Tuesday, August 22, 2006

kevvyd is not dead...

He just smells funny.

Hot on the heels of my return from vacation I am heading out to sea for something like a month. I am currently sitting in downtown St. John's NL awaiting the arrival of my vessel. Dan and Flash will hopefully pick up the slack while I'm away. Take care...

Friday, August 18, 2006

Ma, they aren't listening to the phone anymore... and I'm scared...

It looks like some people have indeed partaken of the confinement loaf and actually believe that spying on the citizenry in a sort of random, unconstrained manner is a good thing. Or am I to make something else of comments like "Thanks to the NYT we are a lot less safe".

Yeah, buddy I'd get that tingly, safe-in-momma's-arms feeling just thinking that my phone could be tapped, too.

Sheesh.

Improvised Explosive Opportunity

Monday, August 14, 2006

So where are we now?

Hezbollah has done the predictable -- declared victory based on the acceptance of a temporary cease-fire. However, also as predicted, George Bush says claims that Hezbollah has in fact been defeated:
Hezbollah suffered a defeat in this crisis... How can you claim victory when you were a state within a state in southern Lebanon, and now you're going to be replaced by an international force?
All quips aside, for anyone to be declared a loser implies two things; that someone won, and that it is in fact over. Can either of these statements be considered true yet? Bush apparently thinks so, and so does Nasrallah, but naturally they're just playing for political gain right now. Let's just cross our fingers and hope that the cease fire holds for a while...

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Oh Well, At Least They Beat Turkey


As the linked article shows, a recent study of 34 countries shows the United States placing 33rd in belief in evolution. Best quote:
“American Protestantism is more fundamentalist than anybody except perhaps the Islamic fundamentalist, which is why Turkey and we are so close,” said study co-author Jon Miller of Michigan State University.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Give It a Rest Mark II


As a followup to my previous post and as evidenced in the linked editorial, we see that some people aren't satisfied with the spectacle of their elected government looking on impotently as the courts decide the fate of their bungled legislation. No, these guys want the government to use the Notwithstanding Clause if the courts don't rule the way they want. There are a few things we can deduce about these people:

a. They've a piss-poor idea of how the Clause works - as shown here, it's not as simple as the PCs declaring it into law - it has to be passed in the Legislature and it has to be renewed after 5 years, which leads us to the second conclusion;

b. They can't count - all the times the Clause has been revoked were with Governments who had healthy majorities. With the razor-thin margin Premier MacDonald has, there is simply no way this would survive a vote, and Rodney's smart enough to realize this, which is why it's not going to happen, which leads us to the final conclusion about these folks:

c. They're idiots.

Of course, speaking as a Newfoundlander, I can't help but be cheered by these developments, cause if this keeps up the 'Newfie Joke' will be a thing of the past, and instead Canadians from Coast to Coast will be saying 'Hey, did you hear the one about the Dumb Nova Scotian?"

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

I'm Fairly Certain This is a Sign of the Apocalypse

Paris Hilton is giving up sex.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Takin' some time off..

I'm taking some time off work and packing up the beast, El Gordo with kids, clothes, and food and we're heading off into that steaming hell called Central Canada. So I leave the place in Briguy's, Flash's, and Dan's capable hands. I may pipe in for commentary from time to time, but blogging will be light, if at all.

Take care, all, and dont' bust up the place.

Friday fun

Some fond memories to end a week of mostly bad news.

Tarek Fatah

I just popped by Adam Daifallah's blog this morning to see what how my favorite optimist neo-con is doing now that the Bush Administration is beginning to talk of a possible "coming" Iraqi civil war. Naturally, all is silent, because it's hard to maintain that optimism with all that reality fogging it up.

However, he does have a note about Tarek Fatah, one of the strong voices of reason within the Canadian Muslim community stepping down after receiving death threats for daring to voice moderation against extremism. Adam is 100% right - this deserves coverage and Mr. Fatah deserves support from those of us that would have peace between the religions and cultures of the world.

The Flowery One

I was skimming the news yesterday, when I caught this gem, from Secretary Rumsfeld:

"I have never painted a rosy picture," he said. "I've been very measured in my words, and you'd have a dickens of a time trying to find instances where I've been excessively optimistic."



I was really hoping that Jon Stewart would have a field day with this. A five minute montage of Rumsfeld predictions, from 2001 on, with a few "whhhaaaaa???"s thrown in. He didn't so I will have to provide the quotes myself:

Source

2/7/03: “It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months.”


Source

2/20/03: "There is no question but that they would be welcomed. Go back to Afghanistan, the people were in the streets playing music, cheering, flying kites, and doing all the things that the Taliban and the al-Qaeda would not let them do."


Source (note...I tried to link to the original statement at defenselink.gov, but this statement of Rumsfeld's has been taken down from the defenselink site.)

2/27/03:“What is, I think, reasonably certain is the idea that it would take several hundred thousand U.S. forces I think is far from the mark.”


