Friday, June 29, 2007

Criswell predicts: Kennedy as President

Another entry from the Amazing Criswell's 1968 book of future predictions:

I predict that Kennedy will be the Democratic Presidential Candidate in 1972, and that he will be elected President of the United States in 1972. But, regretfully, he will not serve out his term in office.
--The Amazing Criswell
You know, the part about (Robert) Kennedy not serving out his term in office was essentially right on the button. Too bad getting the first part wrong kind of spoils it.

Coming soon to a United State near you

It's a matter of time, folks.

Either crush terrorism physically and ideologically, or be prepared to live with it. And they won't always fail, either.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Fairness Doctrine takes one on the chin

By a vote of 309-115, the U.S. House today adopted an amendment offered by Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) to the Financial Services and General Government Bill. The amendment bars the FCC from using federal funds to reinstate the "Fairness Doctrine." Pence (R-IN) had also planned to introduce the Broadcaster Freedom Act hoping to block the doctrine's reinstatement.
(Radio Online)

Hat tip to Captain's Quarters.

Cap'n Ed notes that the Democrats were pretty much evenly split on this vote.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

True genius at the Project for the Old American Century

I got a big laugh moments ago when I checked the results for the sublovious poll--one of the longest-running polls ever ... maybe.

I'm finishing up a series at the Bad Blogs' Blood blog on the Project for the Old American Century, which is a site for those generally to the left on the political spectrum.

Over the last few days, I paid a visit to the the message board at POAC, and during introductions I mentioned that I had encountered the site through its "Counterspin" pages, where the POAC folks attempt to answer various "talking points." An argument about the "Counterspin" page ensued and I was fairly promptly banned from their message board (in spite of my traditionally courteous manner).

During that process, POACers followed a URL I provided back to Bad Blogs' Blood, and via that site (trusty profile, no doubt) found their way to this site ... and a couple of them voted in the poll. Two more votes for Bush misleading Americans about Iraq's responsibility for 9-11, even though right next to the poll I link to information that should prevent anybody except a loon from voting in the upper third of the poll choices.

Astonishingly, a total of 15 people have voted in strong agreement with the proposition that "President Bush caused a dramatic increase in the number of Americans who believe that Iraq was involved in the 9-11 attacks," compared to just one who was uncertain and one other who had strong disagreement with the same statement.

A Hugh Hewitt mention on Keith Olbermann's show

Dean Barnett, who regularly posts on Hugh Hewitt's blog, also serves as a guest host on the Hugh Hewitt radio program.

Yesterday, Barnett took note of a mention of Hewitt by MSNBC's Bill O'Reilly wannabe Keith Olbermann.
Olbermann's closing segment has a countdown of the worst people in the world, and Republican Senator John Kyl attained the honor.

Read Barnett's commentary over at

One comment from yesterday's radio show didn't make it into Barnett's blog post, and maybe should have. Barnett and the Hugh Hewitt crew noted that Olbermann called Hewitt a "water carrier."
A water carrier for whom, they wondered? President Bush? Bush favors the immigration bill. John Kyl? Kyl favors the immigration bill.

Hugh Hewitt opposes the immigration bill.

In order to appear somewhat closer to coherent, shouldn't Olberman say whose water is being carried by Hewitt?

Monday, June 25, 2007

Horrible movies are the best

Horrible movies are great--or at least they're better than mediocre movies.

Mediocre movies are forgotten. The worst bits of a horrible movie bring a smile--ideally--for a truly hilarious absurdity.

Edward D. Wood, Jr had a gift for making horrible movies. "Plan 9 From Outer Space" remains a classic of the, uh, genre.

I was reminded tonight of another awful favorite, "The Evil Brain From Outer Space." TEBFOS was a 1950s Japanese take on the Superman idea. When the Earth (Japan in particular) is in trouble, the Emerald Men from--where else--the Emerald Planet sometimes choose to send Star Man to Earth. Star Man has a gut on him that makes Adam West's Batman look chiseled by comparison. Fortunately, Star Man has not only his gut but a handy device called the "globe meter."

The globe meter allows Star Man to do three things.
  • Fly through space (very handy since that's how he gets here from the Emerald Planet)
  • Detect radioactivity (Balazar's evil brain is radioactive, if I remember correctly)
  • Speak any language on planet Earth
And yes, that's a shot of the globe meter up there. It just looks like a wrist watch with a map stuck on the face. The five adjustment knobs (if that's what they really are) probably help with speaking/understanding different varieties of Earth languages.

The Pacific Rim region of the globe figures prominently. If the predominance of Japanese characters doesn't tip you off that this isn't a Hollywood picture, then the globe meter itself might do that. Unless it just reflects a preference of the Emerald Men, of course.

