December 31, 2004

Dapper New Digs

from - smijer

A new Pivot Powered Home for 10,000 Monkeys and a Camera. Check it out. Looks like a first rate job to me.

Posted by smijer at 02:01 PM | Comments (1)

After School Nap

from - smijer

after school

Dog school can be tiring. Check the ark to see what the other kids are doing on winter break.

Happy New Year to one and all.

Posted by smijer at 07:45 AM | Comments (0)

December 30, 2004

Hot Dog!

from - smijer

Maybe you'll be surprised to learn that I am looking forward to this with excitement, relish, and perhaps a dash of mustard. Don't worry. That doesn't mean I'm going soft. I just like the music. And the simple, zen-like, homespun optimism of it.

Posted by smijer at 07:41 AM | Comments (0)

December 29, 2004

Time Flies......

from - Buck

...whether you are having fun or not.

I left work at 4:00 pm on Thursday, Dececember 23rd and did not log on to a computer until 9:39 AM December 29th. I had no idea that Reggie White was dead until Monday night at 9:00 PM. I had no idea that tsunami's had killed tens of thousands of people until Monday night. It can be sobering to realize that the world can go on without you but it can be quite liberating to realize that you can go on without the world just as easily.

In the last 6 days and nights I have read "The Prince" by Machiavell as well as a collection of essays entitled "The Size of Thoughts" by Nicholson Baker. I finished the novel "Another Son Of Man" by Tim McLaurin and intend to read "Room Temperature" by Nicholson Baker before this week is over.

I have also made time to go and see "Meet the Fockers" as well as "The Polar Express" at the IMAX Theatre in 3D.

I had hoped to catch up on the news today but today is not going to be much of a reading day. It is the day to put up all of the Christmas junk which is worse than putting it out in the first place.

I know that as soon as I complain about having to put all of the stuff up my wife is going to say "Well then why don't you just go read a damned book and I'll finish this by myself"
Those words are music to my ears but I have too much Southern Baptist guilt in me to be able to read while she does the grunt work. The sooner we both finish the sooner I can read and she can scurry off to those after Christmas sales.

I hope you all had a good holiday.

Posted by Buck at 10:18 AM | Comments (1)

Am I Late?

from - smijer

It was Christmas Eve Eve when Bubba posted the last Rocky Top Brigade membership update. I've finally added these new Tennessee blogs to the blogroll. Shame on me for taking so long to do it, and for not welcoming each new addition individually. Nevertheless, a group welcome to all nine new Rocky Top Brigadeers. Also, a big thanks to Bubba for the neat-o Sampler.

Topical banter later today, if time permits.

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

December 28, 2004

Loons?

from - smijer

I'm a skeptic. If you know me, you know that about me. Basically, that means I have very high standards of evidence before I will assent to "belief" in a thing. For this reason, I'm not one of the 19% of Americans who believe that ' “incidents of fraud” decided, or helped to decide, [the Presidential] election'.

In defense of those who are somewhat less skeptical, I present the following facts:


  • In the Ukraine, an opposition candidate for President was recently poisoned by his political enemies in an effort to foil his election bid. There was also massive fraud in that election.
  • The Presidency of the United States is a position of power several magnitudes of order higher and more desirable than that of President of the Ukraine.
  • It was only fifty years ago that the last election laws reflecting white voters' opinions that black people had no right to vote were struck down by activist judges.
  • Possibly the most popular President of the United States of the twentieth century was narrowly elected with the help of a ballot stuffing mayor and other shady cronies in Illinois.
  • Thirty years ago, a second term U.S. President resigned under threat of impeachment over his knowledge and approval of what amounted to election fraud on his behalf. His re-election was not even seriously challenged to begin with.
  • In 2000, people working on behalf of the incoming administration helped smooth the way to their electoral victory by organizing a mob of people to intimidate vote counters in Florida.
  • There have been numerous reports of voting irregularities and suspicious seeming facts concerning the election in question, especially in Ohio and Florida. Here is an overview of them.

As I said, I am a hard-core skeptic, and I've seen innocent and relatively convincing explanations for many of the seeming irregularities, pushing this issue well within the realm of reasonable doubt for me. However, I think that Ricky owes approximately one in five Americans (two in five Kerry voters, by his math), an apology for calling them "nut-job loons". Given our recent history and the complaints that are being investigated, I think a willingness to believe reports of election fraud is quite understandable. Furthermore, I hope that this sort of well poisoning doesn't discourage anyone who is motivated to protect the integrity of the voting process by calling attention to possible problems.

Posted by smijer at 11:42 AM | Comments (3)

U.S. Stingy?

from - smijer

Colin Powell says "no", here.

Some numbers, here.

Posted by smijer at 09:46 AM | Comments (2)

December 25, 2004

Merry Christmas

from - smijer

Don't expect too much of Christmas Day. You can't crowd into it any arrears of unselfishness and kindliness that may have accrued during the past twelve months.

- Oren Arnold

Posted by smijer at 07:59 AM | Comments (0)

December 23, 2004

Where to next?

from - Buck

Just in time for Christmas, Rumsfeld loosens up his wrist and prepares to personally sign those “we regret to inform you” letters to the families of soldiers killed in Mosul.

Now the revenge and retribution portion of operation Mosul Manumission kicks into high gear.

