Monthly Archives: June 2010

Funny Story

So it seems the Creation Research Graduate School wanted to offer a Masters of Science program and have it accredited.  

So they decided to set up shop in Texas (moving from California).

So the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, which approves curricular programs for accreditation, looked at the CRGS Masters of Science program and said, "Uh, this isn't science.  This doesn't meet the standards of science.  It certainly doesn't meet the standards of a Masters program in science."

So the Creation Research Graduation School sued the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board for, among other things, religious discrimination — which itself kind of underscores the point that they are not a scientific body, and therefore not entitled to have scientific accreditation.

The Texas state court ruled against the Creation Research Graduation School.

Seriously, how far off the reservation do you have to be where even Texas won't buy your snake oil?

By the way, if want to know what a person who has an M.S. in Creation Science writes about, you can read a lot here from Brian Thomas, M.S. [H/T Jesus' General] He writes articles featuring the latest revelations in God science at the site every day… llike…

On proving the age of a 157 year old woman: 

If trustworthy documents remain the best means of gleaning the facts of history, then it stands to reason that reliable copies of the documents that were compiled to form the Old Testament can be regarded as far and away more reliable than any "scientific" guesswork about the past. 

 On the shape of the hammerhead shark: 

The fully fitted features of an adult hammerhead shark are so well-constructed that they draw attention to the genius of their Creator. Also, the well-orchestrated capacity to express variations in body and "hammer" length–but in very few other hammerhead traits–draws even more attention to the One "who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein." 

On bee landing strategies: 

It is thus most reasonable to infer, based on the scientific observation of bee-landing strategies, that this landing program also arose from an intelligent source. This source had to be ingenious enough to have packed this highly effective, and yet elegantly “simple,” information into something as small as a bee brain. Of course, this seems like exactly something that the God of the Bible could have and would have done. 

 On seals' ability to use their whiskers to follow fish: 

However, those supposed first ocean-going mammals would have faced even more serious issues, since their postulated evolutionary ancestor supposedly resembled a cow. Its attempts to swim would have been highly ineffective due to its hoofed feet and bulky body. How could it have caught fish at all without possessing the full suite of traits necessary for swimming and prey detection?

The ease with which evolutionary stories like this can be concocted stands in stark contrast with the difficulties known to exist when engineers seriously attempt to replicate the finely tuned equipment exhibited by marine life, such as sonar or super-sensory seal whiskers. The best explanation for the origin of these complex creatures remains the one presented in Genesis–that on the fifth day of creation, God said, "Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life," and it was so.

Now that's science!

The Other Supreme Court Case

There will be much talk today and in the weeks to come about the Second Amendment case (below).

But the Supreme Court handed down an interesting First Amendment case as well today, Christian Legal Society v. Martinez.

The case involves discrimination — i.e., one's right to free speech and to freely associate.

The facts are simple:  Hastings College of Law is a college within the University of California, a public university (i.e., it is run by the state government of California).  UofC has a non-discrimination policy — if you want to have a student group, and to have that group use the UofC facilities and get funding — then you must have that student group open to everybody.

The Christian Legal Society tried to start a chapter on the Hastings College campus.  But the charter of CLS stated that it would not accept people from other religions.  It would also reject gay people.  So the UofC said, "Sorry, but you can't be a student group here."

CLS sued for religious discrimination.

And they lost 5-4.  Basically, the majority said that while CLS can discriminate against who can join and who can't, it can't force the government (i.e., the school) to recognize that discrimination.  Hasting's policy requires ALL groups to be open to ALL students, so it doesn't discriminate against religious groups.

Kennedy decided with the liberal wing of the court on this one.  The court's conservative bloc — Roberts, Alito, Scalia, and Thomas — were less than pleased, and their dissent complained bitterly about "freedom of expression" being overridden by "prevailing standards of political correctness in our country's institutions of higher learning."  But that's neither correct, nor the point.  First of all, even if the Hastings non-discrimination policy was "politically correct", it still was constitutional.  And secondly, the CLS still can express themselves however they want; they just aren't entitled to funding for being discriminating.

This is one of those cases that goes to the issue of "special rights" versus "equal rights".  I hear a lot of conservatives saying things like "oh, those gay people want special rights", and it drives me crazy.  A "special right", I suggest, is when somebody asks for something that nobody else gets.  So when gays seek to get married just like straight people, that's not seeking a "special right" — it's seeking an "equal right".

In this Supreme Court, the CLS was essentially seeking a "special right" — i.e., a right that no other student group on campus had.  They wanted to have the right to keep certain people out of its group and receive student funding.  And no other group on campus could do that.  The Student Democratic Caucus had to let in Republicans (although, one would wonder why a Republican would want to join)… and so on.  This ultimately is why CLS lost the case.

Here Come The Guns

Minutes ago, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion which makes the Second Amendment applicable to states and municipalities.  This is big.

A quick background.  The U.S. Constitution applies to the federal government (what it can and can't do).  The rights protected by the Bill of Rights (freedom of speech, etc.) don't necessarily apply to states and municipalities unless and until the U.S. Supreme Court says so.

It's a concept known as incorporation, and it didn't exist until the 14th Amendment (written in the wake of the Civil War).  

The 14th Amendment basically says that the privileges and immunities of being a federal citizen cannot be taken away by the state.  That's all well and good, but it is unclear what the "privileges and immunities of being a federal citizen" are.  

The 14th Amendment also says that life, liberty and property cannot be taken away without due process.  And again, the question has arisen what those liberties are.

But whenever a right or privilege or immunity is applied against states, that is known as "incorporation".  Most of the Bill of Rights have been incorporated.  Some haven't (like the right to a jury trial in civil cases – 8th Amendment).

The Supreme Court in 1875 addressed this issue in United States v. Criukshank, and decided that the Second Amendment is not binding on states.

Now, as of today, the Second Amendment — the right to bear arms — has been incorporated and applied to states, cities, etc.

The case arose when the City of Chicago tried to ban handguns, and it asked the basic question as to whether a municipality can ban handguns.  The answer is "no", because the Second Amendment now applies to Chicago as well as every other city, town, county, or state.  It's a huge win for the pro-gun people, and it calls into question all existing state and local laws regarding firearms.

The case fell 5-4, with Stevens. Breyer, Sotomayor, and Ginsberg in dissent.

Full opinion(s) here (PDF)

UPDATE — SOME QUICK ANALYSIS:

The majority (except Thomas) take the position that the right to self-defense is a fundamental right, and fundamental rights cannot be taken away without due process.  Therefore, the Second Amendment is incorporated under the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment.  Thomas, it seems would incorporate the Second Amendment under the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the 14th Amendment.

In his lengthy dissent, Stevens says basically, "Okay.  If you see the right of self-defense has a fundamental right, that's one thing.  But when it comes to handguns — which is what this case is about — you are assuming that the allowance of handguns is inextricably bundled with that fundamental self-defense right."  Basically, Stevens says, we are talking about regulating property — a chattel — a thing.  You can still have the right of self-defense without that particular thing.  (He's quite right about this — if you follow the majority reasoning, then people should be able to own bazookas "in self-defense"). 

He also argues that while handguns can be used for self-defense, they can also be used for offense, too.  In other words, handguns take away liberties just as much (if not more) than they protect them."

Actual Stevens quote: "Your interest in keeping and bearing a certain firearm may diminish my interest in being and feeling safe from armed violence".  (emphasis in original)

Stevens really has a go at Justice Scalia, and vice versa.  Scalia, ever the strict constructionist now "finds" there is a "right of self-defense" in the Constitution, where such words don't actually exist.  (And if you read the Second Amendment, with its reference to the well-regulated militia, it is very hard to claim that it explicitly gives individuals a personal right to self-defense).  Stevens is basically calling Scalia a hypocrite, which he is.

In taking on Scalia, Stevens makes an interesting point.  Suppose the right to bear arms was once a fundamental personal right in the past, because of the situation in the past.  But what if it isn't now (because times change)?  Should we ignore that?  Should we close a blind eye to the fact that technology have made guns cheap and available and can be used to kill people not in self-defense?  

In fact, Stevens is going beyond the gun issue to attack Scalia's whole approach when he (Scalia) hangs on to history.  I love this part….

Stevensdissent
 

Good stuff.  Stevens is retiring, and this is firing shot (no pun intended) at Scalia.

The Byrd Has Flown

It's really hard to mourn the passing of Senator Robert Byrd at age 92 (D-WV).  He's nobody's favorite senator, certainly not among Democrats.  He was the last vestige of conservative southern Democrats opposed to desegregation, and one of the few who didn't migrate to the Republican party after efforts to block desegregation failed.  Born in North Carolina, Byrd was once a member of the KKK, a move he later claimed to regret.

The interesting question is what happens now.  As Nate Silver told us "if the vacancy occurs less than two years and six months before the end of the term, the Governor [of West Virginia] appoints someone to fill the unexpired term and there is no election".

West Virginia's governor is a Democrat, so the appointment would likely be a Democrat.  Unfortunately, for an appointment to happen, Byrd would have had to survive until July 3.  He did not.  Therefore, his replacement is thrown in to a West Virginia election.

