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I’m willing to believe that Iranian munitions are finding their way into the hands of insurgents in Iraq. It’s entirely plausible. I’m even willing to believe that the Iranian government might be deliberately arming Iraqi insurgents. Despite that, I think expanding the war into Iran would be an even bigger disaster than it is in Iraq.

But look, Telegraph, if you’re going to run an article about allegedly Iranian munitions found in Iraq, well, first it would help if the anonymous American “senior defense department officials” making this claim were actually personally stand by their claims. Second, you might want to accompany the article with a photo of an actual Iranian mortar round, and not one from Pakistan. Here’s a hint: Iranian munitions are labeled in Farsi, complete with Farsi numerals.

Same for you, Washington Post, and you, LA Times.

Update: Don’t take this one to the bank. Turns out that maybe some Iranian munitions manufacturers do use western writing on their bombs. (That’s from a .IR domain, so it probably really is Iranian, though note that in the image the text is in a different font and different location on the mortar than in the US-released photo. Also, the Iranian image has obviously been Photoshopped.)

The anonymous American “explosives expert” said that the mortar’s tail fin was distinctively Iranian. Said tail fin is not visible in the released photos.

Also, General Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he was not aware of the briefing, and is not standing by the claim that the Iranian government is supplying Iraqis with weapons.

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The funniest thing about this afternoon’s Mooninite-induced panic is that the billboards don’t actually look like bombs. Real bombs are hidden away inside innocuous-looking containers. The blinky lights and LEDs counting down to zero are artifacts of Hollywood dramas, a modern-day symbol of “bomb”, the cinematic equivalent of the shiny black sphere with a fuse sticking out that you see in cartoons.

The city of Boston was shut down today not because of devices that looked like bombs, but because of devices that looked like Hollywood fake representations of bombs.

avram: (Mooninite)
Isn’t it nice to know our government is keeping us safe from cartoon ads?
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Libertarians like to remind people how every law passed by state authority, no matter how minor, is ultimately backed up by brutal force. I’m not a libertarian, but here’s some evidence backing them up:

An SVSU student who made headlines for being tasered during a struggle at a Saginaw City Council meeting after refusing to remove his hat is telling his side of an unusual series of events that has left him facing criminal charges that could result in several years in prison.

(via BoingBoing)

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Does anyone else think that Moqtada Sadr looks a little like Stephen Furst?

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Back in 1989, when that big quake hit San Francisco, I called up [livejournal.com profile] drcpunk, who was then at UCLA, because I was a lifelong New Yorker, and had no idea that San Francisco and Los Angeles were 300+ miles apart.

Now I’ve got Google Earth to reassure me that Jakarta and Rembang are likewise 300+ miles apart, so I probably shouldn’t worry that [livejournal.com profile] tinpan might have been on that ferry.

Though actually, the ferry was traveling between Semarang (near Rembang) and Borneo, an entirely different island. So even less reason to worry.

See, twenty minutes ago, I had no idea of any of that. I didn’t even know that Borneo was a (partly) Indonesian island. Thanks to the Internet, I can go from total ignoramus to looking like I know what I’m talking about in mere minutes!

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You’ve all heard about Tim Ted Haggard, the powerful Christian evangelist who has frequent discussion with GW Bush, and how Mike Jones, a gay bodybuilder and masseuse, said a few days ago that Haggard had frequently had sex with him and that he’d seen Haggard use methamphetamine.

Haggard denied the accusations, claiming that Jones was lying, but stepped down temporarily from his position as senior pastor of the New Life Church in Colorado Springs so the charges could be investigated.

Then Haggard admitted that some of the charges were true — he had purchased meth using Jones to get him in touch with the dealer, but he had done so just for curiosity’s sake, and thrown the drugs away unused.

Oh, and he’d also gotten massages from Jones.

So at this point, I’ve got one burning question on my mind: Is Haggard the “200 Percent Straight” guy from the funniest Dan Savage column ever?

Actually, a second question: Why do American media straight-facedly report on the results of polygraph tests as if these tests actually had some meaning? They might as well tell us about news figures’ tarot readings or horoscopes.

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Kevin Baker’s “Stabbed in the Back!” from last month’s Harper’s Magazine (thank to PNH for pointing it out) makes a good sequel to Richard Hofstadter’s “The Paranoid Style in American Politics”, published in Harper’s more than 40 years ago. And it’s convinced me to add the Harpers.org RSS feed to my regular trawl. I should have long ago, since I’m a fan of Paul Ford, who designed the Harpers.org site and writes their weekly roundup of the world’s news.
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Outrage time again! Even though I’ve stopped reading the New York Times in general, I’d been keeping up my old habit of skimming the Week in Review section (and sometimes the magazine) at my local coffee shop on Sundays. No more, I’ve had enough.

The final straw was the latest column by Byron Calame, the Times’s current “public editor”, the guy hired to try to convince us all that the paper really does, honest, have some shred of journalistic respectability. Here he is trying to justify the May 23rd front-page article on Senator and Bill Clinton’s marriage. First, Calame reinforce the media dynamic recently described by Jamison Foser of Media Matters, the habit of journalists to portray liberals and Democrats as politically calculating, reserving authenticity for the GOP.

Then we learn what Times executive editor Bill Keller thought about the matter:

When it comes to deciding whether to report on political figures’ private lives, “few cases are as clear as the Clinton marriage,” Mr. Keller wrote to me in an e-mail last week. “It would be irresponsible NOT to take a hard look at how these two people relate and operate as a couple.”

Do we all remember former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan’s famous Wall St Journal editorial about how Elian Gonzalez had been rescued from drowning by magical angelic dolphins? Here she is justifying her suggestion that Castro used recordings of President Clinton’s phone sex with Monica Lewinsky to blackmail Clinton into sending Gonzalez back to Cuba:

Is it irresponsible to speculate? It is irresponsible not to.

That’s the journalistic standard the NY Times is now following.

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I tend to assume that everybody reads as many current-events blogs as I do, so I don’t do a lot of current-events blogging, since Jim Henley and the Nielsen Haydens say just about anything I could say better than I would. But actually, a bunch of you read as much or more, and another bunch read pretty much none. Anyway, since I’m home sick (I felt pretty crappy when I got up this morning), a couple of recent items:

In comedy news, the BBC did a recent bit on the Apple (Music) vs Apple (Computers) trademark dispute (which Apple won). They invited over Guy Kewney, an IT expert, to talk about it. Due to some mix-up at reception, they wound up interviewing his cab driver instead, thinking it was him. YouTube has the hilarious footage. I love the sequence of expressions that flashes over the cabbie’s face when the introduce him, and he realizes what’s happened. You can actually read his mind in that second: Oh no, they think I’m that other guy! Should I tell them? Nah, I’ll brazen it out. (Update: Not actually a cab driver. But still the wrong Guy, and still pretty funny.)

And for the latest government outrage, ABC News is reporting that they were told by an anonymous “senior federal law enforcement official” that the government is examining news media’s phone records to try and find confidential sources through traffic analysis. Props to Jim Henley for pointing out that “there always turns out to be more to [these revelations] than we’re initially assured”, and Gary Farber for having been all over this FISA/NSA/data mining thing since December.
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Last Week:
Rob Cordry’s “Racist Like Me” sketch on The Daily Show, 5 April 2006.

Gregory S Baylor, director of the Christian Legal Society’s Center for Law and Religious Freedom, quoted in the LA Times, 10 April 2006:

“Think how marginalized racists are. […] If we don’t address this now, it will only get worse.”

(news link via [livejournal.com profile] mister_wolf)

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A chiropractor who claims he can treat anyone by reaching back in time to when an injury occurred has attracted the attention of state regulators.

Reaching through time to cure injuries? Could he be — the Conciliator?!

Burda calls his treatment “Bahlaqeem.”

“It is a made-up word and, to my knowledge, has no known meaning except for this intended purpose. It does, however, have a soothing vibrational influence and contains the very special number of nine letters,” Burda’s Web site says.

Made-up word? I guess not, then.

