Friday, January 30, 2009

The environment must degrade to save the economy

CNN ran a piece today (no link cause I'm writing this on an iPod) that reports economists are warning that Pres. Obama can't both save the enviroment and the economy. Think about that. I hope Pres Obama does not fall into this either or trap. When will we begin to see that saving the environment is to save the economy.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Enough is enough

The story of the California woman who has given birth to octuplets is making a buzz. And why not? That is amazing, weird, the kind of human interest story that gets people talking. Good news here

This morning, however, the vapid 24 hour news cycle, which apparently doesn't have enough stuff to report on, digs deeper into the octoplets.

Caught a segment by CBS Hattie Kaufman. Generally I like her stuff, she seems like a responsible reporter. But this piece was too much. I couldn't find the video of it but here is a print version

Ms. Kaufmann is interviewing this person, cloaked, who doesn;t want to be identfifed, who knows the mother and reveals that she has 6 other kids. That the mother is "young" and lives with her family (parents, grandparents). Oohhhhhhhhh. If this isn't enough, then Ms, Kaufmann goes to the woman's house and knocks on the door, a grandfather answers the door and tells her to go away. Yeah, more people should do that....This isn't anyone's business (yet) but the family's.

Ms, Kaufman surveys the neighborhood, modest, small homes, 2-3 bedrooms....where are the kids going to live?

For me, 14 kids is enough and so is this kind of reporting. It would be one thing if the family was willing to talk to the press; quite another if they do not. Interviewing cloaked "friends" is outrageous. this is not a national issue.

Find something important to report on: like the economy. Early Show's generally like light, happy news. Grinning parents and tiny babies breathing on their own, great early morning stuff. But to suggest "sinister" things as Ms. Kaufmann's piece does.....shame on you.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


Teens (especially girls) texting sexy messages or even racy photos of themselves to teen boys. What is the world coming to? My teen daughter has told me of this going on and a couple parents of boys I know have told me their boys have received such text messages. (used to be a perfumed hanky, no?)

Anyway, the press blew it up, but those of you thinking we should shut down the internet and phones.....a counter view: here

New Features at The Steiger Counter

A couple of new features at The Steiger Counter.

First, after a hiatus during the election season, the PoltiFact feed is back. I like this little digest, courtesy of my old hometown paper, The St. Petersburg Times. Second,And the SpTimes has include The Obameter. I wish they had a special feed for that, maybe they will add it later, but I've added a link in the "news for serious junkies" section. What is The Obameter? It is a list (which undoubtedly will expand) of Candidate and now President Obama's promises. I think the Obameter's authors have already identified 500 promises Candidate Obama made and The Obameter will keep track of how he is doing on those promises.

Third, something that is called the "Contexts Crawler." (found below the PolitFact window)Contexts is the American Sociological Association;s attempt to publish a popular sociology magazine, but last I heard, few nonsociologists is still not "popular" enough. I think this crawler searches newsfeeds looking for sociologists who are quoted or profiled. Frankly, this kind of thing, "sociologists in the news" always struck me as a bit of boosterism. But, now that I received my letter from my university that officially, with the stamp of approval of our Board of Trustees that sociology is dept, no major, and unstated, no new hires for sociologists, a little boost is probably what .... I ... need.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

"The United States does not torture. It's against our laws, and it's against our values,"

So said President Bush on Sept 6, 2006.

A NYT article based on an interview with Susan Crawford, who is a neutral legal official involved with the GITMO detainees. The article is here

Excerpts and commentary follow:


We tortured [Mohammed al-]Qahtani," said Susan J. Crawford, in her first
interview since being named convening authority of military commissions by
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in February 2007. "His treatment met the legal
definition of torture. And that's why I did not refer the case" for prosecution.