How Republicans Will Govern

I don't hold out much hope for the Democrats in the midterm elections this year, but if they want to do well (or, at the very least, mitigate their losses), then they need to get this message out, and repeat it over and over and over again:

Deep In The Heart of Texas

There's no group of Republicans out there quite like Texas Republicans:

The Texas Republican Party gives a whole new meaning to the word conservative.

The GOP there has voted on a platform that would ban oral and anal sex. It also would give jail sentences to anyone who issues a marriage license to a same-sex couple (even though such licenses are already invalid in the state).

“We oppose the legalization of sodomy,” the platform says. “We demand that Congress exercise its authority granted by the U.S. Constitution to withhold jurisdiction from the federal courts from cases involving sodomy.”

The Lone Star state initially passed a law barring sodomy in 1860. Violators faced anywhere from five to 15 years in prison. The ban was overturned in 2003.

In addition, the platform says that homosexuality “tears at the fabric of society, contributes to the breakdown of the family unit and leads to the spread of dangerous communicable diseases.”

It also states that homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable “alternative” lifestyle in public schools and “family” should not be redefined to include homosexual couples.

The 25-page proposal, presented last week as a guide for the state GOP over the next two years, includes other measures including outlawing “sexually oriented businesses” like strip clubs and banning “all pornography.” 

Of course, they tried all this once before, and the Supreme Court strick them down in Lawrence v. Texas.  For some reason, they think they don't have to follow the Supreme Court or the U.S. Constitution.

Suddenly, FinReg

Seems our lawmakers pulled a late nighter in Washington, and actually came up with a bipartisan bill to address abuses in the financial sector — the kind of abuses that led to the current crash and recession.

It looks pretty comprehensive too.  A strong bill — probably the toughest reform since FDR went after Wall Street following the Great Depression. 

What's in the bill?  This WaPo infographic is good, or you might want to read below the fold….

The Match That Wouldn’t End Resumes, Ends

Isner (from Greensboro, dontchaknow?) and Mahut are back out on Court 18 of Wimbledon, playing the match that is now entering Day 3.

They quit last evening as the sun was going down, tied 59-59 in the fifth set.  They were just at the tenth hour of play.

As of this writing, 11:35 am. EST, they are tied 67-67.  Mahut has served 100 aces, which also smashes the record.

It's 11:43 am, and they're starting their 11th hour….

11:48 am EST  –  It's over.  Isner finally broke Mahut's serve. 70-68 in the fifth set.

Tennislong

The Al Gore Sexual Misconduct Allegation

I almost hate to give credence to this National Enquirer driven story.  But conservative blogs are all over this, so it need addressing.

The first thing to keep in mind is that the incident supposedly happened in October 2006.  And we're only hearing about it now.

Secondly, this:

The Multnomah County district attorney's office was aware that the woman's attorney filed a complaint with police about two months after the encounter, but the woman didn't show up for three scheduled interviews with police investigators. At that time, police were told the woman didn't want to proceed with a criminal case and would pursue a civil case instead.

In other words, she wanted $$$$.

But I have some trouble with the narrative of what (supposedly) happened:

According to a lengthy transcript of the woman's Jan. 8, 2009, statement to a Portland detective, the therapist said she arrived in the suite about 11 p.m. Earlier that evening, Gore addressed a near-capacity crowd in the Rose Garden's Theater of the Clouds, telling the audience that man-made global climate change is the most important moral challenge of our time. She said Gore changed into a bathrobe, spoke of his grueling travel schedule and need to relax and told her to call him "Al."

While giving Gore an abdominal massage, she said he demanded that she go lower and soon grabbed her right hand and shoved it under the sheet.

"I felt like I was dancing on the edge of a razor," she told Detective Molly Daul.

Then why didn't she leave at that point?

She tried to use an acupressure technique to relax Gore and thought she may have nearly put him to sleep.

That would have been a good time to leave too.

She went into the bathroom to wash up and came out to pack up.

That's when, she says, Gore wrapped her in an "inescapable embrace" and fondled her back, buttocks and breasts as she was trying to break down her massage table.

She called him a "crazed sex poodle" and tried to distract him, pointing out a box of Moonstruck chocolates on a nearby table. He went for the chocolates and then offered her some, cornering her, fondling her and shoving his tongue in her mouth to french kiss as he pressed against her.

She said he tried to pull her camisole strap down.

She said she told him to stop it. "I was distressed, shocked and terrified."

She said she was intimidated by his physical size, calling him "rotund," described his "violent temper, dictatorial, commanding attitude" — what she termed a contrast from his "Mr. Smiley global-warming concern persona."

She's right.  That doesn't sound like Gore.

Later, she said, he tried to lure her into the bedroom to hear pop star Pink's "Dear Mr. President" on his iPod dock. She said Gore sat on one end of the bed and motioned for her to join him.

Whoa, whoa, whoa.  The massage is over and, according to her, she's already been groped and manhandled once.  She's no longer in the "inescapable embrace" of Gore.  So why the hell isn't she leaving NOW?

Suddenly, she said, he "flipped me on my back, threw his whole body face down over a top me, pinning me down."

She said she loudly protested, "Get off me, you big lummox!"

And this is where credibility really goes out the deep end.  "You big lummox".  What is this?  A Katherine Hepburn movie?

Seriouslly, with the "lummox" comment and the "Dear Mr. President" playing on the iPod, this sounds like really bad fan fiction.

The therapist said she injured her left leg and knee and sought medical care for several months.

The therapist later told detectives she did not call the police because she was afraid she wouldn't be believed. "I deeply feared being made into a public spectacle and my work reputation being destroyed," she said.

As it was, she said, even friends of hers who had voted for Gore didn't necessarily support her.

No, I'm sure they didn't support her.  I doubt it had anything to do with voting for Gore though.

She did call the Portland Women's Crisis Line, which encouraged her to call police.

She told detectives last year that she was not out for money but only wants "justice."

Then, if it was about "justice" and not about money, why didn't she fail to show up for three police interviews on three separate occasions?  Why did she pursue a civil remedy, rather than a criminal one?

Tellingly, neither the police nor her former attorney seem too exorcised about the sexual misconduct:

Randall Vogt, a Pearl District attorney who specializes in sexual misconduct cases, said he represented the massage therapist in 2006. "That file was closed and put to bed and forgotten," Vogt said. "She and I parted on friendly terms as best I can recall." He was not aware that his former client reactivated her claims against Gore last year.

Wheat said police didn't investigate the woman's 2009 statement further because "they didn't feel there was any additional evidence that would change what they saw in 2006." That's also why the police didn't consult with the district attorney's office about the 2009 statement, she said. Wheat added that the woman received a lot of attention from police and a victim's advocate, who made sure she had counseling.

Look, it is entirely possible that everything that this woman said happened, happened.  But her story sounds very suspect, IMHO.

UPDATE:  The woman's statement to the police is available verbatim at The Smoking Gun.  Why didn't she run from the room?  She was afraid of getting tasered or shot by Gore's security detail.  Riiiiiiight.  (Interestingly, she later recounts having a conversation with Gore that night in which he told her that he doesn't get Secret Service protection).

If you read the whole thing, you get a good idea of this woman's mental state.

Oh, she's a 54 year old grandmother.

UPDATE #2:   Case closed.

Why?

She alleges that Gore played Pink's "Dear Mr. President" on his iPod.  In fact, he serenaded her with it.

Problem:  The alleged event took place on October 24, 2006.  "Dear Mr. President" was released on December 21, 2006.

How likely was it that Gore had obtained a pre-pre-release copy?

UPDATE #3:  Okay, maybe not.  There had been live performances of "Dear Mr. President" prior to the December 21, 2006 release date, going as far back as July 2006.

7+ — Make That 8 — Make That NINE — Make that TEN Hour Wimbledon Match

Ouch:

John Isner of Tampa, Fla., and Nicolas Mahut of France are playing what already is the longest match on record in tennis history.

Their first-round match at Wimbledon has lasted more than 7½ hours – breaking the record of 6 hours, 33 minutes set in a 2004 French Open match.

Isner and Mahut have played more than 90 games in the fifth set alone. They resumed playing Wednesday at the start of the fifth set; the match was suspended because of darkness Tuesday night after four sets.

As I write this, they are up to 106(!) games in the fifth set.  The NYT is live-blogging it.

Normally, when players tie a set, they go into a tiebreaker, where you have to win by two POINTS.  Unfortunately, tiebreakers don't apply to the fifth (and final) set, where you have to win by two GAMES.  And they're just basically trading games.

UPDATE – 3:50 pm EST:  115 games now.  Isner 58, Mahut 57.  Mahut's service….

UPDATE – 4:08 pm EST:  The fifth set is no longer than any MATCH that has ever taken place in professional tennis.  It's 59-59.  It's getting dark as other tournament games are coming to a conclusion.

UPDATE – 4:15 pm EST:  From the Wimbledon blog:

“We want more”  Mahut and Isner are discussing whether to continue and the crowd are chanting: “We want more”. But it looks like they are going off. And they are. What a shame but this match will enter a third day. Incredible. They are getting the loudest standing ovation I’ve ever heard.

ESPN reports: "They have been playing for a total of exactly 10 hours — 7 hours, 6 minutes in the fifth set alone, enough to break the full-match record of 6:33, set at the 2004 French Open."

