Friday, March 30, 2007

A (Comparatively) Wild Ride

An average day of blogging for me usually consists of 2 to 4 posts. I can usually count on anywhere from 40-80 visitors on those days. It has been that way since the first month I started blogging back in 2004. I've called this blog a "one man dog and pony show" for a good reason. It only exists because I am interested in it. The Iconic Midwest does not have a "life of it's own." It mirrors my life and my interests. For example, I could probably get more traffic if I did extensive writing about the 2008 presidential campaign. The trouble with that is it isn't very interesting, at least not yet. 99% of the speculation this far out from the 2008 election will be worthless. So, were I to spend 100 hours of my time writing about it all I'm really doing is wasting 99 hours of my life. There are plenty of sites who have no problem doing just that but it would drive me crazy.

For that reason this blog is what it is, a collection of my (nearly) random musings about the things that catch my eye or I find humorous. That has been worth about 30-40 loyal readers who check me out a couple times a week. Such numbers are not ego inflating, but they keep me interested in this little hobby and makes it worthwhile to put the time and effort in to try and keep it an OK read.

Yesterday, however, was a little different. My post on the mixture of tragedy and farce that is the Episcopal Church was picked up by Greg Griffith at the site Stand Firm. They, evidently, get a bit more traffic than I do on average, because tons of folks started dropping by. So much so that when I logged on early in the morning yesterday the Iconic Midwest had already had its largest number of daily visitors ever.

Surprisingly, people were not coming over here to tell me to shut the hell up. Folks noted the blunt way I put the situation, but comments were generally favorable. (See here, here, here and here.) The reaction to my post went a long way to confirming my central thesis, that we are witnessing a strong movement to enshrine political ideology as "sacred." The truth is I'm not an expert when it comes to things Episcopal or Anglican. I'm informed largely by what I've witnessed among the "progressives" agitating within the Catholic Church and making a direct analogy to the debates going on in the Episcopal Church. Actually, to speak accurately it isn't an analogy at all. If all the trouble was being caused by some matter of doctrine internal to the Episcopal Church I would have expected the good folks who live their lives in that Church to say that I didn't know what the hell I was talking about. However, if my thesis were right, I would expect that what I said would resonate quite easily, because the political ideology espoused is the same everywhere in every church. It may get dressed up in the trappings appropriate to the context it is trying to dominate, but its wellsprings, goals and methods will be identical. It turns out that lots of people knew exactly what I was talking about, not because I have some deep insight into what it means to be an Episcopalian, but because I identified a shared political threat that originates outside of the religious.

In one of my very first posts on this blog I wrote the following:

The object of this kind of writing, from Tobin, Wills and other liberal Catholics like them, seems to be a Catholic church that will be safe for the party platform of the Democratic party. Indeed, it is hard to distinguish where the one ends and the other begins. This need to "update" the Catholic church so that it is nearly identical with this or that contemporary political ideology troubles me. I feel the church plays a much more important role as a counter-cultural force. The church is supposed to represent eternal truths, not this decades fashions. Historically the church has gotten itself into trouble by being too of its time, not too little. The sad history of popes as petty tyrants playing out their games of political power is not a pretty one. But it is a history that will be repeated if the church gets involved in remaking itself in the image of our contemporary political institutions. However, the drive that impels the Tobin's and Wills' of this world is strong. Anyone who opposes their vision is for them, well, a Nazi.


It turns out if you changed the names in the above to likely Episcopal "progressives" you don't loose any of its coherence. This is one of those few times when being proved right doesn't make me any happier.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

I've Already Lived In Wisconsin Too Long

I kid you not.

When I saw the following headline:

Daycare Could Make Your Child a Brat, But What Are the Alternatives?

My first reaction was, "Well, if the kid wants a sausage...."

Oh.

Lets call the whole thing off.

Iran, Iraq, Turkey...The Kurds

There is a fascinating post over at Michael Totten's place. (So what else is new, right?)

In it Michael interviews two Iranian Kurds who, along with many others, have set up shop in Kurdish Iraq. It is the sort of easy going, free flowing discussion that leads to surprising places. For example, see how this discussion of Kurdish language evolves.

Mohtadi: It’s more than just accents. With two of them, it is more than just accents. The one which is called Standard Kurdish Sorani, which is spoken and written in Iranian Kurdistan and Iraqi Kurdistan. The other which is spoken and written illegally in Turkey and Syria.

MJT: Is it still illegal in Turkey? I understand the Turks have changed most of these laws.

Mohtadi: Yes, there is a process of change in Turkey. But they still have a long way to go.

MJT: I know they do. Last year I was in Turkish Kurdistan. It’s not a nice place. There is still fighting going on there. And the economy is at zero.

Mohtadi: To be honest it’s like…when we go to Istanbul and Ankara there are different parts if you look at Kurdistan. It’s like a colony. You can feel that they have been exploited by colonialism and oppressed. It’s not like 20th Century or 21st.

Lasswell: Or even the 19th. I think it would have been better under the Ottomans.

MJT: It probably was better under the Ottomans.

Mohtadi: It was. I mean, we have a famous Kurdish historian, Mohammad Amin Zaki. He was a very high-ranking official in the Ottoman Empire. And he tells us how he became aware of his Kurdishness. He says: Nobody said we are Turks. Everybody said we are Ottomans. And we were alright. It was alright for us. Then people started to say we are Turks. And I realized I was not a Turk. So I realized I was a Kurd.

They Turkified everything in Turkey. So there was no place for “others.” And that was the beginning of…

Modarresi: …the awakening.

Mohtadi: Yes, the Kurdish awakening.


There is so much more to this article that makes it important and interesting to read.

A Promising Start


From the BBC: Ankara restores Armenian church


Turkey has renovated a 1,100-year-old church in the east of the country, in what is seen as a gesture to improve ties with neighbouring Armenia.

The ceremony on Akdamar island on Lake Van was attended by senior Armenian officials, despite the two countries' lack of diplomatic ties.

The mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915 left profound scars and bitterness.

About 70,000 Armenians live in Turkey today. The church will now be a museum.

Plea for worship

Patriarch Mesrob II, spiritual leader of Turkey's tiny Armenian Orthodox community, told several hundred people at the ceremony that the government should open up the restored church for worship at least once a year.

He said the move would help reconciliation between Turks and Armenians.

"If our government approves, it will contribute to peace between two communities who have not been able to come together for years," he said.

Turkish Culture Minister Attila Koc said Ankara would consider the request.

But the head of Armenia's Apostolic Church, Garegin II, declined Ankara's invitation to attend the ceremony because the church will no longer function as a place of worship.

So far Turkey has ignored calls to place a cross on the conical roof.


Turkey has had a very long history of attempting to wipe the footprint of past Armenian settlement in Turkey off the face of the earth. Many sites of great historical and archaeological import have been bulldozed to support the myth of Turkey for Turks. So it is heartening to see this small step taken. Hopefully, they will continue on this path and allow the Armenian's to worship there as well.

This won't solve Turkey's Armenian problem, but if they are willing to show goodwill on such matters than everyone involved can begin to move forward instead of being consumed by the past.

The BBC article also states "The church had long been neglected", but this is more than a bit unfair. It is (or at least has been) illegal to repair a church in Turkey without the consent of the government, which rarely gives such consent. The Eastern Orthodox community in Istanbul has had to put up with such harassment for quite some time, and I'm certain it has been worse for those small pockets of Christians in the hinterlands.

If you haven't read the William Dalrymple book From The Holy Mountain you should do yourself a favor and do so. His account of the Christians of the Middle East is poignant and a little melancholy, yet still inspiring. I still consider it the best book published in the last 10 years.

What Kind Of Defense Should Be Offered?


Uh oh. Legally Blonde III? Banished sorority sues DePauw U.


The sorority that DePauw University booted from its Greencastle campus because it removed 23 members from the local chapter filed a federal lawsuit against the university today.

The suit filed in U.S. District Court in Terre Haute alleges DePauw broke its contract with the Delta Zeta sorority and damaged the reputation of its members.

“As a direct and proximate result of defendants conduct, Delta Zeta has incurred substantial harm to its business, including current and prospective financial losses,” the suit contends.

The sorority is demanding that it be allowed back on campus, get a public apology, and be awarded unspecified damages.

DePauw officials cut ties with Delta Zeta March 12 because of claims that the 23 members were dismissed because of their looks. Delta Zeta's national leadership told 23 members in December to take "alumnae status" and leave the chapter house because they had failed to meet recruiting goals.

But the sisters claimed they were asked to leave because they weren't pretty enough.

In announcing the sorority's expulsion, university president Robert G. Bottoms said sorority members told him they "felt they were discriminated against" because of their looks.

"We at DePauw do not like the way our students were treated," Bottoms said in making the announcement. "We believe that the values of our University and those of Delta Zeta sorority are incompatible."

