Friday, December 29, 2006

Factual Ignorance, Left-wing Bias or Anti-Christian Bigotry?

I link, you decide.

Tar Heel Tory's link doesn't take you directly to the story [video], but I found it via Google's cache. I make no promises as to how long my link will be good for.

Yes, in the video it does look like JJ Ramber is trying very hard to pillory Hayes for his remarks, and that her two interviewees are trying to downplay the issue. Tar Heel Tory wants us to believe that Hayes was quoted out of context, but does not provide us with a complete transcript of Hayes' remarks. Anyone out there in Conservative Blogoland want to point me to one?

THT goes on to say:
What Congressman Hayes was speaking about was the exportation of Christian values to Iraq – not Christianity itself, or the forcible conversion of Iraqi Muslims to the Christian faith.

Um, dude, peace on earth and goodwill towards all are values of a number of major and minor religions, not just Christianity. The fact that the good Congressman tossed in “Everything depends on everyone learning about the birth of the Savior” suggests he's proselytizing, and proselytizing for Christianity, if you ask me. But then I'm a godless humanist living in the Bible Belt, constantly fending off other peoples' attempts to save my mortal soul, so I could be overly sensitive here.

There's a discussion down in the comments section comparing Congressman Hayes' speech at Rotary Club meeting to Congressman Ellison's speech at a conference of Muslims. Not a valid comparison, I say. Speaking about specific religious values at a gathering of, for, and about your co-religionists is fine, but Rotary International frowns on dissing the beliefs of others. Let's hope that Hayes was just an invited speaker and isn't himself a Rotarian.

[ just an aside on the death penalty ... ]

I was skimming this article and decided to vote. This is what the results looked like at the time [yes, I'm in the 21%]:

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Okay, now I'm just annoyed.

First it was these guys. Then it was this guy. And these guys. To be fair, there were some others, but you get the idea.

But it's not really them [or not just them] that I find annoying. It's the realization that like colored folk and women, gays are acceptable to the public at large if they consent to remain cute, loveable, manageable, harmless pets.

I dunno. Possibly I'm over-reacting. It could just be that I can't see beyond the borders of my picturesque and picaresque home in the Redneck Riviera, where prejudices of all stripes still run amok.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Dear Santa Claus:

I've been very nice this year. I can even provide references. Please may I have a lump [or two] of coal in my stocking for Christmas?

On second thought ...

Coal mining is hazardous to people, hazardous to the environment, and not especially kind to the landscape.

Plus, we need that coal to make electricity. Oh, wait! We could get our electricity from nuclear power, and store the nuclear waste in the abandned coal mines, once we've got all the coal out. Preferably somebody else's abandoned coal mines.

And coal mining provides jobs. Jobs that can't be off-shored. A boon for the economy, no more unemployment worries! I mean, it's not like somebody in Pakistan or India could sit down with a computer monitor, gaming console, joy stick or what-have-you in hand, and operate a bunch of robots here in US coal mines. Oh, wait.

[sigh ...]

There's more. Stay tuned.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Holy cow!

Tom DeLay has a blog.

From the About section at

The importance of the blogosphere in shaping and motivating the current conservative movement is unquestionable- not only has it served as an important tool in breaking through the liberal MSM clutter but it has helped to keep our elected officials true to principle.

This blog is meant to further the online discussion in the marketplace of ideas.

Dude! Guess what! We liberal bloggers feel the same way about our blogosphere: it's been an important tool in breaking through the illiberal MSM clutter.

I'm guessing that my ideas aren't going to be welcome in that there marketplace.

I did get a chuckle from this blurb about his latest project, G.A.I.N.:

Become an elite activist by applying to be apart [sic] of Tom DeLay's grassroots network.

Elite? Grassroots? Isn't the point of a grassroots movement that anybody can join? The unwashed, the untouchables, the rabble, the hoi polloi?

At least he's not lying about the elite part. You have to submit an application to join G.A.I.N., complete with references.

thanks, Timothy Noah and Slate

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Christmas Wish List

I belong to a largish clan, well-scattered over the 50 US states, and [mostly] we all like each other. We [mostly] all like each other enough to enjoy exchanging Christmas presents.

