30 December 2007

Pity Pakistan

In grad school (political science) I had some colleagues who openly doubted whether democracy was the best political system. Of course if you don't have democracy, then you have the right to assassinate your political opponents.

And there's Pakistan...a country where the people long for democracy, but the tyrants aren't accountable to the people.

The U.S.'s relationship with Pakistan is a mixed bag. On the one hand, having them on our side (however tentatively) as we fight al Qaeda is a good thing, as is keeping good relationships with both of the subcontinent's mutually antagonistic nuclear powers. On the other hand, our coziness with them as we try to bring democracy to Muslim countries is so self-evidently hypocritical that it undermines our efforts to be a "shining beacon on a hill."

This isn't to say that Musharraf's government killed Bhutto. It very well may not have been them. But it is someone who, like Musharraf, doesn't like democracy because it means they don't get to control.

And that's the reason my grad-school colleagues didn't like democracy--to them it meant that sometimes the public made the wrong decisions and didn't give control to the right people. But until you're willing to accept being in the losing minority sometimes, you're not ready for democracy. Most people in the United States, despite stupid claims like "George Bush (or Bill Clinton) is not my president, are willing to accept that. It's a tragedy that a handful of Pakistani's aren't.

Pakistan, the hearts of democrats the world 'round are with you.

Fire Millen!

Today the Detroit Lions completed their 7th losing season in a row, a number of years that coincides precisely with Matt Millen's time as General Manager. He's hired and fired two head coaches during that time, and is currently on his third head coach. With the Lions having one of the all-time worst records for such a length of time, the question is why the coaches keep taking the fall, and not Millen.

As a Colts fan, I don't really mind seeing the Lions lose--it makes my neighbors here in Michigan miserable, which is always good sport--but I do despise people who can't take responsibility for their own screwups. Lions owner William Clay Ford rewarded Millen's poor performance in 2005, and Millen has consistently refused to step down or even publicly admit his management of the team has been dismal.

Come on Millen, if you had any integrity you'd resign right now.

29 December 2007

Bush's "Still Relevant" Moment

In 1995, after the Republicans had taken control of both the House and Senate for the first time in 40 years, there was so much attention on the architect of the Republican's victory, and the new Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich that President Clinton was reduced to pleading that "The President is still relevant." As it turned out, he was right. The eager freshman Republicans were slow to learn that passing bills in the House didn't equal making law (see Fenno's Learning to Govern, and during the epic budget battle that shut down the government, Clinton outmaneuvered Gingrich and his supporters.

Now Bush is, I think, trying to prove he is still relevant, as his approval ratings fall, the end of his term nears, and the public (or at least media) focus on the race to replace him. And he's right--the president is still relevant, and always will be.

Bush vetoed a defense spending bill that gives him almost everything he wants, because he objects to a provision that would allow Americans to sue the Iraqi government for crimes committed under Saddam Hussein. The Democrats are miffed that Bush didn't give them a veto threat ahead of time so they could have negotiated on that measure.

But, although this is just speculation, I don't think that would have served Bush's interests as much as a veto. It's become clear to everyone that the Democratic majority is powerless to get anything done that Bush objects to. Smart observers noted shortly after last year's elections that they wouldn't have enough numbers to override a veto, but what was unclear was whether they had the cojones to push Bush to the wall on these issues by refusing to give him anything he did want and repeatedly re-approving bills nearly identical to those he vetoed to see if he had the guts to stand up to them, or whether the Republicans would consistently support him, given the voters apparent dissatisfaction with the war and with Bush.

It became clear last summer when Bush cast his first veto--on stem cell funding--and it not only stood, but the Democrats dropped the issue. The Democrats have also failed to force Bush to accept any restrictions or timelines on Iraq spending, and have at each opportunity chosen not to go toe-to-toe with Bush.

I think Bush is now kicking the Democrats in the face, letting them know just how much control he has. The Democrats have repeatedly chickened out--reaffirming the wimpy image many Americans have of them (even many who consistently vote Democratic). If they really believed their talk they'd stage a battle royale on one chosen issue where they believed the public would support them enough to make Bush back down.

They're supposed to be the loyal opposition, but they're so afraid of being called disloyal that they won't even be an opposition.

UCLA's Big Gamble

UCLA has just hired national disgrace Rick Neuheisel as its football coach. Neuheisel played quarterback at UCLA in the early '80s (only starting the second half of his senior year), and given that he's proven himself a good coach, so it's natural the Bruins would be interested in him.

