Archive for October, 2007

No Medals Here

Monday, October 15th, 2007

Apparently, the NYT doesn’t think that a New Yorker winning the Congressional Medal of Honor is worthy of being printed in their paper. I mean, it’s nice and all. But the NYT is reserved for people who really achieve something.

Lordy Me!

Monday, October 15th, 2007

Turns out that our grand master plan to make kids skinny by weighing them in front of ther peers, allowing other kids to tease them and sending them home with notes is backfiring.

When are people going to learn? Government can’t solve problems as complex as obesity. Just stay the hell away from it.

USF

Sunday, October 14th, 2007

Well, the first BCS rankings are out and there is controversy because the University of South Florida is #2. I already heard Jimmy Johnson moaning that “computer don’t have eyes”, which is making them rank USF so highly.

Johnson, and everyone who is echoing him, is full of crap.

The computers don’t have eyes. They also don’t have memories. They look at the field and rank teams based on their performance this year. They look at South Florida and see a team that beat Auburn on the road, smothered North Carolina, beat West Virginia and destroyed UCF.

The best thing about the computers is that they are objective. They don’t go in for the SMT logic, which goes something like this: USF just can’t, just can’t be the #2 team in the country. They’ve only had a program since the Clinton years. No no no. We’re supposed to look at the teams and rank them based on how good we thought they were in the pre-season, or how much prestige they have. No way can a powerhouse like LSU finish behind USF. It’s just not right.

I have my issues with the computers but they are at least objective. They aren’t ranking the teams based on how famous they are, how much TV exposure they get or how they were ranked in the preseason. They rank them based on their performance and nothing but performance.

To paraphrase Billy Beane, we’re not selling jeans here. I don’t care how good a team “looks” if they’re not that good. I care how they perform week in and week out.

The one good things that might come out of this roller-coaster season is that it will put the final nail in the cofffin of the BCS. If we end up with, let’s say BC and Ohio State in the title game — while 1-loss Oklahoma and LSU are on the sidelines, no one will accept the result. If Ohio State, South Florida, Arizona State and BC all stumble – and we’re left with a whole bunch of 1-loss or even 2-loss teams, no one will respect the result.

We need a playoff. My preference would be something like this:

  • Keep the system mostly intact. The BCS will still take the six major conference champions and then two teams that are ranking highly in the BCS. Preference should be given to other conference champs. So MAC, WAC and C-USA champs will be given the open bid if they are ranked. I know a lot of #2 teams in major conferences will whine about being left out. But if you can’t win your conference, you don’t belong in the championship series.
  • Have the four majors bowls – Rose, Sugar, Orange and Fiesta, be the first round of playoffs on New Year’s Day. Keep traditional slotting – Rose Bowl will be Pac-10 and Big-10 champ; Sugar Bowl will have the SEC champ, etc.
  • The four bowl winners play again on January 8. The sites rotate. Each city in the major bowls will host the championship game one in four years; each city will host nothing one in four years; each city will host a semi-final every other year.
  • The championship game happens on January 15. Now that will mean extending the football season one week beyond its current format. I expect some people will object to interfering with classes. This is laughable coming from traditional football factories.
  • The thing I like about this system is it maintains tradition, established a bona-fide champ but keeps the final tourney exclusive so that only the best teams can make it. We might have, one year, a #18 ACC champ bull its ways to the final. But even in that extreme case, they will have had to overcome three of the top teams in the country.

    We’re gradually headed for precisely this system, which heretics like me have been advocating for ten years. I just wish we could have gotten there sooner. Then, maybe last year, Boise State and USC would have had a crack at Florida.

    Moderates

    Sunday, October 14th, 2007

    Remember how there are no Muslim moderates? Well, maybe there are:

    In a 29-page letter, representatives of many facets of Muslim life have petitioned their Christian counterparts to help find steps to be taken toward erasing the misunderstandings about each other that often lead to violence.

    Scores of Muslim clerics, theologians and academics issued an open letter yesterday to all Christian leaders saying the two religions need to work more closely together, given that they share the basic principles of worshiping one God and loving thy neighbor.

