July 12, 2008

McKinney is officially the one

Cynthia McKinney is the Green Party’s 2008 presidential nominee. Democrats, once again take note that Ralph Nader is NOT the official anything of any organized political party.

That said, it looks like Raw Story is deliberately practicing “my Democrats, right or wrong” bias with the picture it used. Don’t tell me there’s not an official AP picture from the convention.

Next, to posters on Raw Story, Talking Points Memo for re-running a 2006 story, etc., Georgia has crossover primary voting; in a district that tends more than 70 percent Democratic, she didn’t lose renomination in 2006 just based on Democratic voters.

Third, there’s a difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. And, she has apologized for past campaign remarks by her father and a campaign manager.

Curry in the Guinness Book of World Records?

Not just ANY curry. What London restaurateur Vivek Singh, at The Cinnamon Club, bills as some of the hottest ever — the Bollywood Burner.

Guinness will have it investigated, with results announced, within three weeks.

Heat aside, curry’s a great antioxidant. And, the cumin in it has coumarin-type compounds, similar to prescription coumadin.

Bring the cops donuts instead of cookies next time

I have several pieces of advice for the Lake Worth and Blue Mound police departments, now that Christian Phillips cleared of all allegations that he tried to lace with LSD chocolate chip cookies brought to the Lake Worth PD.

To Lake Worth:
1. Do a second test, if anything like this happens in the future, before reacting, let alone over-reacting;
2. Put out to pasture, or else retrain, the drug dog that got a false hit on Phillips’ cookies.

To Blue Mound:
1. Tell your officers a human sniff test doesn’t count for marijuana;
2. Train them not to use a word like “reek” unless they have damned good evidence.

To both PDs:
1. A formal apology is probably in order — I’ll hold my breath, on the slim chance something actually pans out;
2. A review of your police department policies and procedures is DEFINITELY in order.
Looking at your cities having an official PR person might also be in order.

Lancaster ISD flunks fitness

And Duncanville is about as bad.

All of the four Best Southwest school districts in south suburban Dallas County scored below average on a statewide “Fitnessgram” conducted by the Texas Education Agency.

But, in the results, which track closely with rich-poor school district divides, Lancaster was dead last among Dallas Metroplex school districts; with Duncanville second from the bottom.

Both districts had nobody at eighth- and 12th-grade levels passing all six fitness tests. Lancaster had only 5 percent of third graders pass, and Duncanville 19 percent of third graders.

Both districts were also skimpy on the summer of tested students they reported, especially at the junior high and high school levels.

The results don’t totally show a poor-unfit correlation, though, contrary to co-authors of the Snooze story, who claim:
The correlation between economics and fitness stays true statewide.

Within the Best Southwest, Cedar Hill students tested to be as healthy, by percentage, as Lewisville ones, and DeSoto students were almost as healthy, as were Irving students. And Plano children were only modestly to moderately more healthy than in Cedar Hill.

In short, re the story authors, the statistical correlation is moderate to moderately strong, not extremely strong. And, of course, it is at this point JUST a statistical correlation. No causal correlation has been demonstrated. (Although it is certainly likely.)

Lancaster ISD chases away orchestra director to Grand Prairie

Theresa Dobbs, director of orchestras for the Lancaster Independent School District, is going to Grand Prairie ISD, where she will teach at two middle schools with the likelihood of moving up to the high school level when that position opens up.

Dobbs had reportedly been threatened with demotion to elementary-level teaching by LISD Director of Fine Arts James Browden. Her would-be high-school level replacement? Reportedly, a first-year teacher who does not yet have TEA certification.

Dobbs was hired as LISD’s first orchestra director in summer 2005 for the 2005-06 school year, teaching at the high-school level while overseeing elementary and junior-high teachers. (Photo by Today Newspapers/Steve Snyder.)
During her first year in Lancaster, Dobbs had this to say about teaching orchestra in public schools:
“Kids don’t think orchestra is cool. So my job is marketing and PR," she said.

But, there is progress at all levels from the start of the year. That includes informing students of musical scholarships and grants.

"The kids that are more involved are seeing the rewards and the potential," she said.

And, technology has changed music education for the better, too, Dobbs said.

Students can take master classes in their particular instruments on the Internet. They can pause, rewind and otherwise study in detail QuickTime videos.

"It enables us to deliver instruction directly to the home. It lets them gain ownership of their instruction," Dobbs said.

She also uses peer teaching to get the better students even more involved in their learning by helping students who are struggling more, or students at younger grades. Dobbs said this - older students working with younger ones - also adds cohesion on a year-to-year basis.

Dobbs, who has a master of music degree from Southern Methodist and experience in MIDI-based electronic music production as well as orchestra (primary instrument— cello). She has composed electronic as well as traditional orchestral music.

Musical influences for Dobbs, an accomplished guitarist as well as cellist include classical guitarist Andreas Segovia and modern guitarists Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix and Joe Satriani.

Knowing the background to the Lancaster situation pretty well, and knowing the scrutiny Texas Education Agency-appointed conservator James Damm will give to the LISD budget, it would not surprise me to see the orchestra program there go by the boards, sadly.

Beyond all this is the frustration of a highly parsimonious Lancaster ISD, which budgets orchestra and other specialty classes with a day-to-day classroom budget of “zero.”

Yes, Ms. Dobbs has to pay for spare orchestral strings or sheet music out of her own pocket.

She also paid for two student practice violins stolen at the theft-magnet Lancaster High School in the fall of 2006.

Michael DeBakey — too late for his Nobel

Michael DeBakey, essentially the father of open-heart surgery, is dead at 99.

Yes, he received many other honors, such as the Congressional Gold Medal, but, for whatever reason, never received the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine.

Bob Deuell wants statewide inspector general

Problems with the Texas Education Agency’s IG office, pretty much since the start of the office two years ago, have convinced state Sen. Bob Deuell a statewide inspector general’s office, independent from individual state agencies, is needed.

Deuell got a similar measure through the Texas Senate in 2007, but it died in committee in the House. He promised Friday he’ll push for similar legislation next year.
“The inspector general needs to be independent to be effective.”

Proof that it’s needed, and that TEA’s IG office isn’t independent?
“We’ve never been allowed to launch an independent investigation, at all, ever,” said Jim Lyde, one of two TEA investigators being fired.

Amen to that. Be ready to prod any baulky House members who try a repeat of 2007.

E coli mystery meat will get less mysterious

The Department of Agriculture is going to start naming grocery store names as part of some meat recalls.

Now, it will only be during major, “Class I” recalls, not lesser, “Class II” recalls.

It’s a start, true. But, USDA, by leaving out Class II recalls, wouldn’t tell you want stores got beef that originated like this Class II:
Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. in Chino, Calif.’s recall occurred after a Humane Society investigator filmed workers abusing “downer” cows unable to stand to force them to slaughter.

And, the original version of the rule, proposed two years ago, would have applied to all recalls.

Of course, other states can emulate California at the state level. It already requires store information on all meet recalls.

Indirect evidence of Lance Armstrong cheating appears to mount

Yet another former member of Armstrong’s U.S. Postal Service cycling team has tested positive for EPO.

Manuel Beltran is the fourth former Armstrong teammate to test positive for doping; the others were Floyd Landis, Tyler Hamilton and Roberto Heras. Landis lost his apparent 2006 Tour de France win over positive tests for synthetic testosterone. The other two, like Beltran, tested positive for EPO.

July 11, 2008

Can you smell the sulfur?

If you live in the Eastern U.S., you’re going to get to smell it plenty.

It must be environmental clusterfuck Friday or something.

The D.C. Court of Appeals ruled today that the Environmental Protection Agency exceeded its authority when it established the 2005 Clean Air Interstate Rule.

Fallout? Big time.
At its most stringent, the regulations covering 28 states in the eastern half of the country, would have required 70 percent reductions in such major pollutants as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide beginning in 2015.

The ruling, along with a court decision issued in February striking down the environmental agency’s rule controlling mercury emissions from power plants, means that virtually all new controls imposed on the electric utility industry by the Bush administration have no force.

“The implications are huge,” said Lisa Heinzerling, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center. “This is the administration’s major air pollution initiative.”

No shit. As John Walke of the National Resources Defense Counsel notes:
“The Bush administration has failed to achieve a single ounce in reductions of smog, soot, mercury or global warming pollution from power plants.”

You almost have to wonder if somebody in the EPA didn’t KNOW this was going to be found illegal and thereby deliberately propose the rule.

BushCo throws up straw men to fight having to fight global warming

The Bush Administration is officially disavowing the Environmental Protection Agency’s advance notice of proposed rulemaking about using the Clean Air Act to fight global warming. A joint letter from the secretaries of agriculture, commerce, transportation and energy, rejects the idea of using the act to regulate greenhouse gases, for example.
“Our agencies have serious concerns with this suggestion because it does not recognize the enormous — and we believe, insurmountable — burdens, difficulties, and costs, and likely limited benefits, of using the Clean Air Act to regulate GHG emissions.”

