The Flinstone Museum

A rather curious new museum has opened in Petersburg, Kentucky.  For fans of the Flintstones (my favorite show as a kid), it might sound familiar:

But step a little farther into the entrance hall, and you come upon a
pastoral scene undreamt of by any natural history museum. Two
prehistoric children play near a burbling waterfall, thoroughly at home
in the natural world. Dinosaurs cavort nearby, their animatronic
mechanisms turning them into alluring companions, their gaping mouths
seeming not threatening, but almost welcoming, as an Apatosaurus
munches on leaves a few yards away.

No, its not a museum from TVLand, it is the “Creation Museum.”   In short:

For here at the $27 million Creation Museum, which opens on May 28 (just a short drive from the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky
International Airport), this pastoral scene is a glimpse of the world
just after the expulsion from the Garden of Eden, in which dinosaurs
are still apparently as herbivorous as humans, and all are enjoying a
little calm in the days after the fall.

It also serves as a vivid
introduction to the sheer weirdness and daring of this museum created
by the Answers in Genesis ministry that combines displays of
extraordinary nautilus shell fossils and biblical tableaus,
celebrations of natural wonders and allusions to human sin. Evolution
gets its continual comeuppance, while biblical revelations are treated
as gospel.

Outside the museum scientists may assert that the
universe is billions of years old, that fossils are the remains of
animals living hundreds of millions of years ago, and that life?s
diversity is the result of evolution by natural selection. But inside
the museum the Earth
is barely 6,000 years old, dinosaurs were created on the sixth day, and
Jesus is the savior who will one day repair the trauma of man?s fall.

Learning of the museum reminded me of one of my more interesting experiences at work in “the real world.”  One summer while in college, I worked at the warehouse for the Smithsonian Institution gift shops.  All merchandise sold in all Smithsonian museums in DC, came through our warehouse first where we spent all day counting items and then placing price tags on them (let's just say I prefer being a college professor).  Not surprisingly, lots of dinosaur stuff came through (and that summer, a ton of Star Trek merchandise due to a special exhibit).  I remembering being floored when one of my co-workers said, “you don't believe in that dinosaur s*** do you?”  I had no idea, dinosaurs were “a belief.”  It was not long after that one of my co-workers gave me a chick tract (if you have no idea what I'm talking about, you really should click the link) and tried to explain to me that Catholics were actually worshipping Egyptian gods and that I could only be a true Christian if I spoke in tongues.  Let's just say I was glad to get back to college that year. 

Dancing Baby

I've always been jealous of those blogs with cool embedded videos.  I thought I should try having some embedded video. Here goes…
Evan Dancing from Steven Greene on Vimeo

The real reason not to watch Fox news

Somehow, despite teaching a class on media and politics, I have been shamefully ignorant of the amazing Project for Excellence in Journalism until today (thanks to Mike Cobb for filling me in). 

I've been teaching about the media this week in my summer school class and I always enjoy sharing the results of the PIPA study that shows that Fox viewers actually became actively misinformed about the actual state of the world during the run-up to the Iraq War.  Anyway, much of this week I have been ranting about how news outlets give us Wall-to-wall Anna Nicole Smith coverage instead of real news.  Turns out the aforementioned Project for Excellence in Journalism does quarterly analysis of news coverage.  Not surprisingly, when it came to style over substance, cable news in general was the worst– but Fox was in a class by itself. The results:

Percent of Newshole Devoted Three Major Stories on Cable TV
Dec. 31, '06 – Mar. 31, '07

Iraq War Total
(all 3 threads)

2008 Presidential Campaign

Anna Nicole Smith

CNN

25

7

4

Fox News

15

9

10

MSNBC

31

14

6

All Cable

23%

9%

7%

That's right Fox basically spent as much time on the Anna Nicole story as MSNBC and CNN combined.  And how did they make up for it?  By pretending that the fiasco that is the Iraq War hardly exists. 

Is Bush Evil?

