Sunday, August 22, 2010

Links to Drink By: So much negative news... must mean something good is about to happen!!!

Only Tony Blair has a worse legacy than George W. Bush.

Increasing Antarctic sea ice is consistent with global warming thesis.

Eventually we will need to increase the gas/oil consumption taxes.

Is the "Mosque" kerfuffle actually a demonstration of our tolerance? (I don't buy it.)

Wiki-leaks' Julian Assange is an alleged rapist-- or not. Something is very strange about this affair.

Is Tiger Woods Finished?

Mom and Pop investors are leaving the stock market...

...even Fortune Mag is losing their shit...

... as domestic LEI's portend sluggish US growth.

Yet Caterpillar (CAT) sees economic strength...

... from strong Asian economic growth in this cycle...

..thus, materials on the long side makes sense.

Pat Tillman bio-flick is out. See how your government lies to its heroes' family; but reviewer calls film fair to both sides.

Israel banging the war tom-tom (again).

Keyne's biographer says he would call for more regulation and stimulus. (Duh.)

Good News: AIG paying back some (tiny amount of) TARP.

Ozzie Guillen not happy with his White Sox.

Regardless, I still like my Sox:

(No, that is not me.)

I don't know, but Moses does...

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Extremist Makeover - Homeland Edition
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Divine Inspiration of the Arts

No question, historically artists have attained high levels of creativity as a consequence of ruminations of deities.

Contemplation of the divine has produced such unalloyed marvels as Schubert's Ave Maria, Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel or Pieta (below) and countless works of highest civilization.

Bernini's Ecstasy of St. Teresa, while overwrought, exhibits unsurpassed emotion:

Even godless secularists, and the most craven atheists can appreciate Platonic -- if not heavenly-- beauty in this craft.

So what the fuck is this:

If God is indeed still alive, He has obviously lost sway over today's artists. The promise of Jesus is better than a bone? That's enough to turn any kid toward Satan.

(h/t PZ)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Periodic Table of Irrational Nonsense

I counted adherence to at least 12 of these elements at one time or another... in my family alone! Silly, and we all know now that Papyromancy is the one true Way.

(h/t Pro-Science)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Is quote-mining equal to lying?

I realize that August is Stupid American Month, but I couldn't resist pointing out this gem. It never gets old, does it? The latest poison pabulum being forced down the throats of the unwashed morons:

Jan Markell, founder and director of Olive Tree Ministries, remembers what Obama wrote in one of his books.

"This is a bit of a paraphrase: 'When ill winds blow,' he said, 'I will always stand with the Muslims,'" she cites. [Editor's note - Actual quote: "I will stand with the Muslims should the political winds shift in an ugly direction."]

"I am not one who is saying that Barack Obama is a Muslim; we don't know that," the ministry leader continues. "But the fact is his sentiment is with the Muslims of the world, and his sentiment is with the Muslims of Manhattan. I'm quite sure that he would be very okay with a mosque just a stone's-throw away from 9/11."

When I read that, I had to think back about what Obama had said in his books. This quote is from Obama's Audacity of Hope, and , of course, is taken wildly out of context. Here's the whole citation:

"In the wake of 9/11, my meetings with Arab and Pakistani Americans, for example, have a more urgent quality, for the stories of detentions and FBI questioning and hard stares from neighbors have shaken their sense of security and belonging. They have been reminded that the history of immigration in this country has a dark underbelly; they need specific reassurances that their citizenship really means something, that America has learned the right lessons from the Japanese internments during World War II, and that I will stand with them should the political winds shift in an ugly direction."

Markell, first of all, is too lazy to obtain the entire accurate quote. Secondly, she removes the context that then-Senator Obama was referring to American Muslims who might encounter prejudice due to 9-11. (That would never happen, right?).

Why would a "Messianic Jewish leader" wish to change the context of Obama's sentiment? Is quote-mining just a form of lying? Discuss amongst yourselves... call me after the mid-term elections when all this idiocy will settle down.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

From One Conservative Viewpoint: Iraq War = Epic Fail

None other than Bryan Fischer from the American Family Association has said that our soldiers died for nothing.

It grieves me to the bottom of my soul to think of the soldiers who bravely gave their last full measure of devotion in such a misbegotten cause. They served bravely and well; it was their leadership that let them down.

All this is due to President Bush’s naive short-sightedness about the true nature of Islam and what it does to the human spirit. I believe him to be an honest and decent man, but deceived and foolish when it came to Islam.