There are still conflicting reports coming out of Mosul as to whether or not the attack was a suicide bomber or multiple mortar shells but already teams of soldiers are kicking down doors, razing houses and attempting to win the hearts and minds of the locals.

The insurgents that had left Fallujah before it was destroyed and relocated in Mosul have done their damage there and are already on their way to another town. They can look over their shoulders and watch us finish the work they started.

And somewhere Osama’s smile widens just a little bit.

Posted by Buck at 09:26 AM | Comments (0)

December 22, 2004

Mr. Peabody's Coal Train Has Hauled it Away

from - smijer

Check out Bubba's post about Bodman's nomination to DOE. Can someone grab a tub of Preparation H for Mother Nature while you're out?

Posted by smijer at 11:47 AM | Comments (0)

Homeless Persons Day

from - smijer

I didn't know there was a day for it. Apparently, today is it. -link

In other less than uplifting news, there's this, but you already knew about that. And, if you were awake during the last four years, you aren't really surprised by it.

For a merrier outlook, please read this wonderful Christmas editorial... Ho Ho Ho.

Posted by smijer at 09:57 AM | Comments (3)

December 21, 2004

Heed your own advice

from - Buck

Rumsfeld's Rules

My personal favorite is "It is easier to get into something than to get out of it."

Ain't that the truth.

Posted by Buck at 01:32 PM | Comments (0)

Trenton, GA

from - smijer

trenton.JPG

I'm taking at least the first half of today off for another project. I accidentally got a good snap a few weeks back of this old house atop Sand Mountain near sunset. Since I don't have time to write, I thought I'd share it.

Posted by smijer at 06:34 AM | Comments (0)

December 20, 2004

Bill O'Reilly, Meet Lou Dobbs

from - smijer

Lou Dobbs: Christmas isn't a holiday.
- link

Put another way, Christians, unless they are being specifically pandered to, are being persecuted.

... more. Note O'Reilly's insistence that it is the "secular progressives" that are mucking things up for everybody. This is your first heads up that "progressive" is about to become a dirty word.

Posted by smijer at 07:41 AM | Comments (1)

December 17, 2004

Friday Bathtime Doggies

from - smijer

I don't care who you are, this is just precious.

bathtime

Other cuddlies in The Ark.

Posted by smijer at 06:55 AM | Comments (3)

December 16, 2004

Talking About Abortion

from - smijer

It's been in the back of my mind for a long time that the Democrats are right to support a pro-choice agenda, but that we perhaps were collectively distancing ourselves just a little bit too far from the emotional and visceral side of that issue, and that perhaps we were partly responsible for the lack of a functional national dialogue on the issue.

I perceive three aspects to the rank and file Democrat's attitude toward the issue that may be holding us back from committing ourselves to a national conversation with moderates and conservatives on this issue. They are, in no particular order:


  • Defensiveness about politicians on the right who cynically use abortion issues to drive a wedge in the electorate. It's true that they do it, but the masses of Americans who are uncomfortable about abortion and who feel alienated from the pro-choice side by those tactics are not necessarily reassured of our sincerity by our voluminous outrage over the tactics. We still have to talk about the issues, even if it means that we have to buy hour long infomercials and hire Kathy Ireland to read statitics about the frequency of late term abortions while doing step aerobics.
  • Defensiveness about religious conservatives trying to return us to first century patriarchialism by reducing women's role in society to that of baby-making machine. There are a radical segment of über-feminists who sincerely believe that anybody who vocally opposes abortion wants nothing less, consciously or unconsciously, than to allow make pregnancy mandatory in the most literal sense by hiding their wives' contraception, making them have sex even if they don't want to, and then forcing them to carry to term. They really believe this, but they are just wrong. We do well to remind ourselves daily that "pro-life" people really feel that way. They may not be consistent in how they pursue those feelings, but they are sincere - at least at the level of rank and file. We can't keep forgetting that. Their political leaders may be cynically playing them, but they, themselves, are good people with good hearts.
  • The attitude that any time the subject of abortion comes up and the pro-choice left expresses sympathy for the pro-life position, we must be ready to sell out reproductive rights for political gain.

To their credit, Amy Sullivan, and David Velleman have been talking about how the pro-choice left can break the ice with rank and file members of the pro-life right. Atrios is skeptical. I wrote this just to introduce the topic and get some discussion flowing, not to share my admittedly cloudy and murky views. But briefly, this is what I am inclined to believe: 1) It is unjustifiable to believe that there is a conscious person deserving of legal protection prior to the middle of the second trimester of pregnancy - the brain simply isn't well enough developed to consider the fetus a "person" or "baby" or anything that it's murder to kill. 2) Pro-lifers, by and large, don't think of early term abortion the same way they think of homicide. They may call it that, but they don't want abortion laws to treat abortion as homicide - calling for a police investigation of every miscarriage or medically necessary abortion, and life in prison or the death penalty for premeditated (and "unjustified") abortion. 3) A lot more can be done in terms of reducing unwanted pregnancies and a fair amount more can be done in terms of restricting late term abortions, without compromising a woman's right to sovereignty over her own body, and without robbing her of protection against health risks that stem from pregnancy. I may be wrong on this point, but that's how I currently perceive the situation. 4) Such restrictions must always put the health of the woman in a position of primary importance.

