Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Sometimes The Joke Is In The Headline

What more does anyone need to add to the following?

Keith Richards Working on Memoir

You know everyone on Earth is reading this as some variation of:

Keith Richards Working On Retaining Single Lucid Memory

I Wonder If Howard Dean Thinks This Is An "Interesting Idea" Too

This puts the "unhinged" into "unhinged." Courtesy of the folks at the DK, Martial Law Threat is Real: Good Thing the Military is Breaking Down

The looming collapse of the US military in Iraq, of which a number of generals and former generals, including former Chief of Staff Colin Powell, have warned, is happening none too soon, as it may be the best hope for preventing military rule here at home.

From the looks of things, the Bush/Cheney regime has been working assiduously to pave the way for a declaration of military rule, such that at this point it really lacks only the pretext to trigger a suspension of Constitutional government. They have done this with the active support of Democrats in Congress, though most of the heavy lifting was done by the last, Republican-led Congress.


Meanwhile, last October Bush and Cheney, with the help of a compliant Congress, put in place some key elements needed for a military putsch. There was the overturning of the venerable Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which barred the use of active duty military inside the United States for police-type functions, and the revision of the Insurrection Act, so as to empower the president to take control of National Guard units in the 50 states even over the objections of the governors of those states.

Put this together with the wholly secret construction now under way--courtesy of a $385-million grant by the US Army Corps of Engineers to Halliburton subsidiary KBR Inc--of detention camps reportedly capable of confining as many as 400,000 people, and a recent report that the Pentagon has a document, dated June 1, 2007, classified Top Secret, which declares there to be a developing "insurgency" within the U.S, and which lays out a whole martial law counterinsurgency campaign against legal dissent, and you have all the ingredients for a military takeover of the United States.

As we go about our daily lives--our shopping, our escapist movie watching, and even our protesting and political organizing—we need to be aware that there is a real risk that it could all blow up, and that we could find ourselves facing armed, uniformed troops at our doors.

Uh yeah.

The best thing to be said about the DK is that some of the comments have the air of sanity about them:

    • ERASE PLEASE! You really want to make it on O'Reilly's show, don't you. Or are you O'Reilly
    • Kos! oh Kos? Your Davids...are making asses of you again
    • This is completely absurd. I'm appalled by the total disconnect from rational and critical thinking that is evidenced by this diary.

And some commentators have discovered that the whole idea is the invention of, wait for it, a talk radio host! (I shit you not.) Read the lunacy here.

Which prompted these comments:

Holy Mother of God. I mean, okay.

So, Hal Turner seems to think there's a possibility this is real - I note that, while he speculates, he admits to having no proof either way.

And I sure as hell don't trust that white supremacist - but you'd think he'd be screaming for the Chimp to round up all us liberals.

So, still not running for the hills...


Yeah, right? I said earlier that I wasn't going to talk about Reynold's Wrap.

But that whole website might as well be used to cover up Thanksgiving leftovers. Egads.

However, the sad fact is the vast majority of the commentators think it sounds plausible.

(Gleaned from Stubborn Facts)

It Is Worse Than Even *I* Thought

The Holland and Webster paper is now available and it is a doozy.

I've been having a discussion on another site with a true believer where the following exchange has taken place.

“While there are limitations to the data set, this is addressed in the article”

To which I responded:

No it isn’t. This is what the paper says:

We use the ‘best track’ tropical cyclone database from the National Hurricane Center (Jarvinan et al. 1984). The only changes to the dataset data have been to include the intensity corrections recommended by Landsea (1993).
Then when they get to addressing Landsea’s contention about undercounting of Mid-Atlantic storms they say the following:

Our conclusion is that the number of earlier missed storms most likely lies between 1 and 3 per year prior to 1900, less than 2 in the early nineteenth century and dropping off to essentially zero by 1960. The conclusion by Landsea (2007) of much higher numbers of missing storms is considered to be based on a false premise of an assumed constancy of landfalling storms ratio (Mann et al. submitted a,b; Holland in press).

So they “refute” the contention by referring to non-published material (some of it written BY THEMSELVES) that no one can check in any way shape or form. (Although you will notice, even though they claim they accept some problems in the data set they do not alter it an iota. The undercounting is ignored by their data set even after they acknowledge it.)

How is that acceptable? How did you find that convincing since you had no way of checking it at all?

(Although I’m intrigued at what this new and hitherto never discovered mechanism that makes current hurricanes LESS likely to strike land compared to storms in the past will prove to be. I think they might start having an Ockham’s Razor problem soon.)


I can't help but feel a sense of deja vu when I deal with this stuff. As I'm sitting here speculating about the natural mechanism that will cause more North Atlantic hurricanes to form while at the same time decreasing their landfalling incidence, I cannot help but think I've been here before.

And then it hit me. I wrote this back in September of 2005:
This brings me to the point of postulating unknown forces to back up your theory. A good rule of thumb is never subscribe to any theory that relies on such a rhetorical device.

So, in order for these folks to hold onto their pet theory of AGW fueling increasing numbers of more intense hurricanes, they have to postulate a brand new mechanism that keep present day hurricanes from hitting, let's say, Florida, where hurricanes 50 years ago would have rudely barged right into it. We will keep the sheer ridiculous nature of the claim to one side for the moment. It must be admitted that these researchers are taking an approach to science that is positively Ptolemaic in its scope. Just like the followers of Ptolemey they pile complexity upon complexity in order to keep their vision afloat. As each new inconsistency is brought forward a new previously unknown mechanism is postulated as the "answer."

The end result is a hybrid monster of a theory which lacks for nothing but coherence and persuasiveness.

Monday, July 30, 2007

I Deserve Some Sort Of Blogging Order Of Merit

Some of you may be laboring under the impression that I was a fairly idle blogger today. Ah, but that is a faulty impression. I have been doing my blog thing far from my home grounds here and at MvdG. I have been speading my opinions far and wide concerning the Hurricane study thingy. After all, I did say this meant war.

To that end I comented here and here, but most of my efforts were here and here.

I've fought the good fight. Now I'm tired and I want some Taco Bell.

More BS Is Brewing

You can always tell when folks are selling bullshit as science because they feel the need to run everything like a public relations campaign. Which begs the question: What kind of snake oil are they selling?

First the story from Reuters: Study blames climate change for hurricanes

The number of Atlantic hurricanes in an average season has doubled in the last century due in part to warmer seas and changing wind patterns caused by global warming, according to a study released on Sunday.

Hurricane researchers have debated for years whether climate change caused by greenhouse gases from cars, factories and other human activity is resulting in more, and more intense, tropical storms and hurricanes.

The new study, published online in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, said the increased numbers of tropical storms and hurricanes in the last 100 years is closely related to a 1.3-degree Fahrenheit rise in sea surface temperatures.

The influential U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in a report this year warning that humans contribute to global warming, said it was "more likely than not" that people also contribute to a trend of increasingly intense hurricanes.

In the new study, conducted by Greg Holland of the National Center for Atmospheric Research and Peter Webster of Georgia Institute of Technology, researchers found three periods since 1900 when the average number of Atlantic tropical storms and hurricanes increased sharply, and then leveled off and remained steady.

From 1900 to 1930, Atlantic hurricane seasons saw six storms on average, with four hurricanes and two tropical storms. From 1930 to 1940, the annual average rose to ten, including five hurricanes.
Gee, I'd like to see a study that can do that despite all the myriad problems with comparing satellite collected data from the space age with the spotty reports of the early 20th century. (See my take here, Chris Landsea's that I blogged about here.) Not to mention that the study seemingly contradicts the latest findings in the field which predict warming decreasing the number and intensities of tropical storms. (Blogged about here.)

Of course, maybe they came up with something actually new and they did not (as I suspect) repackage the same old tired garbage that the media loves to print so much. And hey! The Reuters article said it was published online. I've looked for an hour and I cannot find it. If the article is available on the web why wouldn't Reuters have a link to it? Oh, that is because it hasn't actually been published yet. That happens tomorrow.

So what source of information is this "free and independent journalist" writing from?

Oh, I found that most important piece of present day "science"...the press release. Plus it's handy helper, the guide for idiot journalists. (So you can hold their hands when you tell them what to print.) But the actual study itself? Who needs it?!. Ah science.