100623_spt-mahut-wimbledon.h2
Mahut, exhausted, from earlier today 

Oil Spill Gushes Faster and Claims Two More Lives

The BP oil spill has upped the ante.  This is breaking news….

Oil gushing at spill site after vent damaged

Cap removed after sub hits vent; 2 cleanup workers die in separate events
BREAKING NEWS
NBC News and news services
updated 12:53 p.m. ET, Wed., June 23, 2010

WASHINGTON – Oil was again gushing from the BP spill site on Wednesday after the company was forced to remove the containment cap when a robotic submarine hit a vent. The news came as officials also reported two deaths of people who had been hired for the response effort.

BP hoped to reinstall the cap later Wednesday after fixing the vent and checking for safety.

When the robot bumped the system, gas rose through the vent that carries warm water down to prevent ice-like crystals from forming in the cap, Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said.

The cap was removed and crews were checking to see if crystals had formed before putting it back on. Allen did not say how long that might take.

"There's more coming up than there had been, but it's not a totally unconstrained discharge," Allen said.

In the meantime, a different system was still burning oil on the surface.

Before the problem with the containment cap, it had collected about 700,000 gallons of oil in the previous 24 hours. Another 438,000 gallons was burned.

The current worst-case estimate of what's spewing into the Gulf is about 2.5 million gallons a day. Anywhere from 67 million to 127 million gallons have spilled since the April 20 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig that killed 11 workers and blew out a well 5,000 feet underwater. BP PLC was leasing the rig from owner Transocean Ltd.

The deaths reported Wednesday were not tied to the containment operation. The Coast Guard said the workers had been involved in cleanup operations did that their deaths did not appear to be work related.

One death was a boat captain who died of a gunshot wound, a Coast Guard spokesman said. Further details were not immediately available.

A "gunshot wound"?  Is the oil spill armed now?

Gooooooooalllll!

USA v. Algeria is going on right now.  I can't watch it, but I tuned in here to see a running commentary.  At the 89 minute mark, it was a 0-0 draw.

Groan.

Then USA scored at the 91 minute mark.

Awesome.

Also in the C group, England is playing Slovania at the same time.  England is up 1-0.

ONE MINUTE LATER:  It's over.  England won 1-0.  So did USA.  So both of them advance. You're going to be hearing a lot about Landon Donovan….  This moment in sports will be talked about for years to come….

UPDATE:  The Internets go kablooey

The dramatic ending to the World Cup match between the U.S. and Algeria on Wednesday could set a new record for internet traffic…..

In the minutes following Landon Donovan's game winning goal in the 91st minute of action (which sent the US to the round of 16), traffic spiked to 11.2 million visitors per minute, which move the event past the 2008 presidential election as the second highest traffic day of all-time.

The World Cup news knocked Yahoo Sports offline and caused issues at Twitter.

Obama Has Sharks With Lasers, Too

I miss Kaye Grogan.  She was a columnist for Renew America, a right-wing Christian/political website started by many-times presidential candidate Alan Keyes.  Kaye was crazy, and her columns had the added pleasure of being written in the worst English-torturing manner.  I mean, worse than my writing even.

Kaye's columns quietly disappeared from the Intertubes a year or so ago, and there's been a void.

I wish I could say that Renew America's Joan Swirsky can fill Kaye's shoes, but typically, she can't.  This week's Joan Swirsky column, however, is a rare gem worthy of calling "Grogan-esque".

Swirsky The Obama disaster machine: unfortunate coincidences or malevolently premeditated?

By Joan Swirsky

Is it only me, or do the multiple disasters that have struck both well before and ever since the disastrous election of Barack Obama seem fishy to you?

I won't discuss the stock market crash of September 2008 here, although if anything seemed suspiciously timed and deliberately manipulated, it was that! Even before that, we had the specter of a radical leftist of questionable birth origins and contempt for both capitalism and the U.S. Constitution being given a total pass by a strangely incurious media whose members had clearly been intimidated or threatened into a thundering silence.

That's a pretty hefty accusation that Joan throws out there.  Apparently, long before he became president, Obama manipulated the stock market crash and intimidated the entire United State press corps.

How did he manage to do that?  Well, look at him!  He's an intimidating black man!

In the months that followed Obama's "election," we saw literally trillions of dollars in "urgent" bailouts and stimulus packages, all of which brought us escalating unemployment and a skittish if not paranoid stock market.

Right.  It was the bailouts and stimulus package that caused a skittish stock market and unemployment — not the aforementioned stock market crash of September 2008.

We saw a nationally-loathed healthcare bill — gigantic in size and mysterious in content — rammed through Congress with bribes, threats, and intimidation.

"Mysterious in content" if you didn't bother to read it, or even read about it.  By the way, who in Congress was bribed, threatened and/or intimidated?

And we saw the attempts by Obama and his fellow leftists to jam an equally-detested cap-and-trade tax down our throats.

Uh…. cap-and-trade isn't a "tax".  It's a free market approach to controlling pollution by giving companies incentives not to pollute.  Aren't conservatives supposed to love the free market?

Mmmmm. Wasn't that just about the time the tragic West Virginia mine disaster happened, killing 29 of 31 miners? What a coincidence! A "president" who hates coal as an energy source being presented with a putative reason to destroy the coal industry!

Oh, wait.  Now Obama was behind the Upper Big Branch mine disaster last April too?!?

Kind of reminds you of the recent BP oil spill, doesn't it? A "president" still pushing the cap-and-trade scheme who reviles domestically-acquired oil — although not the windfall of money BP donated to his presidential campaign — being presented with an oh-so-convenient rationalization to cancel all domestic drilling! Again, what a coincidence!

So… BP donated money to Obama, after which he turned around and stabbed them in the back by causing the oil spill, and then establishing a moratorium on "all" domestic drilling.

Heh. Suckers.

These disasters benefit Obama's agenda, which is to destroy America's potential for energy independence at the same time imposing draconian taxes designed to obliterate the middle class and make the lower class abjectly and forever dependent on the largesse of big government. In short, galloping socialism on the way to freedom-annihilating Communism!

Yup.  She's onto him.

Cue full-on crazy…..

A Marxist-Inspired Disaster Central

The route to Obama's hate-America agenda is and always has been to create Alinsky-inspired widespread-and-sustained chaos, the better to keep people off balance, riddled with anxiety, and hoping for the redemption of big government. How else to explain the spate of unprecedented tragedies, catastrophes, and calamities that have struck our own country and around the world, for instance the three Muslim terrorist attacks in the U.S., including the attack at Fort Hood in Texas in which 13 were murdered and 30 injured; the wanton murder of police officers in Seattle; the explosion on New York's Madison Avenue (which authorities claimed was a burst pipe); the calamitous earthquakes in Haiti and Chile; the eruption of the volcano in Iceland that disrupted European air traffic; the airline crash in Russia that killed the president of Poland, on and on.

Also, I stubbed my toe on the coffee table this morning.  Damn you, Obama!

But really… Volcanoes?  Police shootings?  Earthquakes?  Plane crashes?  Seriously, one has to wonder if Joan is crazy to suggest that the Obama regime is responsible for all those domestic incidents and international natural disasters.

Crazy, you say, to suggest that the Obama regime is responsible for these domestic incidents and international "natural" disasters? Maybe…but consider HAARP. No, not the instrument that David played to King Saul to alleviate the old man's depression. That harp had only one "a" in it. This HAARP is an acronym for High Frequency Active Auroral Research Project. The project, controlled by the U.S. Army and Navy, is made up of a dense grouping of gigantic antennae in Alaska which has the ability to generate several billion watts of energy that can be directed at any target. "Any target" meaning an underground fault, an airplane in flight, a fulminating volcano, or a mid-ocean oil rig!

Okay.  This is like a bad James Bond movie now.

Drobama1 evil 

I tell you though… I think Obama and the U.S. Army and Navy need to do a better job about keeping HAARP secret.

But trust me…. we've only touched the surface of the crazy here.

And what another coincidence — the BP explosion took place just a day before Earth Day!

Also, if you scramble the letters in "Deepwater Horizon", you get "A Rezoned White Pro", which indicates that Obama is going to put all white people in concentration camps!

According to Mississippi resident and radio disk jockey Gina Miller, a number of culprits might be to blame for the disaster:

Oh, well then.  If a Mississippi deejay thinks it, it must be true……

      • Al Gore had previously encouraged environmental nut jobs to engage in civil disobedience against the construction of coal plants that don't have carbon capture technology. "Eco-terrorists" exist and have done millions of dollars worth of criminal damage.
      • A theory on a Russian website claims North Korea is behind this. The article claims that North Korea torpedoed the Deepwater Horizon, which was apparently built and financed by South Korea…two torpedoes launched from a submarine could cause those things to happen.
      • International "suspects"…range from Muslim terrorists to the Red Chinese, Venezuela and beyond. Remember that China and Russia are drilling out there, as well, and they would benefit from America cutting back on our own drilling.

"As soon as this happened," Miller wrote, "my gut told me it was no accident. This kind of thing rarely happens, and the timing was just too 'coincidental'…"

So, the BP oil explosion is a conspiracy involving Obama, Al Gore, Muslims, North Korea, Venezuela, and the Red Chinese, using an array of antennae located in Alaska.