    No mention of the Jews, of course…

    Saturday Morning Linkorama

    Saturday, October 13th, 2007
  • Yeah, the Democrats aren’t a slave to special interests. That’s why they’re trying to massively expand the number of lawsuits being filed under ADA. These days, wearing glasses counts as being “disabled”. They’re also running a anti-gay, anti-abortion Religious Right idiot because he supports the trial lawyers.
  • Yes, the Star Trek prequel movie is going to suck. But it’s still cool that they’ve cast Simon Pegg as Scotty (or that that the writer of the article is named Siegel). If you haven’t seen Hot Fuzz or Shaun of the Dead, do so.
  • Gore Nobel round up. Both sarcasm and constructive criticism.
  • The DOJ is refusing to spend the money Congress allocated to test DNA samples of convicted felons. Because we can’t have innocent people getting freed from prison, can we?
  • An update on what’s going on with Ayaan Hirsi Ali
  • Consistency

    Thursday, October 11th, 2007

    So let me get this straight. When we site other nations’ legal ruling in support of forbidding the death penalty to minors, it’s bad bad evil evil. But it’s perfectly fine to site a 30 year old ruling from a foreign court in support of torture – even one that the court itself now regrets.

    Gotchya.

    My problem, you see, is that I tend to think about issues the same way. Issue after issue, I identify my principles, work through the arguments and get an answer. I’m not supposed to do that. I’m just supposed to accept that everything George Bush wants to do is right and find justification — any justification at all — for his positions.

    And here I was, going and thinking for myself. Idiot.

    Al Gore, Certified Genius

    Thursday, October 11th, 2007

    Before he wins the Nobel Prize, you should know that Al Gore’s movie had some big mistakes. Mistakes he has repeated over and over again.

    WSJ=BS

    Wednesday, October 10th, 2007

    The Wall Street Journal is full of it:

    On current course, U.S. warfighting doctrine will be as tame as a church social … Now comes the latest flap over “torture” techniques during terrorist interrogations, well on their way to becoming little more than a friendly chat.

    Wrong. Bzzt. For Chrissake, WSJ, have you even bothered to read the Army Field Manual? And the specific techniques described therein for interrogation? Hardly a friendly chat.

    So, according to newspaper reports, the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel responded by detailing that slapping, hypothermia, sleep deprivation and so-called stress positions are allowed. Are these torture?

    According to any standard of history, according to the standard of the United States up until Bush, according to the treaties we have signed and that, by our Constitution, have the absolute power of law … yes. Hypothermia was a technique specifically used by the Soviet Union to break the zeks in the Gulag. Stress positions as well. Sleep deprivation is well-documented as one of the cruelest tortures known. Victims required constant supervision to keep them from bashing their heads to knock themselves out. People die from sleep deprivation.

    What’s really at issue here is whether U.S. officials are going to have even the most basic tools to interrogate America’s enemies.

    The basic tools we want allowed are those detailed in the Army Field Manual. Things like “ego up”, which helped us kill Al-Zarqawi.

    Techniques perfected by the Soviet union are not “basic tools”. Torture is not a “basic tool”. Water-boarding and stress positions are not “basic tools”. They are the desperate means of barbarians.

    What’s at stake here is whether we are going to sacrifice everything we are as a nation because we are scared that bombs might go off somewhere.

    Newspaper accounts of the 2005 memos say “waterboarding,” or simulated drowning, is also allowed in the memos, which reflects the CIA’s view that this is especially effective in breaking hard cases rapidly.

    The Khmer-Rouge thought so too.

    Note also the wording — they “break” the terrorist. When you break someone, they will say anything they think you want to hear. What we need is not “breaking”. What we need is conversion. What we need is a person who freely gives us information, including stuff we wouldn’t think to ask. Al-Zarqawi was killed because of incidental information that came out during a conversation with his interrogators.

