Nader reaction defines difference between Obama, Clinton

Here’s an illustrative difference between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. These were their reactions to Ralph Nader’s announcement of another quixotic—though potentially impacting—run for the White House:

Obama: “I think the job of the Democratic Party is to be so compelling that a few percentage [points] of the vote going to another candidate is not going to make any difference.”

Clinton: “Obviously it’s not helpful to whoever our Democratic nominee is, but it’s a free country. …I don’t know what party he’ll run on. Where did he run on last time? Does anybody remember? … Was it on the Green Party? Well, you know, his being on the Green Party prevented Al Gore from being the greenest president we could have had, and I think that’s really unfortunate. I think we paid a big price for it. … This time I hope it doesn’t hurt anyone.”

Guess which one gets it?

“Lethal piñatas”: keeping cluster bombs from kids

ññññññclusterbomber.gifFive-hundred delegates from 122 countries converged on New Zealand this week in a bid to rid the world of cluster bombs. In the end, though only 82 states signed the Wellington Declaration — the draft of a treaty to ban cluster bombs, sweep lands free of them, and assist survivors — the conference was a qualified success.

New Zealand Disarmament Minister Phil Goff informed the Associated Press that more progress toward banning cluster munitions was made in the five days of talks than during five years of U.N. negotiations. Even Jody Williams, 1997 Nobel Peace Prize winner for her work leading to the ban of land mines, told ABC in Australia, “We’re extremely pleased by the outcome of the conference.”

Earlier, though, she accused representatives of Australia Britain, Canada, France, Germany, and Japan of “fronting for the U.S.” She feared they might neuter the proposed agreement to make it palatable for the US, which, along with Russia, China, and Israel, shunned the conference. Continue reading

Flash: Sen. Denny quits prez race, cites cost of buying superdelegates

For the moment, consider me as two-term Sen. Denny. (I’ll wait a moment until the laughter subsides.) It shouldn’t surprise you, then, that I am, in essence, more a professional fundraiser than a politician. I need money to remain in office — and I need money to acquire influence while in office in case I should seek higher office.

Giving money to other politicians binds them to you. It represents not-so-subtle I.O.U.’s to be collected if, for example, I decide to run for president.

So I establish a “leadership political action committee.” Call it DocPAC. My fellow members of Congress have them, y’know, and so do a lot of other politically savvy folks. We raise money through these leadership PACs independent of our regular campaign committees. And here’s what makes them politically useful: I can give up to $5,000 per election to any federal candidate. And believe me, those party hacks, er, loyalists, immediately become my pals.
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SMU to host the George W. Bush Presidential Liberry

It’s official, more or less:

The decision became official as SMU’s board of trustees approved an agreement with the Bush Foundation, which will manage construction and raise money for the project, expected to cost more than $200 million.

This has to be the most ironic moment in the history of either presidents or libraries. I mean, you’ll have a copy of the Bible and My Pet Goat. What else? And $200 million?! Sweet fancy Jesus, are they going to build the place out of solid platinum? Continue reading

Emigration 1 – Little Drops of Decision

Maybe you once cared for a drug addict? What led them there, what keeps them there? Not your problem. And you believe in all that “tough love” shit; you know that they must make the decision to come clean and live responsibly.

But you also believe that you can make that journey easier for them by showing them how an addiction-free life can be, and by offering them the advantages that make it worth going cold to achieve.

At some point, though, maybe you get an inkling that the process isn’t working. Maybe it’s after they’ve come out of rehab once too often, only to go on a binge again, that you start thinking that the effort isn’t worth the stress.

Countries are like that too.

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I believe my current participation could be a distraction.

— major league baseball pitcher and accused steroids and HGH cheat Roger Clemens, in withdrawing from a scheduled appearance at an “event, which takes place largely at Disney Hollywood Studios, and lets fans interact with athletes and ESPN personalities and watch live ESPN programming”; Feb. 20.

I’m very excited about watching this game. I do want to thank your coaches. Thanks for coaching. Thanks for teaching people the importance of teamwork. I like baseball a lot, so thanks for teaching them how to play baseball, too.

— from President Bush’s remarks at a “tee ball” game between the Little Dragons and the Little Saints at Ghana International School in Accra, Ghana; Feb. 20.
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2005 Colorado public education survey not statistically valid

Fundamentally, there is a right way to gather statistical data, and there’s a wrong way. A few months ago, a survey that purported to question the consensus surrounding anthropogenic global heating illustrated, in egregious fashion, the wrong way. The “survey” asked poorly phrased and biased questions designed to be spinnable to’s propaganda goals. The method of distributing the survey bypassed all non-U.S. IPCC scientists and yet claimed to applicable to all IPCC scientists. And the survey population was self-selected, rendering the results statistically meaningless for the larger population. In addition,’s executive director, Steven J. Milloy failed to keep the data of his few respondents confidential as also required by the American Association of Public Opinion Researchers guide to professional behavior.

While hardly as bad as the propaganda produced by Steve Milloy and, a survey commissioned by Colorado’s Donnell-Kay Foundation is another example of a survey that was used more broadly than can be justified given its methodology. And in the process, the results were unnecessarily spun by the Donnell-Kay Foundation in order to support greater state spending on public education. Continue reading

CU postscript: Benson must be resisted and the Regents must be removed

The University of Colorado Regents have issued a statement apparently aimed at people who, like me, have deep reservations about their appointment of a highly partisan global warming denying oil executive who’s less educated than 99% of the college presidents in America and who has a track record of attacking the very foundations of tenure and academic freedom to run the university.

Put another way, a fox has been appointed head chicken.

While the Regents’ letter isn’t quite as objectionable as Bruce Benson’s résumé, it leaves a good deal to be desired. I’d like to walk through the statement and offer some comments on specific pieces of it, if I may. Continue reading

Has the University of Colorado sold its soul to the devil?

I’m worried about the University of Colorado, the school where I earned my doctorate. Last night, in one of the more controversial moves in some time, the CU Board of Regents elected Bruce Benson to be the university’s new president. The 6-3 vote fell along party lines and marked the first time in nearly 35 years that a president has been approved by a split vote.

The main point in favor of Benson seems to be his reputation as a fund-raiser, and there’s no question that CU needs somebody to bring more money into the system. CU has been hamstrung ever since the early 1990s, when perennial pigfucker Douglas Bruce managed to get Amendment 1 passed. Continue reading

Smart people hate America and other myths of the current cultural milieu…

Everyday life, supersaturated with images and jingles, makes intellectual life look hopelessly sluggish, burdensome, difficult. In a video-game world, the play of intellect — the search for validity, the willingness to entertain many hypotheses, the respect for difficulty, the resistance to hasty conclusions — has the look of retardation. – Todd Gitlin

Maybe it’s our name.

After all, this blog called Scholars and Rogues contains in its moniker two terms against which certain types of Americans react: Rogues are, after all, known law questioners, rascals, generally naughty types; Scholars are, in all probability, intellectuals, know-it-alls, all around smart asses. Both of these are groups that some here in the land of Deciders deem, if not outright outlaws, at the least needing (preferably warrentless) surveillance.

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Hillary Clinton, scholar-president?

Yesterday I had some thoughts on Sen. Clinton’s questionable campaign rhetoric that she’s more prepared, on Day 1, to be the Commander-in-Chief than her opponent, Sen. Obama. In a nutshell, I hear the assertion that it’s true, but I see not a scrap of evidence to back what looks like a specious claim.

There are scholars, of the social contructivist school, who argue that all social reality is constructed through language and that there is no such thing as objective reality.

Reality: Social constructivists believe that reality is constructed through human activity. Members of a society together invent the properties of the world (Kukla, 2000). For the social constructivist, reality cannot be discovered: it does not exist prior to its social invention. Continue reading

Another couple of journalists who don't understand basic science

by JS O’Brien

Yesterday, I wrote about a Florida columnist who’s so poorly educated and ill-read that she could neither construct a cogent argument nor recognize a ridiculous misstatement about Newton’s second law of thermodynamics that would be obvious to my middle-schooler.   Today, I find this report from Reuters that completely misses the story, and for the same reason:  a fundamental misunderstanding of science and the most basic scientific terminology.

The real story here is that those in favor of teaching evolution won an even bigger victory than they could have hoped for, and they won it because their opponents also don’t understand scientific basics. Continue reading

Sen. Clinton's special claim to military expertise

Sen. Hillary Clinton said something interesting in Youngstown yesterday.

“Both Senator Obama and I would make history,” the New York senator said. “But only one of us is ready on day one to be commander in chief, ready to manage our economy, and ready to defeat the Republicans. Only one of us has spent 35 years being a doer, a fighter and a champion for those who need a voice.”

