June 18, 2011

Dear NYT: I was afraid of that

The gray old lady, the New York Times, is going to present to inflict upon its readers a new section next week, called Sunday Reader.

Here's the huzzahs and hallelujahs PR announcement.
Starting Sunday, June 26, 2011, The Times will bring you a new section, Sunday Review, that reinvents, reimagines and reorganizes the Week in Review to offer new features and a new way of presenting our finest analytical and opinion writing.
Oh, goody.

Even MORE David (Bobos in Pop Ev Psychville) Brooks? And MORE Thomas (My Head is Flat, Teapot Tommy) Friedman?

Will we get analysis defending the paper's regular suck-ups to the D.C. Village? Please?

Can we, instead, get the best of outside writing as part of this new section?

That said, Teapot Tommy actually has a good idea for trying to implement a two-state Israel-Palestine solution.

Ahh, must be stopped clock time.

Republicans can't take a joke

You knew that already, but it's now more official.

Reggie Brown, an impersonator of President Obama, was keynote entertainment at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans.

And, he was fine as long as he skewered Obama .... even as his skewering, like jokes about the president celebrating just half of Black History Month, skirted some edges.

But, make fun of the GOP candidates for president? Well, read first:
The act, which included a fake Secret Service detail, a recorded video address from the Oval Office and a presidential seal, came one day after Govs. Haley Barbour of Mississippi and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana urged fellow Republicans to stay disciplined — and focused on economic issues — in their quest to defeat Mr. Obama next year.

The act included photographs of Anthony D. Weiner, a Democrat who resigned his seat in Congress because of lewd pictures he sent to some of his Twitter followers. Then, the impersonator turned to the implosion of Mr. Gingrich’s campaign, after many of his aides resigned 10 days ago, saying, “His supporters are dropping faster than Anthony Weiner’s pants.”

Taking aim at Mr. Pawlenty, a former Minnesota governor, Mr. Brown mocked his performance in a debate last week in which he softened his criticism of the health care plan that Mr. Romney had signed into law in Massachusetts.

He said Mr. Pawlenty missed the event because he was “having his foot surgically removed from his mouth.” He added: “Don’t worry. It’s covered under Obamneycare. Along with spinal transplants.” The impersonator also made an issue of Mr. Romney’s Mormon faith, referring to polygamy and showing a picture of a man with multiple wives.
As a backdrop picture of Michelle Bachmann appeared, Brown's mic was cut off and he was physically "escorted" off the stage.

Too bad; I wonder how he would have sent her up, and certainly Rick Perry.

#PZMyers and the #Pharyngulacs: religious idiots too

Earlier this week, partly in response to blogger P.Z. Myers, aka Pharyngula, laughably claiming that Sam Harris, author of "The IMmoral Landscape," was not a conservative, I wrote a post calling him a political idiot.

Well, he has a new post up attacking the idea of atheists working with interfaith groups, which show there's religious idiocy in the air too.

What started it all? An attack on non-Gnu Atheist Chris Steadman, specifically a blog post of his on working with interfaith groups, including the pejorative that he was a "faithiest."

Well, one Pharyngulac, early on, claimed to see crosses all over Chris' blog page.

The reality? As I posted on Pharyngula:
What's funny/paranoid ... Chris' rows of plus signs breaking up posts, or subthoughts within posts, being called "crosses." Some of you people see what you want to see.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Ohh, I'm typing "crosses." I must be a "faithiest."
But, apparently sarcasm is OK only when you're dishing it out in-group.

I followed with a more serious comment:
More seriously, folks like PZ and his (self-?)brainwashed "cadre" seem to to think that a member of the wingnut fundamentalist Church of Christ can be lumped in the same gropuing as a member of the semi-unitarian United Church of Christ.

Of course, that's totally wrong.

OTOH, many nonatheists would do the same with atheism, trying to lump all secular humanists with deliberately combative Gnus.

That's why I tend to use the word atheist less and less these days.
And at least one Pharyngulacs got more than a bit touchy.

Ahh, yes, the descent to four-letter words and pejoratives. It's self-perpetuating.

In a follow-up, to tie in with the politics angle, I noted that Sam Harris lumps all Muslims together in the same way, which gets back to the post I linked up top, about Myers' political idiocy.

The "idiot" part is where he claims Sam Harris isn't a conservative, not even on his Islamophobia. Well since he quotes a prominent "dhimmitude" neocon and apparent Zionist and references her more than one in "The IMmoral Landscape," you're flat wrong, P.Z.

The author I'm referring to is Bat Ye'or (that's a pseudonym for "Daughter of the Nile"), author of "Eurabia." (Sidebar: Bat Ye'Or blaming Egypt for the problems of Jews in Cairo after the Suez war is disingenuous at least in part. One scholar of her work, Joel Beinin gets it right with saying: "Bat Ye'or exemplifies the 'neo-lachrymose' perspective on Egyptian Jewish history."