A posting today on the university's Web site said the lawsuit lacks merit. "From the beginning, DePauw University has acted to protect its students," Ken Owen, director of media relations, said on the Web site. "We are disappointed in Delta Zeta's decision to initiate legal action. We believe that this lawsuit completely lacks merit and have every confidence that the courts will determine that the University acted lawfully and in the best interests of its students."


I really think the University would be unwise to allow this to get to trial. Think about it. What could their defense possibly be?

"The sorority claims these girls were kicked out because of recruitment failures and not because the girls were unattractive. But have you seen these girls?? We are talking 'woof!' Each one of them is homlier than the next. You can't tell me that is just coincidence."

Maybe the girls themselves might want to pass on the University's "protection."

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

40 Seconds


Never have airline passengers been so grateful for getting out of the departure gate a little late: 'Flaming debris' nearly hits jet

The pilots of a Chilean passenger jet reported seeing flaming debris fall past their aircraft as it approached the airport at Auckland, New Zealand.

Lan airline said the captain "made visual contact with incandescent fragments several kilometres away".

New Zealand and Australian media suggested the debris was from a Russian satellite expected to enter the atmosphere later in the day.

But the US space agency Nasa said it was more likely to have been meteors.

'40 second margin'

The Lan Airbus A340 had just entered New Zealand airspace as it approached Auckland's airport when the debris shot by.

The pilots reported the near-miss to air traffic controllers, reportedly saying the noise of the debris breaking the sound barrier could be heard above the roar of his aircraft's engines.

The New Zealand Herald newspaper calculated the debris missed the jet by a margin of 40 seconds.


I could certainly understand, if what the pilots saw looked anything like the picture shown here, how you could think it was satellite debris you were seeing. I spend a lot of time watching meteor showers and I would love to see something like this fireball once. Of course it would probably scare the beejeezus out of me if I was sitting in seat 17F at the time.

There is an interesting story about the picture of the fireball that was seen over Wales.

A Very Messy Divorce In The Making

I've been an interested spectator to the slow disintegration of the Episcopal Church for quite some time. The schism is inevitable and has been clearly discernible for quite some time even to a complete outsider like myself. Traditionalists have basically been told by "progressives" that there is no room for them in the American Episcopal Church, so why don't they get the hell out.

The reason I'm interested in this sad spectacle is I'm sure this is exactly how things will play out in the Catholic Church once the "progressives" reach the majority. This movement represents the complete politicization of religion. By that I mean, this is the strongest expression of the belief that political ideology, of the "correct" sort, is the preeminent "moral" principle by which every category of human existence must be measured. Therefore everything, including religious beliefs, must be made subservient to ideology. It was once said that the Catholic Church made philosophy the handmaiden of theology. Well, the Episcopal Church is now attempting to make theology, political ideology's bitch.

From First Things: The Episcopal Declaration of Independence

Last week, the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops met and let the world know just what they think of the rest of the Anglican Communion. The official text of their resolutions ran to several thousand words, but for the effect they are likely to have on the church’s relations with the rest of the Anglican world, the bishops could just as well have taken a page out of General McAuliffe’s playbook, saved everyone a lot of time, and issued a simple one-word response: “Nuts!”

At last month’s meeting of Anglican primates in Africa, the Episcopal bishops were asked to do three things: participate in the creation of a church-within-a-church for Episcopal conservatives, promise not to consecrate any more actively homosexual bishops, and promise not to conduct any more church blessings of same-sex unions.

If they did not, the African meeting clearly suggested, the Americans would in effect be choosing to “walk apart” from the wider Anglican Communion. It was rightly described as an ultimatum but nevertheless was quite measured—no one asked Gene Robinson (the actively gay bishop of New Hampshire) to step down, and no one required anything of the Episcopal Church’s numerous openly gay priests. Essentially, the Anglican primates told the Episcopal Church that it would be allowed to push the boundaries, but within limits.

Unfortunately, last week the Episcopal Church apparently decided that it will be bound by nothing beyond itself—not Scripture, not tradition, not worldwide Anglican councils, not anything. And it said so with a vehemence that was surprising, even to many of its supporters.

In their statement, the American bishops accused the global Anglican primates of “unprecedented” spiritual unsoundness and solemnly spoke of the Episcopal Church’s “autonomy” and “liberation from colonialism,” which they understood to be threatened by the creeping rule of “a distant and unaccountable group of prelates.” Apparently, they were serious. With no sense of irony, the bishops of an overwhelmingly white, wealthy, and liberal American church actually saw fit to accuse their fellow Anglicans—many of whom are from poor third-world countries—of “colonialism.”

It is all very sad. One cannot read the bishops’ statement without sensing their anger and impatience. And what is worse, one cannot read the statement without sensing that the bishops have decided, for now and for always, to leave the Anglican Communion and cut conservatives out of the church.


This very clearly captures the almost silly naivete of the Episcopal leadership. Indeed, it is exactly the type of naivete you expect to see from ideological zealots.

Other tings you expect to see is hostility to the ideologically "impure." A classic example of such behavior is witnessed by Ephraim Radner:

I recall only several months ago, at the diocesan convention of Colorado, that a diocesan leader (now appointed by the bishop to a Taskforce on our “common life”) publicly confronted me and demanded that I “and my kind” “leave the church and let [them] get on with ministry”; we were nothing but “dying embers” bringing division and sowing anger within the church. Part of me would like to prove these kinds of affronts simply wrong. Such a motive, however, would be base. There is no point dying with the church, unless one is ready to struggle for the truth.


There is an almost perfect Stalinist moment in all of this. Obviously the "Taskforce on Common Life" will be used as a instrument of ideological purification when entrusted to the likes of folks like these. Shall we start the purges now or later?

Another symptom we should expect is a preoccupation with money, wealth, power and status. Yep, got those as well, as reported by Bishop Steenson.

The majority of the House of Bishops is very anxious to protect the property claims of the Episcopal Church. There seems to be no willingness to suspend civil litigation, as the Communiqué called for, but, to the contrary, the resolve to pursue such litigation is strengthening. I for one have no interest in fighting a spiritual battle on these grounds, but, consistent with church law, I continue to believe that provision needs to be made for those congregations and clergy whose consciences will permit them to go no farther. Here the work our task force on communion did last year may yet prove to be a useful foundation.


Of course the hypocrisy of the Episcopal leadership is staggering. Here they basically assert their right to do whatever their conscience dictates to them vis-a-vis the Anglican Communion as a whole, but if member parishes in the United States wish to remain in the Anglican Communion and find their consciences dictate a break with the American Bishops, well you need to take them to court to confiscate the parish property. This shouldn't be surprising as ideological zealots generally know no shame.

I'll end this with a final thought from Radner:

I was struck, at the recent House of Bishops’ meeting, with the open abuse, often personally directed, thrown at the Primates by many of our bishops. Turning to them, it appears, means turning away from the majority of the TEC’s leadership. Some will ask, of course, “is this not a form of giving up?”. But if we do not do this, if we do not continue to hope in the larger Church, we are all being thrown back on individual conscience – a noble, but weak reed indeed that, on its own, can never save us. And it is far too easy to confuse our conscience with the Lord Jesus Christ.


UPDATE:

Folks might want to check this out as well.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Why Dogs Are Better Than Cats

Sometimes Lassie isn't fiction. Dog performs 'Heimlich' on choking owner

Toby, a 2-year-old golden retriever, saw his owner choking on a piece of fruit and began jumping up and down on the woman's chest. The dog's owner believes the dog was trying to perform the Heimlich maneuver and saved her life.

Debbie Parkhurst, 45, of Calvert told the Cecil Whig she was eating an apple at her home Friday when a piece lodged in her throat. She attempted to perform the Heimlich maneuver on herself but it didn't work. After she began beating on her chest, she said Toby noticed and got involved.

"The next think I know, Toby's up on his hind feet and he's got his front paws on my shoulders," she recalled. "He pushed me to the ground, and once I was on my back, he began jumping up and down on my chest."

That's when the apple dislodged and Toby started licking her face to keep her from passing out, she said.

"I literally have pawprint-shaped bruises on my chest. I'm still a little hoarse, but otherwise, I'm OK," Parkhurst said.

"The doctor said I probably wouldnt be here without Toby," said Parkhurst, a jewelry artist. "I keep looking at him and saying 'Youre amazing.'"


Two comments here:

1) I dig the fact that the paper is called the Cecil Whig. It doesn't get any better than that.

2) I love my cat to pieces, but, as you can see from the picture, in a crisis she'd be useless.

Is This An OK Thing To Do?

