Saturday, April 30, 2005

Q: "Prove that George Bush is a war criminal."

You know, in all the excitement lately, I plumb forgot to mention that, why, yes, George W. Bush is in fact a war criminal, as you can now safely conclude from the CIA's final report that, no, there don't appear to be any WMDs in Iraq.

Remember, once upon a time, when the Bush administration's rationale for invasion was that, absolutely, fer shure, Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. As in, no doubt about it, positively, cross my heart and swear on a bottle of Jenna's favourite bourbon, as you can see from numerous quotes here.

But, as we've all seen lately, now that the WMDs appear to be as prevalent as ethics at a Tom DeLay fundraiser, the rationale has mysteriously shifted. "But", the wankers will say, "it was worth it to get rid of Saddam, wasn't it? Are you saying you'd rather have left him in power? Is that what you're suggesting?"

To which you can now properly respond, "Stop being such a complete asshole." Because, you see, regardless of what kind of bad man Saddam was, or how terribly he treated his own people, or how badly those people might have wanted democracy (if you can call what they have now "democracy"), none of that -- absolutely none of it -- represented what was repeatedly described as a grave, gathering, impending or imminent threat to the United States. None of it.

Which means -- therefore, thusly and QED -- that Admiral Bunnypants' "pre-emptive" invasion of Iraq was illegal in every possible way. No WMDs implies no imminent threat. No imminent threat implies no rationale for pre-emptive invasion. No rationale for pre-emptive invasion implies invasion was illegal, which implies (you guessed it) war criminal.

If you missed any part of that, I'd be delighted to type it again more slowly.

Power Line Blog and reality: Not on speaking terms.

What to say about this, PowerLine's Buttrocket on Commander Chimpy's press conference that was so lame, even the major networks abandoned it before the end to get back to regular programming?

A great job by President Bush tonight. President Bush can be his own best spokesman. For whatever reasons, he doesn't like doing press conferences. But if I were advising him, I would tell him to do a press conference every thirty days. He stands head and shoulders above his Democratic rivals, intellectually, politically, and morally.

How to respond to this? Seriously. Now you know why they call us the reality-based community.

P.S. And you can get off your knees, ButtBoy. When it comes to presidential fellatin', that position's already taken.

Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins pimp-slaps religion in a big way.

Over here. And the sad thing is how many folks will read that article and think, "Yeah, all those other religions -- they sure are idiotic, aren't they?"

Over-react much lately?

From the department of "Whoa, chill out, dude!", we have the story of how a giant burrito caused the lockdown of a middle school.

Sure, it sounds amusing, but once giant burritos become socially acceptable, what next? How long until those same students turn to the harder stuff like, say, falafel?

Suddenly, it's not so funny, is it?

When God is trying to tell you something.

From over here at CNN:

A Georgia woman, who was found in New Mexico early Saturday and who said she had been abducted, admitted today she had made up the story because she was nervous about her upcoming wedding, police said... Her father, Harris Wilbanks, said a new wedding date will be set after they talk to her.

Memo to prospective groom: You have two choices here. And one of them is really, really stupid. Think hard.

Friday, April 29, 2005

The crap anti-creationists have to put up with.

There's nothing more dangerous than an idiot with a lawyer.

You tell 'em, Juan.

When some dick named Matthew Haughey complains about the use of the term "mainstream media", Juan Cole tells him where to get off.

I mean, come on, what's the problem, Matt? It's not like we got really offensive and called some of your colleagues journalistic, suck-up, sycophantic man whores or anything.

Oh, wait ...

BONUS TRACK: Steve Gilliard also has something to say on this whole "Bloggers aren't real journalists." bullshit.

Friday afternoon weasel blogging.

Another one of them least weasels.

They're just so photogenic. And (mixed company alert), this is what happens when you Google on "weasel pics" without being more specific.

The preznit's press conference.

Oh, so you missed the preznit's press conference? No sweat. Via TBogg, Norbizness tells you everything you need to know.

The oozing, pustulent sack of hypocrisy that is Weasel Boy.

Dear Readers:

I know you mean well, so I'm always a good sport when one of you, on occasion, sends me a private e-mail asking something like, "Have you seen the incredibly stupid thing Weasel Boy posted this week?" Most of the time, probably not, since I try to associate with assholes as little as possible, either directly or by phosphor. But, yes, I will give my latest correspondent this -- WB's latest piece really is an eye-opening piece of ignorant, hate-filled swill.

Over here, WB sympathizes with cut-rate, Ann Coulter-wanna be and right-wing screech harpy Laura Ingraham, whose integrity (or, more appropriately, total lack of it) is more than adequately documented in many places, such as here.

Apparently, Ingraham was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, and Weasel Boy is shocked -- shocked and appalled, I say -- at the overwhelming lack of sympathy from the left for Ingraham. Some of the vitriol is, as WB points out, downright nasty:

I don't pray for Nazis or other Totalitarian Scum

They have caused too much pain to others.

On the other hand, perhaps I will do a bit of praying.

Yes, that she share, appropriately, the wing of Hell populated by Hitler's lower managmement, radio personalities, and writers from the Ministry of Propaganda.

Which is where her soul belongs in the Afterlife.

Excuse me, I have some praying to do.

There's more (as you can see for yourself), which naturally allows WB to imply that the right is composed only of compassionate, caring altruists, while the left are a bunch of intolerant, hate-filled bigots. Fancy that -- the thought that, after years of Ingraham being an ignorant, pathological liar and mouthpiece, there are some on the left who just don't give a shit what happens to her. Hard to believe, isn't it? Who'd a thunk it?

And, of course, if you read only Weasel Boy (and God help you if that's true), you'd never think that those on the right could be equally capable of such contempt. You'd never imagine, after the death by car bomb of peace activist Marla Ruzicka, that anyone in the right-wing wankerverse could write a hate-filled screed like, say, this one, with such tasty excerpts as:

"... Marla Ruzicka’s sole purpose is to legitimize our enemies, cause problems for U.S. troops already in harm's way, and morally equate dead terrorists with victims of 9/11... She formed the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC), the goal of which was anything but CIVIC during the War on Terror or ever. Ruzicka’s aim was to force the U.S. government to get an “accurate” count of “innocent civilian” deaths by U.S. troops and blackmail America into paying monetary settlements for each death... Ruzicka went to Iraq as an activist for Code Pink, which is more aptly titled “Code Pinko” by writer Jean Pearce. Code Pink is an assortment of neo-Commie America-haters who love Fidel Castro (and Cuba under him) and Marxist Sandinista thugs (thankfully, long ago deposed) and have ties to environmental terrorist groups (Animal Liberation Front and Environmental Liberation Front ..."

and other tasty descriptions. And there's the absolutely delicious finishing touch on that article:

While it’s a sad day when any American gets killed by Islamic terrorists, it’s measurably less sad when that American aided and abetted them—and belittled our troops.

For Marla Ruzicka, some might call it, poetic justice.

Yeah, let's face it -- that bitch got what was coming to her. No more, no less. But, gosh, isn't it odd how Weasel Boy manages to miss this when he's talking about ideological intolerance?

Of course, we might just give WB the benefit of the doubt and assume he was saving this stuff for Part 2. Just to be fair and balanced, of course. 'Cuz if he wasn't, well, that would mean he was just a festering sack of conservative hypocrisy and dishonesty. So I'm sure this is all a misunderstanding and we can all look forward to the Weasel's fair and balanced followup.

After all, it would just be the right thing to do, wouldn't it?

UPDATE: And, needless to say, there are others who write about this far better than I do. Like here. Jesus, how is it that, when you figure you've reached the absolute bottom of the barrel in terms of human degradation and intolerance, you find David Horowitz's face staring up at you? It's just plain creepy.

: Justin Raimondo adds his two cents here. And Roxanne over here. And Steve M. over here.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Open thread.

Make yourselves useful. Or something.

Bobo's world -- locally speaking. Creationism comes to town.

If you're local to K-W and are bored stupid this coming Saturday and you just don't have enough flat earth-style quackery in your life, well, have I got a seminar (or two) for you.

Courtesy of the K-W Record, we have the following (sadly, unable to find an online link):

Two exciting free seminars!
Sat., April 30, 2005, Adult Recreation Centre, 185 King St. S., Waterloo

2 p.m. "The Bible and Physics"
7:45 p.m. "Darwin vs. Genesis"

Now, personally, I'd love to see a face-off between Darwin and Genesis, considering that one of those two is an ancient collection of absurd myths while the other's been dead for over a century.

And our speaker?