Makes perfect sense.

At this date — late-June 2010 — Obama has not escaped plunging approval ratings and a complete erosion of public trust. To an accusation that his "cool" demeanor is inappropriate in the face of the catastrophic oil spill, he says he is suppressing his anger in the service of solving the problem. But Americans know better. By now, every statement emanating from the White House is simply not credible. In fact the truth is often exactly the opposite of what Obama and his henchmen say.

No, it's not anger — at BP, capitalist industry, George Bush, his own impotence — that Obama is suppressing. It is unvarnished glee!

With Sue Simmons!

Glee at the prospect that the industries the spill is destroying (fishing, manufacturing, tourist, et al) and the incalculably high cost of recovery, will force people to throw up their hands in despair and come running to the government for support, and just as important will allow him to nationalize the energy industry, ala Castro, Putin, Chavez, Morales, name your totalitarian!

"Peron, Peron, Peron, Peron, Peron…."

Obama Spits on Every Genuine Solution

Why is Obama still obdurately refusing to use the many technologies that have proven effective in stemming and solving oil spills over the years?

In a riveting article in the San Francisco Chronicle, Yobie Benjamin details the futility of the "cap the gusher" strategy being used, and the perils, both environmental and to human health, of the toxic dispersants being used ("all they do is hide the oil from the surface").

"In 1993," Benjamin writes, "a massive 800-million-gallon oil spill happened in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Aramco successfully cleaned up that spill. The lead engineer that cleaned that spill was an American engineer who worked for Aramco. His name is Nick Pozzi who is currently based in Houston. Pozzi offered his solution to BP and the Coast Guard and they promptly dismissed his solution. Pozzi reported that in Saudi Arabia he successfully used flour (yes, flour for baking) and straw (yes, the one you feed to livestock) to absorb oil. The congealed oil was then mechanically collected and properly disposed of. In the Saudi disaster, Pozzi claimed 85% of the oil was recovered and was still usable."

Well, this is a little different.  This is a deep-water oil spill.  Most of the spilled oil is underwater, floating in plumes.  You can't skim most of it up.  But let's not let facts get in the way.

And what about the Florida man who is all over TV right now, demonstrating the stunning efficacy of using straw to absorb the oil and turn the water from jet-black murkiness to crystal-clear transparency?

I think she's referring to the Sham-Wow guy now.

BP hasn't gotten back to him, he said.

No, of course not.

Well, the article goes on, drilling new depths of crazy.  You can read the whole thing by clicking the link above.  Basically, Joan speculates that Obama, BP, Deep Water Horizon, Halliburton, Citigroup, Goldman-Sachs, the U.S. Government, Warren Buffet, George Soros, John Holdren, and "the convicted felon and Obama pal" Tony Rezko have financial involvement with NALCO, the company that manufactures the toxic dispersants being used to "clean up" the horrific oil spill.  Specifically, she writes:

…[E]vidence has also been uncovered that as soon as the oil rig blew, the masterminds of the big-government/big-corporation complex went to work to maximize the financial reward from the disaster — "never let a good crisis go to waste." Investors were advised to buy BP stock, and a major symposium was held involving several key players in the Obama Administration, which focused on modern technological advances in developing 'clean water.' NALCO is the major source for such 'technological advances.'

"Ahhhhh'" as Steve Martin said in The Jerk, "It's a profit deal!"

Well, color me skeptical, Joan.  I think if your theories catch on, the smart investment would be shares of tin foil.

Damn. I Missed The Baby-Jumping Festival.

Every year during the month of June, the Spanish village of Castrillo de Murcia near Burgos holds its traditional Baby-Jumping Festival as part of its Corpus Christi celebrations. During the act, known as El Colacho, men dressed as the Devil (known as the Colacho) leaps over babies born during the previous twelve months of the year who lie on mattresses in the street.

The Catholic festival of Corpus Christi is celebrated all over Spain with processions, mystery plays and a wide variety of popular celebrations, but this bizarre tradition is seen only in Castrillo de Murcia. The tradition dates back to 1620, although the origins are vague. It is believed that as the incarnate devils jump they take all their evil with them and the children are cleansed.

But you don't care about that.  You just want to see pictures of bewildered babies, leaping men, and freaked out moms.  So here you go….

El-colacho (1)[2]
El-colacho (2)[2]
El-colacho (8)[2]

Drilling Ban Lifted By Dead British Googly Eyed Comedian

Bloomberg:

A New Orleans federal judge lifted the six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling imposed by President Barack Obama following the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

Obama temporarily halted all drilling in waters deeper than 500 feet on May 27 to give a presidential commission time to study improvements in the safety of offshore operations. Government lawyers told U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman that the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon rig off the Louisiana coast in April was a "game changer’’ that exposed the risks of offshore oil exploration.

"We need to make sure deepwater drilling is as safe as we thought it was the day before this incident,’’ Brian Collins, a lawyer for the government, told Feldman in a court hearing June 21. "It is crucial to take the time because to fail to do so would be to gamble with the long-term future of this region.’’

More than a dozen Louisiana offshore service and supply companies sued U.S. regulators to lift the ban. State officials claim 20,000 Louisiana jobs are in jeopardy if the deepwater drilling suspension lasts 18 months.

Judicial activist.

UPDATE:  I've taken a gander at the opinion just handed down (it's here in PDF format) and I find it to be short on legal reasoning and high in snark.  For example, in a footnote it reads:

The Report [of the Secretary of the Interior] notes that the Deepwater Horizon disaster is "commanding the Department of Interior's resources."  A disturbing admission by this Administration.

WTF with the editorializing?  And why is it "distrubing" that the Department of Interior is working to the fullest extent on the Deepwater Horizon disaster?  Hasn't the criticism been that the Obama Administration hasn't been doing enough?!?  And now when we learn that the Department of Interior's resources are heavily involved in fighting the distaster, it is "disturbing"?  Really?

Anyway, the Court's reasoned that the decision to put a 6-month moratorium on deep sea drilling was "arbitrary and capricious".  Why was it arbitrary and capricious?  Because, according to the Court, just because one drill broke and failed doesn't mean they all will.

That's one way to look at it, I suppose.  Yet, when a part goes bad in a Boeing-made large passenger plane, don't they require ALL those planes to be rounded and inspected?  It's not unheard of.

Hmmmm.  Here’s some assorted information on Feldman:

CASE Summary

: Judge Feldman graduated from Tulane Law School in 1957, where he was a member of the Order of the Coif, and Assistant Editor of the Tulane Law Review. … His practice emphasized tax law and complex commercial litigation. … On October 12, 1983 he was appointed United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Louisiana by President Reagan, and presently serves as the Chairman of the Fifth Circuit’s Committee on Pattern Civil Jury Instructions. … Judge Feldman is a member of the Advisory Committee of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, is Chair of the Board of Advisory Editors of the Tulane Law Review, … From 1994 to 2000 he was a lecturer in Constitutional Law and war powers at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Public Administration. … [H]as been a guest lecturer at Amherst College in constitutional interpretation and the philosophy of the Rule of Law.

This comment in the Robing Room seems to say it all: "Intelligent, Pompous, egotistical, pushy, arrogant, unfair, no empathy for poor people and workers who come before him, his heart is with business."

Apparently.  Well, an appeal is in the works.

UPDATE #2: Yyyyyeah.  Thought so.  From Think Progress:

Like many judges presiding in the Gulf region, Feldman owns lots of energy stocks, including Transocean, Halliburton, and two of BP’s largest U.S. private shareholders — BlackRock (7.1%) and JP Morgan Chase (28.3%). Here’s a list of Feldman’s income in 2008 (amounts listed unless under $1,000):

JP Morgan Chase, BlackRock ($12000- $36000)
Ocean Energy ($1000 – $2500)
NGP Capital Resources ($1000 – $2500)
Quicksilver Resources ($5000 – $15000)
Hercules Offshore ($6000 – $17500)
Provident Energy
Peabody Energy
PenGrowth Energy
RPC Inc
Atlas Energy Resources
Parker Drilling
TXCO Resources
EV Energy Partners
Rowan Companies
BPZ Resources
El Paso Corp
KBR Inc
Chesapeake Energy
ATP Oil & Gas

UPDATE #3:  Another news agency reports:

Judge Feldman held less than $15,000 worth of stock in Transocean, as well as similar amounts (federal rules only require that judges report a range of values ) in Hercules Offshore, ATP Oil and Gas, and Parker Drilling. All of those companies offer contract offshore drilling services and operate offshore rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. Judge Feldman also owned between $15,000 and $50,000 in notes offered by Ocean Energy, Inc., a company that offers "concept design and manufacturing design of submersible drilling rigs".

