with all other forms of contemporary advertising.

Reservist Allegedly Vandalizes Cars of Bush Supporters

It's sad if this is true:
An Air Force Reserve lieutenant colonel stationed at Peterson Air Force Base has surrendered to Denver police after he was allegedly tied to the vandalism of cars with pro-President Bush stickers at Denver International Airport.

Lt. Col. Alexis Fecteau, 42, faces one felony count and six misdemeanor counts of criminal mischief, police spokesman Sonny Jackson said Tuesday.

Fecteau is the director of operations for the reserves and supervises 11 full-time and 30 part-time active-duty reservists at the National Space Security Institute in Colorado Springs, said Maj. Tina Barber-Matthew, the Air Force Base Command media chief.

I can only think that someone would do such a thing out of a feeling of anger and helplessness.

I have never put political stickers on my car for fear my car would get vandalized, but that's also because I had lived in a red state, Florida, for quite a few years. Now I wouldn't expect a Bush supporter to vandalize my car; even knowing what kinds of troglodytes support Bush, the glow of feeling like a winner creates magnanimity.

When we came to visit family (and for my husband to interview for a job) last October, right before the election, we took a drive through Cherry Creek. We like to dream about the neighborhoods and houses we would live in someday if only we could save our money instead of spending it all on gummy bears and whiskey.

It was refreshing to see so many Kerry signs in yards, with only an occasional Bush sign, especially in a wealthy area like Cherry Creek. It was surprising how overtly political so many people were, as well. Back in Jacksonville, Florida, not too many people put out signs, and most of them were the opposite of Denver; mainly Bush signs and a few Kerry signs.

So, feeling comfortable in a more politically friendly area, I had been reconsidering my policy. But feelings of frustration and helplessness can be overpowering, and the pendulum swings. Republicans are imploding left and right, and I perceive a shift in the political winds. And blogs are a much better way of expressing political thoughts, so the car will remain neutral territory.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Automatic Response from Sen. Allard

To this letter. So no answer on the difference between a civil union and a marriage.

When Finding the Middle Means Sticking Your Head in Your Crack

Paul Campos, RMN columnist, makes an attempt to be reasonable about the ID/Evolution debate:

First, the secular liberal is mistaken in his belief that there are special people called "scientists" (or more broadly, "rational thinkers," "members of the reality-based community" etc.) whose beliefs are based solely on something called "the facts" or "evidence" or what have you, and who therefore don't rely on faith-based reasoning.

The irony here is that, at bottom, everyone who believes in the theory of evolution (I myself belong to this group) does so largely for the same reasons that 13th century French peasants believed in the doctrine of transubstantiation: that is, because they've been successfully socialized to accept on faith what they've been told by certain authority figures.

Second, the cultural conservative is mistaken in his belief - a belief held by many proponents of intelligent design theory - that a more tolerant attitude on the part of natural scientists toward supernatural explanations would confirm that the divine origins of life are empirically verifiable. Science can tell us nothing about God for the same reason that a comprehensive physical description of the Mona Lisa, down to the level of subatomic particles, would tell us nothing worth knowing about the Mona Lisa.


And ends up wearing his ass for a hat.

Do I really have to argue this? It seems Campos' basis for his statements about scientists and what everyone believes about evolution are really a critique aimed at one person he names.

Thus scientists such as Richard Dawkins are guilty of idolatry (not to mention tremendous philosophical naivete) when they argue that Darwinian evolutionary theory refutes religious belief. Such arguments in effect transform the naturalistic axioms of the scientific method into pseudo-theological claims.

But, oops, not all scientists would agree with Richard Dawkins, author of The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design and Climbing Mount Improbable. In fact,
Today few scientists seem to think much about religion in their research. Many are reluctant to stray outside their area of expertise and may not feel a need to invoke God in their work.

"Most scientists like to operate in the context of economy," said Brian Greene, a world-renowned physicist and author of The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality. "If you don't need an explanatory principle, don't invoke it."