So, on mixing religion and politics and getting both wrong, Harris cites as support for his Islamophobia a Zionist neocon.

Finally, while I do not believe atheism is a religion, Gnu Atheists of P.Z. and the Pharyngulac ilk certainly act like the Tar Baby equivalents of religious fundamentalists.

Here's a checklist:
1. Black-and-white thinking;
2. Rigid in-group vs. out-group;
3. Doctrine/dogma ... as exemplified in the post linked above, on how to think about "faithiests," "accomodationists" and others;
4. A concept of "heresy," arguably ... people like those in point 3 aren't real atheists; ditto on the political side, where P.Z. hints that he believes political conservatives aren't real atheists.

====

That said, the Gnus DO have a partial point. Right now I am reading "The World as It Is" by Chris Hedges. I 110 percent agree politically/socially with Chris, a truly liberal, as in third-party supporting liberal, person. (P.Z., you need to be listening!) He's also religiously liberal, and a Harvard Divinity grad.

BUT! ... He has vehemently excoriated atheists in previous writings. As in egregiously so. I'm not saying he's highly representative of liberal Xns or liberal ppl of faith in general ... but I don't think he's a total outlier, either. And, I don't think his stereotyping is primarily due to Gnu Atheists.

On the third hand, though, some of Hedges mischaracterizations/straw men, at least when applied to Gnu Atheists, aren't totally disconnected from reality.

I think Hedges, in part, in his book, conflated atheism and Kurzweil-type futurism. Blame a Michael Shermer for that.

OTOH, if one looks at Sam Harris, rabid in his Islamophobia and "informed" by neocons, one could argue that Harris is also influenced by Pop Evolutionary Psychology to some degree.

Second, not all atheists are "Gnu Atheists." Gnu Atheism does, speaking as a non-gnu who rarely uses the word atheist in part due to them, have quasi-religious aspects at times — not "beliefs," but "praxis" and organization. I think Hedges' debate with Hitchens, plus the mindset of many Pharyngulacs, Coyneheads (Jerry Coyne), etc., show that same "sociology of religion" stamp of a secularist fundamentalism.

That said, even the most strident Gnus, like P.Z., aren't the straw man Hedges makes out.

And, certainly, non-gnus aren't. And, Hedges, possessor of a Harvard Div degree, was intellectually lazy in not making better distinctions.

At the same time, Hedges' beliefs are so mushy — even more, the real-world application of whatever he may believe religiously — that I don't know why he calls himself religious.

As for his debate with Hitchens ... he is right on the

#HaroldKoh, warmonger

I'm grateful in a backhanded way to the GOP for stonewalling his appellate court confirmation process long enough that Preznit Kumbaya withdrew it.

It turns out he's an imperial presidency warmonger.

#ArlenSpecter — I solved #JFK case, I'll solve #NFL lockout

Actually, other than the Warren Commission getting the first and second shots of Lee Harvey Oswald's backward, and that thanks in fair part to John Connelly, it overall did a good job on Jack Kennedy's assassination.

That said, Arlen Specter rode his work as legal counsel to the commission to a 40-year political career and never stopped reminding us of it.

So, now when he wants the same Congress that got involved with MLB steroids to the laughability of Sammy Sosa forgetting English, Roger Clemens allegedly perjuring himself and Raffy Palmeiro doing so in spirit, to now "solve" the NFL lockout?

Can you say "three-ring circus"? Can you also say "lobbying extravaganza in the wings"? Can you say "lawsuit," Mr. Warren Commission lawyer?

That said, the comic value of Jethro Jerry Jones testifying before Congress could make this all kind of worth it, you know?

And, what the hell, Arlen? Why don't you hitch your wagon to that of Orrin Hatch and get Congress involved with the BCS shutting out non-Big Six conferences? We could have liars from Ohio State join those from the NFL. Maybe Jim Tressel could forget English along with Slammin' Sammy.

June 17, 2011

What our solar system looks like

Our solar system to scale from the sun to the most recently discovered dwarf planet Eris in astronomical units.
Source SPACE.com: All about our solar system, outer space and exploration

Courtesy Space.com

Boo-hoo for Wall Street

Big firms may cut a bunch of jobs due to fears over possible new regulations from the Consumer Finance Protection Agency or elsewhere.

Notice that the likes of Lloyd Blankfein, Jamie Dimon, et al, aren't talking about cutting their bonuses.

It seems to me that this is:
1. A warning shot across Obama's bow;
2. More general scare mongeriong.

#RickPerry should work for #WallStreet, even #GoldmanSachs

After all, he's got all the credentials.