I originally wrote this nice lost post over a week ago, when it was actually timely.  I just discovered that I had forgotten to actually post it.  Not quite as timely, but I still think worth saying…

As I've been following the absolutely deplorable story about how Bush tried to take advantage of a critically ill Attorney General John Ashcroft to get his way, all I could think is: what kind of person does this?  What kind of person is so hellbent on getting their way that they would send their flunkies to a man's hospital bed in the ICU when he has just come out of surgery to have him sign something he has refused to when healthy?  Seriously.  What kind of person does that make George Bush?  If not evil, certainly not very good.  So comforting to know he's “a person of faith.”  In case you are not familiar with the details, here's a nice summary:

The night of March 10, Ashcroft's wife called the attorney general's
chief of staff, David Ayers, from her husband's hospital room to say
that she had received a call from the White House and that Alberto
Gonzales, then the White House counsel, and White House Chief of Staff
Andy Card were on their way there. Comey rushed over, as did Goldsmith
and another department official, Patrick Philbin; he called in FBI
Director Robert Mueller as well, though Mueller arrived only after the
subsequent confrontation had taken place. In the hospital room, Card
and Gonzales sought to persuade a barely conscious Ashcroft to sign the
authorization, though the powers of the attorney general resided with
Comey, not him. Ashcroft, Comey testified, “lifted his head off the
pillow and in very strong terms expressed his view of the matter,”
standing by the department's position, and then said, “But that doesn't
matter, because I'm not the attorney general. There is the attorney
general.” And he pointed at Comey.

Over the next few days, Comey testified, “The program was reauthorized
without us and without a signature from the Department of Justice
attesting as to its legality.”

Dahlia Lithwick has a much longer, but much more dramatic summary here

Leaving aside just what this says about Bush's character for a moment, consider this from Marty Lederman– it's pretty damning it a nice bullet-point format:

Comey testified as follows:

(i) that he,
OLC and the AG concluded that the NSA program was not legally
defensible, i.e., that it violated FISA and that the Article II
argument OLC had previously approved was not an adequate justification
(a conclusion prompted by the New AAG, Jack Goldsmith, having
undertaken a systematic review of OLC's previous legal opinions
regarding the Commander in Chief's powers);

(ii) that the White House nevertheless continued with the program anyway, despite DOJ's judgment that it was unlawful;

(iii) that Comey, Ashcroft, the head of the FBI (Robert Mueller) and several other DOJ officials therefore threatened to resign;

(iv)
that the White House accordingly — one day later — asked DOJ to
figure out a way the program could be changed to bring it into
compliance with the law (presumably on the AUMF authorizaton theory);
and

(v) that OLC thereafter did develop proposed amendments to
the program over the subsequent two or three weeks, which were
eventually implemented.

Read point 2 again.  There's no doubt the president considers himself above the law.  And you know what I think of that.  (And, some earlier thoughts of mine on having a president, not a king). 

Birth control = pesticide ?

I think there are perfectly valid and legitimate arguments to be made from the “pro-life” perspective.  Unfortunately,  too many pro-life spokespeople are raving nuts.  They are not just against abortion, they are against sex for any purpose other than procreation.  Case in point here:

On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration ?approved the first birth control pill that eliminates a woman?s monthly period.?

Yesterday on Fox News?s Your World With Neil Cavuto, Leslee Unruh,
president of the National Abstinence Clearinghouse, argued that this
pill a ?pesticide? that will make women ?like men.? She called it an
?attack on children and families,? ending the segment with shouts of,
?I want more babies. More babies. We love babies.? Watch it:

(you really should click through and watch the video)

Secret to a happy marriage– a working wife

Not all that long ago I wrote about recent research that showed that marriage is increasingly the province of the wealthy and educated.  Now some interesting research shows that successful marriages are increasingly those where the wife works outside the home:

The marriages of women who work outside the home are more likely to
stay together than the marriages of those who don't, according to new
studies that have converted at least one prominent social conservative.

The
findings offer guilt relief for some of the 67 million married U.S.
working women and reflect a growing equity among couples when it comes
to income, decision-making, parenting and housekeeping. And if working
wives promote stability at home, the trend is likely to buttress
public-policy arguments for more paid maternal and paternal leave and
more help with child care.

What I could not find in the article, however, is how this is related to the finding that marriage is increasingly for the more educated and higher earning.  I'm feeling a little too lazy to look up the actual study, but I've got to think they controlled for these factors.  Here's a little more info:

Many economists insisted that the specialization of a traditional
marriage – a breadwinner and a homemaker – was more efficient and
productive.

Social conservatives noted that the higher the income for working women, the higher the divorce rate.

