Wednesday, February 28, 2007
There is an awful wild beauty in sheer destruction. No political plan can tame that part of the human heart that wants to break, and to see precious things broken, and to giggle amidst the wreckage.(hat tip: Magruder)
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
But called out on the fact that Gore's house* uses about 10 times as much power as the average person in his county, he has an interesting response:
Responding to Drudge’s attack, Vice President Gore’s office told ThinkProgress:Can anyone who's not a granola activist explain what it means to "purchase carbon offsets"? Seriously, while I had heard of such a thing, I had no idea what it was and had to consult my favorite online granola definition machine for a working definition:
1) Gore’s family has taken numerous steps to reduce the carbon footprint of their private residence, including signing up for 100 percent green power through Green Power Switch, installing solar panels, and using compact fluorescent bulbs and other energy saving technology.
2) Gore has had a consistent position of purchasing carbon offsets to offset the family’s carbon footprint — a concept the right-wing fails to understand...
It’s the latest in a series of desperate attacks by Drudge to paint Gore as a hypocrite**.
A carbon offset is a service that tries to reduce the net carbon emissions of individuals or organizations indirectly, through proxies who reduce their emissions*** and/or increase their absorption of greenhouse gases. A wide variety of offset actions are available; tree planting is the most common.In short, in Al Gore's mind, it doesn't matter how much power he uses, so long as he uses less than he might otherwise use (his point A) and he pays people to plant trees in his name (his point B) to cover whatever sins he has left over from A.
Does that sound familiar? Seriously, think Luther and his 95 Theses. Rather than buying masses to reduce the punishment due for his sinful life, he's simply buying "carbon offsets" to reduce the punishment due for his sinful "carbon footprint." And I'm sure the Holy Church of Granola will sell him just as many offsets as he needs to assuage his guilty conscience.
How about we just call these offsets what they really are, Granola Indulgences, and stop pretending we are dealing here with anything other than a religion?
* he has three houses, the numbers are just for one of them.
** Gore is a hypocrite. Period. It is obvious that the rules he promotes for everyone else are not meant to apply to him, his three houses, his mining operations, his jet-setting. He completely ignores the issue brought up by Drudge, and Left-wingers like Think Progress are happy to overlook that hypocrisy and shill for him because they find him a useful idiot.
*** If only I could get people to sign up for my new weight offset service, in which they pay me to lose weight so they can eat all they wish without getting any fatter. I am also willing to quit smoking for anyone and quit cheating on their wife for them, all for three easy payments of $99.95. And if you order today, I'll forego a big tattoo or exotic body piercing for you, so you can get one without fear of pain, infection, or social stigma. Offer void where prohibited.
Monday, February 26, 2007
|You scored as Chaotic Good. A Chaotic Good person is someone who has little intrinsic respect for laws or authority, seeing them as insufficient to sustain what's right. These people work according to their own moral compass which, while good, is not necessarily always aligned with that of society. Despite their chaotic tendencies, these people are good at heart.|
What is your Alignment?
created with QuizFarm.com
When I used to run fighters they were nearly always Chaotic Good, a rather comfy alignment for a libertarian*, I suppose. But since I have discovered the joys of the rogue it has been straight Neutral except for an occasional NG - like 2 per decade**. I don't know that I've run more than one LG character in 20 years, so 80% correlation seems a bit of a stretch - at least as far as characters are concerned. I just don't like that much order.
One of the things I always found a little funny was the opposition to D&D from a lot of churches. I understand it - demons and pagan gods are generally not the stuff of Christian games - but in the game's defense I do note that the system of morality, which if the churches were correct ought to be a pagan or atheist muddle, faithfully followed the nominal good/evil orientation of historical Christianity (not to mention*** that a decent percentage of adventures involve completing some chivalrous quest for people too poor and powerless to defend themselves - King Arthur would be so proud). The AD&D description of the Assassin class, for example, required that the character be of evil alignment because, it said, "it has to be agreed that the taking of human life for money is evil." It seems that even in fantasy a society can't long survive when populated by those who call evil good.
* It would be interesting to correlate alignment to political party. Lew Rockwell had an interesting editorial a while back that lined political parties up by the conflicts they envisioned in society. For the Dems, the conflict as one primarily between classes, races, or sexes. For Republicans, it was one of law versus chaos - Republicans line up on the "lawful" axis quite heavily. While he didn't mention libertarians, there can be little doubt that they line up toward the CG corner. Come to think of it, the World's Smallest Political Quiz DOES look a bit like the D&D alignment matrix.
** You do have to watch out for guys like Craft, though, and perhaps especially Pifford T. The latter will occasionally run an NE Rogue, steal all the party's treasure, and basically use anyone and anything he can find to advance his own purposes. At the end of one fight, his character was the only one in the party left conscious. I'm not sure how he carried all the loot away, but his companions were pissed when they all died of rapid blood loss and had to turn in their character sheets. Serves 'em right I suppose for not checking alignments.
*** Yes, I know, shut up.
Saturday, February 24, 2007
JERUSALEM: The makers of a new documentary, to be aired for the first time at a news conference in New York on Monday, claim that a tomb found in a Jerusalem cave 36 years ago belongs to Jesus Christ.I'm always a sucker for a good Jesus theory. I'm not saying I believe them, but I do so enjoy them - I mean, come on, Holy Blood Holy Grail is still one of my favorite books. It seems that the month before Easter every year is the time for releasing the latest Big Idea that will overturn this meddlesome Christianity once and for all. This year's attempt comes with a $4m budget.
The claim presented in the documentary is based on years of research by archaeologists, statisticians, experts in ancient scripts and in DNA, the Israeli Yediot Ahronot daily yesterday quoted the makers as saying.
