Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Bush Administration Outrage Number 3.56 Billion

Teresa Nielsen-Hayden at Making Light has a post up on how the Secret Service is systematically underprotecting the Democratic candidates. It's too long and excerpt-heavy already for me to give you a snippet, so go read it yourselves.

I Question Your Underlying Assertion

Archpundit recently picked apart an editorial on the Equal Rights Amendment by Fran Eaton (who my readers may remember as the author of an exercise in incoherency that attempted to defend John Bambenek's misreading of Michigan state statues). I'll be the first to admit that I know little about the legal ins and outs of the ERA, but a couple grafs that Archpundit highlighted caught my eye:

But not only will the ERA's passage stir the hackles of little old ladies and helpless widows, 18-year-old college women may be up in arms.

No longer will military registration be required of just males, it also will be required of females - again, no discrimination based on sex. While more and more young women are choosing the military as a career option, if the draft were to be enacted in a stepped-up defense in the war on terror, our 18-year-old women would be forced into service along with our 18-year-old men.
Now, maybe this just comes from my recently having been in the prime age groups to be drafted, but I don't see how subjecting women to the draft would be a bad thing. Our society has made great strides over the past half-century in recognizing that in the vast majority of circumstances, women are just as capable as men, if not more so. To deprive our nation of half its available pool of recruits in a time of national emergency based solely on outdated social ideas is absurd. I don't know why calling upon women to defend with their lives the rights that are due them is the bad thing Fran makes it out to be.

Then again, based on our previous encounter, I get the distinct impression that I would have no idea why Fran thinks most of the things she does.

The "E" Word

The truth is out: the "surge" really was an exercise in Escalation after all.

President Bush ordered nearly 30,000 additional troops to Iraq in January 2007 to pacify Baghdad and its surrounding provinces. When the last of the five Army combat brigades and two Marine battalions ordered in as part of that campaign leave Iraq by July, 140,000 troops will remain -- about 8,000 more than the 132,000 U.S. troops stationed there before the surge, Ham told reporters at the Pentagon.

"This will be very much conditions-based, but that's our projection as of today," he said.
I'm sure you can Google up loads of fodder for the round of "told-you-so", so I'll let my few readers do that if they want to. Needless to say, the liberal blog consensus was that the surge was an all-around bad idea strategically. Of course, the story neglects to mention how underprepared the surge has left our military, which was predicted, but that wouldn't be proper steno journalism.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

For the Record

As I am 1/2 Irish and use alcohol responsibly, I take offense to many of the slogans, like "Drink yourself green", used to promote Unofficial St. Patrick's Day, as well as the "holiday" itself. I'm on record elsewhere saying that it's all kinds of stupid, mostly because St. Patrick's Day rarely if ever falls during Spring Break.

Oh, and I take offense to the Fighting Irish too, if any Chief supporters feel like throwing that strawman argument out.

Anyhow, I'm lucky that where I work is a rather unlikely place to see intrusion by drunken students. Others may not be so fortunate.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

XKCD is an Excellent Webcomic

I can definitely sympathize with the stick-figure protagonist of the most recent comic.

UPDATE: PZ Myers notes that this particular webcomic applies to himself as well.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Lame Ducks are not Irrelevant, Sadly

Via David Kurtz at TalkingPointsMemo, rocket scientists are calling BS on the administration's reasons for blowing up a de-orbiting satelite.

"There has to be another reason behind this," said Michael Krepon, co-founder of the Henry L. Stimson Center, tells the Washington Post. "In the history of the space age, there has not been a single human being who has been harmed by man-made objects falling from space."

So what could that other reason be?

Our veteran space security specialist believes there are several. To him, the satellite shot is a chance for the military to try out its missile defense capabilities; a way to keep secret material out of the wrong hands; and a warning to the Chinese, after they destroyed a satellite about a year ago.
The blog post goes on to note that the test will definitely annoy both China and Russia, and only encourage them to blow up more satellites.

And, besides, why isn't the media remarking on the big to-do we made when China shot down one of their satellites? The hypocrisy right here is rank.

UPDATE: El Reg also notices the hydrazine non-issue.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

My Congressman has Cohones

They may require a micrometer to measure their diameter, but Rep. Tim Johnson (R-IL15) definitely has at least a pee-wee pair, as evinced by his actually staying in the chamber to vote "Nay" on the contempt resolution against Harriet Miers, former White House Counsel, and Joshua Bolten, the White House Chief of Staff. It looks like he managed to overcome his day-job as Bush Administration lapdog and actually stand up for something. Maybe next time he can stand up for what's right, but at least he's taking steps to improve himself.

Too bad that it looks like the House leadership isn't being smart about the contempt citation and exercising the chamber's Inherent Contempt powers. Rather than waiting for the courts to sort things out, Inherent Contempt would toss their asses in jail a lot faster, barring any sudden desire on their parts to cooperate.

I Realize Mental Illness is Involved

...but still, how does one end up thinking that going into a classroom, shooting up a bunch of people, and then killing yourself is a good idea?

Today's shooting at Northern Illinois was senseless, tragic, stupid, and wholly unpreventable barring the institution of a police state. Besides expressing my condolences, whatever they're worth, I don't know what else to say.

