News News is News

February 19th, 2009

CNN on Cheney

CNN’s top story right now is its own coverage (CNN and TIME are part of the same company) of a week-old story.

The text may as well read like this:

For an entire week, we’ve been making much ado about nothing, and it has gone on for so long that we find it newsworthy that we’ve been covering it for that long. This of course will lead to more coverage, followed by criticism from the Administration, blogs and talk radio, leading to yet more coverage of the coverage of the coverage. By the time we finish covering the coverage of the criticism of the coverage of the criticism of the coverage of the coverage, President Bush will no longer be in office. Yipee!

Faith groups take lead as Gulf Coast rebuilds

February 17th, 2006

BY MICHAEL KUNZELMAN

WAVELAND, Miss. — In a city reduced to rubble by Hurricane Katrina, John King and Chris Johnson have formed an unlikely friendship at the uneasy intersection of church and state.

King led Pennsylvania Amish volunteers to Mississippi just days after the storm hit to help clear debris. Johnson, the city’s parks and recreation director, was one of the first people he met in Waveland.

Now, with the parks in ruins and little time for recreation, Johnson spends his days working alongside King and his fellow Amish, who are gutting and rebuilding hundreds of homes. “It has changed our lives,” said Johnson, 47. “If it weren’t for the faith-based groups helping out, the city of Waveland would be half the size it is now.”

It continues - a fantastic read.

2006 Cubs Preview

February 17th, 2006

Let’s go back, shall we, to the Burnitz trade discussed earlier. Now that it’s illegal to use MLB’s intellectual property (player statistics) without its expressed written consent and a cleared check for millions of dollars, I’m reluctant to make the point myself, but I can quote the Chicago Tribune:

Mystery man: Last summer the pressure was on Burnitz to replace Sammy Sosa’s numbers in right field. This summer, the pressure will be on (Jacque) Jones to replace Burnitz’s numbers (.258, 24 HR, 87 RBIs). With the Twins, Jones hit .249 with 23 homers and 73 RBIs but struck out more times (120-109) than Burnitz. He has been productive in the past (24 HR, 80 RBIs in 2004) so the Cubs are hoping a change of scenery will do him good.

I rest my case — Burnitz may be a “windmill,” but Jones is even worse.

Ok, to heck with the law. Burnitz did replace Sosa’s numbers at right:

2004 (Sosa) - .253, 35 HR, 80 RBIs, 133 Strikeouts
2005 (Burnitz) - .258, 24 HR, 87 RBIs, 109 Strikeouts

***

I contend that the Cubs have made a series of bad trades, Sosa being the exception.

Good players, great players and rising stars that should not have been traded or released include: Moises Alou, Matt Clement, Mark Grudzielanek and Sergio Mitre.

They said Clement wanted too much money, but we paid Nomar to do nothing.

It’s pretty much the same story all around. Let’s look at left field, for example.

In 2004, Moises Alou batted .293, with 39 HR, 106 RBI and 80 Strikeouts.

Alou wanted to stay, but in 2005 the Cubs let him go, opting instead for a combination of Todd Hollandsworth, Jason Dubois, Jody Gerut and Matt Murton. With the exception of Murton, a rising star the Cubs still don’t fully trust as a starter, the results of this decision were pathetic:

2005 Alou - .321, 19 HR, 63 RBI, 43 Strikeouts
2005 Hollandsworth - .254, 5 HR, 35 RBI, 53 Strikeouts
2005 Dubois - .239, 7 HR, 22 RBI, 49 Strikeouts
2005 Gerut - .071, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 3 Strikeouts
2005 Murton - .321, 7 HR, 14 RBI, 22 Strikeouts

***

This season, while everyone else is watching short (to compare Neifi with the much-vaunted Nomar), I’m going to be monitoring the following matchups:

Sergio Mitre vs. Wade Miller
Jeromy Burnitz vs. Jacque Jones
Mark Grudzielanek vs. Todd Walker
Matt Clement vs. Jerome Williams

I’m also going to be looking for the promised dramatic improvements in leadoff hits, stolen bases and successful bunts, which are supposed to be provided by speedy newcomers Jones and Juan Pierre. I’ve said such numbers could have been achieved with existing players if we had just implemented a more consistent batting order and starting roster.

***

Overall, I have low expectations for all those previously mentioned, plus John Mabry, Jerry Hairston and most of the bullpen.

