Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Baseball Hall of Fame--and Idiot Voters

I love baseball. I love Cub baseball (as does wink wink Doc Magoo--ya think?)


I have always wanted to go to Cooperstown.

But--I am angered by some of the idiots who hold the ballots for baseball's Valhalla.

Idiot in point, Mike Downey of the Chicago Tribune.

He wrote this week that

"I never voted for [Bruce] Sutter, who failed to make the Hall until his 13th try. To me, his stats didn't stack up with those who threw thousands more innings."

Hello McFly--he was playing a DIFFERENT POSITION from starters with those "thousands more innings???

He adds that "Sammy Sosa strongly believes he is a legitimate Hall of Famer. He thinks Mark McGwire is one also.Me too. I intend to vote for both unless a day comes when I know, beyond a reasonable doubt, that these guys did what so many accuse them of having done."


Mike, take a glance at these photos. Notice any differences?

That buffoon has no business voting for the Hall of Fame.

We'll trade you $2.10 for a few million

Wow, what a deal. The working poor would get an extra $2.10 an hour under the House bill and the super rich get $5 million free from any estate taxes. Such a deal.

Gather 'round, boys and girls, it's DUMBASS time!

Mary Williams Stone of Wilmette, Illinois, COME ON DOWN!

Bush and Science

President Bush has been categorized as "anti-science" because of his veto of additional stem cell funding. In fact he demonstrates a greater grasp of scientific advances than his critics have when he rejects arguments in favor of funding "possible," "theoretical" or "potential" benefits from cannibalizing the smallest members of our species, whom "science" has proven beyond a doubt are fully capable of growing into developed, healthy adults.

Mary Williams Stone:

Friday, July 28, 2006

Collateral Damage?

Interesting piece in Salon (you have to watch a dumb ad to read the whole thing, but no registration)

...Throughout this now 16-day-old war, Israeli planes high above civilian areas make decisions on what to bomb. They send huge bombs capable of killing things for hundreds of meters around their targets, and then blame the inevitable civilian deaths -- the Lebanese government says 600 civilians have been killed so far -- on "terrorists" who callously use the civilian infrastructure for protection.

But this claim is almost always false. My own reporting and that of other journalists reveals that in fact Hezbollah fighters -- as opposed to the much more numerous Hezbollah political members, and the vastly more numerous Hezbollah sympathizers -- avoid civilians. Much smarter and better trained than the PLO and Hamas fighters, they know that if they mingle with civilians, they will sooner or later be betrayed by collaborators -- as so many Palestinian militants have been....

Browsing through my iTunes

I ran across this song, which always bears another listen. Thanks to Eric Idle, who shows that he hasn't lost the golden touch. (Warning: NSFW)

Bad economy. Worse writing.


Economic growth slowed abruptly during the second quarter to less than half the pace seen at the beginning of the year, while a key gauge of inflation accelerated, the Commerce Department said Friday.

Gross domestic product grew at a 2.5% annual rate in the April-June quarter, well below Wall Street analysts' forecasts for 3% and less than half the robust 5.6% rate registered in the first quarter. Slower consumer spending, especially on costly durable goods like new cars, was a key reason for slower expansion.

At the same time, an inflation gauge favored by the Federal Reserve — a measure of personal consumption expenditure prices minus food and energy — rose at a 2.9% rate in the second quarter, well ahead of the first quarter's 2.1%. Department officials said it was the fastest rate of increase for the gauge in nearly a dozen years, since the third quarter of 1994 when it jumped at a 3.2% rate.

So, the economy grew by less than expected, and inflation was up more than expected. Let's cut some taxes!

Now, for the extra-special writing: The 2.5% pace was the slowest since a 1.8% growth rate in final quarter of 2005, when the economy was suffering fallout from the devastating Gulf Coast hurricanes.

The slowest since the final quarter of 2005. Which was two quarters ago. That's like saying "It's hotter today on any day since Wednesday."



Thursday, July 27, 2006

Dry paint

Maureen Dowd on W: That's what is so frustrating about watching him deal - or not deal - with Iraq and Lebanon. There's almost nothing to watch.

It's not even like watching paint dry, since that, too, is a passage from one state to another. It's like watching dry paint.

The text of the bill

This is the bill that Arlen Specter has told us that will be introduced to Congress regarding Presidential signing statements.

Title: To regulate the judicial use of presidential signing statements in the interpretation of Acts of Congress.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


This Act may be cited as the “Presidential Signing Statements Act of 2006”.