Dr. John C. Bilello, Professor Emeritus, U. of Michigan, Materials Science and Engineering. Dr. Bilello has spoken and written on issues relating to Science and the inspiration of the Bible for many years and he is currently writing a book on the subject.

And as we all know, there's no one more qualified to discuss topics related to biological evolution than a Bible-inspired professor of materials science and engineering.

So what scintillating issues will be covered? Well, there's:

  • How can modern scientific discoveries regarding the age of the universe and the formation of life be reconciled with the teaching of the Bible?

  • What does the Bible have to do with modern physics? [Yeah, I'd kind of like to know that, too.]

  • Is life the product of chance and "natural selection" or is it the work of an Intelligent Designer? [Gee, based on what I've read so far, I'm betting "Designer". Call me wacky.]

What's particularly amusing is that Belillo is competing against another wingnut organization giving creationist talks locally the very same day. The humour comes from the fact that the competing group, Answers in Genesis, has at least a fleeting grip on reality, given that it's actually published its own web page of creationist arguments even they think are bogus. And wouldn't it be amusing to use one creationist group's work to beat up on another creationist? Irony, sweet irony.

Anyway, I'm probably going to check out both of them, but not to raise any kind of ruckus. I will be there to, as they say, just document the atrocities. And if, perchance, the local paper covers this, it might be fun to see just how accurately (or inaccurately) they describe what eventually happened.

So, come on down. Regardless of how wretched this turns out to be, we can always go for beer afterwards to dull the pain.

Here's an online piece that gives you some insight into Bilello's thought processes. I can't say it's so much wingnut maddening as just confusing and inconsequential. But, hey, I'm willing to be convinced otherwise.

Taking it to the workplace.

And, suddenly, I'm looking forward to going in to the office again:

Being a nice person in the office may not necessarily be a wise career move.

If you want to increase your salary, research shows that you may have to do it by being cold, disagreeable and antagonistic at work rather than by being nice.

And, yes, I'd like that coffee right now, if you don't mind.

Holy shit! There's a "plan" after all!

From Reuters, we will be hearing from the chimp who walks like a man:

President Bush will hold a prime time press conference on Thursday night, his first in over a year, to offer more details about his plans to overhaul Social Security, the White House announced.

His "plans"? So there really are "plans" now? What an exciting development.

A quick, throw-away puzzle.

Rumour has it that the following puzzle is used by at least one company during job interviews to test an applicant's critical thinking skills. Through exhaustive search, it's pretty easy to find the solution, but it's a bit more challenging to analyze the puzzle to zero in on the solution based on pure logical deduction. So, we're not just after the solution, we're after how you got to it. (By the way, apparently job applicants are given only five minutes to solve it, which is why the logical deduction thing is not a bad idea.)

"U2" has a concert that starts in 17 minutes and the group members must all cross a bridge to get there. All four men begin on the same side of the bridge. You must help them across to the other side. It is night. There is one flashlight. A maximum of two people can cross at one time. Any party who crosses, either one or two people, must have the flashlight to see. The flashlight must be walked back and forth, it cannot be thrown, etc. Each band member walks at a different speed. A pair must walk together at the rate of the slower man's pace, based on this information:

* Bono: - 1 minute to cross

* Edge: - 2 minutes to cross

* Adam: - 5 minutes to cross

* Larry: - 10 minutes to cross

For example: if Bono and Larry walk across first, 10 minutes have elapsed when they get to the other side of the bridge. If Larry then returns with the flashlight, a total of 20 minutes will have passed and you will have failed.

And ... go. Tick, tick, tick ...

OPEN FOR SOLUTIONS, noon Eastern time, Friday, Apr 29, so don't post any answers yet.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

When really, really, really stupid people say stupid things.

And over at what TBogg calls the corner of mediocrity and banality, we have K. Lo, apparently having flunked her first-year college course in thinking:

WMDS IN SYRIA? [K. J. Lopez]
The CIA can't rule out that's where Saddam's weapons went.

Quick. Spot the logical fallacy.

A real expert lays a beating on David Horowitz.

It's pretty humbling to see a true professional at work. Yow.

An apparent urban legend about Canada's health care.

All right, we can now speak with some authority on a recent, rather bizarre criticism of Canada's health care system, with the conclusion that the claim we're about to investigate is almost certainly bull... uh, bogus. Yeah, that's it. Bogus.

To recap, back on April 21, one Preston MacDougall, a chemistry professor at Middle Tennessee State University, wrote an op-ed piece for the Tennessean, in which he slammed the quality of Canadian health care, writing in part:

Canadians aren't so lucky when it comes to emergency medical care. A recent mayor of Toronto was forced to wait eight long hours on a stretcher, with a broken leg, before seeing an emergency room physician. And this was in a Toronto hospital! As excruciating as it sounds to us, Canadians are accustomed to it.

This piece was brought to my attention by the troublemakers over at Tennessee Guerilla Women, who wanted to know if there was anything to the story.

Well, on first reading, it's hard not to think that the story is just plain absurd on its face. Even without knowing the identity of the individual, does anyone really believe that a former city mayor (I'm interpreting the adjective "recent" to mean "former") with a broken leg would have simply been abandoned in an emergency room for eight hours before being seen? For you Americans, as an analogy, would Rudy Guiliani have suffered the same ignominy if he'd shown up in emergency in the same shape? Regardless of what you might think of Rudy, the answer is, probably not. So it's hard to believe something similar would happen here. But, not wanting to jump to conclusions, I decided to investigate.

Being the adventurous type that I am, I availed myself of Google and dug around for numerous combinations of the phrases "Toronto", "former mayor", "broken leg", "eight hours" and "emergency", figuring that that item would have been newsworthy enough to have been covered somewhere in the media.


Seriously -- not one hit that appeared to refer to anything even remotely resembling the incident in MacDougall's piece. How odd. In that case, on to Plan B.

Given that MacDougall's e-mail address was displayed at the bottom of the piece, I e-mailed him directly, explaining that I lived near Toronto and that I had never heard anything of the sort and that, more critically, neither had Google and could he be more specific with the details, please?

MacDougall's response, which I reprint here in its entirety, narrows it down slightly but not completely:

The mayor was Mel Lastman, and the incident was early during his term as mayor (of Toronto). I recall the details from an article from a major Toronto daily paper. It was sent to me by a friend. I no longer have the article. Sorry I can't provide more details.

All right, it's not what I was hoping for but at least I had a name. And given that it was allegedly covered in a "major Toronto daily paper", surely that means that Google would know something about it.

Again, nothing.

This was becoming more and more puzzling so I once again e-mailed MacDougall, describing my confusion and suggesting that, given the lack of detail, it was possible that this was just an urban legend, perhaps? MacDougall's response, again in its entirety:

I am well aware of the urban legend phenomenon, and visit often. I have also saved many friends from embarrassment by referring them to this site as well. I hope that I haven't embarrassed MYself, but I recall very well reading the story at a reputable paper's website, discussing it with Canadian relatives, and forwarding the story to others.

Hopefully Mr. Lastman reads your blog, and will provide you with details.

As you can see, that's not really much of an answer. Normally, propagating an urban legend isn't a big deal, unless you do it on the op-ed page of a newspaper as an example of how Canada's health care system sucks. In that case, yeah, you really do kind of have an ethical obligation to have your facts straight. So, once more, back to the e-mail, in which I pointed out once more to MacDougall that, if there's not a shred of supporting evidence from Google, it's hard to believe that this is anything but a fable and that, if he's going to repeat this story, it would be nice if he had the details to back it up. Whereupon, the response:

I was also unable, using Google, to find any reference to my grandfather's death while waiting for a simple by-pass operation. If this also troubles you, I could look into whether or not it would be possible to send a small sample of his cremated remains.

Ah. So now Prof. MacDougall has gone from being a correspondent to just being a dick. Apparently, this is what passes for humour in his universe. Also, apparently, he sees no problem with promoting completely unsubstantiated fairy tales on the op-ed pages of a major online newspaper. That's generally considered pretty tacky behaviour, no matter what country you live in.

So, let's open it up to the readers. Given what details you have, can you track down any supporting evidence for MacDougall's claim? To be fair, of course it's always possible that this happened. But, so far, we have nothing but MacDougall's word for it and, given his rather dismissive nonchalance regarding the need for actual evidence, I'd really like to have more than his sarcastic reassurances. If you catch my drift.

UPDATE: Over here, from February of 1999, we have the tantalizing teaser, "Mel Lastman claimed a visit to an emergency ward "scared the hell" out of him, but it later emerged that he received VIP treatment." I think we're getting close, so who can fill in the blanks?