Got this from Patterico:

Speaking of class acts, Charles Karel Bouley, blogging at the Huffington Post, has this lovely quote:

I hear about Tony Snow and say to myself, well, stand up every day, lie to the American people at the behest of your dictator-esque boss and well, how could a cancer NOT grow in you. Work for Fox News, spinning the truth in to a billion knots and how can your gut not rot? I know, it’s terrible. I admit it. I don’t wish anyone harm, even Tony Snow. And I do hope he recovers or at least does what he feels is best and surrounds himself with friends and family for his journey. But in the back of my head there’s Justin Timberlake’s “What goes around, goes around, comes around, comes all the way back around, ya..”

. . . .

Now, I’ve been brutally honest above, and may have offended some, and for that I’m sorry. Again, I don’t want Tony Snow to suffer and die of cancer. But like many this morning, I had the thought.


Note well, Glenn Greenwald: this is not an anonymous commenter. It is a blogger at one of the top left-wing blogs on the Internet.

Of course, many of the anonymous commenters are with him.


The Glenn Greenwald comment refers to Greenwald's assertion that the right wing blogosphere is mean, hateful, vicious and basically un-American. Meanwhile on the left you may get the occasional testy anonymous comment, but the bloggers themselves are all about sweetness and light, facts and fair play; a multicultural picnic, where children play in the meadow, those so afflicted enjoy their medicinal pot, and...well, yes, people are chanting to have the Vice-President drawn and quartered, but...that's satire...and if it isn't satire, Dick's really been asking for it anyway, so how can they be blamed?

I'll admit I've never respected the Huffington Post. Everything I've ever read there reminds me of the worst papers I graded from freshman taking Introduction to Political Science. The recipe is easy: Take a generous portion of laziness, add a pinch of apathy, add a half stick of inexperience and a gallon of ignorance and you have it! College freshman crapola! The only thing the HP adds is a half jigger of spite.

It does not make a tasty brew.

And it doesn't make Charles Bouley any less an ass. It makes him a bigger one.

The Only Presidential Campaign Story You Need To Read (To This Point)

Via the AP: Presidential hopefuls in a money race

Hillary Rodham Clinton raises nearly $3 million in a single event and husband Bill pleads for more. John McCain publicly frets about falling financially behind.

With the first quarter of fundraising ending Saturday, the presidential campaigns are working overtime to make sure they don't get tagged as losers in the money race.

"Money in the off year has never been more important than in this presidential cycle," said Michael Toner, a former Federal Election Commission chairman.

In a message to supporters last week, Bill Clinton stressed the importance of posting high fundraising totals in the first quarter.

"The (financial) report her campaign files will set the tone for the rest of the year, and it is absolutely critical to her success," he wrote, just days after he headlined a $2.7 million Washington fundraiser for her.

Official campaign totals place her fundraising for just last week at $6 million, but that number could underestimate sums raised in New York and California. And by all accounts, the Democratic front-runner will lead all candidates in first-quarter fundraising. Some rival camps, eager to boost expectations for the New York senator, suggest her overall contributions could reach up to $40 million.

Campaigning in California, former Sen. John Edwards said neither he nor any other candidate could match Clinton's fundraising juggernaut, but, "I will have enough money to be heard."

...

Among Republicans, the picture is less predictable. McCain, the early front-runner, has indicated in recent days that his fundraising totals are falling short of his goals.

"I haven't done a good enough job," he said at a news conference Monday in Dallas. "We're ramping it up on the fundraising."

In New Hampshire Saturday, he said he would "pay a price for it because we got off to a late start." In the midst of a campaign tour, he said: "I enjoy this kind of politics more than I enjoy raising money."

While McCain entered the race as the favorite, he has fallen behind former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani in national polls. Weak fundraising would further hurt his image, even though he remains the most popular Republican in New Hampshire, site of the first presidential primary.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney got off to a fast start with a big fundraising day early in his campaign that raised more than $6 million. His fundraisers say Romney has kept up a strong fundraising pace, tapping a donor base that includes former business associates and the Mormon church.

...

What's more, second-tier candidates in both parties could also surprise the field. Among Democrats, Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, who is the chairman of the Senate's Financial Services Committee, has been raising money from the banking community. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has done some fundraising, though Democrats close to his campaign say he is hoping to do better in the second quarter.

"The real bench mark: $30 million by the end of March 31, and the second one is $15 million to $20 million," Toner said. "If a candidate is under $10 million, it will be very difficult to continue competing."


So we have the first real hint at trouble for any possible Richardson bid. True he didn't start as early as some but if he seems to be lagging too far behind after the first quarter reports he may find it difficult to motivate check writers.

Look, I'm not completely cynical. There will be a time when campaign stops in Iowa and New Hampshire will be important...but that time isn't now. Right now all that matters is the state of candidates bank accounts.

A Brilliant "Clean Up" Strategy

From WSJ: Earmark Cover-Up The Congressional Research Service is helping its masters hide wasteful spending.

Nothing highlighted Congress's spending problem in last year's election more than earmarks, the special projects like Alaska's "Bridge to Nowhere" that members drop into last-minute conference reports leaving no opportunity to debate or amend them. Voters opted for change in Congress, but on earmarks it looks as if they'll only be getting more smoke and mirrors.

Democrats promised reform and instituted "a moratorium" on all earmarks until the system was cleaned up. Now the appropriations committees are privately accepting pork-barrel requests again. But curiously, the scorekeeper on earmarks, the Library of Congress's Congressional Research Service (CRS)--a publicly funded, nonpartisan federal agency--has suddenly announced it will no longer respond to requests from members of Congress on the size, number or background of earmarks. "They claim it'll be transparent, but they're taking away the very data that lets us know what's really happening," says Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn. "I'm convinced the appropriations committees are flexing their muscles with CRS."

Indeed, the shift in CRS policy represents a dramatic break with its 12-year practice of supplying members with earmark data. "CRS will no longer identify earmarks for individual programs, activities, entities, or individuals," stated a private Feb. 22 directive from CRS Director Daniel Mulhollan.

When Sen. Coburn and Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina submitted earmark inquiries recently, they were both turned down. Each then had heated conversations with Mr. Mulhollan. The director, who declined to be interviewed for this article, explained that because the appropriations committees and the White House's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) were now preparing their own lists of earmarks, CRS should no longer play a role in the process. He also noted that both the House and Senate are preparing their own definitions of earmarks. "It is not appropriate for us to continue our research," his directive states.

That is sophistry. The House rule making earmarks public, which was passed in January, doesn't apply to earmarks for fiscal year 2007, the year Mr. Coburn wanted his report on. There is no Senate rule, and a proposed statute defining earmarks hasn't become law. OMB's list of earmarks applies only to fiscal year 2005.

And in any case, CRS works for Congress, so it is bizarre for it to claim work being done by the executive branch as a reason to deny members information it was happy to collect and release in the past. When I asked a CRS official if the new policy stemmed from complaints by appropriations committee members, she refused to answer the question, citing "confidentiality" concerns.

But other CRS staffers are happy to talk privately about the political pressure members often exert, despite Mr. Mulhollan's new directive that all employees inform management within 24 hours of any contacts with the media. "The director operates out of fear members will get upset," says Dennis Roth, a CRS labor economist who is president of a union representing 250 CRS workers. "The groundhog doesn't want to see his shadow, so he stays in the dark hole so he won't."

"There is real anxiety members will complain if CRS says something is an earmark when the new appropriations committees say it isn't," says another CRS staffer. He notes CRS "caught hell" last year with its report finding that more than 95% of all earmarks in fiscal year 2006 bills weren't written into law and thus not legally binding.


I wish I had thought of this when I was a kid growing up. I could have told my mother that, yes, my room was clean, but it would be "unethical" for her to check for herself to make sure. "You will just have to trust me, mother."

Roger Pielke over at Prometheus has a similar thought:

The thinking in Congress must be that if they don't report the existence of earmarks then no one will know what is going on. As has been documented time and again here we see an effort to shape political outcomes by manipulating the availability of information. In this case the incentives are not partisan, but institutional, as members of both political parties in Congress have a shared incentive to keep earmarks out of the public eye. Earmarks are often associated with irresponsible public spending (e.g., the Alaska "bridge to nowhere") and are especially problematic in the R&D enterprise, as I've discussed here previously.

Congress is doing the public a disservice by seeking to aggressively limit information on spending that it makes available to the public. This behavior is likely to be counterproductive when at the same time several Congress committees are conducting useful investigations of the Executive branch's heavy-handed information management strategies. In general, openness and transparency are good principles, and that is the case here as well.


Predictable, really.

(Gleaned from Daniel Drezner)

I Predict The "Prediction" Won't Actually Predict Anything

Here is a non-stop laugh riot courtesy of Reuters: Strong hurricanes to hit U.S. Gulf in 07: AccuWeather

The U.S. Gulf Coast, which is still rebuilding almost two years after Hurricane Katrina, faces a renewed threat of powerful storms this year, private forecaster AccuWeather said on Tuesday.

Not a prediction. The Gulf faces hurricane "threats" every single year.