Of course there is a name for all of this behavior. It is called "stealing a march." By placing sympathetic (with emphasis on the pathetic) stories in the media before anyone else can gainsay the report by doing crazy things like actually reading and studying it, you can get the message you want out in the press. And if it generates a few more press clippings that you can append to your next grant proposal, well who's to say anything against it?? That your actual work may be not worth the paper it is printed on is beside the point. You have what you want: another line on the CV, another hysterical item in the press, and another restful night because you know you will get your version of the story out and never have to deal with criticism from the other side until its too late.

It is bullshit, and unethical bullshit to boot.


The "march stealing" is bearing fruit I see. (USA Today, and AP.)

But, luckily, not everyone is so credulous. Blue Crab Boulevard (who will be added to the blog roll any day now) had this to say:

Despite the confident claims, consider for a moment: Until the mid 1940s, there were no reliably consistent way to track the majority of storms. Unless a ship sailed through the storms itself - and reported that to someone - there would be no records. You can look at the compiled hurricane data yourself and notice that hurricane reporting from the 19th and early 20th century very often show no activity out in the middle of the Atlantic. At all. Does anyone in their right mind believe that? Also, how many ships gathered temperature data through the 19th and 20th centuries? Probably the most significant criticism noted above is the one from James Elsner of Florida State University. He believes that warming increases hurricanes,, but also points out that the claims of the two researchers are based on nothing.

This garbage had me so agitated last night that I suffered from insomnia as a result. (Sad but true.)

Of course you realize this means war?


Another person gets it right over at Wizbang.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Sure It's A Hit Piece, But Some Folks Need To Be Hit

I'm not sure Bloomberg can duck this one: Sex suit could be problem for Bloomberg

Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks his mind and that is a big part of his cachet in anything-goes New York.

But new details from a sexual harassment lawsuit he settled in 2000 and other racy comments over the years show how his blunt style could prove a liability if he runs for president as an independent.

Before his election as mayor in 2001, Bloomberg was the target of a sexual harassment suit by a female executive who accused him of making repeated raunchy sexual comments while he was chief executive of his financial company, Bloomberg LP.

Among the allegations in the complaint:

  • Bloomberg asked the woman who sued if she was giving her boyfriend "good" oral sex.
  • He said "I'd like to do that" and "That's a great piece of ass" to describe women in the office.
  • When he found out the woman was pregnant, he told her "Kill it!" and said "Great! Number 16!" — an apparent reference to the number of women in the company who were pregnant or had maternity-related status.

The harassment suit was filed in 1997 by former Bloomberg LP sales executive Sekiko Sakai Garrison. Bloomberg adamantly denied all the allegations in the suit. He settled the case in 2000 for an undisclosed amount without admitting any wrongdoing.

During his first mayoral campaign, aides told reporters that Bloomberg had passed a polygraph test in which he had denied the allegations. That year, his campaign refused to release the actual test. Loeser said Friday the mayor's office would not provide The Associated Press with a copy of the original polygraph.

Bloomberg founded Bloomberg LP in the early 1980s to provide financial information in a way that had never been available before on Wall Street. According to Garrison's suit, Bloomberg and other male managers at the company made "repeated and unwelcome" sexual comments, overtures and gestures, contributing to an offensive, locker-room culture.

Comments attributed in the suit to Bloomberg include: "I'd fuck that in a second," "I'd like to do that," and "That's a great piece of ass."

Once, according to the suit, Bloomberg pointed out a young female employee and told Garrison, "If you looked like that, I would do you in a second."

The suit also accused Bloomberg of referring to Mexican clients as "jumping beans" and saying of another female colleague who was having trouble finding a nanny that "all you need is some black who doesn't even have to speak English to rescue it from a burning building."


In private conversations, Bloomberg is less inhibited and is known to tell bawdy jokes, use provocative language and comment on women's appearances.

The public got a glimpse of this in 2003, when he told a pair of disc jockeys on a radio program that he would "really want to have" actress-singer Jennifer Lopez. A day later, Bloomberg backpedaled a bit and told reporters, as his face reddened, that he would want to "have dinner" with her.

The 65-year-old divorced bachelor had a reputation as a womanizer during the years he was building his financial empire. He began dating his girlfriend, investment firm executive and former state banking superintendent Diana Taylor, before his first run for mayor.

"I like theater, dining and chasing women," he once told a reporter. "Let me put it this way: I am a single, straight billionaire in Manhattan. What do you think? It's a wet dream."
[Expletives undeleted from the original article.]

And this guy is supposed to be the moderate hope in 2008?

I think I'll pass.

The Afterlife Must Be Really Boring

From the AP: 100-pound dumpling caps Pierogi Fest

A businessman who said a dead relative told him in a dream to cook the world’s largest pierogi believes he and a friend did just that Saturday at Pierogi Fest.

Tim King said his uncle sent him on a mission to create a monster dumpling filled with potatoes and cream cheese when he appeared in a dream three years ago.
“I am half-Polish and have been around pierogi all my life. And, believe it or not, I had a dream about my Uncle Emil, who is deceased,” King said. “We were eating pierogi together and he told me to cook the world’s largest pierog.”

King’s friend, former chef Eric Mansfield, helped devise the cooking plan.

Mansfield said it took 25 pounds of flour, 261/27 dozen eggs, a gallon of water, 40 potatoes, two pounds of butter and months of planning to make the 48-by-35-inch, 100-pound pierog.

You know, if my uncle Dave (a good guy, gone a long time now) appears to me in a dream, he better not ask me to cook something really large. I've got enough to do around here without providing kicks for the hereafter!

I guess in heaven there are no pierogis either.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

It Would Have Worked But The Folks From Ft. Wayne Forgot The Cream

They have themselves a tax revolt in Indiana: 500 protest at Broad Ripple 'Tea Party'

Angry property owners facing high tax bills lowered a giant tea bag into the Broad Ripple Canal on Saturday.

The latest version of the Boston Tea Party played out at the normally tranquil Northside neighborhood at Central Avenue and Westfield Boulevard. People passing at least 500 protesters honked their horns in response to signs demanding politicians fix the property tax bill mess.

The original Boston Tea Party in 1773 protested the way the American colonists were being treated by Great Britain.


The protest, organized by Hoosiers for Fair Taxation, was one of a series of protests that erupted since July 4, when homeowners learning tax bills on the average increased by about 35 percent in Marion County. Increases, though, of 100 percent or more were also reported in some neighborhoods.

The governor has ordered tax bills frozen at the 2006 rate pending a reassessment of property in Marion County.

This month's property tax bills and last Monday's decision by the City-County Council to increase the county income tax to 1.65 percent, to pay for Mayor Bart Peterson's $90 million crime-fighting plan, upset protesters Saturday.

I am always sympathetic with property tax revolts. It is a terrible system of taxation. If a bunch of rich people move into my neighborhood and build some horrible McMansions, why should my tax bill increase?

Good luck to the folks.

But in the name of historical accuracy, couldn't they have dressed up as indians? After all they are in Indiana.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Your Musical Interlude, Part XI

We have our first repeat artist. (Sorry.) Actually I put together this little movie of some vacations pics the wife and I took in England in 2005. The music is Al Stewart. Enjoy.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

"NASA!!!!!! You Have A Lot Of Explaining To Do...."

Report: Drunk astronauts allowed on shuttle

Astronauts were allowed to fly after flight surgeons and other astronauts warned they were so drunk they posed a flight-safety risk on at least two occasions, an aviation weekly reported Thursday.

It cited a special panel studying astronaut health, which found "heavy use of alcohol" before launch that was within the standard 12-hour "bottle-to-throttle" rule, according to Aviation Week & Space Technology. It reported the finding on its Web site.

A NASA official confirmed the health report contains claims of alcohol use by astronauts before launch, but said the information is based on anonymous interviews and is unsubstantiated. The official didn't want to be named because NASA plans a news conference Friday to discuss the panel's findings.


In Washington, the chairman of the House Science and Technology committee said he hadn't seen the report, "but if the reports of drunken astronauts being allowed to fly prove to be true, I think the agency will have a lot of explaining to do."

"That's not the 'right stuff' as far as I'm concerned," said Bart Gordon, D-Tennessee.

I'll admit, if someone wanted to strap me to a liquid fueled rocket and set it off I may want a couple bottles of Redbreast beforehand...but I'm what you call, technically, a "coward." At the bare minimum, our astronauts should be better than...well...me.

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

I read this and I almost started to whimper:

Two days before Jim Cummins stood behind the podium at the annual conference of the organization of California Teachers of Other Languages (CATESOL) in San Diego, the place buzzed about his coming appearance. Four standing ovations indicated that he did not disappoint.

