Thursday, January 31, 2008

Oh My, That's a Lot of Dandruff

So the snow's falling and we've had at least an inch already, and the News-Gazette's meteorologist is calling for 8-10 inches of total accumulation from the storm, not counting the blowing and drifting that's sure to occur afterwards. The University sent out a massmail on how it was planning to deal with the snow, including pretreating streets and sidewalks before the snow started to fall in earnest. On my way home I could definitely see a difference between the sidewalks controlled by campus and by private owners. Even so, whether or not we see a repeat closing of the school will probably depend on the rate of snowfall, and whether or not the cities and the universities can keep up with it overnight. Myself, I doubt that the Chancellor will call off classes, but I guess we'll see in the morning.

Also, this'll probably be the first real test of the Champaign ordinance requiring private property owners in Campustown to clear snow from their sidewalks within a few days of the end of the storm, or face a fee when the city does it for them. Hopefully the frats will get their acts together and get it done, rather than let the snow pile up until the city comes around.

For those who wish to check it every 30 seconds,here's a link to the News-Gazette's closings page.

UPDATE: The News-Gazette reports that Uni High is closed tomorrow, though the University is still open. I wouldn't be surprised if part of the reason Uni High is closed is because some/all of its feeder district busses will not be running. I'd also like to make clear that I'd really like it if the University were closed tomorrow, as I've been accused in the comments of not thinking Positive University Closing Thoughts.

UPDATE, Part Deux: The University of Illinois is open for classes Friday, 1 February 2008.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

My Horse is Out of the Race

John Edwards ended his presidential campaign today - which, while disappointing, is understandable, since the media apparently can handle multiple candidates on the GOP side but covering more than two Democrats is apparently much too taxing on their resources. In 2004, when the Illinois presidential primary didn't matter, I voted for Edwards anyway and proceeded down the ballot. This cycle, with my preferred candidate no longer in the running, I'll have to shift my support to Barack Obama. Clinton was closely aligned with the DLC, who had the horrible idea of moving the Democratic party to the center, which only shifted the Overton window farther to the right. We don't need more of that, and so I'm left supporting her opponent. Hopefully Obama can help repair our government and national discourse, paying attention to those who need help rather than the obscenely wealthy living at the top.

UPDATE: Moon-Grrl also has thoughts on Edwards dropping out.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Posts From Blogs You Should be Reading

Jonathon at Analog Periphery has a post up on the lowering of Army recruitment standards. Remember all those stories that were batted about in 2001-2003 about newly-elected Presidents calling their predecessors and thanking them about the wonderful military they were handed? The next guy (or gal) is not going to be saying that to Dubya.

Daily Kos diarist indigo5 has apparently set hirself up a blog titled John Bambenek Truth Squad and posts there as Interloper. While I admire anyone with a cluestick for Bambi (the site's slogan, or at least its blogspot URL) I have my doubts on how well it will be administered. Interloper/indigo5 already has a history of committing the same sin as Bambenek - he didn't check his definitions and went on a rather idiotic rant based on his mistaken understanding. Even so, I wish him well - reading that much of John's stuff has to be bad for one's health.

Lastly we have Jim Macdonald over at Making Light, who has up a post on how the cast of Cloverfield would have acted if they were sane, sensible people. Jim has an extensive Emergency Management background, and uses the post as a means to link together a large number of his previous posts on how to be prepared for offal striking the rotary ventilation device. He also takes the opportunity to link to Cloverfield in Fifteen Minutes, which is a hilarious summary of the movie.

Not Unsurprising News

Orac has the terrible story of how Ben Stein's brain came to be eaten by a certain Undead F├╝hrer:

Shambling toward him, wearing and old tattered uniform of some sort with a red armband was a vision of hell. Rotting flesh sinking into its cheeks, a tiny mustache above a lipless mouth with dung-colored teeth, it came. It was impossible for such a being to exist; yet it existed, and it advanced on the pudgy man. The man gave out a girlish shriek and turned to run. Surely he could outrun this creature.

He couldn't.

Faster than a pudgy old man could possibly run, the creature leapt. It leapt and clenched its skeletal hands on either side of the man's head. "Braaaaaaaiiinsss! Jeewiiisssh braiiins!**" it bellowed, a dim memory of its most dreaded enemy and most horrific crime against humanity in life driving it onward as it clamped its mouth on the man's skull and fed with a loud crunch.

The man's last thought before blackness fell across his eyes was, "Damn you, Charles Darwin! This is all your fault!"

**Translated from the German, of course.
Whether or not you enjoy Blake's 7 fandom, takedowns of Creationists, and/or dissections of how stupid the argument ad Naziam is in most contexts, you should go read the whole thing. It's a hoot.

They Knew What They Were Doing

Josh Marshall has a small blurb up notifying world+dog of "some chatter that the Florida and Michigan delegate issue may go to court." I, personally, have no pity for the Democratic Parties of those two states. They knew full well what the threatened consequences would be if they moved up their primaries ahead of the DNC-established February 5th cutoff. As John Bambenek, a man who only plays at being a lawyer, has already pointed out, political parties are private organizations with the right to free association, allowing them to exclude whomever they want from their shindigs. As such, either the Clinton campaign and the states involved are going to have to find something else to base their argument on, or the DNC's lawyers are going to make some very easy money.

