Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Jesus, Mary, Joseph!

A few things come to mind after the James Cameron "I've found Jesus' bones" movie.

First, this whole thing strikes me as sort of the reverse of 19th century biblical archaeology. Then, they took the bible stories as literally true and set out to find evidence of it, like Noah's ark. Cameron's movie also takes bible stories as literally true to "disprove" some part of them. Think about it. The only way these bones could be those of Jesus and his family is if the gospels accurately describe him and his family with one exception: the Mary Magdalene thing so popular today because of the Da Vinci Code. I mean, if the real Jesus was not the son of Mary and Joseph, then this person is not the real Jesus. If Mary Magdalene is a composite, then we would not expect to find a "real" one at all. It's a little strange to both affirm and deny the gospel accounts at the same time like this. Is everything true but the resurrection? Hmmm. But more on bodily resurrection later.

Second, the idea that Jesus' family continued as an intact unit and buried its own in a nice higher-class family grave site in Jerusalem runs counter to everything we know about that family. The family site would have been in the Galilee somewhere, if at all. Moreover, the gospel is clear that Jesus never set foot in Jerusalem until the last weeks of his life. There aren't any Jerusalemites among the apostles.

Third, first-century Christians had no agenda to cover up the burial of Jesus. Nor would they have succeeded, if it was so publicly done in a family site. The Roman State had an agenda, perhaps, but that was three centuries later. If the bones were so accessibly in a known family tomb, I presume early Christians would have venerated his bones as holy relics and proclaimed his resurrection in some other form (perhaps a new body like the New Jerusalem or something... this isn't hard to gin up). Peter's burial site (the Vatican) became an instant site of veneration.

Fourth, I kind of feel like we went through a hoax like this just last year with another ossuary.

What really bothers me, though, is the fundamentalist/securlarist nature of the "debate" we are seeing. We are not free to "disbelieve" science in the name of faith. The entire question should be one of scientific factfinding. If science proves that those are Jesus' bones, it does not really matter to a Christian, unless your world is constructed on the foundation of biblical literacy and inerrancy. But then, someone warned us about the foolish man who built his house on sand.


Monday, February 26, 2007

All Kinds of Climate Change

Today, Schwarzenegger made an announcement. He, and four other western governors signed an MOU to start a climate change pact among all five state, largely to mirror what is on the table in CA now. Those four governors are Napolitano (D-AZ), Richardson (D-NM), Kulongoski (D-OR) and Grigoire (D-WA). As the lone Republican, Arnie wants to make a stand for "bipartisanship" and "realism." He even urged Democrats to stop "running down the President." He wants another kind of climate change too.

Of course, just last week Dick Cheney accused Nancy Pelosi of helping Al Qaeda. So the climate does need to change in politics, but it has to start with the GOP. They have to apologize for their comments and vow to be civil. Of course, they can't. It's not in their nature. Jesus told them they were 100% right about everything, so they do not compromise or respect anyone else. When Bush mentioned the "Democrat majority" in his State of the Union, he was signalling to everyone that he intended to be as petty and nasty as ever.

I say, it's time Democrats start talking back. Speak out that nobody, NOBODY, could possibly have helped Al Qaeda more than the Cheney-Bush plan to alienate everyone else on the planet, and Arabs in particular, by starting a stupid war in Iraq that has killed hundreds of thousands of civilians. Al Qaeda is not afraid of Bush; they're afraid that the Democrats might start causing the America to act sensibly, removing the irrational cowboy Jesus-freak crusading that is the terrorists' main recruiting tool. Point out that spending $500 billion on Iraq has made us less safe. That kind of rhetoric from Democrats would start clear the air a little.

Another pointa: when I saw the Oscars last night and watched Al Gore accept the award, I was struck by the fact that if he had been President, a number of young Americans who were killed in Iraq - almost exactly equal to everyone in the hall - would still be alive. Elections, as McCain likes to say, do have consequences.


Friday, February 23, 2007

The Presidential Hokey-Pokey

Well, that was fast. Tom Vilsack was the first Democrat to enter the 2008 race, and the first to leave, today. As Bruce Babbitt said when he resigned on the eve of the Iowa caucuses in 1988, "I stayed in it right up to the beginning." Vilsack never got close. Ah Vilsack, we hardly new ye.

Of course, this changes the politics in Iowa big-time, insofar as it means there is no longer a "favorite son" (whether or not he was that popular does not change his status, really). Iowa caucuses now matter a lot more than they did last week.


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

An American Coup d'Etat

The more I read about the Lewis Libby trial , the more I wonder if it isn't like Watergate and Iran Contra.

