December 04, 2010

If it's mandatory, it's not volunteer

At school districts, that includes not just students who have required community service, which goes against the spirit of that type of service, but also includes parents, mainly moms.

And now, parents are pushing back against school demands, even as budget-strapped school districts redefine "volunteer":
As local and state economies continue to struggle, budget cuts to rich and poor school systems are increasing the reliance on unpaid parent help. The need is so great that some school districts, like a couple of specialty schools in Prince William County, Va., have made it mandatory to commit to a small amount of volunteer time, and others are considering it. In San Jose, Calif., one elementary school district has been discussing a proposal that the families of its 13,000 students commit to 30 hours of volunteer work during the year.

I say good, not just for parents' sake, but for states' sake. Maybe this will get states to be more progressive in their taxation. That said, they're going to need the help of the federal government against ... Tea Party/red/GOP/Southern-Texan type states.

Big Pharma is Big Editor, too

Big Pharma ghostwrote two family psych books, ghostediting them and all.
Specifically, SmithKline Beecham was the guilty party. I don't believe in conspiracy theories, but when drugmakers do stuff like this, it's easy to see how conspiracy

Oxytocin, MSM science reporting, scientist fluffery

Oxytocin is a two-edged sword; it can increase distrust as well as trust or love; further confirmation of that here. Once again, the claim that it's the "love hormone" is in part the fault of MSM science reporters, but it's also the fault of scientists playing up preliminary or partial research findings too much.

Read the story for just how varied oxytocin's effects actually are. That said, the research that showed it increased mistrust in some cases had a small sample size, so there may be some self-referential irony to both the story and this blog post.

Yet, two years AFTER that first piece, we have Paul Zak writing a book calling oxy the "love molecule." Even worse, he now calls it "the moral molecule."

Consciousness doesn't need a mirror for proof

Some humans as well as theoretically intelligent animals fail the psychological classic mirror test of self consciousness. With humans, the "failure" appears sociologically related. There's thoughts in this for both human and animal psychology.
There are two things we should take away from this. First, self-awareness is not a hard and fast line. Instead, it is probably a continuum. That is an especially important lesson to keep in mind with animal research. A species might have the skill, even if some individuals do not. This is true for chimpanzees, who do not all pass the mark test, and can lose the ability as they age.

A takeaway?
"Self-awareness is like gravity," Johns Hopkins's Roma says. "We can't touch it directly, so if we want to measure it, scientists must develop valid techniques to directly observe its effects. Currently, mirror mark tests are the best-known and most accepted method, but the absence of an effect does not necessarily mean the absence of the thing we're trying to measure. Ultimately, evidence from multiple techniques should converge on the truth, whatever it may be. Such is the beauty of how scientific advances turn controversy into common knowledge."

At bottom line — if the mirror test is sociologically influenced, this is a powerful, if indirect, undercutting of the universality of IQ tests, no? Take THAT, hereditarians, racialists, et al.

December 03, 2010

RIP Ron Santo -great guy but NOT a Hall of Famer

How about ‘none of the above’?
This is partially reposted from a 2008 blog post on that year's MLB Veterans Committee trotting out "the same old names" as putatively worthy of the Hall of Fame.

Ron Santo? One of the two biggest myths on the list Not. A. Hall. Of. Famer. Sorry, Cubbies, but other than a brief flare-up in his BA in 1972, his career was over by the time he was 30.

Or, to put it another way?

You want Ken Boyer in the HOF? Because they’re the same player, down to Gold Gloves (five each) BA, slugging, etc. If you don’t believe me, go to Baseball-Reference.com and see for yourself.

And, Cubbies fans, if you want to honor Santo as a great man, then JUST eulogize him for that for the next day or two. Truly let him, and the debate, rest in peace. If you will, I will.

Second biggest myth on the 2008 list?

Gil Hodges? Gimme a break. A first baseman with a career slugging average of under .500 AND less than 2,000 hits. Why the hell was his name even on the list?

The one reasonably deserving candidate from that 2008 list?