Using this standard, I predict the sun will rise tomorrow, California will face earthquake "threats" this year, and the Arizona Cardinals have a chance for an undefeated season.

I am the god of prognostication.

After a quiet hurricane season last year, Florida and other Gulf Coast states likely will be hit with fewer storms than during the active 2005 season, which spawned the massive hurricanes Katrina and Rita, AccuWeather said.

But the storms forecast for the region will pack a punch.

"We will not get anywhere near the amount of storms that we did in 2005, but the intensity of the storms we do get will be of major concern," Joe Bastardi, chief hurricane forecaster for AccuWeather.com, said in a statement.

Oh, we may not get the same number of storms this season we did in the most active season in at least 150 years? Way to go out on a limb there.

Using this standard, I predict that it may be difficult for Newt Gingrich to gather 65% of the vote in the 2008 Presidential election, and Yadier Molina just might not bat .400 this season.

The tea leaves speak to me.

British forecasting group Tropical Storm Risk this month also predicted an active storm season. It forecast four "intense" hurricanes during the 2007 season, which runs from June through November.

An actual prediction! (Although not made by the folks the story is supposed to be about.) Yes, it is a prediction for an average season, as from 1995-2006 we have averaged 3.9 Cat 3 or higher storms per year.

Using this standard, I predict that male babies born in the US in 2007 will grow up to an average height of 5-10 to 5-11.

Tremble at the sight of my crystal ball.

Bastardi also predicted the U.S. Northeast would likely be a target for strong storms for the next 10 years.

Once again, not a prediction.

Using this standard, I predict that people walking around urban areas with hundred dollar bills falling out of their pockets will likely be the victim of crime eventually.

I am the eyes of Nostradamus. All your ways are known to me.

Oh No

This will keep the crazies going for years to come: Bizarre hexagon spotted on Saturn

One of the most bizarre weather patterns known has been photographed at Saturn, where astronomers have spotted a huge, six-sided feature circling the north pole.
Rather than the normally sinuous cloud structures seen on all planets that have atmospheres, this thing is a hexagon.

The honeycomb-like feature has been seen before. NASA's Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft imaged it more than two decades ago. Now, having spotted it with the Cassini spacecraft, scientists conclude it is a long-lasting oddity.

"This is a very strange feature, lying in a precise geometric fashion with six nearly equally straight sides," said Kevin Baines, atmospheric expert and member of Cassini's visual and infrared mapping spectrometer team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "We've never seen anything like this on any other planet. Indeed, Saturn's thick atmosphere, where circularly-shaped waves and convective cells dominate, is perhaps the last place you'd expect to see such a six-sided geometric figure, yet there it is."

The hexagon is nearly 15,000 miles (25,000 kilometers) across. Nearly four Earths could fit inside it. The thermal imagery shows the hexagon extends about 60 miles (100 kilometers) down into the clouds.


How weird could it be???



That is pretty damn weird alright.

I'm wrong. This will keep the crazies going for decades.

McCain's Iran-Contra

As a rule I do not spend much time talking about the 2008 Presidential campaign because it is moronically early to be wasting breath and column inches on much of what is going on. The only thing that could possibly matter at this point is how much money potential candidates are raising. Most everything else is a wasted effort.

That being said I did come across something today that underscores the difficulty John McCain is having, and will continue to have, with most conservatives. Over at CQ they are marking the 5th anniversary of McCain/Feingold:

Traditionally, fifth anniversary gifts come in wood, although more modern givers select silver. That seems appropriate as the nation celebrates the fifth anniversary of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, otherwise known as McCain-Feingold (Senate version) or Shays-Meehan (House version). Five years ago, wooden-headed politicians sold out the First Amendment for thirty pieces of silver in order to enact the first restrictions on political speech since the Sedition Act of the early 20th century.

...

Let's make this plain: even if the BCRA had managed to lower the amount of money spent in campaigns and reduce the cynicism that politicians from both parties created in spades, it still would be wrong. Our founders knew full well what happens when government becomes the arbiter of politically acceptable speech; it tends to allow only that speech which perpetuates its power.

For this, one need look no further than the BCRA itself. What did it restrict? It forbade the airing of campaign ads from special-interest groups that criticized incumbent members of Congress within a certain number of days before an election, supposedly to discourage unfair attacks by challengers. This was necessitated by the underperformance of incumbents in elections, where they typically had anemic re-election rates of around 96%.

Let's emphasize this once again -- the BCRA made it illegal to air criticisms of incumbent politicians. In America. Even if one can forgive the Byzantine and artificial categorization of cash that the BCRA extended, we simply cannot forgive this, even had it proven effective at cleaning up politics. And it hasn't.


In the face of such (IMO well justified) criticisms, McCain shows himself to be completely tone deaf.

"Twenty years ago," McCain lectures, "Americans only had three sources for news -- ABC, CBS, and NBC." Aside from his faulty chronology (by 1987, we had CNN and C-SPAN), it's a complete non-sequitur. No one argues that we have a lot more options for information now, but those came well before the BCRA, and the BCRA has been used to interfere with at least some of them, including the blogosphere for a short time.

The BCRA has done nothing to restrain so-called checkbook politics, corruption still abounds, and people are less free to enter the debate than they were before the passage of the BCRA. The only thing the BCRA has done is to protect incumbents and to employ legions of lawyers and accountants. That's the legacy McCain avoids in this little bit of misdirection.


McCain's stubborn refusal to face up to the unpopularity of his assault on free speech rights will ultimately doom his presidential aspirations: His long, slow, agonizing bus trip to what the Daily Show calls "crushed-in-the-primaries-ville."

But it doesn't have to be this way. McCain should pull a page from Ronald Reagan's Presidential history and perform the Iran-Contra mea culpa. He should go before conservative audiences and say something like:

"When I began the legislative process that was to become the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act I truly believed there was a great problem afflicting our country with unregulated expenditures poisoning our political process. There were some who worried that taking such a path would erode our precious First Amendment rights to free speech. At the time I disagreed with those that took that view. I thought it was a false dichotomy being proposed by the critics and that our freedoms would not be put in danger by what I was advocating.

Now, five years later, we can see the fruits of this approach...of my approach...and I am forced to admit that my critics were right. Please know, I never would have undertaken this effort if I had thought it would infringe upon the sacred rights we enjoy as citizens of this great country. But I, with great humility, must admit that that is exactly what has happened.

I will dedicate myself, whether as a Senator or as the President, to restoring the free speech rights my well-meaning but deeply flawed legislation has damaged.

And to all of those who have argued with me over years on this subject I want to add: Thank you for your steadfast defense of our Constitution and our liberties. I finally get it."

In the end it will all boil down to a syllogism:

McCain will never be the Republican nominee without saying saying like the preceding.

McCain will never say anything like the preceding. (He is simply too egotistical I believe.)

Therefore, McCain will never be the Republican nominee.

It's A Crime Wave-Des Moines Style

This must be synergy:

Man tells robber he has no cash, then proves it

A robber picked on the wrong victim Monday night in Des Moines when he singled out Fredy Rosales.

Rosales told the gunman he didn't have any money. He was telling the truth. He really didn't have any money.

Rosales, 46, of Des Moines, was in the 1500 block of East Grand Avenue about 9 p.m. He parked his car and was waiting for his wife to get off work at a nearby store.

Police said a man approached him in the parking lot and demanded his money. Rosales said he had none. The man pulled out a gun and repeated the demand.

Rosales pulled out his wallet and opened it, proving that there really wasn't any money in it. The gunman patted Rosales' pockets. Finally convinced there was nothing to take, the gunman climbed into an older SUV with rust across the bottom and drove away.

Man says he stole soda becauses he was thirsty

A dispute over a Mountain Dew led to a bizarre confrontation between a young man and store clerks Monday.

Michael L. Cosper, 19, was arrested on suspicion of robbery after two clerks at the Hy-Vee, 1107 E. Army Post Rd., told police he tried to leave the store with a Mountain Dew at about 5:40 p.m. Monday.

The clerks said Cosper then grabbed a plant near the store’s entrance and, when confronted by the clerks, threw the plant on the floor, causing the plant’s pot to smash.

Cosper was being escorted back into the store when he pushed one of the clerks, turned and ran out of the store.

Cosper was chased by the two clerks, one of whom tackled him and held him until police arrived.

According to the police report, Cosper “said he stole because he was thirsty,” then tried to elude the two store clerks “because he didn’t want to go to jail.”

The report stated Cosper had dried blood around his mouth.

“When we inquired about the dried blood on Michael’s face, he stated he brought it all on himself and got what he deserved,” the report said.

Cosper was being held in Polk County Jail Monday night on $13,000 bond.


I'm just trying to imagine how much fun it was for the reporter to write a sentence that begins, "A dispute over a Mountain Dew..."

