A Cautious Man
March 26, 2009
Wizard Imps
Apropos of an earlier post here, a pertinent quote:

There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.

(Source, via LG&M.)

The Ladeez Man
Just reading around the web, it seems the Bill O'Reilly has decided that he can best "defend" rape victims by sending a producer to shadow and "ambush interview" an online journalist on her vacation. This, of course, is an occasion to revisit Mr. O'Reilly's "racier" oeuvre, including selections from his audio book version of "Those Who Trespass". Found courtesy of Lawyers, Guns & Money, who also point to this little mash-up -

March 18, 2009
What A Waste It Is ...
... to lose one's mind, as Dan Quayle would say.

Victoria Jackson demonstrates the deleterious effects of a steady diet of Fox News -

(Via South Florida Daily Blog, who watches this stuff so you don't have to!)

March 17, 2009
Tweet, Tweet, Tweet
Remember a long, long time ago, when Barack Obama and John McCain ran against each other in the Presidential election? At the time, there was a silly Obama ad about how Senator McCain "Can't send an email." It was silly, because it really had nothing to do with whether Senator McCain could be President. However, the McCain partisans weren't content to just call it silly, they had to ratchet it up. They started carrying on that Senator Obama was mocking Senator McCain's wartime injuries, including injuries to his fingers which made him unable to type.

Yes, those were good times. Since then, Senator McCain has apparently not only caught up on the latest technology, but also taken a side-trip to Lourdes, because now he's on "Twitter" and can "tweet" like a champion!

Hey there! SenJohnMcCain is using Twitter.
Twitter is a free service that lets you keep in touch with people through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing? Join today to start receiving SenJohnMcCain's updates.

It might be interesting to keep track of Senator McCain's "tweets". For example, earlier today he did a twitter interview (would that be a "twinterview"?) with George Stephanopoulos. He started out -

@GStephanopoulos Happy St. Patrick's day - slow, sometimes pc somtimes bb

(The apparently new ability to tap out "GStephanopoulos" on a Blackberry is the reason for the "Lourdes" comment, above). Since it's on Twitter, all the Q's and A's are short. One in particular caught my eye, concerning former Vice President Cheney's comments from this past weekend. George asked -

@SenJohMcCain Cheney said on CNN that Obama putting US at risk of new terror attack Agree?

Senator McCain responded -

@GStephanopoulos too early to draw that conclusion.

I just thought that was an interesting little tidbit to find there.

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh!
Or, "St. Patrick's Day blessing on you all!"

And now, a traditional Irish song -

(Okay, so maybe it wasn't so traditional ...)

March 14, 2009
American Pi
It's March 14, which means it's Pi Day!

This year's Congressional Resolution declaring "Pi Day" passed by a vote of 391-10 (more later on that 10):

H. RES. 224
Supporting the designation of Pi Day, and for other purposes.

March 9, 2009

Mr. GORDON of Tennessee (for himself, Mr. HALL of Texas, Mr. LIPINSKI, and Mr. BAIRD) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Science and Technology

Supporting the designation of Pi Day, and for other purposes.

Whereas the Greek letter (Pi) is the symbol for the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter;

Whereas the ratio Pi is an irrational number, which will continue infinitely without repeating, and has been calculated to over one trillion digits;

Whereas Pi is a recurring constant that has been studied throughout history and is central in mathematics as well as science and engineering;

Whereas mathematics and science are a critical part of our children's education, and children who perform better in math and science have higher graduation and college attendance rates;

Whereas aptitude in mathematics, science, and engineering is essential for a knowledge-based society;

Whereas, according to the 2007 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) survey done by the National Center for Education Statistics, American children in the 4th and 8th grade were outperformed by students in other countries including Taiwan, Singapore, Russia, England, South Korea, Latvia, and Japan;

Whereas since 1995 the United States has shown only minimal improvement in math and science test scores;

Whereas by the 8th grade, American males outperform females on the science portion of the TIMSS survey, especially in Biology, Physics, and Earth Science, and the lowest American scores in math and science are found in minority and impoverished school districts;

