May 10, 2002

HEY BILL:

Shut up! Ya lost in the Electoral College, the only place that matters.
Posted by B. Preston at 10:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

SINCE ENVIRO-CRAZED LEFTIES

seem to be on a rampage these days, it's worth keeping our eye on these guys. Their lovely web site offers instructions for committing arson, downloadable in PDF format. How nice...

And, why is the media so relunctant to call the Unabomber Mark 2, or Pim Fortuyn's killer, what they obviously are?
Posted by B. Preston at 10:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

WHERE'S RILYA?

That's what Susanna Cornett wants to know. Actually, we should all want to know.
Posted by B. Preston at 10:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

JOKE THEFT?

I had no idea what I was starting with this Colin Quinn post. Dr. Weevil, who runs a fine and funny blog, thinks he smells plagiarism in Quinn's joke (see the Dr.'s post), and The Agitator eggs on the good Doc, suggesting that he, The Agitator, may have been Quinn's link to the Doc's 72 virgins joke. Circumstantial evidence is good--The Agitator reports that during March, Google led a handful of folks to his site (where he'd exerpted the Doc's 72 virgins joke) via searches on The Colin Quinn Show. Since that show never attracted an audience of more than about 50 people before its demise, it's a good bet that the mystery Googler is in fact connected in some way to the show--maybe it is Quinn himself. Who knows?

Well anyway, The Doc wonders what my source for the joke was. Obviously I didn't watch The Colin Quinn Show (who did?). Actually, he found the source himself, sort of--he ran a Google and found the joke on TVSpy, and wonders what that is. TVSpy is actually a pretty good source for the inside angle on the teevee news biz--it's run by Don Fitzpatrick, a big-time teevee news talent agent, and it's also the home of "Shoptalk," a teevee newsroom newsletter to which I subscribe. "Shoptalk" was my source for the Quinn joke, and that's why I didn't link to it--I couldn't, since it was in my email and I didn't know it was also on TVSpy.

So did Colin Quinn steal the Doc's joke? I don't know, but it's possible. What's that showbiz saying? Oh yeah--"amateurs borrow, professionals steal."
Posted by B. Preston at 10:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

ATTACK FORMATION

: A few days back I posted about a Democrat video outlining three lines of attack against President Bush. That video was supposed to be sent to state and regional offices of the party, who were free to use it in ads or, really, however they wish. It looks like some of them handed the tapes off to editorial writers. Consider, attack angle #1 involved budget deficits and blaming them on the Bush tax cut. Attack #2 was to accuse him of frittering away the Social Security mistrust fund, and attack #3 was to accuse him of not hiking education enough. They're all lame attacks. Tax cuts don't cause deficits--overspending causes deficits. The Social Security mistrust fund is a hoax, and everyone knows it. And Bush promised to hike education spending and did so--just not enough for the Dems' liking. So anyway, E. J. Dionne of the Washington Post has apparently seen the tape, since this editorial hits on all three of the Dems' themes before urging them to go on offense:

They [the Democrats] also believe the federal government has responsibilities it cannot meet if all the future tax cuts enacted last year go through.

For example: Paying the true cost of Medicare and enacting a serious prescription drug benefit are, on an honest accounting, impossible without running up a lot of new debt. So is extending health coverage to the uninsured.

President Bush has said we will need 2 million new teachers in the coming decade. If we were serious about attracting young talent to teaching, we'd ask the federal government to offer serious bonuses and incentives, especially for teaching in poor districts that have trouble recruiting. That would cost money too.

But while Democrats regularly assail the effects of the Bush tax cut, most avoid following the logic of their position. With a handful of exceptions -- Sen. Edward M. Kennedy is the best known -- they are unwilling to call for stopping the Bush tax cut right where it is now.


And here's The American Prospect's Noy Thrupkaew's take on education:

When the education-bill team gathered in the White House for its initial negotiations, says Miller, both he and Kennedy emphasized that substantial reforms were only possible with an increase in funding to schools. "You couldn't do it on the cheap," Miller explains. "And President Bush said the money was going to be there." In order to win the Democrats' backing, Bush also scaled down his support for vouchers. But like so many of the bill's provisions, this compromise was undercut by the president's proposed budget, which diverts $4 billion to private-school tuitions, in the form of tax cuts for parents who remove children from failing public schools.

At the same time, the new budget increases total education funding by just $1.4 billion, the smallest boost in seven years. During that time the yearly increase in education spending has averaged 13 percent; Bush's budget calls for a 2.8 percent hike. "He signed [the bill,]" says Miller, "and he's not living up to it."


