Friday, November 30, 2007

The high ground awaits

Like most others, I had almost no difficulty choosing a political party. Growing up with a specific set of beliefs tends to make the decision an obvious one. As a liberal, criticizing republicans quickly became second nature, as it seems to be for most liberals. Of course, this is a process that goes both ways. One has only to take a brief glimpse of any Fox News broadcast to see that few punches are pulled at the left wing’s benefit.

It seems that even the slightest personal misstep is sure to make any politician the butt of the opposition’s jokes, regardless of its relevance to political discussion. All too often, both sides attack arguers, but not arguments—politicians, but not policies. For every extraneous conservative attack, the left is quick to present one of its own—for every Ann Coulter, an Al Franken. As such, we begin to act if the opposing party is little more than an inside joke, which, of course, any “intelligent” person is sure to find hilarious. Thus, I believe this is a problem worthy of bipartisan recognition, regardless of its potential to be corrected.

Perhaps the best example of this is our current president, whom hard-nosed liberals will remember for little more than starting a pointless war and a tendency to choke on both big words and pretzels alike. While it appears the former is a perfectly reasonable reason for criticism, the latter too often becomes the object of left wing attacks. Amusing as they may be, Bush’s fumbled words are no more relevant to politics than they are intelligible. In spite of this, the President’s lacking verbal proficiency still seems to draw almost as much criticism as his failed policies.

Like most, I rarely make an effort to defend the political opposition. But perhaps I should. After all, we tend to be skeptical of any argument that does not consider the strong points given by its objectors. The public is not ignorant to this common oversight. Voters want a party they can be proud of—not merely the lesser of two evils. As such, the public is likely to respect any party unwilling to engage in the closed-minded squabbles initiated by the opposition. However, because politicians are so intent on kicking their opponents when they’re down, it seems any movement to eliminate these irrelevant discussions will have significant difficulty getting off the ground.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

A relativistic con

I read, with some confusion, an op-ed in Saturday's New York Times which said, if I understood it right, that science and religion are both based on faith.  In the words of Scooby-Doo, gwuh?

Perhaps I misunderstood the terms.  Isn't religion, almost by definition, faith?  That is to say, the idea that even though one cannot see something, one nevertheless believes that it is there?  This is the antithesis of science.  Science is merely the "belief" that something one sees in front of one's face is there.

I put belief in quotation marks because it's such a silly word to use to describe the function of science.  I don't "believe" in the laptop I'm writing this on right now, nor do I "believe" in you or anybody else, good reader.  The laptop simply exists.  And unless nobody ever reads this, so do you.

Getting back to the op-ed, the author (Paul Davies, who is, confusingly, a noted physicist) bases his argument on the premise that science assumes a natural order to life and the universe.  At first glance, this is garbage; pure creationist prevarication: Science assumes nothing of the sort.

On closer inspection, however, one can see a subtle point in Davies' thesis.  As he correctly points out, it would be impossible to study the universe if one did not "believe" that there was
 a discernable order to it.

But there's that word again.  Though Davies might have me outgunned by several orders of intellectual magnitude (in addition to being a noted physicist, he's British), doesn't science, correctly understood, merely interpret the patterns in the evidence that are actually there?

In short, I think Davies badly mischaracterizes science when he equates it with faith, though he does raise some interesting points.  If a real scientist was confronted today with convincing evidence that, say, god is alive and well and residing somewhere in the 
constellation Orion, "belief" would not be involved.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Brand an asterisk on the indictment charges...

Is it already that time again? Time for ol' Barry to take over every sports section of every paper in every state of every country on every planet. I hate using words like "flabbergasting," but this is a necessary evil...

The death grip Barry Bonds has on media is flabbergasting.

I mean, Double B didn't even say or do anything this time, but you knew something was going to happen. It was that odd sensation, an Admiral Ackbar type of sensation, where things were quiet...

Maybe too quiet...

Then televisions everywhere exploded with images of Barry Bonds hitting home runs despite the fact that the text bubble on the bottom of the screen said that the man pictured above has been formally accused, by the government, of purgery and obstruction of justice.

My first thought was, "Why are they showing him hitting home runs? This is their chance to run the ultimate Barry Bonds blooper reel."

Then it hit me.

I'm going to have to read about this cheating, media-hating, team-isolating, lying, manipulating, steroid-using, scar on baseball for months to come. This might be worse than Kobe being accused of raping that girl because at one point in that trial we all thought, "I'm pretty sure Kobe is innocent," but in BB's case, we're going to have to hear about it every time someone hits over 50 HRs in a season, or comes close to the single-season record, and lord knows when ARod comes close to Barry's record, it will be all about Bonds. He is going to be the lingering cancer on baseball that simply cannot be operated on. He's spread too deeply in the system, the record books, and the club houses, to ever be fully and successfully extracted.

What's worse than the act itself are the people that defend Barry.

"He still has to hit the ball, and that's not something steroids can help you do," they all say.

What an asinine argument. That's like saying about a swimmer, "He still has to jump in the pool, that's not something steroids can help you do."

Of course he has to hit the ball, hell, give me some hacks at it, I'll make contact eventually, the fact that his balls go 450 feet and land in a pool of screaming fans who pay Barry's enormous salaries, that's what the steroids are doing.

You can't look me in the eyes and tell me, with a straight face, that you thing Barry didn't cheat, that he hasn't hurt the Giants organizations and the game of baseball in general, you just can't do it, because every human who knows what a baseball even looks like can tell you that Barry's been juicing.