But it's a big gamble, because Neuheisel has a history of breaking the rules. Colorado was put on probation for over 50 recruiting violations, dozens of them occurring during Neuheisel's tenure. Upon being hired by Washington, he immediately violated recruiting rules by making illegal phone calls. His supporters will point out that he was cleared of the gambling charges that led Washington to fire him, and that he won his lawsuit against UW (and the NCAA) for wrongful termination. That was more about technical mistakes made by UW and the NCAA--it was not a vindication Neuheisel's gambling, which was against NCAA rules (although it would be unfair not to point out that he gambled on the NCAA tournament, not football), and which he lied to the NCAA about twice. And the probation that the Huskies were already on (for basketball recruiting violations) were extended for two more years.

Add in the $4 million plus UW had to pay him, and the fact that the scandal cost both the Athletic Director and the University President their jobs, and the conclusion can only be that Neuheisel is a toxin for the schools he works at. He's been a head coach twice, and he's left both programs on probation. The truly hilarious part of this is that Neuheisel likes to boast of having a law degree--although he's never practiced law--yet he repeatedly claims that he wasn't aware of the rules. If you learn anything in law school, it's how to figure out what the rules are.

UCLA must be betting that Neuheisel has learned his lesson, but guys like him don't learn. And UCLA is in a position to know. After all, they've had experience with Jim Harrick. He won the NCAA tournament, but falsified receipts and lied to the University about it. He later coached at Rhode Island and Georgia, and was accused of multiple violations at both schools, with Georgia having to forfeit 30 wins from '01-02 and 02'03 seasons.

If UCLA is smart, they'll have some contract language that requires Neuheisel to indemnify them if they get put on probation for any violations he commits. But if they were smart, they probably would have steered clear of him.

Personally I hope UCLA ends up on probation. One, I think they deserve it for rewarding a guy who's the poster-boy for what's wrong in college sports. Two, I'm an Oregon alum and in the 1996 Cotton Bowl, in which Colorado smashed the Ducks, he faked a punt late in the game when Colorado already had a 32-6 lead. The Ducks got their revenge in the '98 Aloha Bowl, but you never really forget a low-class cheap shit play like that. It's just emblematic of the man. And apparently, emblematic of UCLA's lust to add to their 100 national championships at any cost.

Michael Moore Hates America

I've just watched the documentary Michael Moore Hates America. I've long despised Michael Moore. Having seen parts of Bowling for Columbine and, unfortunately, Fahrenheit 9/11, it seems clear to me that Moore is deeply dishonest. Because his enemies are evil, any twisting of their words, any mis-representation of them, is justified. He's a pathetic fuck who probably doesn't actually hate America, but who hates being held to the standard of integrity he demands of others.

Michael Moore Hates America isn't a great documentary, but it's a good one. The film is made by Michael Wilson, who is able to poke fun at himself, and on film admits when he makes a mistake and begins to act like Moore, misrepresenting himself to get an interview (he then writes the interviewee to apologize). The film benefits from the participation of Penn Jillette, talking, of course, about bullshit. in this case Moore's bullshit. (If the "of course" puzzles you, check out Penn and Teller's "Bullshit.")

Wilson does an excellent job of dissecting Moore's lies, interviewing tellers at the bank were he, on film, falsely pretended to walk out of the bank the same day as opening an account, and showing how Moore dishonestly cut and pasted Heston's speech at the NRA convention in Denver to make it appear Heston was gloating about guns just to hurt people in Columbine.

The weirdest, and least convincing, part of the film is an interview with a psychologist who psychoanalyzes Michael Moore as a pathological self-hater. Psychoanalysis is a dubious thing at best, and psychoanalysis from afar is simply silly.

But the best part, the continuing thread throughout the film, is Wilson's fruitless effort to get an interview with Moore, so purposefully reminiscent of Moore's failed attempt to get an interview with Roger Smith in Roger and Me. Wilson attended a speech Moore gave and, during the question time, asked him for an interview. When he told Moore the title of the film was Michael Moore hates America, Moore attacks him, saying "it's people like you that hate America, people like you that are destroying America," and then dishonestly accuses Wilson of libel (the law clearly protects parody, particularly directed at public figures, and Michael Moore clearly knows that because that's what makes his films legally protected as well). Afterwards, some of Moore's fans come out and talk to Wilson, supporting his right to speak and, while saying they still support Moore, criticizing him for not answering Wilson's question.