Sociologists
from 1980 onward struggled for clarity in a fast-changing domestic
world of rising marriage ages, falling divorce rates, more cohabitation
and rising incomes for women. Also confounding them was the endless
range of domestic effects dependent on whether a wife wanted to work -
and why – or had to.

In the end, time simplified the picture.
More wives worked and made more money. More husbands appreciated it.
More families adapted. That's the gist of Rogers' new book comparing
the attitudes of married couples in 1980 to those in 2000.

Anyway, I'll just conclude this post by noting that today marks 13 years of marriage for Kim and me.  Kim has spent part of the time with a job, part just being a mom, but its all been great.

The intelligence was right

The Bush administration has long tried to blame problems with our invasion of Iraq on the CIA for “faulty intelligence.”  In truth, the fact that the administration was cherry-picking just what they wanted to hear and even set up their own “intelligence group” within the Pentagon, the Office of Special Plans, is well-documented.  Again, thanks to Democrats being in control of Congress, we know learn what the CIA had to say that the Bush administration never wanted us to hear:

Months before the invasion of Iraq, U.S. intelligence agencies predicted that it would be likely to spark violent sectarian divides and provide al-Qaeda with new opportunities in Iraq and Afghanistan,
according to a report released yesterday by the Senate Select Committee
on Intelligence. Analysts warned that war in Iraq also could provoke Iran
to assert its regional influence and “probably would result in a surge
of political Islam and increased funding for terrorist groups” in the
Muslim world.

The intelligence assessments, made in January 2003
and widely circulated within the Bush administration before the war,
said that establishing democracy in Iraq would be “a long, difficult
and probably turbulent challenge.” The assessments noted that Iraqi
political culture was “largely bereft of the social underpinnings” to
support democratic development.

Read that again– it's remarkably prescient.  It is no surprise at all that Iraq has turned out into this fiasco.  In fact, the CIA basically predicted it.  I don't have much to add– I think this speaks for itself. 

Happy Blogversary

I was looking for an old post recently and discovered that May 26, 2006 was the beginning of this blog.  I've actually been surprised at how consistently I've been able to post for most of the past year.  I am pleased that most weeks have not been like this one, where readjustment to teaching summer school every day has slowed me down.  I've had lots of posts in the past year– many I am quite proud of, others that I hope are at least interesting.   I re-read my second entry, which outlined my basic approach to the blog, and I am pleased that it seems to have delivered what I promised– not just impassioned rants against George Bush, but all sorts of interesting tidbits.  I like to thing of this blog as kind of a dose of Steve.  Anyway, one year down, and I think, going strong, so thanks for reading this and stick with me.

Impeach ourselves?

Salon's Gary Kamiya makes a very intriguing argument in a column today.  In a nutshell, the reason that the American public has no interest in impeaching Bush is that to do so would force us to seriously confront our own flaws.  The highlights:

But there's a deeper reason why the popular impeachment movement has
never taken off — and it has to do not with Bush but with the American
people. Bush's warmongering spoke to something deep in our national
psyche. The emotional force behind America's support for the Iraq war,
the molten core of an angry, resentful patriotism, is still too hot for
Congress, the media and even many Americans who oppose the war, to
confront directly. It's a national myth. It's John Wayne. To impeach
Bush would force us to directly confront our national core of violent
self-righteousness — come to terms with it, understand it and reject
it. And we're not ready to do that.

The truth is that Bush's high crimes and misdemeanors, far from being too small, are too great.
What has saved Bush is the fact that his lies were, literally, a matter
of life and death. They were about war. And they were sanctified by 9/11.
Bush tapped into a deep American strain of fearful, reflexive
bellicosity, which Congress and the media went along with for a long
time and which has remained largely unexamined to this day. Congress,
the media and most of the American people have yet to turn decisively
against Bush because to do so would be to turn against some part of
themselves. This doesn't mean we support Bush, simply that at some dim,
half-conscious level we're too confused — not least by our own
complicity — to work up the cold, final anger we'd need to go through
impeachment.

It is quite worth reading the entire thing. 

The Democrat’s best is on A4

Bill Richardson officially announced his campaign for the Democratic nomination for president yesterday.  Sadly, all you really need to know about it is captured in the image:

As you can see, it is not front page news.  This despite the fact that Richardson has a presidential resume to die for: successful two-term governor, former ambassador to the UN, former energy Secretary, former Congressman.  Plus, he's moderate and he's Hispanic.  Alas, Obama and Hillary Clinton have pretty much sucked all the air (and the money) out of the room, except for Edwards' game effort which benefits from his place on the '04 ticket.  Still, it just really bothers me that the man who is demonstrably so much more qualified than his competitors gets short shrift.  Based on my conversations with friends, I'm going to conclude that Richardson is the thinking person's Democratic nominee.  That and $50 million might get you the nomination. 