So there you have it--Bush raised the budget all right, just not enough to satisfy the Democrats. Just like the video said. That the two senators in the article are among the most leftish around bears remark, as does the duplicitous career of at least one (Teddy). Singing from the same sheet of music is The Baltimore Sun's Jules Whitcover, who uses the 1980 George Bush Sr. "voodoo economics" model to attack Bush 43. I love this attempt at evenhandedness:

With some validity, the president blames part of the deficit on Democrats in Congress for insisting on more social spending, such as their demands for prescription drug benefits beyond what his own party advocates. The Democrats respond, also with validity, that they are not going to abandon the poor and elderly just so Mr. Bush can give most of his tax cuts to the rich.


That second sentence, the one about abandoning the poor and so forth for tax cuts for the rich, is so 1930s class warfare, so Bob Shrum so...like the Democrat attack tape.

I see a pattern here. I compile and report, you decide.
Posted by B. Preston at 03:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 09, 2002

WHAT DRIVES A SCIENTIST

to study the stars? For some, it's a genuine love of the cosmos. For others, it's just plain curiosity about what's out there? For others, it's a search for extraterrestrial life, or the mind of God, or still other reasons that number as many as there are scientists in astronomy.

But another question, which is asked less often, is what drives a scientist to study a particular aspect of astronomy, or to propose theories for others to test? I actually heard that question asked today, and the answer surprised me for its honesty.

It was in the context of a symposium that my place of work hosts every year. This year's theme was life--is our planet the only one that supports it, is intelligent life out there, was the universe we live in tuned for life, and is our universe the only universe? It's that last question, or rather the answer I heard given, that startled me.

I was in my office, working on a project, and listening to the final lecture of the week. It was a lecture about anthropics, which is the study of how the construction of the universe relates to the abundance of life in it. It's a fairly mind-boggling concept, in that it sort of ends with the notion that the universe appears to have been tuned to support life, and specifically to support our life, here on earth. After all, if the tuning is just a bit off, you don't get life here--there are no physicists to study life's physics.

Many scientists don't like this idea at all, and scoff at it. Today, during the Q & A that followed the lecture, a young scientist who's made quite a name for himself in recent years, asked a question. The lecturer had gone on at some length about the possibility of "pocket universes"--multiple universes created from various phenomena in our own, or created in the same moment as ours, or completely outside and not at all related to ours. Such an idea is obviously untestable, but with a good deal of math and some logic you can get there, and make pocket universes seem plausible. The young scientist wanted to know, in essence, why physicists were theorizing about multiple universes when we have such a hard time understanding our own. It was a good question, and owing to that and to the fact that the questioner has been compared to Einstein, it got a good hearing.

The lecturer replied, more or less, thus: "The anthropic principle implies a theological beginning if you have one universe that began in one creation event. Pocket universes are a way around that. Since we scientists don't want theology dripping into our science, we're putting forward the idea that there are many universes." Those weren't his exact words, but that was the meaning.

I was stunned. I'd never heard it laid out so plain before--that a scientific theory garnering substantial government funding was in fact the result of an essentially theological problem with the existing model. And, that such a genesis, if I may use the word, for a scientific study was perfectly acceptable.

Don't get me wrong here--I think studying the possibility of pocket universes is perfectly fine. But, we're told over and over again that science is the pure quest for truth, and that that quest must be followed wherever the evidence takes the scientist. When Edwin Hubble first proposed a Big Bang--a moment when time and the universe began--Einstien rejected it out of hand for its theological implications. If you have a creation moment, you imply that you have a creator. Though the Big Bang is the reigning theory of our physical origins, and has been supported by the evidence in recent decades to the point where no serious contender stands, it's apparently still offensive to some--for its theological implications. I find fascinating the fact that, for many scientists, a mathematical construct positing an infinity of universes is still preferrable to a single universe with a single beginning, Occam's razor not withstanding. But I find the reason for that offence even more fascinating. Though Einstein is long gone, and the hostility to the Big Bang has receeded, not much has changed in the world of science. Like all other human pursuits, the pure quest for scientific knowledge is still a hostage to the attitudes of faulty humans with personal agendas.
Posted by B. Preston at 11:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

THREE BUCKS:

To Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening, if you get murdered in cold blood in front of your family, your life isn't even worth three bucks. That's the message he sends, since our screwed-up state is so focused on "message sending," in issuing a stay of execution to Wesley Eugene Baker and slapping a moratorium on capital punishment in Maryland. Why three bucks? That's what Baker netted when he robbed and murdered Jane Tyson outside Westview Mall in Catonsville in 1991. She was with two of her six grandchildren at the time, and those two witnessed their grandmother's murder.

