If you are one of the many people who was trying to contribute to the Scienceblogs.com DonorsChoose challenge today, you should know that there's one person you can blame for the trouble you had accessing the site: right-wing spinmeister and wannabe Presidential candidate Steven Colbert. That's right, folks. Like a typical heartless Conservative, Colbert's not content merely trying to shrink government to a convenient, easy to drown size. No, he's not going to rest until he makes it harder for un-American liberal weenies like you to waste your hard-earned dollars by using them to buy things that he knows that students don't really need - like binders, or projection screens, or basic lab supplies. Kids don't need that stuff to learn - a slate, some chalk, and a bible was good enough for grandpa, and it's good enough for junior. Americans shouldn't be giving their money away so that other people can waste it on children. We should be supporting American retail by buying more things made in China. There's an educational benefit to doing that, too - when you're done, give the stuff you buy to the kids. Most of it's got enough lead to write with.
Colbert can try to mess that up for people, by evilly enticing his unwitting viewers into overloading the DonorsChoose site by going there to "vote" for him by giving away money, but he's learning a valuable lesson. He may be more popular than all of the other Presidential candidates combined, but he's not more popular than Scienceblogs. And he's got a long way to go before he gets there.
Right now, here's what the polls have to say:
Steven Colbert has plugged his campaign over and over on the air to his so-called "millions of viewers," but has raised a trivial $43,170.
The blogs of Scienceblogs.com, after much selfless work and dedication, have brought in a spectacular $53,494 - and counting.
Because of Colbert's antics, the DonorsChoose folks have extended the campaign by 24 hours, so you've got a whole extra day to donate, and to show Colbert just what you think of him and his "campaign."
President Bush announced today that he has (finally) named a nominee to replace Jim Nicholson as head of the Veterans administration. His choice, retired Lt. General James Peake, is probably one of the more qualified people that this President has ever nominated to do anything. That's the good news. The bad news is that's not a very high bar to clear.
Seriously, though, Peake certainly has the qualifications to run the VA. He's a West Pointer, he is a combat veteran who served in the infantry and was wounded twice in Vietnam, he's a medical doctor, and he was the Surgeon General of the United States Army. As a nominee for VA Secretary, he's an absolute slam dunk. Or would be, anyway, if it wasn't for one very small problem: his old address.
From 2000 until 2004, while serving as Surgeon General of the Army, LTG Peake lived in a very, very nice house - the Washington Post has a picture - located on the picturesque grounds of Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The house sits across the street from the now-infamous building 18, and it sits directly next to the quarters of the hospital commander. During his time in residence there, General Peake managed to remain blissfully ignorant of the disastrous bungling of outpatient care that was taking place under the command of his next-door neighbor and subordinate, and literally at his doorstep.
It's certainly not fair to lay all - or most - of the blame for the problems at Walter Reed at General Peake's feet. The problems at that hospital did not take place under his direct command, and they certainly didn't end when he left. It certainly is fair to wonder whether that one factor should outweigh the balance of his outstanding career.
But it's also fair to wonder this: if he could not spot poor medical care being given to wounded veterans when it was happening in his front yard, how good a job can we expect him to do when it comes to spotting the same thing from farther away?
We're now in the last two days of the DonorsChoose Bloggers' Challenge. As things currently stand, this blog is now $88 away from my $2,500 fundraising goal. Unfortunately, we've been more or less stalled for the last couple of weeks, so I'm going to add an incentive to see if we can get over the top.
DonorsChoose has generously committed to give blogs that hit their goals with a 10% bonus that can be used to fund additional projects. I've already contributed some to my own challenge, but if we have met the goal by 10 pm tomorrow night, our family will also contribute 10% of the total raised (up to a maximum of $500).
Here are the proposals in my challenge that still need contributions:
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Here's a quote for you. It's one of the ones that should make you wonder whether you should laugh or cry:
And, doubtless, my going on this whaling voyage, formed part of the grand programme of Providence that was drawn up a long time ago. It came in as a sort of brief interlude and solo between more extensive performances. I take it that this part of the bill must have run something like this:
"Grand Contested Election for the Presidency of the United States.
"WHALING VOYAGE BY ONE ISHMAEL.
"BLOODY BATTLE IN AFFGHANISTAN."
That, if you haven't guessed from the name in the middle line, comes from Herman Melville's 1851 masterpiece, Moby-Dick.
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Several days ago, Senator (and longshot Presidential candidate) Christopher Dodd (D-CT) made some news by promising to do whatever he could to block any legislation that would retroactively grant immunity to telecommunications companies that cooperated with President Bush's warrentless wiretapping program. He started off by placing a hold on the bill - a procedural move that would normally block the legislation from being voted on. After hearing that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid plans to move the bill to the floor despite the hold, Dodd is now promising to go to the floor of the Senate and filibuster the bill if necessary.