But with dozens of cousins and such all over the West, Midwest, Alaska, Hawaii, and even that outpost of civilization, Washington DC, I was spending beaucoup bucks on presents, wrappings, boxing and shipping.

We're all more or less middle class, comfortably well off, and can usually go out and buy whatever we want. Besides, none of us needs more stuff.

So, several years ago, we all decided to take whatever money we wanted to spend on a person and donate that amount to the charity of that person's choice. Or to the charity of our own choosing, if our loved one[s] expressed no particular preference.

My wish list this year:

adopt a panther
adopt a kid
set somebody free
help somebody live their final days as well as possible

If you would like to donate to a charity, but wonder if your money will be used wisely, you can always check them out on the web:
even the government [FTC] is watching out for us

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Science and ... the MLA?!


There's a reason why my degrees are in science, and yours are in English.

Even so, I think everyone ought to experiment, and this one does look like fun. How-some-ever, I refuse to beg anybody to do anything.

If any of you actually belong to the MLA, I'd kinda like to know if Acephalous actually does present his findings [much of the MLA site appears to be members-only].

Sunday, November 26, 2006

I'll lay down.

...under power. I like that one.

If you surf through the pages and pages of taser videos in YouTube, you can find a recurring theme:

cop [tasers suspect]
suspect [falls down]
cop "Get up, or I'll taser you again!"
suspect [fails to comply]
cop [tasers suspect]

WTF?! Don't cops all have to get tasered themselves before they're allowed to use tasers on actual people? Don't they understand that of course the suspect is not going to comply with any commands to get up, or roll over, or what have you, while under power?

Probably there are situations where a taser is the best weapon. Most likely, there are a lot of good cops, none of whom abuse suspects in this fashion.


There sure were an awful lot of big burly cops in that UCLA library. Surely they could have just picked up one measly student and carried him out.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Death Penalty

I'm against it.

Chilling factoid: public defenders that I know tell me that about 25% to 50% of their clients, were they offered the choice, say they'd rather be executed, instead of being sentenced to life in prison.

Another chilling thought: I've only heard this from public defenders, not from any criminal defense attorneys in private practice.

Anti Death Penalty web sites:
Death Penalty Information Center
Amnesty International: Abolish The Death Penalty

As of this writing, 1 in 8 people on death row in the US has been absolved of the crime they are condemned for:
The Innocence Project

I've been told that this documentary accurately portrays the justice system in the state of Florida:
Murder on a Sunday Morning

Pro Death Penalty web site:
Pro Death Penalty

From the US Dept of Justice:
Bureau of Justice Statistics

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Benchmark: December

Forget finishing the war for Poppy. Forget showing up Poppy: this is how you fight a war, Clueless Dad! Forget bringing democracy to the Middle East. Forget saving a helpless country -- hell, an entire benighted region -- from a brutal, Hitlerian dictator.

It's the OIL, stupid.

I've cherry-picked some excerpts for your reading pleasure.
Iraq is sitting on a mother lode of some of the lightest, sweetest, most profitable crude oil on earth, and the rules that will determine who will control it and on what terms are about to be set.

The Iraqi government faces a December deadline, imposed by the world's wealthiest countries, to complete its final oil law. Industry analysts expect that the result will be a radical departure from the laws governing the country's oil-rich neighbors, giving foreign multinationals a much higher rate of return than with other major oil producers and locking in their control over what George Bush called Iraq's "patrimony" for decades, regardless of what kind of policies future elected governments might want to pursue.

Chafing at the idea that the Chinese and Russians might end up with what is arguably the world's greatest energy prize, [oil] industry leaders lobbied hard for regime change throughout the 1990s. With the election of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney in 2000 -- the first time in U.S. history that two veterans of the oil industry had ever occupied the nation's top two jobs -- they would finally get the "greater access" to the region's oil wealth, which they had long lusted after.

But the execs from Big Oil didn't just want access to Iraq's oil; they wanted access on terms that would be inconceivable unless negotiated at the barrel of a gun. Specifically, they wanted an Iraqi government that would enter into production service agreements (PSAs) for the extraction of Iraq's oil.

PSAs, developed in the 1960s, are a tool of today's kinder, gentler neocolonialism; they allow countries to retain technical ownership over energy reserves but, in actuality, lock in multinationals' control and extremely high profit margins -- up to 13 times oil companies' minimum target, according to an analysis by the British-based oil watchdog Platform (PDF)

PSAs often have long terms -- up to 40 years -- and contain "stabilization clauses" that protect them from future legislative changes. As Muttit points out, future governments "could be constrained in their ability to pass new laws or policies." That means, for example, that if a future elected Iraqi government "wanted to pass a human rights law, or wanted to introduce a minimum wage [and it] affected the company's profits, either the law would not apply to the company's operations or the government would have to compensate the company for any reduction in profits." It's Sovereignty Lite [emphasis mine].

And those are just from part one of Joshua Holland's two-part series Bush's Petro-Cartel Almost Has Iraq's Oil over at AlterNet.
[read part two here]


taking a break from ranting, raving, pseudo-pontificating

Brought to you by the war in Iraq:

Iraq Calling
Birding Babylon
Home Range

Sunday, November 12, 2006

post-Election-Day decompression

I voted.

This is the first election where I was not a gung-ho yellow dog.

Oh, I've voted for the odd Republican on the odd occasion, mostly because I live in a conservative area where only Republicans have run for local offices in recent years. But in statewide and national elections, I've voted almost exclusively straight-ticket Democrat.

Yes, straight-ticket voting is the lazy citizen's way: pick a party you like the sound of, or the major candidate you like the looks of, and vote for that party in all other races.

You may deplore, and I often have, the lack of rigorous inspection of the candidates and the issues, but if about half-ish of the people vote for One Party and about half-ish of the people vote for The Opposing Party, what you get is a befuddle of several hundred people standing in the middle of the road, verbally pushing and shoving each other, and engaging in legislative tug-of-war over bridges to tiny Alaskan islands.

We're a lot safer, and the world is safer from us, if we busy ourselves with pork-barrel politics, arguing over how to divvy up this year's tax revenues for each others' states, than if we're all on the same page, marching to the beat of the same drummer, following our Fearless Leader into A Brighter Future, Bringing Democracy to The Rest of The World. That all sounds loverly, but what if that fearless leader decides that spreading Democracy means that we need to invade helpless, backward nations, listen in on everyone's phone calls without warrants, establish secret prisons, and re-define torture?

Oh, wait ....

This year I took IOZ' advice and voted for some Independents. I sort of have to agree with his assessment of the Democrats, though the rest of my votes all went to the Party of Yellow Dogs, and for now I'm still gloating over the Democrats taking both houses of Congress by narrow squeaks.

I'm taking Rumsfeld's resignation as a sign that maybe things will change for the better. The next step I'd most like to see? Impeach Cheney.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Yo! WaPo! Yoo hoo! Look over here!

I know it's just a tiny little nit-picky thingy, hardly worth worrying your busy little brains about, but Florida has TWO time zones. Our polls here in the Panhandle close at 7:00 PM Central Standard Time. That would be 8:00 PM Eastern Time, for those of you who may be historically and/or geographically challenged.


Polls, polls, polls, polls

Push Polls
Just plain evil. Masquerading as polls, when in reality they're only "Vote for X" ads. That little deception is bad enough, but the scary thing is: people fall for them. Even scarier, otherwise smart people are stupid enough to believe that nobody falls for the messages in push polls.

Popularity Contests
Then there The Polls, the popularity contests, the ones everybody watches. Candidates want to know if they are popular enough to get elected. Voters want to know how everyone else is planning to vote so that they'll know how to vote too. The Media, drama queens to the bone, keep themselves center stage by recounting to us, with pretty pictures and fulsome words, every moment-by-moment change in the numbers.

Exit Polls
I'm for free speech as much as the next person, and maybe more so, but exit ought to be outlawed, as electioneering. Can anybody say Florida 2000? And if that didn't convince you of the futility of letting media moguls tell us who our next President is, how about this discussion? Pardon me, but I want the news people to go back to reporting the news, like who actually won, based on the actual number of votes.

Place Your Bets
The polls of the future? And the policy decisions of the future? OK, so people with real or fictional money backing their guesses are more likely to [collectively] guess correctly, are best guesses the best way to decide important questions? Don't ask me, I only live here.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Kidnapped, tortured, bound, and gagged

No, this isn't about some heinous crime committed by some crazy mass murderer.

Oh, wait.

Dear Dubya,

You're regarded as one who likes simple answers to complex problems. Ordinarily, I wouldn't go along with this world view, but in this case I think I can help you out.

Stop "interrogating" them. We haven't got anything useful from them anyway.

Deport them. We've still got a few tax dollars left. I don't mind your spending them on plane/boat/bus tickets for everybody to send them back to where they came from.

No more upkeep on all that prison infrastructure. No more over-priced contractors to pay. No need to to spend time and money enforcing that pesky Military Commissions Act.

And just think of all the good will and positive political capital you'd reap for displaying your much-vaunted compassion.

There. Problem solved.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Some days I wish my name were Steve.

Alas, none of my names, given or assumed, remotely qualifies.

But it would be fun to twist the tails of the creationistas just a bit. Oh, wait. Somebody just did. Figures it'd be the Irish. 'Zat you, ZB?

You may have heard of the lists of scientists that the creationists are circulating, scientists who publicly claim to doubt evolution. Project Steve is a countering list of scientists who have credentials, all named Steve [in honor of Steven J Goulding**], who support the following statement:

Evolution is a vital, well-supported, unifying principle of the biological sciences, and the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the idea that all living things share a common ancestry. Although there are legitimate debates about the patterns and processes of evolution, there is no serious scientific doubt that evolution occurred or that natural selection is a major mechanism in its occurrence. It is scientifically inappropriate and pedagogically irresponsible for creationist pseudoscience, including but not limited to "intelligent design," to be introduced into the science curricula of our nation's public schools.

So, if you are a Steve of one stripe or another, and you have a science PhD, the world is waiting to see your name on a T-shirt.

Meanwhile, I'll continue to subvert the minds of the children around me [I've given up on their elders] with my volunteer work: tutoring them in the four Rs -- Readin', Ritin', 'Rithmetic, and Reason.

Correction: Stephen Jay Gould! I meant Stephen Jay Gould! Will whoever stole my brain please return it? I'm obviously in need of one that works.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Health? Care?

The US health care system doesn't. Care about health, that is. Unless it's CEOs caring about the health of their bank accounts.

Over the course of my insured and uninsured life, I've gone from believing in the market solution, aka Competition Will Set You Free -- Buy My Insurance Plan! No, Buy MY Insurance Plan! No, Buy MINE! -- to facing up to reality.

I've whined before, many times, and no doubt will do so again, about corporate greed, corrupt politicians, and the clueless masses who enable the first two.

But not right now.

Angry Bear, my new favorite economist-blogger, has a series of seven posts on "The U.S. Healthcare System" [links are in his lefthand sidebar, under "Topics"]. I'll start you off with the first installment here: The Real Crisis.

Right now, I'm leaning towards Congressman John Conyers' The United States National Health Insurance Act, H.R. 676 [“Expanded & Improved Medicare For All”]

I've only skimmed most of the the articles, posts, and links so far, so I can't make any informed comment yet.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

letter to Senator Bill Nelson, D-FL


My etiquette guide tells me that I should be addressing this to The Honorable Bill Nelson, and not so long ago I might have done just that. Your voting record tells me that you've been representing my interests reasonably well, in some areas at least.

Now that you've voted YES to the Military Commissions Act of 2006 though, I can no longer say that. To think that my elected representatives could actually codify and legalize torture [among other ills] and that so many of my fellow citizens agree with you...

Words fail me.

Senator, tell me why I -- a Yellow Dog Democrat registered here in the state of Florida for almost as long as you have been an active politician here in the state of Florida -- why should I continue to vote for you? Why shouldn't I just write in Yellow Dog for Senator on my ballot on Tuesday?

Your answer should contain, just for starters: "repeal the Patriot Act" and "repeal the Military Commissions Act" and "get out of Iraq" and "get out of Afghanistan."