    As it stands now, the scolds in Congress and the Beltway press have decided to impose their view that no pressure tactics are ever necessary or justified. But if Congress and the press are going to take over the design of the war on terror, how can they justify walking away from any responsibility to make clear what is permissible?

    First of all, the Constitution specifically states that Congress makes the “Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;”. So they are not “taking over the design of the war on terror”, they’re doing their damned job. Second, the torture opponents have made it very clear what should be permissible — Army Field Manual …. Army Field Manual.

    The notion that the U.S. goes around unnecessarily “torturing” people without any rationale whatsoever is so absurd that it is almost never stated explicitly.

    Oh, really?. Really?.

    Former CIA Director George Tenet has said explicitly that they do work and have saved American lives.

    He also said WMDs were a slam dunk. There are thousands of people who will tell you that torture doesn’t work — people who have administered it and people who have received it. One of them is John McCain, who, unlike George Tenet, was actually fucking tortured. For real. And is crippled because of it.

    But rather than face these hard issues directly, the scolds fall back on generalities about our “values.”

    Those damned values! Next thing you know, we’ll be supporting family values!

    Remember when the conservatives were all about the values? Sigh. Good times.

    Funny me. I value having the highest moral standards in the world. I value having our soldiers reknowned for their humane treatment of even our most brutal enemies. I value being the shining beacon of civilized behavior for the world.

    But that’s just me.

    Congress wants the OLC memos made public, but the reason to keep them secret is so enemy combatants can’t use them as a resistance manual.

    Wrong again. We know what techniques are being used. We just want it to be officially admitted. And I thought the whole point of torture was that they couldn’t prepare for it. Make up your mind.

    Nowhere in this misguided, misinformed, anti-American editorial does the WSJ ever mention the fucking Army Field Manual, which spells out precisely what methods may be used to interrogate. Methods that have proven, through 200 years of American history, amazingly effective in obtaining useful intelligence.

    I usually like the WSJ. But like the rest of the Right Wing, they have utterly surrendered to the terrorists. By supporting torture and sacrificing our — yes — values, they’ve given bin Laden everything he ever wanted.

    Go to hell. The rest of want to fight the terrorists, not give in to them. We don’t to become what we’ve beheld. We don’t want to shred the Constitution and destory our moral standing. What does it profit a nation to win the War on Terror if they lose their soul?

    Update: Sully says it even better:

    There are some things worse than avoiding all casualties in warfare. One of those things is abandoning the core meaning of what a country and a civilization stand for. If America does not stand against the torture of individuals seized without due process by an unchecked executive power, then American stands for nothing. In fact, if this standard had applied two centuries ago, America would not exist at all. The president takes an oath not to prevent any American life from being lost in wartime, but to protect and defend the Constitution which is the sole guarantor of such liberty. Churchill upheld that rule, even as London was reduced to rubble and hundreds of thousands of mother’s children were lost. Washington made it a central hallmark of the meaning of his new republic. To destroy the constitution, the rule of law, and habeas corpus and to legalize torture in the false hope of saving lives is the action of those who do not understand freedom and who do not understand America. It is the action of cowards and slaves.

    What part of “Live Free Or Die” do these people not understand?

    All of it, apparently.

    Thompson and Nixon

    Tuesday, October 9th, 2007

    Dick Nixon apparently thought Fred Thompson was dumb.

    Considering the source, I think that makes Thompson an excellent Presidential candidate.

    Hallelujah!

    Monday, October 8th, 2007

    The Yankees will have to wait one more year to complete their purchase of another World Series trophy.

    Update: A few things to observe:

    First, now that the Yankees are gone, about eight hours of post-season boredom goes with them. We will not have to sit through yet another endless Yankee at bat. Have you noticed that every Yankee post-season game takes about four and a half hours? Their constant stepping out of the batter’s box, stepping off the pitcher’s mound and slowly plodding the bases in 13-8 games is gone. Thank God.

    Second, they couldn’t leave us without a damned soap opera. So now we have to hear about Torre and A-Rod and all the other idiots. They can’t just go quietly like the Phillies.

