Archive for August, 2007


Friday, August 17th, 2007

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The decay of our infrastructure is not a result of our government lacking money.

Sympathy for the Devil

Thursday, August 16th, 2007

Gregg Easterbrook express some sympathy for Michael Vick:

There’s something deeply sick about the fact that you can go to the NFL’s official shop and order a Bills jersey with No. 32 and SIMPSON on the back — go here and try it yourself — or a Panthers jersey with CARRUTH on the back, the NFL system actually says “Great choice!” in response, but if you go here and try to order a Falcons’ jersey with Vick’s name or number, you’ll get a message saying your order cannot be processed.

Vick has no serious prior offenses and does not stand accused of any act of violence against a person. He grew up poor in the crime-and-drugs plagued Ridley Circle housing project of Newport News, Va., yet unlike many around him there did not succomb to the temptation of lawbreaking. If Vick goes to jail and loses his NFL career for a first offense of cruelty to animals and gambling, while [Ray] Lewis essentially got off scot-free for watching two human beings stabbed to death, that wouldn’t be “sending a message.” That would be a travesty of justice.

I must say, knowing the racial overtones of this phrase, that there is a whiff of a lynch mob in the anti-Vick screamers. Yes, what he is alleged to have done is terrible, but there’s an irony in PETA, of all people, claming the moral high ground. And having lived in a city that cheered the murder-watching Ray Lewis and the drug-dealing Jamal Lewis, I’m inclined to have a modicum of perspective.

And considering that our own cultural history includes this and this and various public brutal forms of this; considering that a vast swath of the American public thinks this and this are appropriate to treat human beings, we should be a little humbler before we brand someone as a violent psychopath.

Let’s condemn Michael Vick, yes. But let’s not get too far up that high horse.


Thursday, August 16th, 2007

Wired has the goods on who is editing what over at Wikipedia. Corporations, anti-Bushies and scientology lead the pack.

That’s It?

Thursday, August 16th, 2007

Jose Padilla has been convicted of conspiracy.

That’s it? That’s the best they could do? They imprisoned this American citizen for 3.5 years without access to an attorney and without charges. The used sensory and sleep deprivation to turn him into a shambling wreck of a human being. And in the end, they convicted him of something they could have charged him with the day he was arrested.

And so it goes.

So what was the point of raping his civil rights? What was the point of treating him like a second-class citizen? Why do we need secret trials if this conviction was so easy to get?

Expect Bush’s supporters — his few remaning supporters — to crow about this. I can just hear Limbaugh now: “See, you libs! We gave him a fair trial and he was convicted!” But this is a tragedy. The civil rights of all Americans were trampled for nothing.

More from Sully here.

No Justice, No Peace

Thursday, August 16th, 2007

Murder a sleeping man? 67 days in prison.

Smoke some pot because you’re sick? 1.5-4 years in prison.

Cato has the details.

Read up on the Winkler case here here and here. It seems to me that the defense’s story changed quite bit until they finally latched onto the battered wife defense — apparently verbal criticism and pressure for kinky sex now qualifies for homicide.

The jury convicted on voluntary manslaughter, which means it bought the “I was just pointing the gun at him to make a point and it went off!” defense, never mind the technical impossibility or the fact that Winkler was asleep at the time. But the foreman’s comments make it clear the jury wanted to completely acquit her – because of the alleged abuse.

The articles do not make it clear how much evidence was presented of spousal abuse but it seems entirely anecdotal. And it seems to me you need some pretty convincing evidence of pretty significant abuse because — let’s not mince words — Minister Winkler was effectively tried, convicted and executed for spousal abuse.

Funny me, I think there should be some evidence to back that up. I’m OK with the battered wife defense – a man who abuses his wife deserves what he gets. But there has to be some, you know, evidence before we allow someone to kite checks and shoot her sleeping husband. And I’m sorry – criticism and demands for kinky sex are not the same thing as beating the shit out of someone.

Cue angry screaming from feminists.

One other note. When I was in college, I would get into vociferous arguments on this subject. Women, particularly feminist women, would go on about how many men abuse women; how many men rape or sexually assault women; how many men oppress women — as though this were relevant. The unstated implication was that a woman murdering her husband was a “blow for the sisterhood” that was justified by the behaviour of men. (The particular case this logic was applied to was the Lorena Bobbit case — another assault on a sleeping man.)

But Winkler was not “men”, he was a man, an individual whose life was abruptly and brutally ended. He shouldn’t suffer for the crimes of his gender and more than I should punish my wife because so many women broke my heart or hurt my feelings.

No one is responsible for the crimes of his ancestors, his gender or his race. He is only responsible for the crimes he has comitted. If Winkler beat his wife, then — possibly — his killing was justified.

Light Blogging

Thursday, August 16th, 2007

I apologize for the light blogging — all two of you who are reading this. But it’s been crazy time in the Siegel household lately. To wit:

  • Abby the Babby has discovered how to go from happy to screaming in 2.7 seconds.
  • I fell sick this week and spent all of Tuesday asleep.
  • After a month of rain, we’ve gotten two weeks of sun, which meant I had two months of backlogged yardwork to do.
  • I’m trying to get a 70-page paper — the last chapter of my dissertation (my dissertation having been written six years ago) out the door. I submitted this paper in February. The referee didn’t get back to us until after more than two months. I’ve been busy with other things. And since submission, no less than four papers have been published whittling away the relevance of my paper. At this point, I just want to print it out and set fire to the fucking thing. It will then match the flames of my career. Sigh.
  • Anyway, so I’m not exactly in a blogging mood.

