blueollie

end of April…

Workout notes 4000 yard swim; 500 alternating free/back, 500 alternating fly, free, back, free, 10 x (100 free, pull, fins) 53:58; kind of slow. My legs are a bit sore from yesterday.

Politics

Obama and Clinton draw crowds in California; Obama gets a more enthusiastic welcome.

Sen. Barack Obama (news, bio, voting record) of Illinois wowed California Democrats at their annual convention on Saturday, drawing a more passionate welcome than Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton received hours earlier in this state that carries new clout in the presidential primaries.

More than 2,000 party activists frequently rose to their feet in cheers as Obama, who has served just two years in the U.S. Senate, talked about his desire to end the war in Iraq and usher in a new political era in Washington.

“It is time to put an end to this war,” Obama, of Illinois, said at the convention center in San Diego shortly before many started chanting his surname.

Even Clinton supporters recognized Obama’s speech — full of generalities such as the need to “turn the page” — had tapped into the crowd’s emotions.

“It was the same thing in 2003 for Howard Dean,” said Andrea Dew Steele, 38, referring to the former Vermont governor who made a strong showing early in the last presidential race largely because of his opposition to the war.

“We have a very progressive left-wing constituency here in California. Obama’s extremely talented, but this is Hillary’s time,” said Steele, who wore a Clinton sticker on her lapel.

Democrats were making their pitch to a state that has become key in the primaries since California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last month signed a law moving up its primary to February 2008 from June to give the state a greater role in the presidential selection.

Note: Obama is not exactly sucking up to the entire liberal community, as one Kos blogger points out.

He is doing very well in the polls, at the moment.

Disclaimer: I am an Obama supporter, for what it’s worth.

For the first time in the Election 2008 season, somebody other than New York Senator Hillary Clinton is on top in the race for the Democratic Presidential nomination.

Oy, I wouldn’t want to be in Clinton headquarters this morning…

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows Illinois Senator Barack Obama with a statistically insignificant two point advantage over the former First Lady. It’s Obama 32% Clinton 30%. Former North Carolina Senator John Edwards remains in third with support holding steady at 17%. No other candidate tops 3%. The survey was conducted April 23-26, 2007 meaning that the overwhelming majority of the interviews were completed before last Thursday’s debate in South Carolina. The impact of the debate will be measured in polling conducted this week.

A few more thoughts.

1. It is SO early. Polls mean very little, as we learned in 2004 (Kerry was at 3% in Iowa three weeks out…)

2. That said, this poll says far more about Hillary’s weaknesses than it says about either Obama or Edwards’ strengths.

3. I would still hate to be working in Hillary’s headquarters this morning…

And for all you Edwards junkies…he still does best in a general election match-up. So moral of the story: be happy if you like Obama or Edwards.

Odds and Ends

Bill Moyers: had a good PBS special. In case you missed it, a Kos blogger has it in parts on youtube.

If you are rich and have to go to jail, there are places where you can pay for a jail cell upgrade!

A couple of news articles recently pointed to some of the awful class differences we’re facing. The most egregious was the front page piece in the New York Times. In California, if you’re crime is not too serious, you can pay around $100 a day to stay in a considerably nicer jail cell, separate from the general population. The unfairness of this should be obvious- rich people are doing easier time. Two people, convicted of the same crime, given the same sentence, and the one with more money in a nicer, safer cell. Separate, unequal.

Administrators for the prisons say they need the money. In California we lock up too many people, the prison system is stretched to capacity. In fact, well beyond capacity. So what should we do?

I suppose that this is good news for Bush administration officials and other members of the Republic party leadership.

Religion

This is interesting:

Television personality Bill Maher, host of HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher,” says Christians and others who are religious suffer from a neurological disorder that “stops people from thinking.”

“We are a nation that is unenlightened because of religion. I do believe that. I think that religion stops people from thinking. I think it justifies crazies. I think flying planes into a building was a faith-based initiative. I think religion is a neurological disorder. If you look at it logically, it’s something that was drilled into your head when you were a small child. It certainly was drilled into mine at that age. And you really can’t be responsible when you are a kid for what adults put into your head.”

The former host of “Politically Incorrect” said the lack of enlightenment of so many Americans means the nation actually has more in common with its enemies than one might think.

Said Maher: “When you look at beliefs in such things as, do you go to heaven, is there a devil, we have more in common with Turkey and Iran and Syria than we do with European nations and Canada and nations that, yes, I would consider more enlightened than us.”
[…]

Later in the interview, Maher returned to the childhood-religion theme, comparing fairy tales to Bible stories:

“When you were a kid and they were telling you whatever you believe in religion, do you think if they had switched the fairy tales that they read to you in bed with the Bible, you would know the difference?

“Do you think if it was the fairy tale about a man who lived inside of a whale and it was religion that Jack built a beanstalk today, you would know the difference? Why do you believe in one fairy tale and not the other? Just because adults told you it was true and they scared you into believing it, at pain of death, at pain of burning in hell.”

Hat tip to Mel Seesholtz who tipped us to this article. Seesholtz goes on to say:

[…]The “root of evil” theme was echoed by the president of Creation Worldview Ministries, Grady McMirty – “a full-time creation evangelist who travels the world teaching Christian and secular audiences about the scientific evidence supporting the biblical view of creationism” – when he claimed that teaching the reality-based theory of evolution was largely responsible for the massacre at Virginia Tech. McMirty’s nonsensical rant was the focus of a story carried by One News Now, the reincarnation of Don Wildmon’s American Family Association’s Agape Press propaganda organ, which is notorious for its own pathologies.

Let’s be honest. Only someone with a neurological disorder or a pathological need to promote stupidity and ignorance in the name of a bible-based, fairy tale worldview would argue for “scientific” answers in Genesis or that “belief in evolution is the root of most of modern society’s evils.” When one considers the realities unveiled by quantum mechanics, Einstein’s relativity and, more recently membrane theory, the pathology called “the biblical worldview” and the mental disorder – or more likely the ulterior motives – of those advocating it become clearer and even more sinister.

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April 30, 2007 Posted by | edwards, hillary clinton, obama, politics/social, religion, swimming | 1 Comment

Video Sunday: Intelligent Design is Idiotic

Workout notes 2 loops of the McNaughton course (used the red trail instead of the bluebird parts): 2:57, 3:11 (6:09). It doesn’t matter how slowly I do the first loop; I always slow way down on the second! At least, I have of late. Still, it did get hot out there and I guzzled three bottles of water.

The good news is that my overall time was faster than last week, and I finished feeling much fresher.

I wore hiking boots and cotton socks; the latter was a mistake. There were other hikers out there; almost all of them were slender. Go figure. I also saw some horseback riders and berry hunters.

When you come to this bridge, you are 2 miles from the finish of a 10 mile loop.

This is from the top of “golf hill”, which is about 4 miles into the 10 mile loop:

Creationism

Here is a nice series of videos (total time under an hour, or about 10 minutes each) on the so-called Intelligent Design trial in Dover.

What is so wrong about teaching this as “science”?

It is bad science policy, as this so-called theory has zero standing in the larger mainstream scientific community. If you don’t believe that, surf to the biology department page at any major university (one that doesn’t have a religious requirement of its faculty) and see what is being taught and researched.

And it is illegal, as it is nothing more than a type of creationism with presupposes a deity.

Note: one of the biggest opponents of this so-called theory is a Jesuit Priest! He is on video number 5.

A note to all of my theist friends and loved ones: this is not about theism vs. atheism; it is about science. Yes, we want to be fair when we teach, but we should only teach established science.

Here is an analogy from my profession: I am a mathematics professor with, to be blunt, a rather undistinguished (but real) research record. I have published credible mathematics in estabished, peer reviewed journals. When I submit something for publication, another mathematician (or several) reviews is for accuracy and relevance and the referee(s) make a recommendation to the editorial board.
Later, the papers are reviewed by someone else and the reviews are themselves published.

This is called a peer reviewed process.

But we have our crackpots. On rare occasion, an established mathematician thinks that they have solved a major unsolved problem when in fact they haven’t.

And, all too often, some crank manages to get false mathematics pubished in a place where NOTHING is rejected; see Underwood Dudley’s fun book Mathematical Cranks for cases of this.

So, if one of these cranks wants equal time to present his/her side of a mathematical theorem (e. g., the real numbers are countable, all angles can be trisected via ruler and compass constructions under the axioms of Euclidian geometry, etc.), should we give them “equal time” under the guise of being “fair” and “hearing all sides”?

