Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Sy Hersh...Still Blithering After All These Years

You have to love this take down of Seymour Hersh's latest spate of paranoid ramblings from Across The Bay: The Sylight Zone

In order to fully understand the piece, you must read it with Hersh's comments to Wolf Blitzer earlier today, where Hersh offered the "interpretive key" so to speak, as well as an interview with the pro-Syrian as-Safir daily. It also gives you a sense of the unfiltered, wide-eyed lunacy that got edited out in the New Yorker piece, and shows just how ludicrous Hersh's "reporting" is, amounting to little more than wholesale, verbatim regurgitation of Hezbollah and Syrian propaganda.

Hersh immediately presents the underlying, pathetically reductionist and silly premise: who is the "real" enemy and the "real" danger, Iran or the Sunnis? It was succinctly summarized in his as-Safir interview: "we are against Sunni jihadism, for it was responsible for 9/11, not the Shi'a." This was reflected in the article in a quote by Vali Nasr (who along with other Iranian analysts -- Ali Ansari, Kaveh Afrasiabi, Hossein Askari, Ray Takeyh, et al. -- has been pushing this line from that particular trench): "It seems there has been a debate inside the government over what’s the biggest danger—Iran or Sunni radicals." It was also "confirmed" by the useless Flynt Leverett in a side-splitting comment dripping with conspiracism and Flynt's usual narrow, shallow nonsense: "The Administration is trying to make a case that Iran is more dangerous and more provocative than the Sunni insurgents to American interests in Iraq ... The idea is that at some point the Iranians will respond and then the Administration will have an open door to strike at them." The latter part is really the part that concerns Hersh the most.

The next step in Hersh's mental construct -- guided by overt hatred of the Bush administration -- is how this is setting the stage for war with Iran. This translates into covert (naturally!) action by the US against Iran and its allies and interests in the region. The basic idea is that the United States (namely the NSC, the OVP, and the DoD) are going after Iran and the axis it leads in cooperation with the Saudis, namely Prince Bandar. How are they going about it? By funding and arming Sunni extremist groups to counter pro-Iranian Shiites and Iran's sidekick, Syria. And the fun begins!

Again, Nasr provides the hook: "The Saudis have considerable financial means, and have deep relations with the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis." We've almost reached the heart of the theory. The next step: How does this relate to Lebanon and Syria?

Bandar and other Saudis have assured the White House that "they will keep a very close eye on the religious fundamentalists. Their message to us was ‘We’ve created this movement, and we can control it.’ It’s not that we don’t want the Salafis to throw bombs; it’s who they throw them at—Hezbollah, Moqtada al-Sadr, Iran, and at the Syrians, if they continue to work with Hezbollah and Iran."


Now, you are entitled to wonder here who Hersh's source is on this. Who is the person privy to this sensitive information? Surely, an NSC or OVP official. Perhaps even a DoS official, or perhaps someone from the DoD. What about a Saudi source? No, it's even better than that! It's a "U.S. government consultant." It's air tight!


There is a lot more over at Across the Bay and it is worthwhile reading, particularly if you feel the slightest inclination to take old Sy seriously.

I came to terms with Sy's pathologies long ago. This is what I wrote about him back in 2005:

It seems to me that someone who is doing investigative journalism, a form of journalism which often precludes readers from being able to corroborate much of the information presented, has a greater responsibility placed upon them to be even handed than, for instance, someone working on an editorial page or as a columnist. As it stands how can anyone objectively decide where Hersh's grasp of facts end and where his paranoid delusions start? I don't think you can objectively decide. If you find that Seymour Hersh's journalism speaks to you or not, it says more about the mindset you had to begin with. You certainly didn't learn anything new. In many ways you end up less informed then when you started.

To this, of course, we can now add deliberately propagating falsehoods for the benefit of a state sponsor of terrorism.

Nice way to branch out.

(Gleaned from Michael J. Totten's palce)

"Nobody Here But Us Objective Media Personages"

Typical MSM behavior can be seen in the following:

Study: 'Tipping point' for climate is near

Declaring there is "no more time for delay," an international panel of scientists urged the world's nations Tuesday to stave off climate-change "catastrophe" by boosting clean-energy research and sharply cutting industrial emissions that fuel global warming.

Otherwise, Earth this century could cross a climate threshold or "tipping point that could lead to intolerable impacts on human well-being," says the 166-page report prepared for the United Nations. It was written by 18 experts in climate, water, marine science, physics and other disciplines, seven of them Americans.

"It is still possible to avoid an unmanageable degree of climate change, but the time for action is now," says panelist John Holdren, a Harvard University professor of environmental policy.

Without action, the panel says, a litany of harmful consequences awaits: the spread of disease, less fresh water, more and worse droughts, more extreme storms and widespread economic damage to farming, fishing and forests. In the USA, which emits about 25% of the world's carbon dioxide, it could mean more intense hurricanes, heat waves, wildfires and droughts.

The two-year study, issued by the U.N. Foundation, says the risk of tipping over that climate threshold rises sharply if Earth's temperature increases 3.6 to 4.5 degrees above what it was in 1750 (it is 1.2 degrees above that point now). That year marked the start of the Industrial Revolution. It led to the widespread burning of coal, oil and other fossil fuels that generate carbon dioxide, the main heat-trapping "greenhouse gas" blamed for global warming.


You will notice that no mention is made of what the "U.N. Foundation" is. Indeed, it is implied that the Foundation is part of the United Nations, and this "report" should be taken on the same level as the IPCC report. That the "U.N. Foundation" is a private advocacy group founded and funded by Ted Turner is somehow not worthy of comment. Given the stinking piles of scorn the media directed at AEI recently for deriving a small portion of their funding from oil companies and the dead silence exhibited here, one might be forgiven for being able to detect a pattern.

Here is the AP take on the same "story" (also via USAToday):

Scientists to U.N.: "Tens of billions" needed to combat global warming

By Charles J. Hanley, AP Special Correspondent

UNITED NATIONS — An international panel of scientists presented the United Nations with a sweeping, detailed plan on Tuesday to combat climate change — a challenge, it said, "to which civilization must rise."

Failure would produce a turbulent 21st century of weather extremes, spreading drought and disease, expanding oceans and displaced coastal populations, it said.

"The increasing numbers of environmental refugees as sea levels rise and storm surges increase will be in the tens of millions," panel co-chair Rosina Bierbaum, a University of Michigan ecologist, told reporters here.

After a two-year study, the 18-member group, representing 11 nations, offered scores of recommendations: from pouring billions more dollars into research and development of cleaner energy sources, to mobilizing U.N. and other agencies to help affected people, to winning political agreement on a global temperature "ceiling."

Their 166-page report, produced at U.N. request and sponsored by the private United Nations Foundation and the Sigma Xi Scientific Research Society, was issued just three weeks after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an authoritative U.N. network of 2,000 scientists, made headlines with its latest assessment of climate science.


I would give the AP kudos for mentioning the fact that the "U.N. Foundation" is a private organization if it wasn't the barest freakin minimum they could do and still call it reportage.

Of course the story behind both of these pieces is the same. They accept as fact the catastrophe scenarios presented by folks who come right out and admit they are looking for extra billions of dollars, even though they are at variance with the IPCC report the press was trumpeting just last week. But, of course, contradicting the IPCC report with a MORE catastrophic vision somehow is OK...you still count as a pure and unsullied scientist. Differ in the other direction, however...well, then you are just an oil company shill.

Think I'm wrong? Point me to a single instance of a MSM story of a person or report counseling less hysteria that has been mentioned without reference to their funding or political persuasion. God knows, when AEI does come out with their papers on the IPCC report(s) they will be greeted by headline like:

Oil Company Funded Papers Try To Cover-Up Global Warming

or

Climate "Experts" Linked to Exxon

"Reporters" in the MSM will have to decide if they want to be journalists or Public Relations Cheerleaders for Al Gore and Co.

You can't be both.

UPDATE:

Of course it doesn't help when "scientists" are caught issuing misleading and false PR campaigns of research findings.

Quick test before you check out the link (here):

Did the Press Release,

A) Hype the Global Warming connection in direct contrast to the study's actual findings,

or

B) Downplay the clear and indisputable Global Warming evidence found in the study

Hmmm.....which one could it be???

The Definition of "Whipped"

From the Indy Star:

A woman whose boyfriend was accused of robbing a convenience store made him return the money before he was arrested, police said.

Tony E. Perry, 30, was being held in the Jackson County Jail on $50,000 bond Tuesday on robbery and other charges.

Brownstown Town Marshal Paul Starr said Perry told an attendant at the Circle K convenience store that he had a loaded weapon and demanded cash. Perry did not show a weapon, police said.

The attendant gave Perry cash, according to a police report.

When Perry's girlfriend, 34-year-old Keila Kocsis, entered the store about 75 miles south of Indianapolis and learned what Perry had done, she made him return the money, police said.

"I think she even paid for the Coke he bought," Starr said.

Perry then allegedly grabbed Kocsis and fled the store. They were stopped after a police chase, authorities said.


Please supply your own punch line.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

We Are A Nation Of Morons

Unfortunately....it seem only too true.