First, a 4,500-percent return on an "investment" fund, turning an owner's $1,000 into a $4.5 million return? Who else but Wall Street's wizards can do that? (For their friends, that is.) And, he can talk the Wall Street hypocrisy talk about how government is BAAADDDD. (Except when it's for one's friends.)

Second, like Goldman Sachs' Lloyd Blankfein, he has the part about "doing God's work" down pat. And, again, like Lloyd, Rick appears to spell "god" as "government," since Joseph was working for "the man," not "the son of man."

Third, like many a Wall Streeter, he knows how to bamboozle the middle class and keep his riches to himself, even to the point of not giving them to the external representatives of the divinity he claims to worship. Then again, Rick surely spells "god" with a word shorter than "government."

That word?

"Gold."

What else?

Oh, have some fun and crash the poll about Perry on the homepage of this newspaper.
Do you think Gov. Rick Perry should try a run for president of the United States?
Yes, he'd make a great president and could turn this country around.
No, he's more valuable guiding Texas the next three years.
No, Perry has been bad for the state and he'd be worse for the nation.
Need I say more?

#PZMyers, political idiot

In two posts at his blog in the last week, Gnu Atheist P.Z. Myers first shows himself to be a political idiot, and then to be a craven one.

The "idiot" part is where he claims Sam Harris isn't a conservative, not even on his Islamophobia. Well since he quotes a prominent "dhimmitude" neocon and references her m ore than one in "The IMmoral Landscape," you're flat wrong, P.Z.

The author I'm referring to is Bat Ye'or (that's a pseudonym for "Daughter of the Nile"), author of "Eurabia." (Sidebar: Bat Ye'Or blaming Egypt for the problems of Jews in Cairo after the Suez war is disingenuous at least in part. One scholar of her work, Joel Beinin gets it right with saying:
Bat Ye'or exemplifies the "neo-lachrymose" perspective on Egyptian Jewish history. According to Beinin, this perspective has been "consecrated" as "the normative Zionist interpretation of the history of Jews in Egypt"
So, there you go; Harris is not only a neocon; he pals around with at least one Zionist.

The real reason P.Z. doesn't want to admit that Harris is a conservative (Hitchens isn't, contra the blogger to whom P.Z. is responding, he's just an oft-drunken muddle) is that he's already told his would-be "cadres" that he supports a purge of atheist conservatives from the real atheist movement.

So, to admit Sam Harris is a conservative would be to admit that he's ... well, a Trotskyite deviant compared to the Gnu Stalinist leadership of P.Z. Myers.

Oh, and Pharyngulacs appear to be quite sensitive about being accused of black-and-white thinking.

In this case, it's about being told that, in opposing atheists working with "interfaith" groups, they lump all Christians together as one. I said, on that post:
"(F)olks like PZ and his (self-?)brainwashed "cadre" seem to to think that a member of the wingnut fundamentalist Church of Christ can be lumped in the same gropuing [sic] as a member of the semi-unitarian United Church of Christ.
But, it's true!

In a follow-up, to tie in with the politics angle, I noted that Sam Harris lumps all Muslims together in the same way.

The "craven" part? Where he says that he guesses he'll have to vote "Obama/Biden." I guess he's too craven to consider third-party alternatives.

Or, despite pooh-poohing the War on Terra, too fear-stricken by our current Repubicrat president claims about how it could be worse.

Oh, and he and the cadre of Pharyngulacs are religious idiots, too.

Glad I delinked Pharyngula from my blogroll.

====

That said, the Gnus DO have a partial point. Right now I am reading "The World as It Is" by Chris Hedges. I 110 percent agree politically/socially with Chris, a truly liberal, as in third-party supporting liberal, person. (P.Z., you need to be listening!) He's also religiously liberal, and a Harvard Divinity grad.

BUT! ... He has vehemently excoriated atheists in previous writings. As in egregiously so. I'm not saying he's highly representative of liberal Xns or liberal ppl of faith in general ... but I don't think he's a total outlier, either. And, I don't think his stereotyping is primarily due to Gnu Atheists.

On the third hand, though, some of Hedges mischaracterizations/straw men, at least when applied to Gnu Atheists, aren't totally disconnected from reality.

I think Hedges, in part, in his book, conflated atheism and Kurzweil-type futurism. Blame a Michael Shermer for that.

OTOH, if one looks at Sam Harris, rabid in his Islamophobia and "informed" by neocons, one could argue that Harris is also influenced by Pop Evolutionary Psychology to some degree.

Second, not all atheists are "Gnu Atheists." Gnu Atheism does, speaking as a non-gnu who rarely uses the word atheist in part due to them, have quasi-religious aspects at times — not "beliefs," but "praxis" and organization. I think Hedges' debate with Hitchens, plus the mindset of many Pharyngulacs, Coyneheads (Jerry Coyne), etc., show that same "sociology of religion" stamp of a secularist fundamentalism.