But the most important message in this film is it's attack on Moore's message that the American dream is dead. I've had people sneer at me for claiming the American dream is still alive (although I'm a college professor who is the grandson of a failed tenant farmer). Ironically, Moore himself is an example of the American dream, but Wilson interviews other people who have made their own American dream, starting their own business, not necessarily becoming rich, but making a living for themselves. It reminded me of my 20th high school reunion, where what most surprised me was how many of my classmates owned their own small businesses. They were impressed I'd earned a Ph.D., but the truth is they'd worked harder and taken bigger risks than I had. Yet Moore insists that the corporations he hates so much are responsible for people's livlioods--which, bizarrely, is insulting to the very people Moore pretends to care about.

Moore's own words are used to highlight his foolishness, which is always the best way to show that the emperor has no clothes. If you see this in your video store, pick it up.

14 December 2007

Study Refutes Romney

Mitt Romney recently claimed that "Freedom needs religion," which I previously noted is logically dubious, at best. But a 2005 study in the Journal of Religion & Society makes a better refutation. Author Gregory S. Paul did a cross-national comparison, using measures of religiosity and social measures. To quote from his abstract:
Data correlations show that in almost all regards the highly secular democracies consistently enjoy low rates of societal dysfunction, while pro-religious and anti-evolution America performs poorly.
I'm a semi-regular church-goer, neither devoutly religious nor devoutly anti-religious. I am fervently pro-analytical studies, however, and the data are pretty clear.

The full cite is:
Paul, Gregory S. 2005. "Cross-National Correlations of Quantifable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies." Journal of Religion and Society, volume 7.

13 December 2007

More Bad Religion in the Presidential Race

Two bad events in the past week: Romney's pathetic attempt to be Kennedyesque, and Huckabee's claim that God has caused his climb in the Republican presidential candidate race.

Let's take Huckabee first:

Huck claimed that his rise in the polls had "only one explanation," divine intervention. So apparently all of the following are true:

The first one I'm tempted to agree with, and I think time will prove it true.

The second just reveals that he hasn't really thought about his claim. (Note: Huck's a Baptist, not a Lutheran, so free will as a theological issue really does matter.)

The third reveals his astounding arrogance. He's claiming the mantle of God's favor for himself! Therefore, a vote against him must be a vote against God. Don't get too near him, les the lightning strike you, too.

As for Romney, whose whole speech can be read here, he set a whole new standard in hypocritical pandering. While he was attempting to be Kennedyesque (referring, of course, to one of Kennedy's very few good moments), Romney got it all wrong. He tried very hard to argue that the details of his religion didn't matter, but then went out of his way to emphasize the one and only detail he thought conservative protestants would agree with him on, pointedly noting

"There is one fundamental question about which I often am asked. What do I believe about Jesus Christ? I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind.

He thereby implicitly admits that the details of his religious beliefs do matter. But not any of the other details!

My church's beliefs about Christ may not all be the same as those of other faiths. Each religion has its own unique doctrines and history. These are not bases for criticism but rather a test of our tolerance.

And he also made it clear that he thinks that being religious is in fact a requirement, unless we want to lose our freedom.

Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom.

Other bloggers have noted the logical idiocy of his statement--clearly freedom does not require religion, or the states in the U.S. with lowest church attendance, like Oregon, would be less free than those with higher church attendance, like those in the South, when in fact you have a broader base of rights in Oregon than in, say, Mississippi (or for that matter, Utah). But more disturbing is the thrust of the claim--if you don't elect a religious person to the presidency, you will lose your freedom. Romney is imposing a religious test.

Kennedy, in contrast, said,

neither do I look with favor upon those who would work to subvert Article VI of the Constitution by requiring a religious test--even by indirection.

To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsent: "Governor, you are no Jack Kennedy."

13 November 2007

Georgia Governor Performs Rain Dance

OK, not a rain dance, but Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue is going to perform a public rain prayer along with other Georgia lawmakers on the steps of the state capital. This is pathetic. Government is not supposed to be in the religion business, a constitutional point that southern conservatives have never quite understood.

If Sonny and other lawmakers believe in God, then by all means they should pray for rain. But they should do it in private. It's not just as a citizen that I say this, but as someone who grew up in a Christian church and has a fair understanding of the Bible. Try this one:
When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. Matthew 6:5.
So, are they praying in public to get God's attention, or to get voters' attention?

