August 31, 2005

Damn Liberal Media

Yahoo! News Photos and Their Captions

Two residents wade through chest-deep water after finding bread and soda from a local grocery store after Hurricane Katrina came through the area in New Orleans, Louisiana.(AFP/Getty Images/Chris Graythen)


A young man walks through chest deep flood water after looting a grocery store in New Orleans on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2005. Flood waters continue to rise in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina did extensive damage when it made landfall on Monday. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

So, apparently, the white folk of New Orleans are hardy survivors, while the black folk are a bunch of opportunistic theiving bastards.

Links: Photo 1 and Photo 2

August 28, 2005

Why Are They Always From Kansas?

A new war-related protest is making the headlines today, well, in some places. Rev. Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church of Kansas has been leading protests across the country preaching his message that God is killing US soldiers in Iraq for representing a nation that shelters gays. These particularly irrational protesters have been showing up at funerals for soldiers killed in Iraq, most recently at two funerals for slain members of the Tennessee National Guard held yesterday. Obviously the work of a brilliant sloganeer, these protesters have been carrying signs reading "God hates fags" and "God hates you" at these funerals. God bless America. I'm not going to even bother running commentary on these excremental Christian extremists. I'll just put forth that this represents all that is wrong a religious right that has become increasingly drunk with power.

August 26, 2005

Trouble in Paradise?

Looks like a little trouble is on the horizon for one of the ministers of Justice Sunday. The Center for Reclaiming America, an Evangelical group, is broadcasting a weeklong attack ad campaign in Iowa against Senator Frist. Iowa is one of the most important states in the presidential primaries and Senator Frist is one of the leading contenders for the 2008 GOP nom. Formerly the darling of the evangacons for his infamous television diagnosis of Terri Schiavo and contributions to fight against "discrimination against people of faith" (cough, bullshit, cough) in our judiciary, Frist has come under fire recently for his declaration of support for stem-cell research. The commercial shows a picture of a smiling baby narrated by the message "Senator Frist: we cannot save innocent lives by destroying them. Tell Senator Frist to stand with President Bush and oppose research that destroys human embryos." To echo the words of President Bush and Count Dooku, you're either with us, or against us Dr. Frist.

Washington Monthly gets in on the game

The Washington Monthly has just released its own list ranking American colleges and universities, seeking to complement and perhaps challenge the methodology and philosophy behind the infamous US News rankings. WM has changed the focus and the criteria for the list drastically:

The first question we asked was, what does America need from its universities? From this starting point, we came up with three central criteria: Universities should be engines of social mobility, they should produce the academic minds and scientific research that advance knowledge and drive economic growth, and they should inculcate and encourage an ethic of service. We designed our evaluation system accordingly.

Here's the list. As you can see, Dartmouth did not crack the top 30. I have been unable to look at an actual copy of the magazine yet, so I do not know what position Dartmouth actually came in at, but here:

Dartmouth does get a mention in the article, but in a very negative (though hardly fair) light:
Nine Nobelists are on faculty at UCSD (Dartmouth, by comparison, has none)...

The rest of the article can be found here.

August 17, 2005

Hipsters for Santorum

Pictured above is a tee that Urban Outfitters pulled from its shelves after an outcry. There is some truth printed on this tee, however, as the "old pe[rson]" who founded and runs Urban Outfitters both votes and contributes to the campaigns of certain politicians that Urban Outfitters' youthful clientele may not be entirely comfortable with (if they even know who the fuck they are). From an article in Philadelphia Weekly:

But the difference between stage-crafted storefront image and corporate reality doesn't end there. It extends all the way to the top, to the man who built the company from scratch--Richard Hayne, Urban Outfitters' president and founder.

While the typical Urban Outfitters shopper is likely to be liberal-minded--as is the province and privilege of youth--the fiftysomething Hayne is mom-and-apple-pie conservative. He and his wife Margaret have contributed $13,150 to the campaign coffers of Paleolithic right-wing Republican Sen. Rick Santorum and his Political Action Committee over the years.