That said, even the most strident Gnus, like P.Z., aren't the straw man Hedges makes out.

And, certainly, non-gnus aren't. And, Hedges, possessor of a Harvard Div degree, was intellectually lazy in not making better distinctions.

At the same time, Hedges' beliefs are so mushy — even more, the real-world application of whatever he may believe religiously — that I don't know why he calls himself religious.

===

Life is complex, including in the world of nonmetaphysical philosophy. Rather than "atheist," even "skeptic" with its pseudoskeptical problems, even "philosophical naturalist," maybe I'll just follow Hume and call myself an "empiricist."

June 16, 2011

#Bush, #Obama and #JuanCole — discrediting vs co-opting

Wired and several other sites are breaking the story that University of Michigan Arab scholar Juan Cole, blogging here, and blogging hard against invading Iraq and questioning specific decisions in Afghanistan, looked into using the CIA to shut Cole up in some way.

Of course, this is reprehensible, but not surprising.

And, unnecessary.

As Obama's bombing of Libya, and Cole's hugely uncriticial acceptance of said bombing, shows, all Bush had to do was somehow get a UN fig leaf for invading Iraq and Cole might well have supported it lock, stock and barrel.

Cole is right that these allegations need to be addressed.

As well as looking at the possibility that Team Obama, just as it has adopted many other things from BushCo, is doing similar as we speak.

Beyond that, as an Obamiac, Cole and his followers expecting an investigation from the man who pledged to "look forward"? I hear a petard being cranked up right about now.

==

Update, later today:

I posted a comment broadly on the lines above at Cole's comment-moderated blog. He has yet to approve it, so I noted that on Facebook. And, I tried again, and he wouldn't post that one, either.

===

Update, June 18:

First, another tidbit on Cole: Per a cached version of a blogpost at another website, he's "good" about trying to cover his tracks when he's caught, well, making shit up.

Second, the ex-spook making the spying claim has a book coming out.

Publicity stunt by him? By Cole? By both?

Trying to pick a steroids-free home run derby

ESPN, in one of its special "playoff" showdowns, plans a 32-player mock home run derby and wants fan input.

The problem is in selecting seven post-1980 home run greats, at least seven who aren't known or highly suspected roiders.

ESPN gimmicks, like the MLB Hall of Fame, sometimes run head-on into the cold light of reality.

Unless Darryl Strawberry was juicing, though, I managed to do it.

#RickPerry - tech slush fund getting more exposure

Yeah, Rick Perry, please run for president. Your religious hypocrisy and your bible ignorance/political mangling have both already been exposed.

Now, there's more about your technology fund really being a business contributors' slush fund
The founders of Convergen Life Sciences Inc., including a political contributor to Gov. Rick Perry, had invested only $1,000 of their own money into the company when they asked for $4.5 million from a Texas technology fund, (the Austin American-Statesman) reports. ...

The Dallas Morning News first reported in the fall the fund's grant to Convergen despite its rejection by a regional review board. The statewide advisory board recommended in 2010 giving the company the grant despite the previous rejection.

In April, State Auditor John Keel said Perry needed to do a better job of monitoring investments in the fund and should make the grant process more open. In response, the Legislature passed a bill requiring more transparency and putting four lawmakers on the fund's 17-member advisory board.
That's right, the GOP-dominated legislature, members of Perry's own party, don't even trust him on this issue.

Meanwhile, there's more not to trust. Is Convergen just a shell company?
The company's application listed three members of its board of directors, including Nance. The other two told the newspaper on Wednesday they had never served on the board.
More substantiation of the "shell company" idea:
Convergen's 2009 application does not mention the bankruptcy of Introgen Therapeutics Inc., where Nance was a founder and CEO. Introgen failed in 2008 after the Food and Drug Administration denied its application to market a cancer therapy based on Roth's research.
Hmmm ...

That's all as Perry, gallivanting about the country while "thinking about" running for president, has more than 1,000 bills from the regular session of the Lege awaiting his action.

Oh, have some fun and crash the poll about Perry on the homepage of this newspaper.
Do you think Gov. Rick Perry should try a run for president of the United States?
Yes, he'd make a great president and could turn this country around.
No, he's more valuable guiding Texas the next three years.
No, Perry has been bad for the state and he'd be worse for the nation.
Need I say more?

#SEIU has a stroke of union genius: look for #GOP candidates

The Service Employees International Union, or SEIU as it is commonly known, has taken organized labor's formal and informal pledges to separate themselves from close connection to the Democratic Party one step further.

SEIU's California branch has now created a Republican-specific PAC to try to get more moderate-conservative GOPers, rather than wingnuts, elected to state offices there.