No, she must be wrong because see above for what President Bush said. Of course, Ms. Crawford let's President Bush off the hook by noting that everything authorized was legal, it just got out of hand:

"The techniques they used were all authorized, but the manner in which they
applied them was overly aggressive and too persistent. . . . You think of
torture, you think of some horrendous physical act done to an individual. This
was not any one particular act; this was just a combination of things that had a
medical impact on him, that hurt his health. It was abusive and uncalled for.
And coercive. Clearly coercive. It was that medical impact that pushed me over
the edge" to call it torture, she said.
As I read on, however, I got the feeling that Judge Crawford was just sick about this, her loyal republicanness, however, keeps her from stating what is obvious, even as she tries to deny it. some more:

"There's no doubt in my mind he would've been on one of those planes had he
gained access to the country in August 2001," Crawford said of Qahtani, who
remains detained at Guantanamo. "He's a muscle hijacker. . . . He's a very
dangerous man. What do you do with him now if you don't charge him and try him?
I would be hesitant to say, 'Let him go.' "

Well, no, don't let him go if he is a danger to anyone, but then, I'm guessing the evidence against him is so tainted and the torture has really hurt him (see the article for a detailed description of what was done to him and the results of his "corecive" treatment.

What would a comment on torture be without Darth Vader (VP Dick Cheney):

Cheney said, "And I think on the left wing of the Democratic Party, there are some people who believe that we really tortured."

We really did, what, are we supposed to believe that it was not really torture, just sorta turned out that way. It is gonna have repercussions, too.

"I sympathize with the intelligence gatherers in those days after 9/11, not
knowing what was coming next and trying to gain information to keep us safe,"
said Crawford, a lifelong Republican. "But there still has to be a line that we
should not cross. And unfortunately what this has done, I think, has tainted
everything going forward."

I'm just glad to see that this judge is sickened by it. Of course, the Cheny-Rove-Bush team would just call her a lib simp, a RHINO or some other such derogatory name:

In May 2008, Crawford ordered the war-crimes charges against Qahtani dropped but
did not state publicly that the harsh interrogations were the reason. "It did
shock me," Crawford said. "I was upset by it. I was embarrassed by it. If we
tolerate this and allow it, then how can we object when our servicemen and
women, or others in foreign service, are captured and subjected to the same
techniques? How can we complain? Where is our moral authority to complain? Well,
we may have lost it."

Ugh, with his resignation, we forgot about Rummy......but the GITMO detainees aren't soon to forget it might seem:

The harsh techniques used against Qahtani, she said, were approved by
then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. "A lot of this happened on his watch," she said. Last month, a Senate Armed Services Committee report concluded that "Rumsfeld's authorization of aggressive interrogation techniques for use at Guantanamo Bay was a direct cause of detainee abuse there." The committee found the interrogation techniques harsh and abusive but stopped short of calling them
We could use more conscientious public servants like Judge Crawford:

Crawford said detainee interrogation practices are a blot on the reputation
of the United States and its military judicial system. "There's an assumption
out there that everybody was tortured. And everybody wasn't tortured. But
unfortunately perception is reality." The system she oversees probably can't
function now, she said. "Certainly in the public's mind, or politically
speaking, and certainly in the international community" it may be forever
tainted. "It may be too late."

I hope it is not too late and I'm sure that if we prosecuted those responsible for (meaning ordered) the torture, we could regain our moral high ground.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Why Now? Why admit to it now?

So President Bush, in the presence of his WWII vet father, admits to authorizing torture. No, he doesn't call it that, and with our first (and I hope last) post-modern president, if he doesn't call it that, then it isn't that.

Yet, waterboarding, the technique in question, was used by the Inquisition as a form of cross-examination. According to Ed Peters, a historian at Penn, the Enlightenment lead to a changing view of the technique and it became morally repugnant. I have no doubt that President Bush, had he been alive at that time, would have objected to enlightenment thinking. Waterboarding was used by the Japanese in WWII and its use was brought up in war crimes trials of Japanese leaders. But, we are not innocent of its use, but until now, we did not publicly and officially condone it. US forces learned it from the Spanish and used it in the phillipines at the beginning of the 20th century. Though the soldier who used it was fined, President Teddy Roosevelt excused it.