Beepy Oil Spill: By The Numbers

Perspective is everything, and this article puts the oil spill in perspective.  And actually, it makes it sound not so bad.  Some highlights:

  • The Mississippi River pours as much water into the Gulf of Mexico in 38 seconds as the BP oil leak has done in two months.
  • For every gallon of oil that BP's well has gushed into the Gulf of Mexico, there is more than 5 billion gallons of water already in it.
  • The amount of oil spilled so far could only fill the cavernous New Orleans Superdome about one-seventh of the way up.
  • If you put the oil in gallon milk jugs and lined them up, they would stretch about 10,800 miles. That's a roundtrip from the Gulf to London.
  • BP has spent more than $54.8 million lobbying federal officials in Washington since 2000; that's about 44 cents for every gallon of oil it has spilled.
  • Take the 125 million gallons of oil spilled in the Gulf and convert it to gasoline, which is what Americans mostly use it for. That produces 58 million gallons of gas – the amount American drivers burn every three hours and 41 minutes. It's enough to fill up the gas tanks in 3.6 million cars — more than those in Louisiana and Mississippi combined.

But… it's bad.

Broadway Reviews

Yup.  I was in the Big Apple this weekend and took in some shows.

American Idiot:  The much-hyped Green Day musical delivered on all fronts, and even exceeded expectations in some respects.  The music, of course, comes from Green Day, and it's high voltage all the way through.  Ear-shattering?  Too loud?  Well, the music ain't A Little Night Music, but it's definitely not distorted to the point where it's just white noise.  The punk rage is delivered loudly, as it should, but every lyric is discernible.

The set and effects were incredible.  Dozens of monitors mark a four or five story graffiti splattered wall.  A car and battered shopping cart hang precariously from the rafters, as scaffolding topples over (with an actor on it) — it all gives you the sense that someone onstage could get hurt, but that is completely in line with the edginess of the show and music.  Very little about the show feels "safe".  With the possible exception of one duet where the charactors fly and dance in mid-air, I didn't find the gee-whiz set or effects to be intrusive (as I do with many Disney musicals).

As a jukebox musical (a show which features the works of a performing group), I was pleasantly surprised at how well the songs were integrated into the book.  Better, I would say, than Mamma Mia.  Granted, the book wasn't terribly complex: American Idiot tells the story of three Gen-Xers — one stays a slacker, another ventures into a world of love and drugs, and a third joins the military.  There's no deep meaning except perhaps that nihilism gives you nothing in the end, which is pretty obvious.  But even still, the charactors are interesting to follow, even as you (sometimes) might want to look away at their self-destructiveness.  This is not merely a concert put up on a Broadway stage.

But music is the king here, and the cast performances of all-out rock anthems, as well as eerie and soulful ballads, are what makes American Idiot a must-see. A

Promises, Promises:  Sean Hayes and Kristen Chenowith tackle Broadway's first revival of the Burt Bacharach/Neil Simon's adaptation of The Apartment.  Thankfully, the show was not updated.  You simply can't update those Bacharach-esque beats (they are sooo sixties); nor can you update the somewhat crude view that the show has regarding marriages (wives are to be cheated on) and women (none of whom could possibly be a corporate executive in a Promises Promises world).

But as a period piece, it still works.  Sean Hayes was incredible playing the mild-mannered junior executive.  Nebishy and uncertain, to be sure, but not at all "gay" as some critics have asserted.  He had excellent timing — some very good pratfalls — and a surprisingly strong voice.  I think he was more in line with Jack Lemmon in The Apartment — after seeing Hayes, it's hard for me to envision Jerry Orbach (a man's man) in that role in the original Broadway production.

There were a few disappointments.  The Rob Ashford (no relation) chroeography did not blow me away, and I longed for the original "Turkey Lurkey Time".  Kristen Chenowith, I thought, while singing wonderfully (natch) didn't seem to explore all that she could with her charactor — a woman of questionable morality but still looking for love.  Perhaps Kristen should have watched Shirley MacLaine in The Apartment to find the nuance.

Kate Finneran showed why she won the Tony in her all-too-brief (she doesn't appear until Act Two) role as a barfly.  Typically, that charactor is played as an innocent dumb blonde type.  Here, Finneran turns the role on its head, making the character into a floozy trying to be an innocent girl, with her inebriation always getting in the way of making that happen.  In Finneran's hands, it works so much better that way.

Promises, Promises is an old-fashioned book musical and the revival does a very good job of making it interesting to contemporary audiences, despite its dated customs and male-centric viewpoint.  Yes, there are a few unnecessary songs and ballads, but they serve as quick-and-painless cleansers to the pallette.  It's probably won't be the best show for Chenowith fans, but if you like Bacharach, Hayes, or office musicals, you'll enjoy yourself.  B+

Everyday Rapture:  There is a tradition on Broadway of having one-woman shows: Elaine Stritch, Liza, etc.  I guess the threshhold question with Everyday Rapture is whether or not Sherrie Rene Scott is "big enough" to have one of her own.  I mean, if you don't know who she is, I think that largely diminishes your interest in this show.

Fortunately, I know Sherie and like her.  She has an unquestionably strong voice, and is a comedic talent as well.  Everyday Rapture is a story of her personal and spiritual journey from a half-Mennonite girl in Topeka Kansas to Broadway star.  It's an interesting journey, as we learn of her heroes (Judy Garland, Fred Rogers), as well as her efforts to come to terms with her views (or lack thereof) about God.

With the help two backup women, Ms. Scott brings the audience through the highs and lows of her career.  I thought the musical numbers were, on the whole, sufficient, but nothing blew me away.  It was also a little ballad-heavy.  One segment about her encounter with an Internet fan was a bit funny, and a tad bit mean as well (at least, the way he was depicted was mean, going for the easy laughs).

But in general the show had a lot of heart and humor — a nice way to spend a couple of hours at the theater.  B-

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson:  Take a little Reduced Shakespeare, with a little punk/emo American Idiot, and apply them to a History Channel documentary, and you have Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, an off-Broadway musical appearing at the Public Theatre downtown for one more week (until, rumor has it, it moves uptown to Broadway).

This is a fast-paced, very politically incorrect, rock musical about the life of President Andrew Jackson, the populist president.  Even if one were to scrap the music, it remains a broad comedy full of sight gags, sound gags, and well, all kinds of gags.  Don't worry about unquestionable historical accuracy (Andrew Jackson probably didn't engage in "cutting" behavior), but don't be surprised if you learn a thing or two about this controversial president, best known for expanding the frontiers of America by being merciless with the native population.

The show has an anything-goes sensability.  What happens when the wheelchair-bound narrator outlives her usefulness?  Jackson shoots her, and then sings about it.  Well, why not?  The show doesn't ask much of you, except to have fun.  You'll often find yourself thinking "that is soooo wrong", but laughing hard anyway.

If there was one complaint I had, it's that the supporting charactors in Andrew Jackson's life were very very limp-wristedly gay.  Now, that's pretty funny for the first couple times, but that joke wears itself out after a while.

The centerpiece of the musical is Benjamin Walker, the young actor playing Jackson.  He has the rugged individualism associated with Jackson, except that Walker's Jackson wears tight black jeans, eyeliner, and has a gun in one belt loop and a handheld mic in the other.  Well, why not?  Walker, who may or may not make the transition when/if the show moves to Broadway, is really the show's star – and probably a star of considerably magnitude in his own right.

A lot of the jokes and asides are subtle and quiet, and might not work in a full-scale Broadway house, which is a bit of a shame.  Some of the subtleties of the nice (but largely unused) set dressing will also be lost.  But the music is certainly Broadway-worthy, even as it represents the new wave of rock musicals.  This is not an historical parody in the way that Spamalot spoofed King Arthur; this is something much much more rude and intense.  In a good way.  A-

“America Speaking Out” Results

Last month, I wrote about "America Speaking Out", the website of House Republicans which offers regular folks a chance to submit ideas that will help the GOP put together a policy agenda.

A month later, what kind of ideas have percolated?

Thousands of people posted ideas or voted on their favorite suggestions. But the project's usefulness in shaping a Republican agenda is questionable.

Last week, the top five entries in the "Liberty and Freedom" category were: ban handguns, "drop the idea that we're a 'Christian' country," declare abortion "none of the government's business," allow gays to serve openly in the military and legalize marijuana.

Republican leaders mentioned none of these when they began highlighting proposals from the project. Instead, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., called for numerous spending cuts, including canceling unspent stimulus dollars and freezing government pay raises.

So basically, America Spoke Out, and Republicans didn't listen.  Which, I suppose, is their perogative, but one wonders what the purpose of the whole exercise was in the first place.

Should Children Be Allowed To Have “Best Friends”?

The New York Times looks at both sides of the debate.  On the one hand, some psychologists think kids need to learn to network and form diverse interests with lots of diverse friends.  On the other hand, other psychologists believe that having the close intimate bond of a "best friend" is important for later adult relationships, and is preferable to having a lot of superficial attachments.

My take?  Simple.  Can we not have this debate at all and stop trying to micromanage our kids?

Jeez….

UPDATE:  Perhaps I need to expand on this. 

I think the tendancy for psychologists to cookie cutter today's youth with proclamations of what is "healthy" or "unhealthy" can, if taken to extremes, be just as detrimental to kids as the things that psychologist purport to solve.  Should children be allowed to have best friends?  The answer, stupid, is… it depends on the kid.  There are way too many other factors bearing on a child's social health (family being the biggest one)… so perhaps some kids need a best friend, and others don't.  There is no "one size fits all" answer.  And I believe that instinctively, each kids is probably aware of his or her needs, even if they can't articulate the root cause of why.