Ashcroft Pizza Party Raises Ethics Eyebrows

A pizza luncheon to be hosted this Wednesday by former Attorney General turned consultant John Ashcroft for some of his old political appointees has raised eyebrows in the Justice Department's ethics office, U.S. News has learned. The ethics office, which provides Justice employees with guidance on a wide range of ethics questions, has not prohibited invitees from attending the lunch.

However, it has "advised invitees to consider the appearance of attending such an event," Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse told U.S. News. But Juleanna Glover Weiss, an adviser and spokesperson for his consulting firm, told U.S. News that "General Ashcroft has abided by the letter and spirit of all post government service ethics restrictions." Wednesday's lunch, Weiss said, "is just a small social gathering."

Executive branch employees must comply with stringent standards of ethical conduct pertaining to accepting gifts or items of monetary value from anyone wanting to do official business with their agency, including their old colleagues and bosses. The ethics office has told political appointees at Justice that if they attend the Ashcroft pizza luncheon, it would "count toward the $20/occasion and $50/year limits."

....

By law, lobbyists have to disclose which companies and trade groups they represent before Congress and the executive branch. Among the Ashcroft Group's roster of clients is Mittal Steel Co. The Chicago-based Dutch global steel hired the Ashcroft Group last June. The firm registered to lobby on behalf of Mittal in July, well within the 45-day time limit.

A month later, the department's antitrust division filed a civil lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., to block Mittal's merger with another steel giant, Arcelor, which long had provided what antitrust officials described as "significant competitive constraint," to Mittal.

Simultaneously, the department also filed a proposed consent decree that it said would resolve the "competitive harm" stemming from the proposed $33 billion merger. According to U.S. Senate lobbying records, the Ashcroft Group reported earnings from Mittal Steel of $360,000 between January and June 2006. However, since Ashcroft was only hired in June, that $360,000 represented a one-time advance payment for work to be done in 2006. The Ashcroft Group reported virtually no earnings from Mittal for the rest of the year. The firm continues to represent Mittal, said Glover Weiss.

...

It's unclear whether the pizza party, coming as it does so close to the Justice Department's Mittal Steel decision, might have contributed to the ethics official's heartburn.


So, we need the government to investigate and sign off on someone getting a couple slices of pepperoni pizza because said pizza might induce a government official to support a $33 billion merger deal.

$33 billion.

Pepperoni pizza.

To top it all off, since its DC, they wouldn't even be able to get a decent slice anyway.

Silence

Been quiet around here. I've got a terrible head-cold that makes looking at the computer screen headache inducing. Additionally, it is trade deadline day in the NHL so I've been keeping up on the moves of the St. Louis Blues.

A man has to have his priorities straight.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

A New Arms Race

From QandO: They’re Not Just throwing Poo Anymore

Well, this can’t be good...

Chimpanzees living in the West African savannah have been observed fashioning deadly spears from sticks and using the tools to hunt small mammals — the first routine production of deadly weapons ever observed in animals other than humans.

The multistep spearmaking practice, documented by researchers in Senegal who spent years gaining the chimpanzees’ trust, adds credence to the idea that human forebears fashioned similar tools millions of years ago...

Using their hands and teeth, the chimpanzees were repeatedly seen tearing the side branches off long, straight sticks, peeling back the bark and sharpening one end. Then, grasping the weapons in a "power grip," they jabbed them into tree-branch hollows where bush babies — small, monkeylike mammals — sleep during the day.


Next thing you know, bonobos will be processing uranium, and then where will we be?

Podunk Village Of The Day: New York City

Pleased Supporter of Dance Ban
From CNN: Court upholds N.Y. ban on dancing in bars

Come and meet those dancing feet, up on 42nd Street -- but only in nightspots with special licenses.

The city's 80-year-old cabaret law banning dancing by patrons in ordinary bars and restaurants is legal, the state Supreme Court's Appellate Division ruled Thursday.

The Gotham West Coast Swing Club and several people had sued, saying the law violated their constitutional right to free expression.

But the appeals court backed the law, which was enacted in the Prohibition era to crack down on speakeasies.

"Recreational dancing is not a form of expression protected by the federal or state constitutions," the court wrote.


Rumor has it, however, that a stranger might be coming to town to set everything to rights.

Will he lead us to the promised land?

Prodi Government 2.0

From CNN: Prodi asked to stay on as Italy PM

The Italian president asked Romano Prodi on Saturday to stay on as premier and face a new vote of confidence in parliament, seeking a swift end to the political crisis prompted by the government's resignation days ago.

President Giorgio Napolitano announced his decision after holding two days of talks with party leaders and receiving reassurances that Prodi had the necessary parliamentary backing.

"I will seek a vote of confidence as soon as possible, with renewed impetus and a united coalition," Prodi said after meeting with the president.

Prodi stepped down on Wednesday after an embarrassing parliamentary defeat over foreign policy, including the government's plan to keep troops in Afghanistan. Defections by radical leftists, who have been voicing opposition to various government policies, were to blame.

Napolitano said there was not sufficient support for a broad coalition government, as demanded by former Premier Silvio Berlusconi and other conservatives. He said most party leaders agreed that early elections without a change in Italy's electoral law -- which has increased the influence of small parties -- was pointless.

"There was no alternative," Napolitano told reporters.


There are no surprises here. Prodi was going to get a second chance to form a government no matter what. And who knows? Maybe the little parties have learned a lesson about cooperating for the good of the coalition.

And just maybe there is some support to be gained from some center-right members.

Prodi has comfortable margin in the lower house of parliament. But his majority in the Senate is not guaranteed, leading center-left leaders to frantically count the numbers of senators they can rely on and courting outsiders -- mostly a few moderates and Catholics -- in an effort to broaden the coalition.

They seemed to have persuaded at least one centrist -- Marco Follini, a former deputy premier who has since left the conservative coalition led by Berlusconi. Follini told Corriere della Sera he would "likely" support Prodi, saying he wanted to take the government away from the influence of radical fringes.

Follini is a member of the senate originally elected as a member of Unione dei Democratici Cristiani e dei Democratici di Centro, but who left the UDC to form Italia di Mezzo. God only knows how much support IdM would generate in the electorate, but in the confines of an evenly split senate Follini could become quite important. Especially if he proves to be more reliable than some of the far-left members of the ruling coalition.

Prodi has quite a juggling act to pull off to keep this government together for any significant length of time.

Now This Takes Cojones

Via the BBC: Mexican anger over US 'trespass'

Mexico's parliament has condemned what it says is a border violation by US workers building a controversial barrier between the two countries.

Legislators say workers and equipment building a section of the barrier have gone 10 metres (yards) into Mexico.

You know what Mexico, until you stop aiding your citizens' attempts to evade the immigration laws of the United States you have one central duty. Namely, to shut the hell up.

I'm having a hard time thinking of another group of folks that could possibly make a claim more hypocritical than this one.

Friday, February 23, 2007

It Is Dog Ownership, Not Rocket Science

From the BBC: 'Don't leave children with dogs'

Children should not be left alone to play with dogs, doctors say.

In the British Medical Journal, London Deanery and Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust medics also called for children to be taught how to approach dogs.

Paediatrician Rachel Besser also wrote that dog owners should face mandatory classes on pet control.

A five-year-old girl from Merseyside was killed by a pit bull terrier-type dog recently, and hospital admissions for dog bites have doubled in 10 years.

NHS figures show that 4,133 people were admitted to hospital last year suffering dog bites, almost double the number in 1996. More than a fifth were children under nine.
Ms Besser, from training body the London Deanery, argued that the Dangerous Dogs Act does not work, because it only covers four breeds and just 764 people were prosecuted under it in 2005.

"Most dog bites to children at home happen when the child interacts with the dog in the absence of adult supervision," she wrote.

"We must stop placing blame on the dogs themselves and focus attention instead on who holds the lead at the other end - or who isn't holding the lead as the case may be.

"It is clear that not all dog owners appreciate that children should not be left unsupervised with a dog.

"Just as some parents are obliged to take parenting classes, I would like to see equivalent mandatory classes for expectant dog owners to teach them about the responsibilities of dog ownership."

She also called for measures targeted at children to help educate them on how to approach dogs.


It is shocking to see just how ignorant the UK is when it comes to dogs. And that is all this is, ignorance. People in Britain simply do not seem to know you have to teach your children how to interact with dogs...probably because they don't know how to do it themselves. How does that happen nationwide? Is it simply a tale of generations of urban dwellers losing touch with our canine companions? Whatever the reason it is sad.

Obviously, I realize that not everyone in England is totally clueless about this, and God knows we have our fair share of dunderheads here....but no one in the States is advocating a government program because too few people seem to know you shouldn't pull on a dog's tail while it is eating.

Do you really need a government program to teach common sense?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Geek Power

From the USA Today: Missing laptop found in ET hunt

SAN FRANCISCO — The Space Sciences Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, has signed up more than 1 million volunteers worldwide in a search for extraterrestrial intelligence. They've found no aliens yet, but they have at least turned up one missing laptop.

The Berkeley effort, better known as SETI(at)home, uses volunteers' computers when they go into screen-saver mode to crunch data from the Arecibo radio observatory in Puerto Rico. The computers are trying to spot signals in the radio noise from space.