UPDATE: A UofI student was the gunman.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Why Single-Payer Health Care is Better

Sara Robinson concludes her two-part discussion on Single-Payer health care by discussing some more incorrect assumptions about universal health care. From her conclusion:

The private sector has had 20 years to prove that it could deliver low-cost, quality care using those vaunted business-style efficiencies; and it has failed us utterly and completely. This fact should be the ultimate nail in the coffin of the old conservative canard that "the free market always does it better." If that was true, privatizing health care would have been the shining example that proved it once and for all. Instead, all we got was a colossally expensive national disaster that's denying full coverage to a third of the country --- and putting our health, competitiveness, financial and social capital, and national security at risk in the process. It's also devastating the aspirations of our entire middle class, which is being hollowed out by our current health policies.
The national security angle - which you should go read - is what I find the most interesting. I'm posting this more to educate my paltry score of semi-regular readers, but if anyone has anything to say I'm interested in a discussion.

Note: Part I is here, and my original post is here.

Happy Darwin Day

Today is the 199th anniversary of Darwin's birth.

I wonder if the scientific community would mark the occasion with as much fanfare if the Creationists weren't constantly trying to demonize the man and his work.

Kudos to Moon-grrl for pointing out this holiday.

Penny Stamps are a Good Investment

Just when I ran out of my old, 39¢ stamps and got some new 41¢ stamps, the United States Post Office announces that the price of a first-class stamp will go up a cent in May. I guess I'll finish off that book of single-cent stamps a lot sooner than I expected.

Monday, February 11, 2008

And That Will Prove....What?

So Students for Campus Racial Stereotypes will apparently be putting a referendum question on whether the Chief should be brought back in this year's student election. As student government elections are dominated by the same Greek crowd who drunkenly chants the name of a mascot we no longer have during football games, the outcome of the referendum is almost certain.

What I don't understand is what the point of the referendum is. It's not like the student body has any say in the matter - retiring the Chief has always been an issue for the Board of Trustees to decide. When I was an undergrad, the last referendum on the Chief helped to pull in a pro-Chief Student Trustee on its coattails. Thing is, just like last time, having an extra pro-Chief trustee won't do any good, since UIUC will not have the binding vote in the upcoming term.

Also, what's up with the DI's headline, "Chief Illiniwek issue steps closer to vote by students"? Did the DI run a series of stories chronicling the "steps"? This is the first I've heard of it, and it sure looks like a final step to me.

Beating Back the Stupid

Matt of Pooflingers Anonymous, an excellent anti-Creationism blog, has a post up noting the start of an aggregator for those blogging on pseudo-science, much like that used by those blogging on peer-reviewed research. This combined effort is titled Blogging on Pseudo-Scientific Douchebags, and has an icon to match, though I prefer the lite version as I perfer to take the high road in such discourse.

My preferred pseudo-scientific fodder, Creationists, have been slim pickings of late. I was hoping for more fun from News-Gazette blogger Rhonda Robinson, but she apparently posts so seldom that it makes one wonder why the N-G bothers to pay her. However, if/when an appropriate mark presents itself, this logo will definitely be trotted out again.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Money You Make and the Accident of Birth

Ian Walsh over at Firedoglake has a post up explaining how the Libertarian scream of "It's my money!" is hogwash:

[I]f you're American, a large chunk of the reason you make a lot of money (relative to the rest of the world) is that you are American. The main cause of your relative wealth is not that you work hard, or that you're innately smarter than members of other nations (though you may be since you weren't starved as a child). It's because you had opportunities given to you that most people will never had, and those opportunities existed due to the pure accident of your birth or because you or your family chose to come to the US. The same is true of most first world nations.

Immigrants understand this very well. There's a reason why Mexicans, for example, are willing to risk death to cross the border. Their average income is $7,310, compared to the US average income of $43,740. They won't make up all the difference just by crossing the border, but they'll make up enough that it's more than worth it. They haven't personally changed, they don't work harder now that they're across the border. They aren't smarter and they aren't stronger. They just changed where they lived and suddenly the opportunities open to them were so much better that their income went up.

So let's bring this back to our typical Libertarian with his whine that he earned it, and the government shouldn't take it away. He didn't earn most of it. Most of it is just because in global terms, he was born on third and thinks he threw [sic] a triple. That doesn't mean he doesn't have to work for it, but it does mean most of the value of his work has nothing to do with him (and Ayn Rand aside, it's almost always a him).

Now what a government is, in a democratic society, is the vehicle that the population as a whole chooses to use to organize collective action. Government is, imperfect as it is, the closest approximation to the "will of society" that we've got.

Since the majority of the money any American earns is a function of being American, not of their own individual virtues, the government has the moral right to tax. And since those who are rich get more from being American than those who are poor, it also has the moral right to take more money from them.