Given that, under Andy Stern, the SEIU was more "cozy" with big biz than any other major union, this should NOT be dismissed by wingnuts, Faux News and others as merely a publicity stunt. This alone should make that clear:
"Our legislators are harangued by radio talk show hosts like John and Ken and D.C. ideologues like Grover Norquist," said Bob Schoonover, president of SEIU Local 721 in Southern California.

Schoonover, a registered Republican, said lawmakers are afraid to do the right thing.

"We've lost the art of compromise that allows us to make deals in tough times," he said.
Note that second graf: A registered Republican. The story notes that the union claims 87,000 of its 700,000 members are registered Republicans.

Big biz, in general, has little use for tea party types and likes "stability" rather than confrontation in most levels of government. (The U.S. Chamber of Commerce could be called the exception to the rule.)

Some GOPers are already trying just that, though:
Republican strategist Kevin Spillane said the union wouldn't have a significant effect--no matter how much money the union spends.

"This is just sound and fury," he said. "It's political posturing to influence and intimidate some of the current Republican legislators. The reality is that we're not talking a real widespread impact in next year's elections."
I disagree. With Gov. Jerry Brown needing just four GOP votes, as the state legislature now stands, to achieve a long-term solution for California budget woes, this could be very serious.

I don't know enough about the Cal GOP to know where Spillane butters his bread, but, from what little I have Googled, he seems to NOT be a wingnut type. So, he may be puffing smoke out of real fear about this move.

That said, big biz has no problem with trying to push the "stability meter" ever further rightward, so, SEIU might not, given that history, be the best union to do this, at least not alone.

@JoanWalsh, Obama enabler

I've never thought the editor of Salon was all that liberal, so nothing she says in this column about the political coalition of Obama 2008 vs. any possibility of a similar coalition in 2012 is surprising.

Nonetheless, it's worth categorizing some of the more egregious errors.

First:
Since I've been critical of the president before, let me say here that I don't believe there were many concrete measures he could have taken to accelerate the recovery and reduce unemployment, because Republicans in Congress dug their heels in to fight on day one, and conservative Democrats wouldn't go along, either.
Not true. As I have said before, Obama "compromised away the compromise position" on the stimulus package by starting his proposal at less than the "magic" $1 trillion, largely per the advice of his then-chief of staf, Rahm Emanuel.

Walsh then tries to correct herself with this:
My main concern has been Obama's failure to use his presidency to tell voters a story about our changing economy, and even when he didn't have the votes in Congress, to lay out what he thought was the right course.
That presumes that he wanted to tell the voters a story that you think he did, Joan. Instead, you've been and become a sucker for "brand Obama." With a glut of white-collar layoffs already, and American businesses unwilling to do in-house retraining, Obama instead pitches "college, college, college" when the following things are clear, per recent studies and recent Beltway antics:
1. A lot of people don't learn that much or study that much in college;
2. An Ivy degree is still worth a lot in an aristocratic sense, even, or especially, for those who don't study that much there.

Walsh then talks about economic instability of ever-more-unequal income.

And, makes another "enabling" error by blaming Obama's financial advisers for various matters without blaming their boss.

She ignores talking about the Obama tax cuts, though. (He's been in office more than two years, and, in the middle of the Congressional GOP peddling debt-cutting austerity, has yet to mention eliminating the Bush tax cuts for income above $200K, therefore, they're now the Obama tax cuts.

Then, like a Beltway insider type, a DC Villager, she drops this turd in the punch bowl:
And the left can't remain unrealistic, either. Too many progressives sold Obama as a soulmate, when it was always clear he was a centrist who'd placed a high value on conciliation, and who believed he was good at it: He'd done it all his life, how could it not work in Washington? It's unfair to blame him for being the president he said he'd be.
Plenty of us, who DIDN'T "sell Obama as a soulmate" said before the 2008 election, Joan, that Preznit Kumbaya would get his head handed to him on a platter if he tried to be a conciliator. The GOP balking at the financial bailout, while not offering an option, made that clear.

So, wrong in spades. It's very fair to blame him.

And, we'll continue to do so.

June 15, 2011

NickKristof - naive about 'lefty military'

Kristof tries to call the U.S. armed forces "the lefty military."

Of course, there is PLENTY of truth he's missing:
1. The religious indoctrination so hugely prevalent at the Air Force;
2. The larger evangelical Christian bias elsewhere in the military, as "Rock the Fort" and the underhanded cancellation of "Rock Beyond Belief" show;
3. Demographic polling that shows the enlisted ranks of the U.S. military, not just commissioned officers, are more religious, and more conservative, than the country as a whole;
4. The strong opposition of many officers, especially in the Marines, to the proposed ending of don't ask, don't tell.

I haven't had this much of a laugh at self-inflicted naivete since Kos claimed the CIA was actually a liberal institution.