That was late last week. Until yesterday, the only thing heard on this issue from the Clinton and Obama campaigns was the chirp of crickets. Yesterday, five days after Dodd's announcement (a period of time that bears an uncanny resemblance to the time needed to conduct focus groups or polls on the issue), the two camps both released statements outlining their candidate's position on the bill and the threatened filibuster.
From the Obama campaign:
"Senator Obama has serious concerns about many provisions in this bill, especially the provision on giving retroactive immunity to the telephone companies. He is hopeful that this bill can be improved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. But if the bill comes to the Senate floor in its current form, he would support a filibuster of it."
From Clinton, in response to a question at a press availability:
"I am troubled by the concerns that have been raised by the recent legislation reported out of the Intelligence Committee. I haven't seen it so I can't express an opinion about it. But I don't trust the Bush Administration with our civil rights and liberties. So I'm going to study it very hard. As matters stand now, I could not support it and I would support a filibuster absent additional information coming forward that would convince me differently."
Personally, I liked the chirping crickets better. They've got more character than either statement - or, for that matter, than both combined. I don't think they could have come up with anything more milquetoasty if they tried - and they probably did. Their "support" for the filibuster is so lukewarm it's at room temperature.
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Here are a few numbers from the latest Reuters-Zogby poll. See if you can find the one that's not like the others:
Rated President Bush's performance as excellent or good: 25%
Rated Congress' performance as excellent or good: 11%
Said the U.S. is heading in the right direction: 26%
Rated the performance of U.S. foreign policy excellent or good: 18%
Rated the performance of U.S. economic policy excellent or good: 26%
Said they were very or fairly proud of the U.S.: 88%
Those numbers remind me of a bit from Terry Pratchett's Monstrous Regiment:
"...you might not like everything about your country, eh? It might not be the perfect place, but it's ours. You might not think we've got the best laws, but they're ours. The mountains might not be the prettiest ones or the tallest ones, but they're ours. We're fighting for what's ours, men!"
After about an hour, when rain was drumming on the canvas, Carborundum said: "Okay, den, I fink I've worked it out. If people are groophar stupid, then we'll fight for groophar stupidity, 'cos it's our stupidity. And dat's good, yeah?"
Several of the squad sat up in the darkness, amazed at this.
"I realize I ought to know these things, but what does groophar mean?" said the voice of Maladict in the damp darkness.
"Ah, well . . . when, right, a daddy troll an' a mummy troll --"
"Good, right, yes, I think I've got it, thank you," said Maladict. "And what you've got there, my friend, is patriotism. My country, right or wrong."
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The Skeptical Alchemist tagged me with the Pharyngula Mutating Meme - a series of questions that can change as they get passed from blogger to blogger according to a set of simple rules.
The original questions were:
1. The best time travel novel in SF/Fantasy is...
2. The best romantic movie in historical fiction is...
3. The best sexy song in rock is...
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Google news is currently featuring a comment by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) on the House of Representatives' failed attempt to override President Bush's veto of the SCHIP expansion. The comment reads in part:
"I remain committed to working with my colleagues across the aisle to reauthorize the State Children's Health Insurance Program to protect underprivileged children who currently lack health insurance. However, I cannot support legislation that will expand the welfare state, provide government health care benefits to illegal immigrants, and irresponsibly draw-down the public purse."
That's a nice, principled statement. Apparently, though, it only applies to legislation that's being pushed by Democrats. In 2003, Blackburn voted in favor of the Medicare prescription drug benefit - the one that irresponsibly draws down the public purse by barring the government from using it's purchasing power to negotiate for lower prices on the drugs.
Of course, that was her statement as of 2003. People do change - even conservatives - on occasion. Maybe her views shifted over the last few years, and she would have voted for more fiscal responsibility if the medicare thing came up for a vote this year. Oh, wait, what's that you say? A bill that would have modified the Medicare legislation by allowing for price negotiations did come up for a vote this year? If Blackburn's opposed to irresponsibly drawing-down the public purse, then she obviously voted in favor of that bill, right?
James Watson is many things. He's a noted scientist. He is the co-discoverer of the double helix structure of DNA. He runs a major research institute. He's a Nobel Laureate. He's also living proof that you can be a genius and a complete schmuck at the same time.
Our Coach Pitch baseball team just played the first game of the season. We had a very good game; the other team had a slightly better game. Everyone had fun, though, which is the key. A few quick thoughts on baseball and the 5-8 year-old group:
1: Before our next game, I'm going to make a recording of myself yelling "Play your own position!"
2: I'm going to make a recording of "Throw the ball to the pitcher."
3: At practice tomorrow night, we're going to spend most of the time working on the infield routine. The emphasis is going to be on throwing the ball after you catch it, with a secondary focus on throwing it to the right place.