Urban Outfitters has also been criticized for its use of sweatshop labor.

August 15, 2005

Justice Sunday (II!)

The real battle yet begun (sunday, bloody sunday)
To claim the victory jesus won (sunday, bloody sunday)

Sunday bloody sunday
Sunday bloody sunday...

Justice Sunday II was a smashing success. Broadcast nationally from my hometown of Nashville, TN, the program (fully titled Justice Sunday II— — God Save the United States and this Honorable Court) reached 79 million households in all 50 states, according to the Family Research Council.

Here are some highlights from The Tennessean:
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's comments drew loud audience response, particularly when he said that "all wisdom does not reside in nine persons in black robes."

DeLay discussed his dismay with rulings that appeared to overturn long-standing tradition. He said he respects the judiciary "but our respect and admiration does not grant judges the powers many have assumed over the years"....

James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, said, "America's court system is tearing at the very fabric of this nation." He said an "unelected, unaccountable, and often arrogant" judiciary, is imposing "judicial tyranny" as judges legislate from the bench, being guided by Western Europe "that most liberal place on the planet"....

"Call, write, visit, e-mail, fax your senators, contact their local officers and then pray urgently that God's perfect will will be done. ... Future generations depend on us"....

Bishop Harry Jackson Jr., a Maryland pastor and author, spoke about the new sense of the black church to "team with the white evangelical church and the Catholic church to deal with moral issues."

"We are not just going to sit back and let America to go down this ramp of immorality alone"...

The last speaker...the Rev. Jerry Sutton—challenged church pastors nationwide to recognize that they have a place in this effort.

"You are the leaders," Sutton said. "You speak for God. We care about our country."

Sutton, first vice president of the Nashville-based Southern Baptist Convention, the nation's largest Protestant body, closed with five sentences: "It's a new day. Liberalism is dead. The majority of Americans are conservative. You can count on us for showing up and speaking out. And ... let the church rise."


August 14, 2005

Walken Throws His Hat in the Ring...

I haven't posted in a bit, so I thought I'd mark my return with a bit of levity...

August 12, 2005

GTA: Grasping Toward Anything

This is a great analysis of the really bizarre move Hillary has made in attacking the Grand Theft Auto video game in order to take a pose of moral guardian for our children.

It also makes a fairly convincing argument against the received parenting wisdom that video games rot our minds and corrupt our souls.

But honestly, I feel that if Hillary wants to show that she means business about values, this is a really odd "vehicle" for her.

I mean, It Takes a Village was nice, but attacking GTA seems a little, ummmm... beside the point.

August 10, 2005


Republican hopeful Jeanine Pirro didn't waste any time getting on the campaign trail. Stumping at Manhattan's Waldorf-Astoria hotel today, Pirro affirmed her conservative stance on fiscal matters and liberal slant on social issues. Pirro showed her lack of tact by referring to the junior senator as "Hillary" throughout the speech, setting the tone for what is sure to be the rootin-tootinest mudslinging media frenzy of the 2006 midterm elections. Hailing from my home county of Westchester, the scandal-laden DA has been plagued with bad press about her husband's tax fraud and alleged mob connections along with accusations of corruption levied directly at her, offering a scarily similar "foil" to Senator Clinton's political liabilities. Pirro appears to be running on the platform that New Yorkers shouldn't vote for Clinton because of hype that she will be the Democratic presidential nominee in 2008. Already, the more than a year away race appears to be focusing on largely nonpolitical issues as Clinton and Pirro share virtually identical positions on many subjects such as Iraq, terrorism, abortion, and stem cell research. Let the stupidity begin.

August 6, 2005

August 4, 2005

Where Iden Sinai goes far too far...

A curious opinion piece appeared in today’s D subtly titled “Where Feminism Went Too Far.” From what I can tell, the author Iden Sinai’s beef is that men are the principal objects of humiliating humor in entertainment today and that boys are not doing as well as girls in certain areas of the educational experience—boys are disciplined more often, held back more often, and drop out more often.