Note the part I’ve italicized. It’s a point she repeated at least two or three times during the speech (see fuller text here), and it has been the source of some pointed debate among interested Dem-watchers this morning. Continue reading

The Weekly Carboholic

permafrost polygonsA new study by the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology and reported in the Asahi Shimbum (English edition) says that Russian permafrost has been melting deeper and faster than previous studies indicated. Specifically, the average temperature of the permafrost has risen almost to melting, the depth of melt has doubled since 2000, and the size of melt lakes have increased by 3.5x. All of these things are bad, given that permafrost traps a huge amount of methane, a very potent greenhouse gas.

However, we can’t accept these results on face value for a very important reason – they directly contradict several Russian studies. These results need to be verified and reconciled with studies like this one, published by the global heating denier organization the Heartland Institute. Ultimately, unless someone is lying here (which is always a possibility when talking about global heating), the data for both studies have to be explainable via a single hypothesis – data cannot be thrown out without corrupting the scientific method. I look forward to hearing how these disparate results are reconciled. Continue reading

When it comes to journalists, what about quality?

by JS O’Brien

(With apologies to Dr. Denny, whom I admire greatly, and who would certainly fix journalism if he could.)

Lost in the justified hand-wringing over the loss of newspaper jobs, and the inevitable reduction in the number of important stories journalists can uncover, is the issue of “quality.” I mourn the loss of quantity in the journalistic ranks as much as anyone, and I’m betting more than some, but I am more concerned with quality these days.

I happened to run across these two articles, here and here, by Alva James-Johnson, a columnist for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Perhaps things have changed, but in my brief brush with newspapers many years ago, one did not become a columnist until one had demonstrated a depth of knowledge, insight, erudition, and quality of thought that qualified one for something near the top of one’s profession. Columnists were the cream of the crop. I hope, based on this example, that this is not the case these days. Continue reading

Nota Bene #11: Return of the Killer Sculpture

Here’s your weekly dose of link love, enjoy. ∞ The U.S. Air Force wants (in addition to the $144 billion it scores each year) an extry $19 bil for, among other things, “dorm furnishing” … Rust may never sleep, but the power of music sleeps with the fishes, so says Neil Young … On a related note (giggle), John Cougar Mellencamp and Boston’s Tom Scholz are tired of presidential candidates thiefing their tunage … My own humble abode of Aurora, Colorado is for some bizarre reason the top digital city in the U.S. Maybe they’re going by the number of times we give each other the finger in traffic … Newt Gingrich foresees a likely McCain-Huckabee GOP ticket … Nearly a dozen cartoonists recently organized an illustrated effort to protest the lack of color in comics … I have no idea what you’re talking about, so here’s a collie balancing cups on its head—along with other amusing photos from a recent UK book … Oh, that silly ol’ rascal King George the W. He’s now ordering a clampdown on flights to the U.S., demanding extra personal data from air passengers … Sara Robinson presents 10 myths aboot Canadian health care … Attention photoshoppers: the Library of Congress now has a Flickr page … JFK’s old speechwriter, Ted Sorensen, has a warm fuzzy about Obama … America’s next generation is too demanding at work. Anthony Balderrama explains Y … Mark your Outlook calendars: there’s a massive Iraq War blogswarm on March 19 that S&R is proud to be a part of. “Stop the killing. Stop the maiming. Stop the economic and environmental devastation. Bring the troops home.” Hear, hear … And finally, the long, strange tale of a steel mustang that took the life of its own sculptor. You can see it for yourself next time you’re at Denver International Airport. ∞

'Penny' press redux: a new business model for journalism?

Edward Wasserman, writing in the Feb. 18 Miami Herald, makes an obvious but still unsettling point about the news business:

The nearly two-century-old marriage between consumer advertising and journalism is on the rocks.

Prof. Wasserman, the Knight professor of journalism ethics at Washington and Lee University, recounts that two hundred years from the penny press to the difficulties that “new media” have with a business model that presumes people will pay for news — and therefore advertisers will pay to park themselves in front of those eyeballs. But, says Prof. Wasserman:

That era is now ending, not because the public no longer needs news or because people mistrust news any more than they always have — but because new technologies are churning out better ways to reach customers who are shopping for cars, jobs or homes.

For two centuries, advertising has supported journalism. The First Amendment guarantees freedom of the press — but does not guarantee profitability. That news organizations must achieve without government support.
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