On the other hand, I must say that I’m very happy with Derek Lee, Carlos Zambrano and Michael Barrett. I’m cautiously optimistic about Mark Prior, Aramis Ramirez, Greg Maddux, Glendon Rusch and Neifi Perez, and I’m still holding out hope for Kerry Wood. I would also like to see more good things out of Matt Murton, Ronny Cedeno, Henry Blanco and Ryan Dempster.

Go Cubs.

whom you have defied

February 13th, 2006

Glenn Reynolds has written a book called An Army of Davids: How Markets and Technology Empower the Little Guy to Beat Big Media, Big Government, and Other Goliaths.

I don’t think Mr. Reynolds is a religious person, but he uses the familiar story from I Samuel 17 as a launching point for his thesis. The power behind his David(s) isn’t God; instead, “markets and technology” allow the little guy(s) to overcome the giant(s).

He’s replaced God with a computer.

***

This was David’s speech to Goliath:

“You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”

***

I haven’t seen any Christians upset about the artistic liberties taken by Reynolds, have you?

***

Perhaps because we really have confused Mark with Marketing?

***

I’ve said the problem with the activity of those at the Coretta Scott King memorial was a failure of decorum.

It’s considered bad practice to needlessly dishonor the dead, and turning somebody’s funeral into a forum for pathetic political cheapshots is one way to do that.

Of course, it isn’t illegal. You won’t go to jail. One beautiful thing about our country is that you can be an offensive idiot and suffer no real consequences for it, and perhaps even benefit. Our freedom of speech is protected by the Constitution, and for the most part we can say whatever we want.

***

Another way you can dishonor the dead is to draw offensive cartoons of them.

I’m not sure how well freedom of speech is protected in Denmark, but the pressure is rising in Europe.

In fact, the heat is on worldwide. Lots of people are angry that some cartoonists have dishonored a dead man they revere, and the news media worldwide is afraid to fan the flames.

As our own Wendi Thomas asks, why needlessly offend?

***

What the Danish newspaper should have done is criticize the living, rather than the dead. The protestors are showing themselves to be exactly the kind of characters these cartoons portray. Why pull a dead man into it, even if he did launch their religion?

***

It’s like blaming Jesus for the sins of Pat Robertson.

***

Well, come to think of it, I guess he has taken on all of our sins…

***

Christians are less prone to take offense at these things, I think, because we serve a living God, and we’re saved by a living Christ. We know that the Lord lives, and he will defend himself.

***

But we don’t always remember that, of course. Sometimes we get upset about petty slights, like with “The Book of Daniel” or Chris Olifi’s “The Holy Virgin Mary.”

But as someone who defended Olifi’s artwork back then, I think I’m speaking with some credibility now when I say the nutjobs are stuck on stupid again.

***

The Islamofascists are a huge target for satire.

You might say that the suicide bombers are such a rich target that they can’t help but target themselves.

But now we’re afraid to offend them. We can’t make movies featuring the bad guys as bad guys.

That would be insensitive.

***

But by all means let’s put Kanye West in a crown of thorns on the cover of Rolling Stone.

***

George Bush hates black people.”

Thus it was spoken during a telethon for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Another example of lack of decorum.

***

I don’t think Wendi Thomas realizes how easy it is to offend the followers of Islam.

Many Muslims believe that Islam prohibits depicting the prophet Muhammad or arts depicting humans or animals; much Islamic art is decorative calligraphy or arabesque.

Say goodbye to Garfield, Dilbert, Family Circus, B.C., and the rest of the comics page.

Say goodbye to editorial cartoons.

Say goodbye to most art.

***

Unless…

Maybe such art isn’t so offensive afterall.

***

Maybe we should be more concerned about protecting our freedoms, rather than worrying about the feelings of those prone to violent protests.

***

Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go make an effigy of Glenn Reynolds.

***

But not because he’s offended my religious values.

***

It’s just a celebration of my artisitic freedom.

Death and Cartoons

February 10th, 2006

This whole Danish/Muslim cartoon thing is really taking me back…

Like in middle school, when my friend Matt got in trouble for drawing a cartoon of Saddam Hussein. It was 1990 or 1991, and we were at war with… Iraq. I never saw his drawing, but I think it had a bomb dropping on Saddam’s head or perhaps a note saying “I hate Saddam Hussein” or something. Whatever it was, Matt got in trouble for drawing the cartoon because we had a teacher at the school whose name was… Saddam Hussein. The idiot lady who saw it and was offended thought that Matt was referring to this teacher, rather than our beloved former dictator in Iraq. Sigh.

