U.S. dollar edge incusions

November 5, 2007

A few weeks ago I looked all over to find an image of the engraving of the edge of the new U.S. “presidential dollar” coins.

Now, of course, I don’t need it — so I found a marvelous illustration at the U.S. Mint site (yes, I checked there earlier).

FYI, and use:

U.S. Presidential Dollar, showing edge incusions

Vox Day, the goad goes on forever*

November 5, 2007

You couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried. The Right Wing is working hard to make sure that every parody of them comes true. Vox Day said this today, in a comment about serial plagiarizer and general garden-party skunk Ann Coulter:

What Ann understands and so many nominal conservatives do not is that women’s suffrage is completely incompatible with human liberty or a republic as described in the U.S. Constitution. The two cannot co-exist. One cannot defend freedom on the basis of emotion, as fear always runs to promises of security, however nebulous.

It’s interesting to note that since women received the right to vote, no bald politician has been elected in either the United States or the UK with the exception of Eisenhower and Churchill. (Atlee was bald too, but he was running against Churchill so there was no hair option in 1945.) And being bona fide war heroes, both Churchill and Eisenhower represented security even more than the archtypical tall politician with executive hair; neither one of them were capable of winning in less extraordinary times.

So, Vox thinks we should take the vote away from women to elect bald men again? That will make one heck of a campaign button, and I can’t wait to see how it’s phrased in the Texas Republican Party platform.

Isn’t that roughly the same sort of thinking that got us into Iraq — same quality of reasoning, same clear connections, and of course, same sorts of historical error in blind ignorance of the facts and amazingly tin ear on what people think.

Is Vox balding that much? He’s that sensitive about it?

Historical error? Well, yeah — who among the presidents prior to Eisenhower was bald? (You can check pictures of the presidents here.) John Quincy Adams certainly had a lot of shiny pate visible. Martin Van Buren was bald, if we don’t count the copious hair he had around his receding hairline. But if we count receding hairline as bald, then we’d have to count Coolidge, Hoover, Truman and Nixon (whose bald spot was rarely photographed).  The bald and balding presidents:  John Quincy Adams, Martin Van Buren (with qualifications), Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard M. Nixon, Gerald R. Ford.

In fact, if we just look at the follicularly challenged, and not wholly bald, we find that the men with the least hair were all elected AFTER women’s suffrage. Vox Day rarely lets fact or reason get in the way of his thinking. Only Quincy Adams and Van Buren before women’s suffrage, and six baldies starting with Coolidge after.

But the question is, who is focusing on baldness here? Vox Day makes an implicit assumption that women do. It’s a wholly unevidenced, and in the light of history that shows the contrary, unreasonable assumption. He’s making hysterical error, with all the irony that drags along with it.

That anyone would argue for depriving women of the vote, hanging it on such flimsy evidence and bizarre reasoning, shows why women are justified in voting for Democrats. No one in the Democratic party is advancing arguments against women’s suffrage, on any basis.

You know what else? The mainstream media will “hide” Vox’s bizarre comments, not covering them at all, thereby protecting him and Republicans from the howls of justifiable outrage. Why do the media always protect conservatives who have taken leave of their senses?

* Apologies are probably due to Robert Earl Keen, composer of “The Road Goes On Forever.

Creationism eruption in Cincinnati City Council race

November 5, 2007

Is there a miasma that spreads from the Creationism Museum of Ken Ham, that has finally gotten to Cincinnati?

The Daily Bellwether reports a Cincinnati City Councilman wants to put creationism into the schools. I hope that the schools are not governed by the City Council.


And — could you guess? — the guy’s an engineer:

Monzel, 39, is trying to hold onto a seat that the GOP appointed him to after he was voted out of office in 2005. He is an engineer and holds a masters degree in public policy from Harvard University. He was the valedictorian at parochial Moeller High School in 1986. He is a very intelligent fellow. He did not elaborate on the questionnaire exactly what it is that teachers should offer as contradicting Charles Darwin. Perhaps intelligent design, perhaps scientific creationism, perhaps Genesis or something from Greek mythology. Perhaps a script from Star Trek.

He was asked about “Alternatives to Evolution,” and the question reads:

“When lessons on the origins of life are taught in Ohio public schools, do you support or oppose requiring teachers to present the evidences (sic) both supportive and contradictory to the theory of evolution?” Monzel is in the supports box.

Carnival catch up: Sputnik at Philosophia Naturalis 14

November 5, 2007

Interesting carnival of natural philosophy that I had not seen before — and Philosophia Naturalis Number 14 celebrates Sputnik. History teachers may want to visit the carnival.

This one is hosted at Dynamics of Cats, one of the Seed Empire science blogs. I regret it took so long to call it to your attention.

Accuracy in quoting: Hotheads after Kennedy again

November 5, 2007

Historian David Kennedy of Stanford University attracts flack almost everywhere he writes, these days, and for the life of me, I can’t figure out why.

