Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Don Feder defends Christians (and Jews!) against Abe Foxman

I'd been waiting for this! Don Feder strikes back against the Anti-Defamation League's Abe Foxman, who has recently blasted conservative Christians for wanting to "Christianize" America. (Don't all of us want our religion, morals, and values to spread? Is this a shocking revelation? And, incidentally, hasn't America always been majority-Christian anyway? What's to "Christianize"?) Along the way, he implied that the Ten Commandments are specifically Christian. Interesting, that. Wouldn't you hope that Foxman would recognize the core of the Jewish Law as...well, Jewish?

As Feder points out, Foxman has implicitly slammed conservative Jews as "Christianizers." Of course, really Foxman's just mad at religious conservatives in general. Christian, Jewish--whomever. He's a liberal and probably wants to drive a wedge between Christians and Jews. Maybe he sees some hints of a political realignment there--religiously conservative (lower-case "c") Jews hopefully being drawn towards conservative politics in general and the Republican party in particular (at least where the party has earned it--it often disappoints us conservatives).

I expect Dennis Prager will also have a few words to say about this, too.

If you want to see a shining example of religiously conservative Judaism allied with conservative Christianity in its desire to see America return to a higher morality in public and private life, check out Jewish World Review. They're always worth reading. Founder/editor-in-chief Binyamin Jolkovsky has done a great job with this web publication, and he's done it on a shoestring. I'm especially happy at how his magazine has regarded us rural, Southern, conservative Christians.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Interesting debate over addressing doctors

What started off as a Volokh Conspiracy debate over James Lilek's comments on Kurt Vonnegut's comments on terrorists, has turned into a discussion of forms of address for Ph.D.s, J.D.s, M.D.s, and so forth. It's in the comments section here.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Geronimo and Methodism

This post isn't as deep as the title might lead you to think. It's just that I happened to find that Geronimo was a fellow Methodist. Very cool.

I was surprised to discover not long ago that Geronimo lived into the twentieth century, and in fact, his life overlapped with my grandfather's, who himself overlapped with me. That has a way of bringing the past closer to you. The world of the later Indian Wars seems so remote from today, but the most famous leader of any of these fights was still alive after my grandfather was born. Granddaddy lived from Geronimo's era right up into my own. Huh!

My church in Baltimore, Lovely Lane Methodist, the first Methodist church in the United States, has stained-glass windows decorated with the complete list of the church's preachers, from the beginning up to today. And Francis Asbury is the first name on the list. It's such an impressive feeling to see yourself as part of a congregation that stretches back to that generation. And now to think that Geronimo would have been at home in the same church (well, except that it's in more urban a setting than he would have been used to)...

Incidentally, although I knew President Bush is a Methodist, I didn't realize the same was true of Vice President Cheney (see above link). Wow-we've got an all-Methodist Executive Branch!

The French, North African immigration, and prejudice

A late thought on the recent French riots. William, over at Southern Appeal, quotes an article that puts those of North African origin at 10% of the French population. That's pretty comparable to the 13-14% of the American population that is black.

Now, it is often noted that in the early 20th century, racial prejudice in the United States (by the way, it wasn't just in the South--prejudice existed up North, too) drove some famous black singers and actors to move to France, supposedly a more tolerant place. Now, it apparently was true that the French were more accepting of blacks back then than we were. Good for them, and shame on us.

But now that the North African population in France has grown to proportions similar to the American black population, we hear reports that the young men of this group have trouble finding jobs--that French employers see the name on the application and simply trash it. On top of this kind of quiet prejudice, French Jews face overt threats--synagogues burned, physical threats against individual Jews, and the like. Admittedly, much of this may be coming from the aforementioned group, but not all of it. Many Jews are leaving France for more hospitable, tolerant countries. Like the United States.

One French Jewish friend of mine who lives in the US says she's actually afraid of visiting France.

Speculation on Armitage in Plame Case

Over at JustOneMinute. I have found myself disagreeing with some of Armitage's policy preferences over the past few years, but I've met him, and he's a nice guy. Really impressive, too. He's a big, burly, barrel-chested guy; looks like an ex-football player, and he has an enthusiastic, personable manner. I met him at the State Department, when a relative of mine there was getting sworn in for a new position. Armitage did the swearing in himself and talked with us for a good while.

Anyway, I agree with JustOneMinute that if Armitage was the original source on Plame's identity, then it should be clear it wasn't from malicious intent. I don't know if Woodward's revelation actually helps Libby on the specific crimes he's charged with. I don't think that the perjury charge would be changed at all if Libby wasn't the original leaker.