No surprise. A treasured, no-nonsense voice in the world of second-language acquisition, during the past three decades, Cummins, now a professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, has touched the life of many an English as a second language teacher, inspiring thousands with a thoroughly grounded iconoclastic approach to the pedagogy of language. He has shattered myths, developed new theories and concepts, promoted innovations in the classroom, affected policy, and arguably done as much to shift the paradigm of language instruction as Noam Chomsky 20 years earlier did to shift scientific thought toward a paradigm of innate universal grammar.

Please, don't tell me he wants all children to write in such a fashion. My fragile love of good, clear English usage just couldn't take it.

Too true

All Things To All Pollsters

I've got a new one up at MvdG. Go visit there.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Your Stupid Headline Of The Day

Courtesy of Reuters:

Worst of Atlantic hurricane season still to come

No! Really?!?! Who would have known?????

Oh, that's right...Reuter's would know:

"There's absolutely nothing out of the ordinary," Gerry Bell, a hurricane forecaster for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said of the Atlantic season's first two months. "It's not slow. It's not fast."

On average, June and July produce zero to two named storms or hurricanes. So far this year there have been two. Andrea formed in early May, Barry on June 1.

There's plenty of evidence the first two months are meaningless as an indicator for the rest of the season.

Maybe they will have a helpful headline later telling us what direction we can expect sunrise tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A Final Pow-Wow For Ward Churchill? (Updated Thrice!)

The Board of Regents at the University of Colorado are behind closed door right now deciding the fate of Ward Churchill for his various academic misdeeds:

University of Colorado ethnic-studies professor Ward Churchill faces dismissal today at the hands of the school's Board of Regents after 2 1/2 years of national controversy and investigations.

Protesters backing Churchill have vowed to hold demonstrations at the Boulder campus. CU officials say police will be present.

Churchill has told Boulder's Daily Camera he expects to be fired today.

He is charged with academic misconduct, ranging from plagiarism to inventing facts and even entire historical episodes. Among the more unusual charges is that Churchill published essays under the names of other people then cited them in his footnotes as independent sources supporting his views.

Ward Churchill: the original sock puppet.

I'm not sure what is taking the Board so long. I know they have to dot their I's and cross their T's, but it isn't as if there is much doubt that Churchill's dismissal is the only option.

Churchill has vowed to sue if he is fired. Legal scholars have given him little chance of prevailing in court: Judges usually defer to governing boards on personnel matters, particularly when due process has been followed.

The regents and Brown have done precisely that, said RL Widmann, an English professor who leads CU's faculty council.

About 25 faculty members have been involved in reviewing the charges against Churchill during the various stages of the investigation, Widmann said.

The regents will be closeted with a special counsel assigned by the state attorney general's office as they discuss possible actions.

I know university professors have knee jerk reactions when it comes to questions of removing faculty with tenure, but it is telling that you hear almost no hemming and hawing from Colorado faculty these days. Once all the facts were assembled it became a no-brainer.

There is nothing to do now but wait for the other shoe to drop.....


....and that shoe has dropped. CU regents fire Ward Churchill

The University of Colorado's Board of Regents today fired professor Ward Churchill, 2 1/2 years after his comments about the victims of the 9/11 attacks sparked a firestorm.

The regents, in an 8-1 vote, said Churchill committed academic misconduct. The board convened this morning and spent several hours behind closed doors hearing the charges against Churchill.

University president Hank Brown, in a news conference, said "the decision was really pretty basic" based on the board's findings. Churchill was accused of plagiarism, falsification and other infractions.

Said Brown: "The individual did not express regret, did not apologize, did not indicate a willingness to refrain from this type of
falsification in the future."

Immediately after the vote was announced, Churchill said "New game, new game." He has vowed to sue if the regents acted against him.

The only thing you can call this is justice. To allow Churchill's malfeasance to go unpunished would have been a slap in the face to every member of the scholarly community who takes the principles of free and honest academic inquiry seriously.

Of course this fact doesn't keep Churchill and his supporters from spreading the "big lie."

"If they're going to go through the secret meetings and fire him based on his comments about 9-11, let the public see it," said Churchill's attorney, David Lane. "The behind-closed-door meeting to fire Churchill is exactly what is wrong with this system."

The reason Ward Churchill was fired was because he engaged in copious acts of academic fraud for which he offered no defense. Yes, there are many on the right who wanted him to be fired because of his disgusting personal beliefs, yet that in no way excuses his excremental treatment of the academy. Presumably, there are many, like CU Religious Studies professor Ira Chernus, who would excuse all of Churchill's many actions because they agree with him politically, but I can think of no greater crime against the very possibility of free inquiry. If Ward Churchill can be given a free ride because he has the proper political ideology then there is no reason to even pay lip service to the ideals of scholarly research and academic integrity. That there are members of the academy that would engage in such deliberate deception in defense of an ideological comrade is troubling indeed.

In many way it amazes me that we as a society need to go to such lengths to address such an obvious case of academic fraud. It isn't as if this were a real close call.

Churchill was charged with academic misconduct, ranging from plagiarism to inventing facts and even entire historical episodes.

Among the more unusual charges is that Churchill published essays under the names of other people then cited them in his footnotes as independent sources supporting his views.

Please remember, if you see in print someone claiming Churchill was fired because of his comments about the victims of 9/11, feel free to call them liars.

Here are my "Greatest Hits" of Ward Churchill posts:

Feb. 2nd, 2005
Feb. 5th, 2005
Mar. 5th, 2005 It was in this post that I wrote the following:

Academia is right, there is a question of academic freedom at stake here. However, it isn't the question they are asking. The inability of academia to honestly look at the record of Ward Churchill and exert even the barest minimum of professional standards upon him bodes ill. The entire premise of academic freedom is predicated upon the principle that the academic disciplines can be self regulating. The Ward Churchill episode is pointing out that this is simply untrue. If academics are unable to appropriately handle as "no-brainer" a case as this, how can anyone have the slightest confidence in academics ability to govern themselves? I don't think you can. This invites the interference of legislatures, which is not a good thing. But academia is, to all intents and purposes, abdicating their responsibilities. If you cannot hold Ward Churchill to even minimum academic standards, like firing him for the numerous frauds he has committed, then you have fewer arguments when the legislature decides to intervene.

Mar. 30th, 2005


Just a couple reactions from the web. First from Blue Crab Boulevard:

The man is a disgrace to higher education - and these days, that's saying something. Now the best thing: if Churchill is foolish enough to sue, all of the evidence will come out in open court and under oath. That should finally destroy him.

Second from The Conjecturer:

I got an email from the CU alumni association, informing they have terminated Ward Churchill for issues relating to his academic integrity. This is fantastic news—while I certainly did not like the man, thought him a pompous ass, he hadn’t really done anything firable… that is, until the investigation deeming his research and scholarship deeply substandard. Now that is a reason to fire him. Good riddance to bad rubbish, I say. I’m half-curious if Bill O’Reilly can bring himself to say something nice about the place. While I do doubt it, I certainly will not watch his show to find out.


More web reaction. This from Ann Althouse in her comments:

Tenure means something. It means a lot! It was taken away from Churchill, and it looks like that happened because people hated some harsh things he said. That does not sit well with me. Think about it. What if some Madisonians who don't like what I say decided to try to screw me and investigated me until they found some violation that they would never have gone looking for in the other professors who don't offend their sensibilities? Would you think that was okay? Would you accept their assertion that my free expression had nothing to do with the outcome?

To which I responded:

Did Churchill get folks gunning for him because of his comments? You bet he did. But the motivations of those people didn't create his fraudulent work. The motivations of those people didn't make him engage in academic sock puppetry. The motivations of those people, in the end, didn't get him fired. Ward Churchill got himself fired by deviating so far from the barest minimum academic standards that there was no way back.

What does tenure mean anyway? Is it a no holds barred contest in which you are allowed to cheat and steal in order to attain? Because, let's be honest here, he didn't do the work necessary to be a tenured faculty. Someone else, who may have taken the job and the idea of being an academic researcher a hell of a lot more seriously, was kept out of that job by Churchill's malfeasance.

The NCAA will take away athletic championships when it is discovered an individual or an institution attained the honor by cheating. Shouldn't the honors of the academic world be held to a higher standard than the athletic?

There is also this long post from Slapstick Politics, where Churchill's supporters show what they consider proper intellectual argumentation. It seems to involve only a single finger. Who knew?

