March 31, 2004

More Reason to Hate the French

from - smijer

The @#$%! French Metric System:

We believe our works to be of God; we are actuated by no selfish or mercenary motive. We depreciate personal antagonisms of ever kind, but we proclaim a ceaseless antagonism to that great evil, The French Metric System .... The jests of the ignorant and the ridicule of the prejudiced, fall harmless upon us and deserve no notice .... It is the Battle of the Standards. May our banner be ever upheld in the cause of Truth, Freedom, and Universal Brotherhood, founded upon a just weight and a just measure, which alone are acceptable to the Lord.

Posted by smijer at 07:37 PM | Comments (1)

What he said

from - smijer

There is nothing to add, nothing else that can be said, after today's entry pinions of buddy don. That's not just "pinion". That's "fack".

One of the big lessons I have learned in life is this: when you don't have anything to say, keep your mouth shut. Since I don't, I will.

Posted by smijer at 07:29 AM | Comments (1)

March 30, 2004

Oh yeah? Well you're a field perturbation!

from - smijer

Phelps has found an entertaining game: what principle of physics is your presidential candidate? He quotes Kevin Baker thusly(previously erroneous attestation now corrected), regarding John Kerry:

His positions seem more like probabilistic clouds, ruled by the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle - you can't know where he stands, and the act of trying to determine his position affects his position.

So, Kerry's the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. This looks like it could be fun.

Which principle, law, theory, or historical event in science best describes Bush? Here are the first few I could come up with:

  • The Bernoulli principle: Hot air rises - to the Presidency!

  • Einstein, Podolsky, Rosen Paradox: "Spooky" action at at distance - Iraq to be precise

  • Millikan's oil drop experiment: ... 'nuff said

  • The atomic "1s" energy shell: an electron just can't sink any lower

  • "Birds Are Not Dinosaurs": Couldn't win over the majority of scientists
  • Update: Here's one for the whole administration: they're fermions, obeying Pauli exclusion... no more than one of them can testify before the same 9/11 panel.

    What else?

    Posted by smijer at 04:33 PM | Comments (2)

    He Capitulates! He Scores!

    from - smijer

    Here's the letter from W.H. lawyer Gonzales stating that they will bend the 'rules', and allow Condi Rice to testify.

    My favorite line?

    The necessary conditions are [as] follows...

    Second, the Commission must agree in writing that it will not request additional public testimony from any White House official, including Dr. Rice.

    "Look, we don't got to tell yous guys nuttin'."

    Posted by smijer at 01:35 PM | Comments (3)

    Rogue's Gallery

    from - smijer

    DiIulio.jpgJohn DiIulio: Faith Based Initiative Czar.

    Wrote a letter to esquire, hinting that the political arm of the White House was managing the policy, and badly.

    Apologized abjectly, and almost immediately (scroll down)
    wilson.jpgJoseph Wilson: U.S. Ambassador

    Called B.S. on administration's claims about uranium from Nigeria.

    Administration compromises his wife's undercover status with the CIA.
    oneill.jpgPaul O'Neill: Former Treasury Secretary

    Criticized administration on Iraq and tax policy, reiterated DiIulio's criticisms, the whole shootin' match.

    Among other things, got investigated for his troubles. (No evidence of wrong-doing emerged).
    clarke.jpgRichard Clarke: Former Counterterrorism chief

    Said administration wasn't focused enough on terror before 9/11 and unduly distracted by Iraq afterward. Wrote a book and gave interviews.

    Ongoing...

    I'm taking bets on who's next. David Kay, anyone?
    Posted by smijer at 07:40 AM | Comments (21)

    March 29, 2004

    Clarke vs Cheney-Frist/Rove-Bush

    from - smijer

    Ok, ignore the title of this post. I've got some inchoate thoughts on the next election and the last three years' administration that can only be expressed enigmatically. The fact is that I'm going to talk more about the Republican response to Richard Clarke.

  • Link via Moveable Beast, Tennessean Bill Frist thinks Richard Clarke had no right to apologize to the 9/11 families on behalf of a government that "tried", but failed to prevent the terrorist attacks. Well, maybe not. But this Tennessean thinks (just maybe) those families needed to hear an apology.

  • Frist also called for Clarke's August 2002 testimony to be declassified. Frist publically stated that Clarke has been telling two contradictory stories under oath. As Jesse points out, Frist told two contradictory stories in the process.

    Clarke says, "yes, let's declassify all of it." Why do I just know that "all of it" is a little bit more than Frist will want out in the open?

  • Speaking of getting things out in the open, I think that the administration will eventually have to give in to pressure to put Condi under oath. The pressure is coming from the president's own party as well. That's not to mention that the excuse about long-standing White House "tradition", is about as transparent as it gets. Numerous bloggers have pointed out that this "tradition" is not long-standing at all, and one blogger (I'm sorry: I cannot remember who! Update: It was Sadly No!) points out how this reflects on President "9/11 changes everything" Bush - it might change our policy on starting unprovoked wars - but it decidedly does not change our "tradition" that Rice can't testify under oath.

    Everybody is talking about how this isn't a time for fingerpointing. Well, it is a time for fingerpointing. GWB is running for re-election as a "war-time president", a great leader in a time of national crisis. He is pointing a finger to himself and telling us that only he can get us through this crisis. He put's the Trade Center in his campaign ads, and cannot open his mouth without "we're winning the war on terra" spewing out.

    A presidential election is not "just politics". It is the time for evaluating the strength of the candidates, their positions, their policies, and their records, and the claims they make about themselves. If Bush wants his record on terrorism to be a large part of his campaign for re-election, then he is just going to have to sit tight and have it examined - and that means hearing from his detractors as well as his hagriographers.

    Clarke's accusations will not be the end of the President's image as a good leader on terrorism, though they will have some impact. On the other hand, the administration's response may be the straw that breaks the camels back where it concerns the President's reliability for candor and disclosure.

    Posted by smijer at 08:06 AM | Comments (3)
  • March 26, 2004

    Weekend Hiatus

    from - smijer

    I guess I'm going to start my weekend hiatus early. I don't even have a parting thought to leave you with. Curse real life.

    Posted by smijer at 02:32 PM | Comments (0)

    RoboCop, Here We Come

    from - smijer

    They've been doing this on monkeys for a while, but they are starting to test interfaces on humans that allow one to directly control machines with one's brain. This is just amazing to me. How long before amputees have fully operational prosthetics? This is great stuff.

    How long before they bundle blog-writing software and I can just sleep all day?

    P.S. Tasteless humor, meet tastless humor, executive style.

    Posted by smijer at 08:00 AM | Comments (1)

    March 25, 2004

    Grudgingly, Richard Clarke

    from - smijer

    Since Richard Clarke's name worked its way to the top of the news over the weekend, I have been scupulously avoiding the subject of him, his 60 minutes interview, his book, the right wing damage control about him, and the 9/11 panel hearings that he is participating in.