Monday, January 28, 2008

For Those Playing Along at Home

I'm sorry for being almost late with this, but here's the link to this year's State of the Union Drinking Game. This year's list features specific shots (recipes included) for a few of the phrases. If you want to watch the SotU address online, you can do so here.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

...But Isn't That the Point?

One of the common complaints one hears from Illinipundit and other conservatives is that the lament over politicians who think that "the federal government can and should solve everyone's problems for them." They even have a nickname for people espousing such views, "nannystaters".

Last I checked, the entire point of government was to solve the people's problems and to work for the public good. So, why are conservatives complaining about government doing its job?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Someone Please Explain This to Me

Someone would have to be living in a hole to not know that Big Shitpile is really messing up the economy right now, and will for some time. While I'm not surprised that the government is getting involved, would someone please tell me why we're giving people advances on their tax returns? (At least, I assume that's how things are getting paid for, as that's how the "tax refund" was handled the last time around.) This whole economic crisis is, to my understanding, the result of the uncertainty over which large financial institutions are holding what large pieces of bad mortgage loans, accompanied by the necessary fall of ridiculously high real estate valuations propped up by those bad loans. While this sucks for a lot of people, average Joe either isn't effected or is so deep in shit that $600 is not going to go very far. So why are we bothering having this be part of the stimulus?

UPDATE: Jonathan of Analog Periphery expresses similar sentiments and does so while being coherent and organized.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

An Exercize in Over-Rationalizing a Movie

Thar be spoilers ahead. Be ye forewarned.

I went and saw Cloverfield over the long weekend, mostly because a group of people I know were going and I had nothing better to do. I went in fully aware that this was the Blair Witch Project of monster movies, and I can say that the experience was not a waste of my money. The CGI was decent and wasn't done for the sake of drawing attention to itself, and the story was entertaining enough that you didn't think about the absurdly long battery life of the handheld camera that was supposedly capturing the film. I've read a bunch of stuff about the supposed parallels between the movie and the attacks of 11 September, but I really didn't see any connections except that something was attacking New York, and you're going to get that in any monster movie involving the Big Apple. (Or it might be that I'm too distanced/insulated/uncaring about the 11 Sept. attacks, but that's the subject for a future post.)

Also, I've heard some complaints about the big bad monster, mostly about how it was disappointing. There are two things one has to consider about this though. First is that the evil monster you create in your head will always scare the crap out of you more than anything that can be put up on screen. This is why the best horror/suspense films don't even bother showing the evil in the dark - doing so would be anticlimactic. The second is that there are only so many ways to put together a creature that is 20 stories tall, able to support its own weight, and able to move faster than a slow plod in a believable manner. They did a good job of reversing the orientations of limbs and other things, but they can't not have huge muscles reminiscent of nearly any terrestrial animal. Smaller things, like the arthropods of death that dropped off the big baddie, have a lot more freedom in body plan, and they realized the little buggers quite nicely.

However, while others may have been enthralled by the plot and touched by the movie's theme of the importance of friendship, I found a different take-home lesson from the movie:

There is a time and a place when you should listen to certain evolutionarily conserved programming in your brain, cut your losses, and run like a scared little monkey.

It doesn't matter that this girl you've liked since forever and boinked once a few months ago is trapped in her collapsed apartment building located right where the big monster is rampaging. It's near-certain that she's going to die, and if you go into that area, you probably will too. The same goes for any friends dumb enough to follow you without tackling you and hauling you off to safety. The central character in the movie was offered three opportunities to obey his inner scared monkey, and each time chose to be heroic and stupid. I fully accept that the movie could not happen without its characters being willfully stupid, and I also accept that certain people will let their emotions rule their decisions in survival situations and make really bad decisions. However, when you have one person gravely injured in a highly inaccessible area, with multiple hazards between them and their putative rescuers, and a group of four survivors that are at worst walking wounded, the rational decision is to save the four lives that are nearly guaranteed, rather than risking all five.

The first opportunity for the group to save their own asses came when the story's central character got the initial call from the romantic interest - right before his brother was killed by damage done to the Brooklyn Bridge by the monster. He could've gone, "Nope, I'm in over my head, I'm getting out of here," found another way off of Manhattan, and ended the movie abruptly. The second offered out was right after the bridge scene, with the military-led evacuation group walking towards safety the next street over. Again, calmer and more rational thought at that time was possible, and leaving was perfectly plausible. The character supposedly holding the camera even threatened to tackle our idiot hero, but doesn't follow through (This brings up a corollary to the above lesson: if your group's leader insists on being stupid and heroic, you either tackle him and drag him to safety against his will or let him go off to die by himself.) The last out they were given was in the Army field hospital set up in a department store, when they saw one of their companion's chest explode as a result of being bitten by one of the skittering arthropods of doom. (The explosion was done in pantomime, as doing the CGI for that would have definitely lost the movie its PG-13 rating.) If that, along with the fact that the Army's only answer to such wounds was quarantine for the victim and biotainer suits for the medical personnel, is not enough to convince one that they are in over their heads and need to leave immediately, I don't know what is. Of the five characters involved in the rescue attempt driving the plot, four died and the fifth might have survived - and the possible survivor was not the one that the group set out to rescue. Four dead and one maybe really does not seem like a good outcome to me, but of course, your mileage may vary.