When he came into the league, his head was 8 hat sizes smaller than it was last season.

Simply put; you cannot make your head grow that much without assistance from HGH or other steroid-esque drugs. While it may go without saying, some will try and convince you that this is at all possible.

In the end we all suffer. Tax dollars are being senselessly wasted on this conceited douchebag, baseball will never fully recover, and now I have to see Barry Bonds during football season as well.

You want a punishment that fits the crime? I say we brand an asterisk on Barry's forehead and tattoo a footnote on his back reading:

* - Only a shell of human being, void of all normal (and required) human emotions such as self-respect and respect for others.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Private letter to Hillary Clinton

Okay, Mrs. Clinton- it's just you and me here, woman to woman. Ever since that last debate, all I've been hearing about is you and your non-answer to the question about drivers licenses for illegal immigrants. Listen, I'm a woman too. I understand your ability to agree with Eliot Spitzer even though you don't agree with him. I totally get it. You don't know all of the details, you just know that you don't fully agree with them. More importantly, you're not going to let anyone put words in your mouth. I watched that sausagefest of a debate, and I agree that it wasn't fair, your non-answer to that question was just as relevant as any of the other candidates non-answers.

This is not hyperbole, I honestly thought the whole drivers license debate was nothing more than theatre. But I need to speak my mind, women are like sisters, right? We support each other, we vote for each other, we give each other pep talks and occasionally steal each others boyfriends. But through it all, we stick together. It is in this spirit of sisterhood that I feel the need to tell you something about that last debate. Everyone's hedging on issues, but girlfriend it is time to whip out those ovaries and smack them down on the podium the next time Tim Russert produces a document signed by your husband. That was just madness.

Yes Hillary, this focus on the drivers license thing is nothing. The real issue is the unreleased records from the Clinton Library. If you are running on your reputation and experience as First Lady, then you need to show us the goods, sweetheart. You can be as wishy-washy as everyone else about the drivers license issue as far as I'm concerned, but to say in the debate that whether or not to release relevant White House documents is 'not your decision to make'? Well, it kinda' is, and it doesn't help your credibility to blame the archivists. Actually, that ticked me off. Every archivist I've known (admittedly not many) is incredibly passionate about their work with artifacts. To make them look bad for being too slow to release those papers you won't allow them to release, well, that just makes you look bad. You said that the archives were releasing documents every day, and I have no doubt that's a fact. I also have no doubt that none of those documents will be related to the policy memos that are currently restricted.

Now, don't get me wrong, this is a pep talk. I would tell you if your bra strap was showing and now I'm telling you it's time to stop letting those guys bully you. Tell your husband what for, and release those documents to the public. Show everyone for once and for all what you're made of, and let the public see your years of White House experience with our own eyes. Stop blaming the archivists and show us that experience you're running on. Those 24% of Republican women that are supposed to vote for you would really appreciate it. I know you can do it!

Monday, November 5, 2007

The internet is for memes

This, as I'm sure you can tell, is homemade. Hooray for 21st century arts and crafts!

The hairdo cometh

Hold on to your hats, kittens and cats, because Papa Jon is making a prediction: Mitt Romney wins the GOP nomination. I'm basing that largely off the news that arch-conservative and Moral Majority co-founder Paul Weyrich is the latest right-wing celebrity to endorse him. If you've got them by the Moral Majorities, their hearts and minds will follow.

I don't know if this is good news or bad for those of us who would, on the whole, prefer not to elect another Republican president. (Journalists are supposed to be objective. This is, in a word, difficult for those of us in the opinions section.) On the one hand, Mitt Romney is an opportunistic hairpile who trims his sails to the political wind like some sort of Mormon buccaneer. Let that image sink in for a moment: "Avast there, you dogs; and answer us this question: Do ye ever feel as if yer searchin' fer meanin' in yer life?"

Seriously, though, it's comforting for liberals to think that the presumptive Republican presidential nominee is simply a run-of-the-mill politician, rather than a god-bothering half-wit with tyrannical advisers. It would even make the unlikely event of a Republican victory in 2008 that much more tolerable: How bad could he really be, compared to this guy? Even if Hillary gets the Democratic nod and puts this proposition to the test, I really don't think that the electorate is dumb enough to vote for the "just folks" candidate after eight years of President Bush screwing them over. And although I think Hillary Clinton would make a fine president, I think the Dems could make the question academic by nominating somebody else.

On the other hand, though, he's clearly the biggest GOP wheel still spinning. Rudy Giuliani is the kind of Republican that "values" voters love to hate, in addition to being mildly insane. By contrast, Mike Huckabee is mother's milk to those same "values" voters, but this makes him a total non-entity in the general election. (Although as a fellow bass player, I give him some grudging props. Also, he's pretty bright, for a far-right-winger.) John McCain is...well, life support is putting it generously. Fred Thompson is the most underwhelming celebrity candidate ever, and that's saying a lot. (Hear that, Colbert? That'll teach you to punk out after one puny little state party turns up their noses at you.) Ron Paul is, well, a space alien -- very much the conservative equivalent of Dennis Kucinich, sans statuesque, red-headed wife. (Remember, Ron Paul internet militia -- keep the comments clean.) And, of course, the only way Tom Tancredo could make his racism more explicit would be to hand out white hoods with his campaign logo on them.

Actually, Republican or Democrat, everybody ought to be happy with the prospect of a Romney candidacy. All hail the hairdo!