    I've been meaning to do a Boortz entry. Problem is that I'd have to break the no Clarke rule to do it this week.

    I still don't want to comment too much, but I want to throw a couple of things out there for anyone reading who has only heard the right wing spin.

  • In this entry, Morat at Skeptical Notion astutely points out that between Condi Rice and Richard Clarke, only one of them was willing to give their testimony under oath.
  • Dick Cheney showed a measure of desperation in his rebuttal, as everyone and their pet rocks have pointed out by now. Not only did he stoop to the Rush Limbaugh show to get his message out, but he inanely claimed that his own counterterrorism chief was "out of the loop" on administration counterterrorism activity. Absurd, if true - but probably not.
  • Clarke seems to be contradicting statements from 2002 where he praised the Bush administration. He accounts for this by saying he was playing the "good soldier" (like Colin did when he went before the U.N. with the pictures of tractor-trailers of mass destruction and the obfuscation about the aluminum tubes) ... More discussion here
  • Contrary to what Boortz says (here today, and here tomorrow), Clarke's apology to the 9/11 victims seemed very sincere. This wasn't a partisan shot. This was it in its entirety:
    I also welcome the hearings because it is finally a forum where I can apologize to the loved ones of the victims of 9/11, to them who are here in the room, to those who are watching on television, your government failed you. Those entrusted with protecting you, failed you, and I failed you. We tried hard, but that doesn't matter, because we failed. And for that failure, I would ask, once all the facts are out, for your understanding and for your forgiveness. With that, Mr. Chairman, I'll be glad to take your questions.
    If you ask me, that's a man shaken by a failure he feels largely responsible for. Is it reasonable to expect the goverment to be able to prevent every attack? Is Clarke being too hard on himself and the govermnent he worked for? Probably so. It was likely that the attacks couldn't be prevented. But that doesn't stop the man from feeling a personal ownership of the failure to prevent them.

    I'm not going to engage in the fingerpointing. I wasn't in any of those cabinet meetings... I'm not Condi or Clarke or Cheney or Bush and I wasn't there. I won't point fingers on Clarke's say-so, nor will I spend a lot of time repeating the defenses that Condi and Cheney have offerred. I just wanted to get some of those notes out in case there were people only hearing one side of the story. Needless to say, there is another side to the story, and the right-wing bloggers are doing their part to make sure you're aware of it. Drop by their blogs and check it out if you haven't heard it already.

    Posted by smijer at 05:05 PM | Comments (7)
  • Technical Question

    from - smijer

    I get it every now and then in my comments, but very rarely on my front page. I see it on MT blogs that use light-colored backgrounds more often than anywhere else. What is it? Difficult to explain. An area of text (or borders) will "disappear". Usually it will be when the comments page first loads, but on the main page with light-colored background it may be after you scroll up and down the page a bit. Usually, you can cause that text to "re-appear" normally either by selecting it with the mouse, or by scrolling up and down the page a little more.

    I don't know if this happens in all browsers or all operating systems. I know it does happen from IE6 on Windows XP. It doesn't seem to be an issue in most non-Movable Type pages that I view. I suspect it has something to do with cascading style sheets and their use of layering, but I can't put my finger on exactly what.

    If someone who is more knowledgeable about CSS or whatever the difficulty is would leave a note in the comments, I'd be eternally grateful ^for a long time. And I'd give you the morning off from my political opinions.

    Update:This morning it is only showing itself in the "empty" comments threads, but here is an example. Normally, at the top of the comments box, you would see "Comments: Technical Question" in big red lettering, and then a dividing line. I shrunk this to get it to fit in my middle column, but you can see that the usual text is missing:
    example.JPG

    Posted by smijer at 07:49 AM | Comments (4)

    March 24, 2004

    Evolution

    from - smijer

    Interesting new research on the genetic history of human evolution. A new gene - MYH16 - is broken in humans, weakening our jaw muscles, and making room for a bigger brain. Like I always say, you can't learn anything with your jaws a'flappin'....

    Speaking of evolution, check out The Panda's Thumb. Talk about a group blog, this thing has a very impressive roster of scientists blogging about the ongoing debate between science and pseudo-scientific creationism... and it looks like they are loaded for bear. Great stuff!

    Posted by smijer at 06:37 PM | Comments (1)

    One nation, Under Allah

    from - smijer

    It could happen. Apparently there is no abiding Constitutional principle which would prevent the state from asking its minor subjects to recite such a pledge at the beginning of a school-day, to a nation "under Allah" (or "under Buddha", or "under the Reverand Father Moon").

    And there are people celebrating who will be celebrating this decision^. once officially announced

    Posted by smijer at 05:38 PM | Comments (0)

    Ain't Worth Half That Much

    from - smijer

    I know everybody's just dying to hear what smijer thinks about the missile strike against Hamas leader Yassin on Monday. So, here's my two cents on it (but it ain't worth half that):

    I think it could be a good move. Sharon is making moves toward land concessions in the West Bank and Gaza. Simultaneously, he is striking hard against the terrorist leaders. I don't think much of Sharon, but he may be on to something here. If he can start making concessions to the Palestinian people (instead of bulldozing their houses, for instance), while simultaneously pounding the militant leadership, the militants may find themselves with less organizational ability and a less willing pool of recruits. Such a scenario could perhaps even be hoped to reverse the current destructive cycle.

    The reason I stick my neck out to share this optimistic opinion is because there may already be evidence that this kind of strategy is working.

    That's my half-assed opinion for the day. Make of it what you will.

    Posted by smijer at 11:24 AM | Comments (11)

    A Classic

    from - smijer

    I'm having another of my wonderful foggy mornings, with too much real life on my mind... unfortunately not the kinds of things that can be shared on a public blog.

    To the rescue comes one of the newer additions to my blogroll. Via Pharyngula, I have added De Rerum Natura to the science rolls. And, posted there today is this classic reductio ad absurdum on the core argument of "Intelligent Design" creationism. So in place of writing incogent thoughts of my own, I can buy a little time by pointing you to the cogent thoughts of someone who had a much better day than me.

    Now, I'm going to finish my coffee, feed B-I-N-G-O, and lumber off to work.

    Posted by smijer at 07:26 AM | Comments (0)

    March 23, 2004

    Hubble Trouble

    from - smijer

    Nice op-ed on members of the public and scientists pushing to rescue the Hubble. Read...

    Posted by smijer at 03:04 PM | Comments (2)

    Guilt By Association

    from - smijer

    If you watch Conservative blogs, you've probably seen some crazy photos from the anti-war parade in San Francisco from the weekend. Ricky mentions them, but he takes the high road, avoiding the guilt-by-association trap. I gotta admire that. But, not everyone is so high-minded. From Dog Snot Diaries:

    Why fight the far left?
    ...
    These are Kerry's people. He'll get their votes. That's why I support our President. There's no room for this in MY America.

