Sunday, January 25, 2009

Is our children learning? Part II

A while back I had an item on Dr. Don McLeroy, the fundie dentist and Chairman of the Texas State Board of Education. Dr. McLeroy (again, a dentist) believes that the earth is 6,000 years old. In his ongoing crusade to keep Texas children ignorant by infusing their science textbooks with Christianist mythology, Dr. McLeroy has again garnered national headlines in the NYT and elsewhere.

The scientific evidence demonstrating that the earth is billions of years old is, of course, abundant. Mr. McLeroy's evidence? It comes solely from a single book, a collaborative effort by some folks who -- though they may have been of above-average intelligence -- were by all appearances exceedingly superstitious and in any event lived hundreds and thousands of years before Copernicus or Newton were born and, indeed, before there was any such thing as the scientific method. I'll allow you to weigh for yourself the relative credibility which should be allocated to these competing sources.

But a commenter on this blog post asks a good question: "maybe the good dentist would like a chapter dealing with the tooth fairy".

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Hip Hop Lawyer's recipe for a completely awful Saturday

It goes like this:

On Friday, eat a mid-morning meal consisting of 4 cupcakes.

Eat nothing else the rest of the day.

Friday evening, around 6PM, begin drinking beer (consume at least 7 beers in this step, which should last approximately 1.5 hours).

Next, proceed to a bar or tavern. Drink at least 9 beers over the next 2 hours.

Mix in two shots of tequila and one Jaeger Bomb.

Proceed home and drink 2 more beers.

Get online, order pizza, and then pass out immediately after ordering.

That's it. This method has, thus far, proven to be 100% effective in ensuring a totally utterly miserable Saturday morning, afternoon, and early evening (though if you are under the age of 30 you may need to add a couple more tequila shots to ensure the proper level of suffering).

Thursday, January 22, 2009

off to a good start: Obama reverses the Bush Family's code of Omerta

The Agitator has a good summary of some of the things Obama did on his first full day in office. Apparently reversing Bush policies on excessive government secrecy was a high priority. It should go without saying, but after 8 years of Bushism it bears repeating: openness and transparency is essential to a well-functioning democracy. There is a direct correlation between the amount of information the electorate has about what the government is doing and the ability of the electorate to make prudent electoral decisions (for a good example, look no further than the 2004 election).

So obviously I am happy to see Obama making this a high priority, and by all appearances the actions he took yesterday will go a long way toward bringing about a more well-informed electorate. But merely as a word of caution: issuing these directives now, at the beginning of his administration when it has no information it would rather hide, is relatively easy; the hard part will be the ongoing follow-through. But clearly Obama deserves the benefit of the doubt because he -- unlike Bush -- is showing through his earliest presidential words and deeds that he takes this seriously and believes it is important.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Friday, January 16, 2009

Police Creepiness

My local police department has been busy.

This door hanger was found -- not hanging on my door -- but on the floor of my laundry room. There's a door in that room that leads to the garage. As you can see from the notes on the flier, my garage door was left open during the night.

The flier couldn't have been slipped underneath the door -- I checked. Which means that this extremely officious officer walked up into my driveway, entered my garage, walked the length of the garage, opened the door to my house, and placed this document on my laundry room floor. All of which happened as I was sleeping down the hallway.

While I realize that I am less inclined than most people to give the benefit of the doubt to law enforcement, and that I do not in general have a very high opinion of the police, surely I am not off base in thinking that this is an unacceptable -- not to mention unwarranted -- invasion into my private space. Right? I mean, FUCK.

Not to mention that it is dangerous. Because look, there's no telling what might have happened if, as is my usual habit at that time of the morning, I had been standing at my kitchen counter, tumbler of iced vodka in hand, cleaning and loading one of my many firearms, when I heard over my shoulder the sound of the door to my garage opening.

Ok, so that's meant to be humorous... but still. Am I wrong here? Seriously: (1) I don't particularly like the idea that the police are paying close enough attention to my house to even notice that my garage door is open, and (2) this neighborhood is such that you could probably leave your garage door open every single night for five years and never have one single incident of crime. But anyway, I wouldn't have any issue with the guy hanging this flier on my front door. And it would be bad enough if he had just come into the garage and hung it on the other door. But to open the door?