This is where the Emerald Men make their decisions on whether or not to send Star Man to Earth.
These guys don't appear to talk much. The dudes (?) seated around the table appear to communicate with deliberate and repetitive arm movements. The ones standing around the perimeter rotate their torsos right and left.

It seems to work, anyway.

One of my favorite parts of the Emerald Men deliberation scene is the way that big ringed planet in the background moves very noticeably side-to-side. Probably a gravitational effect, but to a primitive Earthling it makes it look like the planet is attached to something up above by ropes or wires.

Yes, the film is silly, but it has some very enjoyable moments.

At one point, a scientist character warns the Japanese authorities: "We must destroy Balazar's brain! But it won't be easy--it's indestructible!"

Bless the translators for that one.

"Star Man" also features heavy use of a popular film technique. Sometimes you want the hero to fight a whole bunch of guys, but getting a whole group choreographed take$ time. So you have one or two guys at a time attack the hero while one or two others just kind of crouch in the background, angling for an opening that never seems to come no matter how wide open Star Man seems to have left himself.

Watch a Star Man film sometime. You'll be sorry--but it's fun anyway.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Criswell predicts: Mother Earth

O my Friend, as the dark seasons roll, what of your incredible future? Can our whirling, turning, churning earth last out the night? Our geologists tell us that the danger to Mother Earth lies not in the unchartered (sic) vast of outer space, but from inner-earth! Like the apple that rots from the core and explodes into a decaying mass!
--The Amazing Criswell

He goes on an on like that. This is the money line, though:
When you pour a cup of coffee or a glass of water, the rim will not level.
Now that's something.

Help John Edwards and you help the poor

The New York Times is reporting that a not-for-profit established by John Edwards for the purposed of assisting the poor primarily assists John Edwards.

I suppose the reasoning is that because John Edwards wants to help the poor and get rid of the "Two Americas" that therefore using funds designated to assist the poor to help him campaign for president is a legitimate expense.

It's not hard to see why Michael Medved calls Edwards a phony.

Hat tip to Captain's Quarters.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Nader weighs in on Senator Clinton

In keeping with my recent theme of kicking Clinton (stemming from my resentment of her cheap political rhetoric dissected here), here are some comments from potential presidential candidate Ralph Nader that I stumbled across courtesy of the Captain's Quarters blog:
Mr Nader sharply criticised Hillary Clinton, the Democrat frontrunner whose failure to back an immediate Iraq withdrawal has alienated many on the left. Her stance has toughened recently.

"She is a political coward," Mr Nader said. "She goes around pandering to powerful interest groups on the one hand and flattering general audiences on the other. She doesn't even have the minimal political fortitude of her husband."
(Guardian Unlimited)

While I don't think much of Nader's politics, his observation seems to hit the bull's-eye in this case.

Times (UK) interview with General David Petraeus

Petraeus' sensible comments supply an enormous contrast to the vapid political rhetoric from Hillary Clinton in my previous post.
Interview by Richard Beeston with General David Petraeus in Baghdad on June 20 2007.

What is your priority in the surge operation?

"It is to disrupt al-Qaeda and its ability to conduct sensational attacks and to try to continue the cycle of violence, which they have been trying to do all along. In addition, they are attempting try establish a real al-Qaeda sanctuary in Iraq, a caliphate."
(read more, read it all)

Hat tip to Powerline.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

World's smartest woman? You've got to be kidding

Hillary Clinton demonstrated some real ignorance while appearing to take a page out of Slick Willie's campaign handbook.

Senator Clinton manifested these things while responding to President Bush's veto of a bill that would have permitted federal funds to support fetal stem cell research without the earlier limitations (the linked Chicago Tribune story suggests that federal funds are not permitted to support fetal stem cell research, which is not true).
“This is just one example of how the president puts ideology before science, politics before the needs of our families, just one more example of how out of touch with reality he and his party have become,’’ Clinton said. “And it's just one more example as to why we're going to send them packing in January 2009, and return progressive leadership to the White House.”
And Clinton – who has pledged that if Bush does not end the war in Iraq, “I will’’ – issued a similar pledge on stem cells: “This is research that…holds such promise for devastating diseases. And we know that stem cell research holds the key to our understanding more about what we can do. So let me be very clear: When I am president, I will lift the ban on stem cell research.’’
(Chicago Tribune)
First, the obvious error that nearly everybody will miss: Every application of science is about ideology. Use science to improve communications, and it's because you want better communications (ideology). Use science to gas Kurds and it's because you want to kill Kurds (ideology). Use science to cure Parkinson's disease and it's because you want to cure disease (ideology). Science per se is value neutral. Ideology is what keeps us from experimenting on human beings without their consent (though there have been exceptions here and there).