The documentary, titled The Burial Cave of Jesus, is a joint production by Israeli-born Canadian documentary maker Simcha Jacobovici and three-time-Oscar-winning Canadian film director James Cameron.
The 2000-year-old cave had already been discovered in 1980 in Jerusalem's Talpiyot neighbourhood.
In it were 10 coffins, six of which bore inscriptions, which - translated into English – included the names “Jesus son of Joseph,” twice “Maria,” and “Judah son of Jesus.”
The second Maria is hypothesised to be Maria Magdalene, while the tomb bearing the name Judah could indicate Jesus had a son.
If true, the find could be one of the most significant in the history of archaeology and shake the Christian world.
Whether or not the movie is any good, the reaction will be depressingly predictable. Those who hold to the DaVinci School of Theology will find plenty to support their presuppositions and the more orthodox will find plenty to rage about. Science Duly Constituted™ will doubtless follow the lead of the Israeli professor who found the tomb and write the whole thing off as "a beautiful story but without any proof whatsoever*."
There are a lot of questions being raised, odds being laid, taunts being flung. But my first thoughts, which I have not seen reflected anywhere**, hearken back to another famous search, that for the Ark of the Covenant. Remember in Raiders of the Lost Ark when the coin got burned into the frog-looking guy's hand? And the Nazis calculated the ark's location based on that?*** As soon as Han Solo figured out what they had done, he did that crooked grin thing and said, "They're looking in the wrong place."
I think the same applies here. Jesus was not "Jesus of Jerusalem" but "Jesus of Nazareth." Why would his tomb be found in Jerusalem? "Well, ya dumma" you might quickly answer, "if he was killed in Jerusalem, then it makes sense for him to be buried there." And perhaps you would be correct.
But why are his mother's bones there? And his brothers' bones? And his son's and wife's bones? Jesus hailed from Nazareth of Galilee (though his ancestral home was Bethlehem) and if one is going to look for a multi-generational Jesus family tomb, it makes a lot more sense to look where his family actually lived. Jesus was killed in a place where he didn't live, where his family didn't live, and where he visited only on ceremonial occasions like any other observant Jew. He probably did not spend a month there over the course of his entire life, and I doubt his family decided to hang around the city out of respect until they all died. One might as well seek the bones of Anna Nicole's grandparents in the Bahamas.
I'll be most interested, however, in how they use the DNA evidence. If it should match up with Pierre Plantard's, we might just have a story on our hands.
* When it comes to faith and anti-faith proof is never a prerequesite.
** Like I really expect my personal eccentricities to be followed by anyone else. If they were, where would that leave me?
*** That was AWESOME!!
Friday, February 23, 2007
So if campaign staffers for a prominent presidential candidate make hateful and bigoted remarks about Christians that's big news right? Not according to NBC's Meredith Vieira.Hey, I love a good AmyndaBash as much as the next guy, but in the larger scheme of things (he pauses dramatically right here for effect) The Amanda Story is not that important. She was hired, she embarassed the campaign, she quit. Lots of us would have liked to see more of the second before the third occurred, but we'll take what we can get.
The Today show co-anchor failed to question John Edwards about his former bloggers Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan calling Christianity a "mythology" and depicting Bush supporters as his "wingnut Christofascist base."
Instead Vieira focused her questions from the left on Iraq, as first noted here, and his opinion of the dust-up between rivals Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
Vieira asked Edwards all of four questions (which you can read by clicking thru). Of those four, I wonder which one Newsbusters would consider less important than the 5-day "career" of a bitter termagant blogger that 99.9% of America has never heard of.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
|Your Dominant Intelligence is Linguistic Intelligence|
You are excellent with words and language. You explain yourself well.
An elegant speaker, you can converse well with anyone on the fly.
You are also good at remembering information and convincing someone of your point of view.
A master of creative phrasing and unique words, you enjoy expanding your vocabulary.
You would make a fantastic poet, journalist, writer, teacher, lawyer, politician, or translator.
(hat tip: Bethie)
One of the things that is hard for newbies to do is stop thinking in dollars and realize that gold is a constant, not a varyingly-priced commodity...Newbies, in this case, actually have the premises correct and it is the "enlightened" goldbug who has fallen for a bit of mythology. In fact, there seems an entire goldbug cottage industry teaching that there is one constant value in the world - gold - and that every other price is simply a function of it:
If gold is the ultimate currency, why would we have an exit strategy for an ETF holding gold?
As you are aware, the Dinar (a gold coin minted in several Islamic nations - El B) has no nationality, it is made of gold, it is the same in Morocco as in Malaysia, or China. It has no inflation; a chicken at the time of Rasulullah, salla’llahu alayhi wa salam, cost one dirham, and today you can buy a chicken in Kuala Lumpur for one dirham. So one thousand four hundred years later, inflation is zero.I have read dozens of books and hundreds of articles that claim some variation of the above, whether they use suits or chickens or homes as a measure. But they constantly ignore that there are other factors involved in pricing than just the object and the currency. Population pressures, manufacturing costs, and technological advances also must figure in, as must fashions, weather patterns, and political influences. In short, many goldbugs mine data as well as their favorite companies mine gold.
There is a famous study by Professor Roy Jastram from Berkley University, who wrote a book in 1976, a famous classic of the Gold Standard theorists, called The Golden Constant. He examined the price of gold against a basket of commodities for four hundred years up to 1976, and he found that the purchasing power of gold is constant. Despite wars and economic crises, despite natural disasters, the purchasing power of gold remained the same.