The Gov's reason for stopping Baker's execution is a study currently underway on the implementation of the death penalty in Maryland. That study's been going on for a while now, and the state says that it may be finished up a year from now, but will more likely wrap in about two years. Until then, the Gov says that no executions should be carried out, and Lite Gov Kathleen Kennedy Townsend says, in her incomprehensible way, that she agrees (she's the Dems' leading candidate to succeed Glendening and is courting various constintuencies that don't like capital punishment) Problem with all this is that the study is likely a hoax. Glendening isn't a real supporter of the death penalty. He says he is, but read between the lines and you'll see his unwillingness to punish those guilty of the most heinous crimes. For instance, the study is supposed to analyze the state's death row population and the cases of those executed. Since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty, Maryland has executed only three inmates--the last one in 1998. Three--that's all, in about 30 years. And currently there are only 13 on death row. So however you parse the population ratios and study the cases of those in death row, Maryland, home to Baltimore, which remains one of the most violent cities in America, barely has a death penalty at all. Further, prosecutors in Baltimore city almost never seek the death penalty in capital cases--they know that they're about as likely to get it as they are to see a Republican governor in their lifetimes. The aim of this study, I believe, is to kill the death penalty in Maryland once and for all without having to submit to the democratic process. In spite of their governor, Marylanders do support the death penalty and would affirm it in a referrendum.

So citizens of Maryland, and others who happen to visit, remember how valuable you are to the governor, and to the likely governor-to-be. Your life is worth less than the life of a convicted murderer with a rap sheet as long as your arm, and in business terms, you're worth less than the price of a tall Starbucks latte. To them, you're worth less than three bucks.
Posted by B. Preston at 10:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

No Title

PONG, anyone?
Posted by B. Preston at 01:02 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

JONAH

serves up cold whale to pro-clone libertarians. He objects to the same thing that has long irritated me in the clone debate--the dishonesty of the pro-cloners:

My differences with cultural libertarians make for a long story with some decidedly snarky chapters (see "The Libertarian Lie," for example). But I can sum it all up by saying that too many of them are dishonest in their arguments. For these libertarians, the debate is between the leviathan State and the lone individual at sea (leviathan means big fish or whale, FYI, so this metaphor works). But the reality is that they're not alone in their autonomous boats: We're in the same boat — or one nearby. And yet they go on their merry way, extolling the wondrous, "system-exiting" glories of boat rocking.

They write about maximizing individual liberty and personal eugenics schemes in the most celebratory terms. And — because all debates must be about the individual and the state — they are prone to painting (often demagogically) their critics as despots, tyrants or — most of all — theocrats.
Posted by B. Preston at 12:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

HEY, WHOEVER'S BEEN GOOGLING ME

, knock it off. It gives me the creeps when I see that a Google search on my name has led someone to the JYBlog.
Posted by B. Preston at 10:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

ISLAMOFASCIST THEOLOGY 101

: "And now they have female suicide bombers. With guys, they get 72 virgins when they die. But what do the women get? Seventy-two guys willing to discuss relationships and look through the J. Crew catalogue with you?"
- Colin Quinn, on the theme of terrorism
Posted by B. Preston at 10:07 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

EARTH-KILLING BLASTS

: Interesting BBC story (which, incidentally, uses a Hubble image as its lead photo) about how supernovae can lead to mass extinctions. The theory-part is right--I've been in many a meeting where the subject of powerful explosions in the cosmos can wipe out any life in vast regions of space came up--but there's no indication that any such explosions have ever affected earth in the past, and little likelihood that they will in the future. The stars that go supernova--cataclysmically explode when they die--are massive, on the order of several times the mass of our sun. There are such stars in the nearby neighborhood, but the most ferocious parts of their explosions would have to be aimed right at us to get us--and it would take anywhere from a few years to several hundreds of years for the bad rays to reach us. There's also pretty much no way to protect ourselves, apart from colonizing space on at least an interstellar level (which I'm all for whether supernovae threaten us or not). So, if you're looking for a doomsday scenario with teeth, and one that you can do something about, you're still better off worrying about Saddam with nukes or a big asteroid running into us. Both are more likely than getting wiped out by supernovae, and both are preventable.
Posted by B. Preston at 08:40 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 08, 2002

DUBIOUS DISTINCTION:

Spider-man, which grossed about a gazillion dollars over the weekend and has met universal acclaim, is apparently full of continuity screw-ups. It'll still break all the records, and I'll still see it eventually. And as a life-long Spidey fan, I'm sure I'll still love it.
Posted by B. Preston at 05:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

ARARAT

:



(A big thanks to JYBlog contributing editor Mark Rice for leading me to this gem)
Posted by B. Preston at 05:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

REFIGHTING THE CIVIL WAR

: I'm not going to get into this one, except to say that I'm a Sam Houston Texan.
Posted by B. Preston at 12:02 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 07, 2002

NEW BLOG IN THE YARD

: Prolific comment-writer Marc Velazquez has his own blog now called Spudlets. JYBlog says check him out...
Posted by B. Preston at 11:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