    So, to some people, guilt by association is a-OK. Without reminding Geoffrey that there is a lunatic fringe on the far right, too (I'm thinking Paul Hill and Tim McVeigh, Fred Phelps and David Duke, if you care), I'll just make two counterpoints:
    1) Those are not necessarily Kerry people. They might just as easily be Kucinich people or Nader people, but are more likely Lyndon LaRouche people - based purely on degree of crazy. On the other hand they could be operatives for the right-wingers just trying to poison the well.

    2) What kind of guilt is this?:

    lthumb.xjs10103202051.war_protests_xjs101.jpg

    I would not have personally attended that rally (or any of the thousands like it around the world). I think the time to protest a war is before it is fought. However, if I felt the need to join a protest, I wouldn't be silenced by a fear that idiots might show up there, too.

    Posted by smijer at 07:11 AM | Comments (12)

    March 22, 2004

    My Own Grand-blogfather

    from - smijer

    I'm going to set aside my pseudo-anonymity for a moment so that I can tell you about a new project in my family. My mom has spent the last several years tracing her ancestral line on her father's side. She has put a ton of work and research into the project. She regularly sends out e-mails to interested members of the family with her newest discoveries or coincidental encounters. So, finally, I told her she needed a blog to write about her genealogy work. She agreed, I sought out a bargain hosting service, and installed Movable Type for her.

    World, meet HughesTree.org

    Anyone interested in genealogy, or who thinks their line may intersect, or who just enjoys reading interesting stories - go have a look.

    And there it is on the blogroll, too - taking the place of WeckUpToThees (which I rarely read any longer), under the "Miscellaneous" heading. I guess I need to do some re-organizing to my blog-roll if my own momma's site falls under "Misc"... A project for later.

    Posted by smijer at 12:58 PM | Comments (1)

    That's Security

    from - smijer

    Freedom to Tinker reports on an automatic teller that crashes to the windows desktop, allowing students to play music on its Windows media player. Links to pictures and movies are provided. Suprisingly, he misses the computer-voting security angle: the manufacturer of the ATM is the now infamous Diebold. The photos show the ATM with a cardboard sign taped over so that it appears to say "Diebold brand media player". That will provide some useful fodder for paper-trail advocates.

    Posted by smijer at 07:40 AM | Comments (0)

    March 21, 2004

    Navel Gazing For Dummies

    from - smijer

    Normally, I am the last to go in for corny pop-philosophy and its intellectual cousins. Matter of fact, I usually leave all the philosophy (and most other humanities) for people with a better temperament for them. But...

    I was browsing the bookstore Saturday and found "Astonish Yourself! 101 Experiments in the philosophy of everyday life". I picked it up because of the word "experiments". It's not often that a pop-philosopher is willing to get his hands dirty. I bought it because of the material I am about to shamelessly plagiarize, #20 Imagine Your Imminent Death:

    At any moment we can die suddenly... [snip]... Try to visualize your deathbed agony, your corpse, your burial, your rotting body, your skeleton. Visualize the tomb with its horrible liquids. Understand that you will never see the light or the curving earth again. You'll have finished forever with its warm winds, its wetness, its flashes of color, its scents. You'll know nothing of flesh, to caress or bite into.
    It may be that you find these ideas upsetting. You will doubtless be relieved to know that your distress is absurd and, in fact, without foundation. You are dead, otherwise you wouldn't be buried and in the porcess of rotting. At the same time you're alive, and capable of being affected by feelings and emotions. Therein resides your error. These images exist in your head now, and in your living body. When you're dead, they'll no longer exist...

    Not all of the books' experiments carry such a fine literary quality, building up a psychological frame of reference, then pulling the rug out from under it with a delicate turn of almost-too-obvious logic. Matter of fact, some of the books' experiments are just plain banal, or corny in that pop-philosophy way. (You might think that this one is, too!) But the author had the sense, at least on these two pages, two take a train of thought that surely everybody has followed once or twice, and promote it from the easily-dismissed "idle fancy" rung, a few notches upward on the ladder of increasing profundity.

    If I come across any more experiments worth reporting on, I will let you know. I won't patronize you with this disclaimer every time, but I would be remiss if I didn't mention at least once that these are not the sorts of experiments from which an empiricist would feel comfortable drawing rational conclusions. They are called experiments because one does a thing in order to elicit an experience. The methodology isn't one that would allow a person to draw rational or factual conclusions about the object of study. So, they are almost without real "philosophical" or scientific value. Still they provide at least as much new perspective as a parlor game like "Charades" might, without all the extra excercise.

    Posted by smijer at 09:43 PM | Comments (3)

    March 19, 2004

    Everything at Once

    from - smijer

    I was enjoying taking a break from being a partisan hack in favor of some fun stuff, but I read two pieces in succession, and the headline of the second one made me laugh:
    Bush Tells World Iraq Differences Are in the Past

    "There have been disagreements in this matter among old and valued friends," Bush said. "Those differences belong to the past."

    In other news, up remains down. Let's see if I can be crass and apply a similar approach to other recent news:

    NATO Sees Specter of Ethnic Cleansing in Kosovo is All in The Past

    "There has been some unpleasantness between old and valued ethnic enemies in Kosovo and Albania," Bush might say, "that unpleasantness belongs in the past."

    Seriously, though - the President (to his credit) did say that those disagreements "belong" in the past - not that they were already a thing of the past - so it isn't quite the up-is-downism suggested by the article's headline. On the other hand, as the offending party, it is somewhat inappropriate for him to be declaring that it is time to forgive and forget. It would be less presumptious if he merely asked the European alliance if a gesture of good will would be accepted, and if they would be kind enough to join us in putting those disagreements behind us all.

    Maybe that's just not the cowboy way.

    And seriously again, let us hope that a united European effort will bring a halt to this new round of ethnic cleansing in the Balkans. Enough is enough.

    Anyway, I'm signing off for the weekend. There is too much going on for me to make relevant comments on all of it. I certainly hope that the Pakistanis are successful in their mission, and my thoughts go out to the Taiwanese and their leaders after an assassination attempt. And anyone reading, I hope you have a good weekend. I know I plan to.

    Update: Blog-reporting ain't always accurate, but MAN, is it fast: via Morat (who follows the chain on back), reporting is that Ayman al-Zawahiri has escaped the Pakistani net. Morat is also very quick on the draw in that he takes Bush to school for letting Afghanistan remain a "safe" place for al-Zawahiri to escape into.

    Posted by smijer at 03:57 PM | Comments (0)

    Lego Me!

    from - smijer

    legome.bmp

    Because of Eric's insistence on the matter, I present Lego smijer. Allow me to explain:

    The Jester's Hat symbolizes a quest to be funny and entertaining - at least while at work. According to mrssmijer, I am just irritable and mean at home. Chalk that up to teenagers.