On the other hand, it might undermine the political criticisms. Honestly, I think Wilson's claims (that his wife's CIA affiliation was leaked in order to damage her career or safety and punish him) are obviously false. If Plame were not a classified employee of the CIA, then telling reporters her affiliation, with the implication that Wilson got his CIA assignment only because his wife pushed the idea, and therefore that he is not as credible an investigator as he claims, would be perfectly justified. In fact, it should have been done. But if her employment were covert or classified, then, of course, it shouldn't have been revealed. That should be obvious to people.

TV-show abortions

Abortion isn't my biggest issue. I'm against it, but it isn't a motivating concern of mine, although I certainly know why it is for many others. A lot of the people who are "pro-choice" say that they're not in favor of abortion, or they don't want to encourage it; rather, they just want it not to be outlawed. A choice of last resort. I can understand that reasoning. There are plenty of things that are bad but are still legal. The morality is not in the legality of a particular action, but in the commission of the act by someone. (Incidentally, though I understand this, I think it is a valid area for legislation, since it involves killing.)

Well, the old call of "Keep abortion safe, legal, and rare" [emphasis mine] is being undercut by Rebecca Raber, writing in the Village Voice. I haven't read the original article, but in the quotations in Beliefnet's Loose Canon column, she's actually disappointed that TV shows don't portray pregnant characters as ever having an abortion.

Now, I don't know if Raber was ever one of the "safe, legal, and rare" advocates. They at least could claim to be against the commission of the act ("rare") and would presumably encourage a woman not to have one. But what conclusion can we draw from Raber's disgust at not portraying abortions on TV? I don't know what her thinking is, so maybe I should read the whole article.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Murtha vs. Murtha

Huh. (I'm using that as an intro a lot, lately.) Funny how after a whole night of watching the House on C-SPAN, I didn't pick up on this important detail.

The boys at Powerline, with a little help from their friends, have come up with some important documents and quotations. All through the Congressional debate last night, I kept hearing Republicans and Democrats alike saying that they were not voting on Murtha's resolution, itself. True, enough. But in fact, I kept hearing even Republicans imply that the Hunter resolution of immediate withdrawal wasn't really what Murtha was calling for. That the newspapers had twisted his words.

That, and offhand references I kept hearing elsewhere in the press made me think that Murtha had proposed, not "immediate withdrawal," but something on the timescale of 1-3 months. Then I heard 6 months. I was about to update or correct my earlier posts, in fact.

But now the Powerline guys have unearthed this:

"The United States will immediately redeploy — immediately redeploy. No schedule which can be changed, nothing that’s controlled by the Iraqis, this is an immediate redeployment of our American forces because they have become the target." And: "My plan calls for immediate redeployment of U.S. troops (consistent with the safety of U.S. forces)."

The above is from Murtha's own press conference. "Immediate" sounds a lot like "immediate" to me. "Consistent with the safety of US forces" could be interpreted more leniently--as something like "as soon as possible," but if we're not all thinking that "immediate" means this exact second, then we'd probably figured it might mean "as soon as possible," anyway.

So Murtha himself said "immediate." Then there's this:

Section 1. The deployment of United States forces in Iraq, by direction of Congress, is hereby terminated and the forces involved are to be redeployed at the earliest practicable date.

Section 2. A quick-reaction U.S. force and an over-the-horizon presence of U.S Marines shall be deployed in the region.

Section 3 The United States of America shall pursue security and stability in Iraq through diplomacy.

These are the relevant portions of Murtha's resolution, stripped of his interminable "whereases." Yep. The resolution says "as soon as possible"! That's not fundamentally different from "immediately," as I read it. Now, you could argue that how soon possible is is a matter for debate. Sure--those of us who want to continue the fight say we should have the troops leave as soon as it's possible, but our standards for what is possible are very different. We require a safe, stable, and secure Iraq, able to stand on its own, before we'll consider withdrawing the troops. Murtha, from his public statements, seems to think of "possible" as being just a matter of logistics and clearing a safe way for them to leave.

I think the House should have voted on Murtha's bill itself, just to make it clear that even what is unambiguously the Democrats' own proposal didn't have a chance. But voting on the Hunter resolution did have the advantage of stripping the argument to its essentials. In addition to the all-around fun of making a public embarassment for the Democrats (which they deserve), the vote was much more valuable in countering the previous days' headlines ("Congressman calls for immediate withdrawal from Iraq," etc.) and sending a clear message to the soldiers in Iraq that we're not going to pull the mission out from under them.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

More problems with that anti-religion study

I came across a good blog that discusses the same anti-religion study by Gregory Paul I've discussed on this site. The blogger is a statistcian from Canada, and he does a better dissection of Paul's questionable use of the statistics than I did.