So if little Johnny gravitates toward having a best friend, it's probably because that's what he needs.  If little Janie is the type to have a wide circle of friends, but not a single "best" friend, well, that's probably what she needs.  But let's not sit back with our clipboards and move them around like little chess pieces under the believe that "having a best friend" is either a "psychological good" or a "psychological bad".  Let's trust kids to follow their instinctual needs, and let's not assume that they ALL will have the SAME need.

The whole debate reaks of Machiavelli.

America: Where People Are Moving

An interesting interactive map here shows the migration patterns of people in 2008.  Click on any county, and it shows (in black) how many moved into that county (and from where), and (in red) how many left that county (and to where). 

Here's the migration patterns relating to Forsyth County, NC.

Forsycnty
Looks like this county had more incomers than outgoers, with most of the newcomers from New York, New England and Florida.

And if you click just about anywhere in California, you'll see that people are leaving it in droves.

Closing Arguments In California Gay Marriage Case

In the long run, what happens in the California Federal Court — where the constitutionality of the infamous Prop 8 is being challenged — will not matter; no matter the outcome, an appeal all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court is likely.

But nevertheless, it is interesting to read news accounts of the closing arguments given by boths sides in the case.  I try to be objective, but it seems to me that the pro-gay marriage side has, by far, the better argument.  The pro-gay marriage argument is quite simple: it is discriminatory, and the state is denying what has been called (by the U.S. Supreme Court) a "fundamental right" (the right of marriage) to segments of people.

Those opposed to gay marriage are relying on essentially two arguments: (1) marriage throughout history has traditionally been between a man and a woman and (2) traditional marriage is fundamental to sustaining society because it is the basis for procreation and healthy child-raising.

The problem with the first argument is obvious: Even with the legality of gay marriages, marriages will still traditionally be between a man and a woman.  Traditionally, people of the same races marry, too, and that's still true even when interracial marriage became permissible.  The institution of marriage is still available to heterosexual couples, even after it becomes available to gay ones.

The second argument is simply silly because (a) many people get married without having children (octogenarians, barren people) and the state doesn't care; and (b) it is legal and permissible for an unmarried couple to have and raise a child. So it is disingenuous to claim NOW that the state suddenly is interested in the marriage-procreation business.

I mean, think about it — if the state's interest in marriage is that it serves as a basis for procreation, then why doesn't the state forbid 60 year old couples to marry?

It looks like the trial judge is leaning toward siding with the gay marriage arguments:

Judge Vaughn Walker seemed skeptical of the attorneys defending Proposition 8, which has outlawed same-sex marriage in the state since late 2008.

Walker, in particular, challenged the argument that the institution of marriage is aimed primarily at serving society’s interest in procreation.

There are plenty of heterosexual couples who can’t have, or don’t want, children, the judge remarked.

“Do people get married to benefit the community?” Walker asked. “When one enters into a marriage, you don’t say, ‘Oh boy, I’m going to benefit society!”

Ultimately, as I say, the outcome of this case matters little.  It'll move upward to the 9th Circuit, and then, the U.S. Supreme Court.

The New OK Go Video

From treadmills to Rube Goldberg-like machines, you're always going to enjoy an OK Go video.  The one common theme about their videos — they were all shot in one continuous shot.

Their latest may be their most ambitious (and exhausting) video from a band member point of view.  The "continuous shot" was 18 hours long (the part involving the band), and then there was another 180 hours of the LA skyline at the very end.

Again, this is all one shot, slowed down or sped up throughout the video.
 

5 Beekman Street

Back in the 1990's, I worked near this lower Manhatten building for years, assuming it was office space or maybe upscale apartments.

4703811905_4feafc8508 

Boy, was I wrong.  The entire building (built in 1882, and the third building in NYC to have elevators) is empty, and has been abandoned for nearly 70 years.

And the interior is cool…

4704423880_d5a402ddb3 

4704432672_618e0f0c8c 

 Full photo essay here

Bachmann Quote Of The Day [Update: Rep. Barton (R-TX), Too!]

Wow.  Just wow.  Here is Rep. Michelle "Crazy As A Loon" Bachmann on the BP escrow fund to compensate Gulf shore residents for their losses:

The president just called for creating a fund that would be administered by outsiders, which would be more of a redistribution-of-wealth fund.  And now it appears like we’ll be looking at one more gateway for more government control, more money to government.  If there is a disaster, why is it that government is the one who always seems to benefit after a disaster, and that’s of course what cap-and-trade would be.

Well, yes, I suppose the fund does involve redistribution-of-wealth…. in the same sense that when a guy smashes into my car, he has to pay me for the damages to it.  Problem?

And the notion that the government benefits from the fund — well, that's just bizarre.  As Bachmann herself acknowledges, the fund will be administered by outsiders, i.e., an independent panel.  How does government "benefit"?  It doesn't, except for the fact that the fund will prevent the government (and by extension, American taxpayers) from being fiscally responsible for BP’s actions.

UPDATE — she's not alone.  This happened 20 minutes ago….

Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), ranking member of the House Energy committee, where BP's CEO is testifying today, just said "It is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown, in this case a $20 billion shakedown."

He also apologized to BP for Obama's address yesterday and the $20 billion escrow.

What is wrong with these people?

Isn't the real "tragedy of the first proportion" that a private corporation can literally break the Gulf of Mexico — ruining wildlife, natural resources, and livelilhoods of those who depend on the Gulf — and have people like Rep. Barton think that's okay?

UPDATE #2 — TPM has a running list of Republicans who are taking issue with the escrow fund.  Jash Marshall adds:

Demonizing particular individuals can go way too far. And we're going to see a lot of it, just as we have in other calamities where the political breakdowns are different. But this almost literal groveling or knee-defense of BP executives is exactly what Democrats will want to show on a national level that Republicans are on the wrong side of this issue. And I suspect it will have a real effect, if only in strengthening a number of embattled incumbents.

Steve Benen echoes:

I find all of this rather bewildering. Given the nature of the crisis, it stood to reason that politicians would be tripping over each other to appear "tougher" on BP than the next guy. What elected official in his/her right mind would want to side with the oil giant responsible for the worst environmental catastrophe in American history? Apparently, we're getting a clearer picture of the answer.

I don't think Republicans have thought through the politics of this. If they don't want to praise the Obama White House for its success with BP yesterday, fine. But the GOP is approaching the point at which Dems will reasonably be able to argue that Republicans are siding with BP over the country

UPDATE #3 — And now the White House responds…

Statement by the Press Secretary on Congressman Joe Barton's Apology to BP

"What is shameful is that Joe Barton seems to have more concern for big corporations that caused this disaster than the fishermen, small business owners and communities whose lives have been devastated by the destruction. Congressman Barton may think that a fund to compensate these Americans is a 'tragedy', but most Americans know that the real tragedy is what the men and women of the Gulf Coast are going through right now. Members from both parties should repudiate his comments."

Ain’t No Grave: The Johnny Cash Project

The video for "Ain't No Grave", a cut from Johnny Cash's last album is pretty amazing, in part because everytime you see it, it's never the exact same video.  It's also amazing because you can contribute to it.

The Johnny Cash Project is an Herculean effort to create a music video for that song from an huge number of drawings — each done by a different person — traced over simple frames that, strung together, become what you see below (or similar to it).

Visit the website to add your own frame.

A Not-Too-Subtle Exemption

One of the worst Supreme Court decisions ever was handed down last year: the Citizens United case, which basically said that corporations were not subject to financial limitations when they fund political candidates.  It's a bad decision because it rests on what I believe are two mistaken Constitutional interpretations:

  1. The First Amendment applies to corporations/organizations
  2. Spending money on political candidates is "speech" (and therefore protected by the First Amendment

Congress is trying now to limit the impact of the Citizens United case by requiring corporations and organizations to at least disclose their political spending.

But in order to get it passed, they've had to water it down.  For example, in the current iteration of the bill, certain organizations are exempt from campaign financial disclosure.  Specifically, the exemption on disclosure requirements would apply to organizations that have more than "1 million members, have been in existence for more than 10 years, have members in all 50 states, and raise 15 percent or less of their funds from corporations."

How many organizations fit that definition?

Only one.

The NRA.

Marital Advice of the Day (from Pat Robertson)

From the 700 Club last week:

TERRY MEEUWSEN (co-host): Pat, this is from Anne who says, "My husband has always been a flirt and loves to talk with other women he finds attractive. He says he would never cheat on me but his actions are starting to get to me. What should I do?

ROBERTSON: Anne, first thing is you need to make yourself as attractive as possible and don't hassle him about it. And why is he doing this? Well, he's doing it because he wants affirmation that he is still a man, that he is attractive — and he gets an affirmation of himself. That means he's got an inferiority complex that's coming out. And he's not gonna cheat on you. He's just playing.

But you need to not drive him away or start hassling and hounding on him, but make yourself as beautiful as you can, as fun as you can, and say let's go out here, let's go there, let's go to the other thing. So — and Terry disagrees.

That's right, honey.  Your man will cheat on you if you get ugly.  So if you find that happening, it's your fault….

Souter’s Commencement Speech

People are start to take note of the commencement speech given by former Supreme Court Justice David Souter to this year's graduating class of Harvard Law School. 