More importantly than the moral right, it has the pragmatic duty to do so. The roads and bridges that government builds and maintains; the schools that it funds, the police and courts that keep the peace; the investment in R&D that produced the internet; the sewage systems that make real estate speculation possible, and on and on, are a huge chunk of what makes being American worth so much more than being a Bengali. Failure to reinvest in both human and inanimate infrastructure is like killing the golden goose, and America, for decades now, has not been keeping its infrastructure properly maintained, let alone building it up.
Besides muddling his sports references, this is a great piece that incorporates my own argument that "the government is the will of the people, so therefore it's still your money," yet goes even further to deal with this talking point. Astute readers will note that, in my previous post, I only claimed about a hare-brained decision on the part of the IRS and not about paying taxes in and of itself. Government exists to do things on behalf of the public, and it requires the public's funds to do so. To say otherwise is just silly.

Air America Needs to Get Stronger

WCPT-AM needs to up its transmitter strength so that it reaches central IL. As much as I like listening to WPGU-FM, I do occasionally have a hankerin' for talk radio that doesn't make me want to pull the stereo out of my dash.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

My Government at Work

I'm figuring my taxes, and this year the IRS put the instruction booklet for the 1040EZ online as an HTML file as well as a PDF. What they did was a straight copy-paste. Thing is, telling me to "go to page 14" doesn't do me a lick of good when there are no page numbers in HTML. One would think they could pay an intern to hyperlink all of those to make the file actually useful.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Lies, Truth, and What's Really Going on North of the Border

Sara Robinson, usually of Orcinus, has a post up at the blog of the Campaign for America's Future going over some common misconceptions that get booted around the US media about Canadian healthcare. It's not easily excerptable, so go and take a gander yourself. It's part I of II, and I'll post a link to the second part as soon as I notice that it's up.

UPDATE: Part II is up.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

A Question for Da Superfans

Stemming from a discussion I was having earlier today about what superdelegates are, I have to wonder, who is more powerful, Ditka or Da Mayor, Richard M. Daley?

Is the Media Really That Stupid?

I spent a good chunk of my evening tonight hanging out in a place with lots of TV screens, some tuned to the election coverage. I saw them call a number of states for Obama or Clinton - which makes absolutely no sense, since winning states doesn't matter for the Democrats. The primaries are not the general election, so there is no statewide winner-take-all system for the Democratic Party's presidential primary system. Delegates are awarded proportionally by congressional district, which makes the big deal that's being made over winning states really pointless. Just show the bloody delegate total, which is what matters, rather than insulting our intelligence and loudly declaring who has won which states.

Disclaimer: There was no sound where I was watching the TV, so maybe they were actually talking about how important the delegates are. By the amount of time the graphics dwelt on who won which state, though, I highly doubt this was the case.

PSA: Avoid the Kirby Underpass

As I was driving along Neil this evening, I noticed that the police have blocked off the Kirby underpass where the road crosses under the Canadian National railroad tracks, as there was at least a foot of standing water. If you drive that way to work in the morning, it might be wise to use an alternate route. I had seen a cop car blocking the St. Mary's Road underpass, but going back the other way the road had been cleared, so I dunno what happened there. Windsor road was completely clear, and Stadium Drive had water gushing out of the manhole covers but was not flooded much beyond that.

Go Vote

Go directly to Vote
Do not pass Go, Do not collect $200 (because that would be illegal)

Today is Super-Duper, Gee-Williker, Ain't-it-swell? Tuesday. One or both parties may, may end up with a candidate. Maybe. I'm merely happy that my primary vote this time around actually means something. However, it's still important to go out and vote, since, even though the state is foregone for Obama, Democratic primaries award delegates proportionately. That means that Clinton can, and probably will, snag a few Illinois delegates, though probably very few of the state's superdelegates.

If you don't know where your polling place is, and you live and are registered to vote in beautiful Champaign County, IL, you can go to the Champaign County Clerk's office website and check your registration status. Polls open bright and early at 6 AM and close 7 PM. As always, the wait is generally shorter the earlier in the day you go. If you are in line when the polls close, you are still entitled to vote, but you must remain in line to do so. (This isn't as big an issue in the primary as it is in the general.) While you're there, pick up your little "I Voted" sticker so you can guilt trip your friends into going into the polls as well. Again, this skill is of increased utility in the general election, though it doesn't hurt to practice now.

Also, while I was looking at my specimen ballot, I noticed that the Democratic party in the 15th District has managed to dig up a new challenger to Rep. Tim Johnson (Bush Lackey-IL15). His name's Steve Cox, and I have no clue who this guy is. He doesn't have a website up yet, which doesn't bode well, but at least it's better than things were a couple months ago when the Dems weren't even fielding a candidate.

UPDATE: I should hone my Google-Fu a bit more, as I turned up a bio of Steve Cox on the Champaign County Democrats website. Would be nice if this could be the first hit on a Steve Cox IL search. Oh well, I guess this link is the start...

UPDATE, Part Deux: If you have moved since you last registered to vote, but are still in the area, you should be able to go to the polls and request a "Federal Ballot," which includes only the races for President, Senator, and Representative. Still, if you didn't update your registration, it's better than not voting at all. I'm not sure quite what the rules are on it - whether you can go to any precinct, or just your old and/or new one. If you have a question, I'd suggest contacting the county clerk's office.

Friday, February 1, 2008