===

There's other good stuff from commenters on his column.

Among them:
1. The military is orders-based; it's easy to get "equality" by dictate;
2. It's "socialist" in the amount of money we "redistribute" to it, but, with mercenaries, etc., threatening to become more and more capitalist;
3. Corporations are becoming more militarized in their hierarchical structure;

A suggested UN reform

In light of Palestine's bid to gain UN membership, I wondered earlier today: why should UN membership be a matter only for Security Council approval? Or, at minimum, shouldn't the "Big Five" not be allowed their automatic vetoes on membership applications?

That way, the U.S. couldn't block Palestine, while at the same time, China couldn't block Taiwan.

Snakes in the grass from a real estate agent

This is another reason buying a home is bullshit in many ways. A real estate agent tells a bald-face lie, denying to a buyer that reports of a house being snake-infested were true, when, in fact, they were true in spades.

Then, the couple finds it has no recourse, and eventually leaves the home while filing bankruptcy.

I think fraud denotations on housing contracts ought to be tightened, and to be made criminal fraud, not civil.

Spot the AP error with the Netanyahu bullying

From an AP story on the U.S. trying to jump-start Middle East peace talks:
Senior U.S. diplomats have returned to the Middle East for an unannounced visit to try to find a way to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that collapsed last year and now face new challenges.


They met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Wednesday (among others) and discussed ways to renew peace talks, Israel Radio reported.

In a statement late Wednesday, Netanyahu reiterated his key demands for a resumption of talks. He said the Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state, accept a demilitarized Palestinian state with an Israeli security presence along its border with Jordan and drop their demand for a return of Palestinian refugees to Israel. He also said all of Jerusalem must remain in Israeli hands.
All are conditions previously rejected by the Palestinians.
Not true on the "recognition" issue. The Palestinian Authority has long recognized Israel's right to exist. Arguably, Hamas does too, with preconditions, some claim.

That said, the other three ideas are simply bullshit. A demilitarized Palestine? That's essentially what Austria-Hungary wanted to make Serbia in 1914. All of Jerusalem Israeli? Not a chance. A "security presence"? Err, that means "an Israeli right to intervene."

Zionism treads on its merry way.

#Weinergate now official circus: #GloriaAllred is there

Any more, that's the sure sign that in any public mess involving one or more women has reached critical "feeding frenzy" mass: Self-proclaimed feminist lawyer Gloria Allred is involved.

And, now, to compound the shark jumping, she's representing porn star Ginger Lee against Anthony Weiner.

Given that, as others have noted, Weiner doesn't have a lucrative pre-Congress career or lucrative connections, I'm not sure how much money Allred can shake from this tree.

Of course, Allred usually styles her "interventions" to be, in part, career moves for her clients. I hear the San Fernando Valley cameras rolling as we speak. That said, both Weiner AND Allred are more "pornographic" than Lee.

June 14, 2011

It's all about the dopamine

The phrase "its all about the dopamine"?

That word also comes from Dr. Nora D. Volkow, who is director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. And, for her, the worry is about prescription medications as well as illicit drugs.

The story notes early on:
She must say it a dozen times a day: Addiction is all about the dopamine. The pleasure, pain and devilish problem of control are simply the detritus left by waves of this little molecule surging and retreating deep in the brain.
From there, the story covers her research, and her policy work as to balancing legitimate needs for prescription medications with fighting addiction and their availability to addicts.

But that's not all.

There's a message to stop at least some guilt-tripping in support groups.

One of Volkow's colleagues tells us we should stop thinking alcohol/addiction recovery has a "miserable" success rate — actually, it's about the same as with some other conditions.

Also, there may be other help on this front in the future — the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism are supposed to be merged.

That said, the allegedly woeful success rate you hear about in addiction recovery?

Well, it’s not quite that bad:
“She’s been a champion of bringing addiction science into mainstream medicine,” said A. Thomas McLellan, director of the Penn Center for Substance Abuse Solutions at the University of Pennsylvania. Medicine is finally beginning to understand, Dr. McLellan said, that if you pay no attention to the behavioral factors leading to a chronic illness, be it diabetes or substance addiction, you can never catch up. “That’s been one of Nora’s big contributions.”

In a study published in 2000, Dr. McLellan pointed out that while the overall success rate for curing drug addiction with medications, therapy or both is not high (about half of treated individuals return to active substance use within a year), it is quite similar to overall successful treatment rates for other chronic medical conditions like asthma, diabetes and high blood pressure. Failure to take prescribed medications and backsliding to old bad habits is endemic, no matter what the condition.
So, let's hold ourselves and our recovery friends accountable, but realistically accountable.