There is a dizzying array of characters, copious vague recollections, hedging around the real issue (in the case that Cheney is really who we need to get), detailed and confusing reports of who said what when, etc. All of it is just enough for most of us to ignore it as background noise. But we shouldn't. The trial provides strong evidence of a dysfunctional White House that took us to war for personal interests, headed by an all-powerful Vice President. As we say, Clinton lied, no one died. These people in charge now are down right evil incarnate. Palace intrigue all around, brought to you by the very same people who brought you Vietnam. I am haunted by something that Dick Cheney reportedly told Don Rumsfeld on the day Rumsfeld was sworn in as Sec. Def, "Get it right this time, Don."

What everyone should see very clearly now is what we have all known: Bush Jr. Was the perfect flunky to put in the White House so that Cheney and Co. could do their work. That is how Bush worked his whole career. He was always the aimable front man for the real power, something Molly Ivins described in great detail in her book, Shrub.

The real shadow president has been Bush. Wake up America, you have just lived through your first coup d'etat.


Sunday, February 18, 2007

Thought to Ponder

Consider the following:

"According to IRS demographic data, nearly a quarter of all individual income tax returns processed in 2004 were filed by taxpayers under 30."

Source: BusinessWeek Online

The Boomers may be retiring, but their kids are starting to pay. This is good for those of us over 30.


Friday, February 16, 2007


Congress is a joke. It has been a long time since I have seen anything as absurd as the current “debate” (notice the quote) on what to “debate” and how to “debate” some type of NON-binding resolution on Bush’s “surge” plan. The bad type of partisanship is on full display. It is a three-ring circus which provides great material for the likes of Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert, but it is a very sad show for the public.

The argument today is whether they should debate 2 resolutions or 4 resolutions. Without a decision on that, there can be no cloture and no actual debate of any NON-binding resolution. It is a symbolic resolution at best and they can’t even get moving on it. In fact, they are back to pointing fingers, with each party blaming the other for an inability to move forward- like spoiled little children arguing over a mutually desired toy.

It proves the point as to why the Administration is able to ignore the Congress so fully. Bush will send his extra troops to Iraq because he can, because in a Senate so finely divided, no one can get a coherent message or coordinated effort together. It proves the point why, in times of war, Congress is so impotent.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Olberman Strikes Again

I have been on a news black out for the last couple of weeks. School started and I have been busy. But I am getting caught up, as you can all tell. I found this from Olberman! It's worth watching!


Secrecy: A Stupid Excuse

You know that old gag where you sneak under the table while you father is engrossed in the news and you tie his shoe laces together thinking he will get up and trip? Well, the trouble with secrecy is that not only will it trips you up, it may hurt you. And that is the problem with the U.S. “terrorism” policy and war policy.

No investigations can be held because to do so would “let the enemy” know what we were thinking. You can’t report anything, because the enemy is watching and listening. We can’t tell Congress anything because they will leak all our secrets. And today, the NYT reports that the decision to publicly reveal “evidence” about Iranian IEDs in Iraq was a “hard call” because the enemy would then see how deadly effective these devices are. Somehow, that strikes me as an odd argument. Don’t you think they who use these devices know how deadly they are? That might be why they keep using them? Like dah.

And if you are afraid to show that type of “evidence” to the public or to Congress, then what are you hiding from each other, either accidentally or otherwise, in the hallowed halls of the E-Ring and West Wing? That is the trouble with secrecy. It's like having your shoes tied together by their laces without your knowing it.

Update by Bell Curve: I would refer you to Glenn Greenwald for more on the ridiculousness of this NYT article.


Where's the Rational Actor

I am disturbed by this sudden interest on the part of the Administration ratchet up of the rhetoric on Iran. I keep trying to go beyond the “rational actor” model to see what I am missing because I don’t get the current U.S. stance visa vie Iran, or the Middle East for that matter. Do we even have a coherent policy? In fact, I have an easier time understanding Iran's moves than those of the U.S. If there is a rational actor anywhere, it appears to be Iran. I am not alone. This expert from Keith Olberman's Countdown is also having trouble understanding what is going on.

For starters, Iran was moderating itself back in 1999. Then Bush makes his “axis of evil” comments and turns icy in the country rather than trying to encourage moderates, and ends up with an Iranian version of Hugo Chavez. At the same time, he fires up the canons in Iraq. This is all nonsensical. No rational actor here.