Certainly not!

If you are still uncertain, ask yourself how confident you’d be in modern medicine if “all sides” were given “equal time” in medical research.

Enjoy the videos! (they might get nuked by youtube soon..but I got a chance to see them and will seek to buy a copy)





April 29, 2007 Posted by | creationism, hiking, mathematics, politics/social, religion, ultra, walking | Leave a comment

Last April Saturday

Workout Notes 1 mile walking to warm up, 5K “running” in 26:27 (trail/road mix). This was the Wildlife Prairie Park Race in, where else, Wildlife Prairie Park. Barbara and I picked up my buddy Tracy and we got there early for some warming up and socialization.

The race used to be a 4 miler on the floodplain trail; this one was a mixture of roads (maybe 1 km), gravel roads (maybe another 1 km) and then grass trail. There were a few small hills and ups and downs.

I started too far back in the pack and had to do some weaving in and out to get to mile 1. That took 8:55! After which I settled; I seemed to do ok on the grass and not so well on the road. But, this is my first run in about 3 weeks. Mile 2 came at 17:15 and I was going back and forth with another guy; he got away but I almost ran him down at the finish line.

But when I stopped…wow…my lungs burned and my heart was pounding. I am just not used to the intensity of running.

At just over 35 minutes Tracy came in; she was using an almost “shuffle walk” style of run. I joked about “you know, they say that the longer a couple stays together, the more alike they become” and she just roared.

Then 23 minutes after that, Barbara came in. She had thought that she had signed up for a two mile walk; they ended up doing 5K instead.

At the race, I got to talk to the Jefferies, the Fennels, Steve Shane and Carey Weaver among others.

It was a fun way to spend the morning though I’ve come to realize that I am going to be slow-slow-slow so long as I do nothing but walking and swimming during training.

I ended up finishing 79 out of over 240, but there were many walkers there.

Politics

Rudy Giuliani: evidently he is going to have problems with the Republican base; remember that he has had some views on things like abortion and gay rights that don’t sit too well with the fundies, as I’ve blogged before. He is also wrong about Iraq.

This is what it is leading to. (thanks to R. J. Eskow)

Jerry Falwell highlighted Rudy Giuliani’s dilemma in an email to supporters today: Guiliani’s only hope of becoming the GOP nominee is to overcome his past by being publicly held hostage to the religious right. He’s probably already lost some centrist support by reversing himself on core social issues, but if he expected gratitude from his new allies he’ll be disappointed. In fact, Falwell wasted no time before turning up the heat.

The canny ex-DA’s been checkmated by the preacher from Lynchburg.

The New York Sun covered Giuliani’s reversal on the topic of civil unions yesterday, calling it “a startling departure from his previously stated position.” But this change does more than just leave him open to the charge of compromising his convictions for political expediency. It also gives the far right extraordinary leverage over his candidacy. Having burned his bridges to moderates, he now has to do whatever it takes to placate religious conservatives.

Falwell immediately used his email list to remind his supporters of Guiliani’s past positions on abortion as well as civil unions. Falwell wrote of the former New York mayor, “he is the candidate we wish we could love.” (emphasis mine)

The politician/preacher goes on to take predictable swipes at Hollywood before re-emphasizing the need to take control of the judiciary. He concludes: “So while Mr. Giuliani’s abrupt rebuke of the New Hampshire Senate’s bill is welcomed, we are still hopeful for more encouraging evidence of his commitment to social conservatism.”

Here’s where it now stands: Giuliani has already exposed himself to the charge of political expediency, which a Democratic opponent would be foolish not to use against him. So he’s already paid a high price. The mayor has foreclosed the option of running to the left of his party (which, in fairness to him, probably would have ensured his defeat in the primaries.)

I love it! Grab the popcorn….

Yeah, this is Mr. Straight Talk express (aka Senator McCain) with the “Rev.” Falwell. I wonder if gluttony is considered one of the deadly sins in his church.

Laura Bush’s gaffe

Finally, she is getting the type of attention that she richly deserves. Thanks to Matthew Hubbard.

“No one suffers more than their president and, uh… and uh I do.”

Laura Bush on the Today Show, interviewed by Ann Curry.

Don’t you wish that for just one moment, you could have been Ann Curry and asked the obvious follow-up question?

Here’s how I would have put it. “Mrs. Bush, let’s do a thought experiment. Close your eyes and imagine that one of your daughters isn’t coming home for Thanksgiving. She isn’t coming because she’s dead, she died in Iraq. She won’t be at Thanksgiving or Christmas or any family get together ever again, because she died in Iraq.”

“Now open your eyes. Here’s the reality; both of your daughters are alive and well, and there is no chance of them dying in Iraq. That’s the real world.”

“Which felt worse: The time with your eyes closed or the time with your eyes open?”

Of course, she’d be pissed as hell when she opened her eyes, like I would care two cents about her feelings after she had made such a ridiculous comment. But how does she even think to say such a thing?

The first option is that she wasn‘t thinking. Her mouth started moving and what came out came out. Being fair, we all say stupid stuff sometimes.

The second option is that she has no feelings whatsoever. The thought experiment I asked her to might be an impossible task for her. Empathy might be completely beyond her capacity. Humans like this certainly exist, and not all of them are psycho killers.

A third option is that she is a run-of-the-mill modern conservative, the pissed off people, many of them at the top of the heap in America, who actually buy the nonsense argument that they are an oppressed class. How can the people on Fox Noise Channel sell the idea that the phrase “Happy Holidays” is an attack on Christianity? How can a third-string academic like Ward Churchill become a sign of the apocalypse? How can Giuliani act like the Republicans will keep up safe and the Democrats will put our lives at risk given the record of the last six years? Because the “just plain folks” have been indoctrinated that their changing way of life is not a natural consequence of the modern world, but instead a deliberate attack by the enemies of all that is right and good, which in the conservative world means the liberals.

Oh, you don’t remember who Ward Churchill is? You know, the only time I hear about him is when I get a mailing from a right wing nutjob group, warning us that liberals like him are out to get us all! Hmmm, when is the last time you saw this guy with one of our candidates? Now ask the same about, say, Ann Coulter.

Ok.

Religion/Humor

These are mostly for entertainment value.

Fun with Fundies

Those Fundies say the darndest things: from Illinoize blogger Dan L.

Here, some of what the local fundies are up to are discussed. For the record, I am against “hate crimes” laws; to me acts can be punished but thoughts shouldn’t be. Yes, motive indeed matters (e. g., killing someone who has just harmed a loved one versus killing someone for money). But, as far as I am concerned, you should be allowed to hate whoever the hell you want to hate; it is the ACTION that should be punished.

But nevertheless, I enjoyed the rest of the article; here is a bit of it:

But the real fun these days comes from HB1331 or as IFI dubs it The Homosexual/Shack-Up Teachers Bill which gives some employees the right to grant their domestic partner their death benefits. It’s interesting that IFI writes up as an ‘excessive cost’ issue as where if these particular teachers were married we’d be paying the benefits anyway therefore IFI’s sole argument is that queer folk and people who don’t subscribe to Christian extremist rhetoric about relationship validation through the church shouldn’t get any money should their spouse pass. Remember: People who don’t live the so called Christian life style are second class citizens and aren’t entitled to superficial ‘special rights’ like money.

Side note: If you’d like to know why fighting gay marriage is entirely a lost cause, it’s because even if SSM legislation doesn’t come quickly, major employers are quickly adding domestic partnership benefits to their employment jackets and as the business world moves in that direction, so too will the public sector regardless of what trailer living fundies boycott – simply because queer folk on the whole have a profound amount of disposable income based on the fact that the vast majority of them are DINKs.

In order to really understand what’s going on here you can spend some time taking a look at how the fundies view marriage but if you’re really interested in seeing how they think, your best bet is to start with the fundie views on sex – simply because you’ll find that almost every issue they take a huge stance on really relates back to sex. Even abortion, the long time fundie call (and probably one of the few issues where fundamentalists are on an acceptable side of the fence, though for entirely the wrong reasons) really is more about sex then it is about babies not being killed in the womb.

Jill Stanek was nice enough to admit it for us:

Gays and pro-aborts both fight for the same goal: Sex without judgment or consequences.

So while Jill is busy cooking up arguments for why we shouldn’t vaccinate girls against the HPV vaccine, the real reason is because it empowers men and women to have sex without consequence, which if I remember correctly I already told you people and here she is essentially admitting that I’m right and that all of you wingnuts babbling about the great evil of STD vaccination are also full of it. And yes, I am gloating.