MORE UPDATE: From another issue from that same site: "[Lastman] understands what good service is, especially when it comes to waiting around in an emergency room in an Ontario hospital." So why the heck is it so hard to track down details on the actual incident? Argh.

Your next puzzle -- fun with bandsaws.

(Moved up since it's solution time.)

So while we're doing the post-mortem on this last puzzle, here's a simpler one. Someone gives you a bandsaw and a cube of wood and asks you to cut it into 27 smaller, identical cubes -- as if you had a Rubik's cube:

and wanted to slice it into its 27 smaller component cubes.

Now, it's obvious that you can do this with six cuts -- two in each dimension -- that solution's trivial. But let's say that, after each cut, you get to reorganize and re-orient your current pieces of wood before making the next cut, to try to maximize the effect of each cut.

How few cuts will you need? And, once again, hold off with the solutions until everyone gets their shot at it.

OPEN FOR SOLUTIONS: OK, feel free to post solutions. And my apologies to the previous commenter whose solution I deleted. I thought I could just undelete it but, apparently, there is no way to undelete comments. My bad.

Microsoft's anti-gay rationalizations about as reliable as its software.

Norm over at One Good Move sums it up nicely. More on this later.

Remember when?

And doesn't this article from November of 2002 just take you back?

There will be no World War III starting with Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld declared Thursday, and rejected concerns that a war would be a quagmire.

"The idea that it's going to be a long, long, long battle of some kind I think is belied by the fact of what happened in 1990," he said on an Infinity Radio call-in program.

He said the U.S. military is stronger than it was during the Persian Gulf War, while Iraq's armed forces are weaker.

"Five days or five weeks or five months, but it certainly isn't going to last any longer than that," he said.

Oh, well. Back to modern-day reality:

The insurgency in Iraq is "about where it was a year ago," in terms of attacks, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said but he said American and Iraqi troops are gaining ground in the two-year-old conflict.

Gen. Richard Myers told reporters Tuesday that the number of insurgent attacks has run between 50 and 60 a day in the past week, up from a recent average of about 40 a day.

Just another PZMyers/PowerLine beatdown.

It has to be frustrating for poor PZ, wondering whether he should be wasting his time rebutting such indescribable ignorance.

From Powerline I learned how stupid some people can be.

This AP headline caught my eye: Expert: Apes May Be Key to Human Nature. This strikes me as odd. I would think that humans provide better clues to human nature than apes, and we have thousands of years of human history, not to mention six billion or so living humans, to draw on for information about human nature. But the idea of drawing conclusions about humans from observations of apes has a long history, and shows no signs of going away. Why is that? I suspect it's because some people don't like what human history and human behavior tell us about human nature.

Strangely, while I would normally feel anger at such self-absorbed ignorance from a pundit, these comments stepped so far outside the bounds of what we know that I could only feel pity. Poor John Hinderaker; so unaware, so close-minded, so wrong. He sits there smug and insulated, not knowing that right there in his city there are people who are working to derive the history and function of his every molecule, tracing them right back to those apes he finds irrelevant, and further to fish and bugs and worms and the little invisible germs proliferating on his body. How can we understand human nature if we ignore its antecedents?

The conventional view is that religion in general, and Catholicism in particular, represents a backward, primitive way of looking at the world, and especially at human nature, compared to modern, progressive science. But who do you think has a more sophisticated understanding of human nature: Cardinal Ratzinger, the new pope, or the researcher who believes that studying bonobos can enable humans to construct an "ideal world"?

Cardinal Ratzinger is an ape. He is driven by oh-so-typical ape motivations, the desire for dominance, the need to control the reproductive behavior of other members of his clan, the back-and-forth of social feedback. His brain contains circuits of reward and punishment we can find in rats. His neurotransmitters and the signalling cascades that modulate his neuronal activity are present in worms. The ion channels that mediate transmembrane potentials are inherited from single-celled eukaryotes. The machinery of his cells can be mapped back billions of years. I suspect that troop of primates dwelling in the Vatican could learn a great deal from the objective eye of a primatologist.

Who has the more sophisticated understanding of human nature: the man who thinks he can squeeze our history into a span of a few thousand years and the isolated vision of a single species and worse, the limited traditions of a single culture, or the one who aspires to comprehend the full breadth and depth of our place in the universe?

Jesus Christ, Time, what have you been mainlining lately? First these PowerLine dipshits as Blog of the Year, and then that Ann Coulter lovefest. I mean, what the fuck?

Morals-based Family Research Council is a little, uh, racist.

Shocked, shocked I am, at these recent developments:

Senate majority leader Bill Frist appeared through a telecast as a speaker at "Justice Sunday," at the invitation of the event's main sponsor, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins. "Justice Sunday" was promoted as a rally to portray Democrats as being "against people of faith." Many of the speakers compared the plight of conservative Christians to the civil rights movement. But in sharing the stage with Perkins, who introduced him to the rally, Frist was associating himself with someone who has longstanding ties to racist organizations.

Four years ago, Perkins addressed the Louisiana chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), America's premier white supremacist organization, the successor to the White Citizens Councils, which battled integration in the South. In 1996 Perkins paid former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke $82,000 for his mailing list. At the time, Perkins was the campaign manager for a right-wing Republican candidate for the US Senate in Louisiana. The Federal Election Commission fined the campaign Perkins ran $3,000 for attempting to hide the money paid to Duke.

Ah, for the good old days, when darkies knew their place and, if they didn't, well, there were always police dogs and fire hoses. I'll bet Perkins just lies awake at night, waxing nostalgic.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

A Canadian health care urban legend takes root.

Back here, I wrote about a recent op-ed piece in a Tennessee newspaper in which the writer dissed the Canadian health care system, writing the following:

"Canadians aren't so lucky when it comes to emergency medical care. A recent mayor of Toronto was forced to wait eight long hours on a stretcher, with a broken leg, before seeing an emergency room physician. And this was in a Toronto hospital! As excruciating as it sounds to us, Canadians are accustomed to it."

Despite Googling myself silly, I couldn't find anything that even remotely resembled something like that, and the ladies who asked about it in the first place eventually wrote their own piece on it.

Sadly, even though this bears all the earmarks of a piece of ridiculous fiction, it's already been picked up by the right-wing echo chamber, and one can only imagine how long it will be before it's a permanent part of the conservative folklore. Those morons really will believe the damndest things, won't they?

Pimp-slapping David Horowitz: Part II.

It's not like one need write any more about the pathological dishonesty of right-wing lunatic David Horowitz but, what the heck, I'm in an effusive mood today. So, once you've read part one a bit lower down, you can continue the story here where we'll disembowel the rest of Dave's rancid piece of excrement here.

Now, in order to really appreciate the rest of this post, we have to briefly jump into the middle of Dave's ranting to the following short exchange between Dave and Prof. Jonathan Goldberg-Hiller at the U. of Hawaii, where Dave tries to get chummy with Hiller at their first meeting, describing it thusly:

[I] was about to put out my hand when [Hiller] retorted, "I'm one of the liberals on your list." What he meant was my McCarthy list.

In short, Hiller was making it clear that he didn't much care for Dave, given Dave's predilection for slagging any academics he considers unacceptably left wing, including many he's never even met. And, whether you like it or not, that's Hiller's choice. But why is that brief conversation such a big deal? Because of the very opening paragraph of Dave's article, in which he demonstrates just what kind of repugnant human being he really is:

The story I'm about to relate took place on my visit to the Honolulu campus of the University of Hawaii last week. It is entirely indicative of the unprofessional, ungracious, and unacceptable behavior of many professors on our college campuses, in this case the chairman of the Political Science Department at this school, a man named Jonathan Goldberg Hiller. The student who invited me to the University on behalf of the College Republicans -- I will call him Jamie -- is a political science major. In anticipation of my visit, Jamie had asked Professor Hiller if his Department would be one of the sponsors of my talk and if the Department would host a reception for me. Professor Hiller said yes to both requests.

That's right -- even though Dave had clearly previously slandered Hiller in some way (and Dave makes it clear that he knows what Hiller is talking about), Hiller still offers to help sponsor Dave's talk and, furthermore, offers to have his department host a reception.

Think about that.

