October 2004 Archives

Happy, Happy, Happy

It was a rough game after Thomas Davis went out, but Georgia managed to hold on and beat Florida. I just hope our team doesn’t look towards Auburn and pull a Miami next week.

Wolfpacks for Truth

The Real Story on George Bush’s “Wolves” Commercial

They told us we were shooting a Greenpeace commercial!

When the camera crew showed up, we wondered why they were all driving Hummers. Our agent assured us it was a Greenpeace commercial and they paid TWICE our hourly steak rate. Little did we know we were being tricked into this vicious campaign attack ad.

We are not Terrorists!

George W. Bush incorrectly labelled my wolfpack as a terrorist threat. We are NOT terrorists. We do not associate with terrorists (unless you count that pesky wolverine) and FRANKLY, we don’t even like terrorists! Ha, just kidding Sam the Wolverine, you’re no terrorist either!

Party of Freedom?

I find it funny that people actually expect me to think that in this election the Republicans are the party of freedom. Am I simply supposed to believe that the party of war is the party of freedom? In response to my support of Democrats this election, I am told, “There are times you need to realize that you need to stand up and for the freedoms that we enjoy.. Think about it..ok.”

I do stand up for my freedoms. That is why I oppose the Republican party. I wish someone would explain to me how the Republicans are the party of my freedom when they oppose abortion rights, oppose church and state separation, oppose protesters, oppose free speech, oppose federalism, oppose small government, oppose civil rights, oppose an independent judiciary, oppose equal rights, oppose due process of law, oppose science, oppose political dissent, etc. Can anyone find a single right that I have as an American Citizen, other than to bear arms, that the Republican party politically supports in this election? I’ve looked, and it simply ain’t there.

In this election, the Republican party is not the party of freedom, it is the party of totalitarianism.

I have no party affiliation. I care about civil liberties, federalism, church and state separation, education, science, and the national debt. The Bush administration has not done anything in the last four years to earn my vote.

(Hopefully, after the election, I can get back to blogging science.)

I got a forwarded email originally written by an economics prof, explaining how Bush’s tax cut is not a cut for the wealthy. Using a restaurant analogy he argues that people who spend more get more money back when there is a refund.

However, this is not an accurate picture of Bush’s tax plan. A nonpartisian study found in August that the tax burdon was shifted to the middle.

The conclusions are stark. The effective federal tax rate of the top 1 percent of taxpayers has fallen from 33.4 percent to 26.7 percent, a 20 percent drop. In contrast, the middle 20 percent of taxpayers – whose incomes averaged $51,500 in 2001 – saw their tax rates drop 9.3 percent. The poorest taxpayers saw their taxes fall 16 percent.

The CBO study, due to be released today, found that the wealthiest 20 percent, whose incomes averaged $182,700 in 2001, saw their share of federal taxes drop from 64.4 percent of total tax payments in 2001 to 63.5 percent this year. The top 1 percent, earning $1.1 million, saw their share fall to 20.1 percent of the total, from 22.2 percent.

Over that same period, taxpayers with incomes from around $51,500 to around $75,600 saw their share of federal tax payments increase. Households earning around $75,600 saw their tax burden jump the most, from 18.7 percent of all taxes to 19.5 percent.

However, the restaurant analogy that was presented was a little limited.

In a better analogy the restaurant would be a cooperative venture by a community of people, who rely on it mostly for their meals. The people are not willing to eat nothing, so they demand some sort of satisfaction from their restaurant. Thus the community of people hires a manager to run the restaurant as a reasonable service to the community. Now the last restaurant manager was hired mainly on the support of the wealthiest members of the community, who didn’t like having to pay so much for their meals. To satisfy his backers the manager decided to cut prices and return the savings of the restaurant to the community.

He then decided that the next town over was harboring bad cuisine, and needed his community’s food exported to them. So he begins to build a new restaurant in the next town. It costs a lot of money to build the new restaurant, and the original restaurant is not bringing in as much money as it used to because of the price cuts, and its savings are gone because of the refund. To fund the new construction, the manager begins to borrow a lot of money, sinking the restaurant deeper into debt. However, that is not enough. So the manager decides to cut costs and lays off wait staff, closes the bar, switches to cheap ingredients, eliminates most menu items affordable by poor people, etc.