Unlike during many previous times in my life, I am doing nothing illegal, I have no warrants for my arrest, I am not in possession of any contraband, my taxes are fully paid up, and -- in short -- I have nothing to hide or fear from the authorities. And yet... this appears to me to be totally outrageous and creepy.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

various items

1. Trammel Crow, dead at 94. Legendary Dallas real estate developer who I have just learned got his start -- as did some other local moguls I could name -- as a seller of livestock feed.

2. The Top 50 Most Loathsome People in America for the year 2008. Pretty much everyone comes in for some derision in this, the most cleverly written year-end summary I've seen. I can't say I was surprised that, when I got to the end, I notice that ol' buddy IOZ was a contributor.

My favorite entry:

43. You

Charges: You think it’s your patriotic duty to spend money you don’t have on crap you don’t need. You think Hillary lost because of sexism, when it’s actually because she’s just a bad liar. You think Iraq is better off now than before we invaded, and don’t understand why they’re so ungrateful. You think Tim Russert was a great journalist. You’re hopping mad about an auto industry bailout that cost a squirt of piss compared to a Wall Street heist of galactic dimensions, due to a housing crash you somehow have blamed on minorities. It took you six years to figure out what a tool Bush is, but you think Obama will make it all better. You deem it hunky dory that we conduct national policy debates via 8-second clips from “The View.” You think God zapped humans into existence a few thousand years ago, although your appendix and wisdom teeth disagree. You like watching vicious assholes insult each other on TV. You support gun rights, because firing one gives you a chubby. You cuddle falsehoods and resent enlightenment. You think the fact that 43% of whites could stomach voting for an incredibly charismatic and eloquent light-skinned black guy who was raised by white people means racism is over. You think progressive taxation is socialism. 1 in 100 of you are in jail, and you think it should be more. You are shallow, inconsiderate, afraid, brand-conscious, sedentary, and totally self-obsessed. You are American.

Exhibit A: You’re more upset by Miley Cyrus’s glamour shots than the fact that you are a grown adult who is upset about Miley Cyrus.

Sentence: Invaded and occupied by Canada; all military units busy overseas without enough fuel to get back.

Not that I agree with all of that... but funny, nonetheless.

3. None of the teams left in the NFL playoffs is terribly exciting, and I'm not a fan of any of them, but if you've not seen Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald play then you are missing out. That guy is simply incredible.

4. Speaking of IOZ, here's his characteristically understated take on the latest Bushie to pen an "exculpatory fantasy" on the eve of January 20, 2009 (a/k/a: Death of Bushism):

Future Cialis spokesmodel Richard Perle took to the pages of The National Interest to assure us that it was most certainly not his fault. What wasn't his fault, you ask? It, that's what wasn't, none of it. Typically when a rat leaves a sinking ship, it attempts to make the escape while the fucker's still partly above water at least, but to each rodent his own pace, I suppose. The intellectual acumen on display is proof--if you needed any more of it--that the Lord Baby Jesus loves mediocrities most among us: he fucks the poor and helpless, he makes geniuses mad, poor, or syphilitic, but Richard Perle has the ear of presidents and potentates, plus a cushy gig writing exculpatory fantasies in various subsidized publications.

Gaza update: war is hell, especially if you are a civilian imprisoned in a war zone

If there are many more incidents of the Israelis shelling U.N. facilities in Gaza, it may start to appear, um, intentional rather than accidental. In the latest episode, a UN compound, which housed a hospital, a relief supply warehouse, and at least 700 Palestinian refugees, suffered direct hits from Israeli shelling.

As reported here (and also on NPR), the Israeli government response took the kitchen sink approach:
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, visiting Tel Aviv on his peace mission to the region, expressed outrage at the attack and demanded an inquiry into how the compound, clearly marked with UN blue flags, could be targeted. He claimed that Defence Minister Ehud Barak had told him that it was a "grave mistake"
Mark Regev, the spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, claimed it was "not clear whose shells, whose fire hit the UN facility... It could have been ours, it could have been Hamas."
The Israeli army told the Jerusalem Post that it shelled the UN compound because it had come under attack from militants firing guns and anti-tank missiles from near the premises.
Got that?