In WWII the US charged a Japanese officer with using it and he was sentenced to 15 years for waterboarding. In 1968 the Washington Post ran a picture of a US soldier waterboarding a North Vietnamese soldier. The officer was later court martialed. In short, there is a rather long history of US agents using the technique, but when brought to public attention they have been punished. For a history of waterboarding see here.

President Bush admits to sanctioning these techniques with Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. He justifies it thusly:

See, what some don't understand, evidently, is that we're at war, and it's
a different kind of war, where an enemy uses asymmetrical warfare, and they lie
in wait and find a soft spot, ready to attack again. And they're willing to kill
as many innocent people as they can to advance their agenda.

This justification is familiar (from the history linked to above):

Stephen Rickard, Washington director of the Open Society Institute, says that
throughout the centuries, the justifications for using waterboarding have been
remarkably consistent.

"Almost every time this comes along, people say, 'This is a new enemy, a
new kind of war, and it requires new techniques,'" he says. "And there are
always assurances that it is carefully regulated."

And everyone shrugs. Pres Bush said that Congressional Leaders were aware of these events. I believe him. And they all should be prosecuted, but that is not going to happen. We seem unable to live up to our own values. And our people are unwilling, in a democracy, to demand that our leaders do.

What I don't understand is why President Bush waits until know to admit all this. He denied it. Indeed, with the disclosure of Abu Ghraib and all the other "morally repugnant" practices, that he sat by and let arguments be made that these were just the few bad apples, that our top people were still moral. If he doesn't think he did anything wrong, why did he not defend or even protect those people caught, essentially doing what he authorized.?

Friday, January 9, 2009

Congratulations to my Florida Gators

I graduated from Florida in 1980. the late 70s had some exciting football games in "the Swamp" but nothing like the success since Spurrier arrived and now with Urban Meyer. Last night's game, despite the terrible first quarter (too many glitches, too many unnecessary video reviews), the game was actually good (from a football perspective). I love it when everyone is wrong about how the game is going to go. Two offensive juggernauts who play a great defensive game!

I add some schlock. here....GO GATORS!!!

When I was at Florida, Mr two bits was doing this cheer. He quit doing it this year.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Follow this blog

I've added a new "gadget." It is to your left. Consider "following" this blog. Move your mouse over the 'follow' and click. You can follow anonymously if you wish.

I lack self-discipline. According to studies I should go to church

Happy New Year. How many resolutions have you already broken, just short of 10 hours into the new year? I don't make such resolutions, so I am good.

While procrastinating on this lit review I need to write (made a bit of progress yesterday...sort of), I found this article regarding a psychologist's comprehensive review of literature. I've learned that the science press oftens distorts findings to make a "better" read. The article's title, I think, is probably misleading. Religion May Have Evolved Because Of Its Ability To Help People Exercise Self-control

Buried in the article is the author's point, and the really important one, is that religion is a "social force." An excerpt:

McCullough's review of the research on religion and self-control contributes to
a better understanding of "how the same social force that motivates acts of
charity and generosity can also motivate people to strap bomb belts around their
waists and then blow themselves up in crowded city buses," he explained. "By
thinking of religion as a social force that provides people with resources for
controlling their impulses (including the impulse for self-preservation, in some
cases) in the service of higher goals, religion can motivate people to do just
about anything."

While the psychologist reviewed studies of religion from several disciplines, I'd argue that examining any organization with a strong, definite ideology, too, will show very similar results. How about political revolutionaries? Of course those who wish to claim a "magical" element to regligion could argue that the revolutionaries are also "religious." Yup, like Lenin or Mao and their followers?

"Self" has to do with "identity" and identity has to do with one's social status in groups.

One group that I think would be interesting to compare would be academics, especially "scientists" who tend to be less religious than other disciplines and see how they compare to regular religious folk in terms of self control, goal achieving, health, etc. You see, the academy is a lot like a medieval church.

UPDATE: lacking in self-discipline (or not having procrastinated enough) I missed the NYT article on this same study. Proving why the NYT is a leading newspaper, that article is much better than the one cited above. The NYT article hits on the same themes I suggested above as a counter view to the first article. Here is the article.
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