Luis Tiant?
You know, I’d never even thought of him before, but…

Decent ERA for spending much of his career in Fenway. Solid WHIP. Four 20-win seasons. Nearly 2,500 strikeouts back in the day when Gibby was the only 3K-Ker besides The Big Train.

Two ERA titles. Five times in the top 10 in K/9 ratio. His 49 shutouts are 21st-best ever.

You could call him “the poor man’s Catfish Hunter” and not be wrong.

He’s got the best case here. Better than Ron Santo. Better than Gil Hodges. Better than not-on-the-list Ken Boyer, too.

Argentina latest WikiLeaks embarrassment for US

In the latest from WikiLeaks' cable dump: We've apparently charged President Christina Fernandez and her late husband, former President Nestor Kirchner, with money laundering, as well as accusing the country of being lax on drug law prosecutions.

And, what's up with rhetorically asking if yet another world leader is "off their meds"

Southern Civil War lies continue, Part 2

So, sectionalism started in the North with the Hartford Convention in 1814, and never got a foothold in the South?

So claims James C. Cobb, Spalding Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Georgia.
Perhaps because their region’s lines of communications were less advanced than the North’s, Southerners were relative Johnny-Rebs-come-lately to the sectional-branding business.

Obviously, he's not read comments by Southern representatives at the Constitutional Convention. Or the Virginia and Kentucky Resolves. Or many other things.

The "fun" part is, this isn't just some Sons of Confederate Veterans guy; it's a history prof with an endowed chair at the University of Georgia, brainwashing potential future teachers of history. Wunderbar.

As I said on the first post in this series, the Civil War sesquicentennial is running head-on into Tea Partiers and dislike of a black president.

Cato isn't really supportive of civil liberties

When civil liberties and business libertarianism collide, Cato shows on which side it butters its bread.

Surprise, surprise, in a NYT mini-column, that Jim Harper, the director of information policy studies at the Cato Institute, says the Federal Trade Commission should not impose standardized opt-in and other rules to restrict big business from tracking us on its websites.

Marvin Ammori, a law professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln who advises the advocacy group Free Press, knows we really need this:
Self-regulation by online companies will continue to fail to protect privacy because these companies’ incentives, including lax security incentives, will result in privacy abuses. Direct regulation, not mere consumer consent, is necessary here, as it is in many other areas.

Self-regulation is like calling your own fouls in playground basketball, which isn't easy. ... Partly because of information asymmetries -- few consumers know the extent of tracking, retention, and subsequent sale of their data among companies or what their options are -- only one team calls the fouls, namely the ad industry team.

Couldn't have said it better myself.

What Cato, in its hypercapitalist libertarianism, refuses to acknowledge is that Big Business, like Big Government, has the power to violate privacy rights. Privacy rights is NOT like censorship, a matter controllable only by governments. Unless we are all to approach John Galt/Thomas Jefferson yeoman farmer levels of self-sufficiency, we have to purchase products and services. And, with the rise of the Internet, more and more often, those purchases MUST be made online.

2010 may be hottest year on record

We still have most of December to go, but ...

All the major meteorological sources agree - 2010 is in a statistical tie with 1998 and 2005 as the hottest year ever since modern record-keeping, and the last decade is definitely the hottest every. NOTE: House and Senate Republican caucuses in the U.S. are NOT "major meteorological sources."

What's that, Tom Coburn, Smokey Joe Barton, et al? Want to point all that February snow in DC to Al Gore? You're WRONG!

December 02, 2010

This day in indictments - Cheney ... and Assange??

Darth Vader himself has been indicted, charged that is, in relation to an allegedly $180 billion of bribery by Halliburton in Nigeria.

What would be a fitting punishment?

Ahh, yes ... boiling him in a barrel of Nigerian oil heated over a flame built on paper copies of old Halliburton stock options that Cheney has.

Or, having somebody "accidentally" shoot him with a shotgun.

Or ... the best of all ... waterboard him with hot Nigerian crude oil!

Meanwhile, the Monitor speculates as to the possibility that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has perhaps been indicted under seal by the United States.