Then Iran progresses on its nuclear program, and we are left with no choice but to participate in protracted talks led by Europeans. These talks have borne little fruit and Iran is now under sanctions. Again, the radical Ahmadinejad is weakened after loosing support in recent elections. Rather than encouraging that, we accuse Iran of all sorts of things. Perhaps this is meant to shame Iran into submission or scare it into cooperation. Risky tactic. It reminds me a little of the prelude to the Cuban Missile Crisis. Then today, the same day that Bush tried to make his case against Iran at his press conference, former Iranian President, and still influential cleric, Rafsanjani promised to work with the US if we would show “good will”. I am not sure what that would entail, but there seems to be a glimmer of concession there. And then there are letters sent by Ahmadinejad that are so raving that they make Bush look reasonable.

Then, NPR reported this morning that there was a car bomb in Iran this morning that killed 11 soldiers. Interesting. Car bombs in Iran seem out of place somehow, even in the troubled border region of Baluchistan. The U.S. is accused of supporting anti-government splinter groups active in the region. I wouldn’t be surprised if that accusation were true. Is there any connection between these bombings and the rhetoric coming out of Washington?

As all of this is going on, Syria, another Bush boogieman attempts to open peace negotiations with Israel, who turns a deaf ear in order to please Washington. Everyone knows that the real way to get “democracy” in the region is to get Israel and the Arab states to make nice. And getting a deal on the Golan would be a good first step, not to mention that getting Syria integrated back into the International community though some constructive project wouldn’t hurt. Again, why oppose this? Is the US trying to bolster the Lebanese government by keeping Syria in check? Is there some notion that getting Syria and Israel around a table would look like a union meant to damage Lebanon? Were the Syrian overtures insincere?

Was Iran a factor in the decision to go to war to begin with? Was the idea that a war in Iraq would be quick and easy and then Iraq would be a staging ground for the war they really wanted to fight . . . the one in Iran?

These are questions that are worth exploring.


Keeping the Feith

So, by now, most people with a passing acquaintance with the news have heard of Douglas Feith. People probably know that he had something to do with pre-war intelligence, but maybe not more than that. Well, for my money, the Daily Show is the best resource for explaining things like this. Check out the video at C&L.

Also, if you're confused on the details of the Scooter Libby trial, The Daily Show has that one covered too. Must-see TV.


Saturday, February 10, 2007

New comment feature

I'm trying out something new for the comments. If it gives you trouble let me know. But it should look better than it did before (the other way is really ugly!)


Friday, February 09, 2007

Virgin Earth Challenge

Richard Branson and Al Gore announced the Vigin Earth Challenge today: a $25 million dollar prize to anyone who can figure out how to actually pull carbon out of the atmosphere. Without such a reduction, greenhouse gases already present will continue to warm Earth slowly for centuries to come. I was pleased to see that the announcement warns:

However, it is important to remember that there is a real possibility that no one will win this prize. Governments, and their people, must continue to use every effort to radically reduce CO2 emissions.
The threshold required to receive the Virgin Earth Prize is an annual reduction of carbon dioxide (or equivalent in terms of other greenhouse gases) in the amount of: 1 billion tons, 1 Petagrams, 0.47 parts per million by volume. Now, let's put the goal in context of atmospheric composition. (The units are parts per million by volume of CO2. These are not terribly easy figures to come by, because of difficulty with units. I think I've converted correctly. These are the latest figures from the 2007 IPCC report.)

Virgin Challenge Goal................................................... -0.47
Annual World Emission............................................. +12.4
Atmospheric Excess over Pre-Industrial Average........ 105
Composition of Atmosphere....................................... 383

Kudos to Branson and Gore for a good idea. Let's hope it helps... and let's hope the federal government will fund more such research.


Google is Dangerous

We here at the Citizen's have just had a less than ideal experience updating our blog (although we like the new look). We did this because Blogger left us with the impression that we really didn't have a choice. Eventually, to sign in and post, you' d have to have an updated blog and an updated account. There's the rub.

As part of the update, you now have to have a Google Account rather than just a Blogger account. This should worry bloggers and those who wish to protect blogger privacy. When I am signed into blogger, I am signed into a Google account by default. We have to sign in with an e-mail address and a password. This means that if I open a second window in order to run a Google search, I see my e-mail in the upper right hand corner of the Google search page. See for yourselves.

Will this allow Google to track my searches and link them directly to me? Would this, in turn, allow advertisers to spam me more easily based on my search terms? Google prides itself on this subtly of its advertising. Is this latest development a way of ensuring the revenue stream while violating my privacy? Would they pull a China on me and turn my search terms over the U.S. government if asked?

Something doesn't feel right. Google has taken over blogger. It has taken over You Tube. It is over reaching if you ask me. And as a result, it is turning into the evil-empire. My e-mail SHOULD NOT be appearing in a search homepage.