One volunteer, James Melin, a software programmer for a county government agency in Minnesota, runs SETI(at)home on his seven home computers, which periodically check in with University of California servers. Whenever that happens, the servers record the remote computer's Internet Protocol address and file it in a database that people running the SETI software can view.

One of the computers on which Melin installed SETI(at)home is his wife's laptop, which was stolen from the couple's Minneapolis home Jan. 1.

Annoyed — and alarmed that someone could delete the screenplays and novels that his wife, Melinda Kimberly, was writing — Melin monitored the SETI(at)home database to see if the stolen laptop would "talk" to the Berkeley servers. Indeed, the laptop checked in three times within a week, and Melin sent the IP addresses to the Minneapolis Police Department.

After a subpoena to a local Internet provider, police determined the real-world address where the stolen laptop was logging on. Within days, officers seized the computer and returned it. No one had been arrested as of Wednesday and the case remains under investigation, said Lt. Amelia Huffman of the Minneapolis Police Department.

Kimberly's writings were safe, and the thieves didn't appear to have broken into her e-mail or other personal folders. But the returned computer contained 20 tracks of rap music with unintelligible lyrics, possibly from the person who stole the computer or bought it on the underground.

"It's really, really horrid rap," Melin said. "It makes Ludacris look like Pavarotti."

Kimberly was more enamored with Melin's detective work.

"I always knew that a geek would make a great husband," she said. "He always backed up all my data, but this topped it all. It became like Mission: Impossible for him, looking for hard evidence for the cops to use. ... He's a genius — my hero."



So what have we all learned?

The way to a woman's heart is to back up all her data.

That actually sounds kinda dirty.

The Perils Of A Parliament

The resignation of Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi after losing a minor battle in the Italian senate has all the earmarks of the "Good Old Days Italian Style." From Reuters:

Italy's president held crisis talks on Thursday to see if Romano Prodi, who resigned after only nine months in power after losing a Senate vote, has enough support to be reappointed as prime minister or must be replaced.

"We're a country of madmen," said Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema to one newspaper after Prodi unexpectedly stepped down on Wednesday following a foreign policy defeat in the Senate.

But Prodi and D'Alema, who both had previous spells as prime minister cut short, know from personal experience that Italy is accustomed to revolving-door politics -- which explains why financial markets could largely shrug off the latest upset.

After winning the narrowest election in post-war history to lead the 61st government since 1945, Prodi quit after a revolt by the left in his Catholics-to-communists alliance.


The nascent Italianisti in me has always been fascinated by the political machinations that occur in the homeland of Niccolo Machiavelli. This is no exception. The vote that led to Prodi's resignation was the very model of irony. The left and right wings each voted directly counter to their natural inclinations, the left largely voting in support of troop deployments in Afganistan and the expansion of a U.S. airbase in Italy, and the right voting for the opposite view. Throw in a handful of left wing defectors and ("Timber!") there goes the government.

But, of course, what was at issue was not Italian policy concerning the United States, but the premiership of Prodi. What the outcome of all this will be is unclear.

President Giorgio Napolitano, an 81-year-old ex-communist, must now end the impasse with Prodi staying as caretaker leader.

Napolitano scheduled over two dozen consultations with party and parliamentary leaders for the next two days, which one paper called a game of "Russian roulette" for Prodi.

If Napolitano detects enough support on the center left, he could ask Prodi to form a new government or undergo a confidence vote in parliament. A victory would allow him to stay in office.

If support is lacking, Prodi could seek help further afield such as in the Union of Christian Democrats, reluctant allies of Berlusconi. Or Napolitano could ask some veteran like Interior Minister Giuliano Amato to form a "technical" government.

Otherwise Napolitano would have to dissolve parliament and call early elections, though this option appears unlikely.


The reason new elections are unlikely is because the electorate, according to the polls, is most liable to return a government just as fragile as the current one. (See the chart below, cribbed from the BBC) For that reason I expect Prodi to return at the head of a coalition much like the one that failed this time. As a result I wouldn't be surprised to see Prodi resign again, possibly by the end of the year. If that happened there would be the chance of a "technical" government being formed, but not now. After years of Berlusconi the Italian left is going to make another go of it...for now at least.



Ed Morrissey had the following take on Captain's Quarters:

This exposed the hypocrisy of the European Left when it insisted its anti-war activism only applied to Iraq, and that the Afghanistan effort had its support. The basis for this breakdown came from an American request to expand its facilities in Vicenza, which conducts support operations for the Afghanistan mission. This would normally have received a fairly straightforward approval, but in this case the Left wanted to use it as a wedge to end Italy's deployment with the NATO forces in Afghanistan.

It would have failed except for a bit of dramatic betrayal by one of Prodi's ostensible allies. Giulio Andreotti, a former PM himself, promised Prodi that he would support the government and vote for the motion. At the last moment, he abstained instead of fulfilling his promise, and Andreotti's example is believed to have convinced enough of the others to pull the rug out from under Prodi.

They may not have anticipated his reaction. This was not a confidence vote, at least not explicitly, and Prodi could have acted as though the loss meant nothing for the credibility of his government. Prodi apparently felt the sting of this betrayal a little too keenly to just sit back and take it, and instead resigned. That puts the Left in a tough spot. If they want to be part of the government, they have to back Prodi -- otherwise, they either have to win the next election or watch the Right take Italy back.


I'm not sure I agree with all of this. Prodi had absolutely no margin for error in the senate, so this was bound to happen at some point and sooner rather than later. If the government was more robust one might speculate about this sort of back stabbing, but this doesn't feel organized. Prodi's majority in the senate depended upon parties like;

Italy of Values - 4 seats
Popular-UDEUR - 3 seats
The Union - South Tyrolean People's Party - 3 seats
South Tyrolean People's Party - 2 seats
Consumers' List - 1 seat
Olive Tree - 1 seat
Autonomy Liberty Democracy - 1 seat
The Union (abroad) - 4 seats


So it didn't take a back stab. Just breathing on the Prodi government might have did it in. (From Reuters again)

"Even if there is another Prodi government it would be hanging by a thread and would not last long," said Gianfranco Pasquino of the Bologna center of Johns Hopkins University.

"There are too many divisions in this government," agreed shopkeeper Giacobbe Rubin, 50, while on a cigarette break. "They could carry on but in three months they would collapse again."


That sounds about right.

What is interesting to see is that the fragile state of the current Italian government is renewing calls for an overhaul of the Italian system:

With a one-seat Senate majority, the revolt of two senators was enough to corner Prodi, and that prompted calls to overhaul an electoral system favoring coalitions rather than majorities.

"What needs to be done is a reform of the electoral system real quick -- a system that creates stronger majorities who are better able to rule once they are elected," Franco Pavoncello, politics professor at Rome's John Cabot University said.


There is a system that creates majorities. It is called "first past the post" and we in the United States are lucky enough to enjoy the benefits of such a system. I would hope people who (rather naively imho) call for the United States to change to a proportional representation system (see here and here) will actually see in the case of Italy the troubles inherent in such a system. The Italian people have had 61 governments in 62 years. Imagine if the U.S. had had 61 Presidents since World War II. There would be a word for that. It's called chaos. You think Congress has difficulty getting things done now!? Ha! You've not seen the half of it.

"That's Great Kid! Don't Get Cocky."

Via the BBC: Record power for military laser

A laser developed for military use is a few steps away from hitting a power threshold thought necessary to turn it into a battlefield weapon.

The Solid State Heat Capacity Laser (SSHCL) has achieved 67 kilowatts (kW) of average power in the laboratory.

It could take only a further six to eight months to break the "magic" 100kW mark required for the battlefield, the project's chief scientist told the BBC.

Potentially, lasers could destroy rockets, mortars or roadside bombs.


You hear about these sorts of projects for years without ever seeing any tangible results, and then one day you wake up to find someone talking about completion of a laser weapon in the matter of months. It is like a whole new world.

Perhaps the most successful of the US military's laser projects has been the Tactical High Energy Laser (THEL), which has shot down a small arsenal of mortars and rockets in live tests.

THEL uses a highly focused, high-power laser beam to engage and destroy aerial targets.

Another high-profile system currently under development is the US Air Force's Airborne Laser (ABL), which is designed to destroy enemy missiles shortly after they have been launched.

The megawatt class chemical laser is to be carried aboard a modified Boeing 747 freighter aircraft.


I wonder what sort of targets would require a large airplane based chemical laser that couldn't be handled by conventional weapons. It might simply be a matter of precision. You might be able to destroy a target without endangering civilians near it. (That is just a guess. The article never states why a laser would be the preferred option.)

The targeting of mortars and rockets seems the most promising for adding something revolutionary to the armed forces arsenal. One can certainly see where a laser would be much preferred over a system using conventional rockets, such as the Patriot anti-missile battery. If such a system can be perfected and made operational the battlefield will never look the same.

I wonder what this says about missile technology in the long term. Are they on the road to being outmoded? The answer to that might very well be "Yes."

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

That Had To Hurt

Paul Campos, someone I've enjoyed reading in the past, has gotten himself in over his head.