    Note the chestnut-brown hair, cropped short, but with noticeable bangs. The statement I am trying to make with this is "I'm getting too old for long and flowing locks, but I would look like a peanut-head if I didn't leave some sort of mop up there."

    The glasses represent mobility! I showed up at the DMV upon moving to Tennessee from north Georgia a few years ago, and the nice lady told me to come back when I had a prescription for glasses. It wasn't my fault they used fuzzy letters for my eye exam. With these glasses, I can have a drivers license. Unfortunately, this also means mrssmijer still expects me to go to work.

    Note that my lego avatar isn't smiling. His expression is one of grim resignation. This is symbolic of many things.

  • The sorry state of American politics brings a morose feeling
  • It is before 8:00 on the east coast, and almost time for work

    The bow-tie and suspenders symbolize the missing lego pieces. That isn't how I dress at all, but the pieces that resemble my real wardrobe have fallen between the virtual sofa cushions at the Lego-izer place, so I settled for this. They also represent an overall unendearing geekiness that I might as well acknowledge outright. My real friends don't hold it against me.

    Lego Me holds a coffee cup in one hand, the one remaining pleasure and vice in an otherwise empty existence (symbolized by the other hand), if I may be permitted to wildly exaggerate.

    I wear brown pants because I like brown. I and Lego-I will be fashionable again some day. Everything comes back around.

    ------

    Unrelated: via buddy don, Eric Alterman has given a little love to our own South Knox Bubba Congratulations, Bubba.

    Be sure to read the Wandering Hillbilly entry linked above. He makes some 'mity' fine points.

    Posted by smijer at 07:33 AM | Comments (2)
  • March 18, 2004

    Heart-breaking: not just a metaphor

    from - smijer

    As usual, it is an e-mail from mrssmijer that carries the interesting news from out-of-the-way:
    WebMD talks about 9/11's immediate effect on cardiac health - a thousand miles away.

    Very interesting read!

    Posted by smijer at 09:09 PM | Comments (0)

    The Gays in Rhea Stay Mainly Out of the Way

    from - smijer

    Although I live in neighboring Hamilton, I just wanted to point out that I am probably not blood kin to the throwbacks who are drawing attention to themselves in Rhea county.

    This appears to be a case of certain persons who are so eager for attention, they don't mind if it is negative attention.

    Can we make it illegal for morons to live in our county?

    Posted by smijer at 05:26 PM | Comments (1)

    Oh Hell

    from - smijer

    Every now and then I find an on-line quiz thingee that looks like fun. (Orfinanny's old page pointed me to the My virtual model thingee. That was a hoot. And Eric over at Straight White Guy points us to the Lego-izer. Phelps hit a little too close to home with the personality disorder test, but using his link, I discovered a test right up my alley:

    The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Sixth Level of Hell - The City of Dis!
    Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
    LevelScore
    Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very Low
    Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Very High
    Level 2 (Lustful)Very High
    Level 3 (Gluttonous)Low
    Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Low
    Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Moderate
    Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very High
    Level 7 (Violent)High
    Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Moderate
    Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Low

    Take the Dante's Inferno Test

    Mrs. "goody-two-shoes" smijer managed to rate purgatory, but I think she hacked the test. Good Anonymous friend, on the other hand, nearly shorted out his computer - and even though he has no multimedia speakers, he claims to have heard a voice mumbling something about "not deep enough".

    Sorry for nothing serious today. I'm just making it through the days without much on my mind lately. Maybe blogging has been too therapeutic. (P.S. Ofinanny has moved, if you haven't noticed. Have a look at the new crib.)
    Posted by smijer at 06:49 AM | Comments (5)

    March 17, 2004

    Happy Holiday

    from - smijer

    I find, being on "the wagon" (since early January, if you must know), that St. Patrick's is no longer among my favorite holidays. My Font Is Green.

    Posted by smijer at 10:55 AM | Comments (0)

    Problems

    from - smijer

    Too many problems in real life for me to get focused on this dang blog this morning, so maybe I'll see you this afternoon. In the meantime, enjoy this humorous photographic comparison that arrived in my e-mail box a day or two ago. Caption it, if it suits you to.
    Kerry Pyle

    Posted by smijer at 07:34 AM | Comments (1)

    March 16, 2004

    Update on Spain

    from - smijer

    Atrios has blown me out of the water on this:
    here.

    I'm glad I am not one of the ones who was reading "appeasement" into the Spanish voters' decision.

    Margaret, I really think what the key issue here is the handling or mishandling of public information in the 48 hours after the tragic events of last Thursday. I think it bears mentioning that the election was a statistical dead heat, according to public polls the morning of the tragedy on Thursday morning well within the margin of error, one or two points. And it was really not until Saturday evening, as Keith in your set-up shared with us, that the government decided to come forward with information as to the arrest of these five suspects linked to al-Qaida.

    As an example, it took a personal call from Prime Minister Elect Zapatero to the interior minister, the Spanish homeland security secretary, informing him that the Socialist Party was aware of the arrest and that he was prepared to move forward with that information. It took that kind of information to get the current government to come forward and announce to the country at large that in fact it was not the ETA lead that would generate success down the road in the investigation, but rather the al-Qaida route.

    Posted by smijer at 04:57 PM | Comments (7)

    La Republica D'Al Qaeda Española

    from - smijer

    This just in: a handful of Al Qaeda terrorists have conquered Spain; France sends cheese.

    It makes me absolutely sick when so-called patriots in America (I'm thinking Neal Boortz) equate a political loss for the ruling party here with a defeat at the hands of terrorism, no matter what pseudo-logic they use to support their case. I think they are sensitive to that, and all but the biggest loud-mouths are willing to cast dark aspertions and sinister hints without coming right out and saying that Democrats are Al Qaeda's best friends.

    Spain, on the other hand, is fair game. If the Spanish have the audacity to hold free and fair elections and to vote out their ruling party (who, uncannily, took them to an irrelevant and aggressive war in Iraq) then they are "cowards" who have been "brought to their knees", and are sending a "message" to "terrorists worldwide." Maybe I'm just stupid, but I can't figure out what the message is. It could fairly easily be any of the following or some combination there-of. I will mark in italics those messages which the American ruling party are most likely intimating, and leave other messages unadorned, as they can stand on their own weight:

  • You terrorists can influence our politics if you bomb us.*
  • Now that you have attacked us on our own soil, we intend to elect a leader who we believe will fight you terrorists more effectively.
  • Iraq had something to do with al Qaeda.*
  • The people of Spain were taken to war in Iraq against our will. Aznar knew that the people of Spain did not want to support a war in Iraq. He didn't represent our will, and now we are going to vote him out and replace him with someone who will represent our will.
  • Imperialist adventure is not the Spanish way.