The poor members of the community have few options left on the menu and they are worse off then they were under the previous manager because they got little by way of a refund to offset the cuts in their services. The middle class members of the community did get some part of a refund, but their food doesn’t taste as good as it used to. The wealthy members of the community are okay with the situation because the money they got back is more important that decent dinning.

So the restaurant faces a situation: rising debt, rising costs, less revenue, and increasingly unhappy customers. The manager is unable to improve the situation because he cannot identify a single mistake he made in running it. Now the question left with the customer-owners is whether they renew the contract of the cut-and-spend manager or hire someone different.

What type of restaurant will they leave to their children?

PS You can read the actual forward in the Extended Entry.

Voted Today

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Well I voted early today. Only had to wait about twenty five minutes.

Of course, I voted on a Diebold machine which means that my vote is probably going to be changed to suit the company.

The Mistakes of Conservativism

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The article, The Death of Liberalism, was sent to me as “the best single piece of writing I have seen about the election and the Iraq War.” To me this article is highly ironic, but sad.

For those of you who don’t want to read it, the article spends a lot of time trying to set up the final point that the war in Iraq is bringing democracy to Iraq and liberals who oppose the war in Iraq, oppose a democratic Iraq, which in turns helps “the Jihad” which seeks to crush liberty and liberalism.

This point suffers from the serious flaw that invading Iraq will bring the democracy. Before I address that, I would like to point out that “liberation” is a passé excuse for invading Iraq. First it was to stop Saddam from launching his weapons of mass destruction against us at any minute. No threats to American security have been found. Then it was to liberate the Iraqi people. However, that was abandoned as soon as it became clear that Iraqis oppose our presence there. Now it is to fight terrorists, who arrived in Iraq after we did. (I’m sure I missed some there.)

There have been two recent reports on nation building. From them four conclusion can be made.

  • Security. Both reports agree that nothing can be achieved if the nation is not secure. People must feel safe to go out and conduct their lives. The Rand report stresses the importance of having a large number of troops on the ground. Kosovo, for example, had 20 troops for every 1,000 inhabitants. “The higher the proportion of troops relative to the resident population, the lower the number of casualties suffered and inflicted. Indeed, most of the post-conflict operations that were generously manned suffered no casualties at all.”
  • The country’s internal characteristics. The Carnegie report emphasizes four characteristics that aid nation-building efforts. First, it’s better if the nation is united with a strong national identity. It hurts if the country is torn into factions (e.g., among ethnic groups). Second, nation-building requires local people to be available to take over most of the basic tasks of government. In both Germany and Japan, for example, most civil servants and bureaucrats remained on their jobs. The Carnegie report says that outsiders probably cannot train people to do these jobs and that if outsiders take over the jobs, they may soon be viewed with hostility. Third, it helps if the country is economically developed. The Carnegie report stresses “the difficulty of such efforts in underdeveloped countries.” Fourth, it helps if the nation has had “periods of constitutional rule–characterized by the effective rule of law and binding limits on the government’s power . …”
  • Multilateralism. Both reports give examples of failures and successes when the United States acted alone or with other countries in nation-building efforts. So this factor alone, say the reports, is not decisive. Multilateralism can make decision-making more difficult. But it has several advantages. It can be far less expensive, because other nations also bear the costs. It can also confer greater legitimacy to the U.S. military intervention. And the Rand report notes that it’s very important to get the support of neighboring countries in the nation-building effort. “It is exceptionally difficult to put together a fragmented nation if its neighbors are trying to pull it apart.”
  • Level of effort. As the saying goes, “Roman wasn’t built in a day.” The same is true for democracy. The Rand report gives five years as the minimum amount of time for successful nation-building. It particularly stresses the importance of great effort. It states: “Many factors–such as prior democratic experience, level of economic development, and social homogeneity–can influence the ease or difficulty of nation-building, but the single most important controllable determinant seems to be the level of effort, as measured in troops, money, and time.”