I'd like to see some cross-the aisles talk on this, but I'd also like for "our side" to talk amongst ourselves and help one another understand our feelings on this reasonably, and on an emotional level. I'm also starting a thread to discuss it over at Bubba's fabulous new Tennessee Progressives Forum.

Wouldn't it be great if we could have a national dialogue on the subject of abortion that didn't consist competing volume levels of chants like "Abortion Doctors Kill Babies for $$" versus "Keep Your Laws Off My Body"?

Posted by smijer at 08:20 PM | Comments (28)

Comin' Home?

from - Buck

They said they expect 98 percent of Army Humvees in the theater to have proper armor by March and the rest of the fleet, such as fuel trucks, by summer.

What is this about? I thought we were coming home after the election.

Posted by Buck at 05:15 PM | Comments (3)

Tiftonia in Five Years

from - smijer

tiftonia.gif

I grieve for my adopted home community.

Posted by smijer at 06:43 AM | Comments (3)

December 15, 2004

Bad Science, Bad Scholarship, Bad Journalism, Popular Fiction

from - smijer

My first exposure to Michael Chrichton was The Andromeda Strain. It came to me with a reputation as a science fiction "classic". It turned out to be just dumb and predictable. Since then, Chrichton has pumped out barely-believable fiction with a healthy dose of dubious science. And now, he has jumped on the bandwagon of global warming skepticisim. Real Climate replies, and I give a hat tip to PZ at Pharyngula for catching it.

On the one hand, this is just part of a trend of bad science and bad scholarship among popular fiction works lately. But on the other, it is deeply disturbing. It disturbs me in much the same way that anyone interested in accurate New Testament scholarship is disturbed by The Da Vinci Code, whether they be Christian evangelists or (like me) non-believers who can't stand to see the already murky waters of New Testament scholarship further muddied by popularized misconceptions.

But, this isn't just another case of ignorance for dollars. This is also part of a political campaign to delegitimize the findings of science where it concerns climate change to the general public. It's part of a political effort that comes mostly from a sub-set of "pro-industry" conservatives. I noticed one manifestation of this campaign in a post nearly a year ago.

Complicating matters farther are a couple of facts and a little bit of history. The historical reason that the waters are too easily muddied today is that the popular press sensationalized the case for anthropogenic climate change for quite a few years in the '80s and early '90s. Bad science reporting then undermined the case for climate change in the public imagination, because much of what was presented then as "fact" was still relatively untested. I remember being suprised to learn that the "hole in the ozone layer" had existed for as long as we had been capable of noticing it, and that there was a diversity of scientific opinion about its origin. It doesn't help matters that Hollywood is producing movies like The Day After Tomorrow, which further sensationalize and inaccurately portray the science behind global warming. The eighties' popular press and the 21st century's Hollywood are great straw men for dissenters to publicly knock down.

Another complicating fact is that there are still some holdouts who are actual scientists, unlike the phoney controversy over evolution and creationism. The last real scientists who held out skepticism over an ancient earth or over the general accuracy of Darwin's theory faded away in the first half of the century. It's true that the only remaining skeptics of human induced climate change tend to be old-timers who just don't trust the results these young whipper-snappers are coming up with, and those scientists with a "pro-industry" political agenda and/or a paycheck coming from polluting industries. Nevertheless, these are active scientists doing research in the relevant fields, and that makes them a step higher on the credibility ladder than the evolution deniers. The public at large, however, cannot understand why real scientists working in the field are still skeptical if there is not a substantial amount of doubt about the subject. They cannot read and interpret the evidence for themselves (and what they do get a chance to shift through has often been stacked by someone with an agenda), and it isn't immediately clear to them, first, that there has emerged a strong consensus around the fact of climate change from human activity, or second, how that consensus best reflects the evidence.

The other complicating factor is that there still remains debate over the numbers. There are still questions about how much humans are contributing to climate change and how severe the consequences of that change might turn out to be. This scientific debate can be played out by the dissenters as calling into question the basic fact of climate change - when actually it shouldn't.

There are three solutions to these problems, but they are tough. They are 1) education, 2) education, and the all important 3) ...education.

Resources like RealClimate.org will help with number one. Good pro-science school boards will help with number 2. But only we as individuals, one by one, can proactively take care of number 3 by taking the time to educate ourselves. So, let's get to it. Not just about global warming - but about the age of the earth, Constantine, first century Jewish marriage customs and the council of Nicea, and anything we find in our e-mail boxes that smells like a good candidate for Snopes!

Update: Real Climate has added a second post on the topic of Chrichton's activism.

Posted by smijer at 06:29 PM | Comments (3)

A Head Scratcher

from - Buck

Too bad he didn't take his own advice.

When you read a blaring headline stating that "Bush warns Iran and Syria not to meddle in Iraq" you can't help but wonder if he does not see the irony in it.

Posted by Buck at 04:36 PM | Comments (0)

What the hell, Zell?

from - Buck

Proof positive that you do not have to be mentally stable to be "fair and balanced"

Posted by Buck at 09:45 AM | Comments (10)

The Clock is Ticking

from - Buck

It seems that every day more people climb on board the "get rid of Rumsfeld" train. I could have been the engineer of the train before the war but now I am a strong Rumsfeld supporter. His unwillingness to send in more troops makes me his biggest fan. The people calling for his head are simply members of the "more boots on the ground" cabal and they operate under a false assumption.