Here is another one of those “don’t despair, even the unwashed fundies might be won over but only if we quit insulting them” type of articles:

Redneck Liberation Theology: or, Why are leftists so fucking afraid of God?
By Joe Bageant

[…]
But in looking back, I realize I’ve used a very broad brush in painting American fundamentalism…over simplified some complex things, because painting any big picture of a big nation must necessarily be rendered with the largest brushes in the artists’ bundle.

Broad strokes or not, America is an extremely religious nation, especially for an alleged member of “The First World,” with all the implications of social progress the term implies—or once did. And we will remain a religious place for a long while yet. So when it comes to social change, a religious country is what we have to work with. Not a socialist nation, not a particularly moral nation, and certainly not a spiritually liberated nation, but a religious one that seems especially prone to fervid kitschy expression (hell, what in America isn’t kitsch?) such as being “born again in the blood” or “raptured up” or mega-churches that resemble Wal-Mart stores, but with lousy parking arrangements.

[…]Joke as I may though, I have witnessed men and women be quite convincingly born again, shed old selves and become different and better human beings for the rest of their lives. The most recent was a one-eyed ex-con crack dealer named Jerry who studied nutritional science in prison, then upon release lived with his mom while he worked as a dishwasher and fry cook to accumulate money so he could go to Africa and save babies from malnutrition. Now if a man like Jerry, who is a Charismatic Holiness Pentecostal—which is about as fundamentalist as you can get—can be that born again, moved to genuine ecstatic and absolute belief in the promise of liberation through the elimination of human suffering, (which, by the way, is a fundamental Buddhist principle) then others can also be born again into on-the-ground liberation of the kind we lefties claim to admire, the kind that is shaping a new Latin America.

Jerry has done just that. He says “My liberation came while I was in solitary lockup, after raping a white dude so I could stay protected by my gang.” Today I called the bar-restaurant where he washed dishes. The manager said he’d left the country, but didn’t know where to. Jerry is proof that any man may arrive at inner liberation by his own solitary path, but most are led to it, and all arrive along one of humanity’s many roads of human suffering, both material and inner, that instill inner peace and compassion.

Upon surface observation these days, it is difficult to believe that not all American fundamentalist Christians are lacking in the compassion their leadership only mimics on the television screen. Yet millions of them donate billions toward what they are told provides heath care and sustenance to the world’s indigenous peoples, but which is used to sponsor religious demagoguery in unseen corners of the world. This is not to say there aren’t plenty of fundamentalists solely interested in conversion of vulnerable Second and Third World strangers, plenty of “churchy folks” who cannot get enough of video footage of their sponsored missionary’s ministry unto the Hottentotts or “Keechee” Indians of Latin America. “Look at’em eat with their fingers, Janet, and they let them little babies run around with their ding dongs hanging out.”

In the world’s big picture, however—the unedited version we are never allowed to see in American media—most American fundamentalists are being screwed blue by the same global economic pillage as, say, the Quiche Indians of Guatemala. Working class American fundamentalists suffer extractive capitalism’s vampirism the same as the Third World, but by a more incremental yet nonetheless relentless process. A scam is a scam and while you may blame the victims for ignorance, you cannot blame them for trust and good will toward men.

Now hold onto your drawers and get this. Some working class fundamentalists are beginning to get a sense of what even the most educated of Americans seem congenitally blind to—the inevitable brutality of capitalism’s march through history—mainly because it is marching in their direction this time, creating bankruptcy, lost homes, credit meltdowns, and job insecurity for the hardest working, most obedient and faithful people in America—the traditional working class. Just like their brothers in the Third World, the economic “cures” they are subjected to always turn out to be worse than the sickness. Some now notice that when unemployment rises, so does the stock market, and when real wages drop the “economy” soars, according to the news reports. All sorts of folks are beginning to disabuse themselves of the notion that the American economy and the American people are the same thing. As in: “I work like hell, get paid and I buy stuff and I pay taxes. Ain’t that the fucking economy?” Or as one very dedicated local blue collar fundamentalist put it a while back when I was writing my book, “The big guys have always had it all over the little feller, but it’s gettin’ entawrly out of hand. Sooner or later somethin’s gotta be done to give a workin man a chance again. This ain’t what Our Lord intended.” […]

Richard Dawkins and Francis Collins debate about religion and science: Time ran a nice article which had these two men discussing some of the issues with one another. Both are world class scientists; both way, way, way smarter than I can ever hope to be. Both believe that evolution happened; both see it was fact (as it is). But Collins believes in a deity that exists outside of our space-time universe and sees nothing in science that conflicts with that belief, though he accepts a handfull of supernatural miracles. Dawkins is an atheist, though he holds that it is possible that there is “something incredibly grand and incomprehensible and beyond our present understanding.”

In short, “being consistent with science” is good enough for Collins, where Dawkins wants evidence if he is going to believe, and he sees none.

The link to the article (which I can recommend) is here; I’ll post a few highlights.

Richard Dawkins, perhaps its foremost polemicist, has just come out with The God Delusion (Houghton Mifflin), the rare volume whose position is so clear it forgoes a subtitle. The five-week New York Times best seller (now at No. 8) attacks faith philosophically and historically as well as scientifically, but leans heavily on Darwinian theory, which was Dawkins’ expertise as a young scientist and more recently as an explicator of evolutionary psychology so lucid that he occupies the Charles Simonyi professorship for the public understanding of science at Oxford University.

Dawkins is riding the crest of an atheist literary wave. In 2004, The End of Faith, a multipronged indictment by neuroscience grad student Sam Harris, was published (over 400,000 copies in print). Harris has written a 96-page follow-up, Letter to a Christian Nation, which is now No. 14 on the Times list. Last February, Tufts University philosopher Daniel Dennett produced Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, which has sold fewer copies but has helped usher the discussion into the public arena.
[…]

Informed conciliators have recently become more vocal. Stanford University biologist Joan Roughgarden has just come out with Evolution and Christian Faith, which provides what she calls a “strong Christian defense” of evolutionary biology, illustrating the discipline’s major concepts with biblical passages. Entomologist Edward O. Wilson, a famous skeptic of standard faith, has written The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth, urging believers and non-believers to unite over conservation. But foremost of those arguing for common ground is Francis Collins.

Collins’ devotion to genetics is, if possible, greater than Dawkins’. Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute since 1993, he headed a multinational 2,400-scientist team that co-mapped the 3 billion biochemical letters of our genetic blueprint, a milestone that then President Bill Clinton honored in a 2000 White House ceremony, comparing the genome chart to Meriwether Lewis’ map of his fateful continental exploration. Collins continues to lead his institute in studying the genome and mining it for medical breakthroughs.

He is also a forthright Christian who converted from atheism at age 27 and now finds time to advise young evangelical scientists on how to declare their faith in science’s largely agnostic upper reaches. His summer best seller, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (Free Press), laid out some of the arguments he brought to bear in the 90-minute debate TIME arranged between Dawkins and Collins in our offices at the Time & Life Building in New York City on Sept. 30. Some excerpts from their spirited exchange:
[…]

TIME: Professor Dawkins, you think Darwin’s theory of evolution does more than simply contradict the Genesis story.

DAWKINS: Yes. For centuries the most powerful argument for God’s existence from the physical world was the so-called argument from design: Living things are so beautiful and elegant and so apparently purposeful, they could only have been made by an intelligent designer. But Darwin provided a simpler explanation. His way is a gradual, incremental improvement starting from very simple beginnings and working up step by tiny incremental step to more complexity, more elegance, more adaptive perfection. Each step is not too improbable for us to countenance, but when you add them up cumulatively over millions of years, you get these monsters of improbability, like the human brain and the rain forest. It should warn us against ever again assuming that because something is complicated, God must have done it.

COLLINS: I don’t see that Professor Dawkins’ basic account of evolution is incompatible with God’s having designed it.

TIME: When would this have occurred?

COLLINS: By being outside of nature, God is also outside of space and time. Hence, at the moment of the creation of the universe, God could also have activated evolution, with full knowledge of how it would turn out, perhaps even including our having this conversation. The idea that he could both foresee the future and also give us spirit and free will to carry out our own desires becomes entirely acceptable.

DAWKINS: I think that’s a tremendous cop-out. If God wanted to create life and create humans, it would be slightly odd that he should choose the extraordinarily roundabout way of waiting for 10 billion years before life got started and then waiting for another 4 billion years until you got human beings capable of worshipping and sinning and all the other things religious people are interested in.