It's perfectly true that the price of a gallon of gas in the 50s and today would cost a similar amount of gold. But many other prices have changed. In the 1920s, you could buy a mail-order home for $3000, or 150 ounces of gold. Today 150 ounces of gold ($100,000) will buy about 5 times as much modular home. The prices are relatively stable* compared to dollars, but they are not perfectly stable because prices are a function of supply and demand in a given market. There are no constant monetary ratios (also known as "prices") and every attempt to set them (e.g. whether gold/silver ratios or socialist price controls) has failed eventually.
Goldbugs often assert that long-term price changes are solely a function of depreciating paper currency, but gold is a varying commodity even when used as money. For example, ponder the price level in Spain during the era when gold was pouring into its coffers from the Americas. In the 150 years from 1500 to 1650, Spain's gross price level tripled, exactly what one would expect from such a massive inflation of currency.
The effects went far beyond the price of chicken in Kuala Lumpur. This 16th Century "Price Revolution" contributed in a major way to the overturning of existing European society. Because rents were stable (even controlled) yet other prices rose, those families which held the majority of their wealth in land** were beggared. Because Spain's economy relied on massive monetary inflows from the New World, once those inflows ended Spain quickly dropped from the wealthiest nation in Europe to one of the poorest***. They could no longer afford the higher prices that their now-spent gold had created.
Gold is perhaps the finest monetary commodity of all - and it is far better than paper promises to pay nothing - but in the end there is nothing magical about gold; it is simply another commodity. And goldbugs would be wise to simply understand the value and utility of gold, rather than trying to out-goldbug everyone else by deifying it.
* And the prices are much higher, reflecting the fact that they are priced in a depreciating commodity, the dollar. The fact that every commodity has similarly depreciated in dollars is a reflection of the weakness of paper money, not of the constant value of any one commodity.
** We know them as "nobility."
*** Because America's economy relies on massive monetary inflows from the developing world, _______________________________.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
If you accept U.S. dollars in exchange for goods and services, have you not demonstrated a HUGE amount of faith in the non-material? The U.S. dollar, after all, has lacked any inherent value since the abandonment of the gold standard.Vox hits on something in implying that belief in God might have utility given "studies which have showed that religious people are happier, live longer and are more successful in an evolutionary sense." But I don't think that truth rescues this analogy from being extremely weak:
And if you believe in the value of the dollar only because everyone else does, then why would you refuse to believe in God's existence for the same reason?
"If you accept U.S. dollars in exchange for goods and services, have you not demonstrated a HUGE amount of faith in the non-material? The U.S. dollar, after all, has lacked any inherent value since the abandonment of the gold standard."
Not at all. One has demonstrated a huge amount of faith in experience*. After all, we do not accept just *any* piece of paper, but specific ones. Why those specific ones? Because ever since we were little, we have always gotten something nice in exchange for them. This explains why even though the second sentence is based on a truth, it really doesn't matter: we as a society accept dollars mostly because of intertia, not because we have ever thought about what a dollar is.
And if you believe in the value of the dollar only because everyone else does, then why would you refuse to believe in God's existence for the same reason?
Because they are entirely unrelated. To the extent I believe in the value of a dollar I do so because the fact that "everyone else does" means that I can trade dollars to them for what I really want. Their belief - and nothing else - is what gives the dollar its value.
Does their belief in God cause him to exist in the same way?
* We're assuming for this exercise that "non-material" does not include things like experience, memory, and sight which, while they may technically be non-material, would render the definition so broad as to be meaningless. Atheists don't generally lack faith in the above; in my opinion, they have more in it than it deserves.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
January 1, 2007 - A national coaltion of citizens, including war veterans, distinguished academics, students, journalists, artists, and elected officials have joined with us to call for a nationwide boycott of all consumer activity, for one week in April...It's obvious* that this boycott was designed by a professor of sociology rather than someone versed in economics. I mean, seriously, what kind of a boycott is it if you freaking STOCK UP so you don't have to buy the things that you already bought?
Consumers are asked to withhold their spending for seven days, beginning on Sunday April 15 and lasting until Sunday April 22, 2007.
- Do NOT shop corporate outlets
- Minimize use of oil and gas.
- Carpool: bus, bike or walk.
- If you buy, BUY LOCALLY.
- Plan Ahead and Stock Up
A boycott only works if you completely forego the item(s) being boycotted. It does not work if you buy a fungible commodity from a competitor (think Exxon). It does not work if you buy it this week in order to not buy it next week. It does not work if you buy the same amount of something in smaller chunks. And it does not work so long as your target is so broad compared to your resources that your efforts will not be felt**. Those are not boycotts: they are the economic equivalent of a bass flopping in the bottom of a canoe.
This is a perfect example of how moonbatism is really just inexpensive group therapy. They'll all buy their fruits and granola and Birkenstocks a week early, then bask in the righteous indignation of doing something to bring down the corporations they just paid a week ago. And man will they feel empowered, which is really the purpose of Moonbat Economics in the first place.
(hat tip: Snoop)
* As obvious as that first sentence being an affront to both spelling and grammar.
** The poor have boycotted Rolls Royce, Carribbean vacations, and caviar for years.
Monday, February 19, 2007
I used to be able to listen to some really good music via Winamp. I'm not sure how, but a few upgrades ago I got a choice of a whole bunch of online specialty radio stations to listen to. It was awesome. But then Winamp updated again and they were all gone. I had 2 in my bookmarks, though: HardRockin80s.com and an all-Metallica-all-the-time station. The latter was pretty cool... I'm pretty sure that I've heard pretty much everything Metallica ever played, both studio and live. And it just makes listening to "Fade to Bluegrass*" that much funnier.