Speaking Truth To Impotence

Got this exchange from American Future (it's not long so I'm putting the whole thing up):

Established in 1993, UN Watch is a Geneva-based NGO whose mandate is to monitor the performance of the United Nations by the yardstick of its Charter. Its board of directors includes Alfred H. Moses (former US Ambassador to Romania and Presidential Emissary for the Cyprus Conflict), Per Ahlmark (former Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden), Professor Irwin Cotler (former Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of Canada), David Harris (American Jewish Committee Executive Director), Max Jakobson (former Permanent Representative of Finland to the UN in New York), and Ruth Wedgwood (professor of international law and diplomacy at Johns Hopkins University). Until her recent death, Jeane Kirkpatrick (former US Permanent Representative to the UN) was on the board.

On March 23, Hillel Neuer, the organization's Executive Director, delivered the following speech to the UN Human Rights Council:


Six decades ago, in the aftermath of the Nazi horrors, Eleanor Roosevelt, Réné Cassin and other eminent figures gathered here, on the banks of Lake Geneva, to reaffirm the principle of human dignity. They created the Commission on Human Rights. Today, we ask: What has become of their noble dream?
In this session we see the answer. Faced with compelling reports from around the world of torture, persecution, and violence against women, what has the Council pronounced, and what has it decided?

Nothing. Its response has been silence. Its response has been indifference. Its response has been criminal.

One might say, in Harry Truman's words, that this has become a Do-Nothing, Good-for-Nothing Council.

But that would be inaccurate. This Council has, after all, done something.

It has enacted one resolution after another condemning one single state: Israel. In eight pronouncements—and there will be three more this session—Hamas and Hezbollah have been granted impunity. The entire rest of the world—millions upon millions of victims, in 191 countries—continue to go ignored.

So yes, this Council is doing something. And the Middle East dictators who orchestrate this campaign will tell you it is a very good thing. That they seek to protect human rights, Palestinian rights.

So too, the racist murderers and rapists of Darfur women tell us they care about the rights of Palestinian women; the occupiers of Tibet care about the occupied; and the butchers of Muslims in Chechnya care about Muslims.

But do these self-proclaimed defenders truly care about Palestinian rights?

Let us consider the past few months. More than 130 Palestinians were killed by Palestinian forces. This is three times the combined total that were the pretext for calling special sessions in July and November. Yet the champions of Palestinian rights—Ahmadinejad, Assad, Khaddafi, John Dugard—they say nothing. Little 3-year-old boy Salam Balousha and his two brothers were murdered in their car by Prime Minister Haniyeh's troops. Why has this Council chosen silence?

Because Israel could not be blamed. Because, in truth, the dictators who run this Council couldn't care less about Palestinians, or about any human rights.

They seek to demonize Israeli democracy, to delegitimize the Jewish state, to scapegoat the Jewish people. They also seek something else: to distort and pervert the very language and idea of human rights.

You ask: What has become of the founders' dream? With terrible lies, it is being turned into a nightmare.

This is how Mexico's Luis Alfonso de Alba, the Human Rights Council's President, reacted:

For the first time in this session I will not express thanks for that statement. I shall point out to the distinguished representative of the organization that just spoke, the distinguished representative of United Nations Watch, if you'd kindly listen to me. I am sorry that I'm not in a position to thank you for your statement. I should mention that I will not tolerate any similar statements in the Council. The way in which members of this Council were referred to, and indeed the way in which the council itself was referred to, all of this is inadmissible. In the memory of the persons that you referred to, founders of the Human Rights Commission, and for the good of human rights, I would urge you in any future statements to observe some minimum proper conduct and language. Otherwise, any statement you make in similar tones to those used today will be taken out of the records [emphasis added].


Positively Stalinesque, but hardly a surprise.


For more you can go here.

Sometimes it's all I can do to shake my head and wonder, "How did we get here?"

Monday, March 26, 2007

Unclear On The Concept

Another example of why reporters should be forced to take formal logic while in college: by Timothy Noah Novak's Denial, You blew a CIA employee's cover, Bob. Live with it.

Robert Novak remains bizarrely in denial about whether he unmasked a covert employee of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Actually, if we are going to buy the basic premise here, the "outing" couldn't have been done by Novak because in order for him to even know about it he would have to be informed by someone else (and we know who that is). Novak is one of many people to whom Plame was "unmasked." Novak just reported it.

I will wait anxiously for Noah's piece on how the Pentagon Papers case was wrongly decided.

The Benefits Of Being Too Small To Notice

There are times when I quite enjoying being a one man "dog and pony show" of a blog. For starters I attract far fewer assholes than higher traffic blogs do. People could come here and spout off offensive, mean spirited drivel in the comments, but they would have a small audience, and God knows the point for these folks seems to be to make an ass of themselves in front of the largest group of people possible. It is a very wussy kind of exhibitionism when you think about it...

The other thing you don't get is a target painted on you by the MSM. Take this outright lie perpetrated against Power Line by the Star-Tribune:

Today's Minneapolis Star Tribune has an article on the recent Twin Cities controversies involving taxis and check-out lines. Like so many "news" stories in the Strib, it's an editorial posing as reportage. It begins with an anecdote about a Muslim teenager who decides not to "change who [she is] for $7 an hour" by working for Target, and presumably, scanning bacon. The theme of the article is that the recent incidents are unimportant; the implication is that those who express concern about them are bigots.

I wouldn't bother to comment on this except that the reporter brings us into it:

And the backlash, Bihie says, has struck fear in his Somali community. He says it's hard not to bristle when you read the hundreds of blog postings at the Star Tribune's community Web site, www.buzz.mn, or items like this one, culled from the locally-based Power Line site: "Poor babies can't touch bacon ... boo hoo. Refuse to scan my bacon, and I guarantee you will be wearing it!"

Such vitriol bubbling up from a few incidents has drawn undue attention from non-Muslims, according to Atia Ibrahim....


There you have it. We're vitriolic, and have struck fear into the Somali community. Odd thing, though: I didn't write that line about "poor babies" who "can't touch bacon," and neither did Paul or Scott. That quote never appeared on Power Line.


Of course the intent is to discredit Power Line because they have given the Star-Trib a hard time over the years. Is this really he way newspapers should be devoting their resources? No wonder they are going broke.

Close Only Counts In Horseshoes, Hand Grenades and Global Warming

Michael van der Galien, whose stuff I quite enjoy over at The Moderate Voice, has inadvertently put his finger on what I can't stand about the AGW crowd. And he did it in a single sentence. From Al Gore - Global Warming Expert

Personally, it seems to me that science has proven that it is very likely that human activity increases global warming
[emphasis added]

What constitutes "proof" sure ain't what it used to be.

Friday, March 23, 2007

V For Vendetta

Man, you can certainly tell that Henry Blodget does not like Jim Cramer. That is the only explanation I can give for his more than slightly hysterical rant against the oftentimes slightly hysterical Carmer in Slate. Cramer vs. Cramer, Will his crazy confession destroy his career?

As the New York Post, the New York Times, and Reuters recently reported, Cramer gave an interview on TheStreet.com's Wall Street Confidential in late December (watch it here) that can be read as recommending that hedge funds boost returns by orchestrating stock prices and spreading false information. He said that "this is the way the market really works" and that those who don't do these things "shouldn't be in the game." He also talked about his own practices—orchestrating stock prices—to boost returns at the hedge fund he ran in the 1990s.

Even those familiar with Cramer's "just be outrageous" style will find this clip startling. It raises questions not only about Cramer's activities as a hedge-fund manager, but about his judgment. It also, I think, threatens Cramer's career.

Let's begin by reviewing the definition of illegal market manipulation and what, exactly, Cramer said.

According to the SEC's Web site, market "manipulation" is:

intentional conduct designed to deceive investors by controlling or artificially affecting the market for a security. Manipulation can involve a number of techniques ... [such as] spreading false or misleading information about a company … or rigging quotes, prices or trades to create a false or deceptive picture of the demand for a security. Those found guilty of manipulation are subject to criminal and civil penalties.

So how was Cramer supposed to have violated these strictures? Cramer said something like the following:

A lot of times when I was short at my hedge fund—meaning I needed [the market to go] down—I would create a level of activity before [the market opened] that could drive the [pre-market] futures [down]. … Similarly, if I were long, and I wanted to make things a little bit rosy, I would go in and [buy] a bunch of stocks and make sure that they were higher …

It's a fun game, and it's a lucrative game. You can move [the market] up and then fade it—that often creates a very negative feel. … That's a strategy very worth doing. … I would encourage anyone in the hedge fund game to do it. Because it's legal. And it is a very quick way to make money. And very satisfying.