Perhaps I Misspoke

Every once in awhile I'm tempted to think "I've seen it all." Maybe it is just for the sake of keeping this world interesting, but every time I'm so tempted something egregiously stupid comes along to spice things up. This defense (!) of Ward Churchill is a prime example of what I mean. The author is Ira Chernus, a Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado, but don't let those titles intimidate you. The man, by his own admission knows nothing, not that that stops him from voicing his opinion.

After all, the faculty's Research Misconduct Committee produced a voluminous report detailing his supposed misconduct. It's the basis for firing Churchill.

Was the committee fair and accurate in its assessment? To be honest, I don't know. How could I? I'm not an expert in Native American Studies. I don't have the knowledge or experience to make an informed judgment.

Did you get that? We are not allowed to make a judgement on Ward Churchill writing essays under assumed names to use as support for his work because we are not experts on Native American Studies. We must also stay silent about Churchill's invention of entire historical incidents out of whole cloth, which is a matter of fact not conjecture, as Professor Thomas Brown has ably shown:

Situating Churchill’s rendition of the epidemic in a broader historiographical analysis, one must reluctantly conclude that Churchill fabricated the most crucial details of his genocide story. Churchill radically misrepresented the sources he cites in support of his genocide charges, sources which say essentially the opposite of what Churchill attributes to them.

It is a distressing conclusion. One wants to think the best of fellow scholars. The scholarly enterprise depends on mutual trust. When one scholar violates that trust, it damages the legitimacy of the entire academy. Churchill has fabricated a genocide that never happened. It is difficult to conceive of a social scientist committing a more egregious violation.

Of course, Professor Chernus throws up his hands and exclaims that he can only be agnostic about such questions because he is totally at sea when questions turn to history. If that is true I urge Chernus to resign now. He can do nothing but serve his students ill by his continued presence. You never know when you will be asked your opinion on something outside you area of "expertise."

It's funny.... Chernus' obvious ignorance of civil liberties, procedural law, the principles of academic honesty, academic freedom, and scientific inquiry haven't kept him from voicing his support of Mr. Churchill. I guess the defense of "agnostic ignorance" only takes him so far.

This is how Chernus sees the situation:

It's still a rare occasion when a tenured professor is fired because he is an outspoken leftist. But every time a witchhunt is successful, it encourages other right-wingers to go after their favorite target. It brings the next witchhunt closer and increases the odds that it will succeed.

I'm an outspoken leftie professor at the University of Colorado too, so I've got a personal stake in this. Someone once asked me to wear a big button that said, "I am Ward Churchill." I said I'd prefer a button reading, "I am Next."

Of course, if Professor Chernus sees his own research standards echoed in Churchill's work he might well be worried. But I'd be satisfied if he lived up to his own supposed standards and remain quiet when he doesn't know what the hell he is talking about.

One wonders when he would ever speak.

What Have I Gotten Myself Into?

I've lived in Wisconsin for a little over a year now and I have to say it is a lovely state, filled with nice generous people...who may be a touch on the slow side. Cheese Headcases: Wisconsin reveals the cost of "universal" health care.

When Louis Brandeis praised the 50 states as "laboratories of democracy," he didn't claim that every policy experiment would work. So we hope the eyes of America will turn to Wisconsin, and the effort by Madison Democrats to make that "progressive" state a Petri dish for government-run health care.

This exercise is especially instructive, because it reveals where the "single-payer," universal coverage folks end up. Democrats who run the Wisconsin Senate have dropped the Washington pretense of incremental health-care reform and moved directly to passing a plan to insure every resident under the age of 65 in the state. And, wow, is "free" health care expensive. The plan would cost an estimated $15.2 billion, or $3 billion more than the state currently collects in all income, sales and corporate income taxes. It represents an average of $510 a month in higher taxes for every Wisconsin worker.

Employees and businesses would pay for the plan by sharing the cost of a new 14.5% employment tax on wages. Wisconsin businesses would have to compete with out-of-state businesses and foreign rivals while shouldering a 29.8% combined federal-state payroll tax, nearly double the 15.3% payroll tax paid by non-Wisconsin firms for Social Security and Medicare combined.

This employment tax is on top of the $1 billion grab bag of other levies that Democratic Governor Jim Doyle proposed and the tax-happy Senate has also approved, including a $1.25 a pack increase in the cigarette tax, a 10% hike in the corporate tax, and new fees on cars, trucks, hospitals, real estate transactions, oil companies and dry cleaners. In all, the tax burden in the Badger State could rise to 20% of family income, which is slightly more than the average federal tax burden. "At least federal taxes pay for an Army and Navy," quips R.J. Pirlot of the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce business lobby.

As if that's not enough, the health plan includes a tax escalator clause allowing an additional 1.5 percentage point payroll tax to finance higher outlays in the future. This could bring the payroll tax to 16%. One reason to expect costs to soar is that the state may become a mecca for the unemployed, uninsured and sick from all over North America. The legislation doesn't require that you have a job in Wisconsin to qualify, merely that you live in the state for at least 12 months. Cheesehead nation could expect to attract health-care free-riders while losing productive workers who leave for less-taxing climes.

I've never lived in a place, and this is including Washington, DC, where I've payed more in taxes for less service then in Wisconsin. For example, when I first moved to the state and was changing the title on my car I was shocked to find such an antiquated system. It took 6-8 weeks to get a new title through the mail. It was like stepping into a time warp since the last time I saw such a system was in Missouri in the 1980's. Overall, the tax burden here is huge. I'd say Wisconsin is "nickle and diming" me to death, but it is more like "ten and twenty-ing" me dry, and wherever the money is going none of it is being used to update the DMV.

Very little of the money seems to be going to higher education either. As this story makes clear, professors are leaving the University of Wisconsin at Madison in droves.

University of Wisconsin-Madison has long been an attractive target for elite schools like Harvard and Stanford looking to steal faculty. But Arizona State? Pittsburgh? Florida State?

Dozens of UW-Madison professors left in the past two years, and Chancellor John Wiley said a growing number of them are going to schools that traditionally could not compete with his campus. More than 115 professors reported receiving outside offers last year, the most in 20 years and more than double the number from five years ago.

The trend has alarmed Wisconsin administrators who say some departments are in a crisis after losing prominent teachers and researchers. At stake, they say, are the quality of the state's flagship university, which has traditionally ranked among the nation's top public schools, and coveted research dollars.

Faculty members say the departures accelerated as professors' salaries hit rock bottom among their peers and morale sagged amid budget cuts.

So the state's plan seems to be to offer universal health care to the indigent of the nation so they can take advantage of the state's soon-to-be third-tier university.

Yeah, that makes sense.

At least I have a choice. I prefer not to commute, but Minnesota is just 15 minutes away. I'm sure other folks around the state are eyeing Iowa and (gasp) Illinois with envy as well.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Yet More Things I'd Never Find In The Ground

First it was Viking treasure now it is something even more palatable: 'WWI spirits' dug up in Macedonia

A remote Macedonian mountain village is at the centre of a treasure hunt for bottles of what is thought to be vintage cognac from World War I.

Farmers in Gradesnica have unearthed what they say are cases of spirits from trenches once used by French soldiers.

Visitors from France have joined locals scouring the former battlefield in the hope of finding some of the liquor.

Valued at thousands of euros a bottle, it is said to have survived a German shell strike that killed many soldiers.

The first case of 15 bottles was reportedly unearthed by villagers in the south of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia about 15 years ago.

Several further batches, containing about 12 bottles each, are said to have been found in subsequent digs.

At least two cases were reportedly found by a sharp-eyed villager who noticed a glint in the ground.

The liquor could fetch at least 5,000 euros (£3,360) per bottle, according to Skopje University expert Mihail Petkov.

The professor of oenology said: "The villagers told me they have tasted a wonderful, delicious, very strong alcoholic beverage.

"I don't think wine would stay drinkable after 90 years so I think it's probably cognac, as its quality improves with age. People have been coming from France to look for it."

He explained that French wine-producers once had to pay a military tax, which they met by supplying wine and spirits directly to the army.

Stefan Kovacevski, 64, is one of the locals who has tasted the find.

He told the Associated Press news agency: "At first we were afraid to taste the dark, thick liquid. But this must be what people mean by the nectar of the gods."

Most people, especially in the U.S., wouldn't have been able to tell you that there were French soldiers in the Balkans during the First World War, so it is interesting to see these echoes continue 90 years on.

I wonder if this will cause folks in the Crimea to start digging up their front yards, because if the 1915 cognac is fetching over $3000 a bottle, just imagine what prices the pre-phylloxera cognac would bring.

Hmm...I wonder if the French brought over any cognac during the French & Indian war?

