A Menagerie of Outspoken Opinions on Science, World Politics, and Geek Culture

Sunday, May 29, 2005

On Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Bill @ INDC journal is for government funding, and seems to be arguing the ethics of the research instead of what I believe is the more fundamental issue of the limits of federal government.

I very simply yet strenuously disagree that taxpayer dollars should be spent on pharmaceutical research, especially considering there is a thriving market of private researchers working with stem cells.

I find it to be disingenous and highly hypocritical, not to mention quite rank with the stench of political opportunism, for so many to spend so much lobbying for this, instead of spending their money on pure research of their choosing.

I personally find the ethical slope involved with embryonic stem cell research to be quite slippery indeed, and worthy of its own debate; but I can say with a clean conscience that that bias does not inform my motivation to limit the scope of the government, particularly when such an endeavor fundamentally is at odds with the free-market success story that is the U.S.

UPDATE:

Bill, in what has increasingly become his style, responds to my and other's responses with thinly veiled insults and references to his own superiority.

Suffice it to say, your deep ignorance on the topic of how scientific research is conducted and funded is showing.

More grumpy, strictly reactionary conservative bs.

What is wrong with you people? Why is this so hard for you to understand?

It's like banging my head against a wall; I keep addressing these points with logic and sourcing (like funding percentages)...

In short, you have absolutely no idea what you're talking about.

Which is sad, as he is obviously intelligent enough to carry on a debate rationally, but chooses not to.

Ah well, the blogosphere is vast and replete with excellent analysis and opinion. I shall not miss INDC, and I am sure Bill will not miss me.

To be completely fair, I left my own dig. I can't really work up any feelings of remorse for stooping to his level. Sometimes it is cathartic to return a little steam:

Not without one parting shot however, just to indulge my own ego, and since you opened the door to such lowbrow response.

I said: "This seems like a simple enough debate that doesn't really
require a lot of deep thought."

To which you replied:

Wrong and unintentionally hilarious.

The fact that you consider a simple cost-benefit analysis on the virtues of taxpayer funded research (in a science that has run into a dead end so far) to be a deep and complex issue speaks far more of your own lack of comprehension than mine.

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Monday, May 23, 2005

Chris Hanson Responds

To my email, the details of it are here.

My follow-up responses, thus far unanswered, follow his italicized comments. Mr. Hanson graciously gave me permission to publish his response.

In it he seems to be acknowledging that parts of the journalistic process are broken. Unfortunately, it seems to me that he is unwilling to accept the possibility that those parts are broken because of the ideological filter through which most MSM stories must pass.

On Rathergate:

"RATHER AND CBS HAD NO BUSINESS DOCUMENTS THEY COULD
NOT DETERMINE WERE AUTHENTIC, ESPECIALLY CONSIDERING THE RED FLAGS
FROM THEIR OWN EXPERTS THAT YOU MENTIONED. IT IS LIKELY TO ME THAT
THE DOCUMENTS ARE FRAUDULENT, BUT THE BEST WAY TO DETERMINE THAT WOULD
BE TO FIND OUT WHO WAS PUSHING THEM. THAT ASPECT OF THE STORY GOT
LOST. THE RATHER MAPES RECKLESSNESS ALSO MADE THE QUESTION ABOUT
BUSH'S GUARD SERVICE GO BYE-BYE, WHICH IS UNFORTUNATE."


Right. You agree that it was bad reporting. So do the research. Based on all accounts, can you really say there is any story there? I suppose if you are willing to discount anything Bush's superior officers and contemporaries said, and at the same time assume the very worst, you would come to the conclusion that maybe there is some nefarious aspect to his service. This however, falls into the realm of reporting from and ideological framework, rather than objective one. Now granted, this is not something you are reporting, rather making a personal observation of, but so many journalists have indeed reported questions about Bush's Guard service for years, and have yet to dig up any incriminating evidence of wrong-doing.

To your larger point however, I completely agree. It is a similar problem I have with reference to Global Warming. Do I believe that we are looking at a catastrophe. No. Do I believe Global Temeratures are increasing? Yes. Do I believe human activity can influence global weather? Yes. My problem is that journalists have focused on what is increasingly shown to be bad science predicting catastrophic climate change in order to raise interest and get eyes on their broadcasts. As more of the drastic predctions pass us by like so many tabloid prophesies of the Rapture, the real and incredibly more interesting story of what humans can do to adjust the climate is lost, as is the level of seriousness with which a public takes its presumably responsible press.

Journalism today seems to be all about raising consciousness about the cause du jour. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it certainly doesn't help things when at the same time they are lowering the level of debate to a "he said-she said" strata of reporting. There do exist objective facts, and journalists really owe it to their watchers and readers to dig up those facts, deadlines be damned.

On Easongate:

"THE VARIATIONS
IN THE ACCOUNTS HAD A LOT TO DO WITH THE GIVE AND TAKE AFTER FRANK
REACTED. GERGEN CONCLUDED THAT JORDAN REALIZED HE HAD SAID MORE THAN
HE SHOULD HAVE OR MEANT TO SAY, THEN WALKED BACK TO THE POSITION THAT
SOLDIERS HAD RECKLESSLY BUT ACCIDENTLY SHOT JOURNALISTS. BLOGGERS ON
THE QUEST TO OUST AN EVIL LIBERAL FOCUSED ON THE 'DELIBERATELY
TARGETED' REPORTS. A TRANSCRIPT WOULD GIVE US MORE CHANCE OF FIGURING
OUT WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED. I BELIEVE THAT THE RECORDING WAS IN THE
POSSESS OF THE ORGANIZATION THAT SPONSORED THE CONFERENCE UNDER
RIDICULOUS RULES AGAINST QUOTING ANYONE. JORDAN SHOULD HAVE INSISTED
THAT THE TAPE BE RELEASED. HIS REFUSAL TO DO SO IS HYPOCRITICAL, GIVEN
HIS ROLE AS A JOURNALIST. BUT MY POINT STANDS. DEBATE MOVED ON QUICKLY
AND THE MATTER OF THE TAPE WAS QUICKLY FORGOTTEN."


I guess it depends on your defintion of "quickly"

Eason's comments in Davos were first revealed on Jan 28th, 2005.
Eason's resignation was Feb 11.

That is 2 full weeks in which CNN and Eason could have cleared the air. Debate online was unfortunately constrained to what he had been known to allege in the past as well as what had been reported of his most recent statements by various sources, all of which seemed to agree that, badly worded or not, Eason's claims were unsubstantiated and inflammatory.

Eason and CNN brought this on themselves, as you correctly point out. I have to disagree though that the debate was unfairly carried on by anyone. We did the best we could with the information we had.

In case you are interested, a timeline is here, including instances of his past statements showing a pattern in willful misrepresentation of the American and Israeli military and their treatment of journalists:

http://billroggio.com/easongate/archives/2005/02/an_eason_jordan.php

Let's face it. Further debate on this issue would have made Eason Jordan a pariah in his own country, had his previous statements recieved broad play. It wasn't hypocrisy that was at play in deciding to not release the tapes. It was self-preservation.

And on an inconsistency in my initial letter:

"THEN HOW DID YOU SEE MY ARTICLE?"

Excellent question. I spoke too broadly. I don't make a practice of turning to the MSM for my information, and when I do, I take it with a grain of salt until I have substantiated what is being reported. I followed a link to your piece from a blog (http://ace.mu.nu/) that disagreed with your representation of the Rather/Mapes conclusion. I don't watch any of the news broadcasts, network or cable, unless they happen to be on at work. I don't subscribe to newspapers. I do follow links to MSM reports that catch my eye, as this one did.

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Saturday, May 21, 2005

A note to an Apologist

Chris Hanson, professor of journalism @ the University of Maryland tries to explain the genesis of what is now bad reporting in his WaPo editorial "The 'Scoop' Heard 'Round the World. Sadly."

Sadly indeed, I believe he misses the point. Here is my response.

Mr. Hanson,

You say "Conservative bloggers pounced quickly to discredit the documents then-CBS anchor Dan Rather relied on last fall in his infamous report about President Bush's National Guard performance. Cyber-debate then moved on briskly to other things. Many people think the documents were proven to be forgeries and the gist of the report false. But in reality, no one has demonstrated conclusively whether the documents are fake, or whether or not Bush disobeyed orders to shirk flight status as alleged."

There are none so blind as those unwilling to see, sir.

If the various and sundry experts hired by CBS themselves conclude that they either cannot prove the documents real, or indeed conclude they are fraudulent... if independent experts unanimously declare they are without a doubt fraudulent... what exactly do you hold as a standard for proof? Sure, you can always find one or two ideological crackpots willing to sully their reputation and proclaim them real, but to ignore the obvious contortions they have gone through to show a theoretical possibility against all probability makes a mockery of the field of "investigative journalism". Yes, it's worth noting that some few disagree with a consensus of rigid analysis. But to weight them equally is absurd.

You say on the Eason Jordan affair "But outrage spread so quickly over the net that Jordan resigned -- and the top story moved on -- before anyone could verify exactly what he had said. There were plenty of eyewitnesses with different versions of what he said, but there was no transcript, and to this day the issue remains murky."

CNN had ample opportunity to set the record straight. They had the recording. They ignored the story and sat on the evidence. Conflicting reports? I'm sorry, but when Barny Frank and other such luminaries of the left verify the central theme of Jordan's remarks were as inflammatory as reported I think we can put aside the question of whether indeed he said what he was accused of saying. Put that with the fact that Jordan has shown a history of making similar accusations and I think it's fair to say a pattern of unfounded accusations against the U.S. military exists.

