Saturday, March 31, 2007

A great start to the weekend

Some utility or another has been doing quite a bit of work outside my apartment. There were those little flags laid out for a while, as well as some recent spray paint on the ground. Then there were strange holes dug around the yard. Then yesterday, I got a notice saying that the water company had to shut the water off for a few hours to fix a leak. So I'm under a boil order until 9 p.m. tonight. Great, what a lot of fun.

Friday, March 30, 2007

The Darwin robot

Yeah, I know, I haven't been posting much lately. I have a few things rolling around in my head and I'll get around to putting them online when I can. Or when I feel like it. Here's something to keep you entertained in the meantime. It's programmed in LabVIEW, too.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Why do I know more about the Bible than him?

This charming letter appeared in the News-Gazette this Wednesday.

I do not understand why Schmeling thinks that he should be a priest. Apparently, he does not read the Bible. If he did, he would know the following: God said, "Ye shall be holy; for I am holy." The apostle Paul said, "What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid." Because Schmeling lives an unrighteous life, he should not be a priest.

Moreover, God demonstrated in the Bible that he does not like homosexuality. He destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah because of it. Ironically, the definition of the word sodomy described the same homosexual behaviors that had happened inside of Sodom. Homosexuals had polluted these cities so badly with their homosexuality that God only found three righteous people whom he could save from destruction.

Homosexuals want to use the powers of religious offices to pollute churches. Homosexuality being accepted in today's society is important to homosexuals. If homosexuals can use these powers to get society to accept homosexuality, they certainly will.

No matter how homosexuals interpret the scriptures for the homosexual movement, they cannot change how God feels about homosexuality. In the end, he will demonstrate to them how he feels.

Paul Hayes

What is it with self-righteous Christians and the hating of the queers? It seems to be all they focus on these days. From passing Constitutional amendments, to firing journalism teachers that publish a student's letter in the school newspaper calling for an end to gay bullying, it's a wonder these Christians still have time to feed and clothe the poor.

Even I know that the story of Sodom is generally viewed by Biblical scholars to be a condemnation of the inhospitality showed by the city dwellers toward the strangers in their midst. Hospitality was of vital importance to many of these ancient cultures. The Greeks were especially aware of it, since their gods regularly traveled in human form; offending a stranger could get you the wrath of Zeus. The ancient Middle East was no different.

Frankly, Mr. Hayes, I might give your beliefs some credulity when San Francisco is destroyed by a rain of fire and sulfur. Until then, you're full of crap.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Icky, but interesting

Fig has another blog post about life in the ED. Go read Like spitting into the ocean.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

U.S. Attorney scandal

A commenter over at It's Matt's World had just doesn't seem to understand why anyone is so upset about the recent firing of all those US Attorneys. Yes, they are political appointees of the President, but they work in the Department of Justice. The DOJ is not the political enforcer of the President's political party.

Digby, quoting Kevin Drum in today's Washington Monthly, puts it well:

the only serious argument that Purgegate is a scandal is related to the reason for the Pearl Harbor Day massacre. If seven U.S. Attorneys were fired that day for poor performance, that would be fine. If they were fired for insufficient commitment to Bush administration policies, that would be fine too. But there's considerable reason to believe that at least some of them were fired because either (a) they were too aggressive about investigating Republican corruption or (b) they weren't aggressive enough about investigating Democrats.

That's it. That's the argument. David Iglesias: Didn't bring indictments against some local Democrats prior to the 2006 election. John McKay: Failed to invent voter fraud cases that might have prevented a Democrat from winning the 2004 governor's race in Washington... And this all comes against a background that suggests the Bush Justice Department has initiated fantastically more investigations of Democrats than Republicans over the past five years.

Although there wasn't any fellatio involved (that we know of) this leads to a suspicion that somebody was obstructing justice, which last I heard was still a crime.

He also links to this article in Washington Monthly, showing that at the local level, the DOJ has instituted seven times more investigations into Democrats than Republicans.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Why the right-wing smear machine works

Sometimes, something happens or I hear something that just jolts me out of my blogponymous narcissism. For example, when I find out that some people don't at least glance at a couple of Internet news sources most days. Or when I realize that there are some people that don't even read blogs (or know what they are), let alone have one of their own. It's moments like that that make me realize just how the right-wing noise machine works.

The hard part is getting a story/smear started. Once it's planted somewhere, other, more "respectable" media outlets can report on the fact that someone else is reporting the smear. Then commentators pick it up and start using it as a talking point. Then it becomes a code word to the base. For example, Al Gore says he "invented the Internet," or that John Kerry is a coward and threw his medals away.

Greg Sargent over at The Horses Mouth shows this with the "Hillary's drawl" story. No CNN anchor reported on Hillary's drawl until the day after Drudge commented on it. Then, they were all condemning it and quoting Clinton out of context. Elsewhere, Sargent even blogs about a Washington Post article about how Drudge is the "launching post" for stories.

So I was listening to C-SPAN the other day, and this caller calls into Washington Journal:

CALLER: Good morning and thank you for taking my call. I have a question about a news article that was on two or three TV stations approximately a month ago. Senator Clinton made a comment that Mr. Obama attended a madrassa as a child and I was just wondering if he ... I haven't heard anybody say if he is a practicing Muslim, or if he isn't affiliated with any particular religion.

The caller is of course referring to the story that was reported by, without any named sources, that associates of Clinton had discovered that Senator Obama had attended an extremist Muslim madrassa. The story was thoroughly debunked, but persists in the right-wing media, in soundbite and code word form, if nothing else. This poor guy heard probably about it initially, and didn't catch any of the followup stories (probably on other networks, if he heard about it on FOX), so he still thinks it's true. How many other people do?

So we have a completely unsourced story on a right-wing website (not only were there no sources in the article, no reporter or author is listed). The story is immediately picked up by FOX News, where anchors and commentators talk about it for several days. Little followup is done to show the story is a complete falsehood. The story has now entered the zeitgeist, and people accept it as true, even though it's not.

If you go to the FOX News site now, and search for "Obama madrassa," three pages come up in the results. Two are transcripts of John Gibson reporting the smear. The other is an AP story refuting it, but there's no indication that this made it to air.

Clearly, the story has accomplished its purpose, namely to smear Obama. Whether or not it's true is unimportant; the only thing that matters is to get it out onto the airwaves.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Told ya so

So it turns out that the FBI has been using its new USA PATRIOT Act powers inappropriately. From the NY Times:

The report found many instances when national security letters, which allow the bureau to obtain records from telephone companies, Internet service providers, banks, credit companies and other businesses without a judge’s approval, were improperly, and sometimes illegally, used.

Moreover, record keeping was so slipshod, the report found, that the actual number of national security letters exercised was often understated when the bureau reported on them to Congress, as required.

Oh, if only someone had forseen the possibility of this abuse! If only there were some way to place some sort of check on the powers of the executive, or at least to balance them with the powers of the other branches of government. There just doesn't seem to be any way of doing that, at least not in the minds of the Bush administration. Woe! Woe is us.