"Don't be a hero," is slowly becoming a stock phrase in war/battle/survival movies, but it is something that this batch of characters should have listened to. People who try to be heroes end up doing stupid things and get others besides themselves injured or killed - so when a big alien decides to destroy your local metropolis, do the sensible thing and get out.

(I fully intend to plug in hyperlinks from this article to TVTropes.org when I have the time.)

Friday, January 18, 2008

Little Egypt is Farther South, People

...So if you insist on living in denial, you need to transfer to Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and start rooting for the Salukis. Meanwhile, the rest of us can go on our merry way without some sods trying out to be the next Chief Illiniwek.

Yes, you read that right: Students for Chief Illiniwek and the so-called Council of Chiefs have announced tryouts for the next person (read: white male) to continue the worst thing to happen to race relations at the University of Illinois since its Ku Klux Klan chapter was founded. At least the KKK disbanded on campus - apparently we are not yet so lucky as to be free of our former racist mascot.

Honestly, though, I shouldn't be too surprised after listening to the drunken hordes at football games continuing to yell, "Chief!" during the three-in-one at halftime. The denial that the Chief is gone runs deeply, and nowhere does it run as deep as Students for Chief Illiniwek:

[President of Students for Chief Illiniwek] Schmitt said his plan is setting the stage for a Chief revitalization that might be years down the road.

"We don't want to do this in an official capacity right now," Schmitt said.

In the meantime, Schmitt said Students for Chief Illiniwek is content to humbly channel the enthusiastic spirit of student, alumni and fan support.

"Whoever the new Chief is might not dance on the floor of Assembly Hall," Schmitt added. "But students still realize that this is a huge honor not only to the community but to Fighting Illini legacy."
Beyond the overall denial, there's still a couple things that are plain wrong about this. First is that the University cannot bring back the Chief. This was the primary reason why the Board of Trustees hemmed and hawed for so long over their bullshit "consensus conclusion" - they knew that if and when they retired the Chief that the political costs to the University would be so high as to make that decision irreversible. Maintaining a racist mascot was a black eye to the University, but reinstating it would cause the University's national and global reputation to reek for years to come. Hardly anyone on that board wanted to be stuck with the local political misfortune of being the ones to retire the Chief on their own which, while I understand it, does not make it any less cowardly. The NCAA ruling lowered the political costs to the Board of Trustees as they could claim they were saving the Athletic programs from sanctions by the mean, mean people outside the university. (Although, they were really just saving the money sports - the others had already been screwed for a year as they were unable to host playoffs.) That the board felt the need to retire the Chief without much public warning speaks more about the character of those who support the Chief, from whom the board was trying to hide, than the Board itself.

Nevertheless, what I want to know is what the new guy is going to do. Is he just going to go to games in street clothes with his thumb up his butt? Or are the Chief supporters going to try to get the new guy to show up in costume (whatever remains of it now) to non-sporting events? (As if that wouldn't make the environment of this university even more hostile and abusive...) Unless Students for Chief Illiniwek start pulling stunts worthy of the Orange and Blue Observer, I honestly cannot fathom what the new Chief will do besides stand perpetually in the on-deck circle as the ballpark is being torn down around him.

Also, running as a companion story in the Daily Illini is their own coverage of the lawsuit over the Logo for the Chief. None of the details have changed since the News-Gazette ran its story nearly two weeks ago - and that the DI sat on this for so long makes me think that someone there knew about the new Chief selection long ahead of time. What really bothers me about this article, though, is the lack of new reporting by the Daily Illini. The first big issue is that the reporter did not get the University spokesperson on the record saying how the new merchandise will not violate the NCAA ruling. A journalist should never accept it when a public official handwaves away any important issue, and since habits learned early are hard to break, the instinct to ask the uncomfortable questions should be ingrained now. The second issue I have with this is that the Daily Illini has had weeks to prepare this story, and yet they do not have a single word from the NCAA on the matter. As I pointed out previously, one of the big things in the News-Gazette article was the lack of a response from the NCAA. The NCAA has the power to say that the University is no longer in compliance with its ruling on Native American mascots, and so a statement from them matters - yet there's not a single blurb about it in the DI writeup. What has this reporter been doing for the past couple weeks that he did not call the NCAA? Even the NCAA refusing to comment is important, as noting such only highlights the blatant hypocrisy of the situation. The bottom line is, until someone comes forward and explains how the University selling/licensing Chief merchandise does not violate the NCAA ruling, the whole thing is going to stink to people on both sides of the issue.

Oh, and the way, I did notice that the Chief people tried to bury this story on the Friday before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a school holiday and three-day weekend for students. Way to be honest and forthright and all that.

What Digby Said

WTF is Obama doing praising Reagan?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

An Exercize in Cognitive Dissonance

To continue the transportation theme from earlier: does anyone else find it amusing that the recently renamed 22N Illini heads South on Goodwin, and that the 22S Illini heads North on Goodwin?

Myself, I never had a problem figuring out where the 22 Illini Engineering and the 22 Illini VetMed/PAR-FAR via First went.

Campus Bus Reroute

Via the News-Gazette:

Effective this month, Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District buses instead are driving – and stopping – along Goodwin Avenue, one block to the east, instead of the stretch of Mathews south of Green to Nevada Street. Mathews is the first north-south street east of the Quad.