Source

6/13/03:"You've got to remember that if Washington, D.C., were the size of Baghdad, we would be having something like 215 murders a month," Rumsfeld said. "There's going to be violence in a big city."


(not a prediction, but certainly rosy in a roundabout way)

I could probably find more quotes, but I think the first three pre-war predictions are enough to put the lie to Rumsfeld's assertion that he was never excessively optimistic.

Damascus, ho!

Somehow, I missed this last month. Rumsfeld's little drummer boy (General Abizaid...note to LGFers: He's not a terrorist, despite his last name) laid the media groundwork last month for a march on Damascus.

"I believe there are more foreign fighters coming into Iraq than there were six months ago," Gen Abizaid told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

He said suicide bombers from Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco were entering Iraq via Syria, joining others from Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

"I would say there is a clear node inside Syria which facilitates it. Whether or not the Syrian government is facilitating it or ignoring it is probably a debatable question, but the key node is Damascus," he said.



My emphasis. Whether or not his assertions are true are a moot point. I hate to be a cynic, but I fully expect an unsupportable (personnel-wise, let alone the shaky justifications an invasion will be based on) expansion in the war effort sometime around, say, mid-September to October. The fact that there are midterms in November has nothing to do with my timing estimate. As always, I hope I'm wrong, and I'm sure certain people are cheering for me to be right.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Undoubtedly

This has not been a good day.

Terrorism and evil

I seem to have become involved in another interesting and enjoyable discussion over at Canadianna's Place. (A blog that I can't recommend highly enough for those interested in discussions that cross the left/right corridor without acrimony. I would that all blogs could do this!) I was in the process of writing a response to the post when I realized that my response growing overly-large and it was changing direction enough that it could spawn a discussion of its own right.

The topic: terrorism and evil

As you can read in the discussion at her place, which I won't reproduce here, we disagree on the use of the term "evil" in the context of Hezbollah and terrorism in general. Anna writes (emphasis mine):


It is a fiction that there is some magical 'middle ground' ---that if Israel tried hard enough -- it could click its heels and end the annihilative aims of Hizbollah and its fighters. Such a place as middle ground doesn't exist. Impartiality is evil in the face of evil. It opens the door and keeps the door wedged open for fear of stating the truth -- at no time, in no way can Hizbollah ever be 'right' or 'okay' or even tolerated. Some ideologies are wrong. To suggest negotiation or compromise is to give a terrorist group legitimacy.
I am beginning to believe that those that self-identify with the Right or the Left will also differ on the use of terms that imply moral absolutes like "good" and "evil", "right" and "wrong". To me, what I call "evil" says as much about me as it does about the creature/object/behaviour that I have decried, therefore the term is itself is too subjective to be really useful. When I use the term it does not, can not, mean the same thing when someone else uses it. What's more, when it gets used to describe a person or thing, it becomes difficult to deal with the actual reality of the subject, who very likely does not view itself as evil, and might very well not be viewed as evil by others. The use of the term "evil" is an act of obfuscation, not enlightenment.

There are many that would say with conviction that terrorism itself is an evil, and by many standards it would be true. However, terrorism really is simply a tactic, it is a method of organizing and waging war - no more evil than that. The direct targeting of civilians as a method of war is as old as time; from the Romans to the Crusades to Dresden to Hiroshima to Buchenwald to Sept. 11. All of it is by some measure evil, but they all had different genesis, and likely in every case would not have been considered evil by those performing the deeds. Are these examples "evil"? Perhaps, but maybe not, depending on the context within which each was conceived and executed; I will defend none of them. To me, the intentional killing of any person is wrong, but I expect that I could be placed in a situation in which I could willfully do it. Am I evil? I don't know.

So how does this apply to Israel/Hezbollah?

When I use the term "evil" to describe something, it blinds me to the reality of the thing that I'm describing. Evil is wrong, end of story; therefore I am less able to consider how the evil thing operates, how it was born, its context. And that makes me less able to combat it. By calling it evil, I deny its legitimacy, which unlike Canadianna above, I think is a problem. Does a thing have a right to exist, or does it indeed matter when it obviously does exist? Whether an organization is legitimate or not, should you destroy it, if it is real it can happen again, unless you deal with the underlying cause.

And the underlying causes, the motivating forces that create these groups, are unlikely to be destroyed or even weakened by large-scale deaths of civilians. There might be short-term military victory, though even that is far from guaranteed, but simply trying to "rout evil" without understanding its source is only going to produce more of it down the road.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Sometimes the comedy just writes itself

The media is anti-Semitic!

'nuff said.

Too true, herr penguin, too true

Far and Wide: Finally We Agree -- within limits

I couldn't agree more with SteveV: Far and Wide: Finally We Agree.

But having said that, let's not get too crazy. I back the idea of allowing the use of the dangerous offender act in repeat sexual offenders, and frankly I'm surprised it's not in use already, but I don't think we should be going too far down this road. On local radio the last couple of days I've heard calls for publicizing the sexual offenders list and I can't help but think that vigilante "justice" wouldn't be too far behind. In these heated political times, would not put it past any political party to run this kind of issue too far for political points.