It begins here.

It ends here.

Ouch.

There is a term for what just happened to Professor Campos. It rhymes with "Itch Tap."

Kos, The Virgin

From the DK (obviously):

Does this mean that Air America will be hosting a Republican presidential debate?

Fox News Channel will host an August 2007 Democratic Debate in Reno, Nevada. The network is working with the Nevada Democratic Party and the Western Majority Project to host the debate, "which is expected to attract the top Democratic contenders for President," the press release says. It will air live on FNC and FNR on Aug. 14 in Reno.

"Fox News is proud to be a leader in coverage of the 2008 campaign season and a co-host of this important presidential debate. We look forward to working with the Nevada Democratic Party and the Western Majority Project," Roger Ailes says...

50 demerits for any Democrat who participates in a debate sponsored by the conservative machine's propaganda arm. Seriously. There's no need to further legitimize and enable the GOP's mouthpiece.

I know several of the candidates are worried about the crowded debate schedule already forming. Well, they now have the perfect excuse to skip this one.

Oh, and a slap in the face to the Nevada Democratic Party for ever thinking this was a good idea.

Kos seems to be on a rather bizarre quest for ideological purity here, one that does not allow any candidate to be besmirched by contact with the great unwashed.

This sort of attitude is more than strange, it is foolish, and it runs counter to the strategy outlined by no less a Kos favorite than Howard Dean. Dean's vision entailed the Democrats ceding very little to the Republicans, contesting more vigorously across the southern states, and basically putting a Democratic presence everywhere it was politically important to do so. Putting a Democratic debate on Fox is simply an extension of this strategy into the television news arena. The time spent wishing that Fox didn't exist is simply wasted. Like it or not in a democratic society there is going to be another side.

Maybe Kos' little daydreams of living in a one-party state are clouding his judgement.

UPDATE:

Kos is furiously attempting to not seem completely insane:

Here's how "fair and balanced" Fox was the last time they did one of these:

For an example of how disrespectful and counterproductive such Fox News-sponsored Democratic debates are, consider the September 9, 2003 Democratic debate in Baltimore, Maryland, hosted by Fox News in partnership with the Congressional Black Caucus. Fox News graphics, as well as a banner over the stage, titled the event as the "Democrat Candidate Presidential Debate," a misconstruction of "Democrat" used as an an epithet Fox News then summarized the debate with a story titled, "Democratic Candidates Offer Grim View of America," continuing with such jabs as, "The depiction of the president as the root of all evil began at the top of Tuesday night's debate...." Controversial questions included the accusation that Howard Dean had a racist gun policy by Fox News analyst Juan Williams. There were also multiple interruptions by protesters throughout the debate, leading to four arrests.


So, two of Kos' huge concerns are literally about semantics; how some Fox intern put together a banner, and how Juan Williams phrased a question. (Williams phrased it, "Gov. Dean has suggested that states like Vermont, Montana and Wyoming, with overwhelmingly white populations, really don't need gun control, in part because of their rural character, but urban areas, such as Baltimore, Md. with large minority populations, do need gun control." This can only be offensive if you don't know how to read very well. Lets just say that the word "because" is kinda important.)

Kos also doesn't like how Fox summarized the event afterward. This affects their ability to host a debate how exactly? And won't they offer their take on debates no matter who hosts them? How are you going to stop that?

And as for the protesters, how exactly is Fox news to blame for the actions of a bunch of LaRouchies? After all LaRouche was a Democratic candidate, not a Republican.

Kos is either insane or inane.

The Rhythm Of Love

Via the BBC: Natural contraception 'effective'

A natural family planning method is as effective as the contraceptive pill, German research suggests.

The symptothermal method (STM) assesses fertility levels during the monthly cycle by measuring body temperature, and observing cervical secretions.

UK experts said natural family planning was effective - provided it was taught properly and carried out correctly.

A University of Heidelberg team assessed STM in a study of 900 women.

The lowest pregnancy rate was found among women who abstained from sex during their most fertile period, as defined by STM.

Among those who used a barrier method during this time, such as a condom, the pregnancy rate rose to 0.6 pregnancies per 100 women per year.


Why do I get the feeling that this study will not be embraced by the Planned Parenthood crowd in the US? I mean how could they possibly give up their favorite stick with which to beat the Vatican? How could you possibly admit for all these years the Catholic Church had a point? Will they really have to ditch their entire back catalog of rhythm method jokes? Should they really have been handing out rhythm method pamphlets instead of condoms?

How disheartening for them.

I find it odd in this day and age of lefty embrace of "Organic" this and "All Natural" that, that there is basically no chance that the most natural family planning method out there won't be ignored in favor of some pill. Most women I've talked to about the pill (not that many I'll admit) have hated it. They have felt it messed up their bodies somehow. I suppose it is the same with most medical treatments, some tolerate it better than others. Also, of course, there are questions about the long term health effects of the pill to take into account as well.

Maybe there is another option?

"Don't Bother To Tip The Waitresses! We Won't Be Here All Week."

I'd say this is the definition of a tough crowd: Colombia clowns killed on stage

Two circus clowns have been shot dead during a performance in the eastern Colombian city of Cucuta, police say.

The attacker jumped into the arena and fired before fleeing, police chief Jose Humberto Henao told Efe news agency.

Local reports say the audience of about 20 people, mostly children, thought the shooting was part of the show before realising both men had been killed.


The article goes on to tell us that this isn't the first clown murder in Columbia.

It's ironic... in the movies, the clown is usually the killer.

Please feel free to hum Graham Parker's "They Murdered The Clown".

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Published Plan Positively Papist, Possibly Pure Posturing

The headline is a little shocking:

Churches back plan to unite under Pope


The lead is just as strong:

Radical proposals to reunite Anglicans with the Roman Catholic Church under the leadership of the Pope are to be published this year, The Times has learnt.

The proposals have been agreed by senior bishops of both churches.

In a 42-page statement prepared by an international commission of both churches, Anglicans and Roman Catholics are urged to explore how they might reunite under the Pope.

The statement, leaked to The Times, is being considered by the Vatican, where Catholic bishops are preparing a formal response.


This makes it all sound rather monumental. But I get the feeling there is nothing all that new here. I believe this is just another step in the long slow dissolution of the Anglican Church as we know it. Try as I might I just don't see the Anglican Church as a whole deciding to accept the primacy of the Bishop of Rome. Dissatisfied elements within the Anglican community might long for a time when there was a unified doctrinal vision within their Church, but they won't be strong enough to reunite the whole Church with the RC. Instead you will see individual Anglican clergy "swimming the Tiber" and the occasional parish switching over...just as we have seen for the last 20+ years.

Where it might be different is in Africa. Sometimes it does seem that there is a greater divide between fellow members of the Anglican Church, such as the difference between Anglican Church in Africa and the Episcopal Church in America, than there is between the Catholic faith and the African Anglicans. When it comes to doctrine, the Catholic adherence seems far less alien.

But there is always the sticking point of that Pope guy.

In one significant passage the report notes: “The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the ministry of the Bishop of Rome [the Pope] as universal primate is in accordance with Christ’s will for the Church and an essential element of maintaining it in unity and truth.” Anglicans rejected the Bishop of Rome as universal primate in the 16th century. Today, however, some Anglicans are beginning to see the potential value of a ministry of universal primacy, which would be exercised by the Bishop of Rome, as a sign and focus of unity within a reunited Church.

In another paragraph the report goes even further: “We urge Anglicans and Roman Catholics to explore together how the ministry of the Bishop of Rome might be offered and received in order to assist our Communions to grow towards full, ecclesial communion.”


Can anyone ever see this flying in England? It simply isn't going to happen, and the article owns up to this fact:

In today’s Anglican Church, it is unlikely that a majority of parishioners would wish to heal the centuries-old rift and return to Rome.

However, the stance of the Archbishop of Canterbury over the present dispute dividing his Church gives an indication of how priorities could be changing in light of the gospel imperative towards church unity.

Dr Rowan Williams, who as Primate of the Church of England is its “focus for unity”, has in the past supported a liberal interpretation of Scripture on the gay issue. But he has made it clear that church unity must come before provincial autonomy. A logical extension of that, once this crisis is overcome either by agreement or schism, would be to seek reunion with the Church of England's own mother Church.


That is the first time I've ever heard of "schism" as a way to "overcome a crisis," ("Have a happy schism!") but that might just be a indication of how deep the differences are right now in the Anglican community. But even given all of that I do not think there will be a major change in the Anglican Church in England or North America. The Archbishop of Canterbury will not become just another Roman Catholic Bishop, at least not in my lifetime.

Gleaned from TMV.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Falling Off The Rails

Anyone who reads this blog regularly has probably noticed that I'm fond of the work done by the folks at FIRE. Their "blog" The Torch has featured routinely, and always in a positive light. So, in a spirit of fair-mindedness, I'd highlight a post written by Chris Perez that I do not think that much of.