COLLINS: Who are we to say that that was an odd way to do it? I don’t think that it is God’s purpose to make his intention absolutely obvious to us. If it suits him to be a deity that we must seek without being forced to, would it not have been sensible for him to use the mechanism of evolution without posting obvious road signs to reveal his role in creation?
[…]

COLLINS: This is an interesting choice. Barring a theoretical resolution, which I think is unlikely, you either have to say there are zillions of parallel universes out there that we can’t observe at present or you have to say there was a plan. I actually find the argument of the existence of a God who did the planning more compelling than the bubbling of all these multiverses. So Occam’s razor–Occam says you should choose the explanation that is most simple and straightforward–leads me more to believe in God than in the multiverse, which seems quite a stretch of the imagination.

DAWKINS: I accept that there may be things far grander and more incomprehensible than we can possibly imagine. What I can’t understand is why you invoke improbability and yet you will not admit that you’re shooting yourself in the foot by postulating something just as improbable, magicking into existence the word God.

COLLINS: My God is not improbable to me. He has no need of a creation story for himself or to be fine-tuned by something else. God is the answer to all of those “How must it have come to be” questions.

DAWKINS: I think that’s the mother and father of all cop-outs. It’s an honest scientific quest to discover where this apparent improbability comes from. Now Dr. Collins says, “Well, God did it. And God needs no explanation because God is outside all this.” Well, what an incredible evasion of the responsibility to explain. Scientists don’t do that. Scientists say, “We’re working on it. We’re struggling to understand.”

COLLINS: Certainly science should continue to see whether we can find evidence for multiverses that might explain why our own universe seems to be so finely tuned. But I do object to the assumption that anything that might be outside of nature is ruled out of the conversation. That’s an impoverished view of the kinds of questions we humans can ask, such as “Why am I here?”, “What happens after we die?”, “Is there a God?” If you refuse to acknowledge their appropriateness, you end up with a zero probability of God after examining the natural world because it doesn’t convince you on a proof basis. But if your mind is open about whether God might exist, you can point to aspects of the universe that are consistent with that conclusion.

DAWKINS: To me, the right approach is to say we are profoundly ignorant of these matters. We need to work on them. But to suddenly say the answer is God–it’s that that seems to me to close off the discussion.

TIME: Could the answer be God?

DAWKINS: There could be something incredibly grand and incomprehensible and beyond our present understanding.

COLLINS: That’s God.

DAWKINS: Yes. But it could be any of a billion Gods. It could be God of the Martians or of the inhabitants of Alpha Centauri. The chance of its being a particular God, Yahweh, the God of Jesus, is vanishingly small–at the least, the onus is on you to demonstrate why you think that’s the case.

[…]
DAWKINS: Physicists are working on the Big Bang, and one day they may or may not solve it. However, what Dr. Collins has just been–may I call you Francis?

COLLINS: Oh, please, Richard, do so.

DAWKINS: What Francis was just saying about Genesis was, of course, a little private quarrel between him and his Fundamentalist colleagues …

COLLINS: It’s not so private. It’s rather public. [Laughs.]

DAWKINS: … It would be unseemly for me to enter in except to suggest that he’d save himself an awful lot of trouble if he just simply ceased to give them the time of day. Why bother with these clowns?

COLLINS: Richard, I think we don’t do a service to dialogue between science and faith to characterize sincere people by calling them names. That inspires an even more dug-in position. Atheists sometimes come across as a bit arrogant in this regard, and characterizing faith as something only an idiot would attach themselves to is not likely to help your case.

Good stuff, that. It appears to me that Dr. Collins is comfortable compartmentizing his mind, saving his scientific mind (which works very well) for non-religious matters. For me, that isn’t a satisfying way to live.

Perhaps that is why 60% of all scientists are atheists, and 93% of “Academy of Science” caliber scientists are atheists as well. (Source: God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins)

On a less lofty level, ….enjoy…

April 28, 2007 Posted by | creationism, politics/social, religion, running, time trial/ race | 2 Comments

Friday Night

This is a rare Friday Night blogging session as the wife is out on school business.

Running notes: a funny video about the “day after a marathon”:

Mathematics Teaching Notes
Here are some of the questions that students have asked me this semester:

One day I was going over how to do conditional probability problems with continuous random variables and contrasted the following type of problem:

P(Y_{1}\leq a|Y_{2}\leq b)=\frac{P(Y_{1}\leq a)\cap P(Y_{2}\leq b)}{P(Y_{2}\leq b)}

with this kind of problem:
P(Y_{1}\leq a|Y_{2}=b)

which of course uses the conditional probability density function which I gave an intuitive (aka “hand waving”) justification for:

f(y_{1}|y_{2})=\frac{f(y_{1},y_{2})}{f_{2}(y_{2})}

One student objected: he knew that:

P(A|B)=\frac{P(A)\cap P(B)}{P(B)}
but then remarked: in the contiuous case, isn’t
P(Y_{i}=b)=0
So your definition wouldn’t make logical sense?

So, I went into the limiting process that went into the definition of the conditional density function and how a L’Hospital’s rule type application was really needed.

In my multi-varialbe class, one student posed a couple of questions:
1) I was talking about curvature of space curves; she wondered if it were possible for curves to have negative curvature. So, we chatted a bit about surfaces.

2) Later, when talking about gradient vector fields, she wondered if a vector field could be gradient with respect to a domain that was a subset of n-space.

You know, sometimes teaching really is rewarding. 🙂

Other topics of interest

Stephen Hawking: this great physist got to experience weightlessness:

Hat tip to the Dependable Renegade for posting this.

Is this serious?

I don’t know what to make of the clipping that my wife sent me:

(click here for a larger version)

Part of me wants to believe this is real because I love it when wingnuts make idiots of themselves. But part of me thinks that this is some liberal having a bit of fun at the expense of the wingnuts.

Bob Geiger posted a video of Olberman letting Giuliani have it over his remark about the election of a Democrat leading to more 9-11 type of attacks. He also spread a nice video which encourages President Bush to sign the Iraq accountability bill that was presented to him

as well as Democratic reaction to the bill.

Bill Richardson

Here is a thoughtful Daily Kos Diary on Bill Richardson’s performance in the Democratic debates and his admission that he gave Alberto Gonzales a bit more “benefit of the doubt” due to his race (and then went on to call for his ouster).

liberaltruthsayer says, in part:

I was taken aback by Brian William’s first question to Governor Richardson. I expected him to be questioned on Alberto Gonzales, but I did not expect the tone of the question and the body language by Williams to be so antagonistic. The line Williams used, “do you think this is a good way to make personnel decisions?” was smug and truculent. I really think that Richardson may have also been taken aback by the way the question was couched, and initially I was not happy with the answer Richardson gave, but I have given it more thought, and I think he gave the appropriate one.

Now I know that is going to bring some fire, but here is why I agree with Richardson. Gonzales is a man who came from a very disadvantaged position, worked hard, and made something of himself. He has acheived a great deal of success against some pretty difficult odds. (This is before he aligned himself with the devil and his hand puppet). It is appropriate for Richardson to want other hispanics to do well. It is appropriate for Richardson to support other hispanics and encourage them to be successful. It is appropriate for Richardson to tout the successes of other hispanics, regardless of their political affiliation. Gonzales opened a lot of doors for other hispanics by becoming the first hispanic Attorney General. It is as appropriate to praise this success, as it is to praise the success of Condaleeza Rice (this is hugely painful for me to write) and the path she has paved for black women. This is where I refer you back to the devil and his hand puppet.

But, looking beyond the hispanic thing, Richardson showed wisdom in waiting a couple of days to join the “Gonzales lynch mob.” He was willing to listen to his testimony, which turned out to be, “I don’t remember.” At that point, Richardson said, “Yep, he’s gotta go.” I think he was right to reserve judgement, and it shows integrity and courage for him to admit his reasons for doing so. I am glad he stuck to his guns on that one.

In my opinion, Richardson showed some guts by admitting this; you know, even Presidential candidates are human. As far as Gonzales goes, I posted how I felt:

here is what I think about Gonzales:

It is kind of what I think about Clarence Thomas.

If you are a Democratic Hispanic and you want to “get ahead”, you have a hell of a long line of very talented folks out there.

But if you want to move up as a Republican, the line is much shorter and much less talented.