If 10 divisions from the most powerful military the world has ever seen cannot even provide basic security for the Iraqi citizens or keep the Green Zone from turning Red there is no reason to believe that 20 can. If 10 divisions cannot put down what has been characterized as being a "limited insurgency" there is no reason to believe that 20 can.

And if the plan is to leave Iraq after the elections why would we put more boots on the ground now?

My predicition is that soon and very soon Rumsfeld will "resign" and the President will grudgingly and with a heavy heart "accept his resignation". Then Paul Wolfowitz will proudly lick his comb and climb into the hot seat.

Posted by Buck at 09:36 AM | Comments (0)

A Couple More semi-Burning Blogs

from - smijer

Shortly after I added him to the blog-roll, the author of Alternative Energy ~ Renewable Energy dropped off the face of the planet. Shortly before I finally decided to take him back off the blog-roll, he is posting again. There is good stuff there. Have a look.

The Church of Critical Thinking has been slow of late as well, but there is a new post up there, handing this whole cooked up Christmas Controversy back to Bill O'Reilly and his acolytes. It is exceedingly tiresome to watch the Reactionary Right stir up fake controversies over the liberal penchant for doing the right thing.

Finally, I'm adding a new link under the "science" category (since I don't have a specialized "environment" category) for this excellent blog, that takes some of the spin off the global warming issue. Lord willin' and the melting icecaps don't make the creek rise, I'll do another post this evening that involves one of Gavin's recent posts.

Posted by smijer at 07:41 AM | Comments (0)

December 14, 2004

Fighting Fire With Fire

from - smijer

Sometimes it's a dumb idea.

Posted by smijer at 09:49 PM | Comments (3)

Rocky Top Tax Reform

from - smijer

I'm sorry I'm just now getting around to posting this. It was earlier this week that the Tennessee Tax Commission announced the recommendations they are making to the General Assembly to reform Tennessee's tax structure. Their outlined recommendations match the goals of Tennesseans for Fair Taxation fairly well. This is the plan:


  • Lower the sales tax on non-food items by more than a third to one unified state-local rate of 6% (currently varies from county-to-county with a 9.75% max).
  • Cut the food tax in half to one unified rate of 4% (currently, it varies with a 8.75% max rate).
  • Establish a graduated income tax with generous front-end deductions of $15K for single filers and $30K for couples. The rates go from 3.5% to 6% with four tiers and married families not hitting the top bracket until they make at least $100,000 a year. This new income tax would replace the current Hall Income Tax that only applies to limited types of income.

TFT advocates for no tax on food, but the cut to 4% would be a major victory for working families for whom food purchases are a large portion of their budget.

Other recommendations include a lot of good common sense stuff, like allowing the state to absorb the would-be revenue loss from counties who currently have higher local sales taxes. The major problematic recommendation is this one:


  • Recommend that the Legislature & Governor consider limiting the size of government by tying appropriations to a formula of population growth and personal income growth.

Such a provision would limit the states' ability to take in new revenue. With our current budget, we fund education less than all but 48 of the other states in the union and we cannot afford state health insurance for the poor. It would be nice to at least leave open the possibility of increasing state revenue for worthwhile purposes.

This is a no-brainer. The only argument anyone can even make against it is the trumped up charge that the Tennessee Constitution forbids an income tax (it doesn't, and if it did, it would be worth amending it for the purpose). The standard argument that it is a tax increase doesn't hold water, because after taking into account the sales tax decrease, 4 out of 5 households - anybody making $75,000 or less, will pay less in taxes. (Update: Les Jones, in the comments offers another argument along the lines of slippery slope, but I think the merits outweigh the risks by a long shot even so.) It keeps business and jobs in the state by making it less profitable for Tennesseans to cross the state line or pop onto the internet to shop, and by making Tennessee shopping more attractive to out-of-staters. It takes the majority of the state tax burden off of the shoulders of the working class (where it currently lies), and distributes it evenly accross income ranges. Everybody wins. Except a few of us may have to give up our $12000 Massage chairs... Not really though, because a rising tide floats all ships, and the people who shop for massage chairs will likely be enriched when the state becomes more business friendly, too. Maybe we can call it "trickle-up" economics...

Anyway, if you are a Tennessean and reading this, I challenge you to write a letter to your paper, or get on the phone with your state representative and support this. The only thing that will keep us from having a better state is the good-old-boy network at the top who thinks maybe nobody is noticing.

(P.S. For Hamilton County Residents who didn't know that Tennessee was 49th in per capita education spending, here's another fun fact: Hamilton County gets the least amount of any county for public education per capita in the state.)

(PP.S. 17% of Tennesseans currently have college degrees. Would you want to base your business here?)

Posted by smijer at 07:52 PM | Comments (10)

Zimbabwe

from - smijer

Perhaps 2 million people gone missing from Zimbabwe's population? - the Economist (free day pass a lá Salon required) tells the story of AIDS, corruption, and flight from economic collapse.

It gives one pause. John Edwards spoke truth about two Americas. But even more glaring is the division between the worlds. This should kindle our interest in reconnecting those worlds.

(P.S. - thanks to my good friend for passing along his print copy of the Economist when he finishes with it.)