Gotta keep those eyes open.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Your Musical Interlude, Part X

Here is something for the kids. I can't say I know much Maroon 5, but the earlier incarnation called Kara's Flowers had this catchy tune. Me likes catchy tunes.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Song Of The Viking

From the AP via USA Today:

One of the biggest Viking treasures ever found has been discovered on an English farm by a father-son team of treasure hunters, the British Museum announced Thursday.
The trove of coins and jewelry was buried more than 1,000 years ago — a collection of items from Ireland, France, Russia and Scandinavia that testified to the raiders' international reach.

"It's a fascinating find, it's the largest find of its type of over 150 years," said Gareth Williams, an expert at the British Museum who examined the items.

He said it was the largest such find in Britain since the 1840 discovery of the Cuerdale Hoard — a mass of 8,500 silver coins, chains, and amulets.

David Whelan, 60, and his 35-year-old son Andrew were trawling a through a farmer's field near Harrogate, in northern England, on Jan. 6 when their metal detector squealed. The pair began digging, finding a silver bowl more than a foot beneath the soil. Under British law, such finds must be reported to authorities.

The pair turned the bowl over to archaeological experts, who discovered it was packed with coins and jewelry. The bowl, a 9th century gilt silver container probably seized by Vikings from a monastery, had been used as an improvised treasure chest before being buried.

"We thought it was marvelous," David Whelan told The Associated Press. "But we didn't know for nearly a month what was in it."

In all, more than 600 coins and dozens of other objects, including a gold arm band, silver ingots and fragments of silver were found in and around the container.

Some of the coins mixed Christian and pagan imagery, shedding light on the beliefs of newly Christianized Vikings, said Gareth Williams, a curator of early medieval coins at the British Museum.

The booty was likely accumulated through a combination of commerce and warfare, Williams said. Its quantity indicated that at least some of it was taken by force, perhaps in raids on northern Europe or Scandinavia, he added.

The items were manufactured as far afield as Afghanistan, Russia and Scandinavia.

It's stories like this that make you feel insignificant. I mean, I found an old horseshoe once. *sigh*

P.S. The alternate title for this post was "Spam, Spam, Spam, Baked Beans, and Spam".

So This Is Acceptable These Days?

Vandals attack man's Hummer, leave note

When Gareth Groves brought home his massive new Hummer, he knew his environmentally friendly neighbors disapproved. But he didn't expect what happened next. The sport utility vehicle was parked for five days on the street before two masked men smashed the windows, slashed the tires and scratched into the body: "FOR THE ENVIRON."

"The thought of somebody vandalizing it never crossed my mind," said Gareth Groves, who lives near American University in Northwest Washington [D.C.]. "I've kind of been in shock."

Police said they see small acts of vandalism in the area from time to time, but they have not seen anything so severe, or with such a clear political message, in recent years.

"This seems to be an isolated event," Cmdr. Andy Solberg said.

Investigators said they are searching for the vandals but don't have many leads. Witnesses said they saw two men smash up the seven-foot-tall SUV early Monday and then run off.

Now, as Groves contemplates what to do with the remains of his $38,000 Hummer, he has had to deal with a number of people who have driven by the crime scene and glared at him in smug satisfaction.

"I'd say one in five people who come by have that 'you-got-what-you-deserve' look," said his friend Andy Sexton.

Neighbor Lucille Liem, who owns a Prius hybrid, said that a common sentiment in the neighborhood is that large vehicles such as the Hummer are impractical and a strain on the Earth.

"The neighborhood in general is very concerned with the environment," said Liem, whose Prius gets about 48 miles a gallon compared with the Hummer's 14 miles a gallon. "It's more liberal leaning. It's ridiculous to be driving a Hummer."

Liem quickly added that she does not condone violence.

Gee, she won't condone or condemn violence against people she disagrees with politically. And we are supposed to think she is noble or something?

I guess an environmental Kristallnacht would be O.K. if liberals were the ones doing it.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Democrats Declare War On A 19th Century Caricature

You might have thought the Democrats had learned something back in the days of the "Luxury Yacht Tax" fiasco but you would be dead wrong.

Cigarmakers in a panic: The federal tax on each cigar could rise from 5 cents to $10.

Eric Newman punches the numbers on his calculator and gapes at the results one more time.

It's no mathematical error: The federal government has proposed raising taxes on premium cigars, the kind Newman's family has been rolling for decades in Ybor City, by as much as 20,000 percent.

As part of an increase in tobacco taxes designed to pay for children's health insurance, the nickel-per-cigar tax that has ruled the industry could rise to as much as $10 per cigar.

"I'm not sure in the history of man, since our forefathers founded the country in 1776, that there's ever been a tax increase of 20,000 percent," said Newman, who runs the Tampa business founded by grandfather Julius Caesar Newman. "They had the Boston Tea Party for less than this."

Anyone who doesn't think such a tax would lead to job losses in the cigar making industry in Florida, as well as in the retail cigar industry across the nation is deluding themselves. Anyone who believes that tax revenues to the Federal government will increase as a result of such a tax is seriously misguided if not downright foolish.

The Democrats might believe they are dealing a mighty blow to rich fat cats straight out of the robber baron days of the 19th century, but they are really targeting average Americans and, especially, immigrants from central America and the Caribbean.

Lest we forget, these types of taxes can have devastating effects. Here is how the NewsHour summed up the luxury tax on yachts from the early 1990's.

The theory behind the luxury tax sounded simple enough. Congress believed anyone willing to spend $100,000 or more on a new boat surely would be willing to pay an additional 10 percent to the federal government. But that didn't happen. Rather than pay the tax, many people in the market to buy a boat either didn't buy one, or bought one overseas. As a result, the luxury tax didn't bring in much money at all, and the customers' reluctance to buy put the boat-building business, particularly here in Rhode Island, out of business. We first visited Rhode Island in June of 1992. The luxury tax had been in effect for 18 months. Tens of thousands of jobs had been lost across the country, thousands in Rhode Island alone.

I forget, how is this sort of thing a good idea?

(Gleaned from CQ)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

My Open Letter To Iowahawk

With almost breathless anticipation I sent the following missive in support of the Dave Burge for President effort.

Mr Burge,

I too am infected with Iowahawk for President fever, but sadly I am just too busy to commit to any position in Washington. Who knows, maybe things will slow down during your second term.

However, I am not above looking for a quick buck, so in the spirit of Mitt Romney's makeup consultant I offer my services as a "Campaign Theme Music Consultant". And, you know what? I trust your judgement so much I'm willing to do the work on spec.

1. Previous campaigns have relied primarily on a single campaign theme song. This is a horrible mistake. To begin with, such a tactic dooms your most loyal campaign workers to hearing the same song over and over again until reality begins to blur with fantasy and the only release is a blood soaked rampage that can play havoc on campaign fundraising efforts. This is known in professional Music Consultant circles as the "It's A Small World After All" effect.

It must also be remembered that each stop on the campaign trail tends to be longer then the length of time it takes to play the campaign theme song. This sets up a dangerous situation where the candidate is expected to fill up the time by actually speaking to the crowd, thus increasing the chances not only of a gaffe but also of a really uncomfortable silence if the crowd turns out to be particularly dim or unattractive. You would then have to spend the entire bus trip to the next town telling reporters that you thought the crowd at the last stop had a "really good personality."

2. To combat these drawbacks I propose multiple theme songs! Not only will this spare you and your campaign workers the needless psychic trauma of song repetition, but local municipalities will spend much less on blood soaked crime scene clean-up costs. It is just another way the Iowahawk campaign is financially sound.

Now on to the music!

3. The first theme song should cement you as the dangerous outsider who, while still really dangerous and all, you wouldn't mind seeing your buxom college aged daughter get an internship with at the White House. To that end I suggest "Running With The Devil" by Van Halen, because it is loud enough to scare old people but it is sung by
David Lee Roth who would probably rather be making Beach Boys covers anyway. So see, the best of both worlds.

4. The second song I have in mind plays to your Iowa roots. It is "In Heaven There Is No Beer" which according to every statistical analysis ever made is the best way to reach out to the broadest range of Lutherans possible.

5. At that point I'm afraid we may have reached the limits of our campaign music budget, since the goal is not to enrich ASCAP or BMI...because, let's face it, those bastards are keeping "WKRP in Cincinnati" from being released on DVD with the original music. It is an abomination that I hope you are able to address when you pack the Supreme Court. Oh no, they won't get another dime when Burge is the boss!!! To that end, I suggest we come up with funny lyrics to a song in the public domain. I'm leaning towards "The Camptown Ladies" because it always struck me as slightly dirty. "Do Da" indeed.