    *(this is about as far as I could go in suggesting what messages the Republicans are reading into the Spanish vote without fear of inappropriately lampooning them. I have no doubt that a few of them are out there, right now, lampooning themselves.)

    I'm sure that Bush and the members of his cult of personality would have preferred it if the Spanish people had chosen to play the role of Don Quixote, tilting at windmills, and had chosen to allow a regime with which they were unsatisfied to stay in power just to "spite" the terrorists. I'm glad the Spanish are not so simple-minded as that.

    Spanish voters may (or may not) have been mistaken to think that the Socialist Party would do better than the Partido Popular on the issues they care about. That will remain to be seen. I'm glad to see they didn't re-elect the ruling party out of pure stiff-neckedness. That bodes well: if the Socialists don't do a better job governing Spain then guess who's out the door next... terrorists or not.

    Update: I notice that SKB has beaten me to this.

    Posted by smijer at 07:22 AM | Comments (18)
  • March 15, 2004

    D-Bunker

    from - smijer

    Not just a catchy name.

    There can be found some real good stuff.

    I am glad to see this sort of thing. I don't want to see another Democratic candidate get "Gored".

    Unfortunately, not everything on D-Bunker shows Kerry in a favorable light. For instance, here D-bunker lays to rest the fiction that Kerry lied about the Helms Burton law. Only, in doing so, he convinces us that Kerry voted for and supported bad laws, designed to punish the people of Cuba for being ruled by a guy "We" don't like, who absolutely refuses to get assassinated.

    His decision to pander to the Cuban vote instead of standing on principle is just the sort of thing that makes John Kerry the lesser of two evils rather than a strong and positive choice. I encourage everyone to come out in force for this "lesser of two evils" this election year, lest we wind up in 2008 unable to discern a difference between the two evils.

    Posted by smijer at 08:03 PM | Comments (0)

    Make Mine a Double

    from - smijer

    Via an e-mail from Mrssmijer:

    That's what I'm talking about!

    Apologies to buddy-don, whom I know who must face his travails without the nectar, but hallelujah for the rest of us!

    I should live forever.

    Posted by smijer at 04:21 PM | Comments (1)

    Horse Shit

    from - smijer

    I've regrouped & I'm feeling a little better now. As usual, Neal Boortz comes through in my time of need with some of the most inane blather and ignorant tripe you will find on the internet. Today's page (today) (found here tomorrow) follows the usual Bush-apologist habit of breathing the words "terror" and "Iraq" in the same sentence, as if they will become related by a magical incantation:

    A man who has been bold and eager in his support for President Bush's war against terror and the liberation of Iraq is enjoying a seeming insurmountable lead in the polls.

    Just a friendly reminder from Earth to the planet that Boortz inhabits: the invasion of Iraq had absolutely nothing to do with terrorism, except that it drew resources and attention away from anti-terrorist efforts elsewhere.
    Anyway, this kind of Newspeak is to be expected from the Bush apologists. However, we do need to draw the line somewhere. I think the line should be drawn somewhere around here:
    Clearly the terrorists prefer national leaders who will appease them rather than leaders who will try to locate them and kill them. This would mean that the terrorists would much rather see John sKerry win in the United States than President Bush. I know that's a tough pill to swallow for the Democrats ... but the fact is that in this presidential election they are clearly on the same side as the terrorists. Saying it ain't so won't work. You're just going to have to find a way to accept it and live with it

    I'll make a deal with Mr. Boortz: if he will give me one good reason to believe that his "saying it is so" will work, then I will waste my breath explaining to him that John Kerry and the other Democrats have spoken about and shown with their votes a strong commitment to bringing terrorists to justice.

    If John Kerry or his media proponents claimed that George W. Bush was soft on terror with no more evidence than their say-so, the right would be howling about the unfair attacks on George Bush. And, for once, they would be right. Bush has made some mistakes in foreign policy and defense (and so will the next president). It is far beyond the ken to take this kind of nonsense to the public, pretending that Bush (or Kerry) is "on the same side" as the terrorists. Boortz listeners and readers - if they have a sense of decency - should write him letters and e-mail objecting to this trip out of bounds. I hope they will.

    Posted by smijer at 10:53 AM | Comments (30)

    Monday

    from - smijer

    I feel awful. Maybe the problem is trying to post entries in the morning while still groggy. Maybe the problem is just an empty head on these shoulders. Be that as it may, I struggled to find a topic worth my time this morning, settled on something, and started writing. After about the sixth paragraph, I looked back through it to see how I was doing, and it was manure. Nothing more than rehashing what I (and others) have been saying for months already - and not in a particularly fresh or original way. So I saved it as a draft and checked the clock to see how much more time I had before work.

    I had about enough time to make this tepid excuse before pushing away from the desk to get ready for work. I suppose I will write again when I actually have something to say.

    Posted by smijer at 07:44 AM | Comments (0)

    March 13, 2004

    Lite Weekends

    from - smijer

    I'm going to start taking weekends off. Today.

    Be seeing you on Monday.

    Posted by smijer at 07:16 AM | Comments (0)

    March 12, 2004

    Networking Terror

    from - smijer

    I don't want to be too quick to draw conclusions. According to Reuters, the Basque separatist group ETA denies responsibility for the bombings in Madrid. At the same time, Arabic language instructions were found in an abandoned ban with the detonators. However, there are significant reasons not to rule out the Basque separatists. Prime minister Azna:

    "No line of investigation will be ruled out," Aznar told reporters, but he cited recent foiled ETA plots and intelligence suggesting the group was aiming at transport targets.

    "What did this terrorist organization want when they tried to enter Madrid last week with 500 kilos of explosives? It's a line of investigation any Spanish government that hasn't lost its head has to follow. It's the one we are following and if there are other hypotheses, we'll follow them too."


    Again, I don't want to jump to conclusions, but I think it is worth considering seriously whether homegrown terrorist groups are allying themselves with Islamists against common targets. There have been hints before of a conceivable interaction between Islamic terror groups and Italian anarchists.

    I don't know what any of it means, and obviously I'm just guessing. I'm reminded of a sub-plot in Asimov's Prelude to Foundation. If you don't know what I'm talking about here, it probably wouldn't help for me to explain. The point is that this is what the future looks like. State-to-state warfare is becoming obsolete, as enemies of the state decentralize themselvs, link together in loose networks of affiliation, and target infrastructure and civilians because they know that they are helpless against the overwhelming force of the conventional army.

    Those tactics are not always unsuccessful. It is argued that they were instrumental in pressuring the British to set aside a portion of Palestine for an Israeli state. As events in that region have since shown, tactics of this kind, or those who employ them, are incorrigible even when they have very little success at advancing the cause they are intended to serve.

    I'm not offering solutions; I'm just trying to suggest the outlines of a big picture.