....

As for the buses, the affected routes include the 2 Red Weekday; 20 Red Saturday; 8 Orchard Downs Weekday; 80 Orchard Downs Evening, Saturday, and Sunday; 21 Quad; and 24 Scamp.

The timetables for the affected bus routes will stay the same.

The new stops are on Goodwin Avenue, one block east of Mathews. In 2009 the city of Urbana is planning to update Goodwin Avenue, between Clark Street and Gregory Drive, to make it more friendly to pedestrians, bicyclists and bus users.
I agree with the University's and the MTD's reason for moving the routes, but one thing that didn't make it into the story is that the bus stops along Goodwin have been re-arranged, with what appears to be a net loss of stops. This atually does make sense - as there's more or less double the number of busses stopping along the street, having all of them move and then stop every hundred feet would drastically slow down traffic. The new stops, which have large clearances on the street to pull out of traffic, are well marked. The problem is that the MTD is relying on its bus drivers to tell riders, mostly students but some faculty/staff too, that certain stops are being discontinued, and that's it. Those busses are usually crowded, at least at peak times, so having the drivers tell the passengers is a less than ideal solution. What the MTD should do is make some laminated signs and post them at the old stops to tell riders that they can't catch a bus there anymore. This'll ease the transition, since relying on word of mouth is rather unreliable.

Also, since all the buses are gone from Matthews, UIUC needs to move the University Stop. It's an important and functional part of the university's heritage, and, seriously, no one's going to sit there now without the buses coming by.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Signs of Life in the Democratic Congress

TPMMuckraker is reporting, via the Washington Post, that the House is set to actually move on Contempt of Congress charges "against White House Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten and former White House counsel Harriet E. Miers for their refusal to appear before Congress for questioning about the 2006 removal of nine U.S. attorneys."

Hopefully the Democratic Leadership will use Congress' Inherent Contempt powers, as Bush has already instructed the Justice Department to ignore any Statutory Contempt charges filed by Congress. That the proceedings are being pursued in the House of Representatives is a good sign that this may be so: Inherent Contempt trials are held by the chamber pressing the charges, and are run by the presiding officer of that chamber. Speaker Pelosi would be the best to handle this, as I doubt that Dick Cheney would let the President Pro Temp of the Senate deal with a contempt trial against an administration official.

Newsflash: Bush Tax Cuts Did Nothing to Help the Economy

Paul Krugman has a couple of posts up on the effects of the Bush tax cuts. The first, and more important one, shows how the cuts did next to nothing to benefit the economy. The second is on the permanency of the tax cuts being a bad thing. Go have a read.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Shorter Illinois Review

WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!


The not-so-short-version: Fran at Illinois Review put up a rant about the people picking on her poor John Bambenek that barely, just barely, manages to be coherent. I'm not sure anyone has made sense of it yet, though - and people have tried.

Viral Advertising for Biologists

Via Orac, here's a "music video" in the vein of "Feed the World" that extols the virtues of PCR.



For the maybe three readers of mine who found it funny, the lyrics are here, and there's also a higher-quality video.

For My Michigan Readers

You need to watch this, if only because it will upset John Bambenek:



Best quote: "Catch this guy on the right day and he's Che-frikkin'-Guevara"

Remember, your primary's tomorrow, so go out and vote Mitt!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Bambenek Implosion Roundup

It might not be the most charitable characteristic of mine, but I really enjoy watching willfully stupid people receive the consequences of their actions. John Bambenek, who decided to make a frivolous complaint against DailyKos to the Michigan AG, received his consequences starting at just before 3pm, when diarist Adam B at DailyKos [who is apparently DailyKos' lawyer - you learn something every day -ed.] posted a takedown of John's arguments for the benefit of his fellow Kossaks. Up until then, John was being schooled in his choices of Federal Case Law to cite by another local blogger, Prairie Biker, but after the diary went up an influx of Kossaks came over to see the stupid that Mr. Bambenek posted, with quite a few leaving comments. At about that time, John went into hiding, and he has not, to my knowledge, posted anything since - other than to repost his original announcement onto his own blog, presumably to fend off the vile nasty Kossaks who are even less nice than I am about pointing out the flaws of his argument.

It has also been brought to my attention that this is not the first time that John has engaged in legal stupidity against DailyKos. The same Adam B emailed me early this morning (sorry, but I usually don't check that email address at work) and linked to commentary on the last stunt Mr. Bambenek pulled - arguing to the FEC that DailyKos was a political entity. This was quite rightly smacked down by the FEC, and though he swore he'd appeal once he was over his hissy-fit he apparently decided not to follow up on it.

Myself, I wonder what, if any, response the Michigan AG's office will have to this sorry mess. My guess is that they'll send John a nice letter that effectively says, "Um, no, what are you smoking?" and that John will refuse to post the letter for all to see.

UPDATE: For those who wish to see the Kossaks pile on John even more, you can do so here.

Taking Law School Classes Does Not a Lawyer Make

John Bambenek is a local blogger who tries oh-so-very-hard to be like Limbaugh, Savage, O'Reilly, and other conservative talk show hosts. John's problem is that his chosen medium is the written word, both newspaper columns and blog posts, which, as slower-paced media, allow for fact-checking. Unlike those he chooses to emulate, John is not in a position to make remarks backed up by squat and then move on to the next thing without being challenged. He tries to anyway, and what usually happens is this:

  1. John writes something that is, at first pass, clever, but is really very stupid and not based in what the rest of us call reality.
  2. Someone or some group of people call John on how specious his reasoning is.
  3. John backpedals and choses one of two options:
  • He responds, "That's not what I said/meant," when any informed observer can see otherwise.
  • He finds things that are related to what he is talking about, cites them as if they actually back him up, and claims victory.
As one might surmise, John and I have crossed pens before, on one of my favorite topics. While for that exchange he took the first option under point 3, Mr. Bambenek has gotten himself into yet another spot and gone for the second option. It seems that John, based upon his having taken a couple Law School classes, thinks himself qualified to write letters to state Attorney Generals interpreting their state's laws without making an ass out of himself.

More specifically, this bout of poor legal logic started when John announced that he had filed a complaint against Markos Moulitsas, the "Kos" of DailyKos for encouraging Democrats to take advantage of the Open Primary in Michigan and vote for Mitt Romney. The gist of John's argument is this:
Moulitsas' call could be felonious. Michigan state law clearly indicates that unqualified electors voting in elections is a felony. It also specifies that counseling or aiding someone to vote in an election they are unqualified for is also a felony. Election law clearly specifies that to vote in a party's primary, one must actually belong to that party.

Compromising the power of the vote in this country is a direct attack on the very foundation of our freedom. While much can be said about the closed primary system of which I am no fan, it is the law of the land and undermining that system for partisan gain is an invidious attempt to disenfranchise voters, and simply cannot be allowed to stand.

The parties do have free association rights which allow them the constitutional right to declare who are and are not members and, by extension, those who cannot interfere in the workings of that political organization. Republicans alone should choose Republican candidates. Democrats alone should choose Democrat candidates. The same goes for third parties.
In the comments on that post, a number of commenters bring up various arguments based on state statutes, which John then misreads or cherry-picks from to promote his own position. However, what I find most illustrative is the actual complaint he sent to the Michigan Attorney General. In it, we find the following deliciously wrong sentence:
Michigan state law 168.534 specifies who qualified electors for primary elections are, and not surprisingly, qualified electors may only vote in primaries for the party in which they are members of.
Michigan AG Mike Cox (or one of his staffers) will likely be surprised when he reads this letter, as 168.234 in fact says this:
A general primary of all political parties except as provided in sections 532 and 685 shall be held in every election precinct in this state on the Tuesday after the first Monday in August before every general November election, at which time the qualified and registered voters of each political party may vote for party candidates for the office of governor, United States senator, representative in congress, state senator, representative in the legislature, county executive, prosecuting attorney, sheriff, county clerk, county treasurer, register of deeds, county auditor, drain commissioner, public works commissioner, county road commissioner, county mine inspector, surveyor, and candidates for office in townships. A nomination for an office shall be made only if the official is to be elected at the next succeeding general November election.
Note that the wording is different - there is no limitation of electors (what MI state statute calls voters) to vote for their own party's candidates, the law only states that they may vote for party candidates. Further, this statute does not apply to Presidential primaries, as that office is omitted.

More evidence of the openness of the Michigan primary is seen in 168.575:
After the polls are opened at a primary election, any elector who is legally registered and qualified shall, before entering the booth or voting compartment, be furnished a party ballot, together with any other ballot or ballots to be voted at that primary election.
Here, too, the article "a" is used, rather than any posessive adjective, leaving an elector the legal option of choosing any party ballot, not necessarily his own.

Both Sections 534 and 575, as well as many other sections throughout the election code, make use of the phrase "registered and qualified", or variations thereof, to describe electors. This phrase is defined in section 492, which lays out the qualifications for registering as an elector:
Every person who has the following qualifications of an elector, or who will have those qualifications at the next election or primary election, shall be entitled to be registered as an elector in the township, city, or village in which he or she resides. The person shall be a citizen of the United States; not less than 18 years of age; a resident of the state for not less than 30 days; and a resident of the township, city, or village on or before the thirtieth day before the next regular or special election or primary election.
One will note that party status has nothing to do with the qualifications of an elector - so John's assertion that "qualified electors may only vote in primaries for the party in which they are members of" seems odd in that, by its inclusion, he highlights the adjective "qualified" as if it means something beyond the basic requirements for voting in the state of Michigan.

Further nails in John's argument are hammered home by Section 615c, of which subsections 1 and 2 read as:
(1) In order to vote at a presidential primary, an elector shall indicate in writing, on a form prescribed by the secretary of state, which participating political party ballot he or she wishes to vote when appearing to vote at a presidential primary. In fulfilling the requirements of this subsection, the secretary of state shall prescribe procedures intended to protect or safeguard the confidentiality of the participating political party ballot selected by an elector consistent with this section.

