Summer of scandal and the death of sport?

I love sports. Always have. I grew up playing all the usual sports and eagerly tried out a lot of others when I got older. I’ve always been a big spectator, too, watching everything from football, basketball and baseball to soccer, track, cycling, volleyball, water polo – whatever was on, you know?

But these days I watch less sports than at any point in my life, and it seems likely that this downward trend is going to continue. The why is pretty simple. I was raised old school by a grandfather who grew up playing through the Depression. People who knew him back then and saw him play said that under different circumstances he might have been good enough to play in the Bigs. Maybe. Hard to say, because the hard realities of life intruded on the dreams of many in his generation. So he wound up working for a few dollars a week and playing ball on the weekends.

There was a right way and a wrong way to play. Hard, but fair. Sportsmanship mattered. Continue reading


Q: Is it in part a response to the Democratic criticism last night over Iraq at the debate?
Q: Did he watch the debate?
MR. SNOW: I don’t think so. I don’t think he’s big on YouTube debates.

— White House spokesman Tony Snow aboard Air Force One, explaining the president’s speech schedule and topic the day after the CNN/YouTube Democratic debate.

Let me turn now to the report that’s being released today. Of the actions that were due at 12 months, we assess that 86 percent of those actions have been completed. That’s to be compared to a score of around 92 percent that we released at the six-month mark. There are about 14 percent of the actions that are not yet completed. We document those in the action-by-action detailed report. We anticipate those being completed in the 18-month time frame at the next six-month report. I’m not going to go through the accomplishments in great detail. Suffice it to say that on the international front, we’ve taken unprecedented action.

— Dr. Rajeev Venkayya, special assistant to the president for biodefense, explaining the administration’s actions on avian and pandemic influenza during a July 17 press briefing in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
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Russia’s sabre rattling exposes the rust on the blade

One should never forget that dictatorships are inherently inefficient. Russia, now one of the world’s largest oil and gas suppliers, has made a great deal of cash out of the energy run. Most of that has been siphoned off by cronies, apparatchiks, corruption, and outright inefficiency.

When Russia declared a few days ago that they were planning to take the opportunity to extend the might of the Russian military out towards the North Pole many were concerned that they would lay claim to the oil and gas reserves currently held in international waters. They sent an ice-breaker and one of their nuclear subs to explore the Lomonosov Ridge which they claim extends from Murmansk under the pole. If they could prove it they may have a claim to the area.

However, those plans have sprung a leak. Continue reading

Bob Novak reminds us how the economy works

Er, the D.C. economy, at any rate. From his latest exclusive newsletter:

[F]amily members of senators and congressmen from both parties and in all regions of the country have for years benefited directly from the “Washington economy” of lobbying firms and government contractors, many of which would not even exist without the infusions of taxpayer money that earmarks provide each year. … This has never been considered improper, but few Americans know that a very small number of Washington-connected families negotiate, appropriate and benefit from large expenditures of taxpayer money on a small number of companies through the earmarking process.

Another interesting bit from his latest is his take on the dust-up between Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama at the recent Democratic YouTube debate. Of Clinton, Novak quips, “This debate will likely be remembered as the performance in which Continue reading

Jane Austen – our newest – scholar rogue…?

Here I am once more in this scene of dissipation and vice, and I begin already to find my morals corrupted. – Jane Austen, Letters

Jane Austen might not have completely approved of Scholars and Rogues. But she would have liked us, nonetheless. And she’s certainly one of us.

Austen believed herself a deeply conservative member of her society – the landed gentry of Regency England. She approved of marriage, the monarchy, and Samuel Richardson’s novels. She disapproved of love affairs (whether casual or serious), rebellions (whether political or social), and Byron’s poetry…. Continue reading

CU and the Churchill Affair: how did this happen in the first place?

The wait is over and the inevitable has happened: the University of Colorado yesterday formally dismissed Professor Ward Churchill. Interim President Hank Brown explained, in an open letter to the school’s donors:

To help ensure that accountability, we cannot abide academic misconduct. More than 20 faculty members (from CU and other universities) on three separate panels conducted a thorough review of Professor Churchill’s work and unanimously agreed that the evidence showed he engaged in research misconduct, which required serious sanction. The record of the case his faculty peers developed shows a pattern of serious, repeated and deliberate research misconduct that fell below the minimum standard of professional integrity, including fabrication, falsification, improper citation and plagiarism. Continue reading

Zimbabwe: the Hollow State

Mugabe celebrates his triumph over the economyThree weeks ago Tama Muru from the BBC asked me if I thought Zimbabwe would explode. At the time I said, “No.” Was I wrong?