    Posted by smijer at 04:18 PM | Comments (0)

    RTB Update

    from - smijer

    Bubba has the update. New members are:
    Doc B: a Christian and a Republican.
    No Quarters: Another Gun Nut a firearm enthusiast and defender of second amendment gun rights.
    Knock/Snooze: A post-modern stipper in a one horse town, or something like that.

    A hardy (in the fullest Dave Barryan sense of the word) welcome to one and all, and welcome back Dingbust.

    Posted by smijer at 01:46 PM | Comments (2)

    Please Excuse My Lite-ness

    from - smijer

    Please bear with me. I'll try to make at least one entry today before midnight. In the mean-time, there's a new RP Feynman quote of the period scrolling through that red box in the top left of the main page.

    I think I'm going to change that to a "quote of the period" from various admired individuals - not just Feynman. We'll see, though.

    Posted by smijer at 07:52 AM | Comments (32)

    March 11, 2004

    A Moment Of Silence

    from - smijer

    A moment of silence for the victims and their families in Spain. What an utter waste.

    I will post again tonight or tomorrow. Today will have to be a 'Lite' day.

    Posted by smijer at 07:12 AM | Comments (3)

    March 10, 2004

    Wednesday Boortz

    from - smijer

    As promised, I'm back with a Boortz column for today. The answer to the trivia question from earlier is... (drum roll, please).... DAVE BARRY. (No JMichael, that's an 'I love San Francisco' Rolodex).

    I'm really just going to vamp on Boortz today. I'm not going to debunk him. If you believe anything he says to begin with (just on his say-so), then there's probably no way mere facts and logic will change your mind. Here goes:

    The Hillary For Veep Conspiracy

    Once again, Neal is full of baloney. I'm not a huge fan of Hillary. She's very intelligent, and has a lot of political savvy, but she's no Bobby Kennedy. At least not in my book. What I really love about Hillary Clinton, though, is the fact that she can get the whack-o right wing worked up into a lather quicker than you can say "John Birch Society". And that's why she probably will not be the vice presidential candidate on John Kerry's ticket. The electoral strategy for the Democrats is to use the heightened mobilization that comes from having such a polarizing republican figure in the White House to bring out Democrats to vote against him in record numbers. That strategy is diluted if you put a polarizing figure on the Democratic ticket to help the Republicans mobilize. So next time you hear Neal Boortz or Dick Morris talking through their hats (to put it nicely) about Hillary for Veep, remember they are just selling you a crackpot theory.

    Ban the Privacy Laws
    I usually don't comment on Neal's "Required Reading" list at the bottom of the page. If he can't be bothered to personally spew the nonsense, why should I be bothered to personally respond to it? However, I couldn't help getting a chuckle out of the 'reading' on today's page.(Here today, and here tomorrow)

    It seems that on the advice of their lawyers, some Nashville schools have stopped posting honor rolls publically and dropped some spelling competitions. It seems some parents were complaining that their kids felt left out. Now, I'm sure that Boortz would have some words for those parents, and I would tend to agree with him about them. But knowing there are a few dingbat parents in the world doesn't really advance Boortz' cause. What he needs to do is to connect this with those awful Democrats. For this purpose, he lays the blame on "Government Schools" (liberals' favorite!), who are taking down the honor rolls. The bait and switch is this: the parents wanted them down "to protect their children's self esteem", ... but the "government schools" complied because the privacy laws on the books in Tennessee forbade them from publishing that kind of information. To be fair, the original bait and switch is done by Walter Williams", but Boortz fell for it. Why? Well maybe he didn't check the source.

    What's funny is that, according to the original piece, Tennessee (that hot-bed of neo-socialist liberal homo - secularist nudism), still uses state level privacy laws that do not make exceptions for things like Honor Rolls and Spelling Bees, like the federal laws do.

    The problem appears unique to Tennessee, since most states follow federal student privacy guidelines, which allow the release of such things as honor rolls, U.S. Department of Education officials said.

    "It's the first time I've heard of schools doing that," said department spokesman Jim Bradshaw.

    But Nashville school lawyers based their decision last month on a state privacy law dating back to the 1970s - a law that's not always followed because no one challenged the honor roll status quo.

    School officials are developing permission slips to give parents of the Nashville district's 69,000 students the option of having their children's work recognized. They hope to get clearance before the next grading cycle - in about six weeks at some schools.

    Until then, school principals are left trying to figure out what they can and can't do.

    Sandy Johnson, chief instructional officer for the Nashville schools, says the restrictions go "far beyond the honor role."

    "It's for anything having to do with grades and attendance or anything normally reserved just for the student or parent," she said.

    Getting parents to sign permission slips won't help protect students from being left out, but at least it will comply with the law, school officials said.

    So, the point is that this has nothing to do with "Government Schools" or Democrats or liberalism. The schools are just exercising legal caution as anyone should do. The problem is that Tennessee legislators were a little sloppy, and their rule books need to be cleaned up.

    By the way: there are faults in the public school system that should be addressed, and I am open to criticism of them. I have to wonder, when right-wing nut jobs like Boortz suggest that any and all problems from public schools stem from the fact that they are state administered and funded instead of private, what they are thinking? Are they seriously suggesting we return to the system where rich kids get an education at a private school and everyone else get's an education in the cotton mill or coal mine?

    Wierd.

    Posted by smijer at 03:43 PM | Comments (3)

    Don't Worry

    from - smijer

    Never fear. There will be a Nealz Nemesiz entry today. It may be this evening though, because my paying job is liable to slow me down. Meantime, here's a contest. Guess my desk calendar. Here's yesterday's page. You guess what kind of desk calendar I have:

    Tuesday, March 9
    Laundry has baffled top guy minds for decades. Albert Einstein was working on this problem right up until his death. His las words were: "OK, say a shirt is yellow, which is a LIGHT color, but it's a DARK yellow, does that mean ...ack" (thud). It is this technical complexity - not laziness! - that keeps guys from doing the household laundry. We worry that if we get just one variable wrong, we will find ourselves facing a wrathful spouse, who is holding up a garment that was once a valued brassiere of normal dimensions, but is now suitable only as a sun hat for a small, two-headed squirrel.

    Posted by smijer at 08:57 AM | Comments (6)

    Iraq

    from - smijer

    Diversity of publically admitted opinion is a rare commodity in the executive branch, these days. That's why its refreshing to see the legislative branch asking tough questions, and a reluctant intelligence agency answering them. CIA director Tenet, despite being a Clinton appointee, seems to want to keep his job. First he played fall guy for the Uranium claims. Now, he insists that the White House didn't twist CIA intelligence reports in order to smooth the terrain for the rush to immediate war... and when they did distort the evidence, he "said something about it" (!)

    Anyway, Cheney seems to be the last person with access to the intelligence who still believes (?) the old chestnut about Saddam and al Qaeda, and apparently he just forgot that the CIA told him the two tractor-trailers of mass destruction probably weren't.