But a few months ago, Metallica disappeared - wherever Winamp had been connecting to was now refusing the connection. I was left alone with HardRockin80s.com, which features nothing but hair bands and DJs with names like "Metallin' Mary" and "The Impaler." It sorta grew on me, and nowhere else have I ever been able to get Stryper and Iron Maiden on the same station. The only thing they were missing was Lords of the Crimson Alliance, but those guys may have been too obscure even for the specialists. But now my hair metal has disappeared, too. So it's all quiet in my office except the Winamp of the secretary out front. And she listens to nothing but hymns and ultra soft, drums-are-the-devil coma-inducing Christian music...pretty much the same stuff we play at home to get the squabbies to fall asleep at night.
I miss The Impaler.
So I'm looking for "a reasonable number of secondary sources" (prof's words) for my Cortes paper when I come across one I hadn't heard of before. It's called "By Right of Conquest Or, With Cortes in Mexico." I'm checking it out (Gutenberg version), do a quick scan forward to Vera Cruz, and look for a cool quote or two (my paper is pretty much done, but it can always use a little spice). Wow, this author is good. Very smooth. He plays a little fast and loose with the facts, but I'm sure I can pick out something accurate to incorporate, something that gives a little insight into Cortes' mindset before his march to the Halls of Montezuma begins.
All of a sudden he starts talking about "Roger." Roger did this. Roger did that. And I'm like, "Who the hell is Roger? This is Mexico in 1517, all these guys are Spaniards or Indians, and I'm pretty sure there was no one named Roger along for the ride." Turns out - after a little more research on the book itself - that the book is historical fiction from the 19th Century. Good thing I kept reading before adding that to the bibliography.
* an album of Metallica covers performed by the bluegrass band Iron Horse.
Saturday, February 17, 2007
CARACAS, Venezuela, Feb. 16 — Faced with an accelerating inflation rate and shortages of basic foods like beef, chicken and milk, President Hugo Chávez has threatened to jail grocery store owners and nationalize their businesses if they violate the country’s expanding price controls...The steps*, it seems, go pretty much in the same order, whether one is talking about ancient Rome or modern South America:
Mr. Chávez, whose leftist populism remains highly popular among Venezuela’s poor and working classes, seemed unfazed by criticism of his policies. Appearing live on national television, he called for the creation of “committees of social control,” essentially groups of his political supporters whose purpose would be to report on farmers, ranchers, supermarket owners and street vendors who circumvent the state’s effort to control food prices.
- First the government spends more money than it has, printing the difference, in order to ensure its popularity via subsidy.
- Then prices rise.
- Then the government tries to control prices by law, threatening people with jail if they try to protect their wealth.
- Then food disappears.
- Then the government hires everyone to spy on everyone else to find out why its law isn't doing what it's supposed to.
- Then skulls pile up.
* Venezuela is at number 5, the US is approaching number 3 with Wisconsin leading the way.
** Actually, it does. Quite a bit and for a long time afterwards.
Friday, February 16, 2007
Since Empire of the Ants came out, GDP has tripled to $12 trillion, while America's total debt outstanding has risen 13 times to $28 trillion. And if one removes government spending from GDP - as ought to be done (in what way is enforcing compliance with the law a 'product'? It's a cost) - the ratio of debt to GDP would be closer to 2.5 times. In other words, it would take $2.50 to create every new dollar of GDP, rather than the 42 cents it took when Empire was made.
Obviously, Bert I. Gordon has a lot more to answer for than the death of a harmless old couple at the mandibles of gigantic ants.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
The point of my question was that God, who currently does not allow that kiling children is moral, COULD declare the contrary. If he can declare the contrary, as a general moral principle, then God's current delcarations on what is moral and immoral are arbitrary.Yes.
Why for example does God tell us that homosexualty is immoral? It doesn't matter does it. The bottom line is god's notation on this matter makes homosexuality immoral to you.There is one little mistake here, however, and that is that because God could have made something different, "it doesn't matter" what the current rule is. In other words, Jefferson assumes that God had no reason to make something the way it is, and had it been different there would be no consequence.
Were he to declare in a new statement that homosexuality is moral (which we all agree he has the power to do) then we can assume that this current determination on homosexuality is arbitrary.
This is easily shown to be erroneous. For example (stepping away from morality for just a second), the speed of light is arbitrary, and some might even say variable. But does it, for that reason, become meaningless? Suppose rather than 186k mps, it was 55 mph. We could still see light, but the change would certainly have a physical effect on our driving. Gravitational force is arbitrary, but no one can argue that had God made it three or five times as strong that it would be of no import.
So coming back to Jefferson's example, let's say that God declared homosexuality moral and heterosexuality immoral and everyone obeyed that 100%. Would that have an effect on us? Certainly it would: humanity and all higher animals would die off in a generation. In short, because something could have been a different way, it does not follow that it doesn't matter what way it is. While it's true that "God's notation on this matter makes homosexuality immoral," its arbitrariness does not presume meaninglessness, but rather represents the best of many possible paths to an end purpose set by God (in this case that humanity would "be fruitful and multiply") when we were created.
Why follow the dictates of one that arbitrarily declares something and who's power of persuation is only the carrot and the stick? Why do this when you are perfectly capable of determining your own standards of behavior based on any number or combination of constructs such as moral intuition, golden rule, catagorical imperative, empathy, self interest, etc, etc, etc.If we take Jefferson's question as asked, it turns out to not be the rhetorical one he expects, I think.
For example: on the one hand we have a creator God, omniscient and omnipotent, who created mankind for a purpose and with limitations he fully understands, and who says to you, "you should do this and not do that." On the other hand, we have an individual who has lived a few years, seen a few things, sort-of understands people, is of average intelligence, and who says to you "you should do this and not do that." Let's assume for the moment that the latter is a person other than you.