Given George Barack Obama outdoing his predecessor on gutting civil liberties, this wouldn't surprise me. And, I don't know about Sweden, but, I'm betting British Prime Minister David Cameron (with Assange in the UK right now) on an issue like this would be about as much Obama's lapdog as Tony Blair was for George W. Bush.

Wikipedia is NOT Faux News

In blogging earlier today about NASA’s breathless hyping of its arsenic-using bacterium, I cited this Wikipedia page as a source for the fact that other arsenic presences in “organic” compounds was already known. And, when I dropped this link on a couple of different ScienceBlog sites, like Greg Laden’s, people went ape-shit.

Folks, as the header says, Wikipedia is NOT Faux News.

As I said rhetorically to those people, I now say in general, re the specific NASA post:

For readers who criticize Wikipedia, before the NASA story broke, the three footnotes on the arsenic section prior came from the University of Minnesota, NIH, and New Scientist. Got problems with all of them, too? The first two footnotes for the page as a whole were to National Academy of Sciences publications. Beyond that, Pharyngula, in his post about the NASA story, also has information on how arsenic in organic compounds is nothing new.

So, let’s get over the false skepticism about Wikipedia.

Now, in cases of history, biography or political science involving living persons or ongoing events, Wikipedia has a well-earned reputation for needing a skeptical look, though it’s getting better with new controls installed earlier this year.

Natural sciences? Different story. I challenge readers to show me a Wikipedia post in the natural sciences that’s contains monkey-wrenched information. Is it college-level textbook quality? Maybe not, but maybe so. It depends on the individual page. It’s usually at least as good as a high-school science textbook.

And, Wikipedia normally does NOT succumb to wingnuts. Its article on vaccine conspiracy, for example, has no room for antivaxxers' claims getting scientific or medical acceptance. Ditto its article on thimerosal controversy.

In brief, random reading, Wikiepedia's cold fusion article was the only one I saw that even halfway approached giving credence to non-mainstream science.

And, on the plus side, Wiki even has an article (more a list of links to individual articles) about topics generally considered as pseudoscience.

For people who think they're being skeptical by dismissing all of Wikipedia, or at least all science articles, they're not.

Here's an analogy. Just because Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt gives every appearance of being a warmonger on anything associated with Iraq or Afghanistan, and otherwise willing to accept uncritically anything voiced by a presidential administration as long as it doesn't go left of center, do I dismiss every Post editorial, let alone every Post op-ed columnist? Of course not.

Anyway, back to the NASA story vs. Wikipedia. I still say NASA's motives behind fluffery of this story is what needs scrutiny more than a Wikipedia science page.

Beyond fluffery, there appears to have been a lot of rushing this story to print, which, ironically, has a direct connection to cold fusion. There, the University of Utah pushed Pons and Fleischmann forward on a fast track so that it could establish priority on some patents.

David Brooks, Gail Collins, defend the MSM against WikiLeaks

Or, at least, that's what they claims to be doing, in one of their "Crossfire" type situations. The inanity that follows is, of course, nothing new from Brooks.

I expected better from Collins, though, based on some of her columns. Sadly, I'll have to revise my rating of her.

Anyway, both fail.

Samples:
Gail Collins: The worst president we ever had was maybe Warren Harding, who had sex with his mistress in the Oval Office coat closet. You’re right, it doesn’t really make the grade.

Wrong. Buchanon, Andrew Johnson and George W. Bush were all worse. And, if sex with mistresses is the standard, then Jack Kennedy is far, far worse than Harding.
David Brooks: I fervently believe that and find myself repulsed by the folks at WikiLeaks. They are bad for the world because they destroy trust, which isn’t in great supply to start with, and I wish the establishment still had enough self-confidence to marginalize this sort of behavior and protect the social ecology.

Well, that's why many of us are repulsed by you.

Meanwhile, has Collins actually read any of the cables?
Gail Collins: Yes, so far I’ve been amazed by how few surprises we’ve gotten.

John Kerry pushing Israel to give away Golan is one of several huge surprises. So is China being OK with a reunified Korea. And, many more.