It also reminds me of a retarded discussion we came up with in college about various cartoon characters walking across the stage one final time before their impending death off-stage. The question was, for which cartoon characters do you offer a standing ovation as a show of gratitude for the entertainment they provided you all these years.

In fact, we still have this discussion from time to time. It’s a serious matter, you see. People are serious about cartoons.

Square Dancing

February 3rd, 2006

Here’s a second drink from the water cooler. Names and dates have been changed to protect the innocent.

Beth (Carol’s gradeschool-age daughter): What are you doing tonight?

Sara: We’re going dancing.

Beth: Is my mom going with you?

Sara: I don’t think she dances.

Beth: She does at home!

Sara: Really? She always tells us that she doesn’t like to dance!

Beth: I’m just kidding!

Sara: Oh, ok. Well, what kind of music does your mom like to listen to?

Beth: Um, like, the news.

all he is sayin is give Hamas a chance

February 2nd, 2006

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter says our government must continue to send U.S. tax dollars to Palestineans even though the militant Islamic group Hamas gained control after a recent election.

“If there are prohibitions — like, for instance, in the United States, against giving any money to a government that is controlled by Hamas — then the United States could channel the same amount of money to the Palestinian people through the United Nations, through the refugee fund, through UNICEF, things of that kind…

“[T]he people of Palestine — who already suffer … under Israeli occupation — will not suffer because they are deprived of a right to pay their school teachers, policemen, welfare workers, health workers and provide food for people.”

According to Carter, this militant Islamic group has a right to pay its welfare bureaucrats with money taken from your paycheck.

This man was President of the United States and won a Nobel Peace Prize.

I’d like to think that somewhere, in an alternate universe not so far from our own, Carter was President of Cuba and winner of a Darwin Award.

Tuesday Cheney Watch

January 31st, 2006

For those of you seeing this for the first time, this is another update in Fishkite’s ongoing public service, holding Vice President Dick Cheney accountable for something he said during the Vice Presidential Debate in 2004: “Now, in my capacity as vice president, I am the president of Senate, the presiding officer. I’m up in the Senate most Tuesdays when they’re in session.” Cheney also pointed to Sen. Edwards’ poor attendance record: “Your hometown newspaper has taken to calling you “Senator Gone.”

This time we will take a look at the year 2005 and see how Cheney’s statement looks after the first year of his second term as Vice President.

So how did he do? Not well. With a full calendar year in view, it appears Vice President Cheney only fulfilled his duty as the Senate’s presiding officer on a Tuesday… once.

Of the 34 Tuesdays the Senate was in session, Cheney acted as presiding officer just one time, on Jan. 4. Thus, he only carried out this obligation 2.94% of the time in 2005.

Liberals and conservatives alike should be appalled by the Vice President’s performance. If the White House had a more reliable and effective advocate working with members of the Senate, I feel certain that President Bush’s policies would have enjoyed a better reception on Capitol Hill, and priorities such as Social Security reform would have had a better chance breaking through the stagnation and red tape.

2005 Tuesdays / presiding officer

Dec 27 - not in session
Dec 20 - Isakson
Dec 13 - Allard
Dec 6 - not in session
Nov 29 - not in session
Nov 22 - not in session
Nov 15 - Vitter
Nov 8 - Stevens
Nov 1 - Stevens
Oct 25 - Isakson
Oct 18 - Leahy/Stevens
Oct 11 - not in session
Oct 4 - Burr
Sept 27 - Stevens
Sept 20 - Stevens
Sept 13 - Stevens
Sept 6 - Stevens
Aug 30 - not in session
Aug 23 - not in session
Aug 16 - not in session
Aug 9 - not in session
Aug 2 - not in session
July 26 - Stevens
July 19 - Sununu
July 12 - Vitter
July 5 - not in session
June 28 - Stevens
June 21 - Stevens
June 14 - Stevens
June 7 - Ensign
May 31 - not in session
May 24 - Murkowski
May 17 - Vitter
May 10 - Vitter
May 3 - not in session
Apr 26 - Talent
Apr 19 - DeMint
Apr 12 - Vitter
Apr 5 - Stevens
Mar 29 - not in session
Mar 22 - not in session
Mar 15 - Thune
Mar 8 - Murkowski
Mar 1 - Coburn
Feb 22 - not in session
Feb 15 - Vitter
Feb 8 - Stevens
Feb 1 - Murkowski
Jan 25 - Stevens
Jan 18 - not in session
Jan 11 - not in session
Jan 4 - Cheney

White Christian Racist Party

January 30th, 2006

White Christian PartyBack when Howard Dean called the GOP a “white, Christian party” and said “I hate Republicans,” I created an animated graphic of some of my favorite non-white or non-Christian Republicans and conservatives.