1. This was a "grave mistake" and we are terribly sorry.
2. It's not clear we are responsible for this.
3. We did in fact do this, and we were entirely justified.

In my experience, you don't typically hear this type of bullshit from people who have acted in a responsible manner.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

more stuff people probably don't want to hear about

I need to clean out my tabs, and, oh look, all of them happen to be stories about Israel/Gaza from the last few days.

Here's an article from the Washington Post:

Near sundown, Israel dropped leaflets on northern Gaza warning residents to evacuate their homes, as witnesses reported heavy movement of troops and tanks massed on the border. The leaflets read: "Area resident, as a result of the acts undertaken by terror activists in your area against Israel, the IDF is forced to respond immediately and operate in this area. For your own safety, you are asked to leave the area immediately."

It was unclear where the residents were supposed to go; Gaza is tiny, and no part of the strip, home to 1.5 million people, has been spared from attack. Border crossings have been sealed for everyone except 220 foreigners and a small number of Palestinians in need of immediate medical help.

Yes, "leave the area immediately", but we're bombing everywhere and we're not letting anyone leave. Recall that the strip is about 1/4 the size of the average Texas county. And when you hear the Israelis talking about how the "militants" are hiding themselves and their weapons in areas densely populated with civilians, take note that the entire place is a densely populated civilian area.

And then here's a gut-wrenching account from an A.P. reporter inside Gaza. He lives there. His home has been destroyed, along with most of the rest of the scenery of his life. And he's one of the few people reporting directly on the carnage, because Israel -- in defiance of their own supreme court -- is refusing to allow foreign journalists into the war zone. Here is some background on this reporter, well worth reading.

And an AP story reporting the the U.N. has discontinued aid shipments because their delivery vehicles are being attacked by Israeli troops, resulting in at least two aid workers' deaths.

"We've been coordinating with them (Israeli forces) and yet our staff continue to be hit and killed," said a U.N. spokesman, Chris Gunness, announcing the suspension. The U.N. is the largest aid provider in Gaza... The U.N. provides food aid to around 750,000 Gaza residents.


In Geneva, the international Red Cross said it would restrict its aid operations to Gaza City for at least one day after one of its convoys came under Israeli fire at the Netzarim crossing during the pause in fighting Thursday.


During a three-hour pause in the fighting to allow in food and fuel and let medics collect the dead, nearly three dozen bodies were found beneath the rubble of bombed out buildings in Gaza City.

Many of the dead were in the same neighborhood where the international Red Cross said rescuers discovered young children too weak to stand who had stayed by their dead mothers. The aid group accused Israel of an "unacceptable" delay in allowing workers to reach the area.

Relations between Israel and humanitarian organizations have grown increasingly tense as civilian casualties have mounted.

The United Nations demanded an inquiry this week after Israeli shells killed nearly 40 Palestinians near a U.N. school filled with Gazans.

And what is the U.S. thinking on this situation? Well, here's a gem from IHT:

Libya, the only Arab member of the [U.N. security] council, had circulated a draft statement expressing "serious concern at the escalation of the situation in Gaza, in particular, after the launching of the Israeli ground offensive" and urged all parties "to observe an immediate cease-fire."

But diplomats said the United States refused to back the Libyan-drafted text and killed the initiative, since council statements must be passed unanimously. Later the United States refused to back a watered-down call for a truce, the diplomats said.

Later reports clarified that Britain and France, usually lockstep votes in support of U.S. positions on these types of issues, were in this case in favor of these draft resolutions, making the U.S. the only member of the 15 member security council to oppose the measures. Why?

See also this story in a U.K. paper. Headline: "Bush gives Israel diplomatic support over Gaza offensive." Subhead: "President George W Bush, in his last fortnight in office, is providing Israel with the diplomatic support the country needs to continue its offensive in the Gaza Strip." It's just great that we're still allowing this asshat to direct U.S. policy on these matters. But again: Why?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

My friends, that's not change we can believe in... oh, wait, yeah it is.

Obama announced appointments for CIA Director and the Office of Legal Counsel. Both nominees have taken hard stances against Bushism, rejecting outright the Bush penchant for lawlessness and secrecy in policies regarding warrantless surveillance, torture, and indefinite detention. Amen.