    As far as which Democrats believed there were WMD's in Iraq - I'm going to leave that to cover next week. I've got bigger plans for that discussion.

    Posted by smijer at 07:21 AM | Comments (0)

    March 09, 2004

    Linking With The Enemy

    from - smijer

    With a little prodding from Say Uncle, I've decided to flesh out the conservative/libertarian section of my blogroll with Everlasting Phelps, and possibly get him a promotion in his ecospheric ambitions.

    I've read 'Phelps' a number of times in the past, and as with any good blog, I was more offended than not. On the rolls he goes.

    Posted by smijer at 04:31 PM | Comments (1)

    Why Anti-Terrorist Efforts are Primarily a Job for Intelligence and Law Enforcement

    from - smijer

    A Little More To the Right has the scoop

    Blowing up Mexico or Iraq or Grenada or Syria would not have stopped those guys. Good intelligence and law enforcement work prevented a disaster and brought them to justice.

    As a disclaimer: I think the military has already played a very important role in anti-terrorist efforts in Afghanistan, and will continue to play an important role in the future. It's common sense that keeping them on the front lines and continuing to engage in state-to-state warfare cannot be the prime focus in U.S. anti-terrorist efforts, but it is also important to acknowledge and honor the role that the military has played and will play in the future.

    Posted by smijer at 11:15 AM | Comments (0)

    Horrors!

    from - smijer

    Via SK Bubba, I've been scooped!.

    Truth is, I haven't had the stomach to wade through the Boortz tripe lately. I'm glad someone out there is carrying the banner for the anti-Boortz. Thanks Ken Edelstein!

    Posted by smijer at 06:47 AM | Comments (0)

    March 08, 2004

    Second Nature

    from - smijer

    Ordinarily, I wouldn't review a book that is this old, or that I read so long ago. I make an exception because the first hint of spring arrived last week. I think spring becomes more and more valuable as a person gets older. After a winter inside attached to a computer keyboard, it's a pleasant reminder that outside is good. With that I will review the first book that comes to mind when I start thinking about pulling weeds from the flower beds:

    secnat.jpg
    In Second Nature, Michael Pollan breaks tradition with his grandfather's stodgy, old-style gardening, and attempts to build a landscape in the nature-worshipping spirit of Thoreau and the "mod" environmental culture left over from the 1960's.

    If you have experimented with gardening without pulling weeds or fencing out herbivores, then you can imagine the sort of defeat Pollan suffered at the hands of nature: "utter."

    This defeat led him to modify his understanding of nature's power and man's place in it. Society was born with agriculture: more than the ability for language, laughter, or trigonometry, it is humnity's ability to modify the environment that has made us successful, and it is was through agricultural cooperation that our first great societies were born.

    Agriculture, Pollan argues, is man's defining work, and horticulture is that work in miniature, trending toward art. Pollan builds an ethos around horticulture that gives proper caution to humanity's impulse for overreaching and domination of nature, but encourages us to do what we do best: mold nature to suit ourselves, to the benefit of us both.

    This is the perfect read for the advent of spring. Pick up a copy from your independent bookseller today:





    If you wish to direct this purchase to your closest independent bookstore
    with Book Sense, enter your Zip code below before pressing the button. (If
    you do not enter your Zip, a Book Sense store will be chosen for you at random.)






    Posted by smijer at 07:08 AM | Comments (0)

    March 06, 2004

    Science 1, Politics 0

    from - smijer

    I gave up on the discussion boards and went looking for something else to put in the marquee box on the upper left of the main page. For now, I settled on selected quotes from physicist Richard P. Feynman. I almost said "famed scientist" or "Nobel Prize winning physicist", but I kind of feel like Feynman would have been just as pleased without the phony-sounding adulations.

    Browsing material for the box, I came across this description of what scientists do (mostly), from a commencement address he gave at Cal Tech:

    But there is one feature I notice that is generally missing in cargo cult science. That is the idea that we all hope you have learned in studying science in school--we never say explicitly what this is, but just hope that you catch on by all the examples of scientific investigation. It is interesting, therefore, to bring it out now and speak of it explicitly. It's a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty--a kind of leaning over backwards. For example, if you're doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid--not only what you think is right about it: other causes that could possibly explain your results; and things you thought of that you've eliminated by some other experiment, and how they worked--to make sure the other fellow can tell they have been eliminated.

    Details that could throw doubt on your interpretation must be given, if you know them. You must do the best you can--if you know anything at all wrong, or possibly wrong--to explain it. If you make a theory, for example, and advertise it, or put it out, then you must also put down all the facts that disagree with it, as well as those that agree with it.

    As per my usual habit of looking at damn near everything in a political context, I stopped to think about what could be said about this perspective on a mostly-political blog. It didn't take me long. Politics ain't like that! In politics, you give your side as convincingly as possible and only point out the flaws in the competing "theories" of the opposition. If you get scientific about it: if you make it a project about finding the best political theory, then you won't get anywhere, because your opposition is not going to be so high-minded.

    That's my (admittedly vague) criticism of the political process as we know it. I'm still working on the ultimate solution that will revolutionize the way Americans think about politics... but I ain't quite there yet. I would suggest that we start holding "our own party" to higher standards... but doing so guarantees not only that the opposition gets elected, but also that the party with the lower standards gets elected. Suggestions?

    Posted by smijer at 08:56 AM | Comments (15)

    March 05, 2004

    It's a Tailgate Party

    from - smijer

    It's a Tailgate party. It's at Hatamaran. Go see what's on the hibachi.

    Posted by smijer at 12:40 PM | Comments (0)

    Answering a Question With a Question

    from - smijer

    I'm still trying to piece together the Rovian strategy behind putting 9/11 footage into campaign ads. I have to confess, yesterday when I posted on it, I didn't really think that the Rove team hadn't considered the inevitable public outrage from the victims' families when they made the decision to green-light the ad.

    With Karen Hughes' ready response, and Fox News and all the other outlets ready to pounce back with their response: "9/11 has defined Bush's presidency... blah... blah... blah... why shouldn't we be able to talk about it? Why should it be off limits?", I kind of figure that their plan is to do something petty and then try to make the other side (and the victims families along with us) look petty for objecting. I'd say that falls in line with the up-is-downism so common to the administration and it's PR team. I'd say that fits Karl Rove's MO.

    There are lots of answers to the question, if it is sincere, about where and how to talk about 9/11 in a political campaign. But my response is not an answer. It's another question. If 9/11 was the defining moment of the Bush presidency, why the hell should they have to play it up? Why should they have to "remind people of it" during the Bush commercials?

    The fact is that Bush's response to 9/11 (reversing himself and creating a Dept of Homeland Security... issuing, then following up an ultimatum to Afghanistan on the 'plus' side) was a far cry better than nothing. It was also tainted by some wrong moves and some failures: most notably using it as a segue into an unrelated war of choice, pulling much-needed resources away from operations against terrorists.