If you needed to choose one of those to take advice from, advice so important that your life depended on it, which one would you choose? A rational person asks advice from someone more intelligent, more knowledgeable, and more experienced than himself. Should that change just because the less intelligent choice is you?
In short, the answer to Jefferson's question is that I ought to follow the dictates of God because - carrot and stick aside - he is likely to have a lot wiser opinion of what dictates are best for me than I. While I am "perfectly capable" of making up some set of standards for myself based on all the things Jefferson mentions, if the history of humanity is any indication, the likelihood of those standards being helpful to me and the rest of humanity over the long term is pretty remote.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
A debate over how evolution is taught in Kansas has also become a debate over what students should hear in science class about the Nazis, forced sterilization and an infamous study of syphilis in black men.The idea that removing a requirement to teach Tuskegee amounts to a whitewash of history is a bit of a stretch, because doing so is nearly a perfect parallel with the creationists' own removal of the requirement to teach evolution. In neither case was the subject banned, lacrimations of the other side notwithstanding.
A brief passage in the state's public school guidelines for teaching science mentioning ethical abuses by scientists became an issue on Monday, as the State Board of Education prepared to vote on new guidelines.
While rewriting anti-evolution guidelines adopted in 2005, the board targeted for deletion a passage about the history of ethical standards in science, citing the Tuskegee Syphilis Study.
John West, a senior fellow at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, which supports creationism, called the deletion "a travesty" and wrote an angry letter to board members.
"The board's plan to whitewash the history of science is shameful," he wrote.
But the passage drew criticism from scientists who said that only abuses perceived as linked to evolution were mentioned.
The Tuskegee Mandate is a bit of a poison pill for the evolution side, but in their hatred of creationist bathwater*, the school board is throwing out a very valuable baby. There is no doubt that the creationists put it in because they want to show that science can be a dangerous god. And there's no doubt the evolutionists took it out primarily because they think such an attitude is disparaging of their god and will not have that in schools they control. After all, if people go questioning science, they'll start burn witches again and I'm sure we can think of 9 million reasons why that's a bad idea. They simply will not allow science, as an institution, to be questioned. But Tuskegee illustrates exactly when and why it ought to be questioned, especially by those who are not scientists and who do not have a vested interest in the work being done.
In arguing for removal of the offensive passage, Steve Case, associate director of the Center for Science Education at the University of Kansas, illustrates the dangerous blind spot of a lot of scientists when he says that the creationists
...confuse a philosophy -- social Darwinism -- with a way of explaining how the world works. Discussions about eugenics and the Tuskegee study are best left to history courses, he said.So apparently it is up to historians to "interpret" the Tuskegees that science leaves in its wake; science is far too busy working on the Next Big Thing to concern itself with such trifles.
"We're teaching science and science process," he said. "Historians have their own research techniques and their own interpretations of history."
There is little doubt evolution can be used and has been used to justify racism** - especially in an ex-post-facto manner. But if I'm racist I can get to exactly the same position using creationism - the Curse of Caanan has served well in that capacity for a long time. Both evolution and creation underlie philosophies complicated enough that thoughtcrimes like racism can always be smuggled in and can always be used to justify real crimes like Tuskegee.
Which is precisely why Tuskegee offers a very real and valuable lesson about science: science is performed by people, and people, no matter their claims to objectivity, always bring their own biases and hatreds and blind spots and cupidity to whatever they do. Science can do good and science can do evil, and because of that, philosophy or religion or ethics cannot simply be banished to the classroom down the hall while the scientists get to work. Without a moral limitation on what science can do - a philosophy of science that exists outside its "process" - it is never long before science is doing the immoral.
And that needs to be recognized - in science class - long before the historians are called in to interpret the mess science leaves behind.
* If the creationists had insisted that the sky was blue, the evolutionists would have gotten rid of that as well, fearing it was some secret code for Noah's Ark that they didn't understand.
** Racism is one of the "abuses perceived as being linked to evolution," I suspect. I don't know of any other reason to even remotely connect a half-century old syphillis study to creation/evolution.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
BEIJING — North Korea agreed Tuesday after arduous talks to shut down its main nuclear reactor and eventually dismantle its atomic weapons program, just four months after the communist state shocked the world by testing a nuclear bomb...So we have a deal with NK, a deal in which we agree to pay them for being nice. It's not unlike rewarding a kid for crying (with the difference, of course, that this kid has nuclear weapons). But one thing we ought never forget, and which the press does a disservice in letting us forget, is that today's stories are simply re-hashes of the same story that was written just a dozen years ago*:
Under the deal, the North will receive initial aid equal to 50,000 tons heavy fuel oil within 60 days for shutting down and sealing its main nuclear reactor and related facilities at Yongbyon, north of the capital, to be confirmed by international inspectors.
After sixteen months of negotiations, the United States and North Korea have reached an agreement that ends the recent threat of nuclear proliferation in Northeast Asia and provides the basis for more normal relations between North Korea and the rest of the world...Seems to me we could save a lot of preparation time for the next round if we calculate how long it will take North Korea to burn thru all the free oil we're giving them. The next 'crisis' will certainly begin within a few months of that date.
To compensate the DPRK for loss of energy production ...the consortium will provide the North 500,000 tons of heavy fuel oil annually for use in a specific power plant ...
* and if Bush does sign off on this, all the Republicans who called Herr Clinton a hopeless naif for believing NK (which, in retrospect, he was) but who support this will need to explain why Republican hopeless naifs are less dangerous than their Democratic counterparts.