I'm not sure how often Blodget watches Cramer's Mad Money TV show on CNBC, but it has to be less than I do, because I know what Cramer is talking about because he has stated it on his show numerous times. (For the record I catch parts of Mad Money a couple times a week, and a whole show once in a blue moon, so you need not have been a devotee to learn this stuff.) Hedge funds are not like you and me for various reasons. For starters the sheer size of the investments they make will have an affect on the markets no matter what. Money drives the market. Hedge funds have crap loads of money. Therefore hedge funds drive the market. If that is manipulation than every hedge fund is guilty. Secondly, there are whole categories of investors watching and waiting to see what the big funds do. People believe that the big funds know things they don't know. So if a fund starts selling a particular stock, people will believe it is because they have figured out or found out something negative about the company that is causing the selling.

Cramer tells folks that this simply isn't true. Hedge funds will be "down" on one stock and "up" on another not because of anything to do with the fundamentals of the companies involved, but because being "down" on a stock is how they are betting they can make money. Cramer stated: You can move [the market] up and then fade it—that often creates a very negative feel. "Feel" is exactly the right word here. Patterns of buying or selling will make a psychological impression on the people who watch hedge funds, that may lead people to under or over value a stock for no good reason. In what way is that "artificially affecting" the market? If Cramer or any other hedge fund manager is talking to a reporter who asks why they were selling stock X, and they respond that they really don't like it there is nothing wrong with that. If the bozos (Cramer's term) print or report that on TV, how is there anything wrong with that? If they had set up their investments in such a way that not liking a stock could make them money, they have every right to continue to not like the stock. If the financial reporters do not do their homework and simply report the gossip without checking it out first the only blame lies with the reporters.

More Cramer:

[Y]ou've really got to control the market. You can't let it lift. When you get a [bellwether stock that is soaring like] Research in Motion, it's really important to use a lot of your firepower to knock that down. … So, let's say I were short. What I would do is hit a lot of guys with RIMM [sell a lot of Research in Motion stock to a lot of investors].


Blodget says:

Cramer draws a line in the sand—briefly making it look as though he is not suggesting that hedge funds break the law. Then, he appears to recommend that they do.

Now, you can't "foment." That's a violation. You can't create yourself an impression that a stock's down. But you do it anyway, because the SEC doesn't understand it. [my emphasis]. That's the only sense that I would say this is illegal. But a hedge fund that's not up a lot [this late in the year] really has to do a lot now to save itself.

This is different from what I was talking about at the beginning where I was talking about buying the QQQs and stuff. This is actually blatantly illegal. But when you have six days and your company may be in doubt because you're down, I think it's really important to foment—if I were one of these guys—foment an impression that Research in Motion isn't any good. Because Research in Motion is the key today.


Blodget could have saved his readers a little bit of time by trying to parse Cramer speak a little bit here. 'Now, you can't "foment." That's a violation. You can't create yourself an impression that a stock's down. But you do it anyway, because the SEC doesn't understand it.'

You can't go around lying to people about the status of a company's profitability. That is illegal. Cramer is telling us that hedge funds do not HAVE to tell people lies. If they act like they don't like a stock, by selling it for example, people who hawk over the hedge funds will draw their own conclusions. The results often drive the market in exactly the way the hedge fund manager want it. How can you make people drawing conclusions illegal?

Cramer sums up what he thinks goes on:

The great thing about the market is it has nothing to do with the actual stocks. Now, maybe two weeks from now, the buyers will come to their senses and realize that everything that they heard was a lie, but then again, Fannie Mae lied about their earnings for $6 billion, so there's just fiction and fiction and fiction.

I think it's important for people to recognize that the way that the market really works is to have that nexus of: Hit the brokerage houses with a series of orders that can push [the stock] down, then leak it to the press, and then get it on CNBC—that's also very important. And then you have a kind of a vicious cycle down. It's a pretty good game.


Cramer has stated this scenario more than once on Mad Money to point out how the market can really work so that the "home gamers" have a clue what might be going on. So, with this knowledge, if you have a position in a strong company with good "fundies", you might not panic sell because of a hedge fund driven sell off. How is that a bad thing?

Blodget continues:

Is that the "way the market really works"? After a decade on Wall Street, I think it's plausible that some hedge funds play such games. Do all of them? No. Do hedge funds and other investors have to break laws to do well? Absolutely not.


This would make sense if he could point out exactly how this could be construed as breaking the law. All Jim Cramer has done is to have the unmitigated Gaul to point out that a lot of the market is driven by irrational forces and that the good hedge fund managers try to make money off of those tendencies.

The Suspense Was Killing Me

Now, I can finally relax. In an announcement that has the potential of influencing several members of his own family, former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack has endorsed Hillary Clinton:

Former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack will endorse U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton's presidential run Monday, an official close to the situation said today.

Vilsack gave up his own run for the presidency in February, setting up a scramble for his supporters. He is widely considered a possible pick for vice president or a cabinet post if a Democrat wins the White House in 2008.


I actually sort of liked Vilsack. I thought he fell off the rails when he tried veering WAY left in a quixotic attempt to appeal to the nutroots, but he otherwise had a pragmatic streak in him that, I felt, could appeal to centrists.

I tend to doubt if anyone with the last name Vilsack could be elected President, but that is another story...

A Case Of The Creeps

As if the severed dog head as Valentine wasn't bad enough, the Indianapolis Star has this story: Greenfield teacher fired over relationship with student

Greenfield-Central school officials fired a middle school teacher this morning over what they characterized as an improper relationship between the teacher and a student.

Officials said Trina Moore, 40, developed an intense friendship with a seventh-grade girl and, during some weeks, spent hours per day outside school hours in the girl's company, talking to her on the phone or e-mailing with her.

Moore's attorneys said there was nothing improper about the relationship.

School officials said Moore refused to cease contacting the girl, however, even when instructed to do so by Greenfield Middle School Principal Jim Bever and despite complaints by the girl's mother.

School officials said the teacher already had been previously warned about getting too personally involved with students.

"These relationships arose out of teacher-student relationships, but evolved into intense personal relationships that exceed the bounds of a healthy teacher-student relationship," school officials wrote in a document explaining the School Board's decision to fire the teacher.

The board held a special meeting this morning to vote on terminating Moore's contract.

No one has suggested the relationship was sexual in nature, school officials said.

It seems the teacher involved is convinced she did nothing "wrong." I'm positive she did do something wrong. I saw this up close when I was the same age as the student in this story. A female friend of mine got a lot, and I mean a whole lot, or extra attention from our 7th grade teacher. It was very noticeable, and my friend was very uncomfortable about it. Hell, everyone in our circle of friends was uncomfortable about it. As in this current case there was never a suggestion of sexual abuse, but there was the expected teasing that went on among some of our classmates about how she had been chosen by the "lesbian" teacher. (Give 'em a break, they were 12 year olds.) When it was brought up in conversation, my friend would be embarrassed and really not know what to say. She realized it was an unnaturally intense relationship for a teacher to have with a young student, but she didn't know how to tell an adult to stop showering her with attention. Therein lies the "wrongness" of these types of situations. This is not the proper venue for "friendship" in any sense of the word. The distance between Teacher and Student, Adult and Child are simply too great to be bridged. This is not the meeting of equals, so there cannot be real friendship. Most people know this instinctively, but some people do not understand.

Moore's attorney said the teacher is considering a legal appeal of the board's decision.
"The relationship between this teacher and this student was undisputed as a helpful, supportive relationship," said Kevin Betz, Moore's attorney.

Phone records obtained through the school's investigation indicate that Moore spent more than 11 hours on the phone with the student on one day in June of 2006 and spent similar amounts of phone time with the girl on several other days.

Greenfield-Central Superintendent Linda Gellert said teachers must exercise sound judgment.

"There need to be well-established boundaries," Gellert said. "The expectation is that teachers will maintain a professional decorum with children. I think you have to be careful when you try to be friends with children."

It simply does not matter if the teacher is "nice" or "supportive" to the student. The fact that the teacher was warned about having too close a contact with the child and that the behavior persisted underscores the fact that this was an inherently unhealthy compulsion on the part of the teacher.

This doesn't mean we have to go completely the other direction and have every student be a stranger to every teacher, but there have to be boundaries.

Just as teachers are not employed to take their students as lovers, they are also not employed to take them as their new best friend.

The Absolute Worst Method For Picking Up A Girl Ever

Suspect arrested in delivery of dog's head to neighbor

ST. PAUL, Minnesota (AP) -- A 24-year-old man has been arrested, suspected of cutting the head off of a 17-year-old girl's pet dog and leaving it at her front door in a gift-wrapped box.

The man, who is expected to be arraigned Friday, was being held on suspicion of terrorist threats. Police said he may be charged with animal cruelty.

"I think I can sleep a lot better now," said Crystal Brown. "It will make me feel way safer. Now we can walk around the whole block."

Crystal was devastated last month when Chevy, her 4-year-old Australian shepherd mix, went missing.

Two weeks after the dog disappeared, a gift box addressed to Crystal was found at the front door of a house she shares with her grandmother.

Inside, Crystal found Valentine's Day candy and a garbage bag containing her pet's head.

Police said the man they arrested lived a few blocks from Crystal and may have had a romantic interest in the girl.


See, he was just crying out for love.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

America's New National Pastime


There is a new craze sweeping the nation. It is called, digging up dead famous people. A couple of weeks back it was The Big Bopper, today it is Harry Houdini.

For all his death-defying stunts, Harry Houdini couldn't escape the Grim Reaper: He died on Halloween 1926, apparently from a punch to the stomach that ruptured his appendix. But rumors that he was murdered have persisted for decades. Eighty-one years after Houdini's death, his great-nephew wants the escape artist's body exhumed to determine if enemies poisoned him for debunking their bogus claims of contact with the dead.

"It needs to be looked at," George Hardeen told The Associated Press. "His death shocked the entire nation, if not the world. Now, maybe it's time to take a second look."

Houdini's family scheduled a news conference for Friday to give details on the plans. Prominent New York lawyer Joseph Tacopina is helping clear any legal hurdles to the exhumation.

A team of top forensic investigators would conduct new tests on Houdini's body, said Hardeen, whose grandfather was Houdini's brother.

The circumstances surrounding Houdini's sudden death are as murky as the rivers where he often escaped from chains, locks and wooden boxes.

The generally accepted version was that Houdini, 52, suffered a ruptured appendix from a punch in the stomach, leading to a fatal case of peritonitis. But no autopsy was performed.

When the death certificate was filed on Nov. 20, 1926, Houdini's body — brought by train from Detroit to Manhattan — had already been buried in Queens, along with any evidence of a possible death plot.

Within days, a newspaper headline wondered, "Was Houdini Murdered?"


You know there will be no end to all of this. I can already imagine the reality series it could spawn...Autopsy With The Stars.

Celebrities everywhere should be rushing to get that line about demanding cremation into their wills ASAP.

Brewing Up Some Macca

On the CNN Website:

McCartney is 1st to sign with Starbucks label

Paul McCartney was introduced Wednesday as the first artist signed to Starbucks Corp.'s new record label.

The former Beatle made an appearance via a video feed from London at the company's annual meeting.

The world's largest specialty coffee retailer announced earlier this month that it was partnering with Concord Music Group to launch the Los Angeles-based Hear Music label.

The McCartney announcement is another big step for Seattle-based Starbucks' attempts to spin part of its consumer appeal into the entertainment business. The coffeehouse chain already has produced and sold some albums, markets books, and helped develop a feature-length movie.

Hear Music has been used as a brand on other releases developed for sale in Starbucks stores. The coffee giant also has a branded page on Apple Inc.'s iTunes digital music store, and a handful of hybrid music-and-coffee stores that allow customers to burn tracks to CDs.


I have to wonder if there is any method to the Starbucks madness. I mean, what is the approach of this "label." What sort of demographic are they pursuing? Will it be glorified "muzak" for ageing baby boomers? This may be a little harsh on McCartney whose last album Chaos and Creation in the Backyard was actually pretty damn good. The truth remains, however, that very few people actually bought the CD. I simply doubt that baby boomers are a viable music buying demographic for building a label around.

Rock and Roll. Sipping a latte. Do they really go together?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The NHL Is Now In The Business Of Killing Blues Fans

I posted the following over at my sports blog, but I wanted to spread the condemnations far and wide:

Apparently an elderly Blues fan blew a gasket after the display of NHL incompetence last night and died of the resulting heart attack late in the game. It's sad to think that among his very last thoughts was about how this league continues to screw over the Blues.

R.I.P.

God, knows I'll be joining you one day and for the same reason; Death by NHL referee.

The Blues and the Post-Dispatch are not pleased.

Jeff Gordon's take: Send in the clowns -- an upgrade over NHL refs

The Blues are working hard to the end. They are busting their tails night after night. They are establishing team pride and integrity during the final weeks of the season.

So it is only fair that they expect the NHL officials to maintain their integrity while working their games -– and to not hand victories to the other side, as they did Tuesday night.

This team has been on the wrong side of poor calls and inexplicable non-calls in recent games, culminating with the fiasco against Ottawa at the Scottrade Center.

NHL referees Mick “Mister” McGeough and Dennis LaRue refused to acknowledge one obvious goal, then waved off a second obvious goal. The first goal would have given the Blues a 3-2 lead and the second would have tied the game 3-3. Advertisement


“It’s a disgrace,” Blues president John Davidson said.

“Unreal,” Blues coach Andy Murray said.

“This should not happen in this day and age,” Blues center Doug Weight said.

On the first goal, er, non-goal, Brad Boyes took a third-period pass from Weight at the left post and jammed the puck toward the empty goal. Senators goaltender Martin Gerber dove back, reached into the goal with his stick and knocked the puck back out.

This was a goal, clear as could be.

But the goal judge didn’t see it. McGeough and LaRue missed it, too. They didn’t ask for a video review. They rushed to restart play. And video review judge Jerry Burt didn’t call down to notify the officials of their blunder until after play had resumed.

Davidson was furious in the press box. Murray was furious on the bench, since he had been notified, before play resumed, that Boyes shot was well into the net. Blues players were baffled on the ice, especially when the review horn sounded while they had control of the puck in the offensive zone.

What was going on here?

“There are 25 cameras,” an exasperated Weight said afterward. “Certain people have certain jobs to do.”

The NHL has gone to great lengths to operate an elaborate replay system. There is a replay judge in the press box. There are observers in a Toronto war room, carefully examining every close goal-mouth call in televised league games.

Blues games have been stopped for an eternity while these observers used the latest video technology to back up, slow down, blow up and digitally enhance replays. I’ve seen goals counted against the Blues when all replays appeared utterly inconclusive to the naked eye.

It is impressive, the lengths the league goes to in examining potential goals.

And yet, the Blues scored an obvious against Ottawa and it doesn’t count because all the officials involved -– on the ice, in the booth, in Toronto -– refused to do their job correctly.

I understand the Senators are fighting for playoff positioning and the Blues are not, but there ought to be some semblance of fairness in the NHL.

Had the referees merely missed the goal, it would be no big deal. That happens all the time, especially with lightly regarded referees like McGeough and LaRue.

(Among the phrases uttered around the Blues dressing room Tuesday night was “clown nose.” But I’m not telling who said it, because that person would get fined.)

That is why the NHL has gone to great lengths to back up the officials. The fact this replay system was simply ignored, to Ottawa’s obvious benefit . . . well, that is shocking.

BUT IT GETS WORSE!

The officials tried to offset their mistake by calling a series of penalties on the Senators, who responded by scoring a go-ahead shorthanded goal. With a bit more than two minutes left to play, Blues power forward David Backes scored the tying goal by jamming home a loose puck in the crease.

McGeough, though, disallowed the goal even through he hadn’t stopped play. He claimed Gerber had covered the puck, which, in reality, never happened.

The referee said he was in the process of blowing his whistle when the puck went into the net. Yeah, like Gerber was “in the process” of covering the puck when Backes scored. Please.

“Why would he blow the whistle?” Murray wondered. “The puck was moving.”

Again, replays were damning. This time there was nothing the review judge or the Toronto war room could do (or not do) to fix the error. The call was McGeough’s to make -- and, in this case, to blow.

The Senators got their two points and the Blues got some bad explanations. Should the franchise demand an apology?

“What does an apology do for us right now?” Murray said.

What the Blues can request, going forward, is an honest effort from the officials in every single game. If they are going to give their best shot during these dog days of the season, it is reasonable to expect the NHL’s on-ice and off-ice officials to do the same.



You hardly ever see such an open condemnation of officiating coming from a major newspaper, but last night's game was so bad it couldn't be ignored. You simply cannot pretend it wasn't happening.

Fire Larue.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Building A Better Mosquito

The AP via USA Today: Malaria-resistant mosquito developed

Researchers have developed a malaria-resistant mosquito, a step that might one day help block the spread of an illness that has claimed millions of lives around the world.
When they fed on malaria-infected mice, the resistant mosquitoes had a higher survival rate than non-resistant ones, meaning they could eventually replace the ones that can carry the disease, according to a report in Tuesday's issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Jason Rasgon of the department of molecular microbiology and immunology at Johns Hopkins University cautioned that the research so far is only a proof of principle and any field tests remain far away.

Nonetheless, it's a goal eagerly sought by scientists in hope of developing a practical way of blocking the spread of malaria.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 700,000 to 2.7 million people die of malaria each year, 75% of them African children.

Working with the mouse form of malaria — not the human type — Rasgon's team was able to genetically engineer mosquitoes that were resistant to malaria.

Malaria infection does exact a toll on mosquitoes and in laboratory work they found that the resistant insects were able to outcompete non-resistant mosquitoes.

Starting with the same number of resistant and non-resistant mosquitoes, they found that after nine generations the resistant type made up 70% of the population — raising the possibility of replacing regular mosquitoes with resistant ones that don't spread disease.