So, Clinton accuses Bush of getting in the way of science on the basis of ideology as if there's something wrong with that in principle--yet her motive for wanting scientific research on human embryos is equally based on ideology.

That knight from Monty Python's Flying Circus who used to go about whacking people gently (lest anyone see an advocacy of violence against the former First Lady) with a rubber chicken should pay a visit to Mrs. Clinton--preferably while she's on-camera.

Second, Clinton employs husband Bill's misleading rhetoric in making her promise to lift the ban on stem cell research.

No doubt this is meant to sound very gallant and warm the hearts of potential Democrat voter as they consider the depth of her humanity--except that there is no ban on stem cell research. There isn't even a ban on fetal stem cell research. The ban is on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research on lines not already in existence when the president first acted on the issue.

Major problems with Miller's "Atheism: A Rough History of Disbelief"

Some days ago I posted a short bit on a couple of inaccurate quotations in Jonathan Miller's "Atheism: A Rough History of Disbelief" series that aired twice on the BBC and on a number of PBS-affiliated stations.

I've since encountered evidence that I only touched the tip of what may be an iceberg.

There are definitely more problems with the historical accuracy on the series. I expect to post more on the topic as my research progresses.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Criswell predicts: Stock Market

I predict that the stock market will experience a wider fluctuation, high and low, from June, 1968, though June, 1970, than any period in its erratic history.
--The Amazing Criswell
Not so good, Cris. First column is the year. Second column is the high. Third column is the low. The last column is the close--not that the close is a concern of Criswell's.

1962 734.38 524.55 652.1
1963 773.07 643.57 762.95
1964 897 760.34 874.13
1965 976.61 832.74 969.26
1966 1001.11 735.74 785.69
1967 951.57 776.16 905.11
1968 994.65 817.61 943.75
1969 974.92 764.45 800.36
1970 848.23 627.46 838.92
(from a Huxley something-or-other .edu personal page)

I've put the numbers from 1968-1970 in bold. Any figure above the the highest bold figure from outside the years in question makes half of Criswell's prediction false. Any figure below the lowest bold figure from outside '68-'70 makes the other half of the prediction false.

Figures higher and lower than the 1968-1970 period occurred not only in the varied history of the stock market, but both falsifying figures occurred within about seven years of Criswell's predicted window of wild fluctuation.

Not to worry, campers. The dust jacket of "Criswell Predicts" assures us that 87% of Criswell's predictions have come true!

Listen to the Democrat: Lieberman on Iraq

Senator Lieberman continues his lonely stance as a Democrat supporting U.S. military involvement in Iraq. He makes a great deal of sense for a Democrat.
I recently returned from Iraq and four other countries in the Middle East, my first trip to the region since December. In the intervening five months, almost everything about the American war effort in Baghdad has changed, with a new coalition military commander, Gen. David Petraeus; a new U.S. ambassador, Ryan Crocker; the introduction, at last, of new troops; and most important of all, a bold, new counterinsurgency strategy. The question of course is--is it working?
(Opinion Journal)
Read it all. See why Lieberman thinks its working.

Hat tip to Captain's Quarters.

GOP beats Dems on earmarks

Looks like the Republicans in Congress really did something right this time.

I haven't posted about it, but I've seethed over the Pelosi/Obey plan to accomplish earmark reform by incorporating slush funds within a given bill so that earmarks could be anonymously added after the bill had been debated.

That plan was an insult to representative goverment, removing the actions of representatives even further from the scrutiny of the people they represent. The Dems ought to pay a price for the move when elections come due--but I guess they can hope the mainstream media spin machine will make them appear purty, dry and clean as a whistle.

House Democrats have agreed to abandon their own sneaky plan in favor of the earmark reform plan suggested by Republicans last year. And that is a huge improvement.

Hat tip to Captain's Quarters; go there for more of the nuts and bolts.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Who said it? "He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither"

I was preparing to embark on background research for the following quotation, which I found on Ann & Curt's Excellent Adventures page immediately following a bogus quotation of James Watt.

Here's how the Mobley page presents it:
"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
—Benjamin Franklin

I'm not the only one who wastes his time looking into the background of quotations, fortunately. Michael Gaynor had the scoop over at Renew America.
Mr. Franklin would be aghast to be misquoted and misused.

"Those who would give up ESSENTIAL LIBERTY to purchase a little TEMPORARY SAFETY, deserve neither LIBERTY nor SAFETY" is a motto on the title page of An Historical Review of the Constitution and Government of Pennsylvania. (1759).

This motto was attributed to Mr. Franklin in the edition of 1812.