Mainstream Media has a responsibility to get the story out. But they also have a responsibility to get the story right, and to show some transparency in their fact checking. Simply saying "verified by two sources" means nothing when those two sources are annonymous. I have not read or watched the MSM for over a year now. Frankly I find I am far more informed by getting my news online. I take the responsibility that so many journalists have decided is unnecessary: I do my own fact-checking. I read multiple and varied sources. I weigh the liklihood of a story's veracity given the specific situation before I start to accept it as truth.

And I never, EVER believe an annonymous source. The U.S. has very strict whistle-blower laws, and no lack of means to make a very nice living if indeed one forfeits their job to out the dirty laundry of one's ideological opponent.

There are no excuses, Mr. Hanson, for the shoddy and partisan reporting by the likes of Jordan, Rather, Mapes & Newsweek in the examples you cite. Your attempt to explain them away diverts from the real issue, being that the surest way to the corruption of journalistic values is to allow and even condone reporting from an ideological framework, rather than an objective one.

The MSM has gone a long way down the road of that corruption. Do they have the courage and the dedication to their craft to come back?



HT to Ace O'Spades

Update:

Other responses from Powerline, Tapscott, and The Cliffs of Insanity.

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Friday, May 20, 2005

Some things are Priceless

Life.

Love.

Honor.

Pride. Well, strike that one. My pride can be had apparently for about 26/hr.

A silicone testicular implant (slightly used), however, came in at significantly less than priceless. A steal at 62 bucks.

Scroll down to the seller's description though, for some priceless memories like the following:

I remember visiting my older brother shortly after the surgery. When we shook hands I slipped the old implant into his hand. He looked at it in disgust and I said "I knew you'd have my nuts in your hand before the night was over." Good times.


Goood times.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

They Love Him in Georgia

I am donning my armor against terrible disappointment. I am girding my loins – girding my loins, I tell you – to once again do battle with the simpering, whimpering enemy of sane and reasoned political thought: Hollywood liberalism. Yes, I am getting ready to face nothing less than the leftist, anti-war venom that George Lucas has apparently injected into Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith.

As I do, I can’t help but recall the scene in Tbilisi last week:


Georgians Greet President Bush (AP Photo) Posted by Hello

You see all those hundreds of thousands of people? They are non-Americans, and they are cheering President George W. Bush. On the surface it seems strange: In Eastern Europe, predominantly peopled by our Cold War-era enemies, President Bush and his policies are far more popular than in Western Europe (which is presumably peopled by our allies). In France, a nation we rescued from the vilest regime the planet has ever known, they burn him in effigy. In Georgia, a country sworn to America’s destruction just a couple decades ago, they turn out by the thousands to shower adulation upon him (aside from someone who seems to have a weak arm and shitty explosives). What’s up with that?

Here’s the Earth-shattering secret: The Georgians know what real tyranny is like.

Unlike France, or West Germany, or the rest of Europe that we saved from the Nazis, Georgia actually lived under the boot of oppression for the better part of a century. Gulags and bread lines and jackbooted thugs knocking on doors at 3 am are still fresh in the Georgian collective mind. They remember murderous sociopaths like Joseph Stalin and stone-hearted dictators like Nikita Kruschev, so accusations of tyranny aimed at democratically-elected leaders like President Bush fall kind of flat. They’ve actually lived in a police state, so Noam Chomsky and Gore Vidal will have a hard time selling them the illusion of one here in the US.

They love George W. Bush in Georgia because they know, despite all the seething vitriol the left keeps spewing, that he is anything but a dictator. But in Hollywood, where style is king and substance has been forgotten by everyone except Joss Whedon, they love pretending they have an evil empire to fight. So Lucas chops quotes from early post-9/11 speeches and peppers them, entirely out of context, into the dialog of his archetypical tyrant. It’s one of the most limp-wristed swings the Hollywood left has taken at the President yet: You won the election, you’re making the decisions that matter, and you’re the one history will remember as a man of honor and determination. But I’ll criticize you good in my movie!

I’m going to try very hard to enjoy Revenge of the Sith despite Lucas’ messy attempt at a political statement. If nothing else, I’m sure it’ll be fun on the level of lightsaber duels and Natalie Portman in midriff-bearing outfits; those things rescued The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, after all. Hell, just watching Hayden Christensen getting kicked into a volcano will be worth the eight bucks. And when I leave the theater, President Bush will still be in charge of things here in the real world – much to the delight of both myself and the good citizens of Georgia – while the once-admired creator of Star Wars exercises political control over only his make-believe universe.