I'm happy to say, though, that I still identified some of the big problems on my own. Check Gilbreath's list of related and referring links to his post. Lots of good stuff, there.

The biggest problems Gilbreath identifies, aside from the inherent limitations of a two-variable plot, are the constantly-changing sample selection and the poorly-defined time range. I picked up on the former, myself, and taken together, Gilbreath notes that this would make it very easy for Paul to cook the books without being detected.

By changing the sample of countries with each parameter being studied, it would be possible to remove any countries that countered Paul's premise that unreligious societies are better-off. Or rather, the changing sample might result from having removed such problematic data points. Same goes for the vaguely-defined time range covered.

In astronomy, we have to use a lot of statistics, too. Let's say I'm claiming a certain trend among the properties of quasars, for instance (my field of study), and I have a certain sample of quasars I'm using. Then when I plot one parameter against another, I should keep the same quasars when I'm plotting the next parameter. If I keep changing the list of quasars in the study with each new plot, people are going to ask me why. I need some physical justification for changing the list of quasars. Otherwise, I might just pick and choose the quasars that do what I want them to and ignore those that disprove my thesis.
[...I don't think I've explained this too well. Hopefully the reader still gets my point.]

Paul hasn't justified his ever-changing sample of countries. I don't know that he has faked the results, but it is easy to do so this way.

One other thing--Gilbreath notes that Paul excludes some more Catholic (I presume specifically more church-going?) European countries that have "especially low rates" of homocide. Claims those are just statistical noise. Yearly fluctuations, you know. Huh. Right. Sounds to me like cherry-picking the data. If you are comparing all of the countries over the same range of years, then this shouldn't matter much. All of the countries would be subject to random noise, and if some fluctuate up, well, you'll have some likely to fluctuate down. But if you eliminate those that you claim have randomly gone down, but you don't eliminate those that have randomly gone up, then you have just biased your results. Furthermore, if a mere random downward fluctuation is so large that it would hurt an honest study, then the homocide rates in these countries must have been very low to begin with. Again, this seems to be evidence of a biased sample.

Why not present the data and let the reader judge?

Link for Air & Space Museum schedule

Here's the link for the museum's schedule today. This goes with the previous post.

Event for "SpaceShipOne"--and hear "Naked Singularity"!

There's an event at the National Air & Space Museum (the one on the Mall) for Burt Rutan's "Space Ship One" today. I don't know if the craft itself will be there, but NASM is having a "Family Day Event" for it.

Plus, a local D.C.-area band, Naked Singularity, will be performing in the museum's "Air Transportation Section" at noon and again at two o'clock today. As you might have guessed from the band's name, they're a bunch of astrophysicists. For those who don't get the reference, a singularity is the central point of a black hole, where all of the mass is; a "naked" one would be a singularity without the gravitational field. Very theoretical. These are friends of mine from NASA. I've heard them perform, and they're good! Come see them.

Americans rescue Sunni prisoners

NRO's Media Blog comments on this story, which I'd seen briefly somewhere before but passed over. Honestly, when I saw it a few days ago, I got the impression from the headline that some human-rights group had discovered Americans holding malnourished Sunni Arabs in some squalid dungeon. It would have fit perfectly with the impression already given by the press about our conduct of the Iraqi occupation.

How wonderful, then, to discover the reality is in line with my impression of our occupation! And even better that we're making at least one good impression on the Sunni Arabs.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Vote on the actual Hunter resolution

Hmmm... Time's a-wastin' on the final vote. 3 yea, 403 nay, and 6 present, with 22 not yet voting. The 3 yea's and 6 presents are all Democrats. I wonder if some of the presents really want to pull out now, but they don't want to give the GOP a political statement. And I wonder who it is who voted yea.

"Letters, we've got letters..."

Now Murtha's back to reading letters from anti-war soldiers and their families.

A Republican gets up and says how most soldiers are in favor of the war, and they disagree with this. Boos, etc. from the Democrats. I note that the GOP did not do this to Murtha's anti-war soldiers.

J.D. Hayworth pointed out that while Murtha didn't technically call for "immediate" withdrawal, that the Washington Post(?), the New York Times, and "most importantly, Al-Jazeera" have all written "immediate withdrawal" in their headlines. Therefore, it is important to send a strong message that the Congress will not support any immediate withdrawal of the troops.