Continued here, thanks to Talking Points Memo

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

America should be held back a grade

We obviously don't get it:

Harris Poll: Half of Americans Still Believe Iraq Had WMD

Despite several years of official and press reports to the contrary, a new Harris poll finds that half of adult Americans still believe that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) when the United States invaded the country in 2003. This is actually up from 36% last year, a Harris poll finds. The polling company itself called this "surprising" -- considering that no WMD were ever found and U.S. inspectors have confirmed the non-existence of active weapons.

In early summer, there were reports that 500 shells once containing mustard or sarin gas nerve agents were found buried long ago in Iraq but they were judged by experts and military officials as decrepit and useless by 2003.

In another finding wildly diverging from most expert opinion and media reports, Harris found that 64% said Saddam Hussein had "strong links" with al-Qaeda, up from 62% in October 2004.

From Editor and Publisher.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

I love you too, sweetums

Condi and Israeli Prime Minister Olmert share an intimate look.

Surprise, surprise, surprise!

No, NOT him. I was referring to her:

Isn't it remarkable that Condi, Rummy and even Chimpy have to make "surprise" visits out of the country? Gee, I wonder why. It wouldn't have anything to do with the rest of the world HATING us, would it?


More troops in Baghdad now.

30k UN troops in Lebanon?

Someone better make some more coffins.

Now, I don't know what any of that means, but it sounds bad

So please, don't tell me what I know, or don't know; I know the law! - Lt. Daniel Kaffee, A Few Good Men

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush's penchant for writing exceptions to laws he has just signed violates the Constitution, an American Bar Association task force says in a report highly critical of the practice.

WASHINGTON -- The Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, Arlen Specter, said yesterday that he is ``seriously considering" filing legislation to give Congress legal standing to sue President Bush over his use of signing statements to reserve the right to bypass laws.

What's the point of a cease-fire?

That's the position of the Bush Administration. They want Hezbollah destroyed, and they're perfectly willing to let Israel do it, and damned be the innocent. Of course, they say that they don't want innocent lives lost, so let me offer this one bit of information - the point of a cease-fire would be, I do believe, so that Lebanon could perhaps attempt to do what you're asking (expel Hezbollah) without more people getting killed. Now, that would take skillful diplomacy, and might not work, but hell, at least people could flee without bombs dropping on their heads. And if it doesn't work, and there's 10 months of non-violence before more war, well, that's 10 months where no one got killed. I would think that would have value to someone who espoused supporting a culture of life.

Monday, July 24, 2006


First of all, I am returning to academia this fall, teaching a couple of sections of U.S. history at the local college. Pity the youth of America!

While dusting off the bookshelf to get ready for the fall (I haven't taught since 1998), I came across an oldie but a goody--Viet Nam and the United States by Hans Morgenthau that I picked off the used shelf 25 years ago. Dr. M died in 1980. This monograph was published in 1965, and is an amazing time capsule, as he wrote this without knowing what happened in Viet Nam--or today. Dr. Morgenthau wrote that

we have consistently confounded the shadow of national power with its substance, the prestige of the nation with the actuality of its power, ephemeral public relations with the stability of the national prestige, the prestige of the policy-makers with the prestige of the nation.

1965--the more things change....

Who said what?

"The U.S. occupation is butcher's work under the slogan of democracy and human rights and justice."

Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani.

It sure is a cute little house...

Check out this adorable little cottage:

This is what $400,000 buys you.


This little house sits on a 90' by 60' lot around the corner from me. I live about 40 miles north of Chicago, and admittedly it is a nice spot to live. It is a suburb that was an actual town before urban sprawl, with a real sense of community, great schools and a cute little downtown with local shops and restaurants--but this is insane.

Tiny houses with huge mortgages, kids leaving college $100,000+ in debt, credit cards maxed out across the country, the inflationary ripple effect of gas prices starting to show up in everything we buy from strawberries to replacement windows all at the same time that the president is treating the treasury like his personal trust fund. Some people may look at the picture above and see a cute little house. I look at it and see impending disaster.