    "Reminding people of 9/11" in the Bush commercials is an effort to take focus off the specifics of Bush's record on it and play up the vague "got leadership" meme - especially insofar as it generates noisy controversy over the imagery of 9/11 as cover for the controversy over Bush's reaction to 9/11.

    Here's hoping for the biggest backfire in the history of political calculation.

    Posted by smijer at 07:37 AM | Comments (55)

    March 04, 2004

    My Goodness

    from - smijer

    I meant to comment on this earlier today, but other things crowded it out of my little head.

    Seriously, though - did the Bush team not realize that blatantly politicizing 9/11 was inevitably going to backfire? I assume they realized it was disrespectful to 9/11 victims and their families - but maybe not. Maybe if they couldn't figure out that it was a bad political move, they were too dense to figure out that it was a bad personal move, too.

    And what is up with Karen Hughes? She said, "Your viewers saw the ad. I think it's very tasteful. It's a reminder of our shared experience as a nation. I mean September 11th is not just some distant tragedy from the past, it really defined our future."

    Duh! That's why you don't trade on it in a partisan campaign ad.

    Posted by smijer at 01:57 PM | Comments (0)

    At the Link House of Ill Repute

    from - smijer

    When it rains it pours. So much spot-on criticism is emerging in today's blogs.

    Check out:

    This post (link fixed now) from William Burton, challenging the "most liberal record" meme.

    Then, if you bat from the right, have a go at answering this very pointed question about consistency.

    Next, visit Skeptical Notion, who points out that Bush wasn't going to let ANYTHING get between him and his war.

    That's all.

    Update: My friend and part-time fact-checker mentioned to me privately that the MSNBC piece upon which the Bush story was based was blatantly biased. I have to agree with him, based on the last line of the article, "And despite the Bush administration’s tough talk about hitting the terrorists before they strike, Zarqawi’s killing streak continues today."

    MSNBC should have 1) employed editors to kill this kind of rhetoric in the article, 2) disciplined the correspondent for unprofessionalism, and 3) disclaimed any other relevant information.

    My friend is right that this report is just breaking and should still be treated with proper skepticism. Shame on me for not noting that to begin with.

    Posted by smijer at 09:29 AM | Comments (0)

    Weasel Words We Use A Lot
    Or: Not All Controversies Created Equal

    from - smijer

    I'm as guilty as anybody of using the occasional weasel word:

    "It's a matter of opinion"
    "Some people think..."
    "People like so & so believe..."
    "But such & such is biased"
    "It could be that..."

    ... and on and on. I use them a lot, especially when children ask me questions that I don't want to answer. I may well know the answer with certainty, but I weasel, out of respect for other people in the child's family who may have an opinion contrary to the answer I know. I figure telling the children absolutes without being able to take the time to intensively demonstrate them will confuse them anyway, or turn them off.

    Other times, there really is a matter of opinion. I may have good reasons for my own opinion, but they don't always provide absolute certainty, or else the subject is too complex and nuanced to single out the areas where there is cause for certainty from the areas where there is not. That's the approach I took a few days ago, when I pitted Myers against Vinod in one of my entries. Of course I agree with more of what Myers said than what Vinod said, but I considered the questions to be far too nuanced for me to start singling out issues and arguing them. I thought there would be more value in just having a closer look at the two viewpoints.

    Unfortunately, my approach sometimes leaves a little too much uncertainty in the minds of the people I speak to. Also, some people grow to expect such a weasley attitude as a matter of "fairness to both sides". Usually those are people on the wrong side of an issue.

    For instance:
    Creationists and Intelligent Design Proponents ask the state schools to "teach the controversy" about evolution. The answer is "no". There are not two "scientific theories". There is one well-supported scientific theory, together with voluminous scientific facts that have been threshed out through blood sweat and tears by generations of brilliant and hard-working scientists. That's evolution. Then there is a set of various religious ideas, centering around the concept that there was a supernatural element in the creation of human life and the world we live on. That's religion. Then there is religiously motivated obfuscation about the science of evolution. That's claptrap. State schools are supposed to teach science. They are not supposed to teach religion. The "controversy" is between science and religion. The "scientific" controversy around the key elements of evolution has long been settled. Black and White.

    Bush, on global warming, says "more research is needed". That's a weasel word. More research is needed - on how problems can be fixed. More research is needed - on the mechanisms for climate change. More research is NOT needed to show that human activity is having an adverse impact on climate change. Black and White.

    Supporters of Bush, on Bush's misuse of science, suggest that this is "only the opinion" of politically motivated scientists. "Who's to say," they ask, "whether Bush is politicizing the scientific process or whether the scientists who dislike Bush are politicizing the scientific process?" Well, here's Exhibit ZZZZ. Bush fires the scientists (and ethicists) who don't agree with him from his advisory panel. I guess that's one way to make sure you hear the scientific advice you want to hear.

    Today, I just want to throw out a reminder that there is such a thing as black and white, correct and incorrect, and right and wrong - and even when there are elements of opinion involved, there is often a call to vigorously support one position against another - at least when you are talking to grown-ups.

    Posted by smijer at 07:44 AM | Comments (7)

    March 02, 2004

    Mars

    from - smijer

    As with any new finding, this one will be subject to peer review and confirmation. But if all is well (and it should be), that's a big deal. Water on Mars. What will they think of next?

    Posted by smijer at 02:55 PM | Comments (0)

    Haiti

    from - smijer

    I feel sort of stupid about this whole deal in Haiti. After reading the news reports, a variety of liberal opinions, and listening to the deafening silence from the right-wing pundits on what's going on in Haiti, I still do not know what to think.

    On the one hand, the liberal pundits make a good case that the rebels are dangerous thugs who cannot be trusted to behave democratically. On the other hand, Aristide himself may not have been behaving democratically.

    I am glad, of course, that the U.S. and U.N. have seen fit to install peacekeepers there... finally. I just don't know what to look or hope for next.

    So, sorry to waste your time with a "don't know." But I don't, really.

    Posted by smijer at 07:48 AM | Comments (7)

    March 01, 2004

    Late Blogging Small Boortz

    from - smijer

    Sorry for the late and lite post today. I couldn't just skip posting for a whole day, so I went to my "Old Reliable". I notice Boortz (Today, Tomorrow) has gone back to his made up employment statistics. Only this time he claims they come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

    But, they are still wrong, and as I showed on Friday, they still contradict the facts reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Instead of just telling you that I was using the BLS, I gave links to the relevant pages at the BLS web-site. If you followed them, then you know that Boortz is not responsibly reporting what he supposedly gathered at the BLS.

    Until next time.

    Posted by smijer at 12:34 PM | Comments (5)