Professor Alan Wolfe channels John Stuart Mill in a recent blogpost on The New Republic’s Open University blog. Discussing the use of the label “anti-Semite,” Professor Wolfe invokes Mill’s discussion of “the social stigma” in On Liberty. Wolfe writes:

Mill addressed the application of what he called “the social stigma” to unpopular ideas. It is true that stigmatization “kills no one” and “roots out no opinions,” Mill argued, but, he continued, “the price paid for this sort of intellectual pacification is the sacrifice of the entire moral courage of the human mind.” Like deTocqueville, from whom he borrowed the argument, Mill was persuaded that explicit, formal censorship was not the only method, nor even the most effective method, for suppressing ideas. Attaching invidious labels to those ideas, as a way of trying to isolate them from polite company, represents an insidious form of illiberalism of which we ought to be wary.

Whether or not one agrees with Wolfe’s analysis in this instance, one cannot deny the harmful effect that “invidious labels” can have on meaningful discussion. Both sides of the political spectrum have their labels. The right, to automatically discredit arguments or people, may use “feminist,” “radical,” or “leftist.” And the left may use “sexist,” “homophobic,” or “racist.”


What? For starters, who exactly on the left is offended when they are called a "feminist"? No one I've ever heard. Additionally, how many folks on the left happily embrace the term "radical" or "leftist"? A whole hell of a lot of them. This list gives the impression that those on the right never do more than misapply perfectly acceptable names. (For example, calling a middle of the road Democrat a "leftist" is almost always inaccurate.) The reality is different. Left of center folks get called tyrants, totalitarians, communists, thought police, effete Euro-wannabes etc. They get labeled with adjectives like, Stalinist, Maoist, Orwellian, Godless, un-American, French etc.

It is fine if you want to make a plea for less name calling in the public sphere, but lets begin with both feet in the reality of the day, please.

Here Comes The Pseudo-Monopoly...

...and It's alright.....

XM and Sirius satellite radio are merging:

XM Satellite Radio (NASDAQ: XMSR) and SIRIUS Satellite Radio (NASDAQ: SIRI) today announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement, under which the companies will be combined in a tax-free, all-stock merger of equals with a combined enterprise value of approximately $13 billion, which includes net debt of approximately $1.6 billion.

Under the terms of the agreement, XM shareholders will receive a fixed exchange ratio of 4.6 shares of SIRIUS common stock for each share of XM they own. XM and SIRIUS shareholders will each own approximately 50 percent of the combined company.

Mel Karmazin, currently Chief Executive Officer of SIRIUS, will become Chief Executive Officer of the combined company and Gary Parsons, currently Chairman of XM, will become Chairman of the combined company. The new company's board of directors will consist of 12 directors, including Messrs. Karmazin and Parsons, four independent members designated by each company, as well as one representative from each of General Motors and American Honda. Hugh Panero, the Chief Executive Officer of XM, will continue in his current role until the anticipated close of the merger.


I am an XM subscriber of about 5 months or so, and I have to say I'm excited about this. There were a couple of things I liked about Sirius' lineup (mostly the Underground Garage station), but as I was mostly wanting the satellite radio to follow the St. Louis Cardinals that left me only one option. To date, I've really enjoyed my XM, but there is the potential for the new version to offer a lot more.

I'm worried about about the price structure. The press release stated that they might go to a more ala carte price structure, but I worry that things like Major League Baseball and the NHL (or the NFL and NBA if those excite you more *yawn*) might be premiumly priced so that sports fans are basically screwed.

I'm hopeful this will turn out to be a good thing for us consumers...but maybe they will find a way to mess the whole thing up.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

That Could Have Gone Better

I saw this AP story today in the St. Paul Pioneer Press: Using tires for ocean reefs is a good idea gone bad

A mile offshore from this city's high-rise condos and spring-break bars lie as many as 2 million tires, strewn across the ocean floor — a white-walled, steel-belted monument to good intentions gone awry.

The tires were dropped there in 1972 to create an artificial reef intended to attract a rich variety of marine life and to free up space in clogged landfills. Decades later, the idea has proved a huge ecological blunder.

Very little sea life has formed on the tires. Some tires that were bundled together with nylon and steel have broken loose and are scouring the ocean floor across a swath the size of 31 football fields. Tires are washing up on beaches. Thousands have wedged up against a nearby natural reef, blocking coral growth and devastating marine life.

"The really good idea was to provide habitat for marine critters so we could double or triple marine life in the area. It just didn't work that way," said Ray McAllister, a professor of ocean engineering at Florida Atlantic University who was instrumental in organizing the project. "I look back now and see it was a bad idea."


I have to give Professor McAllister credit. There are many academics who would have just pretended that their earlier concepts were still right, despite all the evidence to the contrary. Many would try to shift the blame to those who did the actual work or to who donated the tires, etc. Professor McAllister is not too prideful to say "My bad."

The scope of the error, which was not Prof. McAllister's alone obviously (there seems to have been a scientific consensus that this was a good idea), is mind blowing:

In fact, similar problems have been reported at tire reefs worldwide.

"They're a constantly killing, coral-destruction machine,"
said William Nuckols, coordinator for Coastal America, a federal group involved in organizing a cleanup effort that includes Broward County biologists, state scientists and Army and Navy salvage divers.

[emphasis added]

So these tires, which scientists predicted would foster ocean life, didn't do anything of the kind. In fact, these tires not only didn't foster ocean life they positively destroyed it.

"We've literally dumped millions of tires in our oceans," said Jack Sobel, an Ocean Conservancy scientist. "I believe that people who were behind the artificial tire reef promotions actually were well-intentioned and thought they were doing the right thing. In hindsight, we now realize that we made a mistake."


Science can be a very humbling discipline. It is supposed to be. This experience should act as a cautionary tale for those in other scientific research areas, such as climate change, who are convinced that they know exactly what should be done and precisely what the effects will be. If the history of scientific discovery is any guide they should realize that they more than liekly have something wrong, perhaps catastrophically wrong.

Unfortunately the CC crowd seems more intent on lecturing others with cautionary tales, instead of learning from them.

Friday, February 16, 2007

"Hold Up One Finger If You Are Gonna Do One Thing...

...and hold up a second if you are gonna do something else."

Stubborn Facts neatly sums up the post-Edwards campaign Marcotte story to date:

Amanda Marcotte has a three-page web article in Salon in which she copiously demonstrates why she should never have been hired in the first place. (You have to suffer through a short web commercial for the full access required to suffer through the rest.)

Why I had to quit the John Edwards campaign

I realized that I couldn't handle the stress of having people flinging an endless stream of baseless accusations at me without being able to come out and defend myself, so I resigned from the campaign.

Marcotte has a little history of flinging things herself, using vulgarity and vituperation in much the same fashion that annoyed primates utilize their excretions. Given open "prime time" access in Salon, she manages to confirm that she's definitely not ready for prime time, with the fecal fallout beginning in short order.

She does manage to get to the second page before throwing the first f-bomb. As to be expected, it's all the fault of the Godbag Patriarchy and the Right-Wing Smear Machine, intent on smothering any legitimate feminist voices in the political arena. Her own egocentric "coarse, comedic vernacular," readily apparent anger management problem, near-psychotic rants and smugly histrionic tantrums were, of course, not in the least to blame.

It is hard to believe there are folks willing to champion Marcotte after she basically comes out and says the reason she left the Edwards campaign was because it really cut into her ability to be a full-time victim.

She would also have folks believe there is something stressful about being on the receiving end of criticism from folks you don't respect in the first place.

In reality there is nothing to it.

This Feels Like A Set-Up....

From Reuters: Baghdad offensive unopposed, PM talks to Bush


U.S. and Iraqi forces sweeping through Baghdad met little resistance on Friday in an offensive that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told President Bush had been a "brilliant success" so far.

Maliki is under pressure to ease sectarian violence threatening to plunge Iraq into all-out civil war and he renewed a pledge to Bush during a video conference that troops would hunt down militants regardless of their sect.

Brigadier Qassim Moussawi, a spokesman for the Iraqi general overseeing the offensive, said the number of violent deaths reported in the capital had fallen from 40-50 a day to 10.

The commander of U.S. forces in Baghdad confirmed violence had declined but warned of tough days ahead.

Why do I get the feeling that stories like this are going to be used to claim the Bush admin and/or the Iraqi government was lying as soon as the next big terror attack hits a Baghdad market? Maybe seeing a major wire service have anything positive to say about an American operation in Iraq has thrown me a little.

I just can't quite shake this feeling...

Damn! Damn! Damn!

I'm just kicking myself....

First there was this the other day on The Torch:

As we reported in a press release this morning, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is threatening a student with discipline for a comment he posted on Facebook.com. The student was a member of a now-defunct Facebook.com group formed in response to a movement to get rid of Illinois’ Native American mascot, “Chief Illiniwek.” The group called itself “If They Get Rid of the Chief I’m Becoming a Racist,” and the student in question posted the following comment:

Apparently the leader of this movement is of Sioux descent. Which means what, you ask? The Sioux indians [sic] are the ones that killed off the Illini indians [sic], so she’s just trying to finish off what her ancestors started. I say we throw a tomohawk [sic] into her face.