Posted by smijer at 06:52 AM | Comments (0)

December 13, 2004

The Perfect Candidate?

from - Buck

Index.1

51% Bush / 49% Kerry

It beats 100% of either.

Posted by Buck at 08:41 PM | Comments (1)

Remember Vince Foster?

from - Buck

Well, Mike Rogers over at Lews Blog sez that

Four Bush biographers, Mark Lombardi, J.H. Hatfield, Danny Casalaro, and now Gary Webb--are all "suicide" victims. What are the odds all of these people actually committing suicide?

Supposedly statistics will show you that the odds are about 1 in 10,000,000,000,000,000.

Is this a reason for genuine concern or just another tin foil hat conspiracy theory?

Posted by Buck at 08:51 AM | Comments (3)

Blogs on Fire!

from - smijer

Some of my favorite often-read blogs have seemingly upped their daily output quite a bit lately. I don't know if it is holiday generosity, escaping steam after a bad election outcome, or an on-going thing, but I'm sure glad to see it. Two of the smarter individuals on my blogroll are Reed of De Rerum Natura, a biologist and blogger from UGA, covering all things local, acadmemic, biological and even the occasional political item, and Alice of 10,000 Monkeys and a Camera from right here in town. She keeps us notified of upcoming advocacy events in Chattanooga, rants political, and shares the view from inside her camera. I've noticed in the last couple of weeks that each of these individuals have upped their output by several posts a week, and I'm grateful for it.

I've also discovered a good group political blog of which I was previously unaware: Left2Right, authored by a couple of dozen academic types, who seem unafraid to question the long-held dogmas of the American left - not in order to tear down the liberal agenda, but in order to build it up by fostering a more careful and thoughtful approach to certain issues. At first, you might think they are a bunch of DLC faux "moderates" getting ready to sell out the liberal agenda for electoral gain. A closer look (to me at least) reveals a lot of sincerity and concern about how carefully we think about the issues our party represents. Give them a listen. If you don't like them, you can throw the rotten tomatoes at me.

Say Uncle, a conservative blog with a brain and a gun fetish, always pumps out the content. One would almost wonder if he had an office at a prominent Tennessee law school that provided him the time to keep his blog full of fresh content throughout the day. I mention him because he's always been "on fire", he's part of the RTB, and after a tip-off from yours truly, he has taken a nice swing at my "nemesiz" - Say Uncle takes Neal Boortz to school for dog comment.

That's all. Have a great day.

Posted by smijer at 07:55 AM | Comments (1)

December 11, 2004

Ban Nekkid People!

from - smijer

The A.G. may be that torture memo guy now, but this is still John Ashcroft's America... via Atrios and America Blog.

It's funny, but somehow I don't feel like laughing.

Posted by smijer at 03:16 PM | Comments (0)

December 10, 2004

Come home, come home, it's suppertime

from - Buck

Antony Flew believes in God!

At age 81, after decades of insisting belief is a mistake, Antony Flew has concluded that some sort of intelligence or first cause must have created the universe. A super-intelligence is the only good explanation for the origin of life and the complexity of nature, Flew said in a telephone interview from England.

Epiphany or hardening of the arteries?

"I'm thinking of a God very different from the God of the Christian and far and away from the God of Islam, because both are depicted as omnipotent Oriental despots, cosmic Saddam Husseins," he said. "It could be a person in the sense of a being that has intelligence and a purpose, I suppose."

With quotes like that he still ain't gonna be invited to many dinners on the ground.

Posted by Buck at 10:21 AM | Comments (1)

Did you Know?

from - smijer

Today (December 10) is Human Rights Day. This is a U.N. sponsored holiday, so Republicans may feel free to celebrate it by torturing somebody the Attorney General thinks the Geneva conventions do not apply to.

For conservatives who have yet to figure out how this works, Kofi Annan (like Rumsfeld and Bush) did not resign in shame when his people got caught doing wrong, and since The U.N. under doesn't sponsor unprovoked war this undermines any and all credibility on any stance the U.N. may take on any international issue.

Posted by smijer at 10:20 AM | Comments (0)

Upside Down II

from - smijer

upside down dog

TGIF. Visit the Modulator's Ark.

Learn about some clever birds!

Posted by smijer at 07:12 AM | Comments (0)

December 09, 2004

Chattanooga in the News

from - smijer

A local link to a national news story. For those who don't know, the Times Free Press is a notoriously conservative rag. Hats off to Ed Pitts, if he did, indeed, work with Wilson on the "question heard around the world".

Update: What does this guy mean... "from Chattanooga of all places"??

Posted by smijer at 03:02 PM | Comments (1)

Financing Terror

from - smijer

Petroleum demand to grow 37% by 2025.

Petroleum demand is set to grow at an average rate of 1.5 percent to 27.93 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2025 from 20.45 million bpd in 2004, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration's long-term forecast.

MSNBC is doing some other good reporting on the looming but little discussed energy crisis. It is time that we all start raising alarm bells. Next time you are at the water cooler and out of fodder for small talk, why not mention that:

The recommendations of the 16-member National Commission on Energy Policy are viewed as significant because the commission includes a wide cross-section of energy experts, including Republicans and Democrats, industry executives, environmentalists, labor leaders and former government officials involved in energy issues.

The group has no actual authority except to make its recommendations known to the Bush administration and members of Congress where lawmakers for four years have been stymied in trying to produce a national energy agenda.

