30 April 2009 (am)

Workout notes light rain, 60s; I did 5 miles on a drenched riverpath course; a small part of the goose loop was underwater (at 1/2). I then walked one; Cathy lead the yoga class.

The geese and ducks appeared to be “enjoying” it.

Academia: plagiarism continues to be a problem in colleges. Personally, I am glad that I don’t have to worry about this.

Religion and Society
Here is a short note on how, as an ex-Christian, one can talk to Christians when debates over the validity of Christianity come up. Of course, one of the things one has to pay attention to is how the issues are framed.

Science: Some scientists are disgusted with Francis Collins’s campaign to reconcile religion with science; here is PZ Myers’s and Jerry Coyne’s take on this.


Here is President Obama’s press conference:

You can read the transcript here.

President Obama saying that he’ll consider serious ideas from the opposition but he won’t play games:

So How Is President Obama Doing? His approval ratings are still high, though some conservatives have trouble admitting this.

Many scientists are thrilled that President Obama is taking science and science funding seriously: (example one) (example two)

Senator Specter’s defection

First of all, he had been wooed by Vice President Biden. Yes, we know that we are getting a political opportunist (to put it politely) and note that one of his first votes as a Democrat was to vote against President Obama’s budget.

I admit that I am puzzled at the point that this Republican National Senate Committee ad is making:

Are they attempting to point out that Specter is still a Republican? I honestly miss the point of this ad.

Of course, some conservatives are saying “good riddance“.

More on the Republicans
BJ Stone points out that Newt Gingrich has put himself into a box; he is ready to blame President Obama if things don’t go well. So when asked if he would give President Obama credit if things went well…he said that he would but this isn’t going to happen. Let’s see; remember that they didn’t give President Clinton any credit at all.

Michelle Bachmann continues to be a source of great amusement.

The right wing media continues to play politics with the latest flu outbreak; some are blaming, well, the Mexicans:

Following an outbreak of swine flu in Mexico and subsequent confirmation of dozens of cases in the United States, conservative media personalities have baselessly blamed Mexican immigrants for spreading the disease across the border, continuing their long-standing trend of scapegoating immigrants while discussing major news stories. However, Rear Adm. Anne Schuchat, M.D., the interim deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s science and public health program, stated in an April 26 media availability: “I know that we have confirmation of disease in people who have traveled to Mexico, and I don’t know the numbers, but I know that that is definitely the case in some of our cases, and that’s an important factor to consider.” Indeed, several media reports on U.S. swine flu patients indicated that they had recently traveled to Mexico.

Examples of conservative media figures blaming Mexican immigrants for the spread of swine flu into the United States include:

* During the April 24 edition of his nationally syndicated radio show, Michael Savage stated: “Make no mistake about it: Illegal aliens are the carriers of the new strain of human-swine avian flu from Mexico.” Savage also stated, “If we lived in saner times, the borders would be closed immediately.” Savage went on to theorize that the outbreak might be part of a bioterrorism threat: “[C]ould this be a terrorist attack through Mexico? Could our dear friends in the radical Islamic countries have concocted this virus and planted it in Mexico knowing that you, [Homeland Security Secretary] Janet Napolitano, would do nothing to stop the flow of human traffic from Mexico?” Savage continued: “[T]hey are a perfect mule — perfect mules for bringing this virus into America. But you wouldn’t think that way, would you? Because you are incapable of protecting America’s homeland, Napolitano.” Savage also stated: “How do you protect yourself? What can you do? I’ll tell you what I’m going to do, and I don’t give a damn if you don’t like what I’m going to say. I’m going to have no contact anywhere with an illegal alien, and that starts in the restaurants.” He added, “I will have no any illegal alien workers around me. I will not have them in any of my properties, I will not have them anywhere near me.”

* During the April 27 edition of his nationally syndicated radio show, Neal Boortz asked: “[W]hat better way to sneak a virus into this country than give it to Mexicans? Right? I mean, one out of every 10 people born in Mexico is already living up here, and the rest are trying to get here. So you give — you give — you let this virus just spread in Mexico, where they don’t have a CDC.” Boortz went on to say: “So if you want to get that epidemic into this country, get it going real good and hot south of the border. And, you know, then just spread a rumor that there’s construction jobs available somewhere, and here it comes. Because we’re not gonna do anything to stop them from coming across the border.”