Oh, and one last, unrelated thought for George "Jar Jar Binks is a brilliant character!" Lucas: Han shot first, you jackass.


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Sunday, May 15, 2005

Ethics and the FPS

FPS being First Person Shooters of course.

I'll let David Wong explain:

(warning: adult language)

Halo 2 and the Criminal Mind

...So, dismissing Popular Media Conventional Wisdom for the noisy mental fart that it is, it's time to really ask how these games are changing the world. Thus began my expedition into the world of Halo 2 and into the minds of the people who play it. What I would find would shock me.


Whenever I'm feeling kind of down on the world, I let Pointless Waste of Time wash my woes away in a bloodbath of violence and penis jokes.

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Thursday, May 12, 2005

BPCP Update

The Blogosphere Political Compass Project has been updated. Go to the BPCP permalink page for a complete list of participants and links to their sites.


BPCP Graph for May 2005 Posted by Hello

From now on, new participants will be listed here in the update posts in addition to the main page. Thusly:

226 Richard of Highway 290 Revisited (-6.8, -5)
227 Larry of Blog Inside Larry's Head (3.5, -1.8)
228 Travis Benning of Metaphysically Wrinkle-Free (7.4, 0.8)
229 Brian of Psychopolotik (4.8, -3.8)
230 MichelleB of Elshell (5.9, 0.8)
231 ButterflyLane of Butterfly's Flutterbys (-6, -1)
232 Ray of Shared Daily (1.4, -0.5)
233 Mustang 23 of Assumption of Command (0.1, 0.7)
234 Shamalama of Common Folk Using Common Sense (3.6, -1.1)
235 Gun-Toting Liberal of A Gun-Toting Liberal (-5.4, -4)
236 Mike of Grendel's Dragon (6.5, 2.3)
237 Pwyll of Carnal Reason (4.9, -2.9)


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Friday, May 06, 2005

Oh Boy

Such were the semi-famous words of Quantum Leap's Dr. Samuel Beckett, uttered whenever he "leapt" into a new time. Folks at MIT should keep their ears open this weekend.


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Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Slate Online Accused of Journalism

I’m not one for passing up an opportunity to shine a little light into the darker recesses of the far left, even if that light comes from an unexpected source. Today I ran across this article from Slate Online, which gives us a good look beneath one of the rocks Michael Moore was living under last summer. Remember all that “Disney is censoring me!” fuss around Fahrenheit 9/11? Turns out that there was a little more to Disney’s decision not to distribute the film than Moore and his sleezy Hollywood agent would like us to believe:

On May 5, 2004, the New York Times ran a front-page article headlined "Disney Is Blocking Distribution of Film That Criticizes Bush." The story included the sensational charge that Eisner "expressed particular concern that [choosing to distribute Fahrenheit 9/11] would endanger tax breaks Disney receives for its theme park, hotels and other ventures in Florida, where Mr. Bush's brother, Jeb, is governor." The source for this allegation was Moore's agent, Ari Emanuel. Two days later, Moore claimed on his Web site that Disney's board of directors rejected Fahrenheit 9/11 "last week." In fact, the Disney board had not made such a decision in 2004 - the project had been vetoed in 2003.


Remember that Slate is fairly notorious for attacking the right. Their coorespondents and editors are usually supportive of the left – most especially the Hollywood left – so "Paranoia for Fun and Profit" comes as something of a surprise. Is it just a random jab at someone who is now considered a large enough target (pun very much intended) for everyone to pick on? Or might we have discovered, in Edward Jay Epstein, a Slate reporter who actually values honesty?

The Zoo shall dispatch an Agent or two to investigate, post-haste.


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Monday, May 02, 2005

The Poetry of Wolves

An online aquaintence of mine has recently started her own blog; Wolvespirit Productions is where Moonie (known to some of us better as Howlingmoon) will be posting her poetry and other thoughts. The woman certainly loves her wolves, so I thought I'd post a picture to welcome her to the blogosphere:


Four Wolves in Winter Posted by Hello

These four seem like particularly robust and powerful examples of the breed. If I had to guess, I'd say that the two larger, darker-colored individuals in the rear are males while the slightly smaller ones in front are females. When looking at a photo like this, it is interesting to remember that wolves are the ancestors of modern dogs. Yes, even your aunt's annoying teacup poodle is only about 20,000 years removed from the original canis stock. Strange but true.

Persoanlly, I think wolves are rather interesting and beautiful beasts. That is probably why I prefer dogs that resemble their more feral forbearers; German Shepards, Siberian Huskies, and Akitas are probably my favorites as far as dog breed goes. One day, when I have my own place with a decent-sized yard, I will have a Shepard.

Anyway, those of you who like poetry should go pay Moonie a visit. She has links to all sorts of funny gaming-related webcomics, too, making it doubly worth your time.


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