December 01, 2010

TPM & Josh Marshall are double doofus on WikiLeaks

Per FAIR, I now now that a Talking Points Memo post on the top five surprises out of the cables not only was about unsurprising information, but also, rather than looking directly at the cables, instead looked directly at the New York Times' interpretation of them ... once again, TPM acts like the mainstream media's New Media adjutant.

This is an updated and amended version of my original post on this issue.

Josh Marshall, publisher of the blog and sometimes news site Talking Points Memo, has in the past, shown himself to be almost as much a mainstream media mogul as the proprietors of the New York Times, etc. Posting White House slide shows, using multiple anonymous sources in stories are just two manifestations of that.

Now, we get his his right hand man David Kurtz's take, in one post, on the Wikileaks cable leaks. (Yes, I didn't check the post's byline originally; but, I figured that, with its breathlessness, it was Josh's. Instead, it's Kurtz's breathlessness busted by my the second time. That said, Josh is still the publisher. He could be talking more to Kurtz.) That's followed by Josh sticking his Napoleonic hand inside his publisher's military vest.

The most naive post? Kurtz's "five biggest surprises" one.

The idea that Sunni Arab states fear Iran's nuke program so much they want us to take Iran out? Hinted at in news stories years ago.

That the State Department ordered spying on foreign diplomats? In the wake of the UN discussion on Iraq in late 2002-early 2003, facts to this end were uncovered and reported five years ago. It's just continued since then, obviously.

That Iran supplied North Korea with missiles? News, sure. Surprise? Not really. And, also, per FAIR, not necessarily true, either! And thus, per the FAIR story, I've also busted Kurtz for blindly trusting the New York Times as a secondary source.

Here is the actual cable.
Russia said that during its presentations in Moscow and its comments thus far during the current talks, the U.S. has discussed the BM-25 as an existing system. Russia questioned the basis for this assumption and asked for any facts the U.S. had to provide its existence such as launches, photos, etc. For Russia, the BM-25 is a mysterious missile. North Korea has not conducted any tests of this missile, but the U.S. has said that North Korea transferred 19 of these missiles to Iran. It is hard for Russia to follow the logic trail on this.

A bit different than the NYT's breathless "linkage" take and TPM's gullible acceptance.

Ditto on Iran using the cover of the Red Crescent to smuggle material into battle sites. No real surprise.

That the U.S. diplomatic corps relies on blog-ready gossip items? It has for decades. We probably could learn boatloads from a country like Great Britain.

Next, Marshall notes that WikiLeaks may have intended the cables dump as an attack on U.S. diplomacy.

NOoooooo! Next up, TPM gets an IgNoble Prize.

Of course, the now commenter-unfriendly TPM allows no comments on either story.

What's even worse in a way is how Marshall comes off as a pedantic small-college professor, or cyber-small town newspaper editor:
We've given explicit marching orders to our editors and reporters not to get distracted by the 'meta' part of the wikileaks story and just focus on the details unearthed.

First, we're covering all the details we can find. So that puts some real limits on how much we can credibly criticize the way these cables came to light. I'm also not sure we would have made different decisions than, say, The New York Times, if we'd been given the opportunity to report out the cables in advance of their release. And of course we here at TPM like every other news organization routinely file FOIA requests on the reasoning that it's in the public interest to get as much as possible of the inner workings of government exposed to the public.

What he's saying is, "Folks, look at me give you a peek under the hood about how to run an online news site!"

Oy.

An actual surprise? Per McClatchy, the total clusterfuck of the 2009 coup in Honduras?

An even bigger actual surprise? At least some Chinese officials are OK with a Seoul-led reunified Korea.

And, yet more actual surprises, courtesy Juan Cole. They include that John Kerry wanted Israel to return the Golan Heights to Syria, that Pakistan's chief of staff, Gen. Kayani, considered a coup against President Zardari and more.

TPM #fail.

Eric Cantor needs to read up on a fellow Virginian

Rather than a nullification amendment to the constitution, as House Majority Leader Cantor favors, James Madison wanted to federalize the entire Constitution.

Will Google get the 'full Microsoft" from EU?