He genuinely seemed to believe that Islam is a religion of peace which had been hijacked by evil men. The truth is the other way round. Islam is a barbaric religion of violence and war. The only hijacking that’s been done is by those trying to fool people into thinking it’s something benign


[T]he Spirit of the Lord is absent in Islamic lands, and the dark spirit that animates Islam has extinguished the spirit of liberty in those lands and in the hearts of their people. Their spiritual DNA has been altered in such a horrible way that what they hunger for is domination, destruction, and the death of the infidels. It is impossible for such a people to harbor a thirst for freedom apart from a massive spiritual awakening represented by an embrace of Christianity.

No, it is impossible to build a free nation on a platform of Islam. It was foolish and expensive even to try.

Fischer says America has offended God by creating a new Islamic Republic in Iraq which, "without the stabilizing values and presence of the Prince of Peace," will ultimately collapse.

My revelation from the sky wizard is right, yours is wrong! So there.

(h/t PFAW)

Window Seat, by Erykah Badu

This is the R&B singer who was arrested several weeks ago for disorderly conduct for obvious reasons -- fined $500-- and the resultant video. The message at the end is worth watching.

Window Seat

so, presently I'm standing
here right now
you're so demanding
tell me what you want from me
concentrating on my music, lover and my babies
makes me wanna ask the lady for a ticket outta town...

so can I get a window seat
don't want nobody next to me
I just want a ticket outta town
a look around
and a safe touch down
can I get a window seat
don't want nobody next to me
I just want a chance to fly
a chance to cry
and a long bye bye..

but I need you to want me
I need you to miss me
I need your attention, yes
I need you next me
I need someone to clap for me
I need your direction
somebody say come back
come back baby come back
I want you to need me
come back come back baby come back
come back come back baby come back
come back come back baby come back

so, in my mind I'm tusslin'
back and forth 'tween here and hustlin'
I don't wanna time travel no mo
I wanna be here
I'm thinking
on this porch I'm rockin'
back and forth light lightning hopkins
if anybody speak to scotty
tell him beam me up..

so can I get a window seat
don't want nobody next to me
I just want a ticket outta town
a look around
and a safe touch down
can I get a window seat
don't want nobody next to me
I just want a chance to fly
a chance to cry
and a long bye bye..

but I need you to miss me
I need somebody come get me
I need your attention
I need your energy
I need someone to clap me
I need your direction

somebody say come back
come back baby come back
come back come back baby come back
come back come back baby come back
come back come back baby come back

but can I get a window seat
don't want nobody next to me
I just want a ticket outta town
a look around
and a safe touch down...

I just wanna chance to fly
a chance to cry
and a long bye bye...


They play it safe
Are quick to assassinate what they do not understand
They move in packs
Ingesting more and more fear with every act of Hate on one another
They feel most comfortable in groups
Less guilt to swallow
They are us
This is what we have become
Afraid to respect the individual
A single personal event or circumstance can move one to change
To love oneself
To Evolve.

(h/t George Orwell, wherever you are.)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Why I don't give a damn about the Islamic Cultural Center debate

President Obama got it exactly right. On Friday he pointed out that building a mosque or cultural center, or whatever the hell it is, is perfectly legal and everyone should just the shut the hell up about it. He is a Constitutional attorney after all. Then within 24 hours, open-collared and looking distracted, Obama pointed out that not all legal things are necessarily well-advised. Big news! Maybe I should stop pouring nickels into the legal slots at the Potawatamee Casino.

But obviously Obama must be correct because partisans on both sides were incensed-- on the one hand he was a terrorist-loving traitor brandishing the Constitution to favor our sworn enemies, on the other he was a nut-less president who won't stand up for the rights of the oppressed.

Here's why I don't give a damn. First and foremost, we are a nation of laws and the Islamic Center is legal. In fact, in a strange turn of events, the Islamic center is not only in accord with local zoning regulations and meets approval of the Manhattan board, but if NYC had denied approval, the Islamic leaders would have stronger legal ground for an appeal due to a Republican-led federal law. The ten-year-old Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act prohibits any locality from denying the building of "houses of faith." I guarantee that no elected official asked my opinion on the advisability of passing such a horseshit law that protects religious organizations, but what's new.

Secondly, building the mosque is no worse than other "hallowed ground" being violated. (Who determines the hallowedness of the ground anyway?) We have a statue of traitor Robert E. Lee at Gettysburg where the US sustained 23,000 soldiers' casualties defending the Constitution. And as John Oliver on the Daily Show pointed out, isn't it a little "too soon" to be building Catholic Churches near playgrounds?