No Title


THE STAGGERING GODS
: Blogdom is rife with intrigue, as we all are weighing in on the meanings of various things--the assasination of Pim Fortuyn, or the Unabomber Mark 2's brief career, the signals coming from the Bush administration on the Mid East, the latest suicide bomber, the machinations of the Catholic Church, whatever. Truth is, I'm having a very hard time making any sense, or finding any meaning, in anything lately. I just have a sense, not really of dread or doom, but a sense, very real, that we're on the edge of a momentous time. As I look at the world around me I see a rising tide of chaos unlike anything I've ever seen before. And a quick study of history delivers no parallels--everything, every nation, every institution, seems to be staggered as though surprised by a heavy blow.

It may not turn out this way at all, but it seems to me that we're looking at a period of incredible disorder before us, and there's just no way to tell now how it will turn out. Napoleon set a continent afire as he sought to bring the sword to the old monarchies of Europe, and his actions still reverberate through time. Hitler wanted to take over the world, exterminate the "undesirables," and establish a 1000-year reich that in reality lasted barely a decade. Yet, for his failure, we live in a world largely of his making.

And now before us, Europe is again heading in dangerous directions, the Middle East is as much a cauldron of hatred as it has ever been, and the "civilized" nations can barely keep focused long enough to take on a single enemy in a single place, let alone the hyrda-headed beast that is global terrorism. And in all this tumult, our leader is George W. Bush--a trustworthy, but untested, battle leader.

It's difficult, impossible really, to say with any certainty how the world will look a year from now, or in three years, or five. But it will be very different. A few either/or scenarios come to mind. Either the higher orders of the Catholic Church come to understand their situation and correct it in a truly Christ-like manner, or there will be a major schism in that body. Either the UN becomes a an open, honest and liberty-defending body, or it will gradually cease to exist. Either George W. Bush stands strong and follows through with last fall's committment to rid the world of terrorism, including ridding the world of Saddam Hussein, or a US or European or Israeli city will be attacked with a nuclear weapon. Either the American people stand with the president, or we will be choosing to leave ourselves vulnerable for such an attack. To the rest of the world, as our president once famously said, from now on you will either be for civilization or for terror. We will either make nations pay for choosing the wrong side in this war, or we will emerge a weaker, less relevant and less respected, world power, and the world will be more chaotic because of it.

We could be on the precipice of a terribly dark time, or experiencing the birth pains of a more peaceful, orderly world. Right now it's just impossible to say which of the staggering gods will fall.
Posted by B. Preston at 10:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

WILD BILL

thinks American troops should be part of a target practice peacekeeping force between Israel and the Palestinians. One more reason to be glad he's out of office, I guess. He said that our troops should combine with Russian and European troops to keep the peace at Hunter College in New York yesterday. In addition to making rash statements about things for which he has no responsibility or authority, he made an impression on at least one co-ed:

"It's very interesting to be able to speak to an actual world leader face to face, who has ideas that he put into practice," said Hunter College senior Catriona Stuart, 22. She is one of about 20 students in the political science class "The Clinton Presidency," which he visited before his noon speech on Monday.


Clinton and the Co-eds, together again. Anyway, I'd just like to know which ideas Billy boy put into practice. What's one big thing he proposed--that wasn't already on the table before he arrive, and that the Republicans forced him to do and for which he took credit--what's one big thing he proposed that actually got passed. In eight years in office.
Posted by B. Preston at 01:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 06, 2002

THE RECENT LACK OF JUNK

in the Yard is due to a few things. I was travelling on a work-related ventures this weekend, keeping me away from the net and the blog for the most part. I've been writing a technical tutorial for an animation web site, which has kept me busy brushing up on a few things prior to actually sitting down and hammering the thing out. And I haven't been the most motivated blogger on the planet lately--that will change soon hopefully, and when it does I'll post my usual (well, hopefully better than usual) fare of snide commentary laced with the very occassional flash of insight.
Posted by B. Preston at 11:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

THE MISSION:

Rod Dreher highlights one of my all-time favorite films, 1986's The Mission starring Jeremy Irons and Robert DeNiro. Beautiful cinematography, a solid script and story, and two of the top actors around--and the film leaves it up to the audience to determine who has taken the right course of action. If you haven't seen it, rush out and rent it. Come to think of it, I'm been looking to add a title or two to the DVD collection...
UPDATE: It turns out that The Mission isn't on DVD yet. But, by heading over to Amazon you can "vote" to have it released on DVD by signing up for an email notice upon its release. Yeah, Amazon will probably sell your email address to some porn spammer, but if you're using Hotmail you're going to get on that spammer's list eventually anyway.
Posted by B. Preston at 02:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack