Archive for: January, 2009

Clinton's Eligibility for Secretary of State Challenged in Lawsuit.

Jan 31 2009 Published by under Politics

The first thing I thought when I saw the "Lawsuit argues Clinton ineligible for state post" headline was, "what group of wingnut wackaloons suffers from a case of Clinton Derangement Syndrome severe enough to cause them to file this suit?" The very next thought to cross my mind was "gotta be Judicial Watch." Surprisingly enough, I was right.

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Pratchett and Politics

Jan 31 2009 Published by under Humor

I'm rereading "Guards! Guards!" right now, and I just came across this quote:

But incompetents with possibilities, nevertheless. Let the other societies take the skilled, the hopefuls, the ambitious, the self-confident. He'd take the whining resentful ones, the ones with a bellyful of spite and bile, the one who knew they could make it big if only they'd been given the chance. Give him the ones in which floods of venom and vindictiveness were dammed up behind thin walls of ineptitude and low-grade paranoia.

Is it just me, or is this a good description for a large chunk of a current minority political party?

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iPhoto Pareidolia

Jan 30 2009 Published by under Uncategorized

Pareidolia - the phenomenon where our brain is somehow tricked into recognizing vague shapes as significant features - gets mentioned now and then on ScienceBlogs. The usual trigger for this occurs when someone tries to sell the Wonderbread Virgin Mary on Ebay before the blue mold completely erases her from the slice, or when one of our more monomaniacal colleagues sees something that he can associate with the New Atheism.

Interestingly, it seems that human-programed face recognition software may be as subject to these issues as our own face recognition is. The latest version of Apple's iPhoto comes with built-in face recognition. It provides a really cool way to sort pictures, and it seems to work pretty well. Except when it doesn't:

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The "Rightful Place" of Science.

Jan 30 2009 Published by under Uncategorized

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In his Inaugural Address, President Obama announced that he will "restore science to its rightful place." And scientists around the world wept for joy. The era of government meddling with science is over. All we need to do is fund embryonic stem cell research, take decisive action to curb global warming, protect more than three or four endangered species, reverse a couple of other little problems, and everything will be good. Right?

No.

Restoring science to its proper place in public policy does not mandate that we make any of those changes. In fact, it doesn't require that we make any changes in our policies at all.

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You said it, I didn't.

Jan 29 2009 Published by under Politics

In today's political news, Karl Rove just compared himself to an aggressive and hard-to-harpoon whale.

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A couple of morning Astronomy links

Jan 29 2009 Published by under Astronomy

Over at the Bad Astronomy Blog, Phil highlights a picture of one of our neighboring galaxies. If you don't click on any other link today, you should go look at this one - it's absolutely gorgeous.

As part of the ongoing International Year of Astronomy celebration, the Hubble Telescope folks are letting people vote on a target. There are a bunch of choices, they all look good, and I can't wait to see the final result. Go vote.

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No, Children, "They're Doing It, Too," Is Not An Excuse.

Jan 28 2009 Published by under Politics

I might have mentioned this before, but it's worth mentioning again: if you want to know what got me actively working on a political campaign last year, it was the cumulative "final straw" effect of some Congressional Republicans who saw fit to question the "Americanism" and "patriotism" of their political opponents. Well, I'm definitely an opponent of the Republicans, and I was really, really, really sick of having my patriotism and commitment to America questioned, so I finally got off my butt and started to work for change.

I mention this because I just found the following gem of a quote over at Comrade PhysioProf's place. I've redacted a few words in the interests of family friendliness and workplace readability, so feel free to take a look over there to get the full effect:

The dude has overf---ingwhelming majorities in both chambers and he "needs to convince Republicans blah, blah, blah"!?!? What he "needs to do" is tell those America-hating neo-feudal s--theels to sit down and shut the f--- up and take their goddam motherf---ing medicine.

Not. Good.

We've got no right to expect the right wing to stop calling us anti-American if we're going to turn around and talk about how much they hate America. And it would be really nice if they stopped calling us anti-American.

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Politico.com's massive and multiple ethical fail.

Jan 28 2009 Published by under Politics

Yesterday, I had to modify a post on this blog shortly after publishing it. I had quoted material from a Politico.com story, and it turned out that Politico had made a very large error. Georgia Rep. Phil Gingery had given them a quote that was highly critical of Rush Limbaugh, and they somehow or another managed to attribute that quote to Rep. Tom Price instead.

Not only did they get the quote wrong in the article, they also apparently told Rush that Tom Price was talking about him. Here's a paragraph from the original version of the Politico article in question:

Asked to respond to Price, Limbaugh, in an email to Politico, wrote: "I don't know Tom Price. I'm sure he is doing his best but it does not appear to be good enough. He may not have noticed that the number of Republican colleagues he has in the House has dwindled. And they will dwindle more if he and his friends don't show more leadership and effectiveness in battling the most left-wing agenda in modern history. And they won't continue to lose because of me, but because of their relationship with the grassroots, which is hurting. Conservatives want leadership from those who claim to represent them. And we'll know it when we see it."