Makes sense to me.

Goodness sakes!!

Wow!!! There are shouts, cries, and yelling from the Democratic side!

A Republican speaker remarked that "now is not the time for [Murtha's] resolution." End of speech. Tom Lantos (D-California) rose to ask a point of order--which resolution is being debated, Murtha's or Hunter's? The speaker pro tem gave the number of Hunter's resolution. The Republican said, "That's a matter for debate." Meaning, I suppose, that the differences between Murtha's pull out in 1-3 months proposal and Hunter's pull out now proposal are minor.

Then all heck broke loose.

What the heck?!!!

What in the world is this guy claiming?! He just said (forcefully, I'll add) that the war cannot be won militarily, but politically.

OK: So does he realize that his grandstanding this week is liable to make us lose this war politically?! Is he that addle-headed??!

He says that "they are united against us!" Who? Our enemies? Well, DUH! They're the enemies. Germany, Italy, and Japan were united against us in WWII! Stupidity, stupidity, stupidity!

I was going to sign off for tonight, but this level of thoughtlessness is just astounding. He says that our declaration of "Run away! Run away!" would make the Sunni Arabs stop supporting the Baathist fascist terrorists and relax, chill out, and join their happy place in a democratic Iraq. Does anybody really believe that? That if we leave while Iraq is still not ready to stand on its own, that the Sunni Arabs will sit down and accept their place in the minority? No.

Murtha rises in his own defense

I was interested today to hear that not only was Murtha's supposedly sudden turnaround on Iraq no surprise at all (he'd suggested that the war was unwinnable a year and half ago, unless we did X, Y, and Z), but in fact he was one of the fringies who'd suggested firing all of Bush's defense advisors (or however he'd worded that) some time ago.

Now he's digging the whole deeper, as far as I'm concerned. He's recounting how he's proposed reinstating the draft. That was just a fringe effort to make young men scared of the war and oppose it.

And he read his resolution in detail, which includes a bunch of "whereas"es, including that opinion polls in Iraq show 40 some odd percent see the insurgent attacks on us as justified. Etc., etc. Now he's completely lost any credibility with me. That is getting us to run chicken! That is declaring defeat. Shame on him.

Now he's brought out the steam shovel to help excavate the hole: he's accusing the administration of screwing with the WMD intelligence before the war. So this resolution of his wasn't about declaring victory and going on to the next job, it was an attack on the administration.

Ugh. I used to think he was one of the reasonable Democrats. No longer.

But I still wonder why the news paid so much attention to him this week! Some Democrat blasts President Bush on Iraq every day. Plenty who voted for the war have turned on it now. Political calculation then, political calculation now. So what? What makes him so special? He has been an administration critic for some time. This isn't worth more than one evening news article. Not the attention he's gotten. I do hope he gets embarassed by this.

Enough of this. I'm tired of it.

Hyde recognizes Murtha's service

Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Illinois) just honored Murtha and his military service, to standing applause by both sides of the House. He said that while he respects him for this, his judgement is not infallable. Recognizes another veteran who's on the side of continuing our fight in Iraq. More applause.

Tom Lantos (D-California) rises to recognize Murtha's service again. Again, more standing ovation from both sides.

This just goes to show how carefully the GOP is handling Murtha's stupid idea. Murtha can be a good and honorable man, but this is as I have put it: a stupid idea. Murtha is not being attacked personally by the GOP. His wisdom sure is.

The other side is a very different matter. Democrats have said some things dangerously close to the idea that if you haven't served in the military, then you have no right to speak out on the war, either in favor or in opposition. They have certainly said that Murtha has "earned his right" to speak out.

Curt Weldon (R-Penna.) is speaking now. Says how much he likes his fellow Pennsylvanian. They're from neighboring districts, I think (I was in Pittsburgh for grad school--these are both familiar names to me). Weldon makes an excellent point: although Weldon opposed our action in Bosnia and Kosovo, he didn't call on Clinton to produce an artificial timetable for withdrawal from those wars in which we had no national interest [the national interest part is my addition]. Instead, while we were told by Clinton they'd be home by this date, and later by that date, and later still by some other date...and they're still there today [Did Clinton lie to us there?], Weldon still voted to keep them supplied and continue their fight. Good, strong comparison, there. Weldon ends with praise for Murtha and hopes that Murtha will get answers to his concerns.

Procedural vote passes

210-202. Interesting--someone (at least one) changed his vote to "aye."

Now we have one hour of debate. Thirty minutes for each side.