First, this ignores the EPA’s own estimate of potential economic benefits from GHG control, as much as $2 trillion worldwide, and here in the U.S., recouping costs on the easiest parts of the solution in no more than seven years.

Outside of auto transportation, MIT has invented a new solar concentrator that could be far better than current solar panels.

So, the White House-orchestrated attempt to undercut the EPA is the usual anti-environmentalist pack of lies.

Charles Rangel slumlords for the wealthy

Rangel, the powerful chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, has been a pretty consistent fighter for keeping rent-control housing in New York City —

EXCEPT

When the property company that’s cutting him a sweetheart deal on FOUR rent-controlled apartments, one of them apparently being used illegally by Rangel to boot, is the one turning rent-control properties into market-priced ones.
Rangel declined to answer questions during a telephone interview, saying that his housing was a private matter that did not affect his representation of his constituents.

“Why should I help you embarrass me?” he said, before abruptly hanging up.

Oh, no, hypocrisy NEVER affects how you represent your constitutents.

And, the apparent illegality?

Rangel uses his fourth apartment as a campaign office, despite state and city regulations that require rent-stabilized apartments to be used as a primary residence.

And, having four rent-stabilized apartments may be a violation of Congressional ethics rules on gifts, too.

Of course, some of Rangel’s own constituents are familiar with his past history of throwing his weight around in Harlem.

Read the full story for more on that, like the Apollo Theater.

Do NOT buy cheap made-in-China CFLs

I had the light guts of a cheap made-in-China compact fluorescent light separate itself from the screw-in socket base of the bulb last night, no doubt due to cheap and minuscule amounts of glue used. I’ve had similar problems before with cheap made-in-China three-way splitters for electrical outlets.

Anyway, the guts fell out of the socket base, and broke when hitting my kitchen table.

And, if you’re familiar with CFLs, you know what that means — mercury problem.

I forgot, and touched it with my bare hands, though holding my breath. With elemental mercury, the inhalation danger is far worse — though still not earth-shaking — than is the skin adsorption danger. Nonetheless, it’s mercury, and I wasn’t 100 percent cautious.

If there’s no blogging after this, I died.

Packers call Favre bluff — good

The Pack refuses to give the “retired” Brett Favre unconditional release.

Good. Favre can either say, “I’d like to play for the Pack again next year,” or he can say “trade me.”

Hey, Brett, get down off the cross. The Packers need the wood.

Besides, if he hasn’t been engaged in offseason minicamps, conditioning, skills work, etc., in Titletown, would he actually be better than Aaron Rodgers, anyway?

Over at ESPN, Gene Wojciechowski for some reason thinks Favre is better than Rodgers, but he’s deluded by the Favre of 10, or five, years ago, with a pinch of magic dust from the first three-quarters of 2008.

Gene, psst? Remember Favre in 2005? 2006? That air-ball turkey he threw up for interception against the Iggles in the playoffs a few years back? The intercepted turkey against the Giants in last year’s playoffs?

After that, how can you not list Eli Manning, along with Peyton, as being ahead of Favre? And, I would add other QBs as being at least rough equals of Favre of TODAY.

If you also think Wojo is an idiot, e-mail him.

For other teams, if Favre is as good as he still thinks he is, well, why wouldn’t the Pack want the Bucs, the Ravens or whomever else might be interested to pony up players, draft choices or both?

And if, like Wojo, they want to shell out for Favre the myth rather than Favre the reality, why shouldn’t the Pack prosper a bit?

Hey, Brett, this is the NFL, not charity, and you’re sure as hell not the beneficiary.

Fannie, Freddie and $150 drive Dow below 11,000

The weeklong worryfest over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac continued today, while oil more than reversed its start-of-week decline and threatened $150/bbl. Result? The Dow is now below 11,000.

To be honest, I would not at all be surprised if it slides below 10,500 sometime later this year. I wouldn’t be hugely surprised if it goes below a flat 10.

Friday SCATblogging — hot new ‘poperatic’ singer

No, that doesn’t mean someone singing pop music erratically. Rather, the neologism is for a crossover vocalist spanning the gamut from pop to opera.

Dorothy Bishop (photo from GayCityNews magazine) is described as almost being “the artistic love child of Eleanor Steber and Bette Midler.”

And, of course, Bishop is on this page today because she’s a scat singer:
Vocally, the “poperatic” soprano is able to sing scat, belt, and go from chesty growling to high coloratura, jumping registers and genres with the facility of the late Evel Knievel vaulting a pyre of burning cars. Diction and clean, unfussy musicianship are the constant factors here plus a born showwoman's unfailing instincts for reaching her audience. ... she ranges from Puccini to Donna Summer.

And, yes, she’s hot, too. But, guys, take note of the magazine; she’s obviously unavailable.

Friday SCATblogging — Chicago coyote scat and CATS!

Want to know what coyotes in Cook County, Ill., are eating? (And yes, they do live there; photo from Chicago WILDERNESS magazine.)

Why do they live there? Well, you’re about to learn the answer!

Read on for a sampling of the variegated modern coyote diet.

Table 1. Frequency of Food Items in the Diets of Coyotes in Cook County, Illinois.*
Diet Item Occurrence
Small rodents 42%
White-tailed deer 22%
Fruit 23%
Eastern cottontail 18%
Bird species 13%
Raccoon 8%
Grass 6%
Invertebrates 4%
Human-associated 2%
Muskrat 1%
Domestic cat 1%
Unknown 1%
* Based on the contents of 1,429 scats collected during 2000-
2002. Some scats contained multiple items; therefore, therefore, the
percentages exceed 100%. See Morey 2004.

Sorry, it’s not specific what “human-associated” means.

But, Kevin Drum and other Friday catbloggers? Wile E. Coyote is out there! Wahhhahahhhha!

Beyond that, as the linked story indicates, cats are a major killer of birds. So, if your cat is outside, it’s fair game, folks.

Of course, that’s just 1 percent. The thing that interests me is that deer make up 22 percent of the frequency. Are there really that many deer in Chicago? Inhabiting office parks at big companies? City parks? A bit of both?

iPhone 3G sux — hah!

Once again, all you “Apple can do no wrong” types get punked. Not that even that deterred some:
Edward Watkins, a 34-year-old engineer and avowed “techno nut,” said he didn’t mind paying an extra $10 a month to the carrier to upgrade his phone.

“I’d pay an extra $30 or $40 a month for that. It’s a smoother running phone. It’s driving a Beamer as opposed to a Chevy Metro.”

Hey, Ed?

If the Beamer won’t start when you’re in the dealership, it doesn’t look so good, does it?

Global warming update in Antarctica

Say goodbye to the Wilkins Ice Shelf, it appears.
This breakup is puzzling because it occurred in the Southern Hemispheric winter. It’s also behaving differently than previous breakups.

“The scale of rifting in the newly-removed areas seems larger, and the pieces are moving out as large bergs and not toppled, finely-divided ice melange,” said Ted Scambos from the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center.

What all this means, of course, remains to be seen. But, as the Antarctic Peninsula has seen a more rapid temperature rise than anywhere else on the continent, it can’t mean much good.

Cardinals stand pat in face of big Cubs and Brewers moves

First it was CC Sabathia to the Milwaukee Brewers. Next came the trade of Rich Harden to the Chicago Cubs.

But the St. Louis Cardinals? Although manager Tony La Russa thinks they need relief help, at least, and Mark Mulder is back on the DL (and possible done with baseball?), Cards GM John Mozeliak appears content to sit on his hands.
“I don’t think there’s one Band-Aid or one player (available in trade), who changes the dynamics of our club.”

(Oh, do NOT use Bleacher Report as a blog linking source, as its content is copy-protected HTML and you have either retype, or else save the page as a text doc, then copy and paste from it.)

That said, MLB.com’s Jim Molony argues that the two will give no more of a boost to the Brew Crew and Cubbies than the return of Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright will to the Redbirds.

Of course, Carpenter’s return is no more locked in stone than is the idea of Rich Harden staying healthy the rest of the year. Wainwright, though, should be back soon.

And, the Cards, rather than tinkering at the edges of their minor league system to plug gaps in the pitching staff injury express, have called up top minor league prospect Jaime Garcia.

Michael Lind attempts a neolib rehabilitation of Jesse Helms

And fails, even with shoddy straw men. Here’s the biggest one of those:
So much for media. Money? Progressives denounced big money in politics as plutocracy, until they discovered they could raise more than conservatives. All the talk of "small donors" aside, most liberal money comes from affluent people. MoveOn.org and other soft-money organizations, whether they like it or not, are the children of Jesse Helms' Congressional Club.

Uhh, Michael, to the best of my memory, Helms never was a “player” on the issue of government regulation of campaign finance, either for it or against it.

Lind then blames Helms, via Limbaugh, for the coarsening of liberal talking heads media:
A case can be made that Helms the radio showman and other conservative media demagogues pioneered the ascendant style of liberal discourse. In the last decade, Democratic donors and activists, pondering the success of the Southernized right, decided that what the liberal left needs is not a new message but better messengers — which meant an often conscious attempt to replicate the successful institutions of the right. And so we get someone like Keith Olbermann, who may admire Edward R. Murrow but whose hectoring owes more than we’d like to admit to Limbaugh, and therefore Helms.