Thus columnists such as Paul Campos, who obviously doesn't know anything about evolution, are guilty of asshatery when they argue that a single scientist's religious beliefs mean that scientists everywhere rely on their Faith of Science rather than so-called "facts" and "evidence." After all, there was as much "evidence" to support Transubstantiation as there is for evolution, right? Just a bunch of authority figures, with no basis in "reality," whatever that is, spouting religious doctrine.

Ooooh, Liberal Republicanism

I thought it was the general Republican position that the Federal Government has usurped powers not given to it by the Constitution, which limits Federal power to specifically enumerated areas. So why would Arlen Specter (R-PA) be upset with the Supreme Court for saying Congress doesn't have the authority to control gun possession and give women the right to sue rapists in Federal court, that these areas are the responsibility of the states? He must not be an originalist.

Maybe it's just a Libertarian position.

Another Irony

The world is only 6000 years old in Colorado Springs. So imagine their surprise when scientists discovered that the Springs is one of the best locations in the world for studying what caused the demise of the dinosaurs 65.5 million years ago. (no link)

No More Republican Presidents, Please

The John Birch Society, in their Stop the FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas) campaign, took out a full page (tabloid-style) ad in the paper. They reprinted an essay called Republican Presidents More Harmful from The New American magazine.

A Republican president can often enact a more liberal agenda than a Democrat could because many Republicans in Congress are more loyal to party than to principle.


You have to buy the PDF for more, but it goes on to point out how the Republicans presidents since Eisenhower have expanded liberal programs and the budget in ways that would have been opposed had a Democrat been president.

Since I support divided government, and I don't know that Democrats will be taking back either house of Congress, I certainly support a Democratic president. (Although, had both houses been D when W ran, he would certainly still not have gotten my vote.)

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Judith Miller Not a Journalist?

Just because Judith Miller is a journalist doesn't mean she is always acting like a journalist. It's not a magic shield that protects her in everything she does. If she was not being a journlist, that is, not gathering information to write a story, but was acting as a conduit for information, she doesn't have a 1st Amendment protection.

Arianna Huffington (via Digby) has a source who thinks Judith Miller was not actually writing a story about Plame or Wilson. This follows Sidney Blumenthal's suggestion that Miller was protecting her own butt.

Am I Going to Jail?

Because someday I hope to smoke a joint with my husband the same way we sometimes have lovely cocktails. Is hope a crime?

Free Tommy Chong!!!

(Oh, he's free? Nevermind.)

Welform: Reforming Welfare Reform

(After typing welform a half dozen times, I gave up and decided to use it.)

I know there are some who view Wyoming's welform as a success. They have reduced the number of families on welfare by a staggering 90% to only 400, and have seriously reduced the problem of generational dependence on welfare. A success for those who think government has no role in providing assistance for the poor.

However, they did that not by helping single mothers escape a cycle of poverty, but by creating severe requirements that simply make poor single mothers ineligible for welfare, shifting the state's role in their support to other (often also poor) family members, friends, charities, or other states, as poor single women are forced to move to states that provide more welfare.

Perhaps it's just the Democratic Governor, but even conservative, cowboy-self-reliant Wyoming realizes their welform doesn't work:
"Welfare reform had two promises: We would reduce the rolls; and we would provide jobs that pay well enough to get out of poverty," said Rodger McDaniel, head of Wyoming's Department of Family Services, the state's welfare agency.

"We've only done one of those."

Culture of Corruption

Honest people have their careers destroyed while corrupt people get to be Vice President of the United States.

ID v. Evolution: A Debate Given Unequal Treatment

Americans are terrible at science. That is an objective fact. We don't know the meanings of words like "science" and "theory," and just use them colloquially, which is why it's meaningless, in the debate about teaching ID with evolution, to say ID isn't a theory, and it isn't science. Reporters add to the problem.

Two reporters in their woefully inadequate articles in the RMN make my case, because they certainly don't know what science and theory mean, or they wouldn't present the two sides as equal.