Whereas America needs to reinforce mathematics and science education for all students in order to better prepare our children for the future and in order to compete in a 21st Century economy;

Whereas the National Science Foundation has been driving innovation in math and science education at all levels from elementary through graduate education since its creation 59 years ago;

Whereas mathematics and science can be a fun and interesting part of a child's education, and learning about Pi can be an engaging way to teach children about geometry and attract them to study science and mathematics; and

Whereas Pi can be approximated as 3.14, and thus March 14, 2009, is an appropriate day for 'National Pi Day': Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives--

(1) supports the designation of a 'Pi Day' and its celebration around the world;

(2) recognizes the continuing importance of National Science Foundation's math and science education programs; and

(3) encourages schools and educators to observe the day with appropriate activities that teach students about Pi and engage them about the study of mathematics.

Now, about the "10 against". According to the roll call, they were Republicans Jeff Flake, from Arizona; Dean Heller, Montana; Timothy Johnson, Illinois; Jeff Miller, Florida; Randy Neugebauer, Texas; former Presidendial candidate Ron Paul, Texas; Ted Poe, also Texas; Bill Shuster, Pennsylvania; Mike Pence, Indiana, and Jason Chaffetz, Utah. The only explanation I found (via the New Scientist news blog) was from Representative Chaffetz, who "twitters" at "Jasoninthehouse". He sort of mocked the fact that time was being spent on it, but at the vote stated (or, I guess "tweeted"), "I cannot support Pi Day as just one day. It should go on forever. I voted 'Nay.' It passed 391-10". No word or tweets on any of the others.

By the way, Representative Chaffetz did take a moment a short while ago to "tweet" a "Happy Pi Day!" to everyone. Back atcha!

American Idiot
Comment follows, after you read this item -

Rep. Bill Posey, R-Florida, introduced legislation this week requiring candidates to produce a birth certificate to be eligible to run in future presidential elections, triggering a sharp reaction from Democrats who accused him of "questioning President Obama's citizenship."

Posey submitted a bill with no fanfare Thursday that instructs the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to be amended to add the birth certificate requirement. The Constitution requires that a president or a vice president be "a natural born citizen."

Posey spokesman George Cecala emphasized several times to CNN that the congressman was "not trying to fan the flames" of the Obama citizenship dust-up nor was he "trying to jab someone in the eye." Instead, Posey was "just trying to clarify the law," Cecala said.

Cecala added that Posey, who was elected in 2008, decided to introduce the bill because of concerns raised by constituents and other people from across the country. So far, the bill has no cosponsors and Posey did not inform the Republican leadership he was introducing it, according to Cecala.

And now, a comment -

March 12, 2009
Going Immobile
The latest right-wing rallying cry is "Going Galt". As one of our favorite right-wingers has explained it (via the NY Times Opinionator entry, "'Going Galt': Everyone's Doing It!" -

While they take to the streets politically, untold numbers of America’s wealth producers are going on strike financially. Dr. Helen Smith, a Knoxville forensic pathologist and political blogger, dubbed the phenomenon “Going Galt” last fall. It’s a reference to the famed Ayn Rand novel, “Atlas Shrugged,” in which protagonist John Galt leads the entrepreneur class to cease productive activities in order to starve the government of revenue.

Of course, the original character of John Galt didn't want to simply "starve the governent" for no good reason. In fact, as he set out in a long, tedious three-hour speech which is apparently the "hightlight" of the novel, govenment was simply taking from the "haves" and giving to underserving "have nots." (A "mini-version", that gives you a sense of the somewhat repetitive argument, is at this page.)

In other words, "If I can't keep it all, then I'm not going to try to earn any of it." Luckily, Stephen Colbert took on this phenomenon last night, summarizing the "Going Galt" movement as: "When millions are losing jobs, losing homes, and losing hope, there is nothing more important that putting yourself first."

