Saturday, July 19, 2008

Good riddance dept.

Enron millionaire, Swiss bank executive, and soft-core porn investor Phil Gramm has resigned from the McCain campaign. This is the second of two national co-chairs for the campaign that have stepped down in some kind of scandal.

But a campaign in chaos doesn't say anything about McCain's executive ability as President. He was a POW, and that's all we need to know.

The Stupid, It Burns

I was busy yesterday and didn't comment on the ignoramus in Oklahoma who put out a crudely-drawn, highly-bigoted, unintentionally hilarious comic book about how he's on the side of the angels (literally) and anyone opposing him is Satanic.

However, the story has now gone (as Princess Sparkle Pony so perfectly expressed it), "magnificently viral." She's got a roundup of reaction links.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Happy Birthday, 3 days late

I just realized... last Tuesday marked one year since this blog's first post (helpfully entitled, "First post"). Though the first substantive post was this one. Where has the time gone? I find myself agreeing with Calvin: Here I am in the future, and it looks a lot like that past. Where are the flying cars? The jetpacks? The personal robot servants?

Quote of the day

Some H. L. Mencken:

"Even a superstitious man has certain inalienable rights. He has a right to harbor and indulge his imbecilities as long as he please, provided only he does not try and inflict them upon other men by force. He has a right to argue for them as eloquently as he can, in season and out of season. He has a right to teach them to his children. But certainly he has no right to be protected against the free criticism of those who do not hold them. He has no right to demand that they be treated as sacred. He has no right to preach them without challenge."

Thursday, July 17, 2008

She gets it

I've tweaked Gail Collins a time or two in this space. Her columns, while usually pleasant to read, are occasionally wildly misinformed or risibly Manhattan-centric.

On the other hand, today's column on gay marriage is a gem. Money quote:

It is very possible that we’ll be having a number of depressing discussions about gay rights over the next several months. Just this week we learned that California is going to have a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would bar same-sex marriages. And John McCain was unable to come up with a clear position on whether gays should be allowed to adopt.

But the forces of history are only on one side here. There’s going to be a long-term happy ending.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Media Watch Edition, Day 4

FINALLY, the Washington Post deigns to notice.

Every time I think I'm becoming jaded and cynical, I realize my real problem is that I'm still not jaded and cynical enough.

Abolishing "Darwinism"

Olivia Judson has a very good entry on how much the field of biology has changed since Darwin's day, how much he got right, and how his few simple ideas have turned out to have so much explanatory power.

And she correctly notes that the term Darwinism to refer to all this implies something that simply isn't true:

I’d like to abolish the insidious terms Darwinism, Darwinist and Darwinian. They suggest a false narrowness to the field of modern evolutionary biology, as though it was the brainchild of a single person 150 years ago, rather than a vast, complex and evolving subject to which many other great figures have contributed. (The science would be in a sorry state if one man 150 years ago had, in fact, discovered everything there was to say.) Obsessively focusing on Darwin, perpetually asking whether he was right about this or that, implies that the discovery of something he didn’t think of or know about somehow undermines or threatens the whole enterprise of evolutionary biology today.
And she's absolutely correct, of course. Her concluding paragraph, pointing out that we don't call aeronautical engineering Wrightism, is very good.

My own observation, for what it's worth. Those most likely to use the term Darwinism seem to be creationists of various ilks, looking for a convenient tag to cover evolutionary biology, genetics, and whatever else they're worked up about that day. It also seems to be a symptom of the religionist mindset: Truth is something eternal, that is revealed by prophets. Therefore, if someone believes incorrectly, they must have been led astray by a false prophet. Obviously, the false prophet must be discredited. Therefore the assault on Darwinism.

Of course, in science, truth is contingent, peer-reviewed, and evidence-based. It turns out Darwin was wrong about some specific examples, and he didn't know enough about genetics to understand how traits could be inherited. (No one knew enough about genetics at the time, the basic principles were still being worked out and the existence and role of DNA wasn't even suspected.) Do Darwin's mistakes mean the entire edifice comes crumbling down? Not at all! Gaps are filled in, mistakes corrected, and the science moves on. Indeed, if it turned out that every one of Darwin's examples was wrong (they weren't, but suppose for argument), evolutionary biology would continue just fine.

By casting it as "Darwinism vs Christianity," as though both are religions, the creationists attempt to frame the debate in a method most likely to appeal to their supporters, and reveal the biases of their own thinking. (Is my thinking biased? Undoubtedly. But I maintain that a bias in favor of testing against evidence leads to better results than a bias in favor of listening to self-proclaimed prophets.)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Predictable Reactions Dept.

Slate insists the New Yorker cover is no big deal.

Tell that to the WingNutDaily readers.

Late update: Jon Swift weighs in.

And still no sign that I can see of the GOP access-for-dollars story in the corporate media.

Monday, July 14, 2008

This resonated a bit too much for comfort...

I am NOT having a midlife crisis!

But he's right... I've wanted a convertible since I was about 8... I may be able to afford one my next car (if I can afford the gas). If I buy a car I've wanted for over 30 years, is it a midlife crisis if I can finally afford it? "Losing a few pounds" used to mean skipping desserts and going easy on the fried stuff for a few days; now it takes a bit more effort. So if I try to do something to stay healthy and looking reasonably good (as much as I've ever looked), is it a midlife crisis if it takes more effort than it used to?

If I'd dyed my hair for 20 years, continuing to do so might not mean anything... If I took it up at this stage, it might be different.

Media Watch Update

Nothing in the NY Times, Washington Post, or CNN this morning about the bribes-for-access story.

Has this regime made such an art form of corruption that something like that isn't even news anymore?

Update: Pam's House Blend, AmericaBlog, and (of all places) Princess Sparkle Pony have picked this up. Possibly some others as well; Pam has an update on her site suggesting the blogs are starting to pick up on this. But nothing from the mass media yet.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Media Watch Edition, Part II

God save us from our friends.

I'm stunned. I'm sure I'll have something to say beyond "Yeah, what John said!" at some point, but nothing's coming to mind at the moment. I'm just trying to figure out what on earth they could possibly have been thinking?

And of course, we can count of plenty of "outrage" from the talking heads, with lots of full-screen shots of just what they're so "outraged" about.

Update: Andrew, of course, thinks it's "quite funny."

Media Watch Edition

The London Times is reporting this morning that a fundraiser for the still-in-planning George W. Bush Presidential Library is offering access to senior Administration figures in return for large cash donations.

Stephen Payne, who claims to have raised more than $1m for the president’s Republican party in recent years, said he would arrange meetings with Dick Cheney, the vice-president, Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, and other senior officials in return for a payment of $250,000 (£126,000) towards the library in Texas.

Payne, who has accompanied Bush and Cheney on several foreign trips, also said he would try to secure a meeting with the president himself.

Now I would, of course, be shocked--shocked--to learn that any politician, certainly one as upright as the leader of the squeaky-clean W. administration, would do anything so blatantly favoring the wealthy and well-connected.

Of more interest will be whether the US media picks up on the story at all.

My prediction: It becomes a minor story for one news cycle at most. Odds are better than 50/50 that no domestic sources pick it up at all. I'm willing to be proven wrong, but don't think I will be.

Back where we started

Frank Rich has a must-read op-ed about the degree of damage the Bush Administration has done not only to our moral standing, but to our security. The risk of a major terrorist attack today? About where it was in July 2001.

Go read it.