The situation three weeks ago was this:

  1. The Zimbabwe dollar was worth less than the paper it’s printed on
  2. Zimbabwe is short of everything and produces virtually no food on some of the most productive farmland in the world
  3. 80% of the population depends on the informal sector for jobs and support
  4. Operation Murambatsvina shut down most of the informal sector, left 700 000 homeless and secured the Zimbabwe economy for the Chinese
  5. 3.5 million of Zimbabwe’s most educated and productive citizens are in exile and working in the UK and South Africa
  6. 4 million people need food aid; the average life-expectancy of Zimbabweans is 37 for men, and 34 for women
  7. Official inflation is approaching 3 700% and informal inflation is around 11 000% Continue reading

Basic principles for building America’s Internet future

By Martin Bosworth

Crossposted at Open Left.

Senator Dick Durbin has begun a several-night series of conversations with the blogosphere on how to build a set of principles for improving American broadband and Internet development. This is a watershed moment and a fantastic (if long overdue) chance to make the people’s voices heard on this most important issue. You don’t have to be a tech policy wonk to understand the multilayered importance of the Internet, and you don’t need to read all the latest blogs or whatever to know that our country’s Internet development is appalling.

So with that in mind, here’s what I put to Senator Durbin–a few basic principles for what our country needs to build its Internet future. Continue reading

Presidential candidates raise big cash fast — but from whom? And why?

A magician who seeks to retain his (or her) illusion for — and thus control over — the audience uses sleight of hand and misdirection. In the modern political era that began in earnest with the 1994 mid-term elections, a Republican majority in Congress mastered that art using the textbooks authored by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Majority Leader Tom DeLay. Although that majority has evaporated, the Democratic successors have continued to play three-card monte with the best of the GOP.

Terry Schiavo. Abortion. Stem-cell research. Gay marriage. Immigration reform. Osama. The “war on terror.” The Iraq war. Corruption (Cunningham and Jefferson et al.) Ethics reform. Sex scandals (the House pages and Vitter). Scooter Libby and Plamegate. Global warming (er, climate change). The dancing denials of Alberto Gonzalez. Vice President Cheney’s non-executive executive branch. Impeach the bastards, etc.

These are serious subjects, of course, or so intones The Media (a.k.a. the magician’s assistant), charged with telling the audience why it ought to be worried about them and why it ought to vote for The Right — or The Left — to make sure that Subject X doesn’t happen again. It doesn’t matter which party’s talking; each has a tall tale it sells, er, tells to the audience.
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Don’t worry about NSA – your computer’s printer is spying on you….

printerspy.jpgThis little tidbit from Yahoo Tech (first reported in 2005 but evidently not widely known): most color laser printers have embedded patterns of little dots (yellow and impossible to see with the naked eye) that are unique and traceable. They’re printer fingerprints….

These little dots were (supposedly) originally meant to thwart counterfeiters.

But it seems the FBI has been using these “fingerprints” to trace down who’s doing printing jobs for “suspicious”groups like (wait for it) – Greenpeace and ACLU…. Continue reading

Supreme Court eminent domain dissenter’s predictions coming true

On June 23, 2005, the Supreme Court decided Kelo vs. New London, a case that gave governments nearly unlimited power to exercise eminent domain in an effort to “take” property from one private party and transfer that property to another private party purely based on the fact that the new party would be able to provide the government higher tax revenue. In a couple of vigorous dissents to the 5-4 decision, then Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and Justice Clarance Thomas predicted that this ruling would lead to property being taken from the poor and given to the wealthy. Continue reading

Scroguely Works: Atlas Shrugged

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, first published 1957, 1 200 pages, ISBN 978-0452011878

“For twelve years, you have been asking: Who is John Galt? This is John Galt speaking. I am the man who loves his life. I am the man who does not sacrifice his love or his values. I am the man who has deprived you of victims and thus has destroyed your world, and if you wish to know why you are perishing – you who dread knowledge – I am the man who will now tell you.”

Published 50 years ago in 1957, Atlas Shrugged is Ayn Rand’s magnum opus. The story is simply told. Continue reading

Science gone wrong: when self-delusion leads to death

I want to eat my cake and have it!It’s popular to loathe mainstream pharmaceutical companies. Big Pharma has been accused of profiteering at the expense of the poor. Of not doing enough to find solutions to the diseases of the poor. And, when they do develop cures for the poorest, the patents are promptly stolen from them through compulsory licensing.

Some scientists are even opposed to the “power” of Big Pharma and are, like the characters in John le Carré’s Constant Gardener, working to bring down vested interests. The heights of that hubris was reached by Dr Andrew Wakefield, a British medical scientist, in 1998.

