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On the Cordoba House and the First Amendment

August 11th, 2010 Comments off

I’ve been meaning to write a bit more and clarify my thoughts and feelings on the Cordoba Initiative’s plans for a community center and mosque in lower Manhattan. Last week, I strung together a bit of a rambling post discussing how disappointed I am in the sweeping tide of anti-American behavior taken up in the name of “American values” throughout this nation.

The proposed Cordoba House is an uncomfortable issue for most and brings up conflicting feelings and desires to both defend American freedoms and empathize with the families of September 11, 2001 victims.

Part of my desire to discuss the topic more was the realization that I hadn’t articulated well exactly what it was that I found offensive and anti-American. So let me be clear, opposing the Cordoba House is not anti-American. It is merely the attempts to use the government or government means that is anti-American and, quite simply, unconstitutional.

While technically, the movement to have the former Burlington Coat Factory building landmarked was not specifically tied to the building of a mosque (and it would not have completely blocked the construction, but simply made the plans more difficult as the exterior of the building would have had to be preserved) and was, therefore, not relating to the establishment, promotion or obstruction of religious freedoms. Despite this, few would argue that the facts really hid the between-the-lines anti-Islam motivations thereunder. This would be no different than the post-Edwards v Aguillard move of creationists to remove overt religious references to religion or god in the newly revamped intelligence design movement. Everyone knows the motivation has no basis in science, but in religious ideology.

In the case of the Cordoba House, pushing to landmark and make more difficult the conversion of the building at the proposed site was a measure to use the government to obstruct the construction of a privately funded, otherwise legal religious building and institution. In other words, this move represented an effort to violate the Establishment Clause.

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Pres. Obama and Legislative Success

January 13th, 2010 Comments off

NPR is reporting on a new Congressional Quarterly study which says that President Obama is the most successful president in the last 50 years, with respect to getting legislative measures through.  The study states that the President has succeeded in getting passage of 96.7 percent of all legislation in the House and Senate for which “the president had a clear position.”  This means that where the President has publicly urged a vote one way or another on a bill, almost 97% of the time his will was adhered to.

That’s lovely.  It’s also a ridiculously incomplete picture of reality.  They talk of him having a better record than Lyndon Johnson.  Uhh… no.  Johnson’s percentage may not have been higher, but he got the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act through (admittedly, on the back of the Kennedy assassination).

Conversely, President Obama has, as the article states, “picked his battles” by cherry picking which legislation to publicly support and push through his Democratically controlled congress.  More misleading is the amount of compromise that goes into those legislative measures.  For example, the Health Care Reform bill looks nothing like what the President campaigned on and most of the financial stimulus measures were truly corrupted… though necessary.  The NPR article does do a pretty good job of pointing out those facts.

Source: Congressional Quarterly and NPR -- Click to see the article.

NY Times’ Netflix Map Generator

January 12th, 2010 Comments off

Netflix gave The Grey Lady access to the rental patterns for their top movie titles in 2009 and the Times went to town converting zip code based data into graphical renderings of rental patterns for said movies.  The generator is fun to play with and features some interesting patters like the limited, Manhattan and hipster Brooklyn appeal of Mad Men and the exclusively suburban draw of Last Chance Harvey.

I’ve got some of the more interesting maps, including a stark comparisons that perhaps reflects the persistent residential segregation of New York and the appeal of homosexually themed films in minority communities.  On a more comfortable level, a movie about robots was most most popular among non-humans.

Wondering?  CLICK THROUGH TO READ ON Read more…

FoxNews: Fair, balanced and completely incapable of arithmetic

December 8th, 2009 3 comments

A while back I featured a local Fox affiliate’s news info graphic dividing voter support among Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin (also known as magic underwear crazy, young earth crazy and just plain crazy) in a manner that added up the pie chart to 193% (as opposed to the normal 100%).  I cracked that FoxNews would be likely to do the same, even though this was just an affiliate.

Yeah, well the FNC has proved me right.

FoxNews: Fair and Balanced and completely incapable of addition... 120% of the time.