A key finding by the panel is the need for greater government involvement in developing new and more environmentally friendly energy sources, including a proposed doubling of money for federal energy research and development.

This needs to be a part of the public consciousness. The only way to make it that way is to go out and talk about it. So, go talk.

Posted by smijer at 01:31 PM | Comments (0)

Two Things:

from - smijer

First, a follow-up on the Moralist Party's fundamental aversion to practicing morality. Via Monkeys & a camera, we learn that Bill Frist goes out of his way to distort the facts about HIV and AIDS in order to bolster the dishonestly written abstinence programs the Washington Post exposed earlier this week, and about which I blogged. Inexcusable for a man with Dr. in front of his name to address the nation and offer such misleading information. Considering how close he is to the issues, and considering his medical education, it is impossible that he did not know he was being deceptive.

Second... this is just a recommendation. Disclaimer: I, personally, am currently unable to give generously to the causes that deserve my support (and have been for some time!).

It's the holiday season, and many people, taken by the seasonal spirit, choose to contribute to charitable causes this time of year. A very helpful tool for those of you who do is the Charity Navigator. Here, you can find financial information on the organization you were thinking about giving support to, and compare them to other organizations with a similar mission. You can see how much they pay their CEO, and how much of their total budget goes to his or her salary. You can discover whether or not they have pledged not to sell your information to a mailing list. You can see what percentage of their budget goes to prgrams as opposed to administration and other costs, and you can see how much total budget they are working with. I recommend that you check before you give. Another, less detailed charity-checker is the CBBB, affiliated with the Better Business Bureau. It's good for reassuring you that your cause is not a scam of some sort. And finally, a fine organization that could use your support, if you can afford it: the Mercy Corps.

My eventual plan is to add a box at the top of the smijer/Buck page to keep permanent links to the web-sites of important charity and advocacy organizations that deserve more support.

Posted by smijer at 07:47 AM | Comments (0)

December 08, 2004

Spc. Thomas Wilson

from - Buck

The bravest soldier in the Middle East.

I guess it does not surprise ya'll that he is from Tennessee.

Posted by Buck at 10:08 PM | Comments (0)

A day that will live in infamy

from - Buck

No, not yesterday but today. Because of this.

The senseless killing of a wonderful and thought provoking human being. The author of one of the most wonderful poems ever written. John wrote the song but Rufus Wainwright nailed it on the "I Am Sam" soundtrack.

I lift my glass to John and Rufus today and say with them

Jai Guru Deva Om!

Posted by Buck at 04:19 PM | Comments (0)

December 07, 2004

Morality Police Roundup

from - smijer

Jerry, just remember. It's not a lie... if you believe it.
- George Castanza

You may already be aware of it. Some know-it-all school principal in Athens, GA decided it would be a good idea to read this little ditty, a prayer-parody written to attack and undermine a healthy separation of church and state, to his students over the intercom.

Listen up: prayer in school is legal. Bible study in school is legal. Banning either of these things would be illegal. If this comes as a suprise to you, you have been listening to too many lies from too many people like this school Principal.

What is illegal is forced prayer in school, government led Bible study, and anything else that is equivalent to state sponsorship of sectarian religion. Most people, if they think about it for a while, realize that they may not always agree with the State's approach to Sunday School. Most of them, if they think about it for a while will realize that they choose their own church precisely because they want to decide what kind of Sunday School their kids will attend.

I opened with the Seinfeld quote because this canard about banning "God" from school has been around so long, that many people on the radical end of the right-wing spectrum have come to actually believe it. Perhaps this school Principal was among them. A couple of examples that jumped out at me yesterday:

Whatever its origins, the "prayer" is an innocent, innocuous ode to the loss of our religious freedoms and the rise of the wrong type of freedoms in our public schools.

The Robesonian - who also thinks anyone who could object to this kind of polemic being broadcast by a school authority to impressionable kids is lacking in a "sense of humor".

The truth of the poem is self-evident.
- fellow Tennessee blogger, Jeff Blogworthy

Related: US Supreme Court Justice Scalia attempts to create a new myth about the separation of church and state.

Moving on...

I'm not hostile to "traditional" morality, so long as the traditions that are most important to the traditionalists are not those designed to demean or exclude someone else. I've taken the position verbally and in print, that there is plenty of room to include abstinence education along with other forms of sex education aimed at driving down teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease. But maybe I need to start putting a provisio on that support for abstinence education. It didn't occur to me that the same people would be writing that curriculum as are fighting to keep homosexuals from having equal rights, or who try to get their religion taught as science in schools. Apparently, I wasn't the only one who let the old guard down. Read the whole thing, or just read the lengthy excerpts over at the Skeptical Notion. Let's see, misinformation designed to breed fear of gay people, opinion as fact about abortion, falseinformation about sex, pregnancy and STDs, especially HIV, and a healthy dose of Leave-It-To-Beaver gender stereotyping. You know, I would have more sympathy for the self-righteousness of the religious right if they weren't such liars and such haters.

Another thing about red-state morality. Check out this teen pregancy comparison.

And then, there's this.

And,

Where we are in this world, with not just the war on terror, but with the war with our culture that's going on, I think we need a man that is going to be in the White House like President Bush, that's going to stand by what he believes.

...

