Monday, September 28, 2009

Mr. Deity and Da Man

Did Adam get a raw deal? More history from Mr. Deity.

CIGNA head starts new career

Good. The scumrat deserves it.

LOS ANGELES — In a surprising move arranged by prosecutors in Los Angeles and Washington, the authorities in Switzerland arrested the film director Roman Polanski late Saturday as he arrived at the Zurich airport, paving the way for his possible extradition to the United States in connection with a 32-year-old sex case.

You've heard the news, right? Thirty-two years after he drugged and raped a 13-year-old girl, plead guilty to the crime, and then skipped out rather than face sentencing, Roman Polanski has been arrested in Switzerland where he faces possible extradition to the United States.

The remarkable thing is how many people seem sympathetic to Polanski and willing to blame his 13-year-old victim.

Here is a summary of the victim's grand jury testimony:

Roman Polanski instructed her to get into a jacuzzi naked, refused to take her home when she begged to go, began kissing her even though she said no and asked him to stop; performed cunnilingus on her as she said no and asked him to stop; put his penis in her vagina as she said no and asked him to stop; asked if he could penetrate her anally, to which she replied, "No," then went ahead and did it anyway, until he had an orgasm.

This testimony was the basis of the indictment, and the basis of the plea of guilty that Polanski agreed to, and of the conviction that the court then entered based on the guilty plea.

Polanski's defense seems to be that he didn't think he was going to be treated fairly by the trial judge, so he was apparently justified in fleeing the jurisdiction and spending the next three decades enjoying his career as a film director and the great wealth and acclaim that career bought him.

No. There is no doubt that there was misconduct involving the trial judge, but the defendant has options in such a case. If the court issues a sentence beyond the range of the plea agreement, the defendant can withdraw the plea and go to trial. It's not unusual. Or, if the defendant believes the judge has engaged in misconduct, the defendant can seek to have the judge removed and go before an impartial judge. What he doesn't get to do is decide that since he doesn't think he's going to like the sentence he will just exempt himself from the legal process.

We know the victim wants this dropped, but it's not her call. A criminal charge is brought by the state on behalf of the people, not the victim. The people are entitled to see that the laws are not violated, that crimes do not go unpunished. This would seem to be especially true in the case of child rape.

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Watch Brick City

You know what we learned from The Wire, right? Among other things, we learned a lesson that we seem to need to repeat endlessly: that our cities are neglected, that people are suffering, and that a system that offers them no hope condemns them and their children to poverty, violence, and death.

It is telling that The Wire, the best show in the history of television, never won an Emmy. Maybe it's a little to real for people who prefer to watch undertakers or suburban Mafiosi, or maybe it's just part of the phenomenon it reported on.

Now we have a new series that has been compared to The Wire, but it's a documentary. In five consecutive nights, Brick City documents the struggles of people trying to make Newark, N.J., a better place. The star is undoubtedly Mayor Cory Booker, but the heroes are in every scene, including gang members, ex-felons who have taken to the streets to save Newark's youth, to guys who get out of prison and decide they need to serve their families by making the hard choice to look for a straight job.

The entire series ran this past week, but it's still playing on the Sundance Channel. You need to watch it.

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Origin of Stupidity

Kirk Cameron, former TV star, vs. somebody with a brain.

Guess who wins.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Forgiveness, Grace, and God's Death Sentence

No comment necessary, just a great explanation of Christianity.

The Best and the Brightest

Of the birthers, that is.

She keeps trying, and she keeps getting shot down again and again. This week she got hit twice.

First was the substantive decision on one of her bogus cases challenging Obama's qualifications to be president. She had filed a complaint in federal court and a request for a preliminary injunction to protect a military doctor from going to Iraq, and the court not only denied the injunction, the court dismissed the case. In a fourteen page decision the judge eviscerates her and her client:

First, Plaintiff’s challenge to her deployment order is frivolous. She has presented no credible evidence and has made no reliable factual allegations to support her unsubstantiated, conclusory allegations and conjecture that President Obama is ineligible to serve as President of the United States. Instead, she uses her Complaint as a platform for spouting political rhetoric, such as her claims that the President is “an illegal usurper, an
unlawful pretender, [and] an unqualified imposter.” (Compl. ¶ 21.) She continues with bare, conclusory allegations that the President is “an alien, possibly even an unnaturalized or even an unadmitted illegal alien . . . without so much as lawful residency in the United States.” (Id. ¶ 26.)

He goes further, and this is very unusual, ordering that

Furthermore, Plaintiff’s counsel is hereby notified that the filing of any future actions in this Court, which are similarly frivolous, shall subject counsel to sanctions. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(c).

I was first admitted to practice in federal court almost thirty years ago, and I know that I would take it seriously if I got an order like this. What does Orly do?

First, she goes out and attacks the judge, his judicial integrity, and his independence. "Somebody should consider trying [the judge] for treason and aiding and abetting this massive fraud known as Barack Hussein Obama."

"This is so outrageous what this judge did -- it goes in the face of law and order," said Taitz, reached at her office in Mission Viego, CA. "Not every judge is as corrupt as Judge Land. Some judges believe in the Constitution. And some judges believe in the rule of law."

"Listen, Nelson Mandela stayed in prison for years in order to get to the truth and justice."

And Taitz brushed off the possibility of sanctions. "I'm not afraid of sanctions. Because I know this is not frivolous. I know this is extremely important -- the most important issue in this country today."

"Judge Land is a typical puppet of the regime -- just like in the Soviet Union," she said.

Then, she goes back to the same judge and asks him, pretty please, to change his mind:

Plaintiff avers that there is increasing evidence that the United States District Courts in the 11th Circuit are subject to political pressure, external control, and, mostly likely, subservience to the same illegitimate chain of command which Plaintiff has previously protested in this case, except that the de facto President is not even nominally the Commander-in-Chief of the Article III Judiciary.

Smart litigation tactic? Maybe not.

“It was deja vu all over again.”

Simply, put the motion is frivolous. Moreover, the Court further finds that Plaintiff’s motion is being presented for the improper purpose of using the federal judiciary as a platform to espouse controversial political beliefs rather than as
a legitimate forum for hearing legal claims. Counsel’s conduct violates Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and sanctions are warranted. Accordingly, Plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration (Doc. 15) is denied, and counsel for Plaintiff is ordered to show cause why the Court should not impose a monetary
penalty of $10,000.00 upon Plaintiff’s counsel for her misconduct.

So what's the point here? Well, I guess there are a couple.

First is the utter pointlessness of this argument. Nobody with a brain takes this argument seriously. Every judge the claim has been presented to has rejected it in one way or another.

The second may be even more important. Orly Taitz really is the best and the brightest. She is absolutely the smartest thing they've got going over in Birther-Land.

I know, reading the Taitz dispatches is like susbsisting on a diet of M&M's. Not nutritious, they won't sustain you over the long haul, but it's hard to not grab that one next M, isn't it?

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Mr. Deity and the Skeptic

Is this really fair? Where does this guy get off doubting the Deity?

Will there be a price to pay?

Thank you, James Fenimore Cooper

Today was James Fenimore Cooper's birthday, and I have to thank him for an important lesson he taught me.

When I was in eighth grade I started reading The Last of the Mohicans. By page 17 I had learned a lesson that has stood me well for my entire reading life.

So in honor of this day, take a few moments to read what one of our greatest authors had to say about James Fenimore Cooper.

Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses

by Mark Twain

It seems to me that it was far from right for the Professor of English Literature at Yale, the Professor of English Literature in Columbia, and Wilkie Collins to deliver opinions on Cooper's literature without having read some of it. It would have been much more decorous to keep silent and let persons talk who have read Cooper.

Cooper's art has some defects. In one place in "Deerslayer," and in the restricted space of two-thirds of a page, Cooper has scored 114 offenses against literary art out of a possible 115. It breaks the record.

There are nineteen rules governing literary art in domain of romantic fiction -- some say twenty-two. In "Deerslayer," Cooper violated eighteen of them. These eighteen require:

1. That a tale shall accomplish something and arrive somewhere. But the "Deerslayer" tale accomplishes nothing and arrives in air.

2. They require that the episodes in a tale shall be necessary parts of the tale, and shall help to develop it. But as the "Deerslayer" tale is not a tale, and accomplishes nothing and arrives nowhere, the episodes have no rightful place in the work, since there was nothing for them to develop.

Oh yes, and my lesson from Mr. Cooper? There are too many good books in the world to waste my time reading a bad one.

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Death of a labor hero

Thanks to Scaypgrayce for putting me onto this.

Remember back when labor organizers, and even just plain workers, could be such American heroes that they would make movies about them? Like Terry Malloy standing up to the crooked bosses in "On the Waterfront", or, more recently, Norma Rae as portrayed by Sally Field, fighting to organize J.P. Stevens?

As usual, reality isn't quite the same as the movies, but it's still important to realize that at a time when workers and unions are under attack, the impulse to stand up for yourself and your fellow workers, at the risk of your job, and sometimes even your life, is a thread that runs deep in our history.

We can also remember the lively, living movie stars as they appeared on the screen, which is a luxury we don't have with our real-life heroes. Today, Crystal Lee Sutton, the model for Sally Field's Norma Rae, is dead at 68 of brain cancer.

Or, to put it another way, dead of insurance abuse.

She went two months without possible life-saving medications because her insurance wouldn't cover it, another example of abusing the working poor, she said.
"How in the world can it take so long to find out (whether they would cover the medicine or not) when it could be a matter of life or death," she said. "It is almost like, in a way, committing murder."
She eventually received the medication, but the cancer is taking a toll on her strong will and solid frame. Her thin black hair is brittle from the drugs and chemo treatments. She has had brain surgery twice -once on Jan. 29, 2007, and again on Jan. 11, 2008.

I'm sure the Republicans and Blue Dogs who are doing everything they can to block real health care reform would make appropriate expressions of sympathy if they knew of her death, but the true goal and effect of their efforts is clear.

This fight is important. It's a matter of life and death.

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Baseball, Statistics, and Economics

The Baseball Economist: The Real Game Exposed The Baseball Economist: The Real Game Exposed by J.C. Bradbury

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I got to this book in a somewhat circuitous manner. When I saw Rick Porcello intentionally hit Kevin Youkilis with a pitch on August 11 it led me to make the commonplace observation that the designated hitter rule has led pitchers to be more likely to throw at batters in the American League because they don't have to worry about standing in the batter's box and facing retaliation.

This time I went beyond that to look for comparative statistics on hit batsmen in the American and National Leagues, and it turns out there is a debate in the field of economics about whether the DH rule does, in fact, lead to more hit batsmen. The debate involves, among other things, moral hazard, the conservatives' favorite insurance concept except when it applies to CEO's.

One of the links led to this book, and I ordered it online for dirt cheap.

If you're interested in baseball I recommend this book. The author, an economics professor and proprietor of the site Sabernomics. The approach Bradbury takes is that the principles of economics, and the methods of economic research, can help you understand other aspects of human behavior, including baseball. As he puts it, the fundamental rule of economics can be summarized in four words: people respond to incentives.

In The Baseball Economist Bradbury discusses aspects of game play, lineup construction (does a good hitter in the on-deck circle "protect" the batter?), and the big picture economics of baseball's monopoly status, expansion, and whether Major League Baseball acts like a monopoly.

The one part I found not entirely satisfying was the discussion of the antitrust exemption and the Reserve Clause. His discussion of this topic focuses mainly on monopoly principles and barriers to the creation of new baseball teams, but I don't think that squarely addresses the questions raised by Flood v. Kuhn, because that case was addressed mainly to the monopsonistic character of baseball's labor practices, and not to the monopolistic character of its team expansion and siting practices.

Nevertheless, any baseball fan who wants to learn more about baseball, new statistics like OPS, and the interplay between baseball and economics should read this.

Oh, by the way, that question about the DH and American League pitchers? No doubt about it: since they are protected from retaliation they do hit more batters than their National League counterparts.

View all my reviews >>

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Joe Wilson disrespects the Bing

"Last night I heard from the leadership that they wanted me to contact the White House and state that my statements were inappropriate, and I did."

Get it? He explicitly does not say that he apologizes for his gross lack of respect, he says that he called the White House because he was told he had to do it.

In other words, he disrespected the Bing.

Health Care Speech--initial thoughts

A couple of initial thoughts:

1. Good for him calling the death panel lie exactly what it is.

2. I was glad to see him hold onto the public option. We'll see how long that lasts, but it's safe to say he needs pressure.

3. Anyone want to call Republican thug Joe Wilson to tell him he should resign after disrespecting the President, the Congress, and the American people? His number is (202) 225-2452.

4. I'm concerned about his signal that he might be willing to cave in to the insurance companies on tort "reform". Hint: just because it's change doesn't mean it's reform, especially when the point of that change is to protect wealthy insurance companies from having to compensate horribly injured victims of medical malpractice.

5. On tort liability. Why isn't anyone but me calling defensive medicine what it is:
the unethical prescribing of unnecessary medical procedures and the fraudulent billing of insurance carriers and the government?

6. Does anyone get what the hell these "insurance exchanges" are?
What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

How did everything go yesterday?

I was driving home from court so I missed the news to see what happened after Obama's speech.

Any rioting?

Kids taking their teachers and administrators hostage?

Students declaring a dictatorship of the proletariat?

Emergency room visits for people traumatized by exposure to a black President?

Monday, September 07, 2009

A disturbance in the force

Well, not actually the force, but a new argument has come up in the world of, and since I'm a regular, if not daily, viewer of Bloggingheads, I thought I'd comment a bit.

Bloggingheads is the brainchild of Robert Wright, an author of many notable books, in which he produces dialogues between people on various political, cultural, or scientific topics. By attracting intelligent, interesting people, and by using technology that enables them to conduct these conversations from the comfort of their own homes or offices, Bob is able to produce some great dialogues. Bloggingheads is in my blogroll, and I've linked to it or discussed it here in the past.

The issue here is two recent diavlogs featuring prominent creationists without significant challenge. One was between John McWhorter, a linguist and BHTV regular, and Michael Behe, a charlatan and creationist mouthpiece best known as a propagandist who was aptly eviscerated in the federal court decision in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. In this diavlog, McWhorter gives Behe the warmest imaginable tongue bath, along the lines of the following:

Michael Behe, I am so glad to meet you, and thank you for agreeing to do this. This is one of the rare times that I have initiated a Bloggingheads pairing, and it’s because I just read your book The Edge of Evolution from 2007, and I found it absolutely shattering. I mean, this is a very important book, and yet I sense, from the reputation or the reception of your book from ten-plus years ago, Darwin’s Black Box, that it may be hard to get a lot of people to understand why the book is so important.

And it really doesn't get any better than that. The general tenor of the discussion is McWhorter's repeated observations that since he, a linguist, doesn't understand various aspects of biological evolution, the only possible explanation is that God did it. This is convenient for Behe, because that's basically Behe's view as well.

The other, which appeared on the Bloggingheads Science Saturday edition, was between Ronald Numbers and Paul Nelson, an honest-to-god young earth creationist. I haven't viewed the entire thing yet, but objective observers, including Bloggingheads staff, have observed that Nelson's creationism is not challenged in the diavlog.

In the aftermath of these two diavlogs a number of prominent scientists who have participated in Bloggingheads have announced that they will no longer do so, including Carl Zimmer, Sean Carroll, Phil Plait, and PZ Myers.

To their credit,, Bloggingheads has not tried to defend its decisions. Rather, Bob Wright has said that the appearance of these creationists, particularly on a Science Saturday episode, did not comply with BHTV policies.

1) Both of the diavlogs in question had been arranged without my knowledge.
2) I would certainly not have approved both of them, and probably not either of them, had I known about them.
3) The Behe diavlog, in particular, was blatantly at odds with guidelines I’d laid down to my staff more than a year ago in discussing the prospect of Behe appearing. Namely: Behe should only appear in conversation with someone who is truly expert in the relevant biological areas, and since most such matchups would yield a conversation unintelligible to a lay audience, it was hard to imagine a Behe pairing that would make sense.
4) Since these two diavlogs were arranged, I have told the staffers who arranged them that in the future they should make sure to clear diavlogs of this sort with me before arranging them.

In addition, the BHTV staffer who set up one of the diavlogs has also written about it:

I agree that creationists and ID’ers are crackpots. I agree that these crackpots do harm (e.g. by corrupting public perception of science). I agree that appearing on a site that has featured crackpots could damage the reputation and integrity of reputable scientists, so I fully understand Sean’s choice to stay away from BhTV (although I’d be very happy if he were to reconsider).