In it, Souter knocks  down the concept of "originalism" championed by Justice Scalia.  "Originalism", for the uninitiated, is the notion that the Constitution is a contract that must be interpreted only in light of what its original drafters wrote and are known to have meant at the time.  All a judge need do is employ a "fair reading" of the Constitution, and that is all.

Justice Souter's commencement speech, in his quiet way, made mincemeat of this:

"[T]he Constitution is no simple contract," the justice said, "not because it uses a certain amount of open-ended language, but because its language grants and guarantees many good things, and good things that compete with each other and can never all be realized, altogether, all at once." He then explained: "The explicit terms of the Constitution, in other words, can create a conflict of approved values, and the explicit terms of the Constitution do not resolve that conflict when it arises."

"A choice may have to be made," the former justice continued, "not because language is vague but because the Constitution embodies the desire of the American people, like most people, to have things both ways . . . Should the choice and its explanation be called illegitimate law making? Can it be an act beyond the judicial power when a choice must be made and the Constitution has not made it in advance in so many words? So much for the notion that all of constitutional law lies there in the Constitution waiting for a judge to read it fairly."

Indeed, Justice Souter said, "The fair reading model fails to account for what the Constitution actually says and fails just as badly to understand what judges have no choice but to do. The Constitution is a pantheon of values, and a lot of hard cases are hard because the Constitution gives no simple rule of decision for the cases in which one of the values is truly at odds with another.

"For the tensions that are the stuff of judging in so many hard constitutional cases are, after all, the products of our aspirations to value liberty, as well as order, and fairness and equality, as well as liberty. And the very opportunity for conflict between the good and the good reflects our confidence that a way must be found to resolve it when a conflict arises." Quite an uplifting sentiment, yes, from a man Washington's Establishment deemed perpetually "dour" because it could never quite figure him out?

"That is why," the Man from New Hampshire continued, "the simplistic view of the Constitution (the originalist/fair reading model) devalues those aspirations, and attacks that confidence and diminishes us. It is a model of judging that means to discourage our tenacity (our sometimes reluctant tenacity) to keep the constitutional promises the nation has made."

Put another way, Souter is saying that if all it takes is to give a fair reading to the Constitution and apply it to cases, then a monkey could do it.  But obviously, the kinds of cases that come before the Supreme Court are not that simple.

As examples, Souter raised two cases: The one involving The Pentagon Papers, and Brown vs. Board of Education.  In the first case, he noted, two constitutional values were in direct tension (freedom of the press vs. national security), and there was no obviously right answer. In the second, constitutional values had evolved to the point that "separate but equal" was no longer defensible, even if the plain language of the 14th Amendment guarantee of "equal protection" had not changed.

Conservatives raise the spector of "judicial activism" whenever judges interpret the Constitution in a way which gives an outcome that conservatives don't like.  They also deride the notion of a "living Constitution" — the idea that the Constitution changes as society changes.  On this latter point, Souter essentially says "Well, yeah!  Exactly!"  After all, in the real world, the protections of the 14th Amendment were not guaranteed under a "separate but equal" construct.  Only when "separate but equal" was abandoned in Brown did the 14th Amendment actually guarantee equal protection.  Justice Souter acknowledges that justices cannot be blind to real world results; whereas Scalia and Thomas insist that justices must be blind real world results.

In any event, Souter's commencement speech has hit a chord and is already being touted as an important contribution, along the line of Oliver Wendell Holmes' "Common Law", to the discourse about Constitutional interpretation.  "Justice Souter's extraordinarily candid and accessible remarks will be part of law school discussions and debates for years to come", as one scholar noted.

You can read the full text of the speech here.

Arizona’s Latest Xenophobia

CNN:

(CNN) – A proposed Arizona law would deny birth certificates to children born in the United States to illegal immigrant parents.

The bill comes on the heels of Arizona passing the nation's toughest immigration law.

John Kavanagh, a Republican state representative from Arizona who supports the proposed law aimed at so-called "anchor babies," said that the concept does not conflict with the U.S. Constitution.

"If you go back to the original intent of the drafters … it was never intended to bestow citizenship upon (illegal) aliens," said Kavanagh, who also supported Senate Bill 1070 – the law that gave Arizona authorities expanded immigration enforcement powers.

Unfortunately for Kavanagh, he is wrong.  The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified in 1868 after the Civil War, states the following concerning citizenship: All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.

It makes no distinction at all between aliens (legal or illegal) or anything else.  If you were born in the United States, you are a citzen of it.

What's more, to the extent there is any doubt, the United States Supreme Court settled this matter in 1898, specifically saying that children born in the United States are automatically granted citizenship, regardless of their parents' residency status.  The only exception is children of foreign diplomats, and children born to enemy forces engaged in a hostile occupation of the United States.

But people like Kavanagh don't care about the law or the Constitution.  They're Republicans.

Yet Another In A Series Of Posts All Relating To “How Much Oil Is Being Spilled”?

…. and like all the other posts, the answer is "More than we've been led to believe".  Sigh:

The new estimate is 25,000 to 30,000 barrels of oil a day. That range, still preliminary, is far above the previous estimate of 12,000 to 19,000 barrels a day.

These new calculations came as the public wrangling between BP and the White House was reaching new heights, with President Obama asking for a meeting with BP executives next week and his Congressional allies intensifying their pressure on the oil giant to withhold dividend payments to shareholders until it makes clear it can and will pay all its obligations from the spill.

The higher estimates will affect not only assessments of how much environmental damage the spill has done but also how much BP might eventually pay to clean up the mess — and it will most likely increase suspicion among skeptics about how honest and forthcoming the oil company has been throughout the catastrophe.

The new estimate is based on information that was gathered before BP cut a pipe called a riser on the ocean floor last week to install a new capture device, an operation that some scientists have said may have sharply increased the rate of flow. The government panel, called the Flow Rate Technical Group, is preparing yet another estimate that will cover the period after the riser was cut.

The new estimate appears to be a far better match than earlier ones for the reality that Americans can see every day on their televisions. Even though the new capture device is funneling 15,000 barrels of oil a day to a ship at the surface, a robust flow of oil is still gushing from the well a mile beneath the waves.

UPDATE:  BBC writes

As many as 40,000 barrels (1.7 million gallons) of oil a day may have been gushing out from a blown-out Gulf of Mexico well, doubling many estimates.

iPhone 4 Versus Android 2.2

Not for nothing, but experts who do side-by-side comparisons — here, here, and here [UPDATE: and here] — seem to think that Android is the way to go.

Of course, it depends on what one uses their smartphone for.  But the general consensus is that Android wins out because it is more open.  In other words, with iPhones, you get what Steve Jobs thinks you should get.  With Android phones, you can customize the phone to look and feel however you like.  Anyone can create apps and (unlike iPhone) nobody censors them.

The apps for both phone are comparable.  With one noted exception (the popular "Lose It", a weight loss app for iPhone), virtually any app for the iPhone is available in Android (and Lose It is coming to Android soon anyway).

The fact that anyone can come up with apps for Android is no small matter, because many apps can cure "defects" with your Android phone.  Even defects that you weren't aware of.  For example, someone created an Android app called Swype, which allows a simple way of inputting text.  Instead of hitting the keys on the screen one at a time, you simply glide your finger from letter to letter, and it figures out the word (even if you don't hit the keys dead on).  As a result, I can now "type" text faster with one finger than I can with two fingers on a regular screen keyboard.

The only thing where iPhone excels is playing music and integration with iTunes.  And that's a huge selling point for some.  But Android phones integrate better with all of Google's applications, including Gmail, Calendar, Google Voice, and perhaps most importantly, Google Maps, which makes every Android phone in effect a state-of-the-art voice-activitated GPS unit.

And Android 2.2, which is being rolled out now, has one superlative feature that iPhone 4 lacks: tethering.  This basically means that your Android phone operates as a mobile WiFi system.  No need to look for a Starbucks for your laptop or iPad — your phone will act as the WiFi, whereever you are.

Multitasking?  Android wins.  Battery life?  Android wins.  Ability to run Flash?  Android does; iPhone (Steve Jobs assures us) never will.

And Android phones tend to be cheaper, have cheaper phone plans, and you're not stuck with only AT&T.

Just sayin'.

Ominous Blog Post

LATEST UPDATEShe's fine.

Abby's Blog — Entry dated Wednesday, June 9, 2010:

The wind is beginning to pick up. It is back up to 20 knots and I am expecting that by midnight tonight I could have 35-50 knots with gusts to 60 so I am off to sleep before it really picks up.

That's the end of the latest post by Abby Sunderland, a 16 year old California native, who set out to be the youngest to circumnavigate the globe by boat, solo.  It was posted from somewhere in the Indian Ocean, between Africa and Australia.

She's gone missing, and the nearest ship is 400 miles away from her last known location.

More from ABC News:

Jeff Casher, an engineer on Sunderland's support team, told ABC News that he last spoke with the 16-year-old sailor before 6 a.m. PDT, after she had been knocked down twice during the night because of strong winds — meaning that her sail had touched the water.

One of those knock-downs, Casher said, ripped the radar off the boat. She had been speaking with Casher on a satellite telephone earlier because of engine problems and was in the process of fixing those problems when she told Casher she'd call right back.