(link via [livejournal.com profile] supergee)

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More from Kitzmiller v Dover:

Footnote 7, page 46:

Throughout the trial and in various submissions to the Court, Defendants vigorously argue that the reading of the statement is not “teaching” ID but instead is merely “making students aware of it.” In fact, one consistency among the Dover School Board members’ testimony, which was marked by selective memories and outright lies under oath, as will be discussed in more detail below, is that they did not think they needed to be knowledgeable about ID because it was not being taught to the students. We disagree.

Page 121:

In fact, one unfortunate theme in this case is the striking ignorance concerning the concept of ID amongst Board members. Conspicuously, Board members who voted for the curriculum change testified at trial that they had utterly no grasp of ID. To illustrate, consider that Geesey testified she did not understand the substance of the curriculum change, yet she voted for it.

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Wow. So, that Kitzmiller v Dover School District decision (that’s a PDF), great reading, eh? What, you haven’t been reading the 139-page decision on the Pennsylvania Intelligent Design suit? Here, some highlights:

Pages 24, 25:

Dr. Haught testified that this argument for the existence of God was advanced early in the 19th century by Reverend Paley and defense expert witnesses Behe and Minnich admitted that their argument for ID based on the “purposeful arrangement of parts” is the same one that Paley made for design. […] The only apparent difference between the argument made by Paley and the argument for ID, as expressed by defense expert witnesses Behe and Minnich, is that ID’s “official position” does not acknowledge that the designer is God.

Page 28:

Moreover, in turning to Defendants’ lead expert, Professor Behe, his testimony at trial indicated that ID is only a scientific, as opposed to a religious, project for him; however, considerable evidence was introduced to refute this claim. Consider, to illustrate, that Professor Behe remarkably and unmistakably claims that the plausibility of the argument for ID depends upon the extent to which one believes in the existence of God. […] As no evidence in the record indicates that any other scientific proposition’s validity rests on belief in God, nor is the Court aware of any such scientific propositions, Professor Behe’s assertion constitutes substantial evidence that in his view, as is commensurate with other prominent ID leaders, ID is a religious and not a scientific proposition.

Page 137:

The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy.

And here’s a great bit. Michael Behe, expert witness for the defense and author of ID book Darwin’s Black Box (in which he claims that the immune system is irreducibly complex and therefore cannot possibly be explained by evolution) posted in an ID blog about his testimony:

The cross examination was fun too, and showed that the other side really does have only rhetoric and bluster. At one point the lawyer for the other side who was cross examining me ostentatiously piled a bunch of papers on the witness stand that putatively had to do with the evolution of the immune system. But it was obvious from a cursory examination that they were more examples of hand waving speculations, which I had earlier discussed in my direct testimony. So I was able to smile and say that they had nothing more to say than the other papers. I then thought to myself, that here the NCSE, ACLU, and everyone in the world who is against ID had their shot to show where we were wrong, and just trotted out more speculation. It actually made me feel real good about things.

Here’s how the judge saw things (page 78):

In fact, on cross-examination, Professor Behe was questioned concerning his 1996 claim that science would never find an evolutionary explanation for the immune system. He was presented with fifty-eight peer-reviewed publications, nine books, and several immunology textbook chapters about the evolution of the immune system; however, he simply insisted that this was still not sufficient evidence of evolution, and that it was not “good enough.” (23:19 (Behe)).

We find that such evidence demonstrates that the ID argument is dependent upon setting a scientifically unreasonable burden of proof for the theory of evolution.

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Y’know, I actually feel a little stupid for complaining about the NY Times misreporting about the Google/AOL deal the other day, when they’ve done far, far worse: Sat for a year on a story about the Bush administration’s program of wiretapping Americans without warrants. They’ve fallen a long way since the days of the Pentagon Papers.
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NY Times, “Time Warner Plans to Sell 5% of AOL to Google”:

Finally, around 9 p.m., Richard D. Parsons, chief executive of Time Warner told Eric E. Schmidt, chief executive of Google, that he would accept Google’s recently sweetened offer. Google, which prides itself on the purity of its search results, agreed to give favored placement to content from AOL throughout its site, something it has never done before.

Well, that’s kinda distressing. Let’s see what other sources have to say.

LA Times, “Google Poised to Invest $1 Billion in AOL”:

To close the deal, Google made some key concessions.

Its negotiators agreed to promote AOL’s services across Google.com, a change for the company that made famous the sparse white Web page. Google also hired AOL to sell non-search ads to Google’s advertising partners.

Oh, they’re just talking about ad banners, not search results, it sounds like. Let’s look some more.

San Jose Mercury News, “Google buying 5 percent of AOL for $1 billion”:

The partnership could also herald a new experience for people who use Google’s search engine, because it allows AOL to place advertising with images on Google’s search results pages. Until now, Google’s search engine has been devoid of any image ads.

Red Herring, “AOL Talks Just to Google”:

The two will also deepen their advertising relationship. AOL will sell advertising for Google’s search results on AOL’s sites. In return, Google will promote AOL’s sites in the sponsored links in its search results. It will also include AOL’s collection of online videos in its results.

Yep, looks like everyone but the NY Times agrees that they’re talking about ads, not the search results themselves. I think it’s time to just plain stop reading the Paper of Record.

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Wikipedia’s been in the news a bit recently. John Seigenthaler, former administrative assistant to Robert Kennedy, discovered recently that a prankster had posted a biography of him to Wikipedia, claiming that he‘d been thought to have been involved in the assassinations of the two Kennedy brothers. Painful, but there are assholes all over, and at least he was able to get the offending material changed; try doing that with dead trees. (It took the NY Times 18 months to apologize for falsely accusing Wen Ho Lee of espionage, and all those papers are still out there accusing him in libraries all over the world.)

Some jackass is trying to gin up a class action suit. he claims that it took Seigenthaler “more than four months anguish and hard work” to get his Wikipedia entry changed — clear bullshit, since all Seigenthaler needed to do was log in and change it himself. This is probably a mis-reading of the line from Seigenthaler’s article, in which he says that the false information stood for four months; that’s probably the span between when it was posted and when he saw it.

And that’s about typical of the quality lawsuit site’s arguments. Here, check out the news articles they link to. Right now there’s four of them, all articles on Baou.com. One covers a spat over linking to QuakeAID, an earthquake relief organization, but it doesn’t bother explaining the arguments behind the spat, or that QuakeAID is owned by the Baou Trust. Another goes on about Nazi salutes and socialism and the holocaust (or “Wholecaust”) and holy crap, it’s like an autism sufferer ate a few Ayn Rand books and threw up into the keyboard.

Piling on is Andrew Orlowski, who must have gotten tired of attacking Google. Notice the name Daniel Brandt in in Orlowski’s article, described as a “researcher” and “prominent critic” of Wikipedia? That name sounded familiar, and so I googled around, and it turns out Brandt was the guy behind the anti-Google site Google-Watch, who got upset that Google gave his business site, NameBase, a big link farm, a lower rank than he thought it deserved.
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Old Jewish joke:

Three Reform rabbis are bragging about how liberal their synagogues are. One starts off “Our temple is so liberal, we allow smoking on Yom Kippur.”

The second says “That’s nothing; on Yom Kipper we brought in a caterer and served ham sandwiches.”

The third says “Ah, you two are practically Orthodox. At Yom Kippur, our temple had a sign up: Closed for the Holidays.”

And now, the news: Many megachurches will be closed December 25th. (via GetReligion)
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So there's this news story that I'm seeing people link to, about a college student suing her school under the Americans With Disabilities Act because the school won't let her keep her pet ferret in the dorm, and she needs the ferret to calm her during panic attacks. And yeah, I'm thinking how odd that the school is actually enforcing that policy. RIT had a birds-and-fish-only dorm pets policy, and our hall was full of pet rabbits and cats. The security people would walk past seeing you playing with a cat, and they'd smile and say "Nice goldfish you got there" and walk on. No problem.

Anyway, the bit I haven't seen anyone mention is that the school is called Our Lady of the Lake University. Do they let the students keep swords?

April 2017



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