Gonzales took the short line…and we see how good he is.

So frankly, though I like Governor Richardson, Gonzales can rot for all I care.

Democratic Presidential Debate: Fact Check weighs in; catches some minor spinning but no outrageous lies.

A summary:

Eight Democratic candidates debated in South Carolina. We found some minor stumbles.

* Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, explaining his call to show compassion for Palestinians, put a spin on the remark that differs from the way it was originally reported by an Iowa newspaper.
* Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York said the Virginia Tech killer had been ruled a threat “to others” and involuntarily committed because of his mental state. Neither is true.
* Obama boasted of taking no money from registered lobbyists but didn’t mention that he does accept money from their family members and partners and from ex-lobbyists.

Analysis
In the first full-blown presidential debate of the 2008 campaign, eight Democratic candidates appeared for 90 minutes on the campus of South Carolina State University in Orangeburg. Spin was neither rampant nor absent.

They go on to discuss the claims and “sort of spins” one by one. It is worth a read; on the whole the Democrats came out looking ok.

April 28, 2007 Posted by | bill richardson, hillary clinton, mathematics, obama, politics/social, running, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Winners of last night’s debate: American People

Workout notes 4000 yards of swimming; 5 x 100 fist on 2, 5 x (3g/f/5g/f) on 2,
6 x 100 with 100 back, 50 kick recovery (on the 6): 1:31, 1:29, 1:29, 1:28, 1:28, 1:30, 10 x (25 fly, 25 free) fins, 1000 pull (16:41).

The “fast” sets were too slow; I had a bit too much left. I did better when I focused on chasing someone down.

Politics MSNBC has a nice site which features video of the debate, and analysis of it.

In the final minute of Thursday night’s televised Democratic presidential debate, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware was asked by NBC’s Brian Williams if he saw anybody on stage, aside possibly from himself, who could lead the party to victory next year.

“I see a bunch of winners,” Biden replied, gallantly singling out Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) for special praise.

Biden may be biased, but the overall impression from the first formal debate from this early-starting campaign is that the Democrats have a field of contenders that, by any historical measure, matches in quality any the party has offered in decades. […]

At least six of the eight declared candidates — Biden, Clinton, Sens. Barack Obama (Ill.) and Christopher J. Dodd (Conn.), former senator John Edwards (N.C.) and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson — showed themselves to be both substantive and direct in their responses. The other two, Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (Ohio) and former senator Mike Gravel (Alaska), provided a counterpoint of left-wing ideas that drew rebukes for a lack of seriousness from Biden and Obama. The challenges from the liberal flank allowed almost all the others to assert that, despite their criticisms of President Bush’s Iraq policy, they are ready to use military force to retaliate against future terrorist attacks.

Few sharp jabs
The debate, aired nationally on MSNBC and carried by NBC stations in South Carolina, site of an early primary next winter, was fast-paced and civil, with few sharp jabs among the serious contenders.

The site I linked to has a video to the response to the Iraq question in full, as well has other videos of highlights.

Senator Biden posted the various responses

Bill Richardson


Barack Obama


Hillary Clinton


John Edwards


Joe Bidens April 23’rd floor speech; recommended


Gravel: he is lots of fun to listen to…and he makes sense.

April 27, 2007 Posted by | bill richardson, edwards, hillary clinton, obama, politics/social, swimming | 1 Comment

Sign the Bill, Mr. President!

The House and the Senate approved a bill called the Iraq Accountability Bill. It provides funds for the troops and to bring this idiotic occupation to an end.

John Murtha’s floor speech:

Senator Dick Durbin has a site from which you can send a petition to President Bush urging him to sign the bill.

Senator John Kerry weighs in as well:

Here they go again…

On the eve of a dangerous Bush veto of a new course in Iraq, the desperate Republicans sent out the attacker in chief Dick Cheney to assail yet another Dem leader.

Why? Because the Majority Leader Harry Reid said that “as long as we follow the president’s path in Iraq, the war is lost. But there is still a chance to change course — and we must change course.”

Any questions? The president’s own generals say there is no military solution to the civil war in Iraq, that it requires the political solution the Iraqis have resisted. But that didn’t stop the GOP from trying to spin conscience into controversy. Predictably, Dick Cheney went on the attack, calling Harry Reid’s comments “uninformed and misleading.”

We know better. Uninformed and misleading? If Dick Cheney wants to see the meaning of those words, he should look in the mirror…

Come see a history of the vice president’s rhetoric to see something really uninformed and misleading:

http://www.johnkerry.com/standingwithharry/

Write letters to you local paper, call in to talk shows, let our media gatekeepers know that you want a real debate, and you stand by people who are fighting for one.

I started us off by posting a defense of Harry Reid on the Huffington Post. You can read it here:

Huffington Post

Thanks,

John Kerry

As for the idiots who are screaming about “defeatism”, read what Bob Geiger has to say:

Given their penchant for routine and grotesque hypocrisy, it should never surprise us that the craven crew in the Republican party, who claim above all else to support the troops and America’s Veterans, are the first to Swiftboat them, cut their funding and ridicule them if they happen to be members of the Democratic party.

What’s also politically interesting is that it’s almost always the Republicans — who seem to spend more time in prison cells for corruption than they do in the military and who generally avoid military service at every turn — who embrace war, death and killing like Rush Limbaugh hugging up to his local pharmacist. Meanwhile, the biggest opponents of wars like the Iraq quagmire are either Democrats like John Kerry and John Murtha or Republicans like Chuck Hagel who have actually seen war and know that it’s something far more grim than making big bucks for your buddies at Halliburton.

And the little screech monkeys on the right-wing side of the media never fail to go after Democrats who oppose the disastrous war in Iraq, whether it’s through challenging their patriotism and the terms of their military service or just good old-fashioned, junior-high school, calling someone “chicken” like we have today as Exhibit A from Michelle Malkin.

Malkin, who, of course, has never served in the military, proudly posted on her personal web site, Hot Air and YouTube, today a video she stars in showing her in a faux cheerleader costume — the cheerleader image just forever went from wholesome to skank in my mind — and bellowing out “The Defeatocrats’ Cheer.”

She does the old “gimme an ‘L,’ gimme an ‘O'” routine until she spells out “loser” complete with the clucking of a chicken after each silly chant and showing unflattering pictures of Kerry, Murtha, Ted Kennedy, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi with each letter of the word. Malkin even waves little white flags at the end to signify surrender from the Democrats.
[…]
But once again we find ourselves in bizarro world, where the people who have never served our country in uniform, challenge the fortitude and patriotism of those who have.

Kennedy did two years in the Army from 1951 through 1953. Kerry had his tour in Vietnam, for which he was awarded a Silver Star, a Bronze Star with Combat V and three Purple Hearts. Jack Murtha served in the U.S. Marines for 37 years, is also a Vietnam combat veteran and was decorated with the Bronze Star, two Purple Hearts, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry and the Navy Distinguished Service Medal.

These are the guys that Malkin and her ilk say are cowards.

But she’s totally cool with these guys (with descriptions courtesy of the great folks at ChickenhawkCards.com, creators of “The Deck of Republican Chickenhawks”):

* George W. Bush: Went National Guard, checked the box marked “Do Not Volunteer for Overseas” on his application and then went AWOL.
* Dick Cheney: “Had other priorities” like four student deferments.
* Karl Rove: Avoided the draft. Many schools, no degrees.
* Paul Wolfowitz: Avoided service through college deferment.
* Condoleeza Rice: Chickenhawk enabler. Never served.
* Tom DeLay: Chose to enlist in the war on cockroaches, fleas and termites as the owner of an exterminator business, rather than joining Kerry or Murtha in battling the Vietcong.
* Newt Gingrich: Avoided Vietnam through college deferment.
* Rudy Giuliani: Never served.
* Sam Brownback: Never served.
* Mitt Romney: Never served.

And let’s not forget some of Malkin’s colleagues from the GOP Barking Head Brigade:

* Ann Coulter: Never served.
* Rush Limbaugh: Got out of Vietnam due to an ingrown hair on his buttocks.
* Bill O’Reilly: Avoided Vietnam through college deferment.
* Sean Hannity: Never served — though he talks tough.

So I’ll ask the same question I have often asked in these scenarios: If you were in a war, with a firefight coming up and the crap about to really hit the fan, who would you rather have in your foxhole: Murtha, Kerry, Kennedy and even Chuck Hagel? Or Bush, Cheney, Rove and Gingrich?

I thought so.