An hour ago, two officials arrived from the Senate with a bill for the House. There was a quick little ceremony recognizing them on the floor, and of them reading the Senate bill's title (a concurrent resolution recognizing Rosa Parks). Maybe it's just me, but I'm fascinated with these little details. Sending a bill from one house to the other isn't a matter of dropping it in the intracapitol mail. It is formally recognized, even if a debate is going on. I like that.

Oddities in voting

Huh, again. They allotted 11 minutes (I think) for the vote, but the clock ran out and they kept voting. I don't know just how their rules work on this. Apparently it's not like the clock in a football game. Right now it's tied at 203 vs. 203, with 28 members not yet voted. I would have thought that was the end of it, but C-SPAN just broke back in to give the rest of the night's schedule, and they said, "Assuming it passes, there will be one more hour of debate..." Okaaay...

Side note on TV

Huh. While they're voting in the House, I flipped over to the WB, and the guy who played Larry in "Perfect Strangers" is back in a TV series! I always liked him. Whatever this show is also has the younger daughter from "Roseanne," and at least in this episode, one of the ladies from the early Saturday Night Live. Forgot her name. She was in Feds.

Curious what show this is.

Procedural vote

They're voting right now. Party-line, except for a stray Republican or two voting with the Democrats. The vote is on "agreeing to the resolution," but I don't think it's a vote on the call to withdraw the troops. I think it's a procedural vote on whether to vote at all on the call to withdraw the troops. I'm a tad confused.

UPDATE: C-SPAN just cleared it up for me. It's a vote on whether to proceed with debate on this ultimate vote. Gotta keep up with these details!

One more on Pelosi

She led with with this comment she's made before about how her district (or California in general? I missed a word.) has more veterans per capita than any other part of the country. As if that makes her a pro-war hawk?!

If it's true at all, I've got to think it has to be just because there are a lot of sailors and airmen who were stationed in California and just stayed put after they retired. I'm really sure that soldiers, marines, and airmen are not more likely to be natives of California. I think they're generally Southerners. At least, I've always assumed so.

Stretch is up

Nancy Pelosi is up now. Bad recitation of movie lines: "You can't handle the truth" (this to the GOP). Work on your delivery and your Jack imitation.

Calls Murtha one of the most distinguished Congressmen ever to serve in the House. Oh, please. I'm sure he's basically fine, except for nutty ideas like this, but come on. How many outside of Pennsylvania had ever heard of the man before this week? Is he in a league with, say, Davy Crockett and the giants of Congressional history?

Continued liveblogging of the House

Jack Kingston (R-Georgia) just brought up Al-Jazeera's trumpeting of Murtha's pronouncement. He says that Murtha did not, of course, propose an immediate withdrawal (but rather over the next 1-3 months, I think). But, as he noted, the press, importantly including Al-Jazeera, twisted Murtha's words to say he was calling for an immediate withdrawal. Kingston said "it's not his proposal, but it is his headline." Boos from the Democrats.

Fun on C-SPAN

I raced home tonight to tune in to C-SPAN. (How often do you hear that?) Mark Levin, on his radio show, clued me in that there was a nearly knock-down, drag-out fight brewing on the House floor, debating Rep. Murtha's (D-Penna.) resolution to withdraw from Iraq within a few months.

I'm a little late into the debate to be liveblogging, but I'll comment on what's going on now, anyway. Gene Green (D-Texas) just said that "with every death in Iraq, we know that something is wrong," (or very close to that). That's pretty clearly incorrect. You don't fight real wars without deaths on your side. Yes, we carried out some limited fights under Clinton without deaths, but those were airstrikes only. No ground troops. The casualty rate is remarkably low in our current war.

George Miller (D-Calif.) just finished a long harrangue. He actually refused to shut up after several seconds of the Speaker pro tem gavelling him, telling him his time was up. I haven't heard anybody run on that long after being told his time was up. He got a round of applause from the Democrats, of course. The Republicans are, by and large, staying within their allotted times, or finishing up their sentences when gavelled. Most Democrats, too. But there are a few on the Democratic side who just refuse to follow the time restrictions. It ought to be embarassing.

A lot of the heated arguments out of the Democrats are that Murtha's character, honor, and dignity are being impugned. In fact, one Democrat said from the floor that even bringing this issue to a vote is itself a direct attack on Murtha! What blowhards. Yes, Murtha is going to be embarassed by this, and he should be. But I have heard not one Republican insult Murtha's character. I have heard plenty of Democrats insult the character of the Republicans on the other side of this particular issue. Murtha himself insulted Dick Cheney flat out, throwing in attacks on his not serving in Vietnam into his call to pull the troops out. The Republicans, in stark contrast, are avoiding any such personal insults. They have certainly questioned Murtha's judgement. They've said this is a very bad idea. And it is.