At right, I’ve edited the graphic for use in reference to the latest Washington Post story. The article reports on a study in which a few social psychologists determine that conservatives and President Bush’s supporters “had stronger self-admitted and implicit biases against blacks than liberals did.”

Part of the study’s claim is that “partisans” disregard unwelcome facts and then reward themselves for this “wrong-headed behavior.”

Therefore, if conservatives treat the study with serious and careful consideration, we thereby disprove it.

***

First, let’s take a look at the methodology.

For their study, Nosek, Banaji and social psychologist Erik Thompson culled self-acknowledged views about blacks from nearly 130,000 whites, who volunteered online to participate in a widely used test of racial bias that measures the speed of people’s associations between black or white faces and positive or negative words. The researchers examined correlations between explicit and implicit attitudes and voting behavior in all 435 congressional districts.

Assuming this description of the study is accurate, I have four questions:

1. The researchers offered participants pre-selected words, which they subjectively deemed “positive” and “negative.” Who’s to say the respondants attached the same positive and negative meanings to those words?

2. The researchers selected the faces and categorized them by skin color. Doesn’t that mean the study is inherently discriminatory? Also, are the faces equal in every other way: brightness, contrast, facial expression, age, attire, camera angle, etc? If not, could it be that perhaps participants reacted to “positive” and “negative” attributes of these other differences?

3. The responses are examined by congressional district, but it is not clear if the findings are further broken down by ideology within each district. Perhaps these “self-acknowledged views” are better tied to urban/suburban differences than to political alliances. For instance, are inner city liberals and conservatives more alike in their thinking than would be two partisans of whichever stripe living in different districts?

4. Are 130,000 whites taking an Internet survey representative of America? That number represents 0.04% of the total population, which seems like a pretty insignificant sample, given that it rounds to basically 0%; on the other hand, a sample that large means the margin of error is actually quite low. How reliable is this data?

***

The RNC spokesman quoted in the story lends credence to the study’s hear-and-reject theory by immediately questioning the researchers’ own political biases rather than reflecting on their results. Still, I think it is important to note the biases of any resercher studying a topic of this nature; its the same reason why one views candidate polling a little differently than research done by Gallup, or other third-party sources. Biases tend to influence behavior and outcomes, as this very study suggests.

Therefore, it is valid to bring up the political gifts: Brian Nosek donated $500 to John Kerry and Mahzarin Banaji donated $250 to Howard Dean and another $250 to the abortion activist group Emily’s List.

When faced with this information, Nosek reacts with a more subtle version of hear-and-reject:

Nosek said that though the risk of bias among researchers was “a reasonable question,” the study provided empirical results that could — and would — be tested by other groups: “All we did was compare questions that people could answer any way they wanted,” Nosek said, as he explained why he felt personal views could not have influenced the outcome. “We had no direct contact with participants.”

The very focus of the study, though, contains inherent biases that would be repeated even if the follow-up research is undertaken by social scientists who aren’t biased in favor of Democrats.

Why, for instance, does it focus only on whites, or only on racial attitudes? Why isn’t the study interested in the racial attitude of black partisans, and why doesn’t the study look at the way religious biases affect political decisions?

When you realize that the study is biased, and the researchers are biased, it’s a little easier to imagine that perhaps the study’s results aren’t 100% certain.

***

Based on only what I know now, I wouldn’t immediately reject the findings of this study. It is of course true that Republicans have work to do in order to win over black Americans. In fact, Ken Mehlman has made that his primary goal as chairman of the RNC: link, link and link. But at the time there seem to be more opportunities opening up for black politicians on the conservative side of the aisle. Black Republicans are currently running for Governor in Pennsylvania (Lynn Swann) and Maryland (Michael Steele)*. If Condoleezza Rice or Colin Powell ever decide to run for office, they would both enjoy a groundswell of support. And if we’re lucky, we may witness the swearing in of another black Supreme Court Justice before the President’s second term expires.

There may well be some lingering racism in the hearts of some conservatives, just as there may be similar biases in the hearts of liberals, but I’m not sure this study sheds much light on the subject.

UPDATE: * - and Ohio (Ken Blackwell).

UPDATE II: The story was so good, they printed it twice. Newsbusters finds that this same research was covered by the Washington Post one year ago this week. And here are some other problems with the study.