Actually, I kind of hope Brussels DOES lower the boom on Google in its antitrust investigation; it seems to be becoming more and more the new Microslob.

Given that Google is even more dominant in the EU than in America, it needs to be very careful. Add in the Google Street View fiasco, and it needs to downright contrite.

Microslob never was, and, it learned that the EU, unlike the US of A, wasn't such a regulatory pushover. Did Google take notes? Or will it actually believe its "Do no evil" bullshit moniker? Will it believe that Brussels will believe it?

Color me concerned about Google buyout of Groupon

I don't get the big deal about Groupon, but obviously it is a big deal, judging by the PR Groupon gets, as well as the fact this would be Google's priciest takeover ever, so we should worry about Google's planned buyout.

Beyond the story noting how this would extend Google's tentacles into the local ad market, surely there's another reason, given where you often see Groupon ads - this would extend Google's tentacles into Facebook.

"Nice" timing, too, with Google under EU antitrust investigation:
Friction from intense regulatory scrutiny could increase Google's cost of doing business, especially when it comes to buying large companies, said Lou Kerner, an analyst at Wedbush Securities.

Good thing Groupon is just a U.S. deal; the EU would quash this takeover in a Brussels minute.

Southern Civil War lies continue

And, with the sesquicentennial on us, and wingnuts all about it, stuff like this will surely only continue.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans continues the lie that the war wasn't ultimately about slavery:
“We in the South, who have been kicked around for an awfully long time and are accused of being racist, we would just like the truth to be known,” said Michael Givens, commander-in-chief of the Sons, explaining the reason for the television ads. While there were many causes of the war, he said, “our people were only fighting to protect themselves from an invasion and for their independence.”

Let's count the most obvious untruths.

1. No invasion was ever threatened. All Lincoln did was to protect federal property at Fort Sumter and elsewhere.

2. You weren't independent in 1860-61.

3. You were, overall, more racist than the North. (Not that there wasn't plenty to go around.)

Givens isn't alone:
“Many people in the South still believe that is a just and honorable cause. Do I believe they were right in what they did? Absolutely,” said Jeff Antley, a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, noting that he spoke for himself and not any organization. “There’s no shame or regret over the action those men took.”

Mr. Antley said he was not defending slavery, which he called an abomination. “But defending the South’s right to secede, the soldiers’ right to defend their homes and the right to self-government doesn’t mean your arguments are without weight because of slavery.”

Well, they are without weight if you're dishonest.

The truth? From historian James W. Loewen.
“The North did not go to war to end slavery, it went to war to hold the country together and only gradually did it become anti-slavery — but slavery is why the South seceded.”

And, that's not all.

Here's a rejoinder to the SCV:
“I can only imagine what kind of celebration they would have if they had won,” said Lonnie Randolph, president of the South Carolina N.A.A.C.P.
He said he was dumbfounded by “all of this glamorization and sanitization of what really happened.” When Southerners refer to states’ rights, he said, “they are really talking about their idea of one right — to buy and sell human beings.”

Well, they act like they DID win.

Is this still important? Hell, yes:
“These battles of memory are not only academic,” said Mark Potok, the director of intelligence at the Southern Poverty Law Cente r. “They are really about present-day attitudes. I don’t think the neo-Confederate movement is growing, but it’s gotten a new shot of life because of the sesquicentennial.”

Need I say Tea Party, Preznit Kumbaya?

November 30, 2010

Josh Marshall, neolib dupe and doofus on Wikileaks

Josh Marshall, publisher of the blog and sometimes news site Talking Points Memo, has in the past, shown himself to be almost as much a mainstream media mogul as the proprietors of the New York Times, etc. Posting White House slide shows, using multiple anonymous sources in stories are just two manifestations of that.

Now, we get his his right hand man David Kurtz's take, in one post, on the Wikileaks cable leaks. (Yes, I didn't check the post's byline originally; but, I figured that, with its breathlessness, it was Josh's. Instead, it's Kurtz's breathlessness busted by my the second time. That said, Josh is still the publisher. He could be talking more to Kurtz.) That's followed by Josh sticking his Napoleonic hand inside his publisher's military vest.