And two things for the record: While Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi did not serve in the military, they do not fit the prevailing definition of a Chickenhawk, which is “A person enthusiastic about war, provided someone else fights it; particularly when that enthusiasm is undimmed by personal experience with war; most emphatically when that lack of experience came in spite of ample opportunity in that person’s youth.” […]

He also reports on the outcome of the vote here. Kudos to Republican Senators Hagle and Smith who made the correct vote, and shame on Senator Lieberman for his horrible vote.

April 26, 2007 Posted by | politics/social | 6 Comments

April 26: Various topics

Workout Notes Last night: 4 miles of walking; 2.25 on my own (indoor track) 2 in 23:31 (12:30/11:01) then 2 miles with the group.

This morning: 2000 yards of swimming; including 3 x 500 on the 9 (8:30, 8:22, 8:21). I was going to try for 1500 yards straight but my concentration wasn’t there. Yoga went ok, then later I did 4 miles (just after the rain) wearing my muddy hiking boots; 36:30 for 6 laps in West Peoria (many puddles).

Politics-Social

Iraq: Laura Bush says that, when it comes to the Iraq war, “no one suffers more than their President and I do.” Yes, I am not making that up. There is a video so you can see the context.

My oh my. I am afraid that I beg to differ.

From the Pat Tillman hearings: his brother testifies (15 minutes)

So, how was the Tillman family treated afterward?

According to the Army officer who directed the first official inquiry, the Army might have more of a clue about the shooter’s identity than it has let on. Asked whether ballistics work was done to identify who fired the fatal shots, Lt. Col. Ralph Kauzlarich told ESPN.com, “I think, yeah, they did. And I think they know [who fired]. But I never found out.”

Mansfield and other Rangers who attended the post-incident meeting said — both in interviews with ESPN.com and in documents from the Army investigations — they were advised by debriefers that night that the unit as a whole bore the responsibility for Tillman’s death and they should avoid placing blame on any one person.

In his interview with ESPN.com, Kauzlarich also said he was not driven to identify Tillman’s killer.
“You know what? I don’t think it really matters,” Kauzlarich said. “And the reason I say that — you got to look at the overall situation here that these guys were fighting in. And somebody hit him. So would you hold that guy [who] hit him responsible for hitting him, when everybody was shooting in that direction, given the situation? We’ll see how the [Defense Department Inspector General’s] investigation comes out. But I had no issue on not finding a specific person responsible for doing it.”

Kauzlarich said he is confident the current probe will not result in criminal charges against the shooter or shooters. He said investigators would not still be examining the incident at all if it were not for Tillman’s NFL celebrity — he walked away from a multimillion-dollar contract with the Arizona Cardinals when he enlisted — and the pressure brought to bear by Tillman’s family on a number of Washington politicos.

“His parents continue to ask for it to be looked at,” Kauzlarich said. “And that is really their prerogative. And if they have the right backing, the right powerful people in our government to continue to let it happen, then that is the case.

“But there [have] been numerous unfortunate cases of fratricide, and the parents have basically said, ‘OK, it was an unfortunate accident.’ And they let it go. So this is — I don’t know, these people have a hard time letting it go. It may be because of their religious beliefs.”

In a transcript of his interview with Brig. Gen. Gary Jones during a November 2004 investigation, Kauzlarich said he’d learned Kevin Tillman, Pat’s brother and fellow Army Ranger who was a part of the battle the night Pat Tillman died, objected to the presence of a chaplain and the saying of prayers during a repatriation ceremony in Germany before his brother’s body was returned to the United States.

Kauzlarich, now a battalion commanding officer at Fort Riley in Kansas, further suggested the Tillman family’s unhappiness with the findings of past investigations might be because of the absence of a Christian faith in their lives.

Gee, I’ve wondered if Richard Dawkins was being too harsh when he suggested that religion is actually harmful. Now I see that he has a point!

Of course, anti atheist bigotry in the military is far from an isolated incident.

Excuse me, sir, but doesn’t SAYING things like this make YOU a bigot???

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 19, 2006

APOLOGY NEEDED AS NATIONAL GUARD GENERAL BLASTS “AGNOSTICS, ATHEISTS, BIGOTS” DURING NAACP SPEECH

In a shocking “about face,” the Chief of the National Guard Bureau praised American diversity and the role played by minorities in our nation’s military defense, but then suddenly chastised “Agnostics, atheists and bigots.”

Lt. Army Gen. H. Steven Blum made the remarks while speaking to the NAACPs Annual Armed Services and Veterans Affairs Awards Dinner in Washington, DC on July 18. The story, including quotes from Blum’s talk, was reported in an American Forces Press Service dispatch. According to writer Rudi Williams:

“As for the military’s diversity, Blum said, the battlefield might be the greatest equalizer. ‘Agnostics, atheists and bigots suddenly lose all that when their life is on the line,’ Blum said. ‘Something that they lived with their whole life believing gets thrown out the door, and they grasp the comrade next them, and they don’t care what color their skin is, and they don’t care where they pray…’ “

Giuliani says: Democratic Presidential victory in 2008 could lead to more 9-11 type attacks.

Yep, he said it!

Yesterday Rudy Giuliani said the country would be safer if it elects a Republican in 2008 — especially if that Republican is him:

“If any Republican is elected president — and I think obviously I would be the best at this — we will remain on offense….I listen a little to the Democrats and if one of them gets elected, we are going on defense,” Giuliani continued. “We will wave the white flag on Iraq. We will cut back on the Patriot Act, electronic surveillance, interrogation and we will be back to our pre-Sept. 11 attitude of defense.”

He added: “The Democrats do not understand the full nature and scope of the terrorist war against us.”

You know, he might have a point? After all, in 2000, a Democrat won the election (if you go by who got more votes) and in 2001 we were indeed attacked. Oh yeah, it was a Republican who blew off the warnings who was actually in office at the time.

So I was curious: how would the Dem candidates respond? With the usual whining? Or with something smart? Greg Sargent has today’s responses from Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton over at his site and the verdict is in: more whining. Obama: “Rudy Giuliani today has taken the politics of fear to a new low blah blah blah.” Clinton: “One of the great tragedies of this Administration is that the President failed to keep this country unified after 9/11 yada yada yada.”

Unbelievable. Neither one of them took the chance to do what Rudy did: explain in a few short sentences why the country would be safer with a Democrat in the Oval Office. Is it really that hard? Giuliani’s position is clear: more war, more domestic surveillance, more torture, and fewer civil liberties. And while it’s true that the liberal position on making America secure is a little more complicated than the schoolyard version of foreign affairs beloved of Bush-era Republicans, it’s not that complicated. So instead of complaining about how mean Giuliani is, why can’t Obama and Clinton just tell us what they’d do?

Yeah, I am afraid that I agree with Kevin Drum here.

Here is Obama’s response:

Democratic presidential candidates on Wednesday rebuked Republican rival Rudy Giuliani for suggesting that the United States could face another major terrorist attack if a Democrat is elected in 2008. The former New York mayor did not back down.

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama said Giuliani, who was in office on Sept. 11, 2001, should not be making the terrorist threat into “the punchline of another political attack.”

“Rudy Giuliani today has taken the politics of fear to a new low and I believe Americans are ready to reject those kind of politics,” Obama said in a statement.

Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards said Giuliani knows better than to suggest there is a “superior Republican way to fight terrorism.” Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said protecting the country from terrorism “shouldn’t be a political football.”

“It should be a solemn responsibility that all of us pledge to fulfill regardless of what party we’re in,” she said when asked about her fellow New Yorker’s comment at a Capitol Hill news conference.

Hey, how about this: which party had control of the executive branch when we were attacked? Which president didn’t retialiate for the Cole incident once the investigation linked Al-Qeda to it?

Sigh….

Update: Tony Hendra at the Smirking Chimp gets it right.

[…]
Unlike more generous souls though, I’m still waiting for someone, anyone really, to take the merest scintilla of blame for the carnage. But all I hear, time after nauseating time, is people exploiting for their own vile and venal ends, the pain and grief of my friends and fellow New Yorkers.

So excuse me for asking an impolite question Mr Mayor. Didn’t 9/11 happen on YOUR WATCH?

Didn’t 9/11 happen on YOUR PARTY’s watch?

Didn’t 9/11 happen on the watch of the so-called President and so-called Vice-President, whose seizure of power nine months earlier YOU endorsed?

Here’s the inescapable conclusion Mr Mayor. YOU and YOUR PARTY – which happened to be in power at the time – were responsible for the safety of our beloved city. You were on the ramparts. And you FAILED TO STOP THE ENEMY..

UTTERLY FAILED.

A twisted shard of deadly logic from that terrible morning has been carefully nurtured into historical fact: those who let 9/11 happen are the best people around to stop it happening again.

HUH?

Here’s the actual historical fact: you had at your disposal all the resources of the nation, all the intelligence, weaponry, manpower of the government of YOUR PARTY. And as we now know the leaders of YOUR PARTY – which certainly should have included the Mayor of New York City -and the government run by YOUR PARTY, knew full well that an attack was coming, an imminent attack on some American target, almost certainly in a major city, an attack it was your duty to have all possible knowledge of and take every possible step to prevent.

But you and your fellow leaders did NOTHING. The attacks were allowed to happen. In OUR city. The city you took an oath to PROTECT. I don’t give a damn how fine and resolute you were on camera, once the carnage was under way. What were you doing in the days and weeks and months before that? Especially given that in the arena of foreign affairs, we now had a violently confrontational administration? Especially given that the WTC had already been attacked by terrorists and they’d vowed to try again. Even taking the most understanding approach that you were distracted by other matters or no-one could be sure which city would be attacked, your failure was still incalculably CATASTROPHIC.

So the question remains:

How in GOD’S NAME are you, of all people, qualified to protect us against further attacks?

How in GOD’S NAME is ANYONE who stands with the cowering blowhards in the White House qualified to protect us from further attacks?[…]

April 26, 2007 Posted by | edwards, obama, politics/social, religion, swimming, walking | 4 Comments

Rainy Wednesday

Workout notes 4500 yards of swimming; 500 fist in 9:15 (tried to lap the swimmer in the next lane; almost made it), 10 x 50 (drill/swim) fins, 20 x 50 on the 1 (form, 42-43 strokes, 48-49 seconds), 10 x 100 (fly, free, back, free) slow (1:50’s), 1000 pull 16:53, 10 x (25 free, 25 back) in 9:50.

Like an idiot, I sent in my FANS 24 hour walk application. I also sent in my request to enter the Centurion USA 2007 race. Frankly, I have, at best, a very remote chance of making 100 miles in 24 hours of walking. I did that exactly once, with perfect training and perfect conditions (Cornbelt 24 hour).

My results after that haven’t been so hot; 88 miles in The Netherlands (one month later), 81 miles in Dallas (same year), 85 miles at the 24 hour split at Leanhorse, 70 miles at the Centurion 2005 event, 76 miles in Houston (2006), and 83 miles last year (FANS).

The advantage I have this year is that I am about 10 pounds lighter and my upper body is in better shape. And, I am certainly not “raced out” like I was the year before; I’ll be much better rested. And my piriformis is not hurting.

The huge disadvantage I’ll have is my dearth of “training miles in the bank”; I have only started up what I could call training. I’ve had a couple of 6 hour training hikes and I should have time for another three 6 hour walks and one 12 hour walk.

I think that 70 miles is a realistic goal.

Politics

McGovern smacks down Cheney

George McGovern may be nearly 85 years old, but he isn’t sitting back and taking crap from Dick Cheney. From today’s Los Angeles Times

Vice President Dick Cheney recently attacked my 1972 presidential platform and contended that today’s Democratic Party has reverted to the views I advocated in 1972. In a sense, this is a compliment, both to me and the Democratic Party. Cheney intended no such compliment. Instead, he twisted my views and those of my party beyond recognition. The city where the vice president spoke, Chicago, is sometimes dubbed “the Windy City.” Cheney converted the chilly wind of Chicago into hot air. […]

He also said that the McGovern way is to surrender in Iraq and leave the U.S. exposed to new dangers. The truth is that I oppose the Iraq war, just as I opposed the Vietnam War, because these two conflicts have weakened the U.S. and diminished our standing in the world and our national security.

In the war of my youth, World War II, I volunteered for military service at the age of 19 and flew 35 combat missions, winning the Distinguished Flying Cross as the pilot of a B-24 bomber. By contrast, in the war of his youth, the Vietnam War, Cheney got five deferments and has never seen a day of combat — a record matched by President Bush. […]

On one point I do agree with Cheney: Today’s Democrats are taking positions on the Iraq war similar to the views I held toward the Vietnam War. But that is all to the good. […]

We, of course, already know that when Cheney endorses a war, he exempts himself from participation. On second thought, maybe it’s wise to keep Cheney off the battlefield — he might end up shooting his comrades rather than the enemy.

On a more serious note, instead of listening to the foolishness of the neoconservative ideologues, the Cheney-Bush team might better heed the words of a real conservative, Edmund Burke: “A conscientious man would be cautious how he dealt in blood.”


Dawkins on O’Reilly…I am sure that O’Reilly spoke for the masses, but to me he came off looking like an idiot.


Obama talking to the Chicago Council of Global Affairs

A commercial for Bill Richardson

Quick (30 seconds); I love his last line.

April 25, 2007 Posted by | bill richardson, injury, obama, politics/social, religion, swimming, ultra, walking | Leave a comment

Nailed…

Taking a break from grading papers…
I read the following Gary Younge article in The Nation:

On December 5, 1955, Martin Luther King Jr. took to the pulpit at the Holt Street Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, and thanked the Lord for Rosa Parks. “And, since it had to happen, I’m happy it happened to a person like Mrs. Parks,” he said. “For nobody can doubt the boundless outreach of her integrity. Nobody can doubt the height of her character, nobody can doubt the depth of her Christian commitment and devotion to the teachings of Jesus.”
The truth is, it didn’t have to happen to Mrs. Parks. Nine months earlier it had already happened to Claudette Colvin, a 15-year-old activist who was ejected from the city’s buses in almost identical circumstances. But the local civil rights leadership felt Colvin was too dark, too poor and, once she fell pregnant, too compromised to spearhead the kind of struggle they had in mind. And so they dropped her and waited for a better test case.
[….]

Consciously or not, activists frequently make strategic calculations regarding which victim best exemplifies the full extent of the injustice. In the short term, the tactic might occasionally be justified. “They picked the right person,” Colvin once told me. “They needed someone who could bring together all the classes. They wouldn’t have followed me.” But the sacrifice of the unworthy nearly always compromises the ultimate principle–that women have the right to wear what they want free of harassment; that even terrorists deserve a fair trial; that working-class, single-parent, dark-skinned black women are entitled to civil rights.
Which brings us to the Don Imus affair and his racist, misogynistic branding of the Rutgers women’s basketball team as a group of “nappy-headed ho’s.” For all the column inches spent on it, Imus’s demise never really demanded much great philosophical reflection. He thrived on his right to offend; others exercised their right to be offended. For the first time in a long time the balance of forces was against him. He prided himself on being inflammatory; finally he got burned.
[…]

If these women had less poise maybe Imus would still be on the air. But they suffered as only black people are supposed to suffer–with dignity. This is not a criticism of the team or even a description so much as a statement of fact. The crowning of the worthy victim has very little to do with the actual victims, and everything to do with how those with more power or less principle or both seek to cast them in a broader morality play of their own crafting.
These women were doing what they do best. “These young ladies are valedictorians,” said their coach, Vivian Stringer. “Future doctors, musical prodigies and, yes, even Girl Scouts. They are all young ladies of class. They are distinctive, articulate.” Articulate like Barack Obama? Apparently, to be worthy of white America’s sympathy, they had to be. For corporate America to weigh its profits against their dignity and decide in their favor, nothing less than perfection would have done.
[…]
The trouble with all this is that black women’s lives are far from perfect. Almost two-thirds of black women between 18 and 24 don’t go to college. They are, however, three and a half times more likely to go to prison and three times more likely to be killed with a firearm than white women. They earn 52 percent of white men’s wages, and 27 percent live below the poverty line.
It took Snoop Dogg to break it down. When asked about the difference between Imus’s comments and rap lyrics he answered, “It’s a completely different scenario…. [Rappers] are not talking about collegiate basketball girls who have made it to the next level in education and sports. We’re talking about ho’s that’s in the ‘hood that ain’t doing shit.
Two days later Kenya Franklin wrote to the Chicago Tribune with an almost identical argument. “If another person uses rap music to defend Imus’s comments, I will scream! Those women were NOT video ‘ho’s’ shaking their asses; they are athletes and college students that are working hard to make something of themselves.”