If these people can't be trusted on release, then please, for all our sakes, let's find a way to keep them locked up.

Don't Let the Door Hit You in the Ass on the Way Out

The Kansas state Board of Education elections have shifted the balance of power towards supporters of Evolution. The New York Times describes one pro-design loss this way:

A victory by pro-evolution Republican candidate Jana Shaver over conservative Republican Brad Patzer, who supported the standards treating evolution as a flawed theory, meant conservatives would at best have five of 10 seats on the board.

Wow. Just getting over the phrase 'pro-evolution Republican candidate'. I guess I've been painting some people with the Religious Nut Brush (tm) too often.

After the Dover decision, why is this even an issue? It has been legally established that ID is a religious belief, not a scientific one, and in no way represents a viable alternative to Evolution. No more than my claiming that the world was created yesterday by the Smurfs (In the name of Papa Smurf, Brainy Smurf and Smurfette, amen).

I can understand why people have religious beliefs - it is comforting to some people to envision some sort of reward after death. In fact, the Industrial Revolution would not have proceeded so rapidly if not for the Protestant work ethic (finally got around to mentioning Max Weber. It's about time.). I have no problem with that as long as people keep their beliefs to themselves.

As an aside, I realize I'm not keeping my beliefs to myself, but that's what I'm here for - to share my opinions and beliefs, whether people agree or disagree or burn me in effigy.

What could possibly make someone so uncomfortable with the idea of Evolution that they would deny the fact of its' progress in the face of insurmountable evidence? There is no 'evidentiary' argument besides 'because God said so', which actually means 'because we say so'. The argument does not present evidence, it spouts dogma and insults. Read the lengthy but very interesting article by Barbara Forrest here to understand some of the underhanded and immoral legal tactics involved.

The denial of religiosity in the pro-ID argument is dishonest on its' face: Intelligent Design implies the existence of a Designer who undertook the process. People advocating ID do not want to present fair alternatives, but to impose Christian religious views on children they see as the future of the U.S. Morality, as they understand it from their idealized Leave it to Beaver standpoint, is declining, so they'd better act fast to sneak moral arguments through disguised as neutral balancing of ideas.

ID is just one of the many ways that religion and culture are subtly reflected all around us, which will be the topic of a future rant. For now, I feel encouraged as a scientist that the 'Evolution Revolution' is proceeding as it should in the state of Kansas.

Addendum: The New York Times also provides this gem from 27 December, 2005:

(To the tune of the Battle Hymn of the Republic)

My bones proclaim a story of incompetent design
My back still hurts, my sinus clogs, my teeth just won't align
If I had drawn the blueprint I would certainly resign
Incompetent Design!
Evo-Evo-Evolution. Design is but a mere illusion
Darwin sparked our revolution. Science shall prevail!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Odd blogging behaviour noted

I have found the reaction of the Right to the photos released the other day that show Hezbollah fighters in residential areas puzzling. The damning proof - Hezbollah wanted civilians targetted breathlessly shrieks one such headline that I found, though there are many of a similar tone. The Sun Came Up This Morning! Lance Bass is Gay! Right-Wing Blogger Manages to Create a Reference to Kennedy Misdeed!

I mean, why is this news - we know that is the way terrorists operate. So why do some bloggers feel the need to wave this as if it is some kind of victory in an argument? Is it supposed to convince me somehow that killing more civilians is the answer to the problem?

Have those on either side of this argument completely lost touch with one another? I think that most of us on the peaceful middle ground side and those on the bomb Hezbollah into the earth side want the same thing in the end - an end to killings in Israel and Lebanon and the long-term establishment of peace. It's not like when I write that I think a military solution to this problem is untenable and unlikely to work that I'm really saying "go Hezbollah!"

Is that how I'm being heard on the right?

Are the Liberals breathing easier now?

Poll results like this, which show that Canadians by and large do not support Stephen Harper's stand on the Mid-East has to be good news to Liberals, some of whom have been openly musing in recent weeks about the possibility of an early fall election call. I'm not suggesting that the government should base its foreign policy simply on public opinion, something I've often thought the Liberals did, but having an unpopular policy is one thing, calling an election while that policy is front and centre is another.

The poll, done by Allen Gregg's Strategic Council, does not indicate Tory approval ratings have been affected overall yet, although other polls have indicated some slippage. That said, Harper will be concerned that the disapproval of his foreign policy is highest in battleground provinces like Quebec and BC, where the Tories expect, or at least hope, to gain seats in a push for a majority.

One of the interesting things about the results of the poll to me is that a large percentage of Canadians when asked thought the Canadian government should take a neutral stand on the current Israel/Hezbollah conflict. I am sure that Tories around the country look at this as a hangover from our wishy-washy Liberal days, something that will eventually change as we become more used to a more pro-active (or I would say aggressice) approach. Another reading of this could be that a majority of Canadians value a (actual) measured approach to complicated political issues, one that could lead to long-term solutions.

I really hope the Tories are wrong. Be strong you majority of Canadians!