(2) An elector shall not be challenged at a presidential primary based upon the participating political party ballot selected by the elector. An elector may be challenged only to the extent authorized under section 727.
Not only is the elector merely stating what ballot he or she wants, but challenges to that choice are explicitly stated to be illegal. The legal bases for challenges are listed under section 727, subsection 1:
(1) An election inspector shall challenge an applicant applying for a ballot if the inspector knows or has good reason to suspect that the applicant is not a qualified and registered elector of the precinct, or if a challenge appears in connection with the applicant's name in the registration book. A registered elector of the precinct present in the polling place may challenge the right of anyone attempting to vote if the elector knows or has good reason to suspect that individual is not a registered elector in that precinct. An election inspector or other qualified challenger may challenge the right of an individual attempting to vote who has previously applied for an absent voter ballot and who on election day is claiming to have never received the absent voter ballot or to have lost or destroyed the absent voter ballot.
Your eyes do not deceive you, there is no reference to party affiliation in that statute either. Neither is there in any other election statute that I could find, though I encourage everyone to look for themselves.

At this point, it seems rather certain to a person (such as myself) doing a plain reading of these statutes that, as far as Michigan state law is concerned, Michigan's open primary is precisely that, open. Although I readily admit that open primaries are stupid, it is the choice of the people of the State of Michigan, and their elected representatives, to have such a system. While cross-over voting does violate the spirit of the primary, there is no legal barrier to it, and both parties have engaged in such activities in Michigan in the past with no legal repercussions.

This brings us to the allegation that John brings against Kos, that Markos has committed a felony by violating 168.932a, subsection c:
(c) A person who is not a qualified and registered elector shall not willfully offer to vote or attempt to vote at an election held in this state. A person shall not aid or counsel a person who is not a qualified and registered elector to vote or offer to vote at the place where the vote is given during an election.
Again, this law rests upon the definition of a "qualified and registered elector". As we saw in section 492, this merely deals with age, citizenship, and residency, with nothing to do with party status or affiliation at all. As Kos has not encouraged anyone to fraudulently vote under section 492, he has not violated section 932a.

Having demonstrated that John Bambenek is quite blatantly wrong, one wonders why he engaged in this little stunt at all. While I have no doubt that John will see fit to enlighten us as to his logic (or lack thereof), I can think of a few scenarios.
  1. John was alarmed by what he read at DailyKos, checked the MI statutes, did not read section 492, projected his own preconceptions onto the text of sections 234 and 932a, and then filed his complaint in good faith.
  2. John saw what Kos had posted, wanted to score some quick political points, read sections 234 and 932a as confirming his thoughts, did not bother to find and read section 492, and sent off his letter thinking to cause Kos some legal problems at the expense of the state of Michigan.
  3. John saw what Kos had posted, read all applicable laws including section 492, and decided to send off his letter to the Michigan Attorney General anyway and post about such on his blog in the hope of creating some bad press for DailyKos - discrediting the site and discouraging people from engaging in crossover voting.

Myself, I currently lean towards the second explanation, as it is suggested by John's consistent misreading of the law. I am open to being convinced that either of the other scenarios, or even ones I did not think of, are actually the case.

If you go John's original post, I posted a rough version of the legal analysis section post as a comment.

A major kudos goes out to the anonymous commenter on an earlier thread that pointed out this whole mess to me.

Also - brownie points go out to any/all readers of mine who can find out what John was saying when Laurel Prussing was running in the Democratic primary for Mayor of Urbana and all the local Republicans were up in arms about Prussing's people enforcing the closed primary.

UPDATE: Wow, this exploded, with the mess landing on John. Now we wait and see how toxic the fallout will be for him.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Second America

CNN.com is apparently kicking off a series of articles titled "Behind the Scenes" which, according to the site, is intended to let "CNN Correspondents share their experiences in covering news and analyze the stories behind the events." (I say apparently becuase a Google search of cnn "Behind the Scenes" reveals no other stories in this series.)

Anyhow, this inaugural story is about the side of Palestine that President Bush did not see when he visited the area. While I applaud any depiction of how the average Palestinian is getting the shaft by the current situation, I think that there is a better direction to go with this series: do a Behind the Scenes on the America that Bush never sees. Better yet, do a whole series. They can start with New Orleans, since the city still isn't rebuilt yet. Next would be a focus on the thousands of men and women going back to Iraq for a third tour, followed by a report on how the VA is still trying to skimp on giving soldiers disability benefits. Next they could focus on the stories of some young U.S. Citizens whose illegal immigrant parents were taken from them to provide Lou Dobbs and the GOP with some PR and talking points. Wrapping up the series might be a look at the Urban Poor in Washington D.C., and go places in the White House's back yard that the presidential motorcade never will.

But alas, pointing out still more proof that poor management and trickle-down economics are synergistic in their suckiness would be considered partisan as opposed to real journalism, and the media can't stand being called liberal.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

What We Need for Dubya

Is something along the lines of "Hey, Hey, LBJ, How many kids did you kill today?" It needs to be short, catchy, and an earworm, so that not only would the entire crop of candidates be scared of keeping us in Iraq for fear of the backlash, but also the media would be forced to pay attention to people chanting it every time Bush went anywhere.

I've tried, but Bush, Dubya, and George are all hard to find rhymes for, let alone ones that make sense.