Sigh. Yes, I see the author’s point. And yes, he is right. If someone has an injustice done to them, it should matter that the victim of the injustice is not a model citizen (e. g., say the police plant evidence and end up convicting someone with a long criminal record).

But the political realities are otherwise; darn it I want to “win” and we aren’t going to win by continuing to lead with our chin. You know how lawyers select juries? Well there are times when we need to select victims too.

Sure, the crack-head with a criminal record doesn’t deserve, say, AIDS, but one is more likely to get more funding if one trots out a more sympathetic victim. Sometimes you need to “play to win”.

April 24, 2007 Posted by | politics/social | Leave a comment

Too much blogging…

I got slapped down on the IVS webboards for talking too much and researching too little. Darn it, the truth hurts! 🙂 It isn’t as if I’ve done nothing however…

Workout notes 2100 yards of swimming; 10 x 100 on the 1:45 (1:38, 36, 36, 36, 35, 35, 35, 36, 35, 35), 500 pull in 8:11, 100 back. Then yoga with Ms. V, then 2.3 miles with her (2 x 1 mile in 12 minutes, 4 minute walk break), then 6 more slow walking miles.

My walking is slow, but improving.

Speaking of running: Dependablerenegade (aka watertiger) has a funny marathon photo.

More of the same from the BBC
Yes, this boulder weighs 330 pounds…

And this lady knitted the whole way.

Hmmm, that makes me wonder if Mairead Nesbitt could be persuaded to run a marathon while playing her violin? 🙂

By the way, there are some other cool photos, e-cards and wall papers on her site. One of the e-cards has the above photo on it (with music); I e-mailed it to my wife and she didn’t appreciate it? 😉

Politics/Social

Obama catches up to Clinton in the polls

Check out the latest polls. Not only has Obama tied Clinton, but he shows the highest “core support” with 33% saying that they would certainly vote for him if he were running in the general election; that is higher than any other candidate!

For the fourth straight week, Illinois Senator Barack Obama (news, bio, voting record) (D) has gained ground and he has finally caught New York Senator Hillary Clinton in the race for the Democratic Presidential nomination. It’s now Obama 32% Clinton 32% and former North Carolina Senator John Edwards holding steady at 17%. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson is a distant fourth at 3%. Senators Chris Dodd and Joe Biden each attract 1% support. So does General Wesley Clark.

Obama has been steadily gaining ground during April. Last week, Clinton had a two-point lead. Two weeks ago, it was Clinton by five. The week before that, the former First Lady was up by seven. Our last release in March found Clinton enjoying a double digit lead. Clinton now holds a narrow edge among white voters while Obama leads by 16% among African-Americans.

A separate survey showed that Obama has the highest level of core support among all Presidential candidates–33% of voters say they’d definitely vote for him if he’s on the ballot in November 2008.

Rasmussen Reports releases national polling data on the Democratic nomination process every Monday and on the Republican race each Tuesday. The current survey of 579 Likely Democratic Primary Voters was conducted April 16-19, 2007. The margin of sampling error is +/-4 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence.

Among all voters, Clinton is viewed favorably by 50% and unfavorably by 49%. Obama’s numbers are a bit stronger–59% favorable and 34% unfavorable. The two candidates are essentially even among Democrats–Clinton is viewed favorably by 74% in her party while Obama is viewed favorably by 72%. Among unaffiliated voters, Clinton is viewed favorably by 50%, Obama by 67%.

Soldier asks a good question
Sarahnity at the Daily Kos posted a diary entry in which a soldier asks a very good question:

Sgt. Jim Wilt, stationed in the public affairs office at Bagram base, just issued a public opinion piece where he asks why is it that all federal locations, including military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, were ordered to fly the flag at half mast in honor of the victims of the Virginia Tech massacre, and yet the flag has never been ordered to be lowered for any of the US service memebers killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

His proposal:

I can understand not lowering flags across the country for the death of a single servicemember. But shouldn’t the servicemember’s state lower the flag to show their respect to the fallen trooper, if only for one day? Some states do, but not all of them.

At the very minimum, the servicemember’s forward operating base and the installation of his or her parent unit should show their respect by lowering the flag for one day.

I have a wild guess. It is because of attitudes like this one which I blogged about previously:

But even if he had meant to say something like what he was accused of saying, well, let’s just say that the views attributed to him are the views of many of the chickenhawks that support this war:

http://www.post-gazette.com/...

Staff Sgt. Jason Rivera, 26, a Marine recruiter in Pittsburgh, went to the home of a high school student who had expressed interest in joining the Marine Reserve to talk to his parents.

It was a large home in a well-to-do suburb north of the city. Two American flags adorned the yard. The prospect’s mom greeted him wearing an American flag T-shirt.

“I want you to know we support you,” she gushed.

Rivera soon reached the limits of her support.

Military service isn’t for our son. It isn’t for our kind of people, she told him.

To which one commenter replied:

It was the episode where Lois becomes a model, but the first part of the ep had the Griffins attending a yacht regatta in Newport. There was a PA announcement honoring all the families who had children in Iraq, and the crowd bursts out laughing. Pretty much says it all, IMO.

A couple of notes

Are baby boomer retirees sicker than their parents? New research suggests that this is the case; I kind of wonder if this is due to modern medicine allowing weaker people to reach old age?

Rob Stein of the Washington Post published a thoughtful article last Friday on some recent research which suggests that baby boomers are moving into their elder years in poorer health than today’s seniors did.

The Post article concentrates on the health questions involved, and only touches lightly on what the political and economic implications might be if this finding is corroborated. Those implications are significant. If the largest generation in American history turns out to be more disabled and unhealthy than expected, the impact on society will be enormous.
[…]
Before projecting the impact of this trend on other sectors of society, however, the question has to be asked: Is it true? Is the Baby Boom generation sicker or more disabled that its predecessors? Sadly, the tentative answer appears to be yes. The University of Michigan’s Health and Retirement Study, which is the main source of the Post article, seems to have made some compelling findings over the last several years.

My first thought (and possibly yours) was that these findings could represent higher expectations for health on the part of boomers, rather than lower actual health findings. While the results are self-reported, however, they don’t appear to be restricted to the wealthier segments of society where those expectations would probably exist. And they’ve been replicated by several other studies.

In other words, we’re not necessarily talking about latté-sipping yuppies. We’re talking about Americans across a broad range of income levels and social groups, born between 1948 and 1960, who are less healthy than their predecessors. Why?

For one thing, income levels between rich and poor is growing wider. That leaves more people working harder for less income, and less able to provide themselves with a healthy way of life. For another, people are working harder. While the economic data are difficult to interpret, there is reason to believe that employed people are working longer hours (while the unemployed are subject to the stress of financial uncertainty).

Even the latté crowd may not be immune from the ill health effects of wealth and technological change. Cell phones, laptops, and PDAs have created the longer hours, constant anxiety, and lack of true downtime that seem endemic in so many well-paying jobs these days. The health toll of 24/7 connectedness to high-stress jobs has yet to be measured, as far as I know, but it could be significant.

The French Presidential Elections: runoff between a conservative and a socialist. Smirking Chimp blogger Tony Hendra pleads to the French people to reject the conservative:

I’m worried. Really worried. How can you have made Nicolas Sarkozy, the pint-size tough guy of the hard-right the leading contender to be next President of France? Not that I want to meddle in your internal politics, but since he’s gotten there in large part by claiming to be pro-American, I think I should explain exactly what that means.

Here’s something I’ve noticed – when Nicky-boy comes across the pond he heads straight for his favorite American destinations: places like the American Enterprise Institute or folks like the mail-order-college graduates who staff the Weekly Standard and the National Review. He fawns on them, they fawn on him. They ply him with the usual unearned privileges they so covet themselves – motorcades and banquets, flattery and freebies. They can’t believe they’ve actually found a cheese-eating monkey who for once says all the things they want to hear. About stomping on the disadvantaged for instance (especially if they’re Muslim), or opening up France’s superb public services to privatization. Or his ranting about renewing France’s national identity, France for the French, blah-blah-blah. In fact his ultra-nationalism is a good reason for my concern. Because while it may sound inspiring to you, what his fawning friends are thinking to themselves as they hear his chauvinistic drivel is: the more French France becomes, the less European it will be. And anything that weakens Europe is one of their sweetest dreams.[…]

More on the elections here.

Finally

Redstate update has a party!

April 24, 2007 Posted by | bill richardson, edwards, hillary clinton, obama, politics/social, running, swimming, walking | 1 Comment