First Article
A "textbook" definition of what Intelligent Design is, presented as objective fact, because it is:

Intelligent design was first described as a concept in the 1991 book Darwin on Trial by lawyer Phillip E. Johnson. He argued that intelligence works in a specific and verifiable way and produces results that are mirrored in the natural world.

Those results produce what intelligent design advocates call "specified
complexity" to describe systems that appear to be built with deliberate purpose and function, much like, say, a jumbo jet is so specifically complex that it had to be created by aerospace engineers.


No definition of science, just a "he said" argument against ID as unscientific:

Evolution supporters say the introduction of a supernatural engineer makes intelligent design theory utterly nonscientific and "a growing
threat to the teaching of science," Bruce Alberts wrote in March to colleagues at the National Academy of Sciences.

Alberts, the academy's president, called for action: "We stand ready to help others in addressing the increasingly strident attempts to limit the teaching of evolution or to introduce nonscientific 'alternatives' into science courses."

A definition of creationism:

Intelligent design proponents face charges that they really are plugging "creationism," which gives religious explanations for life's origins. The most common example is the Bible account in Genesis, which identifies the "designer" as the Judeo-Christian God.

Groothuis, however, says intelligent design is indifferent about who or what the intelligent designer is. "Whether the designer is one, two or three gods, or the god of the Bible or of the Quran, that's not an issue in intelligent design," he said.

"We're just saying design is the best explanation for many natural
phenomena.

No definition of theory, but ID presented as a theory:

"You don't assume it's true or take it on blind faith; you experiment and see if it explains the data. The difference is, you're open to the theory."
Definition of theory disguised as a "he said" argument against ID. The stupid scientist throws in a comment implying religion is a waste of time, which helps bolster cries of anti-religious bigotry and distracts from the definition (that one's not the reporter's fault). ID stated as a theory, which it isn't:

The biggest objection of evolution proponents is that there are no experiments that can prove the theory of intelligent design.

"Scientists make hypotheses and try to prove it in the laboratory,"
Schwartzman said. "What are these people going to do? They'll wind up in a church or house of worship thanking whatever it is they want to thank. . . . I have better things to spend my time on."

An argument which -- if you already know the definition of science and theory, which haven't been defined by the reporter -- makes the case that ID is neither science nor a theory. Plus, the assertion, based on the previous stupid statement, that pro-evolutionists are simply anti-religious bigots rather than scientists:

The other side counters that such arguments simply show that evolution advocates want to be "the only game in town."

"Is there one experiment to prove something is a product of design? No," said John West, senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, a Seattle think tank that promotes intelligent design.

On the other hand, he said, all experiments contribute to a body of knowledge that can be used to test the theory of natural selection - evolution's claim - as well as the theory of intelligent design.


There is no experiment to test ID. If there is no experiment to test ID, it is not a theory. ID can't simply ride on the coattails of other experiments. It is an argument best left for a religious, logic and criticial thinking, or philosophy class.

Second article
Another "textbook" definition of Intelligent Design and how it is different from creationism, as if that is meaningful:

Intelligent design is the belief that organisms are too complex to have evolved by chance, that a higher being was somehow involved. It is opposed by many scientists, who say evolution proceeded through natural selection, with the fitter organisms replacing those that are less fit.

Intelligent design is often confused with creationism, which rejects evolution in favor of the biblical belief that God created the world in six days.

While some intelligent design advocates hold the biblical view, others accept that the species evolved over time but with guidance, either from the Judeo- Christian God or an undefined entity.



An argument for ID, with an inference that ID is a theory, therefore scientific, plus an incorrect, unchallenged opinion about Natural Selection:

Cary, the District 20 parent, said he is religious. But he advocates only that public schools recognize evidence that organisms and the physical world appear to be the product of a designer.

"Just because that's consistent with my religion doesn't mean it should be discarded," Cary said. "You don't have to identify the designer in order to come up with a valid inference that intelligent design occurred."