Monday, February 12, 2007
...at London Fashion Week, which started yesterday, the capital's young designers demonstrated how retro doesn't have to mean a shortage of new ideas.And while I'm not remotely a fan of fashion* I think it's a fine idea that since Britain seems to be a short generation from sharia, they might as well prepare for it. The women will be covered up, but they'll sure look stylish when it happens.
For while 1920s, 1930s and 1970s have been put back on fashion's agenda, how about Medieval chic? This was the proposal by Danish designer Peter Jensen at his show staged in Covent Garden yesterday, and as unpromising as tabard-shaped cardigans and chainmail-style knitted snoods may sound, it was a triumph.
* I have 2 questions regarding my own fashion, "Does it fit?" and "is it clean enough to wear?" The first one is optional, the second entirely dependent on where I'm going.
Sunday, February 11, 2007
Oh, for the days when Arizona's high school students could roll pizza dough, sweep up sticky floors in theaters or scoop ice cream without worrying about ballot initiatives affecting their earning power.No, all those small businesses are just too greedy to pay 30% more for the same work as before. I think Arizona ought to pass a law making it illegal not to hire someone just because they're not worth that much money. That'll show 'em.
That's certainly not the case under the state's new minimum-wage law that went into effect last month.
Some Valley employers, especially those in the food industry, say payroll budgets have risen so much that they're cutting hours, instituting hiring freezes and laying off employees.
* Teenagers can't vote anyway.
ORLANDO, Florida (AP) -- Middle school teacher Julia Austin is noticing a new generation of errors creeping into her pupils' essays.Now I'll admit, I'm as guilty as the next guy of dropping occasional COBOL-speak in my writing, though I'm sure it never got thru final editing on a formal paper.
Sure, they still commit the classic blunders -- like the commonly used "ain't." But an increasing number of Austin's eighth-graders also submit classwork containing "b4," "ur," "2" and "wata" -- words that may confuse adults but are part of the teens' everyday lives.
But I never did one like this.
Thursday, February 08, 2007
Wendy McElroy explains how they used to be:
In the award-winning radical feminist play by Eve Ensler entitled The Vagina Monologues, a 24-year-old woman plies a 13-year-old girl with alcohol, then sexually seduces her. By statute and by feminist definition, this "seduction" is rape. Yet, from the stage, the little girl declares, "Now people say it was a kind of rape ... Well, I say if it was rape, it was a good rape..." Apparently, the reference to "good rape" has been deleted from some performances but the surrounding language makes the rape’s goodness clear...When I found out we were getting Vaginalogues here, I decided to bone up on them (after all, if something is "award-winning" it has to be worth reading, right?) and boy was I surprised.
Gone is the 13-year-old vodka girl; she's now 16.
Gone is the celebration of "good rape"...it's now "politically-incorrect salvation."
Gone is "I'll never need a man"... it's now, well I don't know and who cares, because immediately following the beauty of lesbian child rape, we are whisked into the virtual presence of half a dozen Bosnian women who got the bad kind of rape; you know, the kind when you're an adult and the rapist is a man. The Vaginator wonders how can we not invade** such a place, and speaks to all those women who suffered in rape camps:
I wrote this for the brave, beautiful women of Bosnia and Kosova:I mean, if that doesn't heal them, nothing will. And it's better than anything Shakespeare or Longfellow ever wrote, by far.
My vagina was green water, soft pink fields, cow mooing
Sun resting, sweet boyfriend,
touching lightly with a soft piece of blonde straw
There is something between my legs.
I do not know what it is.
I do not know where it is.
But it's still not the real Vaginalogues. I'm keeping my $5.
* And they don't tell you any of this on those campus posters. Can't John Edwards sue someone for me?
** After all, it worked so well in Iraq. But it turns out the answer is that no one cares because we all know there are 700,000 rapes annually right here in the US. Feminists have an amazing ability to make up big round numbers.
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
John Edwards has fired the two controversial bloggers he recently hired to do liberal blogger outreach, Salon has learned.The danger to Edwards was never that these fine specimens of maidenhood might rile up right-wing bloggers, since they are not going to vote for Edwards anyway, much less in the Dem primary. Rather it came from the fact that those bloggers might tell Democrats* what kind of a nutball Amanda is, using her own words to illustrate the point, and as MikeT noted before there were plenty of those words to go around. You don't become infamous enough to do "liberal blogger outreach" by being level-headed and polite - or having respect for the difference between fact and opinion - but by being angrier and more outrageous than other liberal bloggers.
The bloggers, Amanda Marcotte, formerly of Pandagon, and Melissa McEwan, of Shakespeare's Sister, had come under fire from right-wing bloggers for statements they had previously made on their respective blogs.
My only complaint is that by getting rid of them in such a hurry, Edwards is denying the rest of us an opportunity to see Amanda make a blunder of such magnitude that Edwards himself would have to apologize for it on national TV. I guess Edwards is smarter** than I gave him credit for.
* of the non-moonbat sort, I mean
** but just marginally. After all, he's firing them for having been what he hired them to be.
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
OLYMPIA, Wash. - An initiative filed by proponents of same-sex marriage would require heterosexual couples to have kids within three years or else have their marriage annulled.The proposal is just one of those symbolic tantrums that the left throws on occasion, not unlike a kid who breaks a toy he's not allowed to play with so that no one else can play with it, either. I certainly think it would be funny as hell if it passed*, but I doubt it'll get on the ballot. I have a sneaking suspicion that those who proposed it are merely looking for press and aren't going to do the hard work necessary to get a quarter million signatures now that their point has been made.
Initiative 957 was filed by the Washington Defense of Marriage Alliance. That group was formed last summer after the state Supreme Court upheld Washington's ban on same-sex marriage.