Obstructionist? Indeed, Helms was. Hectoring? I wouldn’t use that word of him.

Influencing anybody’s media style, let alone Limbaugh’s? Not at all.

Did Helms influence, along with others, Limbaugh’s content? Hell, yes. But that’s entirely different than style.

I have no idea what corner of his brain Lind used to bake up these ideas.

That’s Salon, though. Some great stuff, a lot of good stuff, and some WTF? stuff.

Court may have declared Bush a felon

So argues one of the attorneys for the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation Inc., noting that on July 3, Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that President Bush lacks the authority to disregard FISA.

Even if that sticks, though, Shrub could pardon himself along with everybody else.

Back to the main article, though. Jon B. Eisenberg’s “burst of healthy paranoia” is certainly understandable, given the Kafkaesque use of the “state secrets privilege” argument by this administration.

Not so understandable, though, is the degree to which Eisenberg knuckled under. He was and is part of a seven-lawyer team, and one of the other counsels, Tom Nelson, was specifically nixed by Department of Justice attorneys from sitting in on some negotiations about how to handle statements related to a top-secret document the FBI accidentally gave to al-Haramain’s attorneys.

No, let me rephrase that.

Nelson was NOT nixed by the DOJ. He was nixed by Eisenberg knuckling under to the DOJ. Eisenberg also consented to having his hard drive physically destroyed by the DOJ, which Nelson refused — without further DOJ attempts to do so.

July 10, 2008

Just when you think the Dallas Morning News can’t get stupider …

On its editorial page, it does.

Chet Edwards as Veep?

Obama has no chance of winning Texas, so scratch that idea. He has a chance of winning Virginia, among Southern states; Edwards helps him not a lick there.

(Obama will NOT have a chance of winning Georgia, Democrats, because Cynthia McKinney’s Green pull will negate Bob Barr’s Libertarian pull.)

So, the only way Obama should look for a southern Democrat as Veep is if he or she comes from Virginia or, of course, from Florida.

And, if that’s not stupid enough, the idea that Chet Edwards is a “progressive” is laughable.

Hey, Keven Ann Willey, I can write better editorials. I DO write better editorials, and columns.

Fire whoever wrote that turkey and hire me instead.

Atheists who willingly defend misleading language are a frustration

Two weeks ago, I blogged about the latest Pew Research Poll on American religious beliefs, noting this absurdity, among other things:
Americans are so religiously and metaphysically STUPID, on average, that one out of five Americans who claim to be religiously unaffiliated and atheist claim to also believe in a divinity. Half of agnostics in that group make the same claim. ...

Hey, idiots. If you believe something, you can’t be agnostic about it!

But, all is not well in atheist land from where I sit.

Apparently, some people, some atheists, want to defend the use of misleading language, specifically, the illogical phrase “agnostic theism.” It’s a bad enough phrase in general, but in response to a blog post, and an original story, that both talked about “theism,” “agnosticism” and “atheism” all as belief states, it’s off-putting to say the least.

Here is the bottom line, with a sharp, hard-hitting analogy from American politics:
“Agnostic theism” is like “Democratic Republicanism” and “theistic agnosticism” is like “Republican Democratism.” (Allow the neologism for the noun parallel.)

Or, for Konstantine in Germany, “Agnostic theism” is like “Social Democratic-Christian Democratism” and “theistic agnosticism” is like “Christian Democratic-Social Democratism.”

There. I know everybody reading can understand that analogy.

To Konstantine, Adrian and Austin, I adapt my longer reply based on comments from my original post, with concluding thoughts following this long blockquote:
I stand by the original post, and I stand by saying that you’re using (potentially) misleading language. You, too, or you especially, Austin.

First, it’s clear that I, and the NYTimes linked story were talking about beliefs (or, my alternative phraseology, influenced by Dan Dennett, of “metaphysical belief,”) all along, and not knowledge. The word “belief” is in the first paragraph of my original post.

So, Austin, I never conflated “belief” and “knowledge.” I then said, if you can get Bob Carroll of The Skeptic’s Dictionary to prove me wrong, I’d listen.

Well, I went ahead and did my own research:
First, in hardcopy, my “Dictionary of Philosophy and Religion,” by William L. Reese, says this under “agnosticism”:
It is usually applied, however, principally, to suspension of belief with respect to God. (Emphasis added.)

Now, Bob Carroll does use the word “knowledge,” but as subordinate to “belief”:
Agnosticism is the position of believing that knowledge of the existence or non-existence of God is impossible.

Note the definition is about belief, again.

Again, I've been referring to belief all the time.

So has the Pew poll.

And, per that definition, let me rephrase my original critique:

Phrases like “agnostic theism” or “theistic agnosticism” in that both the governing noun and the adjective talk about states of belief, or metaphysical stances, to use my phrase ...

ARE MISLEADING.

You have incompatible belief states being smashed together.

I don't care if “agnostic theism” has 5,000 Google hits, either. I don’t even care if there’s a website called AgnosticTheism.com. No, I refuse to give it a hyperlink. (Added note to all: remember, “appeal to the crowd” is a logical fallacy anyway.)

I argue that is further proof of the Pew poll, anway. And, beyond that, neither Reese nor Carroll use either that phrase or “theistic agnosticism.”

And, as I said earlier, Austin, I don’t even care if you’re the atheism “guide” for About.com.

Thank doorknob there’s only 5,000 deluded Google hits, too. (Even more fortunately, the equally oxymoronic “theistic agnosticism” has less than 500 hits.)

Next, to tackle this linguistic oxymoron from another angle, let me go to a comment I made on the original post:
Re the Wiki link on agnostic theism that (db0) posts, let’s carefully analyze the English language used here.

“Theism” is the noun. Nouns always take precedence over adjectives like “agnostic.”

For example, you can have simple noun-verb, or N-V, sentences. You cannot have a noun-adjective, or N-Adj, sentence.

The reverse also holds true. You CANNOT be an agnostic, as a primary belief state, and modify it with “theistic,” either. (See below, outside of this blockquote, for a

But I will get beyond that

As for (Konstantine's) implication that many people in Germany, or elsewhere in Europe, or in online communities of his, may understand “atheism” to mean “irreligious,” well, then obviously a bunch of people in those communities are as stupid as they are here. Maybe the equivalent of Pew should poll them. And, I’ll call irreligious people in the UK who call themselves “atheists” idiots, too, db0. Give me e-mail addresses, and I'll even e-mail them that.

Ditto for agnostics using misleading language, or atheists who abet them.

And, as for Konstantine criticizing me, well, instead, he could have taken my article as it read and corrected stupid people on his and Adrian’s side of the pond.

And, per that definition, let me rephrase my original critique of all of you:

Phrases like “agnostic theism” or “theistic agnosticism” in that both the governing noun and the adjective talk about states of belief, or metaphysical stances, to use my phrase ...

ARE MISLEADING.

Merriam-Webster also agrees with me on the use of “agnosticism.”

Dictionary.com, especially in its first listed definition, agrees as well.

Wittgenstein would be turning over in his grave, if he could.

If I were dead, and could turn over in my grave, I definitely would, too.

I didn’t do my original post, nor this follow-up, seeking to be a one-person English-language equivalent of the Académie française, but I stand by my grammar and linguistics comments. I’m not against neologisms by any means; that’s how Shakespeare enlivened our language 400 years ago.

I AM against confusing, or unnecessary, neologisms, though, and this one, or the two non-equivalent ones, are confusing.

And, I am going to critique Thomas Huxley a bit, too.

I offer one more analogy:
It’s as if Huxley were working on a syllogism. “Knowledge” may have been the fulcrum of his major premise, but “belief” was the keystone of his conclusion.

Beyond that, I blame him for bad language; even though etymology doesn’t determine meaning 100 years out or more, he should have invented “apisteia” or similar, rather than “agnosticism.”

Also, as I e-mailed Austin, I stand by my psychological observation that “agnostic theism” is an attempt to give an intellectual gloss to theistic beliefs. I do not mean that Konstantine or Austin is doing this. But, I mean that I believe it can be used that way, as a sort of a “intellectual New Ageism” for want of a better term. It’s like smearing lipstick on a dying-and-rising savior god, to riff on an American English cliché.

Let me add more.

As far as the “about me,” I don't know if you’ve clicked on that on my blog.

I have a graduate divinity degree, and have read philosophy at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. Admittedly, that degree is 22 years old now. And, no, Austin, all my study was here in the U.S.

That said, I had never seen the phrase “agnostic theism” until you used it, Konstantine. No, Austin, I don’t read metaphysics books every day, but I do still keep my nose in philosophy books from time to time.

All that said ...

To the degree Konstantine objects to my “stupid” or “idiots” language, no apologies. Just like Hitchens has no need to apologizes for having the “strongest” language of the New Atheists. To go back to politics, would you call Dick Cheney a “not so nice guy”?