Hiller has, Dave implicitly admits, genuine reason to be mightily pissed with Dave, but Hiller still agrees to both of the student's requests. Oh, yeah, Dave, that's some mighty fine anti-conservative discrimination there -- when Hiller would have had every right to tell you to cram it where the sun don't shine, and yet still gives you the chance to have your say. Talk about a biased, closed-minded bastard. But here's the funny part:

I hardly need to add that the only professor who showed up for the reception was the lone conservative in the department whom I knew already and whom I had already met, and who as a woman and a minority had slipped through the conservative hiring screen.

Now that's priceless. Apparently, it's not enough for Hiller and his department to let him speak and to set up a reception for him. Now Dave is pissed because they won't give him a hero's welcome or something. And this is where someone should explain to Dave the real meaning of "academic freedom."

Academic freedom, Dave, means that, even if some folks arrange for you to give a talk, they still have the freedom to just plain not like you. And to not show up for your reception. It's their choice, just as it's your choice to insult them publicly when you've never even met them. Academic freedom, Dave, means it's their right to treat you like the total asshole that you are. If only one professor showed up, that should tell you just how popular you are in academia. And it's not hard to realize that that's no one's fault but yours. But it's the larger picture that shows what kind of jerk Dave really is.

As you can read from the article, Dave had clearly already insulted Hiller in some way. And yet, in spite of that, we have Hiller agreeing to sponsor Dave's talk, which even Dave describes as:

My speech, which was in the evening, went tolerably well. There were no pies and though there were some catcalls and a wall of hostile posters faced me from the rear of the audience, I spoke for an hour and there no interruptions. I was even presented with a lei.

So ... invited to talk, a reception, no pies, no interruptions, and a lei to top it all off. And in response to this hospitality, we have Dave, teeing off on everyone involved:

"... unprofessional, ungracious, and unacceptable behavior ... Why can't we expect the same professionalism and decency from our professors? ... This is really what my academic freedom campaign is about. It is about professorial bullies, so pathetic in their self-esteem, as to carry on a daily war against students twenty and thirty and forty years their juniors and over whom they have immense institutional power..."

In short, Hiller and his department go out of their way to give Dave the chance to speak his piece, and Dave responds with insults and name-calling. Yes, there is a lesson here. Apparently, there's little incentive to accommodate Horowitz any more. Bend over backwards to appease him and you'll just get slagged for your trouble.

If that's the case, you might as well save yourself the effort and get slagged anyway. The end result is the same, it just means you'll have saved yourself the trouble of pandering to a whiny, unsatisfiable little piece of shit. It's your choice.

Howdy to the folks from pirateballerina.

Just noticed from sitemeter the occasional visit from that Ward Churchill-related site. You're probably getting linked here because of a single reference to Churchill in my latest David Horowitz-bashing installment. That's life. But feel free to browse.

Stunning, breaking news! No WMDs found in Iraq!

Holy ambiguously gay duo, Batman! No WMDs found in Iraq! Who could possibly have guessed? I mean, who could possibly have even imagined the unimaginable -- that Iraq never really possessed WMDs in the first place? Gosh, I don't know ... maybe ... this guy?

What the hell IS it with David Horowitz?

It's not like I want to make a career out of beating Dave with a tire iron (although, truth be told, that thought has some definite appeal), but, Jesus on a stick, it's breathtaking just how repulsive this guy and his Academic Fascists "Backwards r" Us culties can be. The latest evidence comes from a recent piece by Dave over at Clown Hall (reproduced robotically at the SAF site), where Dave describes his harsh, skin-roughening treatment at yet another campus where he's accused academics of being un-American, terrorist traitors. Let's follow the bouncing gibberish, shall we?

The story I'm about to relate took place on my visit to the Honolulu campus of the University of Hawaii last week. It is entirely indicative of the unprofessional, ungracious, and unacceptable behavior of many professors on our college campuses, in this case the chairman of the Political Science Department at this school, a man named Jonathan Goldberg Hiller.

Oooooh ... harsh words. And what exactly is Hiller guilty of?

The student who invited me to the University on behalf of the College Republicans -- I will call him Jamie -- is a political science major. In anticipation of my visit, Jamie had asked Professor Hiller if his Department would be one of the sponsors of my talk and if the Department would host a reception for me. Professor Hiller said yes to both requests.

Why, damn him! Damn that man and his left-wing, pro-liberal, anti-conservative, gutless appeasement. The nerve, I say, the unlimited nerve! To help sponsor Dave and then, even worse, to host a reception for him! And to further insult Dave with a "modest honorarium"? Have they no shame at all? Anyway, onward.

Dave continues with what, in his pre-Neanderthal mind, is clear evidence of anti-wingnut bias when he compares his visit with that of the controversial Ward Churchill:

Before Churchill arrived professors in political science and other departments vied with each other for the honor of introducing him, and attended in droves, and encouraged their students to do likewise. No professors showed up for my speech.

Gee, Dave, I just don't understand that. Could it be perhaps because you've made an entire career of accusing left-wing academics of being prejudiced, treasonous, un-American communist sympathizers who are in bed with terrorists? Could that have anything to do with it? Think hard now, it might eventually come to you.

But Dave's horrors were just beginning as we can see from his own description of his evening speech:

My speech, which was in the evening, went tolerably well. There were no pies and though there were some catcalls and a wall of hostile posters faced me from the rear of the audience, I spoke for an hour and there no interruptions. I was even presented with a lei.

Mother of God! No pies, no interruptions and a lei afterwards! Does the treachery of these evil leftist professors know no bounds at all? The horror, the horror! But if you think you've plumbed the depths of Dave's duplicity and stupidity, you ain't seen nuthin' yet.

The reception at the Political Science Department had been scheduled for earlier in the afternoon. At the appointed time, Jamie, who is a soft spoken well-mannered young man, brought me to the Political Science Department outer office. The first thing I noticed was that the Chairman's office door was adorned with a large Anti-Iraq War poster. I have made a personal campaign against such political statements on professorial offices.

Really? Can this be true? It would certainly be an odd position from the founder of the organization "Students for Academic Freedom". Read that name again. Students. For. Academic. Freedom. Generally meaning, you know, freedom. Academically speaking. To do stuff like, maybe, put up posters on your office door. Or stuff like that. Of course, it doesn't faze Dave that, later in that very same column, he explains:

Of course the Academic Bill of Rights begins with a defense of their right to their political views,...

Obviously, then, when Dave says he supports their rights to their political views, well, come on, it's not like he really meant their, like, right to their, you know, political views. Or anything. (And it's not clear why an anti-war poster should immediately represent a political viewpoint, anyway. But that would be nuance and, as we've seen before, Dave doesn't do nuance.) But if you think you've seen just how dense and dishonest Dave and his followers can be, well, buckle up. 'Cuz it gets just plain weird now.

Dave describes a private chat he has with budding, little fascist-to-be "Jamie" thusly:

I asked Jamie, who is a senior and whose father served this country in the military, if he had ever taken a course with Professor Hiller. When he said no, I asked him why. He pointed at the [anti-war] sign.

Let's see, where to even start? First, is there any point in mentioning that Jamie's father served in the military? It has no apparent relevance to the conversation but Dave is just playing the sympathy card. I guess we should all be grateful that he didn't babble on about how Jamie was the last of 17 children, always wore hand-me-downs and had to trudge barefoot, five miles each way, to school and back in the winter, uphill both ways, or something equally stupid. No, this is just Dave, being an annoying suckup, going for the heartstrings. But that's almost sane compared to what follows.

Note how Dave asks Jamie if he's ever taken a course with Hiller, Jamie says no and, by way of explanation, just points to the anti-war poster. If there was ever a stupider response, I can't begin to imagine what it is. Note that Jamie, never having taken a course from Hiller, can't possibly have any firsthand knowledge of his classroom demeanour. None whatsoever. And yet, based on that simple poster, Jamie has clearly concluded that ... what? That Hiller would be biased? That Jamie would would be the target of in-class, pro-liberal prejudice? What?

Jamie openly admits he knows nothing of Hiller's teaching style and yet, he's already decided that any course Hiller teaches just wouldn't work for him. This isn't evidence of academic bias. It's evidence that Jamie is nothing more than a simpering, whiny little shit who can't get past someone's office door poster to decide if he wants to take a course. It's evidence that Jamie will happily imply academic, pro-liberal bias on absolutely no evidence whatsoever.

And the best part? Well, you and I both know that, from that day forward, based on that simple conversation and that poster, both Jamie and Dave are now going to have more "proof" of anti-conservative bias, aren't they? Neither of them will have ever set foot inside a Prof. Hiller classroom but both of them will describe, to anyone who listens and based on nothing more than a door poster, how Hiller is just another example of that nasty left-wing academic prejudice.