On to victory!

Rich Horton of The Iconic Midwest

P.S. I thought up a possible campaign slogan and I wanted to run it by you as well:

Burge '08, "I Promise You The Check Is In The Mail"

May I Suggest Going Light On The Lipstick?


The Politico discovers that among the $300 in "communications consulting" the campaign spent was actually for makeup consulting with a company called "Hidden Beauty."

Of course, for anyone who has any knowledge of American presidential election history such an expenditure should come as no surprise. If Richard Nixon had spent whatever the 1960 equivalent of $300 is for a "makeup consult" before the famous first televised debate with John F. Kennedy he may have well won that debate and possibly changed the tone of the entire election.

I'll admit it is a silly little thing, but such is the reality of modern politics.

Of course other folks see the vast right wing conspiracy in everything:

I'm not going to hold my breath until the media oversaturates this story to the point where close to a majority of Americans can identify Romney as the candidate vain enough to plunk down $300 for a makeover, as they have done with John Edwards and his haircut (a Fox News poll from June found that 44 percent of registered voters correctly identified Edwards as the candidate who had spent $400 on a haircut). Yet at the same time it will be interesting to see the extent to which the media is willing to hold Democrats and Republicans to different standards on the issue of campaign expenditures on a candidate's image.

It has only been about three hours since The Politico ran with this story online, but to this point not a single other news service running its stories on Google news has run with the Romney makeover story, and the particular article quoted above has been scantly mentioned within the blogosphere thus far. This might change -- but I'm not betting on the right wing echochamber working too hard on bringing this story to the attention of the broader electorate.

Hmm...the Memeorandum line on the story lists the following news organizations and blogs as being "on the story":

MSNBC, MyDD, Outside The Beltway, Chicago Tribune, The American Mind, Sister Toldjah, The Democratic Daily, Salon, Attytood and Shakesville.

And it's early yet.

Monday, July 16, 2007


Snark has all the nutritional qualities of a box of Twinkies, I know, but sometimes it tastes so damn good.

In The Category "Least Plausible Denial Ever" The Winner Is...

...THIS GUY! University benefactor and board chairman uses N-word

The longtime chairman of the Roger Williams University board admitted Monday to using the N-word during a board meeting, saying it "kind of slipped out."

"I apologized for that," Ralph Papitto said in an interview on WPRO-AM. "What else can I do? Kill myself?"

Papitto, 80, who stepped down earlier this month after nearly 40 years on the board, admitted he had used the racial slur at a May meeting of the school's board of trustees.

He had been discussing the difficulty of finding blacks and other minorities to serve on the 16-member board, which at the time included 14 white men and two women.

Barbara Roberts, then a board member, said Papitto became irate when he discussed pressures to make the board more diverse, at one point using the slur to refer to black candidates to the board.

She said he then told the board he knew he couldn't say that because of Don Imus, the radio host who was fired after referring to Rutgers University women's basketball team members as "nappy-headed hos."

"There was, like, this complete and utter silence, and I was shocked beyond belief and very angry," Roberts said.

Papitto, who has given the school at least $7 million and whose name is on the only law school in Rhode Island, said he had never used the term before.

"The first time I heard it was on television or rap music or something," he told WPRO.

Yeah, that would make sense if Mr. Papitto was eight years old.

Just look at the guy.

His argument is rap music made him do it.

Lucky for him the winners of the "Least Plausible Denial Ever" award usually aren't invited to many cocktail parties so he will have less opportunity to be a bad influence.

Bloated Self Importance Anyone?

Here is Dick Durbin on the potential late night Congressional session courtesy of Crooks & Liars:

One of the critics of this recently called it a stunt. A stunt! A stunt that we would stay in session. A stunt that we would have a sleepless night for Senators. I don’t think it’s a stunt. I think it reflects the reality of this war. How many sleepless night have our soldiers and their families spent?

Uh sir, to believe one sleepless night in the friendly confines of the Senate reflects the reality of what our soldiers and their families go through is just about the dumbest thing I've heard today. Congratulations!

"But....the chairs are really uncomfortable...and the coffee isn't fresh roasted!"

Scientific "Consensus" Or Brown Shirt Thuggery?

From Stubborn Facts:

On June 28th, Marlo Lewis of the Competitive Enterprise Institute testified before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on the costs and economic impacts of Kyoto-style carbon suppression schemes. He followed that up with an article in the American Spectator on the same theme.

His testimony and article apparently did not sit well with American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE) president, World Council for Renewable Energy (WCRE) co-chairman, and Renewable Energy Policy Network (REN 21) Steering Committee member Michael T. Eckhart.

So in rebuttal, does Eckhart [a] demolish Lewis' testimony and article with the use of verifiable scientific evidence, addressing any or all of the points made, or [b] try to bludgeon Lewis into silence? You judge:

Marlo, you are so full of crap," writes Michael T. Eckhart, president of the American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE). "You have been proven wrong. The entire world has proven you wrong. You are the last guy on Earth to get it.

Take this warning from me, Marlo. It is my intention to destroy your career as a liar. If you produce one more editorial against climate change, I will launch a campaign against your professional integrity. I will call you a liar and charlatan to the Harvard community of which you and I are members. I will call you out as a man who has been bought by Corporate America. Go ahead, guy. Take me on."

Of course were Harvard actually interested in the scientific method and the standards of academic freedom Eckhart would be fighting for his career and justly so.

Eckhart is a disgrace and a scumbag.

Tully's post over at Stubborn Facts has many helpful links.


Tully in the comments points us to a sorta kinda mea culpa (but not really) from Mr. Eckhart here. It is a disappointment in that it boils down to "He started it!"

What is interesting is that Eckhart's explanation reiterates the disdain he has for free academic inquiry:

To CEI, however, there can be no apology. Quite the opposite. It is time to end CEI’s disingenuous undermining of worldwide concern about global warming.
My brown shirt analogy seem less like hyperbole by the minute.

Ego Surfing Result Of The Day

This gave me my morning laugh: All those Rich Horton's

Twenty years ago the only Rich Hortons I got confused with were Richard "Onion" Horton, a radio commentator in the East St. Louis area; Ricky Horton, a Cardinals pitcher (now a Cardinals broadcaster); and Richard G. Horton, who also works at Boeing and who is a much better golfer than I am. (Once I was sent a trophy he earned in work tournament, which I had to return -- and I get a fair amount of his work email.)

(Ricky Horton, as it happens, is only two months older than me and has an Engineering degree from the University of Virginia, earned at the same time as my Physics degree from the University of Illinois, so I feel especially close to him.)

But now the Internet makes it possible that I get confuse with many more.


I am NOT Dr. Richard Horton, the British editor of the famous medical journal the Lancet. (I occasionally get invitations to high level medical conferences, apparently because the organizers think I might be him.)

I am NOT Rich Horton of the Minneapolis area, well-known musician and especially music critic.

And I am NOT the Rich Horton who has a blog called The Iconic Midwest, and who also lives in St. Louis. (And I've never met him!)

Oh, the trials of being named Rich Horton!

I blame my father....the golf playing Boeing employee Rich Horton mentioned above.

Friday, July 13, 2007

When Left Is Right

I'm cross posting this here and at Micheal van der Galien's place:

OxBlog has a very interesting two part interview with Nick Cohen up (part uno, part due), where Cohen has some harsh criticism of the anti-war left.

'We’re all Hizbollah now.’ For journalist and author Nick Cohen, this slogan symbolises everything that has gone wrong with big parts of today’s British Left. Last July, some leftist protesters in London held up this placard, identifying themselves with a movement whose leader is openly anti-semitic, and whose former leader once announced ‘We are not fighting so that you may offer us something. We are fighting to eliminate you.’

Instead of merely opposing British or American policies and wars abroad, Cohen complains in his book
What’s Left that influential and mainstream leftist have gone along with movements representing everything they are meant to be against: the ultra-right. In his own words, they have made excuses for, or sometimes sided with, a religious fanaticism that wants to ‘subjugate women, kill homosexuals, kill Jews, kill freethinkers and establish a theocratic empire.’

Refreshed by beers supplied by Oxblog, Nick smiles across the table in a little north London pub. He’s a friendly and incisive bloke who kindly takes time away from his deadlines to talk about what happened to the politics he once thought he knew, and what can be done about it. I asked him how he defined the new political landscape, and hurled some ‘devil’s advocate’ questions at him.