In a letter of September 27, 1760 to David Hume, however, Mr. Franklin stated that he published this book and denied that he wrote it, other than a few remarks that were credited to the Pennsylvania Assembly, in which he served.
(Renew America)

I was mainly curious to examine the context of the Franklin quotation. I was surprised to find that Franklin probably wasn't the author since the quotation is widely used (and, as noted, I'm not the only one who wastes time researching quotations).

Read the Gaynor article for more details regarding authorship of the quotation.

The original quotation is a pretty good statement, regardless of its authorship, and at least it may be said that Mr. Mobley has the quotation close to its unaltered form, emphasizing "essential" liberty rather than liberties that are less than essential, and "temporary" safety rather than enduring safety. Many make use of the quotation without those key words, as Gaynor noted.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

"May not be washed if staining clothes incautiously"

I was using a CD marker on some CDs I've been burning lately and I noticed some of the fine print on my "Case Logic" markers.

  • Available for any surface
  • Please close the cap after use
  • Special ingredient of ink, permanent and less effect of pollution
  • Keep out of children
  • Convenient to mark
  • May not be washed if staining clothes incautiously
I like that the markers are available for any surface. What could be more convenient than that?

Closing the cap after use makes sense. It tends to dry out, otherwise.

What's not to like about a special ingredient of ink that is permanent, yet pollutes less?

Keep out of children. Hmm. Children tend to swallow things, but usually that's covered with "Keep out of reach of children" or something like that. Perhaps the manufacturer is concerned that parents might use the pen as a form of practice thermometer, and they don't recommend it for that purpose. Certainly it seems a good idea to avoid stabbing a child with the device (which could result in the marker being in a child).

Convenient to mark. Not sure why they mentioned that, given that the marker is available for all surfaces.

May not be washed if staining clothes incautiously. That one had me confused a bit, but I think I've got it figured out. Sometimes if I stain my clothes carelessly my better half insists that I do the wash. And I can't stand washing clothes. Thus, it stands to reason that if I incautiously stain my clothes with a Case Logic CD marker pen the item of clothing may not get washed.
Kind of an odd warning, but I can't deny the truth of it.

Note: An old cow-hand took a closer look at his Case Logic markers about a year before I did. I think my analysis is more objectively analytical, but it's an interesting comparison.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

JW update: North Texas Skeptics, Curtis D. Mobley, and Raptor Educational Foundation

Former Secretary of the Interior James Watt has been the victim of a pair of bogus quotations. I've been trying to contact sites who post the erroneous information to try to convince them to correct the record.

North Texas Skeptics, one of the sources where I originally located the bogus quotation, was contacted over a week ago. I explained the problem at some length. I've received replies asking for more information, and they have not changed their use of a bogus Watt quotation as of this writing.

As noted before, it's a shame that they didn't apply the same level of skepticism when they first posted the bogus quotation.

Scientist Curtis Mobley readily agreed that the quotation is bogus, and implied that he would change his page accordingly.

Apparently page update is on the back burner. Meanwhile, we have the following irony:
"A lie told often enough becomes the truth."
—Vladimir Lenin

"The bigger the lie, the more people believe it."
—paraphrase of a statement by Adolf Hitler

"My responsibility is to follow the Scriptures which call upon us to occupy the land until Jesus returns. We don't have to protect the environment; the Second Coming is at hand."
—James Watt, Secretary of the Interior under President Reagan; Washington Post, May 24, 1981
(Ann & Curt's Excellent Adventures)
As if to illustrate, eh?

Raptor Educational Foundation gets major props. "Jeff" from the Raptor group responded promptly to my message, promising to look into it and make changes if what I was saying was correct. Their site removed the bogus quotation within about a week.

Those who are trustworthy in small things gain some measure of trust in handling larger things, I believe. This environmental group earns a big point for integrity in my book.

Rays' Sonnanstine gets first Major League win

Rookie pitcher Andy Sonnanstine pitched impressively for seven innings before giving way to Tampa Bay's beleaguered bullpen, picking up his first victory in the big leagues.

Sonnanastine left with a lead after his debut in Toronto, but the bullpen blew a five run lead in the bottom of the ninth to give the Blue Jays the win that night. Or maybe I should just say the bullpen blew.

Against the Marlins, the righty gave up two earned runs in seven innings, both on solo home runs, while striking out 10. He also set a Devil Rays record by fanning seven batters in a row.

Shawn Camp (6.08 ERA) took over in the eighth and allowed the Florida Marlins to close the gap to 6-4. Casey Fossum came in to record the final out of the inning.

The Rays tacked on another three runs in the top of the ninth, and Al Reyes closed out the game in the bottom of the ninth without allowing a baserunner.