She has not been heard from since, except for the distress signals.

IMG_0068A 

UPDATE:  As I was writing this, her folks just updated Abby's blog with the following (reprinted in full below the fold):

Should Taxpayers Pay For The Oil Spill?

Republican leaders think so.

This is tremendously stupid politics.  The public — particularly Republicans — are weary of taxpayer bailouts already.  Now we want more?

Oh, sure — count on Republicans to say, "Well, we bailed out the banks.  So why not BP?"

But that argument falls flat.  The bailout of the banks was necessary to stem the economic downflow.  It was designed to make sure that the entire banking system stayed afloat.  (And remember, we did let Sheasron Lehman die first).

This is not the same situation.  BP messed up.  While the oil spill may wreak havoc with BP's bottom dollar, it doesn't send the entire oil industry into turmoil and collapse, unlike the financial sector bailout.  Plus, the oil and gas companies get huge tax breaks already.

Also, BP is, you know, British.  Let the Brits bail them out.

Democrats need to jump on this one.  Politically, it's a huge gamechanger.  The 30 second ads write themselves: "Democrats want BP to pay for its spill; Republicans want you to pay for BP's spill."

P.S.  Although I agreed with it at the time, and still do, voters might want to be reminded that the bailout of the banks was done when Bush was president.

UPDATE from Josh Marshall, noting that Boehner is backtracking:

Okay, it seems like we know what Boehner meant. It seems he thinks BP should be on the line for everything. But only up to $75 million once the oil itself if cleaned up.

UPDATE:  Boehner steps into the ridiculous again

Washington (CNN) – House Republican Leader John Boehner mocked Congress for holding multiple hearings on the BP oil spill before experts have figured out how to halt oil still gushing into the Gulf. He sarcastically called the packed hearing schedule, "Congress at its best."

"You know, why don't we get the oil stopped, alright? Figure out what the hell went wrong, and then have the hearing and get the damn law fixed!" an exasperated Boehner told reporters at his weekly press conference on Capitol Hill.

I'm going to go out on a limb and speculate that figuring out how to cap the spill is in no way impeded by Congress looking into the root cause of the spill.  If it is an impediment, then we're in serious trouble.

It’s A Small World After All

Couple_met_when_they_were_kids 

Alex and Donna Voutsinas are like many couples; they met at work, fell in love and got engaged. Days before their wedding, the couple was looking at old family photos when Donna came across a picture of herself as a child on vacation at Disney and showed it to her fiancé.

But Alex was more interested in the man walking in the background behind Donna’s smiling family and the character Mr. Smee from Disney's Peter Pan.

Alex recognized the man in the background because it was his father, who was pushing a stroller during their own family trip to Disney. Decades before they met as adults, the couple had crossed paths at Disney as kids.

[Source]

Racism = Ignorance: A Case Study

As you may know, many on the right are upset that a mosque is being built within a couple of blocks of Ground Zero in downtown Manhattan.  The thinking goes that Islamic terrorists were responsible for 9/11, therefore all of the religion of Islam is bad and evil, therefore mosques are evil.

With such stupid logic as that, it's not hard to understand that it might go one step further, and that the mosque-opposers (largely of the Tea Party movement) would let their racial and ignorant side show through.  Which it did, at a recent Ground Zero protest of the porposed mosque:

At one point, a portion of the crowd menacingly surrounded two Egyptian men who were speaking Arabic and were thought to be Muslims.

"Go home," several shouted from the crowd.

"Get out," others shouted.

In fact, the two men – Joseph Nassralla and Karam El Masry — were not Muslims at all. They turned out to be Egyptian Coptic Christians who work for a California-based Christian satellite TV station called "The Way." Both said they had come to protest the mosque.

"I'm a Christian," Nassralla shouted to the crowd, his eyes bulging and beads of sweat rolling down his face.

But it was no use. The protesters had become so angry at what they thought were Muslims that New York City police officers had to rush in and pull Nassralla and El Masry to safety.

"I flew nine hours in an airplane to come here," a frustrated Nassralla said afterward.

The incident underscores how contentious — and, perhaps, how irrational — the debate over the mosque has become.

Another Oil Spill In The Gulf

Lovely:

As if there wasn't enough oil pouring into the Gulf of Mexico, satellite images have revealed a 10-mile-long slick from another drilling rig, which apparently began leaking days after the Deepwater Horizon disaster began.

Citing an environmental group and federal documents, the Mobile, Ala., Press- Register reports that the smaller leak, from the Ocean Saratoga platform, apparently began around April 30 and was noted by federal officials May 15. But they and Diamond Offshore officials aren't saying anything else about it.

The spill was first reported by SkyTruth, which said it accidentally discovered the separate slick while scrutinizing Deepwater Horizon images. Photos taken during overflights "appear to show a large oil crew boat pumping dispersants into the water at the spill site," the Press- Register writes.

Officials at the National Response Center, which is coordinating the massive BP spill, said the Ocean Saratoga leak had been reported, but they would not say exactly when it began. The Coast Guard has not yet responded either.

Google on Caffeine

Not that you will have noticed, but Google totally revamped the way it indexes the web.  The relatively geek-free explanation of the new indexing system (called Caffeine) is here.  What does it mean?  It means web content gets into Google quicker, which means it gets to you quicker.  Or, put another way, better searches.

Scary Election of the Day

Today is primary day in a lot of states.  I'm not following it.  I can tell you (and so can everybody else) that anti-incumbancy fever is high, which means that a lot of people in office might get thrown out.  Doesn't look like the nation will swing all the way to the teabaggers, but on the whole, it doesn't look good for the left.

There is one race worth watching…. for comical purposes.  And ironically, if this GOP nominee wins, it will be a HUGE embarassment to the GOP.

California Republicans optimistic about their prospects in November could find themselves with a bit of a problem after the votes are counted in Tuesday’s primaries — a statewide ticket with the so-called “Birther Queen” as one of their candidates.

Orly Taitz is an Israeli émigré who has spent the past two years filing lawsuits challenging President Barack Obama’s right to be president on the grounds that he was born in Kenya. In the process, she has earned herself $20,000 in court fines.

Now she’s running for the GOP nomination for secretary of state, and with her establishment-backed primary opponent mounting a less-than-stellar campaign against her, operatives say there’s a chance she could win.

“It’d be a disaster for the Republican party,” says James Lacy, a conservative GOP operative in the state. “Can you imagine if [gubernatorial candidate] Meg Whitman and [candidate for Lt. Gov.] Abel Maldonado — both of whom might have a chance to win in November — had to run with Orly Taitz as secretary of state, who would make her cockamamie issues about Obama’s birth certificate problems at the forefront of her activities?”

Fingers crossed.

Seconds Before He Proposes To Her, His Girlfriend Gets Struck by Lightning

If this wasn't so sad, it would be funny:

A young Tennessee woman was struck and killed by lightning on one of her favorite North Carolina mountain trails only moments before her boyfriend was about to propose to her, the Asheville Citizen-Times reports.

Richard Butler, 30, said he and Bethany Lott, 25, both from Knoxville, Tenn., had ignored the rain and kept heading up Max Patch Bald, a spot that Bethany had longed to show him.

In his pocket, he had his own surprise — an engagement ring.

About 30 seconds before the lightning struck, Butler tells the newspaper, Lott turned around to say: "'God, baby, look how beautiful it is.'"

Butler, who suffered second degree burns in the ordeal, says he remembers seeing three lightning flashes.

"I was spun 180 degrees and thrown several feet back," he says. "My legs turned to Jell-O, my shoes were smoking and the bottom of my feet felt like they were on fire."

He then crawled to Bethany, who was lying motionless only a few feet away.

"I did CPR for probably 15 minutes and the whole time was trying her cell phone, but I couldn't get anything out," Butler says

Hen then drove for help, but was too late.

"I put the ring on her finger while the EMTs were working on her," he tells the Citizen-Times. "They are listing me as her fiancé in the obituaries."

Religious Nutjobs Of The Day

From Newsweek, presented without comment:

A growing conversation among Christian fundamentalists asks the question that may have been inevitable: is the oil spill in the gulf a sign of the coming apocalypse?

About 60 million white evangelicals live in America, and about one third of them believe that the world will end in their lifetime, according to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press….

…Now blogs on the Christian fringe are abuzz with possibility that the oil spill is the realization of Revelation 8:8–11. "The second angel blew his trumpet, and something like a great mountain, burning with fire, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea became blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed … A third of the waters became wormwood, and many died from the water, because it was made bitter." According to Revelation, in other words, something terrible happens to the world's water, a punishment to those of insufficient faith. The foul water, according to the New Oxford Annotated Bible, mirrors one of the plagues God called upon Egypt on behalf of his people Israel.

Though maybe it's Revelation 16:3: "The second angel poured his bowl into the sea, and it became like the blood of a corpse, and every living thing in the sea died."

Some interpreters are very sure: The oil spill matches biblical prophesy and is another predictor of the end. One commenter at Godlike Productions argues that the redness of the oil seen in pictures can be interpreted as blood. "The water is tinted red from the oil … it ACTUALLY looks like blood. coincidence??? NOT!!!!"

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE:  J-Walk blog has founded supportive evidence….

Holyoil