    Sign #45 You Are A Simpsons Geek

    Wednesday, August 15th, 2007

    After two years, we have someone living in the lot next to ours. Everytime I see them, I have to bury the temptation to say, “Hiddely-ho, neighborinos!”.

    They’re from Canada, so I assume they all talk like that.

    Kyoto and Forests

    Tuesday, August 14th, 2007

    Want another reason to oppose top-down solutions to global warming? How about the Kyoto Accord causing deforestation?

    He’s Back

    Tuesday, August 14th, 2007

    He’s Bad. TMQ returns.

    PS – And I made the same Bloom County reference as Easterbrook before I read the article.


    Monday, August 13th, 2007

    The name comes from Right-Thinking. It applies to the starched, vacuum-packed Governor of Massachusetts.

    Balko Blast

    Monday, August 13th, 2007

    Radley Balko has a raft of stories on injustice. I’m particularly struck by the case of Kenneth Foster, about to be executed under the ridiculous felony murder statute.

    MC Rove on the Shelf

    Monday, August 13th, 2007

    Karl Rove is out. But the surgery is too late to save the patient. Like most mediocre writers, I’ll let a better one speak for me:

    The man’s legacy is a conservative movement largely discredited and disunited, a president with lower consistent approval ratings than any in modern history, a generational shift to the Democrats, a resurgent al Qaeda, an endless catastrophe in Iraq, a long hard struggle in Afghanistan, a fiscal legacy that means bankrupting America within a decade, and the poisoning of American religion with politics and vice-versa. For this, he got two terms of power – which the GOP used mainly to enrich themselves, their clients and to expand government’s reach and and drain on the productive sector. In the re-election, the president with a relatively strong economy, and a war in progress, managed to eke out 51 percent. Why? Because Rove preferred to divide the country and get his 51 percent, than unite it and get America’s 60. In a time of grave danger and war, Rove picked party over country. Such a choice was and remains despicable.

    Rove is one of the worst political strategists in recent times. He took a chance to realign the country and to unite it in a war – and threw it away in a binge of hate-filled niche campaigning, polarization and short-term expediency. His divisive politics and elevation of corrupt mediocrities to every branch of government has turned an entire generation off the conservative label. And rightly so. It will take another generation to recover from the toxins he has injected, with the president’s eager approval, into the political culture and into the conservative soul.

    Lets put him and Bob Shrum in a box and throw it into the Atlantic.

    Chinese Toy Torture

    Monday, August 13th, 2007

    Looks like the man responsible for the lead-based toys has accidentally brutally stabbed himself in the chest while shaving. It’s supposedly common for disgraced Chinese officials to kill themselves. But I know I’m not the only one wondering if he had some help.


    Monday, August 13th, 2007

    Last week, it was announced that a new analysis of temperature data showed the hotest year in history was 1934. Limbaugh, Boortz and others have been using this to say, “global warming is a myth!” because we all know that something supported by hundred of pieces of evidence is wrong whenever one piece of evidence falls away.

    The Bad Astronomer take this nonsense apart:

    For the 1994 to 2006 bin I get a deviation of +0.57. The average temperature in the second bump is 0.1 degrees higher than the first. In other words, it was warmer on average in the last 13 years than any time in recorded history.

    Look again at the numbers. If you look at the top ten years, even with the new method, only the year of 2001 goes away (replaced with 1939, see chart below). All the other years are fairly stable, though the numbers themselves have changed. In other words, old method or new, more record years have happened in the last decade or so of the record keeping than you’d expect.

    There’s still no explanation as to why it was so hot in the 1930’s. I suspect it sunlight-blocking industrial pollutants played a role. in droping the temp.

    But it’s becoming clear that many who discuss global warming — on either side — have no idea how science works. Scientific knowledge is formed from all the facts, not carefully selected ones. A few planets warming does not prove the sun created global warming. A minor revision of temperature scales does not disprove global warming. A single bad hurricane does not prove it either.

    You have to take into account all the data.

    Update: TNR really takes the “conservatives” to task . Among other things, the 1930’s were local warming in the United States, not global warming. And the models aren’t constructed using surface temperatures.

    The global warming debunkers are increasingly reminding me of the creation scientists — in fact, they are much the same people. They will happily use one piece of evidence to debunk conclusions based on thousands of pieces of evidence. Their argument range from misunderstandings (“the temperatures were revised”) to scientifically unsounds theories (“it’s the Sun!”) to outright brassbound lies (“it’s all commies!”).

    Mind you, I’m not with the global warming crowd either, who are irresponsibly predicting disaster, jumping on every little factoid as though it proves global warming, shamefully exploiting unrlated tragedies for political gains and embracing stupid collectivist solutions.

    But at least the science is on their side.