Need spare parts for your aging B-25 Liberator?

Then you might want to check out Hawkins & Powers Aviation's liquidation sale. Also for sale are some complete C-130 Hercules's and a Douglas A-26. Among others.

Me, I'm still holding out for a B-52. Or a B-17. Those things are beautiful.

Incidentally, this is my first time linking to the new, blog-driven Open Source Media (OSM) resource, formerly (or still informally?) "Pajamas Media."

New Testament in Gullah

Interesting linguistics/religion article on the AP today, via yesterday's Best of the Web. The New Testament has finally been translated into Gullah, ending a 26-year project. Gullah, for those of you outside the Southeast, is a black creole language of the islands off the South Carolina coast. The AP provides an example, John 1:1--

Fo God mek de wol, de Wod been dey. De Wod been dey wid God, an de Wod been God.

Now, from this excerpt, if you didn't know much about Gullah, you might think it was merely poorly-pronounced, ungrammatical English. In fact, it is a creole language derived in part from English.

This reminds me of a story I heard on NPR a few months ago, about translating the Bible into other languages. I think it was in a remote locale, where missionaries had first arrived only a few decades ago. They were working on a Bible for the locals in their own language, but there were debates over just how certain things ought to be translated to preserve the correct meaning. This is, of course, the perennial problem in translation, especially in Biblical translation. But what took me by surprise was the insistence of some that it would take a long, long time (decades more? a century? longer? I don't remember exactly) to really understand the local language well enough to put the Bible into it, so they shouldn't try now.

So...what, should the locals of this generation, and the next, and their grandchildren, simply do without the Word of God, until we clear up the subtle meanings of "logos" or "ra'ah"? Come on. The problem of expressing such concepts (I mean, better examples than the trivial ones I came up with) in a language that might not have them already is a problem that exists, even when you understand the language perfectly. Think of the long fights involved in English translations of the Bible, and that was by native English speakers who were schooled in either Latin, or the original languages of the Bible, or all of these. As a result, we wound up with new words being coined to express tricky concepts, and, especially in the King James version and its predecessors, Hebrew idioms were often translated literally into English. These have become so ingrained in our common speech now, that we are rarely aware of their ancient origins, instead thinking of them as native English. So I say, go ahead! Translate it as best you can now, and work out difficult concepts in Sunday school. They'll get it.

Anyway, this Gullah translation is a good project, and I wish them well on the Old Testament, which they might try next.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

They really don't learn, do they?

Wow. I'm listening to Sean Hannity interview Dennis Kucinich on the radio right now. Dennis, he of the brilliant "let's create a Department of Peace" proposal, is running his mouth non-stop (Sheesh! The guy will not shut up!) about how Bush lied Bush lied Bush lied...etc. on Iraq. So Hannity reads him a pre-war statement he claims is from George W. Bush, declaring how bad Hussein is, how his nonconventional weapons are a threat, and how we can't trust him to sit quietly in Iraq and not collaborate with terrorists now that we're in a global terrorist war, and therefore we must invade.

Hannity has to repeat himself incessantly to get the former boy genius of Cleveland to close his mouth for five seconds, but he finally gets Kucinich to say that yes, Bush lied there. Of course, as Hannity quickly revealed, these were not Bush's words, but Hillary Clinton's. So did she lie, then?

Oh, noooo, of course not! You see, it doesn't matter if she said the same thing Bush was, because we didn't go to war on her word! [Side note: but wasn't it the Senate that declared the war? Even in the vague ways it's done today, they still did it. --ed.] Plus, she was misled by the evil dictator Bush, you see. Incidentally, he, Kucinich, was miraculously unmesmerized by Bush's hypno-ray that turned the rest of Congress into pro-war drones. [Sorry--been staying up too late at night with the Cartoon Network on. Lots of weird cartoons on at that hour, and hypno-rays seem par for the course.]