And another David Horowitz horror story will have been spun out of thin air. Or pulled out of his ass. Or whatever. Sort of like the way this guy does it.

: Apparently, that dastardly left-wing, terrorist academic community has embraced Prof. Jonathan Goldberg-Hiller, honouring him with a 2003 Regents' Medal for Excellence in Teaching. Bastards. Heartless, conniving, treacherous bastards, the lot of them.

NOTE: Part 2 coming shortly -- I'm not done with this quite yet.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Norbizness, making sure no one takes "Star Wars" too seriously.

Here. You can tell this is a lazy day bloggie-wise.

More David Horowitz stomping, TBogg style.

It's almost too easy.

Someone with a delightfully snarky sense of humour.

Over here. Enjoy.

Robert Service, updated for the Liberal Party.

And over here, we have JimBobby, channeling Robert Service with "Dangerous Fartin' Martin". Destined to become a classic wherever Ron Popeil pocket fishermen are sold.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Um ... where's my blogroll?

I only just now noticed that none of my blogroll is visible to the right side of the posts from Internet Explorer, but appears just fine using Firefox. Thoughts?

UPDATE: OK, it's way down at the bottom. And why would that be?

A math puzzle for the weekend.

The last couple of puzzles have clearly been too easy, so let's crank it up a notch. You and a friend agree to play the following game. You have a fair coin, and each of you is going to pick a sequence of length three of some combination of heads and tails. Once each of you has picked your sequence, you'll start flipping the coin and whoever's (consecutive) sequence comes up first wins.

In a gesture of generosity, you allow your buddy to choose and announce his sequence first. Once he's done that, you'll pick yours, at which point the flipping starts.

This leads to two questions:
  • (Easy) Once your friend has selected his sequence, what strategy should you use to pick yours?
  • (Not so easy) Based on the fact that you get to choose second and you choose wisely, what's the average probability that you can win this game?

Campus ideological bias and Hillary bashing. Oh, Jesus ...

You have to read this. Regular readers are aware that I've spent an inordinate amount of time slapping the bejeezus out of both right-wing nutbar David Horowitz and his koolaid-swilling little culties, the Student Nazis for Academic Fascism (and I'm in no way done with either of them yet). But, every so often, a new player jumps onto the field and, naturally, I must dispense with him as well.

Back here
, I took to task one Prof. Jon Reisman of the University of Maine at Machias, whose evidence for a prevailing anti-conservative bias was phrased thusly:

"Republicans and conservatives are in the closet mostly," said Jon Reisman, a professor at the University of Maine at Machias, who noted that he is the only member of the faculty with a Bush-Cheney sticker on his car.

"We have to speak up more, but the culture is pretty negative," he said, recalling that when Hilary Clinton visited the University of Maine as first lady, "it was almost a coronation," in contrast to Laura Bush's visit, which elicited "a pretty cool reception."

Now, at the time I responded to this, I have to admit that I hadn't read Reisman's words carefully enough as I suggested that maybe, just maybe, Hillary was more popular because a sitting U.S. Senator just naturally has more star power than a plastic, unaccomplished, former schoolteacher (uh, that would be Laura).

Well, in a private e-mail, Prof. Reisman drew my attention to the fact that the Hillary visit occurred while she was still first lady. So, why is this important?

First, it's worth pointing out that, even at the height of the Bill Clinton impeachment scandal, he was still a massively-popular president. As you can read here:

Finally, on Aug. 17, 1998, after relentless media attention, leaks, and news of Lewinsky's upcoming testimony, Clinton made history by becoming the first U.S. president to testify in front of a grand jury in an investigation of his own possibly criminal conduct. In an address to the nation that evening, he admitted to having had an “inappropriate relationship” with Lewinsky, but reaffirmed that he did not ask anyone to lie about or cover up the affair.

Paradoxically, however, in spite of the scandalous outcome of events, Clinton's overall popularity among Americans remained high. The country seemed willing to ignore his weaknesses in character, much as they did in the 1992 elections, as long as the economy was good, his policies were popular, and the United States remained strong abroad.

In short, it was the economy, stupid. While lots of Americans might have been appalled by Clinton's personal behaviour, they were just as likely to be pretty darned pleased with the way the economy was chugging along, and Hillary was the obvious beneficiary of that satisfaction when she travelled. Is it any surprise, then, that folks might be just tickled when she dropped in? But that's not the best part.

Note well that, in the year 2005, Reisman is using, as proof of academic pro-liberal bias, a visit by Hillary Clinton while she was still first lady. Think about that. Reisman's case for campus ideological discrimination is based on, of all things, a visit by Clinton from some time back in the 1990s.

This is Reisman's smoking gun -- a years-old visit by a Democratic first lady. Does it get any more desperate or pathetic than this? Truly, these are the people who can't let go, who can't forget, and who just can't, for the life of them, stop blaming Bill and Hillary for absolutely everything wrong with their sorry lives.

It's 2005, Admiral Smirk is into his second term, the economy is tanking, the deficit is soaring, U.S. soldiers are still dying overseas and yet ... and yet, it purely galls Reisman that his colleagues really liked Hillary when she stopped by sometime the previous decade.

What a sorry lot these people are.

: Well, well, well ... based on a little more research (and it's quite possible I'm totally out to lunch but I'm going to take a chance here), I'm going to suggest that the eminent Prof. Reisman is absolutely full of it, and I have the Google results to prove it.

Let's start with his recent (March 2005) story again:

"We have to speak up more, but the culture is pretty negative," he said, recalling that when Hilary [sic] Clinton visited the University of Maine as first lady, "it was almost a coronation," in contrast to Laura Bush's visit, which elicited "a pretty cool reception."

Really? So let's take a closer look at this, shall we, to see how the good Prof. Reisman cuts corners with the facts.

For this to be a meaningful comparison, it only makes sense that we compare the respective receptions of the first ladies at the same campus, no? That's only fair, do we all agree? So where would these visits have taken place?

According to one of the e-mails I got from Reisman, Clinton's visit was to "Orono", which I will naturally assume to be Maine's largest university in the town of that name. And when Reisman writes that Laura Bush, comparatively, got a "pretty cool reception," we would naturally assume that that would be at the same campus. And we would, by all accounts, be wrong.

A Google search on '"laura bush" visit university maine orono' provides several dozen hits but (as far as I can tell), none of them describe Laura visiting the actual campus. While they talk about the Bush twins (Jenna and not-Jenna) on campus, Laura is described as visiting Lewiston instead, which makes Reisman's comparison virtually worthless. But here's the capper.

As opposed to Reisman's description of Laura's "pretty cool reception", we have the September 11, 2004 issue of the Portland Press Herald, describing her visit thusly:

First lady Laura Bush described her husband as a champion of women's issues Friday during a campaign swing through Maine's second-largest city that emphasized a "W stands for women" theme to build support for President Bush among female voters. Speaking to a standing-room-only crowd in a converted church that now houses the Franco-American Heritage Center, Bush placed a decidedly female emphasis on the president's foreign and domestic track record, as well as his second-term agenda...

Although the audience for Bush's 19-minute speech included both genders, women seemed to dominate the crowd as well. The audience repeatedly waved "W stands for women" signs and shouted "Laura, Laura, Laura" when Bush first approached the podium after a string of female GOP activists addressed the crowd.

Oh, yes, that is one decidedly "cool" reception, isn't it?

It is, of course, entirely possible that Reisman is referring to some other visit of Laura's to some university campus in Maine but, if he is, Google is entirely unaware of it. Which suggests a really unpleasant implication -- that Reisman, like Horowitz, just makes shit up.

Please, Jon, say it ain't so.

Diversity? We don' need no steenkin' diversity.

And isn't this just delightfully tolerant and open-minded? Following a link from Atrios, we have the Rethuglicans, making sure this week's meeting of the Inter-American Telecommunications Commission isn't polluted by, you know, people who might think differently:

The Inter-American Telecommunication Commission meets three times a year in various cities across the Americas to discuss such dry but important issues as telecommunications standards and spectrum regulations. But for this week's meeting in Guatemala City, politics has barged onto the agenda. At least four of the two dozen or so U.S. delegates selected for the meeting, sources tell TIME, have been bumped by the White House because they supported John Kerry's 2004 campaign.

The State Department has traditionally put together a list of industry representatives for these meetings, and anyone in the U.S. telecom industry who had the requisite expertise and wanted to go was generally given a slot, say past participants. Only after the start of Bush's second term did a political litmus test emerge, industry sources say.