Shorter Kos

The Democratic primary in Michigan doesn't mean anything - the DNC stripped it of its delegates for moving the primary ahead of February 5th and Hillary's the only one on the ballot. So, if you, or any of your friends, would normally vote Democratic in Michigan, take a GOP ballot instead and vote for Mitt Romney. They've done it to us in Michigan, repeatedly, and what goes around comes around. Mitt's the best for this because a Michigan win keeps him in the race, and the more the GOP bickers amongst itself and wastes money, the better.

(And, though that's somewhere around 8x as long as your regular "shorter ______" post, the post by Kos is still really long.)

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Evolution Education for Everyone

Lauded in both Science and Nature, the National Academy of Sciences recently released the third edition of its booklet aimed at educating the public on Evolution, entitled "Science, Evolution, and Creationism." You can buy it, or you can read it free online. It's twice as long as the last edition, published in 1999, and those extra pages are spent using recent research to illustrate the concepts involved, among other things.

UPDATE: I somehow managed to miss the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences' own glowing review of the booklet. That article also has a link to the results of the Coalition of Scientific Societies' Evolution in Science Education Survey, as well as some reports, presentations, and the like that came from the survey. I've not yet had time to look at those (I don't blog while working and I'm set to leave town for the weekend) but when I get around to it I may write up a review of them if I'm impressed.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Almighty Narrative

While we're waiting for the New Hampshire results to come in, here's something to chew on: Glenn Greenwald points out the Edwards surge that nobody is talking about. (Kudos to Avedon at Eschaton.)

Edwards -- who, just one week ago, was 10 points behind Obama nationally among Democrats -- is now only two points behind him. Less than a month ago, he trailed Clinton by 29 points. Now it's 13 points. He is, by far, at his high point of support nationwide. Apparently, the more exposure Democratic voters get to Edwards and his campaign positions -- and that exposure has been at its high point during his surge -- the more they like him. By contrast, Obama is more or less at the same level of support nationally, even having decreased some since his Iowa win (for most of mid-Decemeber, he was at 27-28 points).

Yet to listen to media reports, Edwards doesn't even exist. His campaign is dead. He has no chance. They hate Edwards, hate his message, and thus rendered him invisible long ago, only now to declare him dead -- after he came in second place in the first caucus of the campaign.

There are certainly horse-race counterarguments to all of this. This is only one poll. Obama is ahead in New Hampshire, where his support has increased, etc. etc.

But I'm not focusing on the accuracy of horse-race predictions here, but instead, on the fact that the traveling press corps endlessly imposes its own narrative on the election, thereby completely excluding from all coverage plainly credible candidates they dislike (such as Edwards) while breathlessly touting the prospects of the candidates of whom they are enamored. Their predictions (i.e., preferences and love affairs) so plainly drive their press coverage -- the candidates they love are lauded as likely winners while the ones they hate are ignored or depicted as collapsing -- which in turn influences the election in the direction they want, making their predictions become self-fulfilling prophecies.

It's just all a completely inappropriate role for political reporters to play, yet it composes virtually the entirety of their election coverage.
That's just an excerpt; go read the whole thing.

While I'm posting this largely because I support Edwards, everyone should be incensed that the media is so caught up in the narrative of who they want to see win that they neglect to report on what's actually going on. I'd suggest contacting various media outlets about this, but as they're so wrapped up in saying what they want to say, the facts be damned, I'm not sure they'd listen.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Chief Logo Shenannigans

I didn't catch Saturday's News-Gazette, but Illinipundit did, and he caught the story on the Chief logo's creator suing the university to get the rights back from the Board of Trustees. He doesn't have a legal leg to stand on, but what's interesting about the article is actually what it says on the UofI's plans for the logo:

[U]niversity officials and lawyers have been working with Collegiate Licensing Company to add the Chief logo to the company's College Vault program. College Vault licenses vintage collegiate logos, emblems and other images.

"We have not made final decisions on specific products or volume going forward, but we will continue to offer merchandise in select apparel, non-apparel and headwear categories," Kaler said.

-snip-

Kaufman also said such marketing would violate the UI Board of Trustees March 13, 2007, resolution calling for the elimination of the Chief and it would violate the NCAA policy prohibiting schools with "hostile or abusive" imagery from hosting postseason competitions or displaying the nicknames, logos or mascots at those events.

-snip-

If the university signs an agreement with College Vault to license the Chief Illiniwek merchandise, the Chief items would be sold online only. Such use is in accordance with NCAA and university policies, Kaler said.

Calls left for NCAA officials were not immediately returned Friday.

Last February, after UI Board Chairman Lawrence Eppley announced the end of Chief Illiniwek, the NCAA issued a release stating that if the university no longer used Chief Illiniwek and related American Indian imagery in athletics, the university would be in full compliance with the NCAA's policy.
What everyone is waiting on is for the NCAA to respond and say whether or not UofI's continued sale of Chief merchandise online really is in accordance with NCAA policy. If it is, I'd be disappointed in the NCAA. How is allowing online sales substantially different from allowing sales in meatspace? We all know that the die-hard Chief fans will flock to the online site to buy the most-likely overpriced "vintage" apparel just to get their fix of racist clothing, and since the University - and the NCAA! - would be sponsoring it, the University would still be fostering a Hostile and Abusive atmosphere. My own view is that, given enough time without a white guy jumping around in a costume down on the field, the student body itself will get over the loss of its mascot - but allowing a source of Chief memorabilia to remain will, just like the Marching Illini's continued use of the Three-in-One, contribute to and extend the rather pathetic hanging-on to the Chief that his supporters currently exhibit.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Is It Time for a Change?