That said, Volkow also has a philosophical angle on drug usage and biochemistry:
We think we have free will, she continued, but we are foiled at every turn. First our biology conspires against us with brains that are hard-wired to increase pleasure and decrease pain. Meanwhile, we are so gregarious that social systems — whether you call them peer pressure or politics — reliably dwarf us as individuals. “There is no way you can escape.”
To me, those aren't words for despair, but they are words for realism about everything a scientific investigation of the mind is starting to reveal.

M*A*S*H-ing along

One of the top two or three favorite TV shows ever is M*A*S*H. I consider Alan Alda, in his incarnation as Hawkeye Pierce, to be one of my top two pun influences along with Groucho Marx.

Anyway, here's the official list of the hometowns of top M*A*S*H caracters:

Pierce/No Crabapple Cove, Maine, exists
Trapper/Boston, supposedly, though I never heard that; Leo Lincourt says it likely comes from the movie
Margaret/Fort Ord (beside Monterey, Calif.) (also from the movie, not the TV show?)
Blake/Bloomington, Ill.
Potter/Hannibal, Mo.
Radar/Ottumwa, Iowa
BJ/Mill Valley, Calif. (Marin County, Bay Area)
Klinger/Toledo, Ohio
Mulcahy/Philadelphia
Winchester/Boston
Frank Burns/Fort Wayne, Ind.

Before earlier this month, I'd been through, and stopped in, Hannibal, for a college baseball game, and saw Mark Twain stuff. I've been through and stopped in Monterey, though not Fort Ord. Been through Bloomington and Toledo, and spent time in Philly at all the historic sites. Been th rough Fort Wayne, and driven by the Lutheran seminary.

I also visited, 3 years ago, the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, northwest of LA, where episodes were filmed.

Well, finally, in my most recent Bay Area trip, I visited Mill Valley.

June 13, 2011

#RickPerry, Bible mangler

Gov. Helmethair, in trying to claim that big government is socialistic and we should rely on private enterprise, first mashes up two different biblical narratives into one, and then totally ignores they refute his point.

Perry claims that like Joseph in Egypt, or like the "Sabbath years" of Leviticus (it appears he's mangling two different things together), we need to sock away money for lean years.

However, he claims that if we don't we'll be slaves to the government.

Well, you asshat, Joseph was working for the government of Egypt. The Leviticus plan has Israel as state as well as church.

Oh, have some fun and crash the poll about Perry on the homepage of this newspaper.
Do you think Gov. Rick Perry should try a run for president of the United States?
Yes, he'd make a great president and could turn this country around.
No, he's more valuable guiding Texas the next three years.
No, Perry has been bad for the state and he'd be worse for the nation.
Need I say more?

Bye-bye, Kenny Boy Salazar?

Obama's Interior Secretary is musing about not sticking around for a second Obama Administration (should one happen). Would you miss him? Would Obama do better? Would he do worse?

I wouldn't tremendously miss him, but, yes, Obama could do worse; say, former Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal.

June 12, 2011

Twitter as Prisoner's Dilemma?

Some interesting thoughts here, based on Rep. Anthony Weiner's "issues," about whether Twitter usage doesn't reflect elements of the classical philosophical word game/puzzle.
Players of Twitter risk their reputations, their careers and their relationships. But incentives to keep playing Twitter abound, too, as Weiner discovered. ... By following back some of his most ardent fans, the way a teen idol might oblige his fans with signed photos, and otherwise working the apparatus of Twitter to drive up his followers and get a hearing for his issues, he managed to create an online persona using the same tricks — digital versions of gerrymandering, triangulating and earmark — that politicians use. Twitter handsomely rewards those with a capacity for risk and an aptitude for the social sciences, especially economics, game theory, psychology and sociology.
Interesting indeed. But, correct?

I think the column tries to make out Twitter, and its use, to be far more than what it actually is. It's a personalized headline writing service. There's no conscious use of it in a Prisoner's Dilemma type way for 99 percent of its users. And, even most mega-users don't consciously use it in this way, either. So ... interesting ... but wrong.

MLB is getting stupid realignment ideas

Former Major League Baseball GM Jim Bowden wants to essentially get rid of the two leagues and form conferences instead.

I still like Bob Costas' idea: within the present two leagues, get rid of wild cards and give the best division champ in each league a first-round bye.

Chomsky should think again - within himself

Sounds like this is a definite book to read: The Recursive Mind: The Origins of Human Language, Thought, and Civilization.

Michael Corbalis, as noted in this review, thinks its recursive thinking, done without any special fluency in language, let alone a language "module," that makes us human.

Autism roundup - the latest on chemicals, genes, more

First, a cluster of genes appears to be "implicated" in about 5-8 percent of autism cases. More than that, though, the latest research appears to show girls are more resistant to autism-related genetic tendencies than boys.

Second, concern over chemicals (NOT mercury compounds) and autism continues to grow. (Note a chemical industry consultant whose own grown kids have concerns about chemicals.)

