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Inflatable Life Size Russian…

[ 11 ] August 25, 2008 |

For several months I’ve been making the case that Patterson needs a T-72, or at least an Su-25. This argument, unaccountably, has fallen on deaf ears. Now, however, we have an opportunity to deter our enemies without breaking state, Federal, and international law. If we acquire just a few of these inflatable S-300 SAMs, along with a couple of inflatable Su-27s and maybe a Hind or two, then Fletcher and Georgetown wouldn’t dare attack us…

Science, Religion, and the First Amendment

[ 258 ] August 25, 2008 |

Following up on Rob’s post, if a public high school biology teacher teaches his or her students that there is no evidence for the existence of God (or, in what amounts to the same thing, that science provides no evidence for the existence of God and the only valid evidence on that question is what counts as evidence within the confines of science), then that teacher isn’t merely teaching science, but rather espousing scientism, which for the purposes of First Amendment establishment clause doctrine is a quasi-religious view. For a teacher to espouse a religious or quasi-religious view in a public school classroom is a violation of the establishment clause according to current constitutional doctrine.

Parenthetical edited for clarity.

A Sycophant’s Lament

[ 25 ] August 25, 2008 |

Shorter Sean Wilentz: “John McCain will tell Vladimir Putin to sit down and cut the bullshit. This represents the kind of ‘comprehensive vision of international politics’ that Obama lacks.”

Reading his praise of McCain at least makes me understand why he repeatedly goes too far in exculpating Jackson’s racist militarism. Also, for further amusement remember that Wilentz is also a hack JFK worshipper. I think this makes it even more clear that the experiential standards (like his ex post facto primary system preferences) are strictly ad hoc.

[Via publius, who has much more.]

Turning High School Biology into a Battleground Over the Existence of God

[ 159 ] August 25, 2008 |

I love PZ, but I really can’t imagine a less effective way of trying to teach evolution than declaring to high school juniors that religion is evil and there is no God, and then trying to debate them on that point. No, there isn’t “a dark evil gnawing at the heart of the American public”; to the extent that religion can be characterized as a dark evil (and I would take exception with that), it dominates, rather than gnaws at, the heart of the American public. A science teacher who demands that his or her students reject religion in the course of a high school biology class is doing those students (and science) a disservice, and shouldn’t be allowed in the classroom. To be sure, the biology teacher who went out of her way to undermine the teaching of evolution also doesn’t belong in the classroom, but the latter doesn’t excuse the former, and (more importantly) the former is no antidote to the latter. It isn’t appeasement to recognize that a high school biology class is hardly the place to start a war between science and religion.

Let me now give the normal caveats; while I find evangelical atheists annoying, I also find their position more compelling than that of evangelical Christians. Moreover, it’s obvious that religious extremists pose a greater danger to freedom, tolerance, secular democracy, etc. than evangelical atheists (although I’m less sure that’s because of the content of belief than because the former outnumber the latter by a 10-to-1 margin), and that the that inroads religious extremists make into public institutions should be challenged whenever it is productive to do so. Finally, in the interests of disclosure I should also note that I think PZ (and Dawkins) are dead wrong about the roles science and religion play in human civilization, but I don’t want this comment thread to degenerate (as some in the past have) into competitive screeching on that point.

We are all POWs now

[ 41 ] August 25, 2008 |

I see no reason why John McCain should accrue all the rhetorical gain from the years he spent in Hanoi, cleansing humanity’s sins not living in a house. That’s why, when the new semester begins in a week or so, I’ll be taking every opportunity to remind students and colleagues that because John McCain was a prisoner of war, their complaints and criticisms will not be taken seriously. When students, for example, wonder why their papers have not been marked in their usual, borderline-timely fashion, I’ll explain that like John McCain — who was once a POW — I did not have a pen handy, and I was probably thinking about more important things. Or when colleagues wonder how I could have “forgotten” to attend yet another faculty senate meeting to help ratify decisions that have already been made by our natural and bureaucratic superiors, I will remind them that John McCain once missed five years of meetings when he was being held captive in Hanoi. I also hope to use John McCain’s POW status to relieve me of cat-litter-scooping duties as well as the burden of paying for my own drinks, and to immunize me against the usual accusations of slothfulness and general moral dissipation. I suppose if I were running for some kind of public office, this might constitute a decent campaign strategy.