Sinai quotes a variety of statistics to show the ‘egregiously insidious effects of feminism’:

11 percent of males from 16 to 24 did not finish high school, as opposed to 8 percent of females for the same age group. More simply put, men make up 59 percent of high school dropouts, which is significantly disproportionate… For every girl who commits suicide, four boys do. For every girl suspended from school, three boys are. Girls are also twice as likely to indicate that they want to pursue a career as early as eighth grade.

What he does not do is attempt to show any causal relationship between the feminist project of creating equal opportunity for men and women, boys and girls and the data he uses. In fact, except in one instance, he doesn’t even show conclusively that the data is even linked to the time period in which feminism has been a social force.

As far as we know, boys were disciplined far more often than girls before feminism, they were held back more often, boys committed suicide more often than girls, and girls decided at an earlier age what they wanted to do with their lives. (Though it must be said that early decision was an artifact of lack of career choice, to say that lack has been filled entirely is highly naïve.)

In addition, Sinai’s other statistic, which is very poorly expressed (actually the writing of the entire piece is rather murky and unclear) is that “the gap [in boy-girl reading scores] actually increases from the first year of the data in 1971 to the present across all three age groups as well.” What Sinai does not clarify is precisely how that gap has widened—has it widened because female scores have held steady but male scores have dropped? Or because male scores have dropped and female scores have risen? Or because male scores have stayed relatively steady while female scores have risen, suggesting a success in creating a better environment for girls? Neither does Sinai tell us how big the gap was and how big it is. A gap is simply not a smoking gun for brutalizing discrimination—there may be a great many more factors at play and almost certainly are.

As for the entertainment industry’s 'prejudice' against men, the archetypal stupid, fat, white man (what Sinai decries) was Jackie Gleason from the Honeymooners, a show that launched in 1955. Today’s Homer Simpson is not exactly a character that broke new ground for comedic ingenuity. And I think you have to be pretty ill-read to believe that men have not been ridiculed for being fat, dumb, and stupid as long as humor has existed.

Even if Mr. Sinai has actual data that proves a chronological coincidence of an increase in the above statistics with the period since women’s lib, all he has shown is some small correlation of the data, definitely not a causal effect. He relies on cheap prejudices still extant in the male population, prejudices which have no grounding—in the data as presented or in real life.

If he's going to make this argument, he needs to have some actual facts, not just a few isolated and decontextualized statistics. I personally believe he's not going to find them because they're not there, though apparently masquerading misogyny still is.

August 3, 2005

An Unnatural Alliance

Briefly undermining my pessimistic view of American politics, conservatives and liberals alike are working together to counteract the implications of the recent Supreme Court decision in Kelo v. New London, which declared that government use of eminent domain in order to further economic development was within the bounds of the CT and US Constitutions. Click on the link for a good overview of the case. This instance marks one of the few times where I happen to agree with the conservative bloc. I strongly believe this decision was founded on a dubious legal basis and sets a dangerous precedent for what former Justice O'Conner predicted in her dissenting opinion, taking from the poor to give to the rich.

In a rare moment of bipartisan cooperation, Republicans and Democrats in states such as Alabama, Delaware, Texas, and California have pushed forth initiatives to hamstring this ruling. Republicans are up in arms about typical conservative fears of big government. "We don't like anybody messing with our dogs, our guns, our hunting rights or trying to take property from us," waxed state Sen. Jack Biddle of Alabama. Contrastingly, Democrats have supported such measures as well, echoing the fears of former Justice O'Conner that city governments will bulldoze ghettoes to erect mini-malls. Legislatures in at least ten states have proposed laws limiting eminent domain and more are expected to follow when they return to session. To try and redeem Texas a bit for George, I'll leave you with this:

In Washington, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said his office received more calls from constituents angry about this case than it did for the Supreme Court ruling that limited displays of the Ten Commandments on public property. Cornyn is proposing a bill to bar cities and counties from using federal funds for economic development projects that involve seized property.

The Un-Intelligence of Intelligent Design

This is not going to be about "the scientific merit of Intelligent Design vis-a-vis Evolution." I hate the word "vis-a-vis" and I think that argument has a pretty clear result.