With the five-run lead Reyes was not eligible for a save, but he lowered his ERA to 1.95--easily the best among Rays relievers.


The Rays, right now, have a solid team with the exception of the bullpen. The team has scored runs on a fairly consistent basis despite a number of lineup changes made necessary by injuries.

Brendan Harris has been a key factor in the daily lineup. Harris was acquired when shortstop Ben Zobrist showed himself not yet able to hit Major League pitching. Harris is a solid fielder, albeit without Zobrist's range, but has more than made up for it by hitting .313, and hitting 5 home runs with 23 RBIs.

Rocco Baldelli and B. J. Upton are both out with muscle injuries (hamstring and quadriceps, respectively) but the team hasn't missed a beat so far in their absence.

Pitching has been the Rays main problem all season. Starters other than James Shields (5-0, 3.04) and Scott Kazmir (4-3, 3.92) had ERAs soaring over 7.0, even making the horrible bullpen look good by comparison. Fossum probably rated his move the bullpen based on his being a left-handed pitcher.

Last weekend, the Rays brought up two starting pitchers from Durham. J. P. Howell throws slower than a track & field scene from "Chariots of Fire," but after two starts he's 1-0 with a 4.85 ERA. Sonnanstine's second start leaves him 1-0 with a 5.14 ERA.

With decent pitching from the bullpen, the Rays could have gone 7-0 on this road trip. The bullpen issues will probably not be addressed this year. If the Rays find two solid starters in addition to Shields and Kazmir, this team may be willing to spend its way into contention as early as next year.
By that I mean adding a key piece or two (in the Bullpen?!) to put the team over the top.

Pillar pilloried by Powerline

I noted Paul R. Pillar's nonsensical attack on the administration here.

Powerline blog has an excellent entry
that continues to shed light on the bogus arguments the man is airing from within the executive branch of government--additional evidence of a war on the administration waged from within the structures of that branch.

The key observation is Pillar's claim that Bush did not rely on the National Intelligence Estimate in making the decision to go to war against Iraq, implying that collected intelligence did not inform the decision.

That implication seems entirely specious in light of the intelligence briefings to which the president is privy, and in light of the correspondence between the NIE and the reasons the president offered for waging war on Hussein's regime.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

"In the Know. In the Times"

I decided to see what I would know about William Jefferson, the Louisiana congressman whose Washington D.C. home was raided (with $90,000 turning up in the freezer) in 2006 and who was recently indicted, if I were relying on the St. Petersburg Times.

The congressman only turned up once on the first page of search results (ordered chronologically, newest to oldest). Here's the headline:
La. congressman loses Democrats' backing

Sounds like a snoozer of a story, doesn't it? The headline doesn't exactly scream "corruption" does it? There's no telling from the Times' archive what page the story appeared on. But there are other ways to find out.

I'm glad I checked. I found a story that mentions Jefferson from April 8, 2007 ("On the brink of something big"). The story started, at least, on page 1 of the Sunday "Perspective" section. Jefferson gets his lone mention in paragraph 35 ... I'm guessing that occurs after the story jumps to a different page.

And another one! This one, published on Dec. 3 and written by Bill Maxwell has the following headline:
Ethics trumps skin color

The editorial (page 3 of the "Persective" section) concerns Alcee Hastings, a congressman from Florida with an ethically-challenged history, but Jefferson warrants mention in paragraph 11 (good job, Mr. Maxwell!). This sentence by Maxwell is worth mentioning:
Despite the party's pledge to drain the ethical swamp in Washington, too many black Democratic lawmakers continue to support other blacks with long track records of dishonesty.
The Access World News archive doesn't have the only story contained in the Times' own archive.

Note that it's possible that the archive is incomplete, though the presence of an AP story in the Times' online archive suggests that at least some wire service stories end up there.

So, judging from this we might not know much about Congressman Jefferson. What might we have known?

Via Google News and the Orlando Sentinel:

Should U.S. Rep. William Jefferson resign?

(Orlando Sentinel, June 5, 2007)

Aren't they supposed to wait until at least the tenth paragraph to mention the name? I mean, come on. Oh, wait. Maybe it's not so bad. This is not the paper, but the editorial blog.

Next daily that I was able to recognize ... the Houston Chronicle.
Bipartisan corruption
Rep. William Jefferson's indictment seems to say more about Louisiana's lapses than Washington's
(Houston Chronicle, June 5, 2007)

Jefferson is apparently both a Democrat and a Republican, serving as he does as an example of "bipartisan" corruption. Nice deck there, Chronicle.

At least he wasn't identified as a Republican.

I can't resist including the headline from National Public Radio, which I found on the second page of search results.
Indictment Looms Over New Orleans Recovery

Kind of produces a confused mental image, doesn't it? Almost sounds like the indictment threatens the city of New Orleans.

That does seem to be the implicit argument of the story.

NPR brings up the question of how effective Jefferson can be in helping Louisiana recover, then lets Jefferson provide the answer while the journalists maintain a respectful silence (encompassing contrary opinions from other sources, I might add).
Jefferson represents Louisiana's second congressional district, which includes much of the New Orleans area devastated by Hurricane Katrina. His community still struggles to recover from the effects of the hurricane, with city and state officials actively seeking federal help for the recovery. But the indictment raises questions about Jefferson's ability to effectively champion those efforts, and to lead his district in other pressing matters.

The audio portion may well have an added dimension to it; I'm sticking with an assessment of what they put on the Web site.

Watch, read, conclude.

An except from the Jonathan Miller PBS series "A History of Disbelief." Take careful note of the quotations of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson:

Both quotations are bogus.

The Adams quotation as presented in the video:

"God is an essence we know nothing of. Until this awful blasphemy is got rid of, there will never be any liberal science in the world."
The Adams quotation as presented in a collection of correspondence between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson:
The Europeans are all deeply tainted with prejudices both Ecclesiastical, and Temporal which they can never get rid of; they are all infected with Episcopal and Presbyterian Creeds and confessions of faith, They all believe that great principle which has produced this boundless universe. Newtons universe, and Hershells universe, came down to this little Ball, to be spit-upon by Jews; and untill this awful blasphemy is got rid of, there can never be any liberal science in the world.
(letter to Thomas Jefferson, January 22, 1825) (italics added for emphasis)
I suppose I should note that the first part of the quotation in the video is from an entirely different document. Here is that document (in full, as far as I can tell), from a collection of Adams' works.
When we say God is a spirit, we know what we mean, as well as we do when we say that the pyramids of Egypt are matter. Let us be content, therefore, to believe him to be a spirit, that is, an essence we know nothing of, in which originally and necessarily reside all energy, all power, all capacity, all activity, all wisdom, all goodness.
(John Adams, January 17, 1820)(italics added for emphasis)

The video account produces a quotation very friendly to atheism and unfriendly even to Deism, and they unblushingly cobble together quotations that were five years apart.

Obviously, the "blasphemy" Adams talked about was not the god of unknown essence, but the deity of Jesus of Nazareth. The way the film presents the quotation, one would never know.


The Jefferson quotation as presented in the video:
"The clergy believe that any power confided in me will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly."

Jefferson's letter to Benjamin Rush:
I promised you a letter on Christianity, which I have not forgotten. On the contrary, it is because I have reflected on it, that I find much more time necessary for it than I can at present dispose of. I have a view of the subject which ought to displease neither the rational Christian nor Deists, and would reconcile many to a character they have too hastily rejected. I do not know that it would reconcile the genus irritabile vatum who are all in arms against me. Their hostility is on too interesting ground to be softened. The delusion into which the X.Y.Z. plot shewed it possible to push the people; the successful experiment made under the prevalence of that delusion on the clause of the constitution, which, while it secured the freedom of the press, covered also the freedom of religion, had given to the clergy a very favorite hope of obtaining an establishment of a particular form of Christianity thro' the U.S.; and as every sect believes its own form the true one, every one perhaps hoped for his own, but especially the Episcopalians & Congregationalists. The returning good sense of our country threatens abortion to their hopes, & they believe that any portion of power confided to me, will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly; for I have sworn upon the altar of god, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. But this is all they have to fear from me: & enough too in their opinion, & this is the cause of their printing lying pamphlets against me, forging conversations for me with Mazzei, Bishop Madison, &c., which are absolute falsehoods without a circumstance of truth to rest on; falsehoods, too, of which I acquit Mazzei & Bishop Madison, for they are men of truth.
The video paints Jefferson in opposition to all the purposes of the clergy, omitting the context pointing directly at the establishment of a national religion and Jefferson's reference to swearing "upon the altar of god." I suppose it wouldn't do to let Jefferson swear on the altar of god since the idea is to make him appear hostile to religion generally.

The Miller production takes substantial liberties with these quotations, either because of poor research, ineptitude or overt dishonesty. Words are added without any admission of tampering with the text, context is dropped, and quotations from separate documents are combined to give new and foreign meaning to both.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Hitchens-Roberts: "The Great God Debate"

Hugh Hewitt hosted a debate between atheist Christopher Hitchens, whose writing I sometimes admire, and Mark Roberts, who has provided some good commentary on Hewitt's radio show over the years.

I've reviewed Hitchens' presentation of his atheism before. What I've seen of his arguments thus far surprises me a little for its lack of sophistication. For example the debate opens with the issue of moral foundations.

HH: I want to begin, though, by asking a question of Christopher Hitchens and Mark Roberts that comes from Christopher’s brother, Peter, in the Daily Telegraph this week, where he writes, “Where is Christopher’s certain knowledge of what is right and wrong supposed to have come from?” Christopher Hitchens, how do you respond to your brother?

CH: Well, it’s the most commonly asked question of unbelievers, or perhaps I should say atheists, and I regard it, though you put it very politely, as a slightly insulting one. But the suggestion that you make is that if I don’t respect a celestial dictatorship that’s unalterable, nothing is going to prevent me from lying, cheating, raping, thieving and so on. Well, I can’t exactly tell you why I don’t do those things, or why I enjoy, say, going to give blood, which I do. After all, I don’t really lose a pint, but somebody gains one, and I have a rare blood group, and I might need some blood one day myself, so it seems an all-around very satisfying transaction. In a sense, do I need to say much more than that?

That's not the whole of it, of course, but Hitchens' opening provides an apt enough picture of atheist notions of morality. Ayn Rand may have provided the most vigorous attempt to date, in spite of its many problems.

I'll probably draw out some of the more interesting arguments for commentary over the next couple of weeks.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Rays' bullpen spoils Sonnanstine's debut


The Rays put some ugly on Roy Halliday, setting up Andy Sonnanstine for his first big-league win, but the Rays' bullpen gave away a 5 run lead in the bottom of the ninth inning with Tim Corcoran putting the cherry on the futility sundae by walking Aaron Hill with the bases loaded--on five pitches.

Final score, 12-11.

And that's all I've got to say about that.

Blumner: Republicans are stupid

OK, not in so many words. It might as well be the title of her Sunday editorial from this past week, however.

Blumner informs us that Gore was right about climate change, and moreover that he is right about American voters being dumbed-down by television news.

And she's got proof. Sort of.

This is Gore's other main point. A citizenry that abandons the dynamic exercise of reading and the reasoning process it engages, for the passive absorption of emotionally charged television images, is susceptible to choosing the worst kind of leaders. And it has.

President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney could never have held on to power and committed the wrongs they have against our constitutional system without a public too wrapped up in the happenings of Natalee Holloway in Aruba to care about domestic warrantless wiretapping.

Gore meticulously documents how Americans have been sleepwalking through their duties as citizens while this administration has been systematically destroying the pillars of our democracy.
(the St. Petersburg Times)

There you have it. Bush and Cheney winning re-election had to do with the stupidity of voters. It had nothing to do with John Kerry's poor campaigning, poor debate performances or flip-flops. And what's with the "domestic" warrantless wiretapping? Number one, the NSA program monitored international calls, not domestic ones. I guess if one end of the call is in the United States, then it qualifies as "domestic" for Blumner's way-above-television-news intellect.
Two, warrantless wiretapping arguably falls within the president's article 2 powers under the Constitution. Blumner's entitled her opinion, of course.

The title of her piece in the Times is "We're the boobs in front of the tube"--but she doesn't really refer to herself. It's not like Blumner would ever have voted for Bush/Cheney. It's your fault, Bush/Cheney voter. You're stupid.

She offers us the wisdom of former television newsman Dan Rather, of fake but true document fame: Television news has been "dumbed down and tarted up."

This attitude is so typical among newspaper folks. They don't acknowledge the falsehoods they seem to eagerly promulgate (Bush tricked Americans into thinking that Iraq was responsible for 9-11, and Blumner's own statement here about "domestic" wiretapping). The problem, apparently, is that the American public will not believe the lies of print journalism in favor of the lies of television journalism (though I can imagine that plenty of the lies of television news would get a thumb's up from Blumner).

She decries the "drummed up" threat of terrorism (great timing with the recent terrorism plot foiled at Kennedy airport, Robyn!), comparing the chances of dying in a car or plane accident to the chances of dying in a terrorist attack. Funny--I'll be she never used that tack to defend the low number of troop deaths in Iraq.

From there she leaks her apparent belief that Democrat gains in Congress reflect a repudiation of the war in general. Talk about an evidence of superficial reading.

Blumner is a hack. Here's exhibit A: She calls Gore's book "meticulously documented" yet here is Gore's representation of the main point of his book:
It is a seriously indictment of our political discourse that almost three-quarters of Americans were so easily led to believe that Saddam Hussein was personally responsible for the attacks of September 11, 2001, and that so many Americans still believe that most of the hijackers on September 11 were Iraqis.
("Assault on Reason" @

Gore's buying the same media-fed lie that Noam Chomsky and Paul R. Pillar bought. See my post here. Yes, Mr. Gore, it's a serious indictment, at least in terms of gravity. Just one problem. It's a false charge.