Under the initiative, marriage would be limited to men and women who are able to have children. Couples would be required to prove they can have children in order to get a marriage license, and if they did not have children within three years, their marriage would be subject to annulment.
But it's becoming increasingly apparent that aging societies** are starting to realize they need need lots of young men around in order to survive, and they are changing legal and financial incentives to bring that end about. France already has subsidies for children, Germany is adding them, Italy recently ran a 12-month*** experiment to that effect. We will face the same demographic problem as they, although at a slower pace, and at some point a lot of people who like to use the government's power for social engineering are going to dredge that proposal up and say, you know, that's not such a bad idea after all.
So laugh now while it's still funny.
* In a "You know, Ole, a lotta guys wouldn't weld so close to the gas tank" sort of way.
** Not to mention ones hellbent on sending soldiers all over the world.
*** How do you say 'gestation' in Italian? I'll bet it's a really short word.
Monday, February 05, 2007
Sunday, February 04, 2007
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush will send Congress a $2.9 trillion spending request Monday that seeks billions of dollars more to fight the Iraq war and tries to restrain the spiraling cost of the government's big health care programs...There are two realities about the $2.9 trillion number that must be addressed even before the ink on all those pages is dry: the Democrats are already complaining about all the "cuts," and Bush will add more, just like he has every year for the past three, for "emergency" expenditures. So the final budget number, when all is said and done, will likely top three trillion dollars.
The arrival of the massive four-volume set of green budget books, which will cover the budget year that begins next October 1, will be followed by months of debate in Congress.
Democrats charged that Bush wants to make painful cuts across a wide swath of government programs to protect his tax cuts and to keep funneling money to the unpopular Iraq war.
That's a lot of money, but I don't think the human mind can comprehend the money in toto, simply because none of us has a reference point. We have never seen a trillion of anything. We have seen three, and that's not so much. But three trillion is literally unfathomable.
So break it down a little: three thousand billion dollars. Nope, that doesn't help, since most of use have never seen a billion of something. How about three million million dollars? Maybe we're getting close, because three million million is enough make everyone in Kansas a millionaire this year, and we can all imagine ourselves being millionaires. How about three thousand thousand thousand thousand? Three hundred hundred hundred hundred hundred hundred?
There are three hundred million people in the US, give or take. Three trillion dollars works out to about $10,000 in government spending for each person. $20,000 for a married couple. $50,000 for a family of 5. It will spend $800, per month, on you and your spouse and each of your kids. And all the people you work with. And all the people you see on the highway as you drive to work. The government will spend this year on a family of five more money than half of them earn - and that's excluding state and local governments and off-budget accrued liabilities (promises like Social Security). That's a lot of freaking money, and the only saving grace about having $10,000 worth of government for every person is that we don't get our money's worth. That money could pay every fifth person in America $50,000 a year to make sure the other four obey the millions of obscure regulations the government dreams up to make your life better. Thank God they can't comprehend that much law any more than you can.
So where does it come from? It comes out of your paycheck before you take it home. It is added to every gallon of gas you buy. It is built into the price of every shirt or skirt or gallon of milk you purchase. It is built into your new tires, your telephone bill, your electric bill, your chewing gum. It is built into every cigarette, pot roast, glass of wine, can of corn, and bottle of nail polish you purchase. That money comes from you. $800 every month, $10,000 every year, from you and from everyone you ever see.
Bush's budget in 2001 was 2 trillion dollars, still a mind-bogglingly huge number, but 33% less than his latest. Putting it another way, this year's budget is 50% more than it was a mere 6 years ago. I wonder how many people who voted for Bush in 2000 realized that we needed half again as much government as we had then? I know I didn't; I have regretted that vote nearly every day since I cast it.
Saturday, February 03, 2007
"Our analysis leads to some conclusions that many will perhaps find stunning:While it would be an interesting* exercise to knock down every domino one by one, an illustration of the first point is sufficient to show that while our author (whose whole paper is best viewed in Explorer, unfortunately) uses a lot of economic words, he successfully manages to miss the whole point of trying to get a raise in the first place:
- Even a steeply progressive income tax---right up to 99% on the highest incomes---would impose no loss of purchasing power on wealthy income earners.
- Reducing the income tax rates of rich citizens will weaken the economy if Congress cuts spending to pay for the tax cuts.
- Increasing the amount of taxes collected from wealthy citizens will actually provide a stimulus to the economy.
- The rich cannot get richer---in real terms---by getting their taxes cut, but they can become richer if they pay more in taxes.
- The government is a major producer of Real Wealth.
- An increase in the size of government is almost always quite desirable.
- Wealthy citizens who are wise should be lobbying for an increase in government spending and an increase in their tax rates."
Let's say that in our imaginary scenario the first 800 million dollars of income is subject to a 98% marginal tax rate. That means that both Paul and Bill would pay the same amount of taxes on the first $800,000,000 of their income. But Bill would pay more in taxes than Paul because he made an extra $200,000,000 in income. In a marginal income tax system, Bill would pay the 99% tax rate only on that extra $200,000,000. This would leave him with $2,000,000 more in disposable income than Paul would end up with.The author is correct so far as he goes, as the comparative bidding positions of all three men are preserved. But what he misses is that their proportional bidding positions are completely destroyed, not only in relation to each other, but in relation to everyone else in the world.
What about within a tax bracket? Well, if Warren Buffett grosses $900,000,000 the same year, he would also pay the same amount of taxes as the others did on the first 800 million dollars of their income. He would also pay 99% on the extra $100,000,000 that he earned. This would leave him with $1,000,000 more in disposable income than Paul ends up with, but with still $1,000,000 less than Bill ends up with. The comparative bidding positions of all three men within the hierarchy of national income distribution would be preserved.