It should be obvious that rather than attempting to incite a tomahawk attack on campus, this student was simply registering his extreme displeasure using the type of over-the-top, hyperbolic language favored by students nationwide (for example, a quick search of Facebook.com groups at my alma mater reveals the existence of groups such as “Every Facebook Group Should End With Bitch…Bitch”; “MOL 214 Makes Me Want to Punch a Baby in the Face…and I LOVE Babies”; and “Stalking is the Sincerest Form of Flattery.”)

Rather then giving this student the benefit of the doubt, however, the university launched an investigation into what Chancellor Richard Herman termed the “violent” and “vicious” threats.


As a U of I alum I read this with interest, but I merely rolled my eyes at yet another dumb chapter in the always dumb Chief Illiniwek controversy.

But I should have seen it as the golden oportunity it was.

From today at The Torch:

Upon receipt of a FIRE press release, FIRE friend David Ross e-mails the university administrator in question and asks a simple question: Are FIRE’s allegations accurate?

Following FIRE’s latest press release regarding the “tomahawk threat” at Illinois, Prof. Ross wrote to Chancellor Herman:

You, Chancellor Herman, may really think that this silly student actually intended to threaten a tomahawk attack! Certainly that’s what you indicated in your email regarding this matter. Do you really think that the student threatened an actual attack?

If the student really were threatening to attack someone with a tomahawk then taking action against that student would not be a violation of the first amendment—by which UI is bound because it is a government school. The first amendment does not protect threats of physical harm. But in that case, your response is insanely mild! If you think, Chancellor Herman, that one student plans to attack another with an ax, you have to call the cops! How do you suppose parents of UI students will feel when they learn that the administration, upon concluding that an ax attack on a student was imminent, snapped into action and distributed an email about “creating a more welcoming campus environment”?


I'm kicking myself for not having thought of this yesterday.

However, there is always the danger that the Chancellor will be obtuse enough to take Prof. Ross up on this and sic the cops on the student.

Wouldn't that make for a "welcoming campus enviornment"!

ADDED:

How is it college adminstrators have so much time for cruising around Facebook and MySpace? What, the day job isn't really filling up your work day?

New Game: Find The Asinine Assumption

From THE USA Today:

There are 14 regions of previously undetected lakes hidden beneath parts of the massive West Antarctic Ice Sheet that are continuously dumping their contents into the surrounding sea, NASA scientists reported Thursday.

The researchers acknowledge that they don't know what role these lakes play in draining ice away from the sheet, but its collapse is one of the most extreme fears in global warming scenarios. Antarctica holds about 90% of the world's ice and 70% of its reservoir of fresh water, NASA says.

You know what...just to make it easy for new players, I'll highlight an important part of that:

The researchers acknowledge that they don't know what role these lakes play in draining ice away from the sheet

But the articles goes on to say:

Alley cautions that scientists still haven't figured out how the lakes, along with smaller subglacial lakes in Eastern Antarctica, control how ice sheets drain into the oceans, or their potential for collapse.

"We can't predict what these ice streams are going to do, based on these measurements," Bindschadler says.

Global warming melts the ice sheets, he says. "That's the easy part." However, "the hard part is the details of how it all works."
[emphasis added]

So see, Global Warming is causing these rivers and lakes, which we didn't know existed because they were under 2/5 of a mile of ice, to dump into the sea and cause ocean levels to rise. (We are assuming, of course, that they haven't been doing exactly this for the last few hundred thousand years. Let's assume it never happened before. Sound good to you?) Oh and all this is happening at the same time the Antarctic has been cooling for at least the last 20 years or so.

So let me get this straight. You just discover something new, something unstudied, and you are going to immediately make sweeping generalizations about how it functions? Yeah...that's scientific.

Oh and I love this particular asinine assumption:

Global warming melts the ice sheets, he says. "That's the easy part."


So that is the "easy part", right. Well let us look at what the new IPCC report has to say on such matters:

Table SPM-1. Observed rate of sea level rise and estimated contributions from different sources.

Rate of sea level rise (mm per year)

1961-2003

Antarctic ice sheet 0.14 ± 0.41


So, the "easy" part tells you the melting of the Antarctic ice sheet has added 0.14mm per year plus or minus 0.41mm.

In case you don't see it, this is the scientific way of saying "We haven't a clue about how much Antarctic melting is happening. Hell, we don't even know if it is happening."

Think about it folks. Let's say you asked me how tall my brother was and I said, "6 feet, give or take 17 1/2 feet." I think it would be safe to deduce that I had no idea how tall my brother was.

So the IPCC is saying they guess that the Antarctic sheet ice has added 6mm to sea levels from 1961-2003, but they wouldn't be surprised to discover it had in fact lowered sea levels 11mm or, at the other extreme, raised it 23mm.

And remember, this is the stuff scientists are having an easy time with. Just imagine how they are faring with the difficult questions!

A "Rush" To Ill-Considered Judgement

Joe over at TMV points to the usual Limbaugh foolishness:

Barack Obama is a “Halfrican American”
(And people say “Ditto” to this guy??)


Typical.

However, is Rush's sentiment really any worse than those who claim that Obama isn't an authentic "African-American" because his father is an authentic African? As if cultural heritage is somehow transmitted via DNA. (Jean-Baptiste Pierre Antoine de Monet, Chevalier de Lamarck, would be proud.)

Since there is no objective way of measuring race, which is social construct not a scientific one, we should really let people's self-identification rule the day. (Within reason of course.)

So, yes, Rush should shut the hell up about Obama's racial identity, but he is not the only one who should do so.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

More On Thought Control Spartan Style

There is a good post today on Michigan State's "re-education" program over at Fire.

On Monday, the Michigan State University (MSU) student newspaper The State News published an article about the school’s Student Accountability in Community (SAC) program. The article, which details some of FIRE’s concerns about the program’s constitutionality, includes distressing quotes from MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon:

“You don’t get into the program because you choose to; you’ve gotten there because you’ve been found guilty of something,” she said. “It’s sort of like when you go to an alcohol diversion program. You don’t have a First Amendment right to control the content of your alcohol diversion program.”

“You don’t have a set of rights to control what kinds of community service you do necessarily.”


Unfortunately for MSU students, these quotes demonstrate not only that President Simon is deeply misinformed about exactly how the First Amendment works in relation to public universities like MSU, but also that President Simon doesn’t really understand how the SAC program works, either.

First, let’s tackle the First Amendment. Put simply, the First Amendment protects citizens from being punished for speech by the government or its agents. As a public university, funded by taxpayer dollars, Michigan State University is certainly a government actor, and thus bound by the First Amendment. Therefore, Michigan State cannot constitutionally punish students for engaging in protected speech.

Now as clear as that constitutional prohibition is, the SAC program ignores it. According to SAC program materials, examples of “situations that would generally be appropriate for SAC” include “[h]umiliating a boyfriend or girlfriend,” “disrespecting other students’ academic freedom,” “[i]nsulting instructors or teaching assistants,” and “making sexist, homophobic, or racist remarks at a meeting.” Whether or not this kind of speech is admirable, polite, or desirable is completely immaterial. The point is that these examples are clearly protected by the First Amendment, and until the Constitution is amended otherwise, such instances of protected speech have absolutely no business being grounds for a mandatory SAC referral. Because a mandatory referral to the SAC program means that a student’s registration is put on hold until the student has paid a fifty-dollar fee, a student who refuses to participate in the program is effectively expelled. If that isn’t punishment for engaging in protected speech, I don’t know what is. (Check out Greg’s column from last Wednesday’s The Detroit News for more on precisely how the SAC program violates constitutional rights.)

Now on to the real heart of the matter here, which is President Simon’s misleading characterization of the SAC program. First, President Simon makes clear that the SAC program is punitive: “You don’t get into the program because you choose to; you’ve gotten there because you’ve been found guilty of something,” she says. Found guilty of what? Yelling an insult? Getting into a heated political debate? It is chilling to see how easily Simon skips past the constitutional problems raised by classifying protected speech as something a student could fairly “be[ ] found guilty of” at a public university in the United States.


What is amazing is that MSU is treating speech as if it is something you can regulate as long as you have due process. Their defense is, "We didn't just punish students for their speech. We had a show trial first...THEN we punished them." An educated person should not be able to find this plausible as the meaning of the 1st Amendment. Yet, somehow, they do.

Maybe they had the education but it just didn't take?

Yesterday Redux

I really thought I was done with the whole Marcotte thing yesterday. However, Michael Stickings had a few thoughts and I felt it was worthwhile to make my case again. To that end I posted the following over at The Reaction:

Michael,

If Heraclitus' intent was procedural in nature there would have been no argument, or what argument there was would have been small. In fact I read his original post as if he was making a procedural argument. What do i mean by that? Well, take the case of the ACLU defending the KKK's right to free speech. When it does helps the KKK in those cases it doesn't mean that the ACLU is endorsing the substance of the KKK views. Everyone gets that. The ACLU doesn't think the KKK platform is "just another viewpoint" or "someones take on the world" that deserves as much respect as any other opinion.

I made the exact same assumption about Heraclitus defending Marcotte. And I AGREED. She should be able to say what she wants without assholes threatening her. (The fact that nasty comments, as opposed to physical threats to her person, get directed towards her has to be taken with a grain of salt, as, if you read the comment section over there, she can be as nasty and mean spirited as anyone. If she can give that kind of junk out, she should be willing to take it too.)