Via Orac, the website io9.com has a graph up charting how often our favorite Time Lord has overthrown the government on the planet of the week, expressed as revolutions/series.

Meanwhile, I really need to get around to watching the 2007 Christmas Special - though I doubt it holds a candle to the Children in Need special preceding it.



(Note: BBC has some good lawyers, so watch it before they get this version taken down, or else you'll have to wait for the Series Three DVD.)

The Next Time Someone Says "Racism is Dead"

...whack them upside the head and have them read this post by Glenn Greenwald on the cryptoracist droppings about Obama currently being laid by GOP shills in the media. (Kudos to Digby for the link.)

UPDATE: David Neiwert of Orcinus chimes in, and uses the opportunity to talk and drop hyperlinks about the people who are already saying they'll try to assassinate Obama if he's elected.

No Debate Blogging Here

I decided to keep up my streak and miss the candidate debates over the weekend, since I'd missed all the other ones as well. I've already done my research - the proposed policies of the major three candidates are virtually the same, the "message" is what differs, and one well-timed jab is not going to change what I think about the candidates. On top of that, I also had something much better to do with my time, but that's besides point.

In the meanwhile, we can all marvel how an undemocractic process in one state can affect the democractic process in another state and, between the two, determine who the media will say is the next candidate, even before the vast majority of this country heads to the polls.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Ideas for a Top Graphic

As you can see, I put the flag back up on top of the sidebar. After doing so, I noticed how plain and excessively left-justified the title for the blog is. I'd like to have a spiffy graphic to put there, that'll look cool, be at least tangentally related to the site, and not cheapen the US Flag that'll sit right beneath it. (Actually, a picture of a flag to replace the graphic might be a thought...)

Anyhow, I'm open to suggestions if anyone has them. Donations of artwork will also be appreciated.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Caucus Funness

So it looks like Obama was everyone and their mother's Second Choice candidate in Iowa, as he pulled out ahead of Edwards and Clinton. Edwards squeeked out into second place, and Clinton less than a percentage point behind - which, according to Chris Matthews, apparently means that two-thirds of the party is specifically against her, but not against Edwards. And conservatives wonder why we libs bitch about the media - I'm not pulling for Clinton in the primaries, but even that reeks of stupid to me.

Meanwhile, Huckabee is scaring the crap out of the GOP elite as the Proles start standing up and doing what they want instead of being manipulated into doing what the monied interests want...

UPDATE: For a blow-by-blow, Matt of It's Matt's World took the time to liveblog the coverage of the caucuses.

UPDATE, Part Deux: Glock21 has some snarky comments on how Ron Paul fared in Iowa.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Watching and Waiting

I don't really have much more to say until the crapshoot that is the Iowa Caucus is finished tomorrow night.

Not Just For Biology

PZ Myers of Pharyngula points out a post over at Language Log on Intelligent Design's attempt invade the field of linguistics with something called Edenics, proposed by one Isaac E. Mozeson:

His theory seems to be that God was a sort of weak cryptographer, who didn't actually create any new languages after Babel, but simply mixed up the old ones ("letters that shift in sound and location, and letters that drop in and out") in ways that Mozeson has figured out how to decrypt.

This strikes me as crank etymology with a religious overlay, rather than a serious attempt at rationalizing the linguistic aspects of Genesis.
Beyond the initial outburst along the lines of: "Of course, Christianity had to borrow a lot from Judaism, it's not anything surprising that a few words managed to filter into other languages, with Islam and Arabic, another Semitic language, doing the same," I really don't know where to start with the stupidity of such a concept. Perhaps a real linguist who chances to stop by could do a better job.

Out of Curiosity

Has the ID of IlliniPundit been outed yet? I've been away from the blog scene for a while, so I haven't heard if he/she has or not.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Something to Keep in Mind: the Overton Window

I'm half posting this here so that I won't have to hunt for it again, but it's something that everyone, especially liberals, should be aware of.

The Overton Window, as explained by shystee at Corrente, is a political science concept describing how ideas enter and leave the realm of acceptable discourse. The general idea is that as ever more extreme ideas are presented, the center shifts towards that extreme, as the milder forms of that idea pale in comparison. (There's also a nice picture in the post that illustrates this point nicely. Go look.)

The conservative movement has been engaging in this for decades - see pretty much all of the posts over at Orcinus for examples.

Rose Bowl

Ouch.

Thoughts on the game: Yeah, we lost - but then again, I expected us to win 5, maybe 6 games this year, and we went to the frikkin' Rose Bowl. So that's not too shabby. Assuming Zook can keep everyone around, we should do at least as well, if not better, next year.

Thoughts on Halftime: First, why are we still doing the 3-in-1? I mean, it's pathetic enough when everyone yells "Chief" for a mascot that is no longer there, did the Marching Illini have to showcase that to the rest of the nation? Also, why was ABC feeding sound from the on-field cameras during Stairway to Heaven? Having one or two instruments' parts drown out the rest of the band due to poor microphone placement took one of the awesomest pieces of marching band music ever and made it sound really weird. They didn't do the same thing to USC's band, what made ABC think it was a good idea for ours?