The most naive post? Kurtz's "five biggest surprises" one.

The idea that Sunni Arab states fear Iran's nuke program so much they want us to take Iran out? Hinted at in news stories years ago.

That the State Department ordered spying on foreign diplomats? In the wake of the UN discussion on Iraq in late 2002-early 2003, facts to this end were uncovered and reported five years ago. It's just continued since then, obviously.

That Iran supplied North Korea with missiles? News, sure. Surprise? Not really. And, also, per FAIR, not necessarily true, either! And thus, per the FAIR story, I've also busted Kurtz for blindly trusting the New York Times as a secondary source.

Ditto on Iran using the cover of the Red Crescent to smuggle material into battle sites.

That the U.S. diplomatic corps relies on blog-ready gossip items? It has for decades. We probably could learn boatloads from a country like Great Britain.

Next, Marshall notes that WikiLeaks may have intended the cables dump as an attack on U.S. diplomacy.

NOoooooo! Next up, TPM gets an IgNoble Prize.

Of course, the now commenter-unfriendly TPM allows no comments on either story.

What's even worse in a way is how Marshall comes off as a pedantic small-college professor, or cyber-small town newspaper editor:
We've given explicit marching orders to our editors and reporters not to get distracted by the 'meta' part of the wikileaks story and just focus on the details unearthed.

First, we're covering all the details we can find. So that puts some real limits on how much we can credibly criticize the way these cables came to light. I'm also not sure we would have made different decisions than, say, The New York Times, if we'd been given the opportunity to report out the cables in advance of their release. And of course we here at TPM like every other news organization routinely file FOIA requests on the reasoning that it's in the public interest to get as much as possible of the inner workings of government exposed to the public.

What he's saying is, "Folks, look at me give you a peek under the hood about how to run an online news site!"

Oy.

An actual surprise? Per McClatchy, the total clusterfuck of the 2009 coup in Honduras?

An even bigger actual surprise? At least some Chinese officials are OK with a Seoul-led reunified Korea.

Updated Dec. 1.

November 29, 2010

Feingold for President?

Should Russ Feingold run a third-party campaign for President in 2012? I'd be down with that.

And, among more professional opiners, Alec Cockburn says yes. And says it's possible.

That said, the meat of his article has to be the speculation over whether or not George Soros would finance an independnet progressive challenge to Obama. Here's some recent Soros verbiage:
"We have just lost this election, we need to draw a line," he said. "And if this president can't do what we need, it is time to start looking somewhere else."

The description of Soros’s sensational remarks appeared in the Huffington Post, citing unnamed sources, presumably at the private meeting. The story cited Michael Vachon, an adviser to Soros, as not disputing the story, though “Vachon also clarified that the longtime progressive giver was not referring to a primary challenge to the president. Mr. Soros fully supports the president as the leader of the Democratic Party. He was not suggesting that we seek another candidate for 2012.”

Beyond being the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act, and one of a minority within his own party to oppose the 2002 Iraq war vote, Feingold also voted against the bailout in 2008. Sure, he's got a spot or two on his record, but, it would be hard to do better with a name candidate.

That said, we actually have two questions.

The first is not about Soros' money, but about Feingold's willingness to run outside the Democratic Party, whether as an independent, a Green candidate, the Reform Party candidate or whatever.

Then comes the question of Soros' money.

Hitchens gets a hypocrisy beatdown

Acerbic political analyst Christopher Hitchens and former British prime minister Tony Blair debated in Canada last week whether or not religion was a general force for moral good. By voting of students at the debate, among other things, Hitch won a smackdown victory.

But, Josh Rosenau decided to engage in a little monkey-wrenching, asking how Hitch could talk about religion killing so many people when the Iraq war he still supports has done the same!

Touche!

My own take on whether this was a blow below the belt or not?

First, the more snarky take.

Ohhh, what a smackdown! But, surely, Hitch has sent millions of $$$ to his drunkenness-beloved Kurds, has he not?