But to pull in my post title: don't these anti-war leftists ever learn? Even now, over the months and years that we've been pulling this little trick on them, why don't they figure out that the quote being read to them is by one of their own? Are they not paying attention to their pacifist brethren who have already been snookered? Or do they just lack the common sense to see this coming? Doesn't say much for Kucinich, at any rate.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

San Francisco votes to crush Constitutional right

San Francisco passed a ballot proposition yesterday that takes away its citizens' right to keep handguns in the city. Absolutely outrageous. Armed citizens will be required by their friendly local jackbooted thugs (or whomever that city employs for such things) to surrender their handguns to the city next Spring:

Measure H prohibits the manufacture and sale of all firearms and ammunition in the city, and make it illegal for residents to keep handguns in their homes or businesses.
Although law enforcement, security guards and others who require weapons for work are exempt from the measure, current handgun owners would have to surrender their firearms by April.

Thankfully, the NRA's going to take the city to court, as California law prohibits her cities from passing such restrictions. Good for the NRA. More reason that people should join.

The Sage of Searchlight

Look, I know I'm coming late to fuming about Harry Reid, but would the guy please shut up? He's been all over the news, lying about Bush and the war and intelligence, and it's getting on my nerves. The Democratic leadership in the Senate is made up of hypocrites who back then called for Hussein's removal and who proclaimed that his development of weapons of mass destruction was intolerable. Now? They want to pretend they were always against removing Hussein, and they never believed he had or was developing nonconventional weapons, and Bush is Hitler for doing so on both counts! Hypocrites, hypocrites, hypocrites.

The Republicans in the Senate need to publicize this deception. The Intelligence Committee (I think that's the correct one) has been proposing to cover prewar statements on Iraq without labelling the speaker! I love this idea. The Democrats have absolutely blanched at the idea they could be caught in their deception. Go for it, GOP. Push them--make them admit they're being a bunch of lying opportunists.

Yes, I'm ticked off. I'm fuming over this. Impugning my side's--and especially the President's--honesty on an issue on which they acted honestly makes me mad, and the GOP had better stand up for themselves.

So is Copernicus.

On a similar note, Copernicus is still dead, too. No, this is interesting--they've probably found his grave. He's buried underneath the altar of a Polish cathedral.

I was just teaching about Copernicus a couple of weeks ago. I'll have to tell my students about this.

And in other news, Generalissimo Francisco still dead!

The New York Times reports that the Mars Polar Lander (NASA's failed probe of six years ago) is still missing.

Actually, it's not exactly like the Saturday Night Live joke; apparently they'd thought they found it a while back, but it turns out the white blob they thought was its parachute isn't.

Venus Express is on its way

The European Space Agency's (ESA) "Venus Express" is on its way to Venus. Interestingly, they launched it on top of a Russian Soyuz rocket (that's what calls it; I'm not sure that that's the rocket's name, but probably only the name of the manned space capsule the Russians often put on top of this rocket. Not sure.

Anyway, ESA didn't use one of their own rockets--the Arianne, for instance--and chose a Russian launch instead. Wonder why? I think the Arianne's kinks have been worked out, after all.

The probe is ESA's first to Venus. It will orbit the planet; I haven't seen any reference to a lander. Venusian landers don't last too long--think minutes or seconds. The Soviets sent the Venera lander to the surface decades ago. I believe it is still the only probe to send back pictures from the surface.

E's coming?!

Hey, E! I just saw your post below, that you'll be heading back East next year. It's been a while since you've posted--glad to hear from you again. E-mail me at the NASA account; there's news to catch up on!

Distributing Bibles lands Chinese in jail

The Washington Times has a disturbing article on the three-year prison term China imposed on Cai Zhuohua for distributing Bibles.

I am not really surprised, of course, but I hadn't realized they were being this blatant about it. I remember in the '80s, that my church had collected Bibles to be sent to the Soviet Union, I think. We should see about something like that for China now. If there are Christians being persecuted there and willing to risk jail for distributing them, there's somebody willing to receive them.

I'll look up the organization, but my preacher did tell me about one place that smuggles Bibles into places like this. I'll post its name once I find it.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Hey Hey

Just a note to say I'm coming to Ohio! (May '06)

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Another good article on Pluto's two additional moons has a good, detailed write-up on the discovery of two more moons of Pluto. It adds details that aren't in the STScI press release I linked to yesterday. Still, though, it repeats this assertion that bugs the dickens out of me--the false claim that "Pluto isn't really a planet." No astronomer would ever say that Pluto isn't a planet. There are some who don't want to call it a "major planet," but any body that orbits the sun, even an asteroid, is considered planet of some class, even if only a "minor planet."

A friend who is a planetary astronomer argues with me over this point. He says Pluto should be considered just a big minor planet, because its orbit is more elliptical than the other eight major planets, and its orbital plane is the most unaligned with the others.