A couple of years ago the neocons were angry at him for saying that America’s people are generally unconnected to America’s soldiers in Iraq, and that’s bad for policy. But a few months later when others noted exactly the same thing and issued the same call Kennedy issued to support troops, neocon pundits were quick to praise the idea they’d claimed was destructive a few weeks earlier.

Kennedy wrote a review of economist Paul Krugman’s Conscience of a Liberal, for the New York Times. It’s arcane, sure, but economist Brad DeLong at UCLA takes Kennedy to task for not understanding laissez faire economics well enough.

Academic disputes are so bitter because the stakes are so small, still.

No kidding: “Abstinence education” doesn’t work

November 5, 2007

Headline in this morning’s Dallas Morning News: “Texas teens lead nation in birth rate.”

The subhead: “Experts questioning abstinence-only education approach.”

What was the clue?

While the national teen birth rate has slowed, Texas has made far less headway, alarming public health officials and child advocates.

Texas teens lead the nation in having babies. Last month, the nonprofit group Child Trends conferred another No. 1 ranking on Texas. In the latest statistics available, 24 percent of the state’s teen births in 2004 were not the girl’s first delivery.

“That astounded me,” said Kathryn Allen, senior vice president for community relations at Planned Parenthood of North Texas. “I mean, what are we doing wrong?”

Texas’ policy is to deny contraceptives without parental consent wherever possible and to push an abstinence-only sex education program in public schools.

Conservatives blame liberal policies. The radical, “pregnancy is punishment from God” Eagle Forum believes success in reducing teen-aged pregnancies in other states is due to increased abortions, though there is not an iota of evidence to support such a claim.

The good news is that Texas’ teen pregnancy rates are down 19%. The bad news for Texas is that the national rates are down about 30%, and California has achieved a 47% reduction in the same period of time, by emphasizing honest sex education that teaches the use of prophylactics and by making birth control devices available to teens for free at public health clinics.

I have suffered through amazingly destructive presentations in which abstinence-only educators tell fantastic falsehoods to kids. In one presentation, the fellow started out claiming condoms are effective only 60% of the time, but got the failure rate up to 90% by the end of his talk. Kids in the school told me that they learned not to use condoms.

Where is Susan Powter when you need her rage?

Check out the good reporting by Robert T. Garrett, and tell us in comments what you conclude.

And just who is Tim Panogos?

November 5, 2007

Mt Timpanogos, from geobloggers, photo by a4gpa

Yes, there really are mountains of such stark beauty, in Utah, next to civilization.

Politicians can lie, but they can’t hide

November 5, 2007

A decision by the Supreme Court of the State of Washington last month had wags and pundits claiming that it is okay for politicians to lie, at least in the state of Washington.

On October 4 the Washington Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional a law that banned publication of “a false statement of material fact about a candidate for public office” in advertisements or other campaign materials, if the statement was made with “actual malice,” or with “reckless disregard to its truth or falsity,” according to a report in the New York Times.

“The notion that the government, rather than the people, may be the final arbiter fo truth in political debate is fundamentally at odds with the First Amendment,” Justice James M. Johnson wrote for four the justices in the majority. A dissenting justice, Barbara A. Madsen, wrote that “the majority’s decision is an invitation to lie with impunity.”

Justice Madsen added that the decision would help turn “political campaigns into contests of the best stratagems of lies and deceit, to the end that honest discourse and honest candidates are lost in the maelstrom.”

Utah’s voters now are engaged in a great debate that tests those views. Can voters discern the truth from a fog of claims and counterclaims about school vouchers?

Polls show vouchers losing. What does that mean?

Ironically, perhaps, in the Washington case, the candidate who got the claim wrong, according to the court’s decision, also lost the race:

Mr. Sheldon said Ms. Rickert had violated a state law that made it unlawful to publish “a false statement of material fact about a candidate for public office” in advertisements and campaign materials if the statement was made with “actual malice,” meaning in the knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard to its truth or falsity.

The commission ruled against Ms. Rickert and fined her $1,000. It found that Mr. Sheldon had not voted to close the facility and that it was, in any event, a juvenile detention center rather than one for the developmentally challenged.

Justice Johnson said the law under which the commission had acted was “a censorship scheme.”

“It naïvely assumes,” Justice Johnson wrote, “that the government is capable of correctly and consistently negotiating the thin line between fact and opinion in political speech.”

Mr. Sheldon had other ways to combat the brochure, Justice Johnson added. Mr. Sheldon and his supporters could have “responded to Ms. Rickert’s false statements with the truth.” And Mr. Sheldon remained free to file a libel suit, though he would have to prove not only falsity and actual malice but also that the statement had harmed his reputation.

In a brief concurring opinion, Chief Justice Gerry L. Alexander said the flaw in the law was that it penalized false “nondefamatory speech,” meaning statements that do not injure reputation. But he said the government should be free to “penalize defamatory political speech.”

The voters figured it out.


Opinions in Rickert v. Washington:


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