As for Iraq and Hitch's knowledge, the man had been a correspondent/reporter in the Middle East for more than a decade, if not more than two, before the invasion. It was his ego that led him to portray himself as a special defender of the Kurds; it was his willful ignorance, or overlooking, of the existence of large Kurd populations in Iran and Turkey that blinded him to problems of writing Iraqi Kurds a blank check for independence; and it was his self-righteousness, IMO, that blinded him to the idea that the US government under George W. Bush was the entity to successfully pull this off.

Shorter anti-Hitchens rant? He made his bed, he now gets to sleep in it.

Shorter anti-Hitchens rant 2? If you sleep with dogs, you may catch fleas.

Now, the more serious take.

Can moral stances, or actions with moral consequences, be judged rationally?

Well, basically nothing of importance in terms of human actions is 100 percent rational, but many actions appear to be largely rational. Or, at least, could have been largely rational, given that the actors had a certain degree of consciousness and a certain amount of empirical and/or analytical knowledge.

Both Hitchens' support for the Iraq war and, say, the papacy's opposition to condoms in all cases (before Benedict XVI re-read Moroni's golden plates and decided that penile gloves could be worn in cases of prostitution) are instances of actions that fall under this sphere of judgment.

While deaths due to the Iraq war may not be as high as condom-preventable AIDS deaths in Africa (to use an example Hitch cited from his debate with Blair), the order of magnitude is similar enough for a charge of moral equivalence to be raised rationally against Hitch.

November 28, 2010

GOP nutbars out over WikiLeaks ... and Dems?

The GOP nuts are already going nuts over WikiLeaks.

Peter King wants Wikileaks declared a terrorist organization.
All that's needed to be a terrorist, according to Rep. Peter King, is a website and some inconvenient information. That's why King sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Attorney General Eric Holder on Sunday, demanding that whistleblower website WikiLeaks be deemed a "foreign terrorist organization" and it's founder declared a terror ringleader.

Substitute "Facebook page" for "website" and "stupidity" for "inconvenient information," and we can declare Sarah Palin a terrorist.

Of course, cowardly, balls-less Democrats are already jumping on the "me too" bandwagon. Unsurprisingly, John Kerry is leading off the First Amendment-hating warmongers:
Sen. John Kerry (D., Mass.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, described the release as "a reckless action which jeopardizes lives by exposing raw, contemporaneous intelligence."

The only life I see in imminent danger is Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, the country's former president, will probably have Berlusconi whacked in an omerta-style hit now that it's been revealed we see Silvio as Vlad the Impaler's sock puppet.

I can't wait for the full 250,000 pages to be sorted through and commented on; I "can't wait" with baited scare quote breath for GOP wingnuts and ball-less Democrats to try to outdo each other in either real or fake hysteria.

And, given its recent missive, I can't wait, and "can't wait," for The Nation to bury its head further up Obama's ass by saying the Koch brothers are funding Julian Assange.

Hindus want to reclaim yoga

A group of ardent Hindus, some called "Hindu nationalists," want to reclaim yoga to what they claim are its Hindu roots. An eclectic group of opponents, ranging from Deepak Chopra to religious scholars, says it's not Hindu but pre-Hindu.

Is yoga from before Hinduism? Well, I think that it depends on part what you call Hinduism.

Western critical religious scholars, for example, call everything in the Bible before the Babylonian exile "Israelite religion," reserving "Judaism" only for post-Exilic religion.

If that standard is followed, AND if roots of yogic practice can be traced back that far, then, no, it's not Hindu.

That said, conservative Christians and Jews alike, today, reject the scholarly distinction mentioned above. I'm sure the "nationalist Hindus" do the same. (That said, I think it's fair to say Hinduism is not "just" a religion, but, more than any other world religious tradition, a sociology as well.)

That said No. 2, folks like Chopra have good financial reasons for denying the Hindu roots of many religious practices from India that have become relabeled as "spiritual." Per the story, even if you're not a conservative Baptist minister who believes yoga is of the devil, telling many practitioners that they're engaged in a Hindu religious exercise will surely drive them off.

But, package it in smiley New Age wrapping and ...