The war in Iraq fails all of these. We have not secured Iraq, and short of a draft, will not have the man power to do so. Iraq is not a homogenized nation. Iraqi factions are fighting one another. We don’t have the support of Iraq’s neighbors or most of the world. The Bush administration did not plan on a long involvement in Iraq. They thought that they could topple Saddam with a quick strike, award lucrative contracts to companies with connections to the Bush administration, and install a US friendly government. They didn’t count on the Iraqi people having a different plan for their future.

Whatever hope there was for democracy in Iraq, the Bush administration’s policies have destroyed it. The Iraqi people are worse off today then they were before the Gulf War. The administration needs to shape up or they are going to destroy the internal progress Iran is making towards democracy.

I wish everybody could see and appreciate Eyes Wide Open: An Exhibition on the Human Cost of the Iraq War.

Constitutional Conundrum Irony

A new article that is circulating in Republican email circuits is “John Kerry’s Constitutional Conundrum.” The short of it is that it accuses Kerry of giving “aid and comfort” to the North Vietnamese and Iraqi insurgents and argues that due to this Kerry is constitutionally barred from holding office under the Fourteenth Amendment’s anti-Confederate clause.

John Kerry took an oath as a naval officer, before he became a prominent anti-war activist. He took another oath to protect and defend the Constitution when he was sworn in as a senator, before he called America’s war on terrorism in Iraq “the wrong war, in the wrong place, at the wrong time.” Now, he seeks to become president, and commander in chief, and will, if he is elected, take the oath again, to protect and defend the Constitution.

But if he fulfills that oath, as he should, if he is elected, and if he is to defend the Constitution, then his first official act as President must be to resign from the office of president, because he is barred from the presidency by Article 14, Section 3 [sic], of the Constitution of the United States, which he will have sworn (again) to protect and defend.

This logic is so bad, only a neo-con could come up with it. (Are we seriously expected to follow the constitutional advice of someone who can’t even get his citation correct?) It is sad that so many neo-con’s think that people who disagree with them politically are un-American and traitorous. Political dissent is as American as apple pie. Democracy requires political diversity. This nationalistic streak that is running through the Republicans right now is troublesome. The fact that so many otherwise smart people are susceptible to the nationalistic propaganda troubles me. Whipping up a nationalistic fervor to crush dissent and common sense is the first step towards a totalitarian regime. We saw how it worked with Fascists. (Goodwin’s Law be damned.)

John Kerry has no constitutional conundrum since he never worked for enemies of the United States. Giving aid would have required him to have provided funding or military advice; giving comfort would have required him to have provided shelter. Political disputes are neither. But if we were to apply the overtly broad interpretation of “aid and comfort,” then Bush would be in constitutional trouble. It was his predetermined decision to invade Iraq that destabilized the region and brought new recruits and new targets to terrorist networks. (Wonder why Iran endorsed Bush over Kerry?) It is funny to see Republicans attack John Kerry’s distinguished military record, since their boy has none to speak of. Kerry saw combat; Bush went AWOL from non-combat duty. There little high ground for Republicans here.

But I do like the idea that a politician should resign if he cannot uphold the constitution. That would eliminate most conservatives and radical liberals in government. Anybody who opposes abortion rights, civil liberties, moderate gun ownership, church-and-state separation, innocent until proven guilty, etc. would have to go. It’d gut the entire Bush Administration and then some. We could get rid of activist politicians who pass laws and make policies that they know are unconstitutional. We could stop governments from wasting tax payer dollars on defending losing battles.

I have no party affiliation. I care about civil liberties, federalism, church and state separation, education, science, and the national debt. The Bush administration has not done anything in the last four years to earn my vote.

Geek Pick Up Lines

I got a laugh out of these: Part 1, Part 2.

11. You had me at “Hello World.”

“In silice”, damnit!

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One of my pet peeves is the term “in silico.” It is not grammatically correct Classical Latin. “In silico” is a term popular among scientists today, especially biologists, to refer to computational experiments. It is intended to complement the popular, and grammatically correct terms “in vivo” (“in life”) and “in vitro” (“in glass”). However, the coiners of it used the wrong declension.