If it’s “condescending” to tell someone I think I have a variety of evidences for my use and understanding of the word “agnostic,” and that therefore I don’t want to “flog a dead horse” anymore, I don’t apologize for that, either. Argue with the dictionaries I linked.

And note that etymology does not define meaning. Besides, I believe Huxley was focused ultimately on “belief” and not “knowledge” anyway.

In my day job, I write an editorial column every week. Some times, there's no soft-spoken way to state something. And, yes, somebody may call that condescending too.

I absolutely reject Konstantine’s “Humpty Dumpty” argument via e-mail:
However, as long as people are speaking about the same thing then it’s all good. It doesn't matter if it’s called Theistic Agnosticism, Fidei[s]m or Purple Banana.

No it’s not. That’s why I said “read Wittgenstein” early on in the thread of comments to my original post.

I have certainly heard of “fideism,” but I don’t think it and “agnostic theism” mean the same thing.

Let’s go back to Wittgenstein once more. Along the lines of the “Tractatus,” not his later writings, I think “agnostic theism,” in one sense, says nothing. That is the thrust of my opening analogy.

And, if it’s “condescending” to say, “No, I won’t let you be Humpty Dumpty with words, at least not on my blog,” I can live with that, too.

In a softer vein, I told Konstantine that’s part of what enables fuzzy thinking and its growth. I do not know if this is an English-language issue, in some part, but I think not.(And, no, I do not mean that to be condescending.)

Adrian or anyone else who, after accepting the apology I offered to Konstantine about calling him a theist, and inferring he was British, still wants to delink my blog because I criticize his or your use of language?

Be my guest.

I would rather not be linked to you, in that case.

Final note: I reserve the right on this post to moderate or delete comments. Per comment to Konstantine, I do not at all mind sharpening wits with other people, but, the core issue has been defined. And no, I don’t think the linguistics are minor. As I told Konstantine, I do not want to go through the frustration of dead horse flogging. The core issue has been defined.

Beyond that, I don’t want the hassle of wondering when I’m going to be called “condescending” again.

McCain advisor Phil Gramm: Americans are ‘whiners’

Once again proving you can lead Phil Gramm to knowledge, but you can’t make him learn a damn thing, the poster boy for GOP hog-trough feeding insults Americans unfortunate enough not to be feeding at Phil and Wendy Gramm’s hog trough.
“We have sort of become a nation of whiners,” he said. “You just hear this constant whining, complaining about a loss of competitiveness, America in decline” despite a major export boom that is the primary reason that growth continues in the economy.

Of course, Phil Gramm is the penultimate whiner, every time he’s called to account for idiotic statements he makes.

Amazon gets snippy to protect Pat Buchanan

Amazon claims it won’t run my review of Pat Buchanan’s book of mythology, “Churchill, Hitler and the Unnecessary War,” because it gets too personal with Pat. Rather, I think, in my first and last paragraphs, it got too personal with Amazon.

Other than that, Amazon pulled the same nonsense on me in the past, claiming I concentrated too much on the personal opinions of the author. Frankly, there’s worse; several posted reviews on Amazon’s site talk about Pat’s alleged anti-Semitism, which I never touch in the review.

Rather, I think Amazon, as mentioned, is thin-skinned about itself. Judge for yourself:
Folks, when the errors start ON THE DUST JACKET, you've got a bad book. Unfortunately, Amazon doesn't have a negative-star rating.

Bad from the dust jacket on is indeed the case, as Buchanan perpetuates and propagates the myth of the "punitive" treaty of Versailles. Adjusted for inflation and France's smaller population, the Prussian treaty imposed at the end of the Franco-Prussian War in 1871 was far more punitive, in terms of reparations.

And, you know what? The French paid off the whole thing. In advance. Without inflating their currency.

There's other nonsense, starting with his coverage of World War I. In the Pacific, Japan may well have declared war against Germany without any British alliance. They were smart enough not to go after British islands or American ones; that left German holdings.

As for World War II in Europe, even someone as bumbling as Hitler might have beaten the Soviet Union without Britain at his back. (The real "story" of WWII is that Hitler tried to have "guns and butter" until 1943, not putting the German economy on a total war footing until after Stalingrad.)

Then, in spite of post-Munich evidence to the contrary, Buchanan would have us believe if Neville Chamberlain and French Premier Edouard Daladier had forced Poland's Beck to appease Hitler by giving up Danzig and a rail corridor across the Polish Corridor, Hitler would never have asked anything more from Poland. (Hitler's second meeting with Chamberlain, of course, had him saying the Sudentenland was not enough.)

Then, we have the absolute laugher of Pat claiming that Hitler's motivation on attacking the USSR was not ideology. That said, re the paragraph above, also contrary to Buchanan, Hitler would not have invaded the USSR in 1940 if the British and French had not declared war on im in 1939.

Contra page 360, where Buchanan claims there's no evidence Hitler intended to make Britain a slave state, we have a Nazi list of British intellectuals and politicians Hitler intended to round up and send to concentration camps.

But, when has Buchanan let facts get in the way of a story line?

Next, "Mr. Realpolitik" reaches deep into the right-wing dungeon to trot out the old "sellout at Yalta" schtick.

Then, we get into errors in Cold War history. Many historians would argue with Buchanan that Yugoslavia was not behind the Iron Curtain after 1954. And, Buchanan also overlooks Albania's "defection" to Beijing in 1961.

Then, there's annoyances of his writing style.

I have NEVER before heard Joseph Chamberlain called "Joe," first and foremost.

And, at oversized type and leading, this is really a 300-page book, too.

Finally, we have the irony, and hypocrisy, of Buchanan criticizing Churchill on grounds of racism.

And, any legitimate puncturing of Churchill's myth can be found in real history books rather than this rag. Amazon ought to bar the tag "history" from being used on this book.


Update:After Amazon got my slightly edited review posted, at least one of St. Patrick of Bigotry’s anti-Semitic worshipers has come out of the woodwork.

Here’s an e-mail I got from “Mister GAF”:
Hi Jew Snyder,

Please remove any mention of Socrates or Socratic school of thought.

The poor man must be rolling over in his grave.

It’s obvious that you are a fucking idiot with no credentials.

I won’t bother e-mailing this bigot back, but don’t let me stop YOU from doing so.

Send “Mister GAF” some e-love if you want to.

OPEC claims it can grow production until 2030

Umm, sure you can. This actually sounds like more Saudi oil propaganda.

As for the talk that OPEC can boost nonconventional resource production, the only OPEC member with huge nonconventional resources is Venezuela and its heavy sour oils. And it remains an open question whether or not Hugo Chavez’s nationalization of Venezuelan oil drove away enough expertise to hinder development of those oils.

BushCo has a bright idea on homeowners’ insurance

Let the Federal Housing Administration charge insurance premiums based on credit risk rather than a one-size-fits-all model.

Now, some people may say this is an additional burden for poorer actual or would-be homeowners.

First of all, there’s no constitutionally guaranteed right to own a home.

Second, there’s smaller homes, used homes, etc.

Don’t hold your EFF and ACLU breath over FISA suits

I certainly appreciate the plans of both the American Civil Liberties Union (as a member) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation to sue over the constitutionality of the FISA bill, but I don’t think it will fly.

The same old song and dance of the past will be repeated, in the following version.

The lawsuits will be dismissed when the relevant district judge accepts the Bush “get out of jail free” note and OKs it.

The two organizations, with the same whistleblowers as plaintiffs, will sue.

Eventually, as has happened with other lawsuits, such as some against the Patriot Act, courts will find that the plaintiffs don’t have standing because they can’t prove they were personally affected.

Remember, you heard it here first.

Kucinich focuses on one article of impeachment

Congressman Dennis Kucinich figures that if his 35 original articles of impeachment are a no-go, then maybe one article about the war will work.

Color me skeptical, still, of any chance of success. Remember that nearly 45 percent of House Dems voted for the FISA bill. They don’t want to challenge Bush, it’s that simple.

Russ Feingold is a dildohead

The very idea of “vote Obama to undo FISA damage” makes me want to look for a barf bag
“In particular, Barack Obama, should allow us to greatly change this mistake.

“Barack Obama believes in the Constitution. He’s a constitutional scholar. I believe that he will have a better chance to look at these powers that have been given to the executive branch, [even though] he'll be running the executive branch.”

If pseudoprogressive lying bullshit like that gets accepted, then the Democratic Party really should remove words like “liberal” and “progressive” from its vocabulary.

The chutzpah of Feingold, KNOWING that Obama just voted FOR the FISA bill, is crap.

If you, too, want to call him a dildohead or worse, here’s his webmail. Here’s what I said:
I call BULLSHIT on your “vote Obama to fix FISA” schtick. Why didn’t you say “vote Clinton”? She, at least, voted against the final bill.

And, if Obama is such a “constitutional scholar,” then why did he vote FOR it?

I guess you, like he, are Just.Another.Politician.

No thanks. I’ll be voting Green again this year.


