Archive for: July, 2007

The Rudy Health Care "Solution"

Jul 31 2007 Published by under Uncategorized

Rudy Giuliani just announced his health care plan. It's not a winner. Of course, Rudy being Rudy, he couldn't just announce what his ideas are without any preparation. First, he had to warm up by spending a day or two imitating a wingnut talk radio host and calling the Democratic candidates "socialists" and who belong to a "party of losers" and are all "heading for France" (or, alternatively, "Cuba"). He also said that it's "unrealistic" to expect a system where "everyone is taken care of from cradle to grave."

The core of the Rudy plan is really nothing new. From the looks of things, he dusted off the President's "Better Healthcare Through Tax Cuts" plan. That was the non-starter from back in January, with the President proposing tax breaks for people who buy private health insurance. Rudy's added some things to it - like making it easier for the insurance industry to make money by providing health care plans that are completely inadequate:

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Hard on Rights.

Jul 31 2007 Published by under Uncategorized

Go read what Wilkins has to say about the "soft on terrorism" accusations that get thrown around so casually today. He's an Australian writing about a situation in Australia, but everything he said certainly applies here in the US.

Particularly this bit:

Kevin Andrews also says that critics are soft on terrorism. And here's the nub of the matter. We aren't soft on terrorism - that is a (excuse my French) f---ing [edit mine] stupid thing to say. Does Andrews really believe we critics want a bombing in Sydney? We aren't soft on terrorism, we are hard on rights.

Exactly right.

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Lying With Math

Jul 29 2007 Published by under Uncategorized

Over at Dispatches from the Culture Wars, Ed Brayton just highlighted a new, dishonest, and despicable attempt at spinning the casualty figures from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. This new spin is simple: military deaths under Bush aren't much different than the deaths under Clinton, so why is everyone picking on poor Dubya?

Ed quotes one right-wing blog:

Active duty deaths during Clinton's first four years (1993 - 1996): 4302

Active duty deaths during Bush's first four years (2001 - 2004): 5187

Ed points out a couple of problems with the comparison (it's based on all deaths, not combat deaths, and it doesn't allow for consideration of the stupidity of the situation in Iraq), but there's one big one that he missed: the problem with looking at the raw number of dead. You see, things change over time - and one of those things is the size of the American Military. It shrunk during the Clinton years, but it hasn't grown much since then. This means that you get a very different picture of looking at the death rate for the military instead of the number of dead people.

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The Logistics of Memorials.

Jul 26 2007 Published by under Uncategorized

Yesterday, my wife and I were talking about current events over dinner. Part of the discussion got a little bit...interesting:

Me: "It looks like some of the families at Fort Lewis are upset with the post CG [commanding general].

Wife: "Oh? What'd he do?"

Me: "It looks like he thinks that the number of memorial services is causing problems, so he decided to just have one big one every month instead of individual services."

Me: "Sorry. Should have waited until you were done chewing."

In all seriousness, though, the incident at Ft. Lewis really did happen, although I did have some of my facts wrong when I was talking to my wife. The decision to go to one service per month was made by the acting commander back in May - a month when 20 soldiers stationed at Lewis died in the combat zones. After the entirely predictable outcry from families stationed at the base, the new commander put the decision on hold in mid-June, then decided yesterday to change it. Memorial services will now be held as often as necessary - on Wednesdays. The post settled on Wednesdays for logistical reasons - it would provide necessary travel time for families who wish to attend the on-post services, and would not be likely to conflict with holidays.

I swear, you just can't make this stuff up. It's like reality decided to take a job writing for the Daily Show or something.

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Reality Matters

Jul 25 2007 Published by under Uncategorized

I've been looking at the Ward Churchill case more than I expected. I don't know why, exactly. It might be because Churchill is such a fantastically outrageous character - both in the tone of his published works and in the depths of his academic malfeasance. It might be because of the delicious irony involved. Churchill's misconduct was discovered, after all, as a result of the public hue and cry that came after one of his essays came to light - an essay that Churchill had subtitled, "On the Justice of Roosting Chickens." Mostly, though, I think it's because as I read more of what Churchill has written in response to the investigations, I begin to grasp just how massive the differences in perspective between Churchill and his investigators really are, and just how representative they are of a large divide in our society today.

I say "a" large divide and not "the" large divide because there are so many things that appear to divide us today - religions, politics, sports franchises, you name it - that it's a bit inane to single any one out as "the" divide. It would be like looking at someone who's been run over by a steamroller, and trying to point out "the" broken bone. This divide, though, might be the most dangerous in the long run. On one side of the divide are people who think that reality matters, and that it's never acceptable to misrepresent the facts. On the other side are people who think that reality is something that's relative, and that it's OK - at least in some circumstances - to tailor reality to match your beliefs.

If you've read this blog before, I hope you're not surprised when I say that I put myself firmly on the side of reality. Lest you think that I might be exaggerating when I put Churchill on the other side of the gap, I'll provide my source. The faculty investigative committee report that outlined Churchill's transgressions provides this bit of information (ironically enough, given the extent to which the misconduct case revolves around citations and sources, in a footnote:

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Oh, joy...

Jul 25 2007 Published by under Uncategorized

I'm now living in a state where the Governor thinks that a creationist is just who we need running the schools. Absolutely wonderful. I'd say more, but the Bad Astronomer did a much better job.