In silico” is clearly based on “silicon”; in turn, “silicon” is derived from the third declension Latin noun, “silex” (stone), whose root is “silic-,” and the Greek neuter nominative ending “-on.” Now in Latin, “in” is a preposition that takes the ablative case, and “silice”, not “silico,” is the ablative of “silex.”

Therefore, the proper term is actually “in silice.”

In case you are wondering, “vivus” and “vitrum” are second declension nouns, which is why their ablatives are formed with an “-o” suffix.

I suggest that scientists who have been using “in silico” take two approaches, either use “in silice” a proper Classical Latin phrase, or use “in silico,” dropping the italics to signify that it is an English phrase.

However, I must include a caveat. The Vatican still uses Latin today. To keep up with the times, they do convert modern terms to Latin. Perhaps the Lexicon Recentis Latinitas does have proper a modern Latin term for silicon, and perhaps it is “silicus” or “silicum.” If that is the case, then “in silico” is proper after all. I’ve tried to find the LRL, but my university library doesn’t have it.

This was today’s editorial in the Athens Banner-Herald.

Ex-cheer coach fighting a fight that she picked Editorial

Is there a need to review the role of religion - particularly any Christian evangelizing by coaches - in University of Georgia athletics?

Probably, if just to determine whether any student-athletes feel coerced into accepting creeds they don’t necessarily believe.

But is the lawsuit filed by fired cheerleading coach Marilou Braswell, which suggests there is no standard at UGA for what constitutes acceptable expressions of faith by coaches, a proper vehicle for that review?

Certainly not.

A quick review: In November, Braswell was placed on 12-month probation by athletic association officials following an investigation into complaints by Jaclyn Steele, a Jewish cheerleader, about Christian overtones in the UGA cheerleading program. At that time, Braswell was told to remove all such overtones from the program.

In August of this year, Braswell was fired, after reading a prepared statement to the cheerleading squad telling them of Steele’s complaint, and noting that Steele would be returning to the squad for an unprecedented fourth year, without a tryout. Braswell also expressed her view the complaint was “totally without merit” and told the squad she had hired a lawyer to help make that point.

According to her letter of termination, Braswell was fired for the “discourteous and disruptive behavior” of reading the statement and for singling Steele out as the source of the complaint, in violation of the federal Family Educational and Privacy Rights Act.

But you wouldn’t know that from the Web site Braswell and her husband set up after she was fired.

Take a look at the site - www.helpmarilou.com - and note that in the first sentence on the home page, Braswell and her husband say her “fight vs. the University of Georgia” (a fight that now includes the lawsuit against the athletic association, UGA President Michael Adams, and the University System Board of Regents, seeking unspecified damages) is a result of “her being fired for her Christian beliefs, stance and lifestyle.” And, of course, the site provides information on how to contribute to the Braswell Defense Fund.

It seems Braswell was eager to pick the “fight.” Elsewhere on the Web site home page, Braswell and her husband opine thusly: “We believe that this may be a modern-day ‘Esther’ story, and that Marilou may have been born ‘for such a time as this.”’ (A quick Bible lesson: Esther, who was Jewish, was chosen queen of Persia in the 400s B.C. and was able to thwart a plot aimed at the destruction of the Jewish people. The phrase “for such a time as this” is a reference to a question asked of Esther, “And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?”)

The Braswell Web site goes on to express the belief the ex-coach and her spouse have been specially chosen for the “fight.”

It reads, in part, “Although we would not have chosen for this to happen, we are honored to suffer for the sake of the Gospel. To God be the glory!”

Oh, puh-leez.

First off, Braswell wasn’t fired for “her Christian beliefs, stance and lifestyle.” She was fired because she apparently failed to learn a basic lesson of the workplace. It’s a lesson learned quickly by any 16-year-old who’s ever shoveled popcorn at the local multiplex: When the boss tells you to do something, you do it without complaint - if you want to keep putting gas in the Camaro.

If Braswell had simply complied, quietly, with the directive to keep Steele on the squad, she would still be a cheerleading coach.