Anyway, this is just my opinion, but I think we (BhTV) screwed up — and the origins of that screw-up lie in my ill-fated decision to put together the Numbers/Nelson diavlog. One Sean Carroll diavlog is worth any number of creationism conversations. If I could rewind and start over I’d aim to do it all differently.

I'm not going to stop watching BHTV. There are plenty of people on BHTV that I can't stand to watch, and I just don't.

On Saturday Bob and George Johnson recorded a new Science Saturday diavlog to discuss the creationist controversy, and the comment section has over two hundred comments on that, which I commend your attention to. To Bob's credit, he takes responsibility for the system failures that led to these two grossly inappropriate diavlogs to go up, and he does set forth the standards that he will apply for someone like this in the future, so I'm hoping that this will help to improve things.

I think Bloggingheads is a great resource, and I hope that this can do what it takes to recover.

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What about . . . THE CHILDREN?????

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Non-political humor

Pretty much every time I go to Cake Wrecks: When Professional Cakes Go Horribly, Hilariously Wrong, I see something that makes me laugh out loud.

You should really go there yourself, but here are a couple of good examples. First, the scary dog eating the homework as a back to school cake.

And here is the extremely bizarre "Happy Falker Satherhood" cake:

So when you're in the mood for a real laugh, let your fingers run, not walk, over to Cake Wrecks.

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Actual Innocence

If you haven't read it yet, go read this story from The New Yorker.

The gist of it is that it documents a case in which Texas executed a man convicted of murder when the evidence shows not only that he was innocent, but that there was no crime committed: the fire that killed his two children was accidental.

And what is the attitude of that thug, Antonin Scalia, to the execution of an innocent man?

“This court has never held,” Justice Scalia wrote, “that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is ‘actually’ innocent.”

So now that we have incontrovertible proof that we have executed an innocent man, who cares?

Saturday, September 05, 2009

What???? What???????

Being a member of the reality-based community, I admit that sometimes I don't cotton onto some of the more bizarre currents of what passes for the intellectual life of the country. This time, however, now that I have caught up with it, really just has to leave you shaking your head in wonder.

Take a look at some of these quotes:

"As the father of four children, I am absolutely appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama's socialist ideology,"

“I don’t want our schools turned over to some socialist movement.”

‘This is Marxist propaganda.’

And what's the socialist message Obama is selling?

During this special address, the president will speak directly to the nation's children and youth about persisting and succeeding in school. The president will challenge students to work hard, set educational goals, and take responsibility for their learning.

But what are the wingers calling it? How about Obama's 'Dear Leader' speech to students

I don't think this is all about race. Of course, the birther controversy was. There is no chance that the idea would have gotten any traction if his name were O'Hara instead of Obama. Still, it goes beyond Obama's race, and we know that because we saw it with Clinton, too. We have come to the point where the right wing in America simply denies the legitimacy of any election in which the Democratic candidate wins. When Clinton was elected, Limbaugh started his broadcasts with "America held hostage", and when Clinton was going to speak at an Army base the wingers speculated about whether he could be protected against the real Americans who did not recognize him as their commander-in-chief. Now, extremists show up at presidential speeches carrying guns and making veiled threats to kill the president.

In short, the American right has decided that constitutional government is not for them, and that they will use any means necessary to ensure that we will have a permanent conservative government.

And they're the ones who impugn our patriotism?

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Friday, September 04, 2009

"De facto government"

Where does this phrase come from?

Or more to the point, does what has become the standard phraseology for the coup plotters and supporters in Honduras betoken a squishiness on the part of American conventional wisdom about the legitimacy of the coup?

True, the Obama Administration has started to take some slightly stronger measures to criticize and oppose the coup. Still, in prior years the people who took over the government after a coup would be reflexively and standardly referred to as a "junta".

This time around? You see references to the Honduran junta mainly in the left-leaning press and blogosphere, where the MSM has been pretty much uniformly using the phrase "de facto government", which also seems to be the term favored by the Administration.

So what do you think? If the ousted president had been a rightist, and the coup plotters all leftists, would we be hearing them called the "de facto government"?

Somehow, I doubt it.

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Thursday, September 03, 2009

Mr. Deity and the Planes (Season Three, Episode Six)

Just watch. You'll quickly get what planes they're talking about.