Mumps, measles and rubella are terrible diseases that have plagued humanity for generations. They are so common amongst children that they are normally abbreviated together as MMR. Parents all across the world have immunised their children using a variety of vaccines. In 1988 the UK introduced a combo-MMR drug that stopped the disease dead. Continue reading

What are they supporting…? Russell Simmons and Al Sharpton loud on Vick, mum on Jena…


So. Russell Simmons, Al Sharpton, and PETA have all signed a letter condemning dog fighting and calling Mike Vick out for his indictment in a dog fighting ring. Well and good. Dog fighting is reprehensible and calling out Vick for his participation in and connection to the sport is a reasonable act for two men who claim to be trying to represent African American interests in the larger national culture. Their castigation of Vick (albeit guided by PETA) is a clear effort to show that dog fighting is not an acceptable pastime within the black community as some may claim.

But let’s ask a couple of hard questions of these two. Continue reading

Anti-global heating claims – a reasonably thorough debunking

[Updated 12/12/07: Added myth #21, since ice cores show CO2 increasing after temperature increases in the past, it must be occuring this time too.]
[Updated 9/15/07: Added myths #19 & #20, climate predictions aren’t possible and volcanoes emit more CO2 than people, respectively]

The Earth is heating up, and human beings burning fossil fuels are the dominant cause. It’s not ocean warming that dominates, it’s not cosmic rays, it’s not variations in the Earth’s orbit and tilt toward the sun (Milankovitch cycles), it’s not solar irradiance – it’s us. But there is a very vocal minority that refuses to accept that global heating is real.

Global heating deniers fall back on a variety of myths in order to buttress their position. These myths vary from logical fallacies to pseudoscience to poor math to scientifically valid but disproved hypotheses. Yet every single claim against global heating I’ve found has been debunked at one time or another, and at this point, the only hypothesis that fits all the available data is that human civilization is heating up the planet.

I’ve gathered the top anti-global heating myths into the following list and provided a reasonably thorough debunking for every one. Continue reading

When titans clash: Google vs. AT&T for America’s Internet future

By Martin Bosworth

The Federal Communications Commission recently announced plans to auction off portions of the wireless spectrum in order to raise money for the government. Although supporters of net neutrality and broadband access wanted the spectrum to remain open in order to build a national wireless broadband network, it was generally expected that incumbent telecoms like AT&T and Verizon would use their mountains of cash to outbid other participants and hoard the spectrum for their own offerings.

Until now. Google has publicly promised $4.6 billion for the spectrum auction if the FCC agrees to uphold four principles of open access for its use:

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The Plame Affair: a quartet of betrayals

Scholars & Rogues presents another guest post from Russ Wellen, an editor at Freezerbox.


Shed no tears for Valerie Plame. It’s easy to tell by the radiant smile on her face when she’s out in public that, despite the designation “fair game” that Karl Rove slapped on her in a conversation with Chris Matthews, she’s not a bitter woman. Besides, since she was once an employee of the CIA with its heinous history, the amount of sympathy she’s got coming to her is pretty paltry.

Nevertheless, she’s been betrayed yet again. On July 19, the lawsuit Valerie Plame had filed against Vice President Cheney, Karl Rove, Scooter Libby and Richard Armitage for both violating her privacy and taking revenge on her husband (for leaving their yellowcake out in the rain) was dismissed.

Federal Judge John Bates claimed Continue reading

Ave Maria: the Holy City of Domino’s Pizza and Christian Soldiers

By Martin Bosworth

This week saw the first public tours of Ave Maria, the combination Catholic university/planned community envisioned by Thomas Monaghan, the former Domino’s Pizza magnate turned fervent facilitator of a new Catholic movement.

Essentially, the community seems like a perfect hermetically sealed environment–families will be able to walk to work, send their kids to school, and then to college–all without ever leaving the town’s boundaries. And that’s just the way Monaghan wants it. Continue reading

White House plans for government operation after terrorist attack too secret for Congress to see, apparently…

cheneyvoldemort.jpg Oregon Congressman Peter DeFazio, a member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, has been denied clearance to examine the White House’s plan for operating the government in the aftermath of a terrorist attack.

The Oregonian reports that DeFazio requested to see the classified plans after being contacted by constituents who expressed concern that the plans contained a conspiracy. Continue reading

Edwards and poverty: love the message, kill the messenger

By Martin Bosworth

Today in the Washington Post, E.J. Dionne looks at the Democratic candidates and confirms that a new populist message is taking hold:

Quietly, a new anti-poverty consensus — reflected in the dueling speeches Edwards and Obama gave this week — is being born. It stresses personal and parental responsibility while also addressing economic changes that are promoting inequality. It seeks to deal with the growing isolation of the poor, the need for early intervention in the lives of poor children and the importance of increasing the economic rewards for what is now low-wage work.

This is the correct path to take–building the foundations of a stronger working class through better pay, better working conditions, more protections for families and emphasis on responsibility, personal pride, and ambition as a virtue rather than vice. Continue reading