Instead, she opted to read her statement, which was more a diatribe than a neutral recitation of circumstances.

It’s true that, late in the statement, Braswell said, “I will not tolerate any negative action, discussion or comments regarding Jackie.” But in the first sentences of the statement, she said she had “retained counsel to investigate the matter and prove my position” that Steele’s allegations were “totally without merit.”

Excuse us, but isn’t hiring an attorney about the most “negative action” one person can take against another?

Was it fair for Steele to get a fourth year on the squad? No. Do we think Steele was sincere in complaining she felt ostracized because of her faith? No.

But should Braswell be bucking for sainthood simply because she couldn’t keep quiet? Emphatically, no.

And finally, while we usually don’t quote Scripture - recognizing that battling with Bible verses is a fruitless exercise - we would suggest Braswell read I Corinthians 13:11. As soon as she decides to climb down from her cross.

We’ve gone mobile.

Well my wife and I finally got cel-phones. We chose a Cingular Nationwide Familytalk plan because we get 10% through the University. So if anyone wants to call me, drop me an email, and I might send you the number.

Telling…

Three teachers were tossed out of a Bush speech in Oregon for wearing t-shirts with an obscene message. What was this message that was deamed obscene by Republicans?

“Protect Our Civil Liberties”

Actions like this are one of the reasons why I won’t be voting Republican this election cycle.

“They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” – Ben Franklin

“Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.” – Abe Lincoln

“My definition of a free society is a society where it is safe to be unpopular.” – Adlai Stevenson

“I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.” – James Madison

“We cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.” – Edward R. Murrow

Sunday, Bloody Sunday!

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My wife has posted to her blog what we did yesterday. You should check it out.

WTF?

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This is the third month this semester when the university has forgotten to pay me. (I was absolutely broke the previous two times.) I am going to have the start charging interest.

ACC Demography

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PZ says he lives in a college town. Well I live in a university town.

Damn Liberal Media

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Those damn media liberals are at it again. The left-wing media Sinclair group is planning on airing a film about Kerry’s valiant service to our country duing the Vietnam War. They reach 25% of US markets, which include critical swing states. This could really influence the way people vote.

My own personal blog has been going slowly recently. The main reason is that I have been concentrating on my research and working on an essay critical of some anti-evolution research by Michael Behe.

The essay is finally realeased on the Panda’s Thumb.

Theory is as Theory Does

Evolution Meetup

I’m on two Meetup Groups, but I never pay attention to them. However, I found out today that there are Evolution Meetup Groups. I had a good experience yesterday talking to a group of undergrads about evolution (more on that latter). I wonder that if I start a local Evolution Meetup, I could get that experience there? Hmm.…

If abstinence education was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for South Carolina.

A high school in South Carolina was going to have student debates that paralleled the presidential debates. They had to table three issues– gay marriage, abortion, and stem cell research–because they conflicted with a state law on sex education. Or rather sex ignoratation. Apparant the “wise” legislators of my neighbor state don’t think students should have a comprehensize education.

Dumbasses.…

Big Game Organs

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This is a great idea for biology education.

Stephanie Bradford isn’t content with her daughter dissecting frogs in science class. She wants the students to cut into the hearts and eyes of moose, caribou, bear and other large game.

Bradford, who like many residents of Alaska’s Interior lives in a hunting household, is asking local hunters to donate organs to her 12-year-old daughter’s school.

“It doesn’t matter what the animal is,” Bradford said. “We’ll take what people donate.”

So far, a half-dozen people have pledged parts from moose, caribou and a cow for Megan’s class at Tanana Middle School in Fairbanks, Bradford said. Donations include two sets of moose eyes the size of pingpong balls and three moose hearts – organs rarely if ever seen in other schools, according to the National Science Teachers Association in Arlington, Virginia.

I really like this idea. Stuff like this is easy to come by in my state. I should probably ask the fish and wildlife service if they have any programs like this. I think it would be very easy to encourage local hunters to donate some deer organs to science classes. I grew up dissecting my families kills, but not every kid gets that chance.

I’m sure PZ will latch on to this because he is big into hands on education.

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