I might not be so sensitive except Ed Brayton's blog had a piece yesterday on how religious proselytization has gotten out of control at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Just imagine a government and a military that place God above the Constitution. That's where we're headed, folks. And in case you didn't notice, I'm not one of those bloggers with the scarlet A (for atheist) on my page.

19 October 2007

Handicapping the Republican candidates

In 1994 I succesfully predicted, very early, that Bill Clinton would earn the Democratic nomination. Full of myself, I've attempted to make early predictions of the nominees every election since, with a success rate of 0%. So here goes, my handicapping of the relevant candidates (see prior post for a list of irrelevant candidates).

    Mitt Romney: Romney is the current front-runner, but I have a hard time seeing him gain the support of the religious right, or of moderates if his religious views become known. Granted, Bob Jones III has endorsed Romney, and te religious right likes his opposition to gay marriage and abortion (although his conversion on those issues appears to be a pure political move as he positioned himself for this run), but most theologically conservative Christians are going to see him as an idolator and heretic. For what it's worth, Jerry Fallwell disagrees with me, but James Dobson agrees. But also, non-devout people, raised in a culture where mainstream Christianity is the norm, may also be unnerved if some of the tenets of the Mormom faith become public. (I won't list any of them here--I don't believe it ought to matter, so I'm not going to participate in "outing" Romney's beliefs.)

    Rudy Guiliani: Forget it. The polls showing he's popular are not targeting the right group of people, likely Republican primary voters. The more devout party members are the ones who dominate primaries, and in the Republican Party most of those people are far more conservative than Guiliani. He won't get the nomination, period. End of story.

    John McCain: My good friend, Jeff, in Iowa, claims McCain's making a comeback after struggling badly. My own feeling is that his time has passed. He was news in 2000, but now seems passe. (Too bad, as he's my favorite among the Republicans). But he's an old pro, so don't count him out. A surprisingly good showing in Iowa and New Hampshire, where he's working hard, could set him on a path toward the nomination.

    Mike Huckabee: As a true conservative, former minister, and governor, he ought to be doing better. I suspect his funny name, and the fact that, like Clinton, he's from Hope, Arkansas will doom his candidacy. Symbolism is important in the candidate selection process, and that's all working against him. Come on, say it with me, "Another president from Arkansas." It just sounds bad. Could be a good Veep pick, however, very appealing to the religious conservatives.

    Fred Thompson: OK, so tell me. If the Democrats are the party of Hollywood, why is it only Republicans who run actors for elected office? Reagan, Fred Grandy (Congressman Gopher), Clint Eastwood, Arnold, and Thompson. (OK, Ben Jones, Congressman Cooter, is a Dem, but they're still outnumbered.) Thompson was supposed to have the Reaganesque quality, but so far he's disappointing people. The reason is that he's not as smooth without a script as Reagan. Thompson's great with a script, but he hasn't developed his non-scripted speaking skills, and unless he does quickly, he'll bomb in the debates. Also, he has cancer, and people simply aren't going to vote for someone with cancer--they don't want to vote for someone they think will die in office (remember Paul Tsongas). Furthermore, after seeing him in the debate, I didn't think he looked healthy, and my lovely wife agreed. So, a guy with cancer who looks ill...He might as well toss it in and go join Brownback in the hinterlands of Kansas.

So who will get the nomination? Good god, they all look dreadfully flawed in terms of winning the Republican primary. I'm going to take a flyer and say McCain. Which, if my batting average holds, means he doesn't stand a ghost of a chance.

Next posting--handicapping the Democrats. Much easier, fewer candidates. God bless the, I guess.

1 down, many to go

Just for the historical record, Sam Brownback ended his presidential bid today. The announcement received more attention than his entire campaign had to date, which goes a long way toward explaining why he's had to call it quits.

Seriously, doesn't anyone check the historical record anymore? The last member of the Senate to be elected president was Kennedy in 1960. What made Brownback think he could pull a Kennedy? Doesn't he realize nobody knows who Sam Brownback is? Americans just don't pay attention to senators outside their own states. Why should they? They can't vote for them, and those senators aren't going to put any effort into providing goodies for their state. And the press won't make many senators household names because there's just too damn many to focus on. That's why they all congregate at the White House; there's only one president, so they don't have to work hard to figure out who's important.