The White House admits as much: "We wanted people who would represent the Administration positively, and--call us nutty--it seemed like those who wanted to kick this Administration out of town last November would have some difficulty doing that," says White House spokesman Trent Duffy. Those barred from the trip include employees of Qualcomm and Nokia, two of the largest telecom firms operating in the U.S., as well as Ibiquity, a digital-radio-technology company in Columbia, Md. One nixed participant, who has been to many of these telecom meetings and who wants to remain anonymous, gave just $250 to the Democratic Party. Says Nokia vice president Bill Plummer: "We do not view sending experts to international meetings on telecom issues to be a partisan matter. We would welcome clarification from the White House."

So, in summation, to all you David Horowitz and Students for Academic Fascism supporters who keep bitching, moaning and whining about all this bias and prejudice against you, and how you're being ideologically and politically excluded and how, gosh darn it, that's just not fair, well ... fuck off. Really. Just fuck off.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

More Republican "sanctity of marriage" values.


Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Jeff Miller, the sponsor of Tennessee’s Marriage Protection act, is facing divorce because of his alleged relationship with a Senate aide, his wife said.

Miller (R-Sanctimonious Hypocrisy) has been the chief sponsor of the Marriage Protection Amendment, which passed the Senate in February mere days prior to the divorce filing.

Brigitte Miller, Sen. Miller’s wife of 15 years, said he is having an affair with a legislative researcher and that he and the young lady accompanied the Millers’ three daughters to a November Martina McBride concert in Nashville.

Meanwhile, we here at CC HQ are at orange alert on the Rush Limbaugh fourth wife early-warning system ...

(Tip of the hat to those Tennessee guerrilla women, and Jesus' General.)

David Brooks, getting slapped around some more.

And over here, driftglass takes an axe handle to BoBo.

More dead American mercenaries in Iraq. Oh, yawn.

Not having learned anything from the previous Kos controvery regarding American mercenaries getting whacked in Iraq, let me link you to a CNN story describing the recent helicopter crash in Iraq, in which all 11 people on board -- including six Americans -- died. And while one might mourn the loss of the other three Bulgarians and two Fijians, I'll be up-front and say I really don't give a shit about the deaths of the Americans. And why is that, you ask?

Because, as you can read from that same article:

U.S. State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said the six Americans were assisting the department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security, which protects diplomats.

Well, all right, normally you'd feel some sympathy for those unfortunate security personnel. But hold on ... what's this?

The security firm Blackwater USA, based in North Carolina, identified the six Americans as its personnel.

Ah, yes -- Blackwater USA. And where have we heard that name before? Why, that's the same company that lost four of its mercenaries ... uh, personnel in Fallujah last year:

On March 31, 2004, four Americans, all Blackwater contractors, were murdered in Falluja, and the bodies of two of them were hung from a bridge. That incident escalated the conflict between U.S. forces and the insurgency.

Oh, yeah ... that Blackwater. And as for feeling sorry for them, well, you might want to hold off on the tears for just a bit:

One of the biggest private security firms in Iraq has created outrage after a memo to staff claimed it is 'fun' to shoot people. Emails seen by The Observer reveal that employees of Blackwater Security were recently sent a message stating that 'actually it is "fun" to shoot some people.'

Dated 7 March and bearing the name of Blackwater's president, Gary Jackson, the electronic newsletter adds that terrorists 'need to get creamed, and it's fun, meaning satisfying, to do the shooting of such folk.' . . .

But I guess it's not so much fun when those folks shoot back, is it? Despite Blackwater's apparent delight in wasting foreigners, we have the very same Gary Jackson, turning on the taps for the media:

"We are devastated by the loss of our friends," Blackwater President Gary Jackson said in a statement. "They were true American patriots and heroes who were performing a mission that is critical to the success of the coalition efforts to secure peace and freedom in Iraq."

No, Gary, they weren't patriots or heroes over which we should shed any tears. They were, according to your own newsletter, a bunch of trigger-happy play soldiers who were encouraged to get their jollies shooting Iraqis. And now they're dead. Fuck 'em.

But is he the BEST man for the job?

It's great entertainment these days to watch the White House Press Corpse finally stop acting so corpse-like and start taking it to WH Press Weasel Scott McClellan regarding the nomination of John Bolton as ambassador to the U.N. But those journalists are still missing a critical point.

It's not whether Bolton is qualified or appropriate for the job. As anyone who's been following this story knows, it does seem a bit odd that the administration would nominate, as its rep to the U.N., a man who once said, "The Secretariat building in New York has 38 stories. If it lost ten stories, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference." Or who also said, "The United Nations doesn't exist."

But when the journalists covering the story try to press Li'l Scottie on this, it's too easy for him to wriggle out, saying something like, "The President trusts Mr. Bolton, he's confident in his abilities and thinks he would make an excellent U.N. ambassador... yadda yadda yadda ..."

But those journalists shouldn't be asking whether Bolton is appropriate for the job -- that's too easy a question to dodge. They should be asking whether he's the best person for the job, which is a much more precise and specific question, and theoretically tougher to evade. Like so:

Reporter: Scott, given Bolton's well-publicized contempt for the United Nations, can you explain how this administration came to choose him as the best possible nominee for this position? That is, of all of the possible candidates that the president could have selected from, is it the president's position that there is not a single person who would have been a better nominee?

: Well, as I've said repeatedly, the president trusts Mr. Bolton and has full confidence in ...

Reporter (indulging in "weaselus interruptus"): No, Scott, that's not addressing my question. I was asking, given that Mr. Bolton has made it clear how thoroughly he dislikes the entire institution of the United Nations and how he's even stated that it "doesn't exist", can you explain how the president came to believe that Mr. Bolton was absolutely the best choice for this nomination?

Is it really this administration's position that a man who clearly despises the United Nations is, far and away, the best choice to be this country's ambassador to it? Are you saying that no one in this administration could come up with a single name of someone as a possible nominee who didn't hate the U.N. and who would have been a better choice?

You can see what I'm getting at here -- the question is not whether Bolton is an acceptable choice; it's whether Bush considers him to be, without a doubt, the best possible choice for the job. The point here is to put McClellan on the spot; to defend the notion that no one -- not a single person -- in the administration could come up with a better candidate than a man who despises the very organization he's being sent to work with.

And it doesn't stop there. One could ask the same question of numerous Bush nominees:

Q: Scott, can you explain how, out of all the possible choices for U.S. Attorney General, the president chose a man who referred to the Geneva Conventions as "quaint" and who wrote a position paper defending the idea of torture of prisoners? Is it the administration's opinion that Mr. Gonzales is absolutely the best man for the job? A man who, as the highest-ranking law enforcement in the country, thinks torture is acceptable?

Anyway, you get the idea. Sadly, the WH press corps haven't figured this out yet.

: Actually, this whole Bolton bullshit might be irrelevant, as even some of the Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee suddenly have other things they have to do elsewhere:

The nomination of John Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations was put in further peril on Friday when a fourth Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee expressed concern about him.

A spokeswoman for Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said the senator felt the committee "did the right thing delaying the vote on Bolton in light of the recent information presented to the committee."

Asked if Bolton had Murkowski's support, spokeswoman Kristin Pugh said, "I can't speculate on how she would vote."

She said Murkowski was traveling and could not be reached.

Yeah, there's that "gotta be somewhere else at the moment" escape. But it's this line further down in the article that expresses nicely everything I was getting at above:

Democrats appeared unified against Bolton, who most called one of the worst possible choices for the diplomatic post.

Exactly. It's not that he's not even the best possible person for the job -- it's that it's overwhelmingly clear that he's probably the worst possible choice. It's almost as if the entire White House administration got together and said, "Well, we gotta nominate a new ambassador to the U.N. Who can we pick that's gonna piss those people off as much as possible? Who's the most annoying, patronizing, condescending, psychotic anti-U.N. asshole and bigot we can come up with? Oh, yeah, I have just the guy for this. Hey! John! Got a minute?"

Friday, April 22, 2005

Friday night weasel blogging.

Yes, he's (she's?) there.

You just have to look carefully. What you're looking at is the least weasel, of which is written:

Occupying most of Canada with the exception of the Maritimes, southern Ontario, and Quebec, this fierce little carnivore is scarcely larger than the mice on which it preys. Its total body length seldom exceeds 20 cm.

Incredibly quick and agile, these tiny predators are seldom trapped except by accident. The coat, which is brown above with a white underside, turns completely white in winter throughout most of its North American range.

Living almost exclusively on mice, shrews, and lemmings, they also use the fur of these animals to line their underground nests. The Inuit in particular look upon this small hunter with great respect, and the capture of one is considered a good omen.