Natural selection is not a value-free theory, either, Cary said. It assumes the unprovable premise that there was no designer.


Natural selection does not assume anything about a designer.

A definition of science hidden as a "he said" argument. IMO, the reasonable call to prove ID via the scientific method sounds more like anti-religious bias:

"If the intelligent design people come along and say, 'Well, God did all this' - well, prove it," he said. "Don't prove it on the basis of faith and belief. Prove it on the basis of what we can see, what we can measure, what we can quantify and what holds up to peer scrutiny."

If the reporters could both provide definitions of Intelligent Design as objective fact, why couldn't they provide definitions of science and theory as objective fact? The reporters give ID preferential treatment, making it difficult for people who don't know much about science -- which is just about everybody in the U.S., including me (I only know something about this debate because I've bothered to attempt to understand it, and not just get info from newspapers) -- to judge the subject.

They take the time to, in their voice, define for the reader not only what ID is, but how it differs from creationism. They should also identify what evolution is; the fact the evolution happens and has been observed; that there are different mechanisms of evolution, natural selection being only one. They should also define what science and theory so people will understand why the scientists say ID is "unscientific."

[Edited to add links to "science," "theory," and evolution.]

Friday, August 05, 2005

Mmmm...americium



In a follow up to this article, according to the AP,
"Investigators have determined that a Los Alamos National Laboratory worker exposed to radioactive material spread the contamination to homes in Colorado and Kansas while visiting family..."

Bloggers Spot Plagiarism of Daily Howler; RMN Editor Resigns

Thom Beal, the Deputy Editorial Page Editor at the Rocky Mountain News, used phrases similar to those found in a Daily Howler article. The editorial was, in fact, called "Joe Wilson's Howlers." Beal resigned. RMN editor John Temple referred readers (me) to his blog, in a post titled "Answering questions about an editorial."

Local bloggers are all over the story.

Drunkablog has a rundown, including a link to RockyWatch in which a commenter first spotted the plagiarism.

Elevated Voices, the blog of the local magazine 5280, which had called Temple about the issue, weighs in, as well.

Update: more detail at 5280.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

EXCLUSIVE: Close Up Picture of Astronaut Removing Gap Filler

DENVER, Aug. 4 - Astronaut Ben O., who will begin Kindergarten this fall, walked into "space" this afternoon and repaired a worrisome problem on the model shuttle Discovery with the simplest of tools: the thumb and forefinger of his left hand.

Ben had finished building the model with his father on August 3, 2005. Although there had been problems with the lighting (tiny Christmas tree-like lights to illuminate the launch pad), Ben and his father christened the model "Discovery" after the recently launched shuttle which had its own problems in space.

When asked about his experience removing the debris from the model shuttle, Ben said, "I thinked it was really dumb. How does toilet paper get off of Earth? Will it just float up into space and hit a shuttle and get stuck on it?"

His mother is very proud.

Sen. Allard Marriage Amendment Letter

Dear Sen. Allard,

You say that your resolution that would amend the Constitution "would define the institution of marriage as a union between a man and a woman."

You go on to state that "[t]his does not prohibit state legislatures from creating other types of legal unions."

The exact wording of your amendment is: “Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman.”

What is the difference between a marriage and a civil union?

Sincerely,
Julie O.

The Constitutional Right to Privacy, A Link

I can't say it any better than Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon. The comments are a necessary read, as well.

Damn You, Ezra Klein

I was going to post "Team America PAC, F#$% Yeah," but you beat me to it. Tancredo is my oeuvre, dammit.

I Don't Even Know How to Use A Jack

This is great

Stephen K. Robinson, an astronaut with a Stanford Ph.D. in mechanical engineering, walked into space on Wednesday morning and repaired a worrisome problem on the shuttle Discovery with the simplest of tools: the thumb and forefinger of his right hand.


But does it strike anyone else as odd that, just as in my previous post, they are just now figuring this out? If you plan a road trip, you might not think of things like roadside emergency kits, especially in the age of the cell phone and AAA. A simple repair kit for minor problems only makes sense. Could they send up a couple of extra heat-resistant tiles, too?