The anti-intellectual right

One of the things that the neocons have done that frustrates us so much is demonize knowledge. Experts, especially educated ones, are "ivory tower liberals" or elitists, and their goal is to prevent you from having the freedom to think what you want, regardless of the validity of their arguments. The upshot of this is that in a debate between a total moron and a true expert in a field, all the moron has to do to win is call the expert some names, deride them for being out of touch with "normal citizens", and make them appear different to other total morons. Suddenly, the person who could have been the teacher becomes an outcast, and nothing else they say has any merit. The right has worked very hard on this, because they know they lose many arguments on fact, and they're more interested in winning than in truth. And the person with knowledge is left standing there saying "But, I have evidence..." and hearing "Elitist! Trying to tell me what I believe isn't right. How dare you insult me and my family that way!"

Case in point, one vulgar, offensive, obnoxious, blowhard. Rush Limbaugh, from Media Matters (Warning - reading this may cause your head to explode. If that happens, go lie down quietly somewhere and dream of better things.):

This -- the -- I think we need to re-examine this whole term "scientist." You know, there are certain things in our culture that are never questioned. They have instant credibility. If a scientist says anything, [gasp] it's gotta be true. Scientists have this aura. Another one is law enforcement: "Sources close to the investigation say." They're never doubted. Law enforcement is always believed. It's never questioned, particularly by the media, and by most of us. And this is not a political bias; it's just the way it is.

It is why global warming has become a scientific thing, because nobody can question science. Why, scientists, smarter than everybody else. And science is science. Science is not politics -- well, it's absolutely BS. Science is all about politics, and science has been so wrong about so many things. They're not infallible, and this is the context of Fumento's piece, because there is so much demagoguery about embryonic stem cells and how they're the only ones that will provide miraculous cures for all of these dreaded diseases that wipe us out.

It's obvious, of course, that Rush either knows nothing about science or is pretending not to know for effect. There is a reason that science and scientists hold the place they do in our society, and it's not that they're perfect beings, incapable of error. It's that the process that science goes through (you know, the scientific method...) is one that minimizes partiality to a significant degree, rewards evidence, and allows ideas that are found to be wrong to be replaced by better ideas. We live in a world where science has changed everything we do - the places we live, the things we use, the food we eat, the way we heal when sick - everything. Cars. Computers. Plastic. Vaccines. It's not just technology, it's the process by which we understand the natural world.

(I'm not going to comment on the law enforcement thing. Apparently, he's just having drug-induced flashbacks.)

So, the word of a scientist, or more importantly, the scientific community, should carry more weight than the opinion of, say, a radio talk-show host. These are people who have investigated some phenomena, tested hypotheses, thrown out bad ones, developed better theories, and challenged each other on weaknesses in their research. I wonder what would happen to Rush if everything he said had to be peer-reviewed before it could be aired. Are scientists wrong sometimes? Of course. At any point in time, does every scientist agree 100% on complex issues? Of course not. (To the right, remember, any disagreement in their "opposition" means that the entire opposing argument is invalid.) But does the work of scientists overall tend towards producing ideas of merit and utility? Unequivocally, yes. Given enough time, the politics in science (as in all human endeavors) will fall away, and often with alacrity, once the right ideas come to light.

Now, Rush, global warming hasn't "become" a scientific thing. That's how one studies processes in our atmosphere. We could just go to Hudson Bay, say "Damn, it's cold," and declare that global warming isn't a reality. We could kneel down before an altar and say "Oh mighty lords, give us a sign if we should concern ourselves with anything bad." However, we learned a very long time ago that sacrificing a goat didn't make it rain, and this thing called science was developed to help us understand the world around us. I'll say this simply, so hopefully you can understand it - Global Warming is a scientific thing because (here's the tricky part) scientists are the ones studying it.

Unfortunately, people will continue listening to and believing this idiocy, and Incurious George and his followers will continue marching down the road to oblivion.

US to Israel - "Kill 'em all!"

Actual headline: "U.S. won't push for immediate cease-fire"

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also participated in the Oval Office meeting before making a surprise visit to Lebanon on Monday in a show of support for that country's weakened democracy, which is struggling to contain the fighting between the Hezbollah militia and Israel.

"We all want to urgently end the fighting. We have absolutely the same goal," Rice told reporters traveling with her.

I think if we all had the same goal, then the position of the administration wouldn't be to let them keep fighting.

A White House spokeswoman, Eryn Witcher, would not comment on the Saudi proposal. She said Bush and the Saudis have "shared goals of helping the people of Lebanon and restoring sovereignty of the government of Lebanon and building stronger Lebanese armed forces."

I thought that the Lebanese people had elected members of Hezbollah to the government. How is that not sovereign? Oh, I forgot, we only like sovereignity when they elect people of whom we approve.