This very flattering profile in the Post Style section only increased my support for his candidacy.  He really has an amazing background.  It may be hopeless, but I'm sticking with Richardson for now. 

I’m doing my part

Most of the news coverage about West Nile Virus has focused on the fact that, unfortunately, it is occasionally fatal for humans.  Sadly, for birds, it is not just occasionally fatal, but a real epidemic:

Several common species of North American birds have suffered drastic
population declines since the arrival of the West Nile virus eight
years ago, leaving rural and suburban areas quieter than they used to
be and imposing ecological stresses on a variety of other animals and
plants, a new study has found.

In Maryland, for example, 2005 chickadee populations were 68 percent lower than would have been expected had West Nile not arrived, and in Virginia chickadee populations were 50 percent below that prediction…

It shows that the post-1998 declines were greatest at times and places
in which the virus was especially prevalent — as indicated by the
number of human infections diagnosed. As expected, American crows were
among the worst hit, suffering declines of as much as 45 percent in
some regions and wipeouts of 100 percent in some smaller areas. Other
species that suffered included the blue jay, the tufted titmouse, the
American robin, the house wren, the chickadee and — unexpectedly –
the American bluebird.

On the positive side, as you can see here

I'm doing my part to help with the bluebird numbers as these two little chicks are in a bluebird box but 12 feet from my kitchen window.  It is quite rewarding to watch the parents build the nest, incubate the eggs, and then quite devotedly feed the hungry baby chicks for the next two weeks.  Amazingly, these scrawny little things in the picture will grow enough to fly off on their own in about 10 days. 

Impeachable offenses?

Okay, I know that, unfortunately, Bush is not going back Crawford for good until January 2009.  Nonetheless, I think we've reached a level where he is probably nearly as impeachable as Nixon was, and certainly much more so than the ridiculous charade of impeaching Clinton for trying to hide a personal sexual impropriety.  The testimony of former Deputy Attorney General James Comey this week has been incredibly damning.  As always, Slate's Dahlia Lithwick is right on top of things and writes a column that really lays out the issues at stake.  In short:

Glenn Greenwald contends that “the President consciously and
deliberately violated the law and committed multiple felonies by
eavesdropping on Americans.” The Wall Street Journal insists
that no law was broken because the surveillance program put the
president above the law. Greenwald believes in an immutable legal
architecture that binds even the president. The White House contends
the president answers to nobody. There is no midpoint between these two
arguments. The president is either above the law or he isn't.  [emphasis mine]

Think about that.  I don't know about you, but terrorists, wars, whatever, I do not want to live in a country (nor I think do most Americans) where our president is above the law.  Its that simple.  Only the most pathetic Republican sycophants and cowards completely cowed by the threat of radical Islamists could possibly support this position (this would include Bush, Cheney, and Gonzalez).  From Kevin Drum:

Marty Lederman points out today that this team ? John Ashcroft, Jack
Goldsmith, and James Comey ? was no bunch of weak-kneed liberals. They
were, under every other circumstance, hardnosed conservatives dedicated
to an expansive view of executive power in wartime. What's more, the
NSA program was one the administration considered critical to the war
on terror; repudiating a previous finding is highly unusual; their
actions undermined a key legal tenet of the president's wartime powers;
and they knew that both the president and vice president would be furious at what they had done.

And yet not only would Ashcroft, et al., not budge ? they were prepared to resign their offices if the President allowed this program of vital importance to go forward in the teeth of their legal objections.

In light of all these considerations, just try to imagine
how legally dubious the Yoo justification must have been that John
Ashcroft was so profoundly committed to its repudiation.
It's
staggering, really ? almost unimaginable that anything such as this
could have happened, especially where the stakes were so high.

The Post has an editorial today calling Bush to task for evading this issue, but there is no front page coverage in either the Post or the Times.  Still, its time for the media to get a lot more aggressive in calling a spade a spade and pointing out the level of lawlessness, venality, corruption, and incomparable hubris in this administration. 

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