* In an April 25 blog post titled “Hey, maybe we’ll finally get serious about borders now,” syndicated columnist and Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin suggested that the outbreak was due to the United States’ “uncontrolled immigration,” writing: “I’ve blogged for years about the spread of contagious diseases from around the world into the U.S. as a result of uncontrolled immigration. We’ve heard for years from reckless open-borders ideologues who continue to insist there’s nothing to worry about. And we’ve heard for years that calling any attention to the dangers of allowing untold numbers of people to pass across our borders and through our other ports of entry without proper medical screening — as required of every legal visitor/immigrant to this country — is RAAAACIST.” Malkin added: “9/11 didn’t convince the open-borders zealots to put down their race cards and confront reality. Maybe the threat of their sons or daughters contracting a deadly virus spread from south of the border to their Manhattan prep schools will.” Contrary to Malkin’s suggestion, an April 27 Associated Press article reported of the New York City high school students infected with swine flu to whom she referred: “Officials think they started getting sick after some students returned from the spring break trip to Cancun.”

Additionally, on the April 27 edition of his nationally syndicated radio show, Fox News host Glenn Beck stated: “Gee, it would be nice if we had border security now, wouldn’t it?” Beck went on to assert: “But if you are a family and you’re down in Mexico and you’re dying and those in America are not, why wouldn’t you flood this border? Why wouldn’t you come across this border? It’s exactly what I warned of — different scenario, different reason of — I was talking about economic collapse. People start to come and rush this border, then what happens? Gee, it would be nice if we had some border security.”

Others see it as a phony fear mongering tactic to enable the government to gain more power (pots and kettles anyone? 🙂 )

Summary: Rush Limbaugh claimed that the Obama administration’s response to cases of swine flu in the U.S. “is designed to expand the role and power of governments and schools,” while Glenn Beck said the motivation behind the response “could be to move [President Obama’s] Health and Human Services person into the office rapidly.”

Indeed, the conservative blogs are abuzz with these sorts of theories.


This tendency has been mocked and ridiculed in “poe blogs” (e. g., here, here and here)

Dick Cheney has been noisy. Some in the media are telling him to just “go away”. Frankly, I hope that he doesn’t; I hope he continues to run off at the mouth.

Torture This Wall Street Journal editorial makes the point that some Democrats are complicit in this. Sure, some of the article is poorly argued:

Or maybe the speaker missed what former CIA Director (and Bill Clinton appointee) George Tenet writes in his memoir, “At the Center of the Storm,” about the CIA interrogation of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed:

“I believe none of these successes [in foiling terrorist plots] would have happened if we had had to treat KSM like a white-collar criminal — read him his Miranda rights and get him a lawyer who surely would have insisted his client simply shut up. In his initial interrogation by CIA officers, KSM was defiant. ‘I’ll talk to you guys,’ he said, ‘after I get to New York and see my lawyer.’ Apparently he thought he would be immediately shipped to the United States and indicted in the Southern District of New York. Had that happened, I am confident that we would have obtained none of the information he had in his head about imminent threats to the American people.”

Mr. Tenet continues: “From our interrogation of KSM and other senior al Qaeda members . . . we learned many things — not just tactical information leading to the next capture. For example, more than 20 plots had been put in motion by al Qaeda against U.S. infrastructure targets, including communications nodes, nuclear power plants, dams, bridges and tunnels.”

Did you catch that? This article appears to set up an artificial dichotomy between “being in the criminal justice system” and allowing for torture. In fact, not being in the criminal justice system does not mean that one has to torture; there are other interrogation techniques:

The techniques are controversial among experienced intelligence agency and military interrogators. Many feel that a confession obtained this way is an unreliable tool. Two experienced officers have told ABC that there is little to be gained by these techniques that could not be more effectively gained by a methodical, careful, psychologically based interrogation. According to a classified report prepared by the CIA Inspector General John Helgerwon and issued in 2004, the techniques “appeared to constitute cruel, and degrading treatment under the (Geneva) convention,” the New York Times reported on Nov. 9, 2005.

It is “bad interrogation. I mean you can get anyone to confess to anything if the torture’s bad enough,” said former CIA officer Bob Baer.

Larry Johnson, a former CIA officer and a deputy director of the State Department’s office of counterterrorism, recently wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “What real CIA field officers know firsthand is that it is better to build a relationship of trust … than to extract quick confessions through tactics such as those used by the Nazis and the Soviets.”

One argument in favor of their use: time. In the early days of al Qaeda captures, it was hoped that speeding confessions would result in the development of important operational knowledge in a timely fashion.

However, ABC News was told that at least three CIA officers declined to be trained in the techniques before a cadre of 14 were selected to use them on a dozen top al Qaeda suspects in order to obtain critical information. In at least one instance, ABC News was told that the techniques led to questionable information aimed at pleasing the interrogators and that this information had a significant impact on U.S. actions in Iraq.


April 30, 2009 - Posted by | 2008 Election, atheism, Barack Obama, Biden, economy, education, Joe Biden, obama, politics, politics/social, racism, ranting, religion, republicans, running, science, Spineless Democrats, training, world events

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