Instead of a barf bag, maybe I could barf on pseudoliberal, Democratic-enabler blogs who will champion his idea.

July 09, 2008

Park Service trying to boost minority visitors

I’ve visited all but two National Parks west of the Mississippi, outside of Hawaii and Alaska, and I can personally attest that lack of minority visitors is noticeable.
“We do not reflect the changing face of America,” said David Barna, a park service spokesman in Washington. “The national parks are still a middle-class Caucasian visit, primarily.”

Causes? African-Americans are the most urbanized ethnic group, that’s one problem. Minorities may be less interested in the history presented at historical national parks.

But, as Joquetta Johnson found out, that history is minority-relevant at many National Park Service sites, whether national parks, national monuments, national historic sites or whatever.

Price? The most expensive parks are $20 a carload. That’s the same as three people going to a non-rush hour movie. An annual Parks Pass, at $50, is some of the best money spending in the world.

Remoteness? No, that doesn’t fly, with some exceptions noted below. The AP story focuses on Harper’s Ferry, just a few hours from Washington and Baltimore. Gettysburg is less than two hours from Baltimore and Philadelphia.

And, since the days of NPS Director George Hartzog, the Park Service has focused on developing urban National Park sites like Golden Gate in San Francisco. Hartzog also expanded minority hiring and promotion within NPS.

It does seem to go back to relevance, or perceived relevance or lack thereof:
Surveys have found Hispanics and blacks are far less likely to visit the parks and far more likely to describe them as uncomfortable places. …

While there are sites that reflect the stories of black and Native Americans, the Park Service has done what Barna calls “an appalling job” of celebrating Hispanic Americans. Nor does it offer much to Asian Americans.

There is Manzanar, a Japanese internment camp in California. There is Utah’s Golden Spike, a symbol of Chinese laborers, many of whom died building the nation's railroads. Neither is much to celebrate.

Manzanar “celebrates” a less-than-stellar point in American history. Golden Spike has very little that is Chinese-specific.

As for Hispanics, Coronado National Memorial in isolated southeastern Arizona, and Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego, are about it. (Oops; a Texas friend reminds me of Chamizal in El Paso. And, yes, there are the San Antonio missions, but they're a bit of weak tea.)

And, there’s an economic back issue to this.

NPS already has a huge maintenance backlog, to the tune of several billion dollars. As minorities in our country grow, will they balk at funding that?

I do like the idea of summer internships and summer jobs for high school students. Perhaps a closer partnership with The Student Conservation Association, a small-scale modern equivalent to the Depression-era CCC, could help. (SCA is well worth a few charity dollars, too.)

As for minority-specific parks, can a West Coast equivalent of Ellis Island be established? That would certainly touch on Asian issues. Can Mount Rushmore, or Badlands, get a piggybacking about Chinese among the Black Hills gold miners?

On the Hispanic side, DeSoto and Balboa national monuments or national memorials in Florida are a no-brainer.

Park Service expands access for disabled

Last year more than 276 million people visited sites managed by the National Park Service (NPS) — each one finding their own meaning and value in a personal way. What about visitors with special needs – are they given the same opportunities to experience and appreciate the national parks? In most cases - yes.

The NPS has developed and made available a website to aid visitors with disabilities and special needs to find accessible trails, programs, activities, and other features at national park units nationwide. It is hoped that we can assist visitors and their families and friends in travel planning to the NPS site of their choice. Visit the “National Parks: Accessible to Everyone” website to learn about what opportunities are available in parks for visitors with disabilities and special needs.

“I am proud of all that the National Park Service is doing to provide opportunities to enjoy the parks for everyone who wants to visit,” said Mary A. Bomar, Director of the National Park Service. “We still have a way to go before we can say we are accessible to all, but that is our goal and we will continue to work to achieve that – it is the least that we can do.”

National park units are constantly moving forward to provide accessible trails, campgrounds, museum exhibits, ranger programs, and other visitor opportunities for visitors with disabilities.

Maybe a judge will hold Mukasey in contempt — for real

Judge Thomas Hogan told the Department of Justice to make Gitmo trials job No. 1:
“The time has come to move these forward. Set aside every other case that’s pending in the division and address this case first.”

Snark aside, Hogan even offered to help DOJ find countries of repatriation or expatriation for Guantanamo detainees.

Of course, there’s this little issue of the government not wanting to pay the detainees’ public defenders.
“Now the government is stonewalling again by not allowing Americans’ private dollars to be paid to American lawyers to defend civil liberties,” ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero said.

What if Hogan threatens to rule that detainees have no possibility of receiving a speedy trial, under the Sixth Amendment, if the Bush Administration keeps this up?

Nathan Newman drinks Obama ‘populist’ Kool-Aid

Ahh, the bloggers lining their ducks up at TPM. Nathan Newman is now drinking the Obama the populist Kool-Aid.

My reply:
Nathan, the only thing you’ve “proved” is that Obama’s Kool-Aid is tasty.

Obama still opposes gay marriages, and still says gay marriage issues should be left to the states. That’s a HUGE fucking pander.

Condemned bad trade deals? Let’s not forget Austen Goolsbee’s under the table talk to Canada during the primary season.

The bankruptcy bill and tax bills? As long as Goldman Sachs is BO’s top campaign contributor, color me skeptical.

Plus, Hillary voted NO on FISA renewal today, while BO voted YES.

Some populism, eh?

Jesse Helms, no principles; L.F. Eason, principles — where are national Democrats?

Eason, a 29-year employee with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, resigned his $65K job rather than fly a flag at half-staff to commemorate Jesse Helms:
“Regardless of any executive proclamation, I do not want the flags at the North Carolina Standards Laboratory flown at half staff to honor Jesse Helms any time this week,” Eason wrote just after midnight, according to e-mail messages released in response to a public records request.

He told his staff that he did not think it was appropriate to honor Helms because of his "doctrine of negativity, hate, and prejudice" and his opposition to civil rights bills and the federal Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

Kind of a nice contrast to top national Democrats who sat on their lips after Helms’ death while the right-wing hagiography machine worked overtime.

Update: Michael Lind attempt to do a neolib rehabilitation of Helms. And fails.

Jesse Helms, no principles; L.F. Eason, principles — where are national Democrats?

Eason, a 29-year employee with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, resigned his $65K job rather than fly a flag at half-staff to commemorate Jesse Helms:
“Regardless of any executive proclamation, I do not want the flags at the North Carolina Standards Laboratory flown at half staff to honor Jesse Helms any time this week,” Eason wrote just after midnight, according to e-mail messages released in response to a public records request.

He told his staff that he did not think it was appropriate to honor Helms because of his "doctrine of negativity, hate, and prejudice" and his opposition to civil rights bills and the federal Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

Kind of a nice contrast to top national Democrats who sat on their lips after Helms’ death while the right-wing hagiography machine worked overtime.

Update: Michael Lind attempt to do a neolib rehabilitation of Helms. And fails.

So much for FISA filibusters, eh? Where was Feingold?

Contrary to GOP threats of filibustering, it’s been a long time since we’ve had a Senator actually, individually, filibuster a bill. Well, all his high talk aside, even Russ Feingold apparently decided he didn’t want to add a page to Senate history books.
”This president broke the law,” Feingold said.

Then, why didn’t you filibuster?

In an anticlimactic final vote, the FISA amendment debasement bill sailed through the Senate after Chris Dodd’s “strip the immunity” amendment to it failed to get even 35 votes. Arlen Specter’s proposal to have district courts address the legality issue before granting immunity got 37 votes, and Jeff Bingaman’s proposal to delay immunity for a year-long investigation (which nobody wants in a presidential election year) got 42 votes.

Couple the FISA cave with Bush’s refusal to approve Passive Pelosi™’s nomination to a new government civil liberties board, and the Irony alert and Hypocrisy alert confluence is huge.

Not approved?
Morton Halperin, a veteran and sometimes controversial civil liberties advocate who has a famous role in the history of modern debates over government wiretapping.

Saudi Arabia 2008, meet Spain 1560s

High-dollar crude isn’t so nice to Saudi Arabia; inflation is at 11 percent per annum.

The header of this blog?

All the Aztec and Inca gold looted by Cortes and Pizarro, followed by the silver of San Luis Potosi and elsewhere, passed through Spain like Ex-Lax through a colicky baby.

The Spain of Philip II, Spanish Inquisition days, Monty Python aside, exacerbated the situation with expelling the Jews, many of whom were merchants, generally denigrating trade, and not developing a full-blown economy.

Does that sound familiar? Saudi Arabia doing a pass-through with petrodollars for U.S. weapons hardware, importing Indians and Pakistanis to do the dirty work, etc.?

Read the whole thing and judge for yourself how accurate the parallels are.

Flooded Iowa farms may be self-inflicted

Mass monoculture agriculture is biting farmers in the butt for getting too cozy with Big Ag.
Kamyar Enshayan, director of an environmental center at the University of Northern Iowa and … Cedar Falls City Council member … suspects that this natural disaster wasn't really all that natural. He points out that the heavy rains fell on a landscape radically reengineered by humans. Plowed fields have replaced tallgrass prairies. Fields have been meticulously drained with underground pipes. Streams and creeks have been straightened. Most of the wetlands are gone. Flood plains have been filled and developed.