Well, not for the weasel, of course.

Defending Canadian health care ... from Canadians.

I'm going to pull a comment up here since I think it warrants the attention.

Forgive me for being off topic, but I'm looking for some input on an op-ed, in my local daily newspaper (Tennessean) that bashes Canadian Health care.

As usual, it's full of sweeping unsubstantiated generalizations (there are very few first class hospitals in Canada!). What's not usual is it appears to be written by a Canadian.

I'm going to respond (I used to live in Canada and have written on this subject before), but am wondering if you know anything about this particular charge:

"Canadians aren't so lucky when it comes to emergency medical care. A recent mayor of Toronto was forced to wait eight long hours on a stretcher, with a broken leg, before seeing an emergency room physician. And this was in a Toronto hospital! As excruciating as it sounds to us, Canadians are accustomed to it."

Article here.

Appreciate any input or leads you can provide; I'll be posting on this at my blog.

So ... get to work. What's the story here?

UPDATE: I just googled and came up with nothing that even remotely resembles the story above. I'm thinking this might be one of those urban legends. The fact that Google can't find anything makes me mighty suspicious, but I'll wait to hear from others.

The Pope, gay marriage and "pro-life" medical professionals.

And what a serendipitous bit of timing this is. Following a link from Atrios, we have Pope "Joey Rats" Benedict XVI coming down hard on a Spanish government bill allowing gay marriage. But that's not the interesting part. Here's the interesting part:

He said Roman Catholic officials should be prepared to lose their jobs rather than co-operate with the law...

He said every profession linked with implementing homosexual marriages should oppose it, even if it meant losing their jobs.

What a fascinating concession -- that if Catholics want to follow their conscience, they should be prepared to lose their jobs. One wonders what kind of defense Catholic "pro-life" pharmacists are going to use once you point out the Pope's own position.

Sadly, there are some people who just never freakin' learn.

And despite the slight oopsie related to the last Space Shuttle flight, we have NASA proposing to (wait for it ... wait for it ... here it comes) relax safety standards. You just can't make this stuff up.

(Props to First Draft for the pointer.)

BREAKING NEWS: Newt Gingrich admits error.

Over at Cathie from Canada, we have a link to a piece explaining how, after a bit of chiding from Canada, right-wing airhead Newt Gingrich has apologized for claiming that the terrorists involved in the 9/11 attacks entered the U.S. via this country.

I guess it's nice to correct the record but, come on, does it really represent progress to point out that Newt Gingrich was wrong about something and that he's admitted it? It's sort of like getting someone to admit that, yeah, I guess Fox News does have kind of a rightward ideological tilt. Or that George W is a bit, you know, stupid.

For someone who was allegedly such an intellectual visionary (at least in his own mind), Gingrich could say the dumbest things at times.

When really good writing goes after really bad writing.

Thanks to a link from Atrios, we have this piece by the New York Press' Matt Taibbi, taking Thomas Friedman and his new book out to the woodshed for a wickedly savage beating.

There's something really primordial about the satisfaction you get watching someone clever just wail the tar out of someone else who deserves it. Like when Juan Cole slaps Jonah Goldberg upside the head. Like when PZ Myers over at Pharyngula lays the lumber on that insufferable idiot Paul @ Wizbang. Like when pretty much anyone exposes those imbecilic, self-important jackasses over at PowerLine.

And, as Michael Berube makes clear, there's never a bad time to go after David Brooks. (Brooks gets the Rude Pundit treatment as well.)

: And how could I overlook Eric Alterman's horsewhipping of John Cloud, the author of that rancid adoring profile of Ann Coulter in Time magazine?

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Catholic hierarchy to critics: Bite me.

As the old saying goes, the best defense is a good offense, which probably explains why the Catholic Church is being as offensive as possible in circling the wagons around new Pope Ratzo the First.

How else to explain this letter in today's Globe and Mail from Lukasz Petrykowski, the president of the Toronto Chapter, Catholic Civil Rights League? (And no jokes about oxymorons here -- it's too easy and you wouldn't get any bonus points for it.)

You can't read the entire letter at that link so I'll just reproduce the good parts.

All Catholics and people of goodwill should celebrate the election of Pope Benedict XVI.

Translation: If you're not a Catholic and you're not celebrating, then you are not a "person of goodwill" and should fuck off and shut up. Good opening. Sort of sets the tone for what follows.

As the Vicar of Christ and guardian of authentic Christianity, however, he will unavoidably face the same enmity and malice that his predecessor did.

And nothing says reaching out and reconciliation like telling others that you're right, they're wrong and that your religion is the real thing and theirs sucks canal water. At least Petrykowski's being consistent -- rather than bouncing all over the place, he's just uniformly being a jerk.

Petrykowski continues:

The teachings of the Catholic Church are countercultural. Thus it comes as no surprise that many individuals and groups espousing the prevailing cultural tenets of nihilism, relativism, materialism and hedonism will reject Pope Benedict XVI and continually cast aspersions on theological and moral orthodoxy.

And, as we all know, nothing says "rejection of hedonism" like the Catholic Church. To paraphrase a well-known rock anthem -- Meet the new Catholic hierarchy, same as the old Catholic hierarchy.

Don't say you weren't warned.

Blogger pissing me off yet again.

OK, I need some technical advice. Somehow, this morning, I think I managed to confuse my Firefox browser since, when I try to browse to this blog's home page, I get dumped instead into the blog's dashboard page. No matter what I try, I can't view the blog home page from this system.

On the other hand, I have no problem seeing the blog from any other machine, so it appears to be some local setting for just this account on this Linux box that seems to be redirecting the URL request to the blogger dashboard page.

I'm open to suggestions.

SOLVED: Apparently, you just have to clear Firefox's cache. Worked for me.

Pharmacists and conscience clauses: Straight from the horse's mouth.

Yes, yes, I know I've beaten this topic to death lately but I just ran across an enlightening letter to the editor that shows pretty clearly how difficult it is to strike a balance between religious nutbar, "pro-life" pharmacists and customers who just want their damned prescription filled and no, they don't need a patronizing lecture with those pills, thanks very much.

The main issue here is whether it's possible to accommodate both sides, so it's worth seeing how the people at the top -- the very top -- propose to handle this. To wit, this 2004 letter to the editor from American Pharmacists Association (APhA) VP, Policy and Communications and Staff Counsel Susan C. Winckler, RPh, Esq, to "Prevention" magazine. Because if Susan Winckler, RPh, Esq., can't explain it, you get the feeling no one else is going to have much luck either.

So let's work our way through Winckler's letter slowly and methodically, and see how she abuses logic in new and exciting ways (all emphasis added to maximize the embarrassment potential).

July 1, 2004

To the Editor:

I am responding to your story, “Access Denied: Find out why growing numbers of doctors and pharmacists across the U.S. are refusing to prescribe or dispense birth control pills.”

Your detailed story was informative, but it is missing the balanced perspective of the first-established and largest professional organization of pharmacists in the United States – the American Pharmacists Association (APhA).

OK, so Winckler is just establishing her street creds here. Big whoop. Let's get to the good part:

The APhA absolutely supports patients’ right to access their legally prescribed medications.

Hot damn. It doesn't really get any less ambiguous than that, does it? No dodging, weaving, tap dancing, shucking and jiving or acting like Weasel Boy. "Absolute" support. End of discussion. Case closed.

But wait. What's this in the very next sentence?

APhA also supports the pharmacist’s right of conscience.

OK, I'm confused. Just how do you reconcile these two statements? Customer wants birth control pills, pharmacist doesn't want to give customer said pills. How exactly are you supposed to keep both sides happy? And what just happened to that "absolute" support? As the old saying goes, something's gotta give. Continues Winckler, making less and less sense by the word:

That right of conscience comes with responsibility to assure patient access to the legally prescribed therapy.

Still confused. Apparently, that right of conscience is still trumped by the customer's right to have her prescription filled. I'm pretty sure someone is going to end up unhappy here, it's just not clear who. Continues Winckler, in a futile effort to clarify the situation:

In contrast to the impression created by your story, these two objectives are not mutually exclusive.

They're not? That would be a major development, wouldn't it? So just how does this work, this magical policy that allegedly satisfies everyone?

When the profession’s policy is implemented correctly--and proactively--it is seamless to the patient, and the patient is not aware that the pharmacist is stepping away from the situation.

Aha! So we're finally going to get to the details of this "policy," and note how Winckler assures us -- yes, she does -- that the policy is "seamless" to the customer, and that the customer should not even be aware of what's happening.