The third reason I don't give a damn about the Muslim culture center is that Islam, like most organized religions and certainly all monotheistic religions, is rife with prejudices of its own. If it were up to me, all religions would be forced to abide by the secular laws of anti-discrimination. No women priests? Okay, no tax exemption.* The oddest wrinkle in this debate is hearing avowed liberals defending the rights of the Mullahs to spout their anti-feminist, anti-gay, anti-everything-good-about-liberal-society hate. I understand civil liberties, but why such vocal support of ass-hats? Is it just to kick Newt Gingrich in the balls?

(*Why do religious organizations get tax exemptions anyway? I don't. In our little town, the downtown square-- the prime real estate in the county-- is ringed with a half dozen churches that are all empty 6.7 days per week. They pay no property tax... and we wonder why our homeowners property taxes are going up, but I digress.)

My buddy Christopher has linked to Charles Krauthammer as "representing" his position most closely. It's usually too painful to wade through all the dissonance in a Krauthammer piece with my cerebrum intact. His main argument is the one of "exceptionalism of the hallowed ground" meme, which might make some sense if it were true or legal or even mattered, or if Lower Manhattan weren't replete with titty bars and off-track betting parlors anyway. Or is it only abandoned Burlington Coat factories that are hallowed? And whatever happened to these authoritarians pewking up the "rule of law" argument all the time? Hallowed is overrated anyway, and Krauthammer's history is that he just doesn't like Muslims and he's been wrong too many times to matter anymore, so I've made up my mind on him. But then as my eyes are about to glaze over I get to this paragraph:

Religious institutions in this country are autonomous. Who is to say that the mosque won't one day hire an Anwar al-Aulaqi -- spiritual mentor to the Fort Hood shooter and the Christmas Day bomber, and onetime imam at the Virginia mosque attended by two of the 9/11 terrorists?

This is an argument? Blah, blah, blah. I call it blind fear. Now my brain is starting to calculate how much tree pulp went to print this idiocy, what's the Washington Post's circulation, do people really read this shit?

And I think back to the Daily Show parody and about how the Catholic Church is "autonomous"-- and who's to say they won't one day hire a Father Geoghan? The theocracy of Israel is "autonomous"-- and who's to say they won't one day elect a Menachem Begin? If autonomy sucks, then is Krauthammer calling for government authority and enforcement to ban all such organizations? That idea might have promise, but I've read enough Krauthammer to know he is is limiting his prohibitions to people he doesn't like.

What President Obama said is exactly correct. As head of the governmental branch concerned with law enforcement he is required to have a clear view of the rights of individuals and organizations. His formal speech involved the law, his informal comments involved individual choices. Either you support the First Amendment or you don't, Obama does, Charles Krauthammer and Harry Reid don't. Reid says he does, but then puts limits on it.

I would add one more comment. History has shown that autocratic institutions such as Islam have the potential to become better under the scrutiny of liberal secular society. Even the Catholic Church allows women to touch the Eucharist (no not that Eucharist!) and Catholic clinics to prescribe birth control... baby steps. In a liberal dynamic society, it's impossible to predict the effect that that dynamism will have on such staid organizations. The greatest attribute we have is our openness to change-- and we should trust the system to self-correct under our Constitution. Who knows, maybe the Ground Zero Islamic Center will give way to better understanding among of the monotheistic religions and bring them closer to sanity.

Okay, maybe I've had too many beers tonight.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The best thing about McDonald's

Okay, the lady went nuts. It happens. The drive-up window is blood-smeared and shattered; the worker likely shaken and wondering if it's too late to enroll in x-ray tech courses at the local community college. The best thing occurs at the end of the video when the next car in line pulls up like nothing happened. "Hey, does this mean my Sausage McMuffin isn't ready?"

The kicker is that he probably got it with no delay. Ya gotta love McDonald's.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Links to Drink By and Quick Thoughts

Three million jobs are unfilled; Contributing factors: "Skills mismatch", a euphemism for lack of training, and decreased worker mobility due to the poor housing market. Obviously we have more pain to endure.

Is there an Islamic Reformation coming? Reza Aslan: "we have to be careful not to confuse social traditions…with the religion itself." Would the Ground Zero "Mosque" aid or hinder such a reformation? Personally, I think all this oldworld theism crap is outworn and fraught with conflict, but I'm afraid it's here to stay so we should find ways for all the kids to play nice in the sandbox.

Will we ever catch Osama bin Laden? For the sake of review, let's re-read bin Laden's gripes against the US. No question he's a criminal, but when I read this I ask, would we have tolerated, say, the USSR with an occupying force in the US, supporting insurrection and upheaval in our society? The political gripes may have some validity, while the solutions he chooses are obviously counter-productive... and my tribal allegiances are geographically and culturally set.