Many Iowans, whether farmers or not, don’t want to think, or talk, about the idea. But Enshayan isn’t alone:
“I sense that the flooding is not the result of a 500-year event,” said Jerry DeWitt, director of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University. “We’re farming closer to creeks, farming closer to rivers. Without adequate buffer strips, the water moves rapidly from the field directly to the surface water.”

Also, both corn and soybeans have shallow roots.

Of course, that means when major floods do come, they eat away more soil, because you corn and beans can’t hold it in place well.

That, in turn, sediments up rivers. Which, then, back up flood waters.

Read the full story for more details.

Headline lies: U.S. does NOT want climate control

But, the Yahoo headline on this AP story about the G8 and climate control claims it does:
US, allies want global pollution slashed — by 2050

The lede in the story specifically negates that header:
World leaders embraced for the first time on Tuesday an ambitious but nonbinding goal of slashing greenhouse-gas emissions in half by midcentury to stave off global warming.

If it’s “nonbinding” (and that is at the assistance of Darth Cheney, more on him in a second), then it can’t be “wanted.”

Plus, how can a “nonbinding” goal be “ambitious”? Same answer — it can’t. If you have an ambition, it’s always for something specific.

Besides being nonbinding, this “goal” doesn’t name a baseline year or anything else.

So, even if Yahoo wrote the header, without an AP suggestion, nonetheless, the AP writers wrote a crappy lede to boot.

I’ve cut the AP slack on whether or not they’re out to “get” Obama, but this is just crappy writing.

Oh, and Darth Cheney?

We certainly won’t have anything either binding or ambitious as long as he’s in office, perhaps still deleteing public health risk information from climate change testimony.

Is this not suborning perjury?

But because Passive Pelosi™ opposes the use of Congressional inherent contempt, we’re likely to never get that legally settled.

That bacon could give you a staph infection

Yessirree! We now have MSRA-resistant hogs.

And since, as things like swine flu, pig heart valve transplants and such suggest, the swine-human interspecies barrier is so low, I’m sure you can ingest MSRA staph with your bacon and eggs.

It seems at least three people already have in Great Britain.

July 08, 2008

Did Brewers get best of Sabathia deal? I say not

I think it is probably a wash and the deal may even be a push for the Tribe.

Before his Cy Young 2007, Sabathia had shown hints of promise in 2006. Before that, he was solid, but by no means spectacular.

And this year? He’s regressing. Look it up.

Of course, as a Cards fan, I HOPE the Brewers blew this trade, too. Since all they traded were prospects, that won’t really matter for this year, though, unless they really blew it.

EvPsych gets yet another kick in the pants

Alleged male-female differences in visiospatial skills are wiped out with just a few hours of video game therapy.
While men scored better than women before training, after playing Medal of Honor both women and men improved significantly. The difference between males and females after the training was not significant — the gap between women and men was almost completely erased. Even more impressively, the researchers retested both groups five months later and found that both groups were still performing as well as they had right after training. The group playing Ballance showed no significant gains.

This once again shows there’s a big difference between the quasi-metaphysical storytelling of Evolutionary Psychology (with caps) versus the legitimate, evolutionary biology-driving evolutionary psychology.

(I’m waiting for the inevitable comments by Greg and any other diehard Ev Psychers who will try to explain this away.)

I cover the basics of the difference between Ev Psych and ev psych here, based in fair degree on the writings of philosopher of science David Buller, which he explains in further detail in this Scientific American interview.

Was Laura Bush’s grandmother a lesbian?

In the novelized version of her life, the answer is yes, in a new tongue-wagger thinly disguised as a novel.

Of course, if true in the real world, that would probably explain Laura Bush’s younger-life wildness, and possibly also connect to alleged depression problems.

Boone Pickens only halfway gets Peak Oil

Yes, it’s nice to have someone in the oil patch as famous and rich as T. Boone Pickens sounding the alarm about Peak Oil (overlooking his Swift Boater sponsorship four years ago, and his weaseling out of being called out on it last month, but, he’s clueless about how to address Peak Oil.

Natural gas cars? North America hit Peak Natural Gas earlier this decade; the world will likely do so by 2030, so that’s an obvious nonstarter.

The Snooze writer isn’t much better, ignoring the fact that more LNG cars would push the cost of gas higher.

As well as both Pickens and Ms. Souter ignoring how much NG prices have already spikes this year, in oil’s wake.

It’s ‘kick Lancaster ISD’ day at the Dallas Morning News

And, well earned, even if the Snooze is two months slow on talking about the theft history of former LISD chief financial officer Eugene Smith. That said, the story does provide background on the personal connection between Smith and Superintendent Larry Lewis.

But, the real fun is inJacquielynn Floyd’s column, titled “The spin in Lancaster ISD is getting tiresome.”
If you're not tapping your feet and singing along by now, you must be spiteful or cynical or just plain nuts. You must be against excellence!

It’s a journey to a parallel universe where every problem is a blessing in disguise, where there’s no embarrassment that can't be pasted over with a shiny coat of happy talk, and where, if you don't have something nice to say, you should keep your big mouth shut.
At the center of all this is the district's enigmatic superintendent, Dr. Larry Lewis.

Couldn’t have said it better myself. Although I have said many similar things here in different ways before, and in the pages of Lancaster Today in my final months there.

And no, we’re not against excellence, just against an apparently incompetent administration.

Southwest hits gold with Canadian code-share partner

WestJet could be a better partner for Southwest than the defunct ATA anyway.

Southwest hasn’t had an international code-share partner since Icelandair more than a decade ago. With a much larger Southwest today, this is good for its future growth.

And, like Southwest, WestJet runs all 737s. Hmm, possible merger in the future?

As far as U.S. routes, WestJet flies to New York City, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Tampa, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale.

For Dallas passengers, probably the Phoenix and Los Angeles connections are most valuable, giving entrée to western Canada from there. Given that Phoenix is Southwest’s busiest airport, this is big. Next would be the NYC connection, since WestJet actually goes there via Newark, a Southwest destination.

And, WestJet has several Caribbean flights.

The jackpot, with or without an actual merger, would be for WestJet to fly into Chicago Midway.

That would put Dallas passengers immediately on the tarmac for one-stop flights to Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal, since Chicago gets removed from Wright Amendment restrictions later this year.

Maliki gives Obama chance to reclaim liberal cred

Obama should IMMEDIATELY jump on the Iraqi government’s rejection of a status of forces agreement without a timetable.

Obama could say something like this:
Any “refining” of my Iraq withdrawal plans include a firm timetable for withdrawal satisfactory to the Iraqi government, as part of a larger status of forces agreement. My administration will fully respect the sovereignty of Iraq’s government.

Obama, as a politician, not an idealist, could then privately hold close to his vest any “conditions-based” reservations he has.

And also, he could hold close to the vest his continued vagueness (deliberate,IMO), about just what defines “combat” vs. “noncombat” U.S. troops in Iraq.

Obama has shown he has no problems being that type of politician.

He has, though, shown that he still has trouble actually articulating the nuances of being that type of politician at the presidential level.

Maliki has given Obama a big ladder down into his self-dug hole. But, will he take it? I doubt it.

That’s because, in my opinion, Obama also still has trouble admitting that he still has trouble with those aforementioned nuances.

Four myths of Obama campaign finance

Without in any way excusing John McCain’s apparent illegality in his “opt-in, opt-out” playing with the Federal Elections Commission, Andrew Romano punctures four myths of Barack Obama’s fundraising, the first of which, at least, has been blindly accepted, even promulgated, by progressive Democratic talking points bloggers, Atrios the worst on this one.

That said, the four myths —the first and second linked, the third a surprise — are:
• Obama Opted Out of Public Financing for Reasons of Principle;
• Obama Gets All — or Even the Vast Majority — of His Money from Small Donors;
• The Share of Obama’s Money That Comes from Small Donors is Completely Unprecedented;
• Obama Won't Receive Any Help from Outside Groups.

I’ve already blogged about the first, and touched on the second. The third interests me more, being a new talking point.

Romano has details. Yes, Obama has gotten a higher percentage of money from small donors than previous candidates. But, Romano questions the “unprecedented” idea.

He notes that while 45 percent of his money (so far) comes from donations of less than $200, Kerry hit 37 percent back in 2004. And, Romano doesn’t note if Kerry’s percentage was as of the same time of year as Obama’s, or was as of November.

As Obama attends more high-roller events, his 45 percent will likely decline, too.

Passive Pelosi™ FIGHTING inherent contempt

That’s the word from After Downing Street about this oh-so-tough Speaker of the House.

Specifically, she’s fighting Judiciary Chairman John Conyers on the use of inherent contempt against Karl Rove.

The link has numbers for all the Dems on House Judiciary; Pelosi’s phone is listed in comments.

Or, e-mail her.