    Third, have you noticed that no one is talking about the Indians? So I will. The team that triumphed is outstanding. They got good starting pitching, some outstanding bullpen work and took advantage of the Yankees’ Achilles Heel – their woeful non-Rivera pitching. They even managed to beat them in an extra-inning game — the pivotal game two. They are young and their lineup is deep. I’m happy they won. They were the better team.

    Torture Doesn’t Work

    Sunday, October 7th, 2007

    Read this account of how Nazis were interrogated during WWII. Prepare for the Right Wing Echosphere to say these guys are senile old gomers who don’t understand the danger we face today.

    The Natural Atheist

    Friday, October 5th, 2007

    You know, it’s pretty clear what these guys over at Sully’s blog are saying.

    They are saying that they don’t need to call themselves atheists because not believing in God is normal and natural. They’re just humans. It’s the rest of us who need to call ourselves something because we’re all psychotic weak individuals who need to label our mythical beliefs.

    My attitude toward this can probably be discerned by my tone.

  • Atheism is demonstrably not a natural human response. It is a modern invention. I have yet to see any evidence of an ancient people who had no sort of spiritual belief whatsoever.
  • Atheism is a belief system, no matter what atheists tell you. We live in a Universe. To be an atheist, you have to believe that it popped out of nothing spontaneously. This is a belief, not a fact. The nature and origin of the Universe has not and maybe never will be fully described. I’m an astrophysicist and I wouldn’t dare claim we are even close to knowing the nature of existence. As Allan Sandage said, there has yet to be an explanation of why there is something instead of nothing. Atheism simply says the answer is, “because”, which is either dodging the question or circular logic.
  • As I said some time ago, the new wave of atheists are growing increasingly arrogant in the rightness of their lack of belief. They will smile smugly at you the same way the most annoying Evangelical will and for the same reason. They are utterly convinced that they are the enlightened and the rest of us are fools.

    We have quickly reached the apotheosis of this arrogance. Atheists no longer want to even call themselves what they are. (I’m reminded of liberals who don’t want to be called liberals anymore. When you’re confident in your beliefs, labels don’t bother you). They are just “normal”.

    Hogwash.

    Yeah, They Were in the Dark

    Thursday, October 4th, 2007

    Dammit, I hate being right all the time. A few days ago, in response to the “more black men are in prison than in college” claim, I said:

    One things I’ve learned about social scientists. When they present you with answers to the wrong question, it’s because the answer to the right question didn’t fit their agenda.

    Well, someone decoded the socio-speak.

    According to 2005 Census Bureau statistics, the male African-American population of the United States aged between 18 and 24 numbered 1,896,000. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 106,000 African-Americans in this age group were in federal or state prisons at the end of 2005. See table 10 of this report. If you add the numbers in local jail (measured in mid-2006), you arrive at a grand total of 193,000 incarcerated young Black males, or slightly over 10 percent.

    According to the same census data, 530,000 of these African-American males, or twenty eight percent, were enrolled in colleges or universities (including two-year-colleges) in 2005. That is five times the number of young black men in federal and state prisons and two and a half times the total number incarcerated. If you expanded the age group to include African-American males up to thirty or thirty five, the college attendees would still outnumber the prisoners.

    Again, the incarceration rate is too high. But the hysteria is unwarranted, especially when the solution is fairly obvious:

    End the War on Drugs.

    Doctoring Like It’s 1984

    Thursday, October 4th, 2007

    This is downright disturbing:

    Thanks to guidelines issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics and supported by the commonwealth, doctors across Massachusetts are interrogating our kids about mom and dad’s “bad” behavior.

    We used to be proud parents. Now, thanks to the AAP, we’re “persons of interest.”

    The paranoia over parents is so strong that the AAP encourages doctors to ignore “legal barriers and deference to parental involvement” and shake the children down for all the inside information they can get.

    One of the reasons doctors have left the AMA? They endorsed this Soviet Union 1984 horse manure. Only a fascist state tries to get kids to inform on parents.