There are, of course, three senators running who do have name recognition: McCain, Clinton, and Obama, and one former senator, Thompson. If Brownback has some reason to think he can become as well-known as them, I wish he'd share it with me.

There are candidates more clueless than Brownback, however, named Duncan Hunter, Tom Tancredo, and Dennis Kucinich, all lowly members of the House of Reps. Just to let them know, the last, and only, member of the House of Representatives to be elected president was....James Garfield in....1872. Why so few? Because the lack of recognition that senators struggle with is magnified 10 fold for representatives, many of whom aren't even known across their own state.

Sad pathetic attention whores, that's all they are.

09 October 2007

Scary Squirrel World: More Creationist Babble

I was preparing a lecture on natural selection and looking for information on squirrel species at the Grand Canyon, where a species has subdivided into North Rim and South Rim sub-species, when I stumbled across the information I was looking for contained in a Duane Gish "research article." Oh, joy.

If you don't know, Duane Gish is a creationist, and this article apparently came from the Creation Research Society Quarterly way back in 1989. It's a classic example of the pathetic and illogical arguments of the creationists, which may explain why the Creation Research Society Quarterly, assuming it really exists, is not a peer-reivewed journal.

Gish refers to a research article that suggests the squirrel subspecies haven't diverged enough to have been separated for the millions of years the Grand Canyon has supposedly been in existence. According to him, this proves that the Grand Canyon itself is young.
If the Grand Canyon was formed during the waning stages of the Flood, as receding Flood waters drained from the emerging North American continent, there would have been no squirrels on either rim of the newly formed Grand Canyon. It would be many years after the formation of the Grand Canyon before squirrels and other animals could have arrived. It appears more likely that the tassel-eared squirrel migrated to areas on both sides of the Grand Canyon and that these areas have since become ecologically isolated from one another in relatively recent times. Evolutionists, of course, assume that this isolation occurred several million years ago, whatever the causative factors.

The illogic of this is clear. Gish clearly states that the squirrels had to have come to the Grand Canyon after it was created, but then argues this implies a recent creation for the Grand Canyon. But the arguments that the squirrels came (a) after the canyon was formed, and (b) recently, gives us no indication of how long ago the Canyon was formed, except that it was before the squirrels got there. The squirrel evidence suggest neither a millions year old Canyon nor a thousands year old one. Elementary logic-Gish's weak point-shows that the two events are simply not related to each other.

And when Gish says "Evolutionists...assume that this isolation occurred several million years ago..." he is simply lying. Geologists have evidence that the Grand Canyon is millions of years old. Evolutionary theorists don't assume the age of the canyon is necessarily related to the date of squirrel divergence. If the evidence shows that squirrels diverged only in the last few thousand years, then that's what the "evolutionists" believe. Then they ask themselves, "If the Grand Canyon is millions of years old, and the squirrel divergence between North and South Rims occured only a few thousand years ago, what does that mean? It means the squirrels migrated to the North and South Rims after the Canyon was created." So as it turns out, Gish actually agrees with the "evolutionists" on that point.

28 September 2007

Gettin' Wet and Dirty

Tomorrow I'm participating in StreamSearch with the River Raisin Watershed Council. The Raisin is allegedly the windiest river in the world, and its upper stretches go through some amazingly undeveloped country (amazing considering we're smack in the middle of farm country). It also may be threatened by the waste from some local CAFOs, and other sources of agricultural runoff.

So tomorrow I'll be donning waders and wielding a net as we search for insects, in an effort to determine the health of the river. Insect counts have been down in the past few years, but there's no obvious reason why they should be, and the Watershed Council Director, Adrian College Biologist Jim Martin suspects it may just be the human variable in past StreamSearches.

Hopefully we'll collect lots of bugs, providing evidence the Raisin is still healthy.

On a side note, during training, my 10 year old daughter and I found a bloodworm. Dr. Martin said they actually have hemoglobin. I'm a Political Scientist, not a Biologist, so the idea of a worm having hemoglobin is really bizarre to me. It shows once again that it pays to hang out with people of different specialties--you'll learn all kinds of wild stuff.

Death Threats for Cartoonist Just Aren't Funny

You'd think anytime a cartoonist is involved, it ought to be funny. But Abu Omar al-Baghdadi's offer of a reward for the death of Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks isn't funny at all.

Neither are Vilks's cartoons showing Mohammed as a dog. Gratuitously insulting a whole community of people, the vast majority of whom have never done anything to offend you, just isn't funny.