And the NIH notes that autism seems to blur/lessen distinctions between different brain areas. Causes on this are surely some way away from being narrowed down.

Pop Ev Psych gets a sexual slapdown

Millennia ago, women wandered away from home upon reaching adulthood to look for mates, while men stayed at home.

This also shows the ridiculousness of Pop Ev Psychers' trying to narrowly constrain a narrow time period as "THE" period of evolutionary adaptation for psychological issues and development.

#RickPerry: $90 religious hypocrite

Yep, $90 is all he gave to his church in 2007, during which he reported an income of more than $1 million. Of course, as the pull quote will show, that was a good year for his donations.

Of course, it's far short of a 10 percent tithe that used to be a distinguishing mark of the true conservative evangelical, but apparently, per the story, no longer is. (It's easier to practice the "success gospel," I guess, if the right minister will OK you being "tight" even with the divinity of your choice.)

Anyway, here's the opener about Rick the Cheapskate:
From 2000, when Perry became governor, through 2009, he earned a total of $2.68 million according to his tax records. Of that amount, he gave half a percent to churches and religious organizations, or $14,243.

By comparison, Americans averaged gifts of nearly 1.2 percent of their income to churches and religious groups from 2004 to 2008, according to Empty Tomb Inc., an Illinois-based research firm specializing in U.S. church-giving trends.

In 2007 — a year in which Perry reported an income of more than $1 million — he gave $90 to his church, according to the Perry family's tax return. Twice since becoming governor, in 2000 and 2009, he reported no contributions to churches or religious organizations.
Fucking bastard. The paper notes the average cash donation for people in his tax bracket is $6,529 a year.

PLEASE run for president so the whole nation can see your fucking hypocrisy. AND so that (below) they can also see your "Hillary Clinton problem."
His track record could be a problem said Michael Lindsay, incoming president of Gordon College and author of “Faith in the Halls of Power,” about the growth of evangelical politics.

“He's going to have a hard time with this,” Lindsay said. “While that may be acceptable for someone who does not aspire to leadership, evangelicals get very concerned when their leaders don't walk the talk.”
Bullshit.

First, "on the street" evangelicals don't make massive campaign contributions. Second, as long as a Perry utters the magic words on abortion and homophobia, many 'on the street" evangelicals are too insular, paranoid, etc. to care he's a fucking financial hypocrite.

Meanwhile, the Perry spin game is already ON, and full speed ahead:
In a prepared statement, deputy press secretary Catherine Frazier said: “Gov. Perry agrees tithing is important and what he has given to the church should not be discounted. Additionally, tithing is only one aspect of a person's faith, and the personal decision of each family.

“Gov. Perry has followed his words with action regarding his own faith, having taken many opportunities to stand up for people of faith and promote values important to the church, including signing legislation that protects religious expression, protects unborn life and promotes adoption.”
What did I just say? I typed my response to Lindsay even before reading on down in the article.

At the same time, Tricky Ricky knows this is a problem. The "straight shooter" refused an interview with the San Antonio Express-News; he refused everything but the press release above.

So, he is a chicken-shit hypocrite, too.

He's also a hypocrite about being hypocritical:
“He never talks about his faith,” Perry spokesman Mark Miner said.
Bullshit squared. He's talked and hinted about it relentlessly the past week. Even today, while Miner was lying about this, Perry was giving a religiously-driven anti-abortion talk in Southern California.

And, here's yet more hypocrisy: He claims that like Joseph in Egypt, or like the "Sabbath years" of Leviticus (it appears he's mangling two different things together), we need to sock away money for lean years.

However, he claims that if we don't we'll be slaves to the government.

Well, you asshat, Joseph was working for the government of Egypt. The Leviticus plan has Israel as state as well as church.

For Perry lovers, I say the same as I do to Obamiacs. He's Just.Another.Politician.™

Beyond that, Perry has a Hillary Clinton underwear donation problem, too!
A large chunk of Perry's charitable contributions compiled during his years in the governor's office has come in the form of noncash donations — mostly clothing drops — that he valued at $30,768. From 2000-2009, the family's tax returns show at least 21 trips to Goodwill and The Settlement Home for clothing drops.
Remember Hillary Clinton's donations of the Slickster's underwear (pre-Monica Lewinsky scandal ... could you imagine THAT?) at $5 a pop or whatever? Wonder what value the Trickster put on his Goodwill donations?

Oh, have some fun and crash the poll about Perry on the homepage of this newspaper.
Do you think Gov. Rick Perry should try a run for president of the United States?
Yes, he'd make a great president and could turn this country around.
No, he's more valuable guiding Texas the next three years.
No, Perry has been bad for the state and he'd be worse for the nation.
Need I say more?