Actually, there's something else that's bothering Mr. Galt (and Ms. Rand), which pervades the speech, as in this for example -

“The justification of sacrifice, that your morality propounds, is more corrupt than the corruption it purports to justify. The motive of your sacrifice, it tells you, should be love-the love you ought to feel for every man. A morality that professes the belief that the values of the spirit are more precious than matter, a morality that teaches you to scorn a whore who gives her body indiscriminately to all men - this same morality demands that you surrender your soul to promiscuous love for all comers."

That's correct, all these right-wingers are now taking their lead from a belief system which rejects the one with teachings like this -

If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.

And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.

If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.

March 06, 2009
The Coming Conservative "Holy War"
Okay, so maybe the title is a little too harsh or strong. However, there does seem to be a pronounced anti-Islam "undercurrent", if you will, in conservative political circles. It's more than just opposing terrorists, and seems more along the lines of promoting fear of anything which, or anybody who, is Muslim. I could be wrong, but there are just so many signs of this out there.

For example, Rick Santorum (the former Senator) seems to have made this issue the one he will use to keep in the public eye. His speech at the recent CPAC conference was noted by many for his out-of-context use of Attorney General Holder's remarks on race (see, for example, "At CPAC Fox News' Santorum says AG Holder 'confirm[ed]' to bin Laden that 'effeminate and pampered Americans will cower away' "). But, prior to getting to that point in his speech, he launches on a tirade giving dire warnings about "creeping Sharia" and "Islamicization".

The text (from the website of his "thinktank") -

I've heard several metaphors up here that we have two wings of the party, the economic conservatives and the social conservatives. I would just say that the three-legged stool makes more sense to me. Because there are people in America who are 9/11 conservatives - who are people that see the threats that are out there and before us and a threat that is not going to go away anytime soon. Who vote for us because we are the adults. We do look squarely in the eyes of the enemy and see it for what it is and are willing to step forward and commit, as George Bush did, troops to fight this great threat to American civilization. I would say to economic conservatives that creeping Sharia - I know David Horowitz had Geert Wilders here last night to talk - and that creeping Sharia throughout Europe and here in this country and in Canada, the "Islamicization" of Europe that is already underway, and it will visit this shore none too soon is a concern for us and something we need to identify and we need to talk about and we need to fight with every ounce of our being.

There are all sorts of other threats but let me just focus on one more and that is Iran. Iran last week announced they now have enough material to make a nuclear weapon. These are people who believe, this is a leader, a president, who every speech he gives leaves an empty chair. Who's the empty chair for? The Twelfth Imam. Well, who's the Twelfth Imam? Well, he's the man who is going to come back at the end of times to lead them in victory over the world. And he leaves a chair for him. Why? Because he's coming soon. And these people want a nuclear weapon. And we don't even talk about it as a party. We don't even talk about it as a country.

The whole "empty chair for the Twelfth Imam" thing appears to have come from some Dick Cheney interview a few years ago, near as I can tell.

Mr. Santorum refers to a talk given at CPAC by Geert Wilders. Who is that? He has found a way to gain fame (or notoriety) by peddling a short, anti-Islam film called "Fitna". Basically, he takes less than a half dozen verses of the Koran, juxtaposes them with pictures depicting terrorism and hatred, and reaches the conclusion that the Koran should be banned and Muslims kept out of Europe. Some of his own words, from an interview last year -

SPIEGEL: You invoke the right to freedom of opinion but you demand a prohibition of the Koran. Does that not contravene the principle of religious tolerance?

Wilders: For me, Islam is a vision of a society that defines all forms of interpersonal behavior -- from inheritance to criminal law. This ideology endangers our values. I hate it, I don't hate Muslims.

SPIEGEL: Is the comparison between the Koran and Hitler's "Mein Kampf" not totally inappropriate? In making it, you're providing the imams with a perfect image of the enemy.

Wilders: I want to provoke a discussion. Certain Koranic verses have moved their followers to commit the most abhorrent acts. Where is the imam who stands up in the Netherlands and says, for us, homosexuals are entitled to equal rights and everyone has the right to abandon their faith.