However, that doesn't mean what she says isn't bigotted and unworthy of respect. And I find her writing on Catholicism and Christianity every bit as bigotted as any KKK screed. Alright, fine, you guys disagree, and you want to make an argument (so I assumed) that her writing is within the bounds of legitimate opinion. My point was you are never going to convince a large number of people that calling the Church a vehicle for misogyny is anything other than hateful.

So, back in my original comment (please go re-read it) I very clearly call Marcotte's views "a pedjudice born of stereotyipcal thinking, ignorance, and hate." Now, I do say that I think Heraclitus misses the point by focusing so much on the sexual imagery in that one statement. I AGREE WITH HIS TAKE ON THAT. It's distasteful, "obscene" (if you like, its not a word I use), and "in the gutter" vulgar, but I'd defend her right to say it.

I then stated, perhaps infelicitously, "The truth is, if you belong to a group that is on the liberal "shit list" opinion folks (like yourself) dont care what kind of hateful language gets thrown out there." The point here is that many on the left do not care for many of the Catholic Church's teachings, particularly on sexual mores, as they conflict with their ideological vision. For that reason they are very comfortable hearing "anti-Catholic doctrine" talk on those subjects. SO comfortable in fact that I feel they dont notice when it crosses the line from disagrement on issues to hate.

I then made the commonplace view that Edwards, as a presidential candidate, has to make sure he appeals to as large a number of people as he can. In that effort he will naturally try not to piss off large groups of people that might possibly supprt him. Why am I going on like this??? He's gonna try to steer clear of controversey, just like every other serious presidential candidate. Period.

So while I very clearly labelled Marcotte a bigot (which is what the entire contrversey is about, right? If you define taking up the other side of the question as "out-of-bounds" how can we have a discussion?) I very clearly did NOT label Haraclitus as anything other than being on the "left."

So, of course, the very helpful response came from Heraclitus that Marcotte WASN'T a bigot because of two very important reasons: A) She wasn't talking [about] all Catholic and B) I was an illiterate with a martyr complex.

I responded by pointing out that Marcotte very clearly stated she was talking about the central tenets of Catholic Teaching and not some fringe group of whack jobs. I went on to point out other examples of Marcotte's writings that were either A) hateful or biggoted on religion or B) simply muddled headed on Catholicism. I also pointed to an example of behavior on the DK that backed up my claim that anti-Catholic bile can rise up on the left. (And to the DK's credit they tried to say "Whoa folks!! That's over the line" but the comment section was having none of it. Oh and, just for the record, there were SCORES of folks calling the pope a Nazi not just "an unnamed" commentor.)

It was only at this point that Heraclitus started to defend the SUBSTANCE of Marcotte's views. It was also at this point that I had to consider that maybe Haraclitus was not playing the ACLU to Marcotte's KKK. And yes, I changed tactics, just like an attorney asking the judge to treat someone as a hostile witness.

From that point on almost none of my points were addressed by Heraclitus, who mostly just repeated the Marcotte line. There was this exchange though...

You (Heraclitus) state: "But, if you're so interested in dialogue, why does the Catholic Church deserve more respect than the gays whom they teach are fundamentally "disordered"? Why should religion generally be exempt from criticism and mockery, while it preaches that whole groups of people are going to hell?"

I said: "Using this standard I'll be waiting anxiously for your vicious take down of Islam."

to which I got the response:

"Iconic Jackass, I didn't "viciously take down" anything."

To me...my point was very clear. Muslims do not think Heraclitus or I are going to get into paradise when we punch our final time card. Good things are not going to happen to us, so says their religion. Now, if is justifiable for people to say whatever they like about the Catholic Church because its teachings send some folks to hell, then it would be ok to do the same to Islam. Heraclitus or I could say WHATEVER we liked about Islam, because we have no reason to respect it as it is not letting us into paradise. Nothing in the realm of language would be "over the line"? Heraclitus made the claim that as long as you didn't discriminate against someone nothing else could be contrued as bigotry. By that standard the KKK are only bigots when they do something specific (i.e. engage in an overt act of discrimination) like deny a black person a job. For me, they are bigots ALL the time, because of what they SAY, the MANNER in which they say it, and the obvous INTENT they have to belittle and demean others.

To tell you the truth, if I thought for a second that Heraclitus was really defending the SUBSTANCE of Marcotte's "thought" I never would have posted a comment in the first place. It really surprised me that that turned out to be the case. I had no idea he would personally identify his views so strongly with Marcotte's. So strongly in fact that if you call her a bigot you are calling him a bigot too. But, how could I have known that when I started? Ah well..live and learn.

On the other hand I have enjoyed the irony of all the name calling directed at me by the author of "A few words on tolerance and respect." Great stuff!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Evidently, I'm An Irritating S.O.B.

In the comments to a post entitled, "A Few Words on Tolerance and Respect" I am graciously addressed thusly:

Iconic Jackass


It's a good start. However, if he really wants to attain almost Marcotte-ish levels of tolerance and respect he might want to work in the word "fuck-wad."

But that is just a suggestion.

(Actually, folks should head over to Stubborn Facts for an interesting take on some double standards making the rounds in the left-o-sphere. I think they nail it.)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

What's He Got That I Ain't Got?


Boyish U.S. envoy becomes heartthrob in China


Christopher Hill, nuclear negotiator, media superstar.

Little known in his home country, the boyish-looking U.S. assistant secretary of state has become a celebrity in China's capital and not just for his role as Washington's chief envoy in talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

"He's so charming and attractive," said Li Kenna, a desk clerk at the five-star hotel Hill stays at in Beijing. "He sometimes asks me how I am in the mornings," she said. "He's one of our nicest guests."

Hill -- who has faced down Slobodan Milosevic and barricaded himself against mobs in Macedonia as a negotiator in the Bosnia and Kosovo crises -- has been making periodic visits to Beijing for years, with troops of reporters flying in from South Korea and Japan to cover his wrangling with Pyongyang over a deal that would rid the communist country of its nuclear weapons program.

His easygoing manner has also won over the media in comparison to the stonewall public relations efforts put forward by some of the other countries in the talks.

And with the negotiations taking place for hours on end behind closed doors, the idle time fuels speculation and jokes about Hill.

At the last round of talks in December, a Chinese TV producer gave Hill, who is married with three children, a Christmas card.

The interest in Hill may also stem from the fact that he speaks every morning and evening to the media, while his North Korean counterpart, Kim Kye Gwan, gives only the occasional chaotic news conference.

Hill, a Boston Red Sox fan, also won over the Japanese media by turning up for meetings in Tokyo wearing a Seibu Lions baseball cap. The Red Sox had just signed pitching star Daisuke Matsuzaka from the Lions.

Concerns about Hill's health -- he has been sick several times in the cold Beijing winter and looked ill several days ago -- have elicited almost motherly concern from some female reporters.

"Ambassador, are you feeling OK? You don't look too well," a South Korean reporter, Koo Hee-jin, asked at one news conference during the latest round of talks that started on Thursday.

A career foreign service officer who has served five presidents, Hill speaks Polish, Serbo-Croation, Macedonian and Albanian.

Hill has also been mobbed at the Beijing airport, with Chinese travelers rushing over to have their picture taken with him, said one of Hill's security officials, who asked not to be named.


Hey, I'm boyish (if you've had a few drinks.) I'm balding. I like baseball. Hell, I can even catch a cold if you'd like. They should send me over to China.

You Don't Say

From the good folks at NASA: NASA Study Finds Warmer Future Could Bring Droughts

NASA scientists may have discovered how a warmer climate in the future could increase droughts in certain parts of the world, including the southwest United States.

Gee, would that be the desert southwest?

Just checking.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

They Should Just Plead Incompetence

If there was ever a newspaper in this world that has managed to produce an aura of complete buffoonery it would be the UK's Guardian. I've taken them to task in the past for peddling anti-semetic conspiracy theories and for championing Putin's neo-imperial ambitions in the former "Fatherland" (in the sense of a land that was brutally repressed by their fore fathers.)

This time is was an attack on the American Enterprise Institute who had the unmitigated gaul to attempt to engage in scientific and policy research. Oh, and they also had the unmitigated gaul to accept 1 percent of their annual funding from Exxon. Those heartless bastards.

How could AEI possibly defend itself??

Note from Christopher DeMuth for AEI Scholars, Fellows, and Staff
February 2, 2007

Many of us have received telephone calls and emails prompted by a shoddy article on the front page of today’s Guardian, the British newspaper, headlined “Scientists Offered Cash to Dispute Climate Study.”

The article uses several garden-variety journalistic tricks to create the impression of a story where none exists. Thus, AEI is described as a “lobby group” (we are a research group that does no lobbying and takes no institutional positions on policy issues); ExxonMobil’s donations to AEI are either bulked up by adding donations over many years, or simply made up (the firm’s annual AEI support is generous and valued but is a fraction of the amount reported--no corporation accounts for more than 1 percent of our annual budget); and AEI is characterized as the Bush administration’s “intellectual Cosa Nostra” and “White House surrogates” (AEI scholars criticize or praise Bush administration policies--every day, on the merits). All of this could have been gleaned from a brief visit to the AEI website.