Police said he started an affair with a 17-year-old in the church youth group this spring.
this.
Posted by smijer at 12:39 PM | Comments (0)

Friendly Fire

from - Buck

The death of Pat Tillman was tragic but the story behind his death makes it even more tragic.

At least there is an argument that what he was doing in Afghanistan was justifiable. For the 1,273 Americans that have died in Iraq no such argument can be made.

Former college teamate Jake Plummer said

Tillman was "fearless on the field, reckless, tough," yet he was also "thought-provoking. He liked to have deep conversations with a Guinness," and he would walk away from those sessions saying, "I've got to become more of a thinker."

Becoming more of a thinker would not hurt any of us. It is too bad that Tillman will never get that chance.

Posted by Buck at 12:25 AM | Comments (1)

December 06, 2004

Neal Who?

from - smijer

I decided to check back in on my favorite blow-hard Republican in Libertarian clothing today. No, I don't know why. I guess it's that old train wreck phenomenon. How suprised I was to see a somewhat alarmist, but suprisingly frank discussion () of the possibility of nuclear terror (Boortz, having forgotten the Oklahoma City Federal Building, the IRA, and uncountable other non-Islamic terrorist actions and organizations, assumes that any nuclear terrorism will be carried out by Muslims. I don't make that assumption.) Even with all the caveats, I was startled that Boortz would go into length about that hazard since it has only been ignored and/or exacerbated by his much-adored President. I was even more startled to see this plain truth plainly stated on his page:

Perhaps we need to renew our own love for the idea before we can have any success in promoting the idea to Islamic countries.

Absolutely. 'Course, I have a feeling Boortz defines "love of freedom" somewhat differently than I, and you can be certain that my view of that concept does not include a perennial war boner. Anyway, the nice thing to say is that Boortz may be groping in the dark, but this time it appears he is at least groping in the right direction.

In other Boortz:
Neal doesn't think the opposition party should oppose the ruling party. At least when the ruling party is run by his adored and adorable President.

Neal thinks that since a few Europeans illegally gamed the UN/Iraq oil-for-food program, that the UN Security council, Canada, Mexico, practically all of south America, and everyone else in the world who were right about Iraq only opposed curtailing the legal process in favor of war because of those Europeans. Sorry, that just won't fly, even if Kofi Annan's son was complicit. However, I do agree with him on one point. Kofi should rise above the level of Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Bush - he should do the right thing and resign. Maybe it wasn't war-crime type corruption, and maybe it wasn't the direct cause of tens of thousands of civilian deaths, but it was unacceptable, and he should resign. (On the other hand, maybe not...)

Neal, Christmas is a holiday. And, there are quite a few different holidays being celebrated right now. It's not (yet) a crime to address your "Seasons Greetings" to a wider group instead of a narrower group.... In other words, if a retailer would like to address his greetings to Jewish people and celebrants of Christmas (be they Christian or secularist), but only has a couple of lines of print available, it is very sensible for him to write the more general "Happy Holidays"... Part of what the lame-brained right doesn't understand is that liberal inclusiveness is not a knee-jerk effort to always avoid offense. It is an effort to include (and thereby unite and empower) a larger group of people. Only in the wack-o world of the extreme right wing is this considered a "bad thing".

Peace activists are bad. If you oppose war (any war), then you are a peacenik, you are "out of touch with reality", and you believe that it is better to live as slaves than to fight for freedom. At least that's how the voices in Neal Boortz' head tell it. Ghandi and King preferred to live in non-violent slavery, in the far-right-wing world. It's a crying shame India is still ruled by the Brits and American blacks still live under Jim Crow because of Ghandi's and King's "idiotic exercise in absolute futility". I suppose it makes sense that the people who are still cheerleading for a war of unprovoked aggression against Iraq are the same ones who think that we should never, under any circumstances give peace a chance...

Hey, Neal... thanks again for the permalinks... When are you going to start allowing trackback pings?

Posted by smijer at 10:01 PM | Comments (4)

Blog News

from - smijer

I fixed some stuff.

Posted by smijer at 08:55 PM | Comments (0)

December 05, 2004

Energy Indepedence = National Security

from - smijer

Check out this kos diary. I know I've harped on it before, but there are no negatives to getting America on a non-fossil fuel economy stat. Sadly, that too will have to wait another four years, ironically because of American's national security fears.

Posted by smijer at 09:10 PM | Comments (0)

Sundays Not Preachin'

from - smijer

uuRose.jpg
Maybe you've noticed I haven't been preaching as much lately, on Sunday mornings. I've discovered that sometimes it is more gratifying to get preached to. I, along with fifteen others, joined the Unitarian church today. The rose to the right was a welcoming gift from a diverse and cheery congregation of generous, bright, and friendly individuals who find themselves at home in the same church as this grumpy old atheist does. Here's a joke:

Why can't UUs sing very well in choirs?
Because they're always reading ahead to see if they agree with the next verse.

Or how about this?

Have you heard of the latest Unitarian miracle? Someone saw the face of Ralph Waldo Emerson on a tortilla.

(or now-adays, that would be a grilled cheese sandwich. I thought they were funny. Funnier than the rest of them, anyway.

Nothing much has changed, really. I'm just official now. I've been attending each off-work Sunday since (what? July?).... But I still thought it would be nice to share.