SPIEGEL: Your tirades are a challenge to all moderate Muslims and those pushing for Islamic reform.

Wilders: Moderate Islam? That's a contradiction. It's going to be a long time before we see a new Koran, an equivalent to the New Testament. Attacks don't happen in the name of Buddhism or Christianity; nor do homosexuals get beaten up, as happens daily in Amsterdam.

SPIEGEL: But immigrant youth crime has nothing to do with religion.

Wilders: It's true, they don't carry the Koran under their arms. But it's at home. And their fathers go to the mosque. They don't tell their children that beating women or believers of other religions is not allowed. That's why we have to push harder for a kind of Leitkultur, a guiding culture. Not a monoculture but a culture that draws on our Christian, Jewish, humanistic traditions and that poses a challenge to the Islamic problem. This is patriotism, not nationalism, this is pride in our own culture.

His technique is familiar to anyone who has heard or read a Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris take some Bible verses out of context, and then declaim that Christianity is flawed. Yet, folks like Mr. Santorum happily endorse this guy, and either fail to recognize this or (just as likely) support his narrow-minded attacks.

By the way, the CPAC conference was not the only place where Mr. Geert's and his views were entertained recently:

US lawmaker hosts anti-Islamic Dutch lawmaker
By Associated Press | Monday, February 23, 2009

Republican Sen. Jon Kyl is hosting a film screening at the Capitol building on Thursday for a far-right Dutch lawmaker who claims that Islam inspires terrorism.

Kyl is sponsoring the event for Geert Wilders, who was denied entry to London earlier this month because British authorities said he posed a threat to public order.

Wilders’ 15-minute film juxtaposes verses from the Quran with images of violence by Muslims. Wilders has called the Quran a "fascist book" and said it should be banned.

I think this is a strategy of hate, being stirred up by some political conservatives, as they look for issues to grab onto. Santorum himself said that, in addition to economic conservatives, and social issue conservatives, they need the support of people they can scare into hating, to join them.

March 05, 2009
A Million-Dollar Break
You've probably heard about the latest "Mega Millions" lottery winners, a group of co-workers in New Jersey. Ten people splitting $216 million. Nice.

But, not as nice as this part of the story, which is in the article linked to above.

The six men and four women who won said they've worked in Chubb's IT division from seven to 30 years and had been buying tickets together for years.

One regular buyer, Oscar Oviedo, had asked Space to count him in and promised $5 for his share. Space rushed over to him early Wednesday morning and demanded the money.

"I thought: 'How rude!'" Oviedo said with a laugh, recalling how he handed over $5, unsure why Space was being so insistent. "Then he said, 'OK, thanks — you're a millionaire.'"

You often see these lottery stories end up as bad news. That was a little good news about good people.

March 04, 2009
Because I'm Easily Amused ...
First off, I probably should have entitled a post "Because I'm Easily Distracted", since with all the crazy stuff going on in the world, I haven't bothered to toss off a random thought about any of it lately.

So what has stirred me from this lethargy? Well, I have been keeping up with the news, the same as any of you here on "the internets". The Talking Points Memo site had a story today that made my jaw drop, and then laugh out loud.

First, the jaw drop. Senator David Vitter, who was caught up in that whole "DC Madam" thing (which ended, if you recall, with the poor woman killing herself), has decided that he has to be "Mr. Family Values" to get ready for his reelection campaign next year. His vehicle is to attack spending on family planning programs. Seriously. The guy was paying for vo-dee-oh-doh-doh by the hour, and he wants to make it harder for other people to have safe vo-dee-oh-doh-doh? Please ...

But then the part that made me laugh out loud, as explained by TPM:

It has to be noted, of course, that Vitter is facing potential primary challenges from a leading Christian-right activist, a former Congressman, and a porn star. (That's three different people, by the way, not one person matching all three descriptions.)

Glad they cleared that up!


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