As well as being a regular columnist at the Observer, Nick helped to launch the
Euston Manifesto, a statement of principles by democratic leftists concerned that some fellow progressives in their zeal to oppose American foreign policy were getting way too comfortable with reactionaries along the spectrum from misogynists to anti-semites, Baathists to Islamist militants.

Cohen argues that the demise of socialism as a credible programme of emancipation opened the way for a strange realignment of leftist opinion. The political left became far more defined by negation – what it opposed- than what it supported.

The result? British leftists in the antiwar movement making common cause with the far right Muslim Brotherhood; Iraqi socialists and trade unionists abandoned or ignored after the fall of Saddam; leftist intellectuals such as Noam Chomsky either denying or playing down ethnic cleansing of nationalists in the Balkans; the socialist Mayor of London hosting and defending preacher Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who had called for the killing of apostates and homosexuals; in parts of the academy, the onset of an extreme relativism which taught that it was racist to oppose sexism in different cultures; the growth of anti-semitism of varying intensity, some of which makes its way into his email account from hostile readers.

Cohen tries to balance two arguments that rarely sit together in emotional equilibrium: anger with the flawed policies and incompetence of the Bush and Blair governments, but solidarity with Iraqis as they tried to build something better after decades of tyranny.

While Cohen’s remarks are specifically directed at the British experience, there is much overlap with the situation in the United States of today. If there was one thing you could always said about the left in the United States it was their uncompromising, zero-tolerance stand against anti-semitism. It went hand-in-hand with the left’s anti-fascist ideals since the rise of Hitlerian Germany in the 1930’s. You simply could not be a card carrying member of the left and espouse anti-semitism at the same time. The notion the left should make common cause with such racists would have been the non-starter of all non-starters.

Today that simply is no longer true. While it would be false to claim that a majority of the left embrace anti-semites in their anti-semitism, they do not seem to be overly worried about it. When the matter is brought up you are most likely to get a shrug and an “explanation” that in any broad based movement you cannot keep people with different ideas out. At that point the line begins to blur. Through the shifting sands of cultural relativism and moral equivocating tolerance is granted to the intolerant and, though it was in no way the left’s intention, anti-semitism gains legitimacy and a currency it never enjoyed before.

More from OxBlog:
So what is it to be left-wing? This, Cohen argues, is part of the problem. It has lost a coherent definition and set of baseline values, and has replaced the positive programme of reform with broad opposition to what it sees as American imperialism.
I suggested that there was arguably a resurgence of democratic socialism in parts of South America, but Nick said that this was often demagogy, financed by oil profits that lacked a true socialist programme of nationalisation of industry, and is highly dependent on anti-American oppositionalism than positive emancipation.

I asked Nick why it is that in this mixed up landscape, a neoconservative or right-of-centre folk are more likely to criticise without qualification the jailing of trade unionists in Iran than a leftist. To Cohen, it is partly that this kind of criticism is suspected of being a stalking-horse for cultural imperialism or an assertion of western hegemony.

He cautions against those who might be driven to denounce the reactionaries in the Iranian government in order to create a drive to war. But he also argues that the reluctance to ‘impose’ ‘our’ views, the reluctance to show solidarity with feminists, trade unionists and ethnic minorities in Iran is part of an insidious double-standard, a view that non-western cultures are incapable or unworthy of liberal values and that pluralistic civil society is specific to ‘us’, and not for poor brown people.

Cohen is correct in his assessment of this basic incoherence common on the left. The traditional left of center proponent encompassed a view of the human experience that transcended nationalistic borders. As an example, for those who championed them, the old Marxist ideals held for everyone who labored, not just white Europeans who did so. The new leftist ethos is more apt to deny this outright. In effect, the left is agitating for a world view that denies there can be a world view. At its least extreme, the new left believes the ideas of the West only apply to the West. Any attempt to use a “Western idea” in a non-Western setting is automatically viewed as illegitimate. However, once you start moving in this (inward) direction it is difficult to stop. The battles concerning the EU Constitution express this movement very well. You are seeing leftist forces in European countries decry ideas as being foreign because they are “American” or “English” (or “French” of “German”), so those of the left are moving further away from even being able to espouse a common Western belief. Basically, in half a generation we have seen a large portion of the left move to the right of Edmund Burke: There can be no human rights as such, just the rights of English men and women, German men and women, etc. The incoherence arises since so much of the rhetoric and what you might call the infrastructure of leftist thought still adheres to the earlier universal vision.

So you get folks like Nick Cohen arising with seemingly paradoxical ideas, for nothing has been more conservative than the appeal for a restoration to an earlier time.

Your Musical Interlude, Part IX

Today it is the man called E in his pre-Eels days. This was co-written with the great Parthenon Huxley.

Begin Your Beckham Hyperventilation.....(Wait For It)....NOW!

From the BBC: Beckhams arrive in Los Angeles

David Beckham has touched down in California to start his new job as a player for the Los Angeles Galaxy.

The former England football captain arrived in the US with his wife Victoria, greeted by screaming fans.

After a night's sleep, Beckham is due to appear at a news conference of the LA Galaxy, where he will be introduced to the world as their new star player.

In a scene that resembled a Hollywood premiere, the Beckhams were welcomed by an army of TV crews and photographers.

The football star walked with a big smile on his face through the airport.

Barricades had to be set up to keep the crowd under control.

Hmm...I wonder if Yao Ming got that sort of reception?

Thursday, July 12, 2007


Let's say you are Germany in the following situation:

You are "allied" with England, at war with France, and have an uneasy truce with the Russians. The question is, do you stab England now?

No One Came To Play Today

I thought I was having a pretty good day of blogging, but traffic has been mighty slow.

Is everybody hung over or something? And if so, why didn't anyone invite me out last night?

It is enough to turn a blogger blue.

I Read It And I Still Don't Believe It

God simply did not supply me with enough ability to snark to adequately deal with the following:

As common as tenure disputes may be within academic circles, rarely do institutions penalize professors for pursuing research outlined in their faculty contracts and expressly approved by top administrators. That’s what makes FIRE’s case at Ashland University so unique—and outrageous.

John Lewis is a classical historian whose work on Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism constitutes only a small portion of his academic research. Ashland hired Lewis as an assistant professor in 2001, and in 2002 accepted a three-year gift commitment of $100,000 from the Anthem Foundation for Objectivist Scholarship “to establish a fellowship in the department of history and political science at Ashland University,” the purpose of which was “to fund teaching and writing on Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism.” Lewis was named one of the inaugural fellows.

Ashland seemed to have no problem with accepting money for Objectivist scholarship. The university’s endorsement of that scholarship was also made explicit in a January 24, 2002 letter to Anthem Foundation President John McCaskey. Ashland’s then-president G. William Benz wrote that the $100,000 gift was “a significant commitment in support of Ashland University, its mission, and its students.” (Emphasis added.) Benz sent similar letters of thanks to McCaskey over the next few years.

Lewis’ contracts dating from August 22, 2005 to May 18, 2007 all stated that “six hours per semester [were to be] reassigned for research funded by Anthem Foundation grant,” and in fact the Anthem Foundation fellowship money was used to pay half of his salary throughout this period. Lewis was therefore not only free to pursue Objectivist scholarship, but was contractually required to do so from the fall semester, 2005, until the end of the 2007 academic year.

Lewis, who received rave reviews from students and superiors year after year, applied for tenure in the fall of 2006. But on January 26, 2007, Ashland informed Lewis that his application for tenure was denied. Ashland’s Provost, Robert Suggs, explained the denial to Lewis in a letter on February 8, writing,

…the Board of Trustees voted to deny your application for promotion because it was concluded that there had been a lack of support on your part for the University’s Mission Statement. As you know, support of the University’s mission is a term for every faculty member’s annual contract and expressly required in the Faculty Rules and Regulations as well. Specifically, concern was expressed at all levels of the process about writings, submitted by you as part of your scholarly activities in support of your application, that advocate for Objectivist views that are hostile to the University’s mission.

It was at that point that my brain splintered into several million pieces...

Double Duty

Michael van der Galien announced yesterday he will be gone for a month long vacation starting on Friday. I've agreed to send a few more posts that way over the next four weeks, in addition to my normal columnist duties. To the best of my knowledge there have not been any riots resulting from this news...but it is early yet.

Have fun Michael, and don't take any wooden nickles!

What Is And What Isn't Scientific

When is "consensus" not all its cracked up to be? Why, when you have only a single study that "proves" the contention you want proved, and you feel that further study will udermine that. From the BBC: 'No Sun link' to climate change

A new scientific study concludes that changes in the Sun's output cannot be causing modern-day climate change.