It's too ironic for words that Blumner excoriates the broadcast media for engaging in a technique she emulates in print.


Last up, the Sawyer interview of Gore. It was after viewing this that I realized that Gore is peddling untruth in his "meticulously" researched tome.

Sawyer, to me, seems excited at the prospect of another Gore run at the presidency. She gives him no hard questions, just the softball question about the political dimension of the book (which is obvious). I think Sawyer wanted Gore to announce he was running, hoping that the wonderful Al Gore would personally effect the changes called for in his book.

The interview also gives more information than does Blumner's print editorial.
Have a look; see what I'm talking about:

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Shakeup of starting pitching bears fruit

Pitcher J. P. Howell got the call up from AAA Durham and responded by allowing just one run in eight innings in his 2007 debut for the Devil Rays.

Howell beat the Kansas City Royals 5-1 to salvage one game of a three-game series with the AL Central cellar-dweller.

Starters James Shields (4-0) and Scott Kazmir (3-3) have pitched pretty well, but the other three starting pitchers had combined for a 6-16 record, with Casey Fossum's swollen 7.74 ERA the lowest of the three.

Fossum has been assigned to the bullpen and Jae Seu (8.10 ERA) was designated for assignment at Durham.

Starting pitcher Andy Sonnanstine was also called up from Durham and is scheduled to make his major-league debut on Tuesday against the Toronto Blue Jays and pitcher Roy Halliday.

Sonnanstine had 6 wins and a 2.66 ERA with the Durham Bulls this season.

Many Rays fans have questioned why the club hasn't put more into this year's pitching staff. The club is using a wise plan, however. Small-market clubs need to pick their spots to temporarily balloon the payroll to put a team into the playoffs with a shot at the World Series. The young team has shown an ability to score runs, even with some of its young players going through batting slumps, and the defense makes up for many of its errors of inexperience with superior range. Rookie outfielders Elijah Dukes (4 assists) and Delmon Young (9 assists) have impressed with their arms and their range, for example.

Adding a year or three of maturity to the defense and the pitching should make it worth spending extra money on a couple of players to help put the team over the top.

[Update] I was caught once again by the four-game series where I expected three. James Shields beat the Royals the next day to enable the Rays to split the four-game series.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Criswell predicts: Russia: 1973

I predict that the present government of Russia will continue until 1973, when a new leader will appear on the Soviet scene and cause great changes in that country. In the five years of his rule, he will lead Russia into a Free Enterprise system, with only a few labels of Communism remaining.
--The Amazing Criswell

Nice try, but Leonid Brezhnev stayed in power from 1964 through 1982 and wasn't much of a reformer. Maybe a little less combative than Kruschev, but it was Brezhnev who got the Soviets involved in Afghanistan--and the USSR was still about as communist as ever at that point.

"87% of Criswell's Predictions Have Come True!"
--blurb on the back of the book.

Doing Watt's right

I've heard from Curtis Mobley, who had a personal Web page that repeated the bogus James Watt quotation ("We don't have to protect the environment; the Second Coming is at hand").

Mobley agreed that the quotation is bogus, and affirmed an intention to update his page to avoid perpetuating the error.

He also emphasized that Watt was a "first class religious kook."

Whatever. I'm just concerned about accuracy. Opinions are exempt. My appreciation goes out to Dr. Mobley for his willingness to correct the record.

Nothing new to report on the North Texas Skeptics.

Say Watt?

I've decided to stay on the James Watt quotation issue, since simply posting some decent research on an out-of-the-way blog is ultimately going to do little to set the record straight.

I'm going to find the main sources responsible for distorting history and hold them to account until they make some changes.

I've contacted a number of them so far, but so far as I know not much has happened--but I expect to update the progress or lack thereof regularly.

I'll add this to the pile of evidence, since it's a source I haven't quoted before now.

February: Reagan's newly posted Secretary of the Interior, James Watt, a former industry lobbyist, testifies before Congress: "That is the delicate balance the Secretary of the Interior must have: to be steward for the natural resources for this generation as well as future generations. I do not know how many future generations we can count on before the Lord returns; whatever it is we have to manage with a skill to leave the resources needed for future generations." Author Austin Miles interprets Watt's statement to read, "We don't have to protect the environment, the Second Coming is at hand."
I don't vouch for anything else at the site. I haven't verified the Miles statement from the primary source, either. Not yet, anyway. This account at least fits with what I've learned thus far.

I lean strongly toward the hypothesis that somebody got careless and strung those two quotations together, attributing them solely to Watt.

The push to fix the record will go under the "accuracy in quotations" tag.