LTG called it.

Here we have our first shot on Obama's religion, via Tucker Carlson. LTG was right that they were going to come after him on this. But will this stick? And how big a deal is this going to be made out to be? Stay tuned ...


Wednesday, February 07, 2007


We often criticize the Pentagon and its leadership. But we must give credit where it is due. The Pentagon is going to open a new command to cover Africa . This is long overdue and much needed. Africa is important on several fronts: Oil, terrorism, health. We have been active in Africa for a while with bases in several places on the continent and intelligence ties in many states, especially in North Africa.

NPR is reporting that this command will be different in that its deputy commander will come from the State Department. It is going to be a well-rounded interagency mix that will include intelligence, humanitarian assistance, health aid and military training. If this works, it may well be a model for other commands. This isn’t a new idea. It has been around since the Clinton Administration. Rumsfeld started to get serious about it and Gates is set to have Africom in place by Sept. 2008.

Strategically, I think it is a smart move. With increased competition from China and India for resources, and the growth of Islamic terrorism in the region, Africa is going to be a key playing field for global power building and security. It will also rationalize our global military organization. This will free up resources at Eurocom and Centcom. Finally a good idea from the Pentagon.


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

New site design

As you've probably noticed, we have redesigned our site to mesh with the new Blogger. As a faithful reader, there are a few things that we think make the new site better -- first, the comments will pop up when you click on Comments (show/hide). Second, there is an easy link to e-mail posts to friends so that they can read all the wonderful stuff on The Citizens.

Hope you enjoy the new design! Tell us what you think!


Saturday, February 03, 2007

Super Bowl musings

If you needed a reason to root for one team or the other tomorrow, maybe you'd like to compare Peyton Manning's campaign contributions with Brian Urlacher's. Just a thought...

Enjoy the game!


Friday, February 02, 2007

The Debate is Over

In Paris today, Working Group I of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the first section of its contribution to the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report: a 20-page Summary for Policymakers. The report represents the combined judgment of scientists from a hundred nations. Anthropogenic global warming may no longer be presented as "controversial" by any but the disingenuous.

Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global mean sea level... Most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely [> 90%] due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.

The best estimates of continued average global warming over the 21st century range from 1.4 to 4.0 degrees Celsius. All models predict the worst warming by far will occur in the Arctic--3 to 8 degrees Celsius--and under several scenarios late-summer ice vanishes entirely from the Arctic ocean by the end of the century! The estimates of sea level rise range from 18 to 59 centimeters... but the panel notes these estimates that do not include recent studies of rapid, dynamic ice flow. Consensus on rapid ice change does not yet exist (wait until the 5th report, perhaps?) but could only make the situation more dire. Furthermore, the weather will grow more violent worldwide.
It is very likely that hot extremes, heat waves, and heavy precipitation events will continue to become more is likely that future tropical cyclones (typhoons and hurricanes) will become more intense, with larger peak wind speeds and more heavy precipitation...

Perhaps the bleakest part of the review is that a great deal of damage has already been done. Unless we can actually pull carbon out of the atmosphere (never mind merely restricting emissions!) we are already doomed to a thousand years of global warming.
Anthropogenic warming and sea level rise would continue for centuries due to the timescales associated with climate processes and feedbacks, even if greenhouse gas concentrations were to be stabilized... Both past and future anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions will continue to contribute to warming and sea level rise for more than a millennium, due to the timescales required for removal of this gas from the atmosphere.

There is a sliver of good news though. Some of the nightmare scenarios we have feared are pretty much ruled out. The Atlantic current (the thermal "conveyor belt") will slow but not stop, and the Antarctic ice sheet is not expected to collapse.
[I]t is very likely that the meridional overturning circulation (MOC) of the Atlantic Ocean will slow down during the 21st century... It is very unlikely that the MOC will undergo a large abrupt transition during the 21st century... Current global model studies project that the Antarctic ice sheet will remain too cold for widespread surface melting

If we commit ourselves to stabilizing the atmosphere, we will not avoid all global warming, but we will avoid disaster. This is a graph summarizing the five major scenarios summarized in the IPCC report. Two decades of inaction has cost us much already. The debate is over. Now is the time to act.


An unbelievable amount of money

Bush is asking for $245 billion over the next two years to pay for his wars. Most people have a hard time comprehending that much money, so let's put it this way -- if you took all that money in one-dollar bills and made two stacks with it, each stack would be taller than the earth is thick.

Congress needs to stop this war. NOW. Deny this funding. Pass the bills presented by Woolsey in the House and Obama in the Senate. Make a statement. No more talk.