Put another way, Winckler assures us that dealing with a pro-life wingnut should be completely, totally transparent, and the customer should be utterly oblivious to the pharmacist's moral strictures. So is that how it really works?

Whether another pharmacist on duty completes the prescription ...

Whoa, whoa, whoa ... stop right there, we have our first problem. Is that Winckler's first attempt at a "seamless" solution? Because it fails pretty spectacularly.

Assume, for the sake of argument, there there even is another pharmacist on duty willing to do the dirty work. If that pharmacist is available, then no problem. But what if he or she is tied up with another customer, maybe on the phone and can't take over at the moment? It's not hard to imagine the pro-life pharmacist handing off the job, then stepping back with nothing to do and kind of just hanging around, humming show tunes or something while the customer is starting to wonder why she's waiting for that guy when this guy clearly has nothing to do.

This is Winckler's idea of "seamless"? Of the customer not being "aware"? And note that Winckler doesn't even address the possibility of there being only one pharmacist on duty. As a "seamless" policy, this obviously fails miserably. But it just gets sillier as Winckler continues in that same sentence with other possibilities:

Whether another pharmacist on duty completes the prescription or patients are proactively directed to pharmacies where certain therapy is available ...

Ah, directing patients elsewhere. Yeah, that's "seamless," isn't it? (Apparently, there's nothing about being a RPh, Esq. that prevents one from being jaw-droppingly stupid and illogical.) But Winckler isn't done making a fool of herself, still in the same sentence:

Whether another pharmacist on duty completes the prescription or patients are proactively directed to pharmacies where certain therapy is available, or even different systems are set up, the patient gets the medication, and the pharmacist steps away from that activity--with no intersection between the two.

"Or even different systems are set up"? What can that mean? From various readings, I take this to mean that the prescription can be mailed to the patient. And, once again, this is "seamless" and transparent to the customer, who might need that prescription filled right now? And yet, given the overwhelming evidence that what she describes is just idiocy, Winckler has the nerve to write:

This policy works.

No. No, it doesn't. It works neither theoretically nor practically, despite Winckler's ludicrous delusions. But none of this stops Winckler from concluding with a passage that is absolutely breathtaking in its sheer stupidity:

It is only if the policy is not implemented properly that the needs of a patient or the right of conscience of the pharmacist would not both be properly acknowledged. It is because such instances of improper implementation are rare – rather than frequent -- that they inspire widespread media coverage. Although rare, such situations are extremely unfortunate, and we are working to ensure they will not occur.

And yet, as we've already seen, there is no conceivable way to keep both sides happy, and nothing that Winckler describes even proposes such a workable policy. And if Susan C. Winckler, RPh, Esq., can't come up with anything more relevant and meaningful than the above gibberish, I think it's safe to say that what we have is an impasse. And all of Winckler's hoping and wishing and deluded fantasies of keeping everyone happy isn't going to solve it.

BY THE WAY: In the midst of all of Winckler's gibberish, did you see any details of an actual "policy" anywhere?

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Lottery tickets and mathematical puzzlers.

Since I'm not sure who I want to slap upside the head next, I'll leave that alone for the time being and toss out another math teaser. Most folks are familiar with the "6-49" style of lotteries where, in this case, you buy a ticket for the chance to pick six different numbers of your choice out of the possibilities of one through 49.

Come draw time, six numbers are selected (allegedly randomly) and, if you have all six winning numbers, you get a fistful of cash. If it turns out that more than one person selected exactly the same six winning numbers, all winners share the pot equally. (Some variations have smaller prizes if you get at least some of the numbers right, but that just complicates life so let's ignore it for the time being.)

Naturally, lots of folks have "systems" that they think increase their chances of winning, and lots of other folks just pick numbers that have some kind of personal significance or sentimental value. But, as we all know, in the end, if the winning numbers are really drawn randomly, then any set of six values is no better and no worse than any other set of six values.

Or is it?

In fact, if you're clever, you can get a sneaky advantage over others playing the same game. Based on just the rules you've read above, how can you maximize your expected return from playing this game? No tricks, it's all above board. Think about it. And if you're stumped, go back and read the challenge carefully. The first correct answer will, of course, win absolutely nothing. I don't get paid enough to give out actual prizes.

It's myyyyy preciousssssss ...

Yesssss ... the precious is miiiiiine ...

Movin' on up, intellectually.

So when you feel you've gotten all the benefit you can out of the mindless, mouth-breathing imbecility over at, say, Free Republic, you just might be ready to take the next step up the intellectual ladder.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Former Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, or as he's now known ...

... The Big Rat.

UPDATE: Courtesy of the The Daily Show, the former Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger or, as he likes to be called, "Joey Rats".

In the spirit of science and crankery.

Since Jonathan over at Roam no More wrote such an appealing essay on the wonders of science and was nice enough to link to me, I will, in the typically incestuous fashion of like-minded bloggers, link back to him and add something to that. It's an abridged version of one of my favourite essays by Jeremy Bernstein. I really don't even need to introduce it -- you'll figure out what it's all about.

[For many] years I went about my business in physics without encountering much more than a tiny trickle of cranks; that is, until I began to write about science for the general public and, above all, after I had written a popular article about Einstein and the theory of relativity for the New Yorker. [...]

One evening, about a year ago, the phone rang in my apartment. It was a long distance call from somewhere in the Southwest, and it was from a gentleman whom I will refer to as A. [...]

A began the conversation after verifying that I was the author of a certain book about the theory of elementary particles. He proclaimed that, in his opinion, this book was one of the greatest contributions to modern thought since Newton's Principia. *My* thought was, "What does this one want?"

It soon became clear what he wanted. He had written, he informed me, a massive, as yet unpublished treatise in which was solved each and every problem that remained unsolved by my book (a hallmark of crank manuscripts is that they solve *everything*), and that, furthermore and for good measure, it contained a theory of the origin of the moon. (I though of saying "Your beloved homeland?" but a second hallmark of cranks is that they are humorless.) Needless to say, he wanted me to read this document and to send him a commentary. [...]

In the first place, no crank wants, or will accept, an honest criticism of anything. He has solved the "problem," whatever it is, and is looking for an endorsement. Even agreeing to accept, let alone comment on, such a manuscript opens open up to endless trouble. [...] (A third hallmark of the crank is that he is sure that everyone is out to steal his ideas.)

[Bernstein politely refuses to read the manuscript. Six months later, A's friend B calls.]

[B ] informed me that his friend A had read my book and regarded it as the greatest contribution to human thought cetera. He also told me that A's theory of the formation of the moon would soon hit the press, where it would make front-page news. (A fourth hallmark of the crank is that he is determined to bring the newspapers in somehow.) [...]

Again, I said to B that under no circumstances would I read A's book, and goodbye. But that did not end the matter. Only a few weeks ago I received a letter from A informing me that reading his book should be comparatively simple for me, since it "includes about 25% drawings and plates." [...]

I sometimes have the following fantasy. It is the year 1905 and I am professor of physics at the University of Bern. The phone rings, and a person I have never heard of identifies himself as a patent examiner in the Swiss National Patent Office. [...]

Suppose I had had the good sense to ask the fellow for a reprint of his recently published paper "Zur Elektrodunamik bewegter Korper" (The Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies"). How could I have told that this was not a crank paper with a crank theory? There are, I think, at least two clues.

In the first place, the theory -- the special theory of relativity in this instance -- satisfies what Niels Bohr later called, in a more general context, the correspondence principle. The relativity theory generalizes Newtonian mechanics, but, after all, Newton's mechanics works marvelously well for a vast domain of phenomena. Hence there must be some limit in which the two theories merge -- or "correspond." [...]

Crank theories, when they are theories at all -- an important point to which I will return -- usually start and end in midair. They do not connect in any way with things that are known. [...]

The second clue I have alluded to above: It is that, in the phrase of [Wolfgang] Pauli, crank theories "aren't even wrong." I have never yet seen a crank physics theory that offered a novel quantitative prediction that could be either verified or falsified. It is usually awash in a garble of verbiage with terms like "energy," "field," "particle," "mass," and God knows what, all festooned like Christmas decorations. [...]

Einstein's 1905 paper may at first sight appear to be bizarre, but it is full of predictions. The whole thing is crying out to be tested in laboratories. [...]


Scientific Cranks: How To Recognize One and What to Do Until the Doctor Arrives" by Jeremy Bernstein in American Scholar, Winter 1977-78, Volume 47, No. 1.