Democrat behaving badly

The appointed Democratic senator from Montana, John Walsh, has a master’s degree from the United States Army War College. But does he deserve it?

An examination of the 14-page paper, titled “The Case for Democracy as a Long Term National Strategy” and posted online by The Times, revealed that about a third of Mr. Walsh’s 2007 paper consisted of verbatim language and extremely similar passages to other sources, without any kind of attribution.

“Another third is attributed to sources through footnotes but uses other authors’ exact — or almost exact — language without quotation marks,” The Times said.

That first clause made me pause…you can get a master’s by writing a 14-page paper? My undergraduate students write far more than that every semester. Thanks, War College, for cheapening the value of a degree so much!

Even if two thirds of the essay weren’t plagiarized (really, he wrote about 4½ pages to get his degree?), I’d say that isn’t graduate level work.

AtheistTV, next week

I hope AtheistTV is good — they’ve announced they’ll be putting 50 years worth of their video archives on there, so I’m hoping for some interesting content. On the other hand, if it’s recycling crap from youtube as a fast way to get lots of noise online, well…it could get embarrassing. There has to be some quality control, somewhere.

I’ll check it out next Tuesday and let you know what’s on.

The dose makes the poison

Princeton physicist William Happer is still getting invited on television to say stupid things.

I keep hearing about the "pollutant CO2," or about "poisoning the atmosphere" with CO2, or about minimizing our "carbon footprint." This brings to mind another Orwellian pronouncement that is worth pondering: "But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought." CO2 is not a pollutant and it is not a poison and we should not corrupt the English language by depriving "pollutant" and "poison" of their original meaning….CO2 is absolutely essential for life on earth.

Did you know oxygen, while not a poison at standard concentrations, is highly reactive and will kill you at high concentration? Or that CO2 is vital for plants and is measured to regulate your breathing, but too much and you’ll suffocate?

What makes a substance poisonous is how much of it there is. Paracelsus figured this out in the 16th century. So Princeton physicists are unaware of developments and explanations that predate even Newton? That’s kind of amazing.

Maybe CNBC and other networks ought to take a lesson from the BBC on ginned up controversies and false dichotomies, and cut this bozo Happer from their invitation list.

Jim’s dead

I’m sorry to see that James Garner has died. Just last week, when I was laid up, I watched a few episodes of the Rockford Files on Netflix — sometimes one just has to reminisce about the 70s, whether we liked them or not.

One thing: Garner was a terrible actor. He always played the same character, himself, in every show he did, but that was OK, because he had such an amiable personality. You knew exactly what you were going to get.

Another, completely irrelevant thing: watching 70s TV was really weird. Nowadays, in a drama, if somebody is going somewhere, there might be a brief shot of them going out the door, cut, they are at their destination. Travel is implied. On the Rockford Files, they go out the door, there is a long lingering scene of the car tooling down city streets or out through the California country side, finding a perfectly open parking space, guy gets out, walks up to destination. Watch it now and geez, you feel like they must really have loved their cars 40 years ago. Half the show feels like an advertisement for Pontiac, or a leisurely travelogue.

But Garner at least made it a pleasant hour.

I’m willing to pay good money for honest tales of beauty and despair

Chris Clarke has published a short excerpt from his upcoming Joshua tree book. It’s good. It promises great things to come. It’s also mildly sorrowful, but then, that’s what you’re going to get with good environmental journalism.

There’s also a deal where you can sign up for weekly stories on the desert, in return for a reasonable donation. I signed up for a year’s worth — you might want to consider chipping in, too, if you can afford it.

No heroes, ever

Through my drug-induced haze, I’ve been following the rising tide of revulsion at Richard Feynman’s personal behavior. It’s been sad and distressing; he was pretty much an opportunistic cad with women. What’s also been disturbing is the denial by people who should know better — Feynman was completely open about it in his published memoir. Face it, accept it, get over it. If you’re making excuses for him, we’re laughing at you. I was amused at this illustration of the problem:

Being a great physicist does not make you a great human being. Everyone is a mosaic of different properties, and there is no automatic correlation of saintliness in all dimensions. And most importantly, being really good at physics or any other intellectual endeavor is not an excuse for being a reprehensible asshole.

It was a portrait of a delusion

Holly Hobby Lobby explains what she was thinking with that picture of her holding a bible and a rifle in front of a flag.

“I expected less backlash with this than I did the first one because the picture is, like, America’s founding principles,” Fischer opined to Fox News on Wednesday.

Hold it right there. Guns and God are what you get out of the Enlightenment principles that inspired America’s founders? That’s rather missing the point.

“That’s all that’s in the picture. And I really didn’t think it would cause the uproar that it has.”

What uproar? Pointing out, on media like blogs and twitter that parading about with a Bible and a gun isn’t exactly progressive, and exactly mirrors the attitude of the worst of the Abrahamic fundamentalists (heck, it is modern Abrahamic fundamentalism) isn’t exactly a riot. What I saw was a great deal of amusement on the left at the juxtaposition of Christian and Islamic ‘freedom fighter’, and most of the outrage came from the right, where they were howling in denial and insisting that they weren’t the same, because Muslims were gun-toting barbarians with a false god, while Holly was a white human being married to an American soldier. Totes different.

Fisher said that she posted the photo because there was a “growing intolerance among the left, and conservatives are becoming more and more afraid to speak up.”

In my culture, martyrdom is folly and a martyr complex, where no sacrifice is made but one pretends to be oppressed, is contemptible and stupid. Here, let me quell your fears.

Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Fox News (hell, Holly was being interviewed on Fox), World Net Daily, Ann Coulter, the Family Research Council, Dinesh D’Souza, Sean Hannity, Sunday morning television punditry, Alex Jones, Michael Savage, Sarah Palin, Clear Channel, Pat Robertson, Focus on the Family, Phyllis Schlafly, and the entirety of the Republican Party.

Conservatives aren’t afraid to speak up, because they sure won’t shut up. Everywhere I go, the Far Right Noise Machine is squawking nonstop.

Meanwhile, you probably think President Obama is a far left socialist/communist radical. He’s actually a centrist apparatchik who is less obstructive and destructive than the screaming idiots on the right.

You can complain when President Bernie Sanders is in office. Until then, your fears of socialism running the country are groundless. (And even then, a hypothetical Sanders presidency would be an even greater slog against the right-wing no-bots than the current one.)

Now you won’t have to go see the next Star Wars movie

All the good stuff is right here in this clip.

The release version will just have added wooden dialog, hackneyed characters, and some cheesy plot you won’t care about.

Oh, and since it’s J.J. Abrams, there’ll be lots of lens flare slathered on.

Hey! I just saved you ten bucks! You should go to the donation link on the left and give it to FtB!