The Price You Pay For Forgetting The Mute Button Is Your Friend

[ 14 ] August 25, 2008 |

In my defense, I was engaged in Real Work and had the Devil Rays/Sox game on in the background, so I needed the sound. But as bad as seeing the Rays lose after a beyond-farcical call when A.J. Pierzynski elbowing Willy Aybar resulted in an interference call…on Aybar, hearing the Pale Hose’s uber-hack announcers try to rationalize the whole thing was much worse.

Admittedly, I may have been upset because the Mets somehow managed to lose by giving up — in the same inning, I swear! — the first post-Clinton administration homer for both Brad Asumus and Darrin Erstad. Do you know what the odds of that are? It’s in the billions! It couldn’t happen, wouldn’t happen! Did you not see you were being set up after the second hit?

Ummmm . . .

[ 33 ] August 25, 2008 |

. . . what was that?

The GOP Glass Ceiling

[ 13 ] August 24, 2008 |

I suppose the latest Kristol/PUMA meme is so obviously disingenuous it’s barely worth responding to, but for the record.

Joe Biden, Drug Warrior

[ 35 ] August 24, 2008 |

Radley Balko points out that Biden’s voting record on drug issues in particular and civil liberties in general is quite bad. (Edit: As a couple of commentators have noted, Biden’s overall civil liberties record isn’t as bad as Balko is making it out to be).

FWIW I think on average too much attention gets paid to VP picks (this rule contains an exception for nominating one of Satan’s actual minions). Still there are a lot of things about the Biden pick that are troublesome. Yglesias notes that Biden’s Iraq vote seems to have been based on the rather strange theory that an Iraq war skeptic could influence the process in a positive way by supporting the Bush administration’s push for maximum latitude in going to war.

Further thoughts: What really bugs me about the Biden pick is that he voted for the war, and picking him inevitably blurs the message of what a gigantic mistake that was. It also reinforces the myth that it was “political suicide” to vote against the war in 2002. In fact more than half of the Democratic members of Congress voted against the war, including a solid minority of senators, and of course far from being political suicide, there’s no real doubt Clinton would be the nominee if she had simply done the right thing at the time. As Scott pointed out yesterday, the Beltway wisdom on Iraq remains so twisted that having voted for the war makes Biden more acceptable in the eyes of the Villagers.

Bird Men of Bosnia

[ 8 ] August 23, 2008 |

If anyone doubted the necessity of a War on (Some Species of Pigeons Who Smuggle Some Kinds of) Drugs, this should settle the hash, so to speak:

Bosnian police have impounded a pigeon after discovering prisoners used it to smuggle drugs into one of the country’s highest security jails, an official said Thursday.

“The guards suspected the animal might be involved in drug smuggling once they noticed four prisoners visibly intoxicated shortly after the pigeon landed on a prison window,” Zenica prison official Josip Pojavnik told AFP.

All four inmates had tested positive for heroin, said Pojavnik, adding disciplinary proceedings had been launched against the inmates.

The drugs, he added, had probably been stuffed into tiny bags attached to the legs of the carrier pigeon, which one of the prisoners had previously been allowed to keep as a pet in his cell.

There was a time in my life when a bird like this would have come in handy. Now, I’d be happy to discover a pigeon that’s capable of mowing my lawn.

I Knew Delaware Was a Slave State…

[ 33 ] August 23, 2008 |

…but when did it secede?

…if elected, Biden will be the first President or Vice President from Delaware. Has Delaware produced any other major party candidates for either office?

Wanker of the Cycle

[ 2 ] August 23, 2008 |

Ron Fournier. See also.

This is the Hot Soup wanker? Wow, that’s world class.