Posted by smijer at 05:38 PM | Comments (1)

B.S. Quote Of The Day

from - smijer

"There are some in the world who do not believe that a Muslim society can self-govern,'' Bush said. "Some believe that the only solution for government in parts of the world is for there to be tyranny or despotism. I don't believe that. The Pakistan people have proven that those cynics are wrong.''
-link

I heard him say this on the radio last night. A couple of points that the President of the United States and the most powerful person in the entire world should be made aware of, one obvious, one more so:

  • (obvious) - The "cynics" to whom he refers do not believe that a Muslim society cannot self-govern. That's a smear and a dirty lie. We believe that they will not self-govern as an arrangement imposed by American force.
  • (more obvious) - Pakistanians are not a self-governing people. Perhaps Bush is relying on the ignorance of Americans, or perhaps he is a moron himself. Either way, Pakistan is ruled by a military Junta.

Posted by smijer at 07:41 AM | Comments (0)

December 03, 2004

Weekly Recap

from - smijer

Now, I have Upside Down dog turned right-side up, and comfortably resting in my lap, and I have a few minutes to do the promised recap of my week, too much of which was spent away from blogging.

I've spent the week off work. My reading list for this week is Shōgun, by James Clavell, filled with romantic hyperbole about feudal Japan, and Blue Like Jazz, by Donald Miller, self-consciously subtitled "Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality", perhaps an oxymoron.

Tuesday night, I attended a panel discussion hosted by Tennesseans for Fair Taxation, including speakers Joy Day of the Green Party, Johnny Holloway of the Rainbow/PUSH coalition, and Samevelyn Rock, of the Hamilton County Educators Association. Also in attendance were representatives from Stand for Children, a children's advocacy group that is new to Chattanooga.

One interesting factoid that I picked up there is that planners use third grade reading scores to estimate how many new prison beds they will be needing over the coming years when deciding how many new jails to build in a region. I haven't confirmed it, and we all know that correlation doesn't always entail causation, but it is an attention getter, and it does serve to remind us that our communities do well to put extra time and effort into educating and empowering children.

I also looked over the literature from TFT fairly closely. It's no wonder, really, that TennCare is having to be scrapped. Have a look at the left hand side of this chart:

graph2.GIF

That's what we call a regressive tax structure. Spend a few hours at the TFT web-site. There is quite a bit of important stuff to know, and to get out into the public consciousness. Movement conservativism, using a deceptive appeal to the appearance of "fairness" is dominating the tax structure debate. It's time to turn that around.

I also attended a dinner with my wife with our local chapter of the Epilepsy Foundation. Unfortunately, the Southeast Tennessee Chapter is no longer accessible through the internet (thought that may be remedied soon), but this is a very important service in our community, and worth any support Chattanoogans can find to give them.

Sunday, I will be officially joining the Unitarian Universalist church along with approximately 20 other people.

The remainder of the week is and will continue to be, filled with errands, including a couple of wrestling tournaments for one of the smijerlings. So, I'll be at the table in spirit only. Monday, I return to the grind of every day work, and I intend to return to my before-work tradition of a few minutes writing and reading on the blogs. Until then...

Posted by smijer at 01:11 PM | Comments (0)

Upside Down Dog

from - smijer

upside down dog.JPG
This is another shot that Mrs. Smijer got. I think she's the better photographer.

And, the Modulator has the rest of the ark...

Sorry my side of the table has been empty this week. I'll try to get myself back together shortly and recap the week's highlights.

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

December 02, 2004

The Ultimate Sacrifice

from - Buck

9/11 demonstrated that the Pentagon doesn't consider a foreign incursion a major threat; that's why they assigned 12 "ground-based" Air National Guard jets to guard the the entire country.

THEY FIGHT AND DIE, BUT NOT FOR THEIR COUNTRY

Posted by Buck at 11:52 AM | Comments (0)

December 01, 2004

Wrong Again

from - Buck

I am on record as having stated that Rumsfeld would never admit that more troops were needed in Iraq. Of course I was wrong. According to this article today in the Christian Science Monitor the Pentagon wants 10,000 more troops.

The 10,000 are supposedly needed to help guard the 9,000 polling places during the upcoming elections. That gives us the much needed 1.1112 extra guys or gals per polling place.

One of the biggest problems the military faces, Mr. Galloway reported in his piece above, is how to keep enough soldiers in places like Fallujah in order to prevent insurgents from coming back, while still pressuring them in other places in Iraq. There is also some confusion over the number of daily attacks since US troops entered Fallujah, with interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi saying the attacks have dropped to about 50 a day, with other sources, like Galloway, saying they have doubled to more than 100 a day.

It is conflicting reports like this that leave you wondering whether or not anybody really knows what is going on in Iraq.

In an interview with USA Today on Monday, Army Gen. John Abizaid, head of US Central Command and the top solider in Iraq and Afghanistan, said that US forces are not stretched too thin around the world, and warned countries like Iran and North Korea not to think they could take advantage of the situation.

With his hands full in Iraq and Afghanistan Abizaid still finds time to rattle his sabre at North Korea and Iran. It seems to me that if we are not stretched too thin in Iraq then there is no situation to take advantage of.

This should all get quite interesting towards the end of January.

Turn on FOX News and bring me the popcorn Mama. Things are really looking up in Iraq.

Posted by Buck at 02:24 PM | Comments (0)