Should the high income earners be asked to pay more? If not, then how do we pay our debts?

Do we really need whiney progeny from the mentally deficient political elite in the public sphere? Can anything of value come form this ass-hat running for office?

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Is Science too Authoritarian?

In his recent article, Science Turns Authoritarian, American Enterprise Institute scholar Kenneth Green argues that science is losing its credibility because it has let “itself be co-opted by politics.”

Green begins by referencing a Wired article written by a non-scientist who feels that the scientific community is in need of better public relations, partly in the form of celebrities who inundate media testifying to the glories of science, as if that would affect one way or another the value of science. Green says at first that he doubts science is suffering from bad PR, but rather that science “is not losing its credibility because people no longer like or believe in the idea of scientific discovery, but because science has taken on an authoritarian tone, and has let itself be co-opted by pressure groups who want the government to force people to change their behavior.” He goes on and on and finally arrives at the conclusion that science is indeed suffering from bad PR. Whatever.

I can sense a huge eye-roll coming from the scientific community, as if Green, whose conclusion contradicts his initial thesis, has any clue as to what science is or does. Green's biggest criticism is that the “language” in which scientific findings are reported have become increasingly “authoritarian” with use of phrases such as “should” or “must”. He claims that science in the past simply stated the effects of, say, smoking or increased salt intake, and left the behavior modification to the rest of us. Green uses climate change as an example of a recent departure of this tradition, and decries the implication that science says we “must” reduce greenhouse gas production. Newsflash: science doesn’t care one iota what Green or the UN or anyone else does with the information.

The problem is that the reporting on the climate change debate is done by non-scientists and, yes, many of them do indeed inflict their conclusion on the debate, both sides of the debate. The United Nations, Friends of the Earth and the World Wildlife Fund, all quoted in the article, are all policy-making bodies, not scientific bodies. Green, in his concluding paragraph, states “If science wants to redeem itself and regain its place with the public’s affection, scientists need to come out every time some politician says, “The science says we must…” and reply, “Science only tells us what is. It does not, and can never tell us what we should or must do.”” I’ll be blunt. Science does not have to “redeem itself” to Green or anyone else and science is not telling you or anyone what you should or must do. Reporters are. Science—the method of discovery based on empiricism and reduction—has nothing for which to apologize. “Scholars” such as Green would do well to be less concerned with the relentless march of science as it answers important questions, and more concerned with the deniers of scientific findings who distort those truths for other reasons. Leave science to the scientists.

Wrigley Field Politics

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Kenneth Rogoff and David Wessel on Charlie Rose speak about the economy and jobs. Go here for the [video]. Rogoff shown below.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Paul Ryan: the man with a lousy plan

My litmus test for whether a Republican is truly fiscally conservative or just a poseur is his or her vote on the 2003 Medicare Part D prescription drug plan; a bill that was so clearly a blatant transfer of public wealth to private drug companies that no true conservative would have gone along with it.Paul Ryan did.

Ryan also has voted for every war supplemental put before him with full knowledge that each dollar spent was borrowed for our precious grandchildren to pay back.

Now Ryan has re-invented himself as the wunderkind with a brave new plan to save us from the perils of deficits and rescue our grandchildren from the welfare state. If only it were true. Paul Krugman reviews the arithmetic:

Mr. Ryan’s plan calls for steep cuts in both spending and taxes...
And The [Washington] Post also tells us that his plan would, indeed, sharply reduce
the flow of red ink: “The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan would cut the budget deficit in half by 2020.”

But the budget office has done no such thing. At Mr. Ryan’s request, it produced an estimate of the budget effects of his proposed spending cuts — period. It didn’t address the revenue losses from his tax cuts.

The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has, however, stepped into the breach. Its numbers indicate that the Ryan plan would reduce revenue by almost $4 trillion over the next decade. If you add these revenue losses to the numbers The Post cites, you get a much larger deficit in 2020, roughly $1.3 trillion.

And that’s about the same as the budget office’s estimate of the 2020 deficit under the Obama administration’s plans....

Finally, let’s talk about those spending cuts. In its first decade, most of the alleged savings in the Ryan plan come from assuming zero dollar growth in domestic discretionary spending, which includes everything from energy policy to education to the court system. This would amount to a 25 percent cut once you adjust for inflation and population growth. How would such a severe cut be achieved? What specific programs would be slashed? Mr. Ryan doesn’t say.

Republicans never say what they will cut. As Krugman concludes, they are not serious about debating budget issues yet the media feels obliged for some reason to give them deference.