But the consequence of an unjustified insult should not be death. Of course it often is, when pride is at stake, or the offended person is a drunken idiot. But neither pride, nor drunkeness, nor religious beliefs justify putting a price on someone's head.

When I was 14, I got upset when people insulted me. Now I'm 42--if someone insults me it just makes me laugh. Like the guy a few years ago who called me un-American for opposing the war (which may be the last time someone's directly insulted me). Immediately after calling me un-American and a chicken, he ran out of the room without waiting for a response. I'm going to bother to get angry and call for his head? Seriously, I've got better things to do.

But that's the problem with fanatics--they don't have anything better to do than try to kill anyone who mocks them. The concept of live and let live--the true golden rule--is anathema to them.

27 September 2007

Naked Hiking on a Godly Mountain

The Associated Press reports that people are getting nekkid on Mt. Everest, offending the local Nepalis who worshipo the mountain as a god. The president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association says "There should be strict regulations to discourage such attempts by climbers."

Well, I'm always hesitant when someone says "there should be strict regulations." And, really, if Everest is a god, isn't all the pi**ing and sh***ing on it more of a problem than some yahoo stripping down at 29,000 feet?

Federal Judge Defends the 4th Amendment.

Ed Brayton has sent out another good dispatch from the culture wars, alerting us civil libertarians that another portion of the USA PATRIOT Act has been struck down as unconstitutional.

The decision came in a lawsuit filed by Brandon Mayfield, the attorney from Portland, Oregon,--and a muslim--who was falsely and foolishly suspected by the FBI of being a conspirator in the Madrid train bombings 2004. Using a portion of the PATRIOT Act, they got a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court without having probable cause, and planted bugs in his house while doing a "sneek and peek" search.

No problem, except that a search without probable cause is an explicit violation of the 4th Amendment, which reads "no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause." The judge explained it clearly.

Now, for the first time in our Nation's history, the government can conduct surveillance to gather evidence for use in a criminal case without a traditional warrant...For over 200 years, this Nation has adhered to the rule of law - with unparalleled success. A shift to a Nation based on extra-constitutional authority is prohibited, as well as ill advised.

Hey, all you conservatives out there who think the Constitution means exactly what it says! Are you cheering right now? If you mean what you say, then you should be. But if you throw up some jibber-jabber about security and the war on terror, then you're admitting that you don't take the Constitution nearly as literally as you claim to.

The problem stems from the way the Patriot Act was passed. Playing on the fear generated by 9/11, Republican leaders in the House and Senate jammed through the bill with no debate, and without letting anyone read the contents. Rushig to pass ill-conceived legislation is exactly the kind of thing the House tends to do, but the Senate nearly always slows things down, acting, as George Washington is alleged to have said to Jefferson, as a "cooling chamber for legislation." The Balanced Budget Amendment, the Flag Burning Amendment, the Gay Marriage Amendment, and the Contract with America are just some recent examples of the Senate blocking silly legislation passed by the House. But with the Patriot Act they forgot their proper role in the U.S. system.

And while it was Republicans who pushed it through, the Democrats are no less guilty. After all, they voted blind on major legislation, like the cowards they generally are. Anytime the Republicans murmer, "Un-American," the Dems rush to out-fascist the fascists just to prove their patriotism.

As if gutting the Bill of Rights is by any stretch of the imagination patriotic.

25 September 2007

What doesn't George Bush manage to misunderstand?

George Bush criticized Democrats last week for "deciding to pass a bill they know will be vetoed. Well, yes, Mr. President, that's they way it works under our Constitution. Congress has authority to pass legislation, and you have the authority to veto it, but you don't have the authority to prevent them from passing a bill.

What's really going on is that Bush doesn't want to have to veto this bill, because it means denying poor children health insurance, and he knows that position's not a political winner. If he can bully Congess into not passing the bill, he won't have to take such a high profile action. It's a perfectly rational position for him, but I still can't stand the terrible civics lesson he's giving Americans--"Congress should only pass bills when the President says they can."

He also claimed that Democrats were just trying to score political points. True enough, since they probably don't have the votes to override a veto (unless a lot of Republicans get scared away from voting against poor kids' health insurance), but scoring political points is a way parties sell themselves to voters. In other words, it's the democratic way! Not many things annoy me more than people complaining about politicians "just making political points." If they didn't, how would you know where they stood on the issues?