Not all are happy, however. Witness poor Diane Feinstein. After considering the nomination for CIA director for what appears to be all of a few minutes, she has come out against it, as has our old buddy Jay Rockefeller.

It seems key members of the Senate Intelligence Committee were consulted about the nomination, but not the incoming chairperson of the committee. The would be Feinstein. She is angry and insulted. Well, Diane, guess what? That is what you get for supporting one of the worst and least popular presidents in history in his programs to illegally torture, arrest, detain, and spy on people, including Americans. If this snub is the worst thing that happens to you as a result, then consider yourself exceedingly lucky. It is far better than you deserve.

Meanwhile, having Rockefeller and Feinstein oppose nominees in these areas is just about the highest recommendation for their nominations as you could possibly want.

Friday, January 2, 2009


Daniel Larison has a post up explicating the "debate" taking place in America among our political and media class regarding the Israeli actions in the Gaza Strip. He notes that the debate is rather one-sided, or, in point of fact, has two sides: on one side, consisting of most all participants, you have those who support Israel's actions and policies (the "mainstream" "conventional wisdom" side), and on the other side, consisting small group of possibly anti-semitic cranks, you have dangerous radical extremists who support the destruction of Israel.

Larison approaches this from a somewhat forensic point of view, but my thought is that it is very simple: many people who might otherwise criticize Israel on logical and moral grounds are prevented from doing so from fear of being intimidated and labeled as Jew-haters. Now, your humble blogger considers himself somewhat immune from this type of tactic because, well, the folks who might intimidate me in this fashion aren't likely to take notice of this little blog, and even if they did notice, they probably wouldn't care a whole lot, and even in the highly unlikely event that they did notice and care, there's not a much they could do to me (what are they gonna do, get Google to erase my blog?) other than, as above, broadcast the fact they think I'm some kind of anti-semite, to which I guess I would say that if candidly discussing certain policies undertaken by the nation of Israel vis-a-vis its neighbors without the requisite predisposition to arrive at favorable conclusions about such policies, I say, if that is now considered anti-semitism then I submit that the term has lost all meaning, which can't be a good thing for the Jewish people. Or maybe it is. I guess we will leave such questions to the Jews themselves.

But the thing is (though it really ought to go without saying?): Jews, on the one hand, constitute a race of people, and Israel on the other hand is a sovereign nation, a government -- a state, in other words -- with a considerable amount bombs, and jets, and helicopters, and tanks, and armored personnel carriers, and rockets, and nuclear weapons ferchrissake, and as a well-armed state is capable of great mischief and harm if engaged in implementing the wrong policies, a fact which cannot be changed just by noting that its government is made up of, yes, Jewish people.

So... when I hear someone on NPR, in a very soothing-yet-authoritative voice tell me that one of the risks of Israel making an incursion into Gaza with ground forces is that one or more of its personnel might be "abducted" ("remember, it's happened before"), my immediate thought is: what the fuck is this person talking about? Because I think any unbiased, rational person understands that when you are engaged in a war and one of your soldiers is forcibly detained by the very people you are waging war against then we say that that soldier has been captured, not "abducted".

I suppose the response might be that the "abuductors" in this case are not legitimate "combatants", but rather some variety of criminals, who have no right (or cause) to "capture" anyone, and therefore the forcible detention constitutes the "crime" of "abduction". To which the very obvious reply would be that no matter how much and how loudly your side wants to proclaim what you are doing a "police action", the plain and obvious truth is that you are using military jets to bomb the offices of a democratically elected government, and that your incursion into this particular territory (were it to occur) is quite clearly an invasion undertaken by miltary personnel, transported in military vehicles, operating under rules of engagement which are exactly identical to those prevailing in state-on-state armed conflicts (i.e., wars). And if, in the face of all of this, you'd like to then tell me that the people you are fighting against don't constitute a regular "military force" because they don't have the proper uniforms or weapons, then I will laugh in your face and note that they also don't have proper food rations either, but rather are in various stages of starvation -- a situation, it should be further noted, that you yourself bear a great degree of responsibility for -- and thus it is difficult to imagine holding any reasonable expectation that they might have the means or motivation to procure proper attire to participate in your fucking war.