But the article’s specific charge (announced in the headline) is a very serious one. Although most of you will appreciate the truth on your own, I thought it would be useful to provide a few details.

First, AEI has published a large volume of books and papers on climate change issues over the past decade and has held numerous conferences on the subject. A wide range of views on the scientific and policy issues have been presented in these publications and conferences. All of them are posted on our website. It would be easy to find policy arguments in our publications and conferences that people at ExxonMobil (or other corporations that support AEI) disagree with--as well as those they agree with and, I hope, some they hadn’t thought of until we presented them. Our latest book on the subject, Lee Lane’s Strategic Options for Bush Administration Climate Policy, advocates a carbon tax, which I’m pretty sure ExxonMobil opposes (the book also dares to criticize some of the Bush administration’s climate-change policies!).

Second, attempting to disentangle science from politics on the question of climate change causation, and to fashion policies that take account of the uncertainties concerning causation, are longstanding AEI interests. Several recent issues of our Environmental Policy Outlook address these issues, as does Ken Green’s “Q & A” article in the November-December issue of The American. The new research project that Ken and Steve Hayward have been organizing is a continuation of these interests. I am attaching the two letters that Steve and Ken have sent out to climate change scientists and policy experts (the first one emphasizing the scientific and climate-modeling issues addressed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; the second, more recent one covering broader policy issues as well)--and invite you to read them and compare them with the characterization in the Guardian article. The first letter, sent last summer to Professor Steve Schroeder of Texas A&M (and also to his colleague Gerald North), is the one quoted by the Guardian. Ken and Steve canvassed scholars with a range of views on the scientific and policy issues, with an eye to the intrinsic quality and interest of their work rather than to whether partisans might characterize them as climate change “skeptics” or “advocates.” They certainly did not avoid those with a favorable view of the IPCC reports--such as Professor Schroeder himself.

Third, what the Guardian essentially characterizes as a bribe is the conventional practice of AEI--and Brookings, Harvard, and the University of Manchester--to pay individuals at other research institutions for commissioned work, and to cover their travel expenses when they come to the sponsoring institution to present their papers. The levels of authors’ honoraria vary from case to case, but a $10,000 fee for a research project involving the review of a large amount of dense scientific material, and the synthesis of that material into an original, footnoted and rigorous article is hardly exorbitant or unusual; many academics would call it modest.

Of course, all of this MUST BE A LIE!! They are just saying this now to cover their ass!! If this WAS TRUE there would be a paper trail!! RIGHT?!?!?!?!

July 5, 2006, Letter to Professor Schroeder

Prof. Steve Schroeder
Department of Atmospheric Sciences
Texas A&M University
3150 TAMU
College Station, TX 77843-3150

Dear Prof. Schroeder:

The American Enterprise Institute is launching a major project to produce a review and policy critique of the forthcoming Fourth Assessment Report (FAR) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), due for release in the spring of 2007. We are looking to commission a series of review essays from a broad panel of experts to be published concurrent with the release of the FAR, and we want to invite you to be one of the authors.

The purpose of this project is to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the IPCC process, especially as it bears on potential policy responses to climate change. As with any large-scale “consensus” process, the IPCC is susceptible to self-selection bias in its personnel, resistant to reasonable criticism and dissent, and prone to summary conclusions that are poorly supported by the analytical work of the complete Working Group reports. An independent review of the FAR will advance public deliberation about the extent of potential future climate change and clarify the basis for various policy strategies. Because advance drafts of the FAR are available for outside review (the report of Working Group I is already out; Working Groups II and III will be released for review shortly), a concurrent review of the FAR is feasible for the first time.

From our earlier discussions of climate modeling (with both yourself and Prof. North), I developed considerable respect for the integrity with which your lab approaches the characterization of climate modeling data. We are hoping to sponsor a paper by you and Prof. North that thoughtfully explores the limitations of climate model outputs as they pertain to the development of climate policy (as opposed to the utility of climate models in more theoretical climate research). In particular, we are looking for an author who can write a well-supported but accessible discussion of which elements of climate modeling have demonstrated predictive value that might make them policy-relevant and which elements of climate modeling have less levels of predictive utility, and hence, less utility in developing climate policy. If you are interested in the idea, or have thoughts about who else might be interested, please give Ken Green a call at 202-862-4883 at your convenience.

If you and Prof. North are agreeable to being authors, AEI will offer an honorarium of $10,000. The essay should be in the range of 7,500 to 10,000 words, though it can be longer. The deadline for a complete draft will be December 15, 2007. We intend to hold a series of small conferences and seminars in Washington and elsewhere to coincide with the release of both the FAR and our assessment in the spring or summer of 2007, for which we can provide travel expenses and additional honoraria if you are able to participate.

Please feel free to contact us with questions and thoughts on this invitation.

But...but....but.....they accept money from the OIL INDUSTRY!!! That HAS to mean they are bought and sold!!!!!!!! That is PROOF!!!!!

In the 2006 election cycle the Oil and Gas industry gave Democratic candidates $2.1 million dollars in campaign contributions. Since 1990 the Democrats have pocketed $28.8 million from the Oil and Gas industries.

But...but...if you offer a financial incentive to produce scientific work that is ALWAYS WRONG!! NO MATTER WHAT THE CIRCUMSTANCES!!!!!

Sir Richard Branson announced on Friday a $25 million prize (12.8 million pounds) for the first person to come up with a way of scrubbing greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere in the battle to beat global warming.

Flanked by climate campaigners former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and British ex-diplomat Crispin Tickell, the airline tycoon said he hoped the prize would spur innovative and creative thought to save mankind from self-destruction.

BUT....BUT...that is.....different.....somehow....

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Attacking Elie Wiesel

Here is the AP story on an attack last week on Mr. Wiesel:

Nobel laureate and Holocaust scholar Elie Wiesel was dragged from an elevator and roughed up during a peace conference at a San Francisco hotel last week, police said Friday. The author was not injured.

The assailant approached Wiesel in an elevator February 1 at the Argent Hotel and requested an interview, police Sgt. Neville Gittens said.

When Wiesel consented to talk in the hotel's lobby, the man insisted it be done in a hotel room and dragged the 78-year-old off the elevator on the sixth floor, Gittens said.

The assailant fled after Wiesel began to scream, and Wiesel went to the lobby and called police.

Gittens said police are investigating the incident as a crime. He said investigators were aware of a posting at an anti-Semitic Web site in which a man claimed responsibility for the attack, but declined to comment further.

Wiesel couldn't be immediately reached for comment at Boston University, where he teaches, or through his institute in New York.

Wiesel, who survived the Nazi death camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald during World War II, has worked for human rights in many parts of the world and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986.


I find the AP story oddly restrained and uninformative. It seems obvious that this was an attempted kidnapping that Mr. Wiesel thwarted by screaming his head off.

The website alluded to in the story is called ZioPedia (which I will not link to...if you really feel the need you can find it with the info given) which is more than simply anti-Semitic, although that is the jumping off point for all of their other flights of fancy.

To give you a morbid taste of what the place contains, here is part of the confession of the attacker:

On February 1st, at approximately 7:30 p.m., I attempted to get a confession out of the "Pope of the Holocaust religion," Elie Wiesel. We were in an elevator in the Argent Hotel in San Francisco. He was on his way to the 36th floor Penthouse. I had planned to bring Wiesel to my hotel room where he would truthfully answer my questions regarding the fact that his non-fiction Holocaust memoir, Night, is almost entirely fictitious.

After ensuring no women would be traumatized by what I had to do (I had been trailing Wiesel for weeks), I stopped the elevator at the sixth floor. I pulled Wiesel out of the elevator. I said I wanted to interview him. He protested, grabbed at his chest as if he was having a heart attack. He then screamed HELP! HELP! at the top of his lungs. This is someone who in his public appearances, speaks so softly, that when he appeared on Oprah, they had to use subtitles throughout. Wiesel had dropped this phony persona and assumed his actual personality, of an insane lunatic.

I told him, "Why, you don't want people to know the truth?" His expression changed, and he began screaming again. HELP! HELP! So, after pulling him about fifteen feet out of the elevator, alerting a few floors, I decided that it was time for me to go. He was no use to our worldwide struggle for freedom if he had a heart attack.


Good God.

Evidently this group is very Palestinian heavy. It should give pause to those in the anti-war movement about who they are willing to make common cause with. It WON'T, but it should. If you read the ZioPedia rants about Gitmo they certainly look like those found on many/most leftist blogs.

Guilt by association? You bet your ass. Some associations are too disreputable to be acceptable on any level. I wouldn't care if, hypothetically, the KKK came out in favor of a flat tax, it wouldn't be acceptable for the Heritage Foundation to work with them in any way, shape or manner.

Same with these...people. Kick them out of your anti-war rally, excoriate them in your publications and on your blogs, and for the love of all that is holy don't try and hide behind the "You can be anti-Zionist without being a racist." Empirical evidence is showing that is simply false.