Point taken, but those are the only two criteria that make any sense. Others have tried arguing that Pluto is a minor planet because it's the smallest of the nine and because it probably has an ice composition, rather than rock (like Earth) or gas (like Jupiter). Neither of these are logical criteria. Pluto is the smallest of the nine major planets, but it is nearly as big as Mercury. Distinguishing between them in size would be arbitrary. (Furthermore, you'll always have one planet that's the smallest of any group. If Pluto were kicked out of the club, then Mercury would be smaller than any of the others. And would it then be kicked out? Then you'd have to proceed on to Mars, and then Venus, and so on. You could never stop.)

The other proposed criterion makes no more sense than that. We have the terrestrial (rocky) planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars. We have jovian (gaseous) planets: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Why not a third category, that of ice planets? It's a solid surface, like that of Earth and Mars. Planets' compositions have only been understood within the last century or two (I guess), anyway, while since the beginning of history we have recognized Jupiter and Saturn as true planets, even though they're "just" big balls of gas.

Saying that Pluto is a member of the Kuiper Belt does not exclude it from major planethood. It is likely both. So what?

Ronnie Earle's logic on currupting influences

NRO's Stephen Spruiell has an insightful comment on the Tom Delay prosecution in Austin. Remember that the presiding judge in the case has just been told to recuse himself, because his political contributions to the Democrats and (more radically) show a political bias that might work against Mr. Delay. Here's Spruiell:

What's even more ironic about Earle's opposition to recusing Perkins is that this whole case revolves around Earle's deep-seated conviction that campaign contributions have a corrupting influence on politics. Apparently, Earle wants us to believe that corporate contributions have a corrupt influence on politicians, but that a judge's campaign contributions to a politician's opponents do not affect his ability to judge that politician impartially.

Huh--I never thought of that before. Now, there is a difference here, in that Earle argues that the campaign contributions corrupt the people to whom they are given, not the giver. And in the judge's case, it is his contributions that are in question, not his receipt of money. But this is still an argument worth working on.

The Arab League's standards

Interesting article here on a scuttled offer of exile & sanctuary to Hussein in 2003. I honestly can't make much sense out of the timeline and who offered or rejected what (both sides involve the Arab League), but it's still interesting.

One telling bit of information about the Arab League's principles, though, comes at the throwaway line that ends the article:

Almost all the Arab League's member states are Sunni Muslim-majority countries and the pan-Arab body has kept Iraq at arm's length since the U.S.-led invasion, which most of its members opposed., brutal, bloodthirsty. barbarous dictatorship? OK, you're a member in good standing in the Arab League. Increasingly democratic and free government with close ties to the United States, who freed you in the first place? Woah, buster! We don't serve your kind around here. Got to keep you "at arm's length," so we don't catch those democratic cooties.

Let's hope that after Lebanon cleans up their house, that Syria's next. Then Egypt, and on down the list...

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

A second and third moon for Pluto?

Space Telescope has a press release out, showing what appear to be two more moons about Pluto! A direct link to the picture is here.

The key is not that there are three (including Charon) little dots surrounding Pluto. On the basis of one image alone, you couldn't say that those weren't background stars. But in the second image, taken three days later, all three have clearly moved. If we get a few more images, taken at similar (or even closer) intervals, you'd be able to plot the orbits and tell for sure. I think three points can define an ellipse (orbits are ellipses, regardless of what angle they're viewed from). So you'd want at least four points plotted, to make sure. That means four images. We're half-way there!

Harry Reid comes out for discrimination

National Review's Bench Memos has a rather blunt quote from Harry Reid on Judge Alito:

For the third time, he has declined to make history by nominating the first Hispanic to the Court. And he has chosen yet another federal appellate judge to join a court that already has eight justices with that narrow background. President Bush would leave the Supreme Court looking less like America and more like an old boys club.

Did you pick up on that? Bush is to be condemned because he didn't pick a nominee from one particular ethnic group! If Alito were Oriental, would Reid have been satisfied? What about black? Australian Aboriginee? American Indian? No--Reid complains specifically that Alito is non-hispanic. Alito's parents (as I understand) immigrated from Italy. Apparently, he'd be acceptable if only they'd arrived from Spain, Mexico, or Ecuador. Bigot.

And this whole "looking [...] like America" line is an old retread from the Clinton days. Remember that his Cabinet was supposed to "look like America"? Didn't happen, of course. Not a conservative amongst them! Yet I've noticed there are a number of us conservatives in America. Even taking him to mean purely the racial, ethnic, and sex makeup of the Cabinet (how superficial!), it didn't happen.