$2,300 dinner with the $20 donor candidate

Good that the MSM is starting to look at the Obama campaign’s greedy fingers, even if liberal Democratic bloggers will complain about MSM bias:
Democratic fat cats also are meowing loudly of late. As Penny Pritzker — Obama’s campaign finance chairwoman — acknowledged recently, the main reason the campaign relied on small donors for so long is that it had not yet found the time to milk the big ones.

“We have not been able to have much of the senator’s time during the primaries so we had to rely more on the Internet,” she told The New York Times last week.

The Obama campaign is remedying that oversight. In Los Angeles 10 days ago, the campaign pulled in $5 million from a Hollywood fund-raiser.

And in Atlanta last night, Obama met first with 300 or so backers at a plush banquet hall near the Governor’s mansion, according to the Los Angeles Times reporter Louise Roug who was the press representative at the evening’s events (The Obama campaign, unlike many other campaigns, refuses to let all of the reporters traveling with the campaign attend its large and lucrative fund-raisers).

Obama spoke of economic struggle to folks who had paid $2,300 to walk in the door; some of them forked over another $10,000 for the pleasure of attending a VIP reception and standing on a photo line.

Ahh, the populist candidate.

Are these the type of faith-based orgs Obama wants to support?

A Georgia abstinence-only group has gotten half a million tax dollars for, among other things, this:
"Boys and girls are invited to chew cheese-flavored snacks and then sip some water, after which they are to spit the resulting 'bodily fluids' into a cup. After a game in which the fluids are combined with those of other students, ultimately all cups are poured into a pitcher labeled 'multiple partners' sitting adjacent to a pitcher of fresh water labeled 'pure fluids.' In the final segment, each boy and girl is asked to fill a cup labeled either 'future husband' or 'future wife' with the contents from one of the pitchers.”

Just as BO hasn’t explained how many troops he thinks we’ll be left in Iraq after “combat” troops are pulled, he hasn’t explained how he will determine what faith based programs are “worthy” of living high on the government teat, suckling at the government breast, stroking the government rod, embracing the engorged government money wand, etc., even in the name of failed sex-education programs.

Yet another reason not to vote for Obama

One that many Californians could agree with: His opposition to gay marriage.

Oh, and yes, the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. That said, I can understand the leeriness of a gay set of spouses from Massachusetts in challenging the law, especially given today’s SCOTUS.

And, it’s a high degree of ostrich-itis, given the amount most Americans move, to say states should decide their marriage policies, the implication being they should decide them as if DOMA were in fact constitutional.

And, it’s more than his opposition to gay marriage that’s at stake.

Obama opposes gay marriage, but opposes California’s constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

Social conservatives, if they haven’t already, can claim this is like many Democrats saying they’re personally pro-life but still support abortion rights.

And, those social conservatives would be right.

From my point of view, the issue is that Obama could and should make such a move himself. It would a reasonable stance for him to take.

Instead, between his actual beliefs, and now, wanting to junk DOMA, he looks like he’s either confused or a panderer, and it wouldn’t be the first time for him to either one of those.

Your pediatrician wants to give your kid Lipitor

To quote Tevye from “Fiddler on the Roof,” this idea “sounds crazy, no”?

At the very least, the idea that 8-year-old kids should be taking cholesterol-reducing drugs sound very narrow-minded.

Now, it may not be your kid that gets Lipitor. Only if he or she is overweight and has bad LDL cholesterol. So, this message may not apply to you. Given that one-third of American children are considered overweight, though, it may well apply to you.

And, yes, the American Academy of Pediatrics gives lip service to more exercise and better all-around diet, but from the way the story reads to me, that’s all it is, is lip service.

It’s like pediatricians are tired of battling parents who are themselves either tired of or never started battling Big Ag’s and Big Food’s flood of Saturday morning commercials.

It’s also not very holistic medicine.

July 07, 2008

Tom Curry nails Obama’s Iraq wrongs

Curry nails the key issue: How many troops will Obama keep there after removing all “combat” troops?

After all, 40 years ago, we had thousands of “trainers” in Vietnam before bringing in combat troops. And Curry dives in ther
Close readers will not overlook Obama’s use of the phrase “combat troops.” That implies that other troops — trainers, observers, etc. — he calls them “residual troops” — would remain in Iraq, since training the Iraq army and police would remain a mission under would-be President Obama.

“What kinds of troop presences will we need in order for that (training) to occur?” Obama wondered last week. “What kind of troop presence do we need to have a counterterrorism strike force in Iraq that assures that al Qaida does not regain a foothold there?”

Well, you mean, you didn’t research this before making your straddling position about getting us “out” (not counting all these non-combat troops) of Iraq in the first place? Or, are you being disingeneous, having some indication from Petraeus or some other brass hat that “non-combat troops” may be a bigger number than you would like to publicly admit?

Here’s Obama’s stupidest statement in the whole shooting match:
And the withdrawal, Obama said in 2006, “could be suspended if at any point U.S.commanders believe that a further reduction would put American troops in danger.”

C’mon, BO, you’re old enough to have seen the Saigon 1975 pictures.

There is no such thing as a “safe withdrawal.”

The man’s chutzpah gets unveiled more all the time.

Being an atheist doesn’t guarantee critical thinking — or factual accuracy

As in this atheist blog post that claims religion has killed 2.3 billion people in various wars.
In a nutshell, the author badly, sadly, and perhaps deliberately conflates correlation with causation in many cases. At a few other points, as claiming that European invaders of the New World practiced “smallpox genocide,” he simply gets facts wrong. That leads off my response to him, edited and expanded for the purpose of this blog post:


The Spanish, etc., who brought smallpox with them? Yes, per Jared Diamond, that gave them an advantage, but Hernando Cortez didn’t cough in Montezuma’s face or something. Certainly, the Spanish didn’t bring smallpox-bearing slaves from Africa (per your linked webpage) for the purposes of genocide to American Indians, either. For the first century or so after “Contact,” Europeans didn’t even know they had this advantage, let alone why. 
Genocide implies deliberation, and with the exception of Sir Jeffrey Amherst just after the end of the French and Indian War, I’ve yet to see a documented case of it on smallpox. 
Beyond that, your linked webpage, in more than one spot, uses phrases like “some believe,” with no empirical documentation. You can always find someone who believes something at sometime; they may often be a stereotypical P.T. Barnum sucker, tho8ugh.Next, the British, especially, didn’t claim to be conquering in the name of God. Amherst certainly didn’t make that claim. Therefore, any deliberate casualties of his bioweaponry can’t be considered “religiously caused.” (That said, I grew up in New Mexico. I am more than familiar with conquistadors and priests, and Indians with long cultural memories.) 
In short, that whole graf of yours is emotionally biased, emotionally laden, and of almost no factual support. 
And, even earlier, you confuse correlation with causation. Did Jinggis Khan kill his 40 million because of his animist religious beliefs? I hugely doubt it. Did medieval Japan invade Korea for religious reasons? Again, I hugely doubt it. 
Despite the Japanese emperor being “divine,” can Japan’s WWII invasion of China be called religiously driven? You would have a boatload of historians rejecting that. Ditto for Hitler, born Catholic but probably best described as an agnostic as an adult, and having religious reasons for his half of World War II. 
The Iran-Iraq War? Not religious. A secular Muslim, Hussein, launched the invasion. Later, after losing the Gulf War, Hussein wrote the Quranic statement of belief on the Iraqi flaq as a PR gesture. It didn’t make him any more religious than before, nor did it make his gassing of the Kurds religious. 
In short, I can easily knock about a third of these numbers out of the ring. 
Don’t give atheist intellectualism a bad name.

The blogger in question, in response to me posting this on his blog, claims “genocide” doesn’t imply causation. Au contraire, since genocide is usually defined as “mass MURDER” and not “mass manslaughter.” He also ignores his own introduction, where he talks about “deaths from theism,” overlooking that that implies causation that simply isn’t there. (And he ignored my comment about factual inaccuracies.)
I couldn’t resist one final post back:

Let me go you one better. The oldest tentative evidence for religion goes back 50,000 years. 
But Homo sapiens evolved 500,000 years ago. There’s a LOT of “atheist” murders you forgot to count.
This post is actually a good example of classical “village idiot atheism.”

Shorter Jim Webb: Obama doesn’t want me

Jim Webb’s “I’m removing myself from consideration” comment is what ANY vice-presidential candidate says when they realize, for whatever reason, they’re not getting traction.

In spades, it’s what any VP candidate like Webb says, after extensively polishing their own apple and realizing they’re not getting traction.

Now, Webb can go back to providing Obama flak on some military issues while allowing some Democrats to continue to indulge the idea that if they would just embrace their inner Bubba, they would win some red states.

More idiocy from wild horse advocates

Not content with recognizing their advocacy in banning domestic horse butchering may have contributed to the growth in wild horses, wild horse advocates are now protesting plans to euthanize the rapidly growing number of Nevada wild horses.