Why Are They Just Finding This Out?

What's disturbing isn't that

Women whose exercise capacity was less than 85 percent of what it should be were twice as likely to die within eight years, the researchers found.


It was this

Until now, the only guidelines available were based on men and it
wasn't certain whether they applied to women as well. But as more women are being included in medical research, gender differences in some diseases and other health issues are emerging.


Why were women excluded from study?

Keeping Prices Low by Increasing Costs. Wha?

PBMs [pharmacy benefits managers] act as liaisons between employers and pharmacies, handling the details of employee drug benefits and negotiating discounts with pharmacies.

PBMs argue that the competition in their industry actually keeps consumer costs down.


But...

The firms that manage drug benefits for other companies pay pharmacies so little and charge employers so much that they're pushing up the costs for everyone, [Mark S. Riley, executive vice president for the Arkansas Pharmacists Association] said Wednesday.

...Reilly said a typical PBM might pay a pharmacy just $8 for dispensing 100 tablets to an ill worker but charge that ill worker's employer $20. The $12 difference - or "spread" - goes in the pocket of the PBM, he said.


What a scam. Insurance companies create a bureaucracy that shifts the profits of the pharmacy to the PBM.

Executives of large PBMs disagreed vehemently, saying their companies foster competition, which is the best way to keep prices down. They said the profit margin in their segment of the industry is just 1.2 percent.


Boo hoo. Doesn't that mean the profit margin for pharmacies is much, much smaller? Why should their segment of the industry exist, anyway? At any rate, PBMs are hurting mom-and-pop pharmacies.

"It's sad that we may be seeing the passing" of the small neighborhood pharmacy, [Ralph Pollock, chairman of the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry's Business Council for Health Care Competition] said. "But if they can't compete, they can't compete. The market will work."


How does destroying small pharmacies (which benefits large, national pharmacies ::cough::walgreens::cough::) foster competition?

It's good to be the middle man (unless you're in a pick-up truck).

Denver Three Update: Sue the White House

The man who ejected three people from a taxpayer-funded presidential event worked for the White House's organizing team, and no one will identify him so he can be sued. Even though he may have been a volunteer, he still acted on behalf of the team, whose ultimate employer was the White House.

Greg Anderson, the president of the museum where the event was held, said, "I don't know who reports to whom. It was a complex team of people." The better to pass the buck, my dear. But couldn't the Denver Three sue the person or entity which had authority to allow these people to operate on his/its behalf? Namely, the White House, who stands by the actions of its agents?

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The Single Finger Theory Part 2

After a discussion I had with commenter TheOaf at First Draft over whether it was the thumb or the middle finger, I looked further to make sure I was seeing it right. Now I see John Aravosis at AMERICAblog (who I link to and read almost every day) is still pushing the middle finger position.

I had previously only gone by the pictures, since at the time of the original posting of The Single Finger Theory, my computer wasn't playing Quicktime for me (stupid computer).

So I played the video at One Good Move, paused it when Bush raised his arm, and advanced forward and backward frame by frame as Jim Garrison did in JFK. The hand went down and to the left...down and to the left.

Frames 11 & 12
Unlike the original close-up I used (and I thought the configuration of that hand, along with the straight horizontal line and lack of indentation shadowing of fingers was enough proof) the video shows more clearly that it is his thumb.

If you start at the exact frame that the close-up shows and click to the 11th and 12th frames (shown above) you will see the movement of the thumb and hand going down and to the left. The hand gets wider in frame 12 as he unclenches his fist and turns his wrist from the thumb-up position to the thumb-left position.

There is no doubt that Bush is not adverse to flipping people off, using foul language, being a snotty brat, etc. But I think it is a mistake to stick to a position which is not supported by any eyewitnesses present at the event and which, at the very least, is in grave doubt based on a close examination of the available video evidence.

Progressive Women's Blog Ring
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