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Ward Churchill, Free Speech, and Academic Integrity

Jul 25 2007 Published by under Uncategorized

A few of you might remember Ward Churchill. He's the University of Colorado professor who caused a stink a few years ago with an essay that compared 9/11 victims in the World Trade Center to Nazis. His remarks generated a surge of demands that he be fired. Yesterday, he finally was - but not for the 9/11 essay. And there's the rub.

Ward Churchill was dismissed for cause by the Board of Regents for academic misconduct that was unearthed when people began to examine his record more closely when the offensive essay came to light. They found repeated cases of academic misconduct, and filed a formal complaint with his university. The university investigated the charges, found that a number of them were substantiated, and that's where we academics suddenly find ourselves in a no-win situation.

There is little, if any, reason to doubt that the investigation into Mr. Churchill's conduct was entirely inspired by his decision to use his legitimate First Amendment rights in a deliberately offensive manner. There is also little, if any, reason to doubt that Churchill did deliberately commit multiple acts of academic misconduct. If Churchill is punished for the academic misconduct, it will at least in part be the result of the uproar caused by his decision to speak out as he saw fit. If Churchill is spared the consequences of his exercise in free speech, his (unrelated) academic misconduct will be pardoned.

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A token review.

Jul 23 2007 Published by under Uncategorized

The Fish and Wildlife service announced on Friday that it would review ten endangered species listing decisions that were identified by regional directors as having been inappropriately influenced by former Deputy Assistant Secretary Julie MacDonald. MacDonald, as some of you may recall, was the Deputy Assistant Secretary at Interior who decided that she needed to spend more time with her family shortly after the Interior Inspector General concluded that she acted inappropriately on numerous occasions, and (very) shortly before she was scheduled to testify before a newly hostile Congressional committee about a range of topics that included her conduct.

The decision that the Interior department has made here is disturbing. Reviewing these ten decisions is certainly a good thing - particularly for the involved species. Unfortunately, the documents that FWS has made available to justify this decision show that while they might have finally set some limit on the degree to which they are willing to let political appointees interfere in Endangered Species Act determinations, it's not much of a limit.

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I'd be insulted if it wasn't so true.

Jul 19 2007 Published by under Uncategorized

It's rare that I think one of these test results really fits me, but I'm afraid this one does.

Your Score: Smartass

You are 85% Rational, 57% Extroverted, 57% Brutal, and 71% Arrogant.

You are the Smartass! You are rational, extroverted, brutal, and arrogant. In fact, you could very well be the anti-Christ, as you are almost the exact opposite of everything Jesus was supposed to be. While Jesus says love your enemy, you say love beating the crap out of your enemy. While Jesus raises the dead, you raise hell. While Jesus walks on water, you tend to sink. You probably consider people who are emotional and gentle to be big pussies who are obviously in lesser stature than you. You have many flaws, despite your seeming intelligence and cool-headedness. For instance, you aren't very nice. In fact, you're probably an asshole. And you are conceited and self-centered. Not only that, but you are very loud and vocal about all this, seeing as how you are extroverted. There is no better way to describe you than as a "smartass", I'm afraid. Perhaps just "ass" would do, too. But that's a little less literary and descriptive. At any rate, your main personality defect is the fact that you are self-centered, mean, uncaring, and brutally logical.

To put it less negatively:

1. You are more RATIONAL than intuitive.

2. You are more EXTROVERTED than introverted.

3. You are more BRUTAL than gentle.

4. You are more ARROGANT than humble.

Compatibility:

Your exact opposite is the Emo Kid.

Link: The Personality Defect Test written by saint_gasoline on OkCupid, home of the The Dating Persona Test

(Via Stranger Fruit.)

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Still More Junk Talk: A Challenge to Readers, and A Challenge to Casey Luskin

Jul 19 2007 Published by under Uncategorized

It's another day, and Casey "The Energizer Bunny" Luskin is at it again, claiming that ID successfully predicted that "junk DNA" would be found to have a function. He has yet to explain how and why he believes that "Darwinism" somehow stifled research into those areas of the genome, and ignores the fact that scientists routinely use our understanding of evolution, common descent, and natural selection to identify areas of the genome to identify non-coding regions that are likely to have function. He does, however, provide us with an explanation for why he thinks that Intelligent Design somehow "predicts" function for all of the so-called "junk" DNA:

Intelligent design begins by studying the types of complexity produced by intelligent agents. We observe that intelligent agents produce things for a purpose, that is, to fulfill some function. This leads ID proponents to an expectation--yes, a prediction--that DNA will not tend to contain meaningless junk but will contain structures that have (or once had) a function for the organism. ID does not lead us to the expectation that our cells' DNA will be largely non-functional garbate. The hypothesis--that "junk"-DNA will have function--is obviously experimentally testable. In fact, I know pro-ID biologists studying the function of junk-DNA who were inspired to do such research due to intelligent design. One biologist in particular is not yet tenured, and so I will not disclose his/her name. Suffice it to say, for this biologist, finding function for non-coding DNA was directly inspired by intelligent design.

If that explanation looks familiar to you, it should. It's pretty much the same one he gave last month. This leads me to my two challenges - one that's addressed to most of you, and one just for Casey:

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