Go away, George. We're all getting tired of you. And, no, you're not a "huge asset" to your party's candidates. It's time to start your long slow walk into retirement.

23 September 2007

And we think it's a free country

The Wasington Post reports that the U.S. government is collecting excessive information on U.S. citizens who dare to travel abroad. The information recorded includes whom they plan to stay with overseas, the personal items carried, and even the books they take along. Ben Franklin called it so long ago--"Those who prefer a little temporary security to liberty deserve neither"

Why I'm glad to be at a small college...

My better half and I went to see Greg Brown at the Arc, a folk club in Ann Arbor, last night. Despite the metal folding chairs and lack of alchohol (you have to be a member to buy) Greg and Bo Ramsey put on a great show. The only real damper on the evening was the large presence of academic-type lefties in the crowd. I had more than enough of those while in grad school at Oregon, but of course they're legion at U.Mich, too. You may know the type: goatees, earrings, faces a mask of humorlous earnestness. Oh, hell, I usually have a goatee, too, and used to wear 6 earrings. It's the faces that distinguish them. That and their banal sophistication, like the two college-age girls standing in line behind us, "I just can't understand why some people like football." They're the types that put "No war for oil" bumper stickers on their hybrid SUVs. The type who think they're intelligent, but actually think in bumper-stickerese. The type that just banned former Harvard President Lawrence Summers from speaking at UC Davis because he isn't politically correct.

The couple in front of us were perfect examplars of the type. Despite never speaking to them, I know them. I went to grad school with them. Not them personally, but their type. The guy had the goatee, earring, and earnest look. He didn't smile the whole evening. The girl looked rich and incapable of smiling, but clapped enthusiastically at every anti-war comment Greg Brown made.

And that's what really irked me. This crowd of obviously educated people, hooting and hollering like Nascar fans every time Greg criticized the war. "War is bad! Yay us!" Yeah, I oppose the war, too. I argued publicly against going to war before it began, and was called unpatriotic and un-American by a yahoo in a cowboy hat and boots (in Michigan, folks, not Texas!). I'm comfortable with my anti-war credentials. But I didn't leave a wet spot on my seat just because a folksinger validated my political views. In fact I'd make a sizable wager that Greg's anti-war comment are the only thing that's ever gotten the rich girl excited.

And that's why I'm glad I'm at a small school. Sure, most of our faculty are liberal, very much so. But that type just isn't present in sizable numbers. I'm not sure whether they don't apply to small schools, whether they don't get hired, or whether they just don't stick around, but we're better off for their absence.

I've got to catch Greg Brown when he's not playing a college town.

22 September 2007

Happy Birthday Joan Jett

My newspaper says today is Joan Jett's birthday. Nick Cave's too. So, happy birthday to two of my favorite musicians. I hope you stay off the Mercy Seat, Nick. Joan, I still love rock 'n roll.

Just another day of violating his oath of office...

Yesterday Representative Peter King (R-NY), said there are too many mosques in the U.S., and we should infiltrate them so we can monitor them.

In case you didn't know, all elected officials take an oath of office in which they swear to uphold and defend the U.S. Constitution. Apparently King thinks the oath makes an exception for the First Amendment right to freedom of religion.

Isn't it just like a Republican--those small-government, keep-the-guv'mint-off-our-backs, it's-about-time we-started-following-the-Constitution-again types--to cavalierly dismiss the importance of civil liberties? King needs to do three things: 1) Fess up to being wrong, 2) apologize sincerely, and 3) shut the f**k up.

I was at a mosque in Perrysburg, OH, a few weeks ago, to listen to a friend talk about the Pew report on Muslims in America. He talked about a recent trip to England, where he met young Muslim men who truly were radical, mostly because England still doesn't allow them to fill a normal place in English society. If King really wants to infiltrate mosques, and keep Muslims under surveillance as second-class citizens, he'll have spun a self-fulfilling prophecy, because we will radicalize young Muslims. But at the mosque in Perrysburg, my friend was listened to with thoughtful concern by a distinctly non-radical group of Muslims. The potluck that was served after the talk reminded me vividly of the many Protestant church potlucks of my youth (without the fried chicken, however), and my lasting impression was that these folks weren't only American, they were downright Midwestern!

If Peter King would like to meet some American Muslims, I'll be happy to introduce him.

Oh, look, a new blogger

Just what the world needs, another blog. Hope to God somebody reads it.

I'll comment on politics, economics, and evolution. Check back later when I've actually got something to say.