It shows that for the last 20 years, the Sun's output has declined, yet temperatures on Earth have risen.

It also shows that modern temperatures are not determined by the Sun's effect on cosmic rays, as has been claimed.

Writing in the Royal Society's journal Proceedings A, the researchers say cosmic rays may have affected climate in the past, but not the present.

"This should settle the debate," said Mike Lockwood, from the UK's Rutherford-Appleton Laboratory, who carried out the new analysis together with Claus Froehlich from the World Radiation Center in Switzerland.
[emphasis added]

Any scientist who would say about a single study that contradicts other, more numerous, peer reviewed work, "This should settle the debate" is immediately suspect if only from the standpoint of the sheer ignorance of the scientific method it displays. Debates of this sort are never settled. They are constantly checked and re-checked, other scientists attempt to duplicate the findings, criticize the methodology, see how it fits the existing literature on the subject, etc. etc. etc. You do not get to publish your research findings and then declare the topic forever closed, as if God himself has spoken on the matter. What garbage.

The effort is, of course, a political one. Making such categorical statements give the politicians working the political front lines of the AGW hysteria ammunition to fire at people who still have the temerity to question orthodoxy. You can see the same process at work in the studies linking hurricane formation with Global Warming. The study by Kerry Emanuel purporting to show such a linkage was deemed (by Emanuel himself no less) as the "final" word on the subject. Funny thing was, it was wrong, and very obviously wrong. (I covered this here, here and here. I myself poke a hole in Emanuel's claims here.)

The thing is, it doesn't matter that Emanuel's work has been proven false. His claim to perpetual canonical status is floating around out there and it gets recited back by journalists as the "final" answer to the question still. This not only does violence to the scientific method, it also predicates public policy debates upon falsehoods. So this isn't an arcane question that only the late Karl Popper could have cared about. It is a question about what the idea of free inquiry requires and what our public policy debates should demand.

Thank God No One (Relatively Speaking) Reads This

If there was ever an antidote to wanting to have a super successful blog this is it.

Jeff Goldstein of Protein Wisdom has quit blogging again. Since he recently overhauled his site, I suspected that the abrupt, initially unexplained decision had something to do with the nut job and pervert Deborah Frisch. As it turns out, it does. From Jeff:

Frisch has once again — with no provocation — stepped up her assault on me, my site, my family and my friends.

Which means I am simply going to redouble me efforts to put a stop to it.
Frisch is known all over both sides of the political blogosphere for her disjointed, racist, hateful and pedophilic musings and for continual harassment of her former colleagues in higher education, but for some reason known only to her and to the person she serves [ed. that would be Satan], she has fixated on Jeff and his family, which includes a pre-schooler.

I'm not a regular reader of Jeff's site, so I missed this when things went down last year, but I cannot think of anything as frightening as someone taking an avowed interest in harming my child.

Anyway...make sure you click over to Protein Wisdom (it helps pay the lawyer bills needed to keep Frisch at arms length.) You can read the timeline so far here, or the Wiki entry here.

Reading about incidents like this only makes me appreciate my readers all the more. So to Walt, Steve P, Tully, Pat, Simon, C Stanley, Entropy, Tony S, Michael vdG, and all the others who have taken time to post your comments on what I've written, thank you for not being fucking insane.

(Initially gleaned from Stubborn Facts.)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

There Are Some Things You Just Can't Live Down...

...And this is one of them: Let's do this again, next year!

Teacher Dave Barclay flew thousands of miles across the Atlantic to Wales to attend his friend's wedding, only to discover he was a year early.

Barclay, 34, was told about the wedding earlier in the year and assumed it was to take place in 2007.

It was only when he had flown into Cardiff from Toronto, Canada, and rang the bridegroom seeking details of the venue that he discovered the wedding was in 2008.

"I am a year early -- yeah, my mates are loving it, aren't they," he told BBC Radio Wales.

The groom, Dave Best, had emailed his friend at the start of the year.

"He just said July the 6th and I assumed it was this year because if you tell the guy July 6th, they're going to think it's this year," Barclay said.

Yet another over-eager Canadian.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A Google Straw Poll

I decided it would be fun (for me at least) to track the presidential candidates impact upon the world wide web over time. Think of this as the internet's straw poll, as measured by Google search results.

Methodology (In the loosest sense of the word imaginable): I searched on Google for each candidate, their name in quotation marks, along with the word "presidency." I limited the results to the last three months only. (For example, ["Barack Obama" presidency].) I then made a note of the number of results found for each. For each candidate I used their name the way their official campaign website uses it, e.g. "Chris Dodd" instead of "Christopher Dodd".

Here is how the Democrats broke down (results in millions):

Hillary Clinton: 2.20
Barack Obama: 2.14
John Edwards: 1.96
Bill Richardson: 1.72
Dennis Kucinich: 1.68
Joe Biden: 1.46
Chris Dodd: 1.05
Mike Gravel: 0.91

And For The Republicans:

Fred Thompson: 3.86
Mitt Romney: 1.99
John McCain: 1.96
Ron Paul: 1.92
Rudy Giuliani: 1.89
Sam Brownback: 1.30
Tom Tancredo: 1.17
Duncan Hunter: 1.14
Mike Huckabee: 1.06
Tommy Thompson: 0.93

I also looked into some folks not running to see how they are doing:

Ralph Nader: 1.46
Newt Gingrich: 1.78

And most disturbingly:

Al Gore: 12.40

Take them for what they might be worth...which could be exactly nothing.

Interesting nonetheless.

What Part Of 'Protestant' Don't Protestants Understand?

Vatican text angers Protestants
Pope Benedict has approved a new text asserting that Christian denominations outside Roman Catholicism are not true Churches in the full sense of the word.

The document, issued by a Vatican watchdog, has been criticised as offensive by some Protestants.

The text was written by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, headed by Pope Benedict before his election as Pope.

It states that Christ established only one Church here on earth.

Other Christian denominations, it argues, cannot be called Churches in the proper sense because they cannot trace their bishops back to Christ's original apostles.

The new text is basically a re-statement of another document known as Domine Jesus, published in the year 2000 under the signature of the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope.

That document set off a storm of criticism from Protestant and Anglican leaders who felt that the Vatican was failing to take into account progress made towards re-establishing Christian unity in talks with Rome over a period of many years.

Gee, and here I was thinking that being a Protestant meant you didn't want to sign off on what the Catholic Church says.

Gotta Love That Record Cold Weather

From the BBC: Buenos Aires sees rare snowfall
Argentina's capital, Buenos Aires, has seen snow for the first time in 89 years, as a cold snap continues to grip several South American nations.

Temperatures plunged to -22C (-8F) in parts of Argentina's province of Rio Negro, while snow fell on Buenos Aires for several hours on Monday.

Two deaths from exposure were reported in Argentina and one in Chile.

In Bolivia, heavy snowfall blocked the nation's main motorway and forced the closure of several airports.

In Argentina, several provinces in the Andes have been placed under a storm alert, according to the national weather centre.

But thousands of people cheered in the streets of Buenos Aires at the sight of the capital's first snowfall since 1918.

"Despite all my years, this is the first time I've ever seen snow in Buenos Aires," 82-year-old Juana Benitez was quoted as saying by the Associated Press news agency.

Please remember that everything, including the development of corns or bunions on your feet, is evidence of Global Warming.

Kicking It 'Old School'

Only In St. Charles, Missouri (maybe): Wedding brawl ends in arrests

A brawl outside of a wedding reception sent six people to jail.
The incident happened about 9:25 p.m. Saturday night in the parking lot of the Foundry Art Centre, 520 North Main Street on the edge of the historic district in St. Charles.

Police gave this account of the incident:

When officers arrived, Michael A. Williams, 33, was lying on the ground, and another man, James Skaggs, 31, was sitting on top of him, punching him in the face. Police told Skaggs to stop fighting, but he refused, and an officer tased him, causing Skaggs to fall off Williams.

Skaggs' sister, Susan Swim, 35, became upset, and jumped on the back of the police officer. The officer was able to push her off, and she fell on the ground. At one point during the melee, another wedding guest, Joshua Jackson, 20, was hit over the head with a whiskey bottle.

Maybe someone didn't get what they wanted on their gift registry?

Getting hit over the head with a whiskey bottle has got to hurt like a sonofabitch, but what a way to make the paper! Joshua can just sit back and retire after that one.