FoxNews: Fair and Balanced and completely incapable of arithmetic... 120% of the time.

My big questions are whether 1) your inability to count to 100 disqualifies you from complaining about science and 2) presenting a poll where the sum of the percentages is 120% means that you are a) somewhat likely, b) very likely or c) not very likely to be a redneck.

UPDATE: Media Matters took on the issue of FoxNews’ fuzzy math.

Scientists Say Jupiter’s Moon Europa Might Be Teeming With Fish

November 19th, 2009 Comments off

Article on Europa water discoveries linked here.

(via unknownskywalker; via brynlutes)

New evidence has come to light that the vast, ice-encrusted oceans of Europa may be harboring Earth-like life that lives on the oxygen-rich waters. Time to plan your extraterrestrial fishing trip? Maybe. Apparently, the oceans of Europa are fed with more than 100 times more oxygen than previous models suggested.

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This may be one of the coolest things ever. I was reading the National Geographic article on this last nightand was really amazed. Life on a gas giant’s satellite using hydrothermal energy and tidal energy would greatly expand the habitable zone to include exo-solar planets that actually have been found (potentially) — so far, I believe no exo-solar planet with a standard (non-eccentric) orbit has been found that could support conventionally conceived life. The ability to have life on a moon like the Jovian ones greatly pushes out the cold side of habitable zones. So perhaps there is an Endor or Hoth out there somewhere.

But what piqued my interest the most was the question of how one goes about exploring a world with 100 mile-deep oceans. How do you develop a craft that you can launch and send on a three year voyage and then plop into an ocean. The corrosive powers of H2O would almost certainly require a probe of greater than normal sturdiness and hulls… thereby making the probe more difficult to send. And, since Europa is certainly like Waterworld, you also have to consider defensive measures against the animal-life you’re likely to encounter there.

However they do it, I do hope we get started on a mission to some of the Jovian moons soon. Europa, Io and Ganymede are all intriguing for their own reasons. Particularly the volcanism of Io, the waters of Europa, the pure mass of Ganymede (which is the next largest object after Mercury), and Callisto provides some interest in that it is a Jovian moon which is relatively unaffected by tidal energy and heat (thus providing a contrast to the other three).

Galleon Fun – Insider Trading and Tracks

November 10th, 2009 Comments off

We’ve been intensely following the Galleon Group LLC scandal for many reasons. For the uninitiated, it’s a big insider trading case that’s been well built and has involved broad scoped arrests. Most notably, for the legal crew, the arrest of a Ropes & Gray associate (Arthur Cutillo) and a former Sullivan & Cromwell associate. Sure, Cutillo only went to Villanova law (sorry, lawyers love snobbery), but those are two high grade firms to have associates involved in insider trading on client info.

Anyway, Bloomberg has a pretty good rundown of the arrestees. But the NYPost got its hands on a killer rap track Raj Rajaratnam had done for a Galleon holiday party a while back. It’s bumping (even if a few weeks old).

C. Vernon Mason on Vance Trans Team

November 7th, 2009 Comments off

For those unfamiliar with C. Vernon Mason, he and Alton Maddox engineered one of the great media, race baiting hoaxes of the 1980s by aiding and directing young Tawana Brawley in her fraudulent accusations against members of the police force in Newburgh, NY. Most of the backlash from the incident and the discovery of the hoax fell on Al Sharpton, who was the more public face of the Brawley accusations, but it was Mason and Maddox who closely guarded access to Brawley and who guided Sharpton’s accusations.

Well, new Manhattan DA Cy Vance (who was so woefully under-qualified relative to Leslie Crocker Snyder that I was ashamed of Democratic primary voters in September) has given voters what they deserve… disappointment. The Daily News reports that he has appointed to his transition team Mason, who was both humiliated and made famous by the Brawley affair and then disbarred after abusing and swindling poor clients. Yes, the Manhattan DA elect has chosen to take advice from a man so egregious that he is no longer permitted to practice law. Good work NYC voters.