I would like to address two points. First is the idea that, as Bush said yesterday "part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought." Second is the place of the God vs. Darwin debate in society and why it is so important to religious conservatives.

Bush's argument, which echoes what a lot of other conservatives are saying, that students "ought to be exposed to different ideas," is a bastardization of multicultural pluralist politics. It ignores the essential difference between what something like science does and what something like history or literature does. Science attempts to identify things that are invariably repeatable experimentally and empirically verifiable. History or literature does not and should not attempt to find laws that apply universally and invariably, mostly because those laws do not exist. Human beings make choices that render all-encompassing models impossible.

It is not simply a difference between objective and subjective--those are loaded terms and increasingly difficult to separate the more we ponder their meaning. It is a difference in goals, in methodology, and in purpose. The mission of science is to limit different perspectives to the perspective that works the best.

Science is in this way much like grammar. While I fully recognize the right of other people to speak how they would like, what should be taught is what works the best in our society--standard grammar. Science, like language, is primarily functional, not speculative. If the focus is function, one should use the best tools. ID is not a good tool to improve scientific understanding. ID is scientifically sterile--it does nothing to help us understand what may have happened or is happening or will happen in any way that can actually produce new physical or material benefits.

The importance of the ID vs. evolution debate is rather curious to me. Honestly, I'm not sure why Christians are so eager to make their stand in an arena (biology) where there is such overwhelming evidence contrary to their theory. Sure, not everything is fully understood about the mechanics of evolution, but those gaps fit in pretty nicely in the overall model and we pretty much know what kinds of things will go in those gaps.

What I think is the driving force behind the choice of evolution as a target is the ideological importance of establishing God as prior to and therefore immanent in the physical world. Having their creation story accepted gives validation to the entire way their world is oriented--it is not so much the first plank of their ideological platform as it is the keel of their ship--the center line and orienting principle.

There are other areas besides biology that have more effect on the actual process of everyday life--biology can be sort of ignored, but language, for instance, can't. It would seem if they really wanted to establish the presence of God in the world, they would advocate that our language be taught as intelligently designed, not our biology.

The point is, creation stories are over-privileged as central to the orientation of our various worldviews. If one de-centers the origin of life as the most important element of society, Christians would see that it really doesn't threaten their worldview or their way of life to teach only evolution in schools. They could teach that God's hand is behind evolution in the same manner and place as they may teach God's hand is behind ethics or behind our nation's history or whatever--in the privacy of their own homes.

Those religious conservatives who are arguing for ID, quite simply, are misusing the wrong arguments for their position and are focusing on the wrong thing. There are things that matter pragmatically far more than God's activities in the process of life. We're going to have an argument between the secularists and the religionists--let's at least make it count.

Bob Saget: Smartest Working comedian?

I'm pretty sure that the guy is more intelligent than Jon Stewart (who is also very intelligent). Read this excerpt from an interview and make up your own minds:

How many children do you have?

Bob Saget: I have three kids, the oldest is 18 and her friends are going to see it (The Aristocrats) because they told her they're going to see it, especially her guy friends. Because I was on Entourage last week smoking a bong and making out with hookers and I did show them that before, cause it wasn't a hard ‘r' cause a lot of people are watching that show that they know, not my little one – she's 12, but very sophisticated so it's an unusual case. If she wasn't like she was, I wouldn't have shown it. This one, I cannot let her see it; my mom wants to see it. I told her ‘No, it's just not right. You're my mother. What I did I'm not that proud of.' I find it fascinating that you're interviewing me about The Aristocrats.


August 2, 2005

That's Scientist James C. Dobson

The New York Times issued the following correction Monday:
An article on Saturday about Senator Bill Frist's support for expanding federal financing of human embryonic stem cell research misstated the title of James C. Dobson, founder of the evangelical group Focus on the Family. He is a psychologist with a doctorate in child development; he is not "the Rev."
C'mon, New York Times—have some respect for science. What's next, a Faith section instead?