Look, nimrods. What don’t you understand about the simple phrase “BLM doesn’t have the money” to do sterilization programs (which won’t affect the IMMEDIATE overrun, anyway) or other long-term solutions? Let alone, what don’t you get, Chris Heyde of the Animal Welfare Institute, that BLM HAD to start this roundup, and that it didn’t do it because it thought it could make a big profit from horse slaughter?

Yet again, Toyota does it again, leaving GM to cry in its beer

This time, it’s announced the third-generation Prius will have solar panels.

That will help power the A/C, especially in hotter climates, thereby keeping gas engine usage down.

And, for all you people on a five-month Prius waiting list? Toyota says it will make about 450,000 in 2009, up 60 percent from 2007 numbers.

And, that cratering sound you just heard was GM’s stock falling to about, oh, the $2 mark. There’s no way in hell Volt, even if it’s out in some version in 2010, will be out with solar panels.

Tom Hayden exposes the real Obama on Iraq — enabler blogs don’t like it

Hayden has crystal-clear analysis of the real Barack Obama position on Iraq, viewpoints that most of his liberal Democratic Party bloggers, the Kos, TPM, WM, etc. on down don’t like, but are still true.
More ambiguous than audacious.

Check.
“(That) pledge also has been laced with loopholes all along, caveats that the mainstream media and his opponents (excepting Bill Richardson) have ignored or avoided until now.

Indeed.
Then he adopted the safe, nonpartisan formula of the Baker-Hamilton Study Group, which advocated the withdrawal of combat troops while leaving thousands of American counter-terrorism units, advisers and trainers behind.

And, as for Obama’s “refining,” Hayden calls him out on that right away.
“I intend to end this war.”

Beyond that, Hayden notes that the whole thrust of Obama’s speech is to buck final responsibility to the military. If Petraeus says, “too dangerous to bring them home,” well, who is Civilian Obama to overrule that?

Read the whole column; Hayden is spot on. Hayden concludes with four talking point “demands” for Obama to show his progressive peace talker bona fides.

I e-mailed Josh Marshall at TPM and he said Hayden is not exactly “whom he goes to for sage advice on this kind of stuff.”

And, that’s why people like you, Josh, are enablers. (Maybe I can get booted from TPM, like I did from Enabling Those We Choose earlier this year.)

I said it before, I almost hope Obama wins just to watch him break all the non-promise promises that he hasn’t already broken.

There will be blood for GM car divisions

Boy, I’d love to be a fly on the wall at General Motors’ August board of directors meeting. Per the Wall Street Journal, every car division except Chevy and Cadillac could get whacked, along with major additional job cuts, etc.

But, some of these divisions aren’t worth any more as sales items than they are within GM. Hummer? You’d probably have to pay somebody to take that off your hands. GMC? Would get, at best, $1 billion. And, with the way GM is burning through cash right now, that would literally cover a full one month of losses.

Schadenfreude — I feel the Tahoe owners’ pain, and laugh

I just don’t give a damn about your self-inflicted pain. The average American SUV owner, in addition to blaming Detroit, Congress and the White House for a lack of fuel policy, not that they’re all not to blame, which they are.

You the SUV driver are ultimately the one to blame. Your belief in American greed, American exceptionalism, and American invasions in the Middle East, along with a willful parochialism which includes a refusal to learn much about the outside world, let alone learn from it what we could be doing better on energy issues, is why your Tahoe now costs $100 to fill up. (Getty images photo original.)

In essence, lured by cheap gas, and five-, six- or even seven-year loans, you willingly signed up for the vehicular equivalent of a subprime mortgage.

And, you’re going to have to deal with it a loooongggg time. As former ExxonMobil CEO Lee Raymond (AP original photo) said:
“By the time there is panic, people need to realize this: There is no quick-fix on this. By the time you panic, it is way too late.”

Oh, and here’s a bit of ironical bitch-slap for you. David H. Obelcz, founder of the Chevy Avalanche Fan Club of North America, has sold his Avalanche.

And, as late as it is, one top-ranking elected official, GOP Sen. Pete Domenci of New Mexico, is admitting he made a mistake in the past:
“We were like everybody else,” he says. “We should have been more active on CAFE sooner.”

Dirty little non-secret, though, is that Pete feels free to say that because he’s retiring.

At the same time, Domenici doesn’t believe GM’s hype about the Volt, or anything else that’s coming from Detroit’s mouth:
“They talked a good research game,” he says. “But let’s face it, little was being done. They are suffering the consequences and could go broke just like the airlines.”

Living on Mecca time

No, not Tulsa time. And definitely, absolutely not Greenwich Mean Time, or Universal Time. A group of Muslim clerics and scientists want the Prime Meridian to run through Mecca.

It is the center of the world, they say.

Only if the “center of the world” is a kitchen sink drain with the stopper removed.

Ziegfied Follies, thy name is Democratic National Convention

The coronation of Barack Obama in Denver is going to have a bit of everything in the way of clusterfucks.

Some, like the DNC’s overpriced office rents, are old history.

Others, like the DNC’s color Nazis for local caterers’ food presentation, are laughable.

A few, like only three state delegations signing up to be fully “green,” at the convention, are serious hypocrisy works of art.

Yet others, like the chance that the “chicken ranch” caging for protestors will be next to the mass media’s setup area, are poetic justice, at least if it forces the MSM to give more, and better, coverage to protestors than it did at either MSP (mainstream party) convention in 2004.

And others, like an apparent tightness of hotel rooms, appear to be Denver’s fault.

No wonder Obama is looking at having his acceptance speech at Mile High Stadium. It’s probably cheaper, and less likely to be screwed up.

July 06, 2008

Will the last person to leave Australia please turn out the lights?

It does, as Australian Agriculture Minister Tony Burke said, sound like global warming will be a “disaster novel” Down Under.

Even less rain than the 50-year declining averages of today, 95 percent of the country likely to be under official heatwaves most of the year, and so forth.

Seriously. I don’t see how the Australia of today can exist 50 years from now.

The hypocrisy of beauty pageants

If you can’t win, or don’t compete in, your own city’s beauty pageant, Duncanvillean Rebecca Robinson, you shouldn’t be Miss Texas, I don’t think. (A Coppell resident won this year’s Miss Duncanville qualifying pageant.)

Just saying.

Of course, this shows the materialist orientation of these pageants, with contestants shopping themselves around all over the place, their “causes” in their service-dedication speeches at said pageants aside.

The idea for liberally cool whitey – Rent-A-Negro

Black friends are No. 14 among the 103 coolest things for socially conscious (or, more likely, faux-socially conscious) upper-middle-class white liberals to like, according to Christian Lamper, as I blogged here.

But, what if you don’t HAVE any black friends?

Nemo problema, thanks to Damali Ayo’s Rent-A-Negro. Need a black person to liven up the Christmas/Kwanzaa party at the environmental law office or to enliven a consciousness-raising team-building exercise at a would-be socially conscious small liberal company? Here you go!

Read Salon for more on how Ayo got started with the idea.

Note that she fits the bill perfectly for Lamper’s self-aware (or delusionally pseudo-self-aware) uppity liberal whites — Ayo even went to Sidwell Friends! Then Brown University!

Now, on Lamper’s blog, black friends is No. 14, which gay friends is only No. 88.

Oh, if only David Sedaris were black.

Maybe Lamper will make a separate category for black gay friends.

I posed that issue to both him and Sally and Johnny of Black People Love Us.

One unneeded East Texas lake blocked

It looks like the site of Dallas’ proposed Lake Fastrill will be a national wildlife refuge after all. The city of Dallas lost its lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s plan for the Neches River National Wildlife Refuge.

Now, if we could just get internationally-renowed paleontologists exploring the North Sulphur River, maybe we could block Bois D’Arc Reservoir as well.

Chinglish may replace English as American Imperium fades

Interestingly, some of the possible changes to English from a heavy Chinese infusion would have Chinglish sounding like “Black English”: loss of helping verbs and definite and indefinite articles.

Read the full story for more.

Oh, and unlike “Black English,” it’s going to be harder to resist the demographic pressure of hundreds of millions of Chinese.

Background on Obama’s lack of cred on civil liberties

Some talking points from the WaPost story about his appearance in libertarian-state Montana. (That’s more accurate, in some ways, than Red state, IMO.)
If anything, Obama may be heading the other way … on some of the intrusive homeland security measures popular with the "security moms" who populate the East and Midwest swing suburbs. ... He recently embraced a compromise bill on warrantless wiretapping that would effectively offer legal immunity to telecommunications companies that helped spy on customers. In 2006, after expressing misgivings, he voted for the Patriot Act's reauthorization, saying it was a marked improvement over the original bill of 2001. Obama voted for an emergency spending bill that included creating the Real ID, even though he said he opposed the identification card as an unfunded mandate. Support for the Real ID is in line with law-and-order voters.

Doesn’t that Patriot Act comment sound JUST like his FISA comment? And, of course, the Patriot Act reauthorization was no such thing.

Yes, it was an improvement over the original, but in no sense a marked improvement.

As for Real ID, you’ll note that Obama didn’t oppose the idea itself, just the cost.

In other words, we shouldn’t be surprised by Obama on FISA. He has a history.