I'd love to give you a link to that particular quote on the Politico site, but I can't, because they seem to have dropped it down the memory hole. So you'll have to settle for this link to the original article, instead. When Politico first updated their article after being informed of their error, they changed the paragraph above to the version that you see on their page right now:

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The political theater just keeps getting better.

Jan 27 2009 Published by under Politics

Remember how people were talking about it being a bad idea for Obama to single out Rush Limbaugh by name? As it turns out, the President seems to be walking away from that one clean. The political right? Not so much.

Politico just reported that a full-on pissing match between the radio commentator and Congressional Republicans seems to be developing:

Responding to President Obama’s recommendation to Republican congressional leaders last week that they not follow Limbaugh’s lead, the conservative talkmeister said on his show that Obama is “obviously more frightened of me than he is Mitch McConnell. He's more frightened of me, than he is of, say, John Boehner, which doesn't say much about our party."

Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., did not take kindly to this assessment in an interview with Politico Tuesday.

“I think that our leadership, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, are taking the right approach,” Gingrey said. “I mean, it’s easy if you’re Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh or even sometimes Newt Gingrich to stand back and throw bricks. You don’t have to try to do what’s best for your people and your party. You know you’re just on these talk shows and you’re living well and plus you stir up a bit of controversy and gin the base and that sort of that thing. But when it comes to true leadership, not that these people couldn’t be or wouldn’t be good leaders, they’re not in that position of John Boehner or Mitch McConnell.

Being good journalists, Politico took these comments (which, at the time they were erroneously attributing to Rep. Tom Price) to Limbaugh and asked for a response. Rush being Rush, a response is just what they got.

Asked to respond to Gingrey, Limbaugh, in an email to Politico, wrote: “I'm sure he is doing his best but it does not appear to be good enough. He may not have noticed that the number of Republican colleagues he has in the House has dwindled. And they will dwindle more if he and his friends don't show more leadership and effectiveness in battling the most left-wing agenda in modern history. And they won't continue to lose because of me, but because of their relationship with the grassroots, which is hurting. Conservatives want leadership from those who claim to represent them. And we'll know it when we see it.”

I'm definitely staying tuned to see if this exchange continues.

UPDATE (16:55 CST):

I didn't have to stay tuned for very long. Almost immediately after the original article was posted, I received the following email from Rep. Price's Deputy Chief of Staff, Kris Skrzycki :

A story was published by Jonathan Martin in the Politico this afternoon that WRONGLY attributes a quote to Rep. Tom Price. Rep. Price never uttered the words that were WRONGLY attributed to him and we will be demanding a full retraction. Jonathan Martin never confirmed the quote with our office. If he had, we would have been able to correct his inaccurate reporting. If you have any questions, please contact me. Thank you.

Politico had already modified their piece by then to reflect that the quote came from Rep. Gingrey and not Rep. Price. I've made the same changes, and I regret any inconvenience the error might have caused Rep. Price or his staff.

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The stimulus and bipartisanship.

Jan 27 2009 Published by under Politics

After reading a lot of different smart people try to explain why President Obama's attempts to reach some sort of bipartisan deal on the stimulus bill is a bad idea, I started to think about writing a post explaining why this really does make sense. Fortunately for me, Al Giordano was writing while I was thinking, which saves me a lot of trouble:

Rather, he's setting them up under the glare of the mass media to be seen as the unreasonable party in contrast to what everybody watching him on TV is going to view as reasonable and respectful. In sum, he's using them as props, and turning their weakness - their own frothing desire for "partisanship" - against them.

Al continues:

In the end, Obama's "bipartisanship" is one of the most Machiavellian partisan maneuvers we've seen in Washington in a long while, and I use that description in its most admirable context. The Republicans fell right into the trap today. Progressives that urge Obama to be more "partisan" should pay close attention to how the GOP is getting pwned before falling into the same trap themselves.

Bingo.

Right now, one of the things that's being reported is that the House Republican leaders announced that they were going to oppose the bill earlier today, before the President went to their house to talk to them about the package. Meanwhile, you've got conservative commentators - including some of the same ones he had dinner with right before the inauguration - using the same old partisan language to oppose his current plan.

As I speak, the Press Secretary is at the podium, noting that the House Republicans said that they were going to oppose the bill before the President arrived on the Hill for the meeting that they (the Republicans) invited him to. Other media outlets are reporting not that conservative commentators are opposing the bill - that's dog bites man news - but that the people he had dinner with are opposing the bill using language like "one of the worst bills in galactic history."

The genuine efforts that the President is making toward bipartisanship are setting up a situation that's a win-win-win - at least from his perspective. He gets his bill. The Republicans look bad winning. And wind up with nobody to blame but each other.

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