With the Progressive Income Tax, taxpayers do not need to be concerned about the shrinking of their disposable incomes...
Let's tone it back to a more reasonable (meaning one that would actually include numbers people can comprehend) example: John works a printing press for $10 an hour, and Jim sells the resulting business forms for $20 an hour. If one imposes the same 99% marginal rate on incomes over $10/hr, then while John will still bring home $10, Jim will now bring home $10.10. His relative position compared to John is preserved, but his proportional position has taken him from 2x to 1.01x John's buying power. That means that whereas before Jim could afford twice what John could, he can now afford nearly exactly what John can. And he can now afford only half of what Tiosho (who still brings home $20.20/hr building Toyotas in Japan) can buy, whereas before he could afford nearly as much.
The comparative bidding positions of all three men would be preserved, but it is only a fool who would argue that such a tax burden "would impose no loss of puchasing power" on Jim. "Rich" is not merely positional, but proportional.
One might argue that the effect would be far different in the author's scenario because he's talking about people who have more money than they know what to do with, or that the differences in marginal rates would never be that stark. The first is an argument from envy, the second attempts to alleviate taxation's corrosive effects by taking the larger pieces in smaller increments, but the difference is one of form and not substance. The mathematics remain precisely the same.
On a lighter note, it is perhaps unsurprising that Edwards has hired my favorite feminista to be his new blogmistress. So now in addition to seeing a whole new brand of ignorant screeds - Amanda is far more comfortable with profanity-laced accusations of rape than she is with numbers - we can look forward to them being flushed down the memory hole the minute they are exposed to the light of day**.
* To me, not to you I suspect.
** Meaning as soon as they are in danger of being read by people who are not supposed to see them - voters.
Friday, February 02, 2007
Dear State Employees,Pop Quiz time:
Friday, February 2, 2007, has been set aside as National Wear Red Day. I would like to take this opportunity to invite you all to join me in wearing red as a showing of support for the fight against heart disease in women...
While this observance is a call for women, I am also asking male employees to be involved as a showing of support for the women in your lives...
Governor of the State of Kansas
If I didn't wear red today, it means:
a) I hate women
b) I want women to die of heart disease
c) I find symbolic shows of support a waste of time
d) I came to work dressed as a groundhog because I got the memo too late
PARIS, France (AP) -- Global warming caused by human activity is real and will continue for hundreds of years, a panel of some of the world's top climate scientists said Friday...In fact, man-made global warming is so bad, Space.com is now reporting that it is affecting not only our planet, but neighboring Mars as well:
And the report said no matter how much civilization slows or reduces its greenhouse gas emissions, global warming and sea level rise will continue on for centuries.
Martian snow turns out to be rock hard. Worse, it is melting away at an alarming rate.Climatologians are concerned by a growing body of evidence that man-made global warming has reached the edges of our own solar system, and that Pluto, following its humiliating demotion from the rank of planet last year, is suffering a further indignity that could destroy all life there:
In fact, Mars may be in the midst of a period of profound climate change, according to a new study that shows dramatic year-to-year losses of snow at the south pole.
BIRMINGHAM, Ala.--Pluto is undergoing global warming, as evidenced by a three-fold increase in the planet's atmospheric pressure during the past 14 years, a team of astronomers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Williams College, the University of Hawaii, Lowell Observatory and Cornell University announced in a press conference today at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society's (AAS) Division for Planetary Sciences in Birmingham, AL.A call seeking comment from the President of the neighboring Alpha Centauri star system was not returned as of this writing. But the Centaurians appear to be building a bigass wall between our solar systems for some reason.
Thursday, February 01, 2007
Well, let today's circus begin. First up from the party where women are human beings:
Rep. Loretta Sanchez has quit the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, accusing the chairman, Rep. Joe Baca, of telling people she's a "whore."Then Sen Joe Biden (who is about to receive a promotion to "Apocalypse Dwarf" status) said of fellow dwarf Dusky:
...Sanchez, a California Democrat as is Baca, also cited concerns about whether Baca was properly elected Hispanic Caucus chairman in November and about his general attitude toward female lawmakers. The caucus represents 21 Hispanic Democrats in Congress.
"I'm not going to be a part of the CHC as long as Mr. Baca illegally holds the chair … I told them no. There's a big rift here," Sanchez said. "You treat the women like shit. I have no use for him."
"I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that's a storybook, man."To which Rev. Al responded (when Joe called to apologize) that he, too, bathed every day, and Jessie complained was "dismissive of our**** own campaigns." Obama himself later had to point out other black candidates, like Shirley Chisholm and Carol Moseley Braun, that Biden, like the rest of the nation, didn't notice had even run. One can only assume they were clean, too.
While the Democrats are a live-action Island of Misfit Toys when out of power, they are so much more entertaining when their incompetence matters. As I said before the electorate put the speaker's gavel into the hands of America's children, if all the Dems do is check Bush, that's the best political outcome we can hope for. Any entertainment value is simply icing on the cake. It looks like there'll be plenty.
(hat tip(s): Neal Boortz)
* the first, of course, was that since Bush acts like a Democrat and his own party won't oppose him, the elimination of Bush as a political force will have the major effect of reducing the number of Democratic parties in America by one.
** No, raising the MinWage is not significant. Stupid, but not significant.
*** Carter lost the Senate and then the Presidency. Clinton, having 4 more years than Carter in which to accomplish nothing, lost both House and Senate before turning the White House back to the GOP. Bush, being himself a closet Democrat, managed the feat as well, while leaving behind looming national bankruptcy. Never let it be said nominal Republicans don't get things done.
**** Apparently Jesse prefers the royal "We."