The sad thing is, if those nuts who protest against genetically altered food are consistent they will try to oppose this effort as well. They will probably call them "Frankenmosquitoes" or something.

Why doesn't the MSM treat those folks like the flat-worlders they really are?

Monday, March 19, 2007

Monday's Moron



From the AP via CNN: Cuddly polar bear cub better off dead, activist says

Berlin Zoo's abandoned polar bear cub Knut looks cute, cuddly and has become a front-page media darling, but an animal rights activist insisted Monday he would have been better off dead than raised by humans.

"Feeding by hand is not species-appropriate but a gross violation of animal protection laws," animal rights activist Frank Albrecht was quoted as saying by the mass-circulation Bild daily, which has featured regular photo spreads tracking fuzzy Knut's frolicking.

"The zoo must kill the bear."

When Knut -- or "Cute Knut," as the 8.7 kilogram (19 pound) bear has become known -- was born last December, his mother ignored him and his brother, who later died. Zoo officials intervened, choosing to raise the cub themselves.

The story prompted quick condemnations from the zoo, politicians and other animal rights groups.

"When in doubt kill it." How "retro" (in a German sort of way.)

Actually, this is a two for one Moron Monday:

But Knut belongs to the Berlin Zoo, and their veterinarian Andre Schuele, charged with caring for him, disagrees.

"These criticisms make me angry, but you can't take them so seriously," Andre Schuele said. "Polar bears live alone in the wild; I see no logical reason why this bear should be killed."

Schuele also argued that given the increased rarity of polar bears in the wild, it makes sense to keep them alive in captivity so that they can be bred.

"Polar bears are under threat of extinction, and if we feed the bear with a bottle, it has a good chance of growing up and perhaps becoming attractive as a stud for other zoos," Schuele said.

Someone should tell those Canadian polar bear to stop reproducing in such large numbers. Didn't they get the memo that they were supposed to be going extinct?

Let's stay on script people!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Indy IV Update

From the AP: Blanchett could be 'Indy's' next love

Cate Blanchett is in negotiations to star opposite Harrison Ford in the long-awaited fourth installment of the "Indiana Jones" series, her publicist confirmed Saturday.

"She is in negotiations, yes," publicist Lisa Kasteler told The Associated Press. She did not elaborate.

Filming is scheduled to begin later this year, with Steven Spielberg on board to direct. The movie is being produced by "Star Wars" creator George Lucas' Lucasfilm Ltd.


It has taken seemingly forever to get this movie going, but it actually looks like it will be happening, although I'm a little surprised that they haven't got whatever part Blanchett would be playing cast already...at least if they are really going to start filming this year.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Trying To Keep Their Story Straight

As time marches on I increasingly get the feeling that the members of the "global warming consensus" are more like co-conspirators of some large criminal enterprise than they are like scientists. The near hysterical drive for purity and "consensus" has the ring of someone desperately hoping their alibi will hold water. But, of course, it simply cannot. The myth of "consensus" is suffering the death of a thousand cuts, but the zealots don't realize it yet.

In this vein, here is a new example of muddle headed thinking from the BBC: Caution urged on climate 'risks'

Two leading UK climate researchers say some of their peers are "overplaying" the global warming message and risk confusing the public about the threat.

Professors Paul Hardaker and Chris Collier, both Royal Meteorological Society figures, are voicing their concern at a conference in Oxford.

They say some researchers make claims about possible future impacts that cannot be justified by the science.

The pair believe this damages the credibility of all climate scientists.

Both men hold the mainstream view on climate change - that human activity is the cause.

But they think catastrophism and the "Hollywoodisation" of weather and climate only work to create confusion in the public mind.

They argue for a more sober and reasoned explanation of the uncertainties about possible future changes in the Earth's climate.

As an example, they point to a recent statement from one of the foremost US science bodies - the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

The association released a strongly worded statement at its last annual meeting in San Francisco in February which said: "As expected, intensification of droughts, heatwaves, floods, wildfires, and severe storms is occurring, with a mounting toll on vulnerable ecosystems and societies.

"These events are early warning signs of even more devastating damage to come, some of which will be irreversible."

According to Professors Hardaker and Collier, this may well turn out to be true, but convincing evidence to back the claims has not yet emerged.

"It's certainly a very strong statement," Professor Collier told BBC News.

"I suspect it refers to evidence
[ed. evidence the loyal readers of the Iconic Midwest already know does not exist] that hurricanes have increased as a result of global warming; but to make the blanket assumption that all extreme events are increasing is a bit too early yet."


So even in this article cautioning against the over-reach of climate science claims, there is a serious over-reach of climate science claims. They simply cannot help themselves, and for good reason...although it has nothing to do with good science.

A former president of the Royal Meteorological Society, Professor Collier is concerned that the serious message about the real risks posed by global warming could be undermined by making premature claims.

"I think there is a good chance of that," he said. "We must guard against that - it would be very damaging.

"I've no doubt that global warming is occurring, but we don't want to undermine that case by crying wolf."

Think about these statements for a second. If your concern was doing good scientific research, would such statements make any sense? The answer is, of course, no. They are in fact nonsense from a scientific point of view. Science doesn't care about "crying wolf". It cares about verifiable evidence. The shooting down of unverifiable hypothesis is actually a main component of the scientific method, and it is a never ending process.

So why all the hand-wringing about "crying wolf"? Well, obviously it has to do with politics. There is a political agenda that these folks wish to implement via scientific fiat, and the quickest way to undermine their political support is to make dire predictions that do not come to pass. Science might not care about "crying wolf," but public opinion does.

Notice, for example, how claims that current warming might be occurring due to non-human factors are treated. Such claims are denounced out of hand simply because they do not support the pre-ordained political agenda. At that point real science becomes a danger. That is why you have the current campaigns to marginalize those who wish to keep the path of scientific inquiry open. That is why you have folks like Bjorn Lomborg, who accepts BOTH global warming AND a large anthropogenic component to it, treated as a traitor because he doesn't support the pre-ordained political solutions advocated. They also do not like the fact he keeps an open mind and will dispassionately look at all the available evidence. Such people are anathema to their vision of ideological purity and must be eliminated from the discussion. Thus the (thankfully failed) campaign in Denmark to destroy Lomborg's career.

It was customary for scientists to see themselves as versions of Galileo, standing up against the roadblocks to free inquiry set up by modern day equivalents to the Catholic Church. I'm not sure the analogy applies any longer, or maybe if it does apply it only does so in reverse.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Quiz Time

Are polar bear populations:

A) Dramatically declining as they drown by the hundreds via Global Warming ice melting!

B) Increasing.

Well let us see:

Their status ranges from a "vulnerable" to "endangered" and could be declared "threatened" if the U.S. decides the polar bear is collateral damage of climate change.
Nobody talks about "overpopulated" when discussing the bears' outlook.

Yet despite the Canadian government 's $150-million commitment last week to fund 44 International Polar Year research projects, a key question is not up for detailed scientific assessment: If the polar bear is the 650-kilogram canary in the climate change coal mine, why are its numbers INCREASING?

The latest government survey of polar bears roaming the vast Arctic expanses of northern Quebec, Labrador and southern Baffin Island show the population of polar bears has jumped to 2,100 animals from around 800 in the mid-1980s.

As recently as three years ago, a less official count placed the number at 1,400.

The Inuit have always insisted the bears' demise was greatly exaggerated by scientists doing projections based on fly-over counts, but their input was usually dismissed as the ramblings of self-interested hunters.

As Nunavut government biologist Mitch Taylor observed in a front-page story in the Nunatsiaq News last month, "the Inuit were right. There aren't just a few more bears. There are a hell of a lot more bears."


That's right.

And I simply love the condescension that reigned in the environmental community about the "self interested" Inuits.

God knows the greens don't have any self interest. Or, seemingly, any conscience either.

UPDATED:

More from Sp!ked on this matter including this exposure of blatant (and false) propaganda being spouted by a complict media establishemnt:

‘They cling precariously to the top of what is left of the ice floe, their fragile grip the perfect symbol of the tragedy of global warming. Captured on film by Canadian environmentalists, the pair of polar bears look stranded on chunks of broken ice….’

That is how an article in Australia’s Daily Telegraph, entitled ‘A planet on the edge’, chose to open a discussion of the latest climate report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (1). To view the article, and the photo of the polar bears, click here. The student who took the photograph, however, gives a slightly different account: ‘They were on the ice when we found them and on the ice when we left. They were healthy, fat and seemed comfortable on their iceberg.’

Amanda Byrd, an Australian graduate student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF), says she took the picture around three years ago - in the summer. The photograph was not ‘taken by environmentalists’ but as part of a field trip with the university.


"Canadian environmentalists"...."Australian undergraduates", those are basically synonymous terms anyway...