This is depressing

According to a new Harris poll:

Sizeable minorities of Americans still believe Saddam Hussein had “strong links to al Qaeda,” a Harris Interactive poll shows, though the number has fallen substantially this year.
About 22% of U.S. adults believe Mr. Hussein helped plan 9/11, the poll shows, and 26% believe Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when the U.S. invaded. Another 24% believe several of the 9/11 hijackers were Iraqis, according to the online poll of 1,961 adults.
However, all of these beliefs have declined since February of this year, when 64% of those polled believed Mr. Hussein had strong links to al Qaeda and 46% said Mr. Hussein helped plan 9/11. At that time, more than a third said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and 44% said several of the 9/11 hijackers were Iraqis.
Currently, 56% of adults believe Iraqis are better off now than they were under Mr. Hussein, down from 76% in February. Nearly half of those polled say they believe Iraq, under Mr. Hussein, was a threat to U.S. security, down from 61% in February.

Can that many people really be that ignorant? At least the numbers are declining.

My little OCD problem

license_plate.gif When I’m driving by myself in slow traffic, I absentmindedly read the license plates of all the cars around me. I chalk it up to boredom and a little OCD. I can’t recall a license plate number a few seconds after the car passes, but I’m concerned my mind is actually storing them all away in long term memory. My fear is that when I’m old and senile, I’ll start babbling out all the license plate numbers I’ve read over the years. I can just see myself slumped in my wheelchair, drooling, and saying “W12-TXL, BB3-56J. Oh! RTL-3S4!”, etc.

Bashing Santa Claus

Well, MetaFilter has had its seemingly annual discussion of the value of perpetuating the idea of Santa Claus to children. One thing that strikes me about the discussion is that very few people have recounted what they have done or are doing with their own kids. I think that many MetaFilter members are young and childless (especially the ones posting on Christmas day perhaps).
I remember back before we had kids, I would make statements about what I never/always would do with my future children. My father-in-law would just gently shake his head and snicker. Now that I have kids, I understand my father-in-law’s response. Raising children challenges every preconceived notion you have and destroys many of them. You really can’t imagine what it’ll be like until you are a parent yourself. Things that you thought would be important turn out to be inconsequential and you devote large amounts of emotional energy to issues you never even thought of before.

#1081 in the list of things I don’t do very well

Yesterday, I put down laminate flooring in the downstairs bathroom. Installing the flooring was as easy as the Lowe’s employee had promised, but I had a few problems figuring out which way 45 degree miter cuts went on the quarter round moulding. Fortunately, a couple of extra pieces of moulding only set me back a few extra dollars.

How to stay married

My family has a history of mangling or chopping off appendages. My grandfather hit his knee with an axe and it was stiff the rest of his lfe; my dad ground the toes off of one foot in an industrial accident; and my mother lost a finger in a recreational accident. Katie lives in constant fear that I’ll be the next victim.
Yesterday I was working with a borrowed power miter saw. With my family history, I should have realized that Katie wouldn’t find it very funny when I came in from the garage with a towel around a finger and saying I’d had a little accident.

Judging a book by its cover

This article states what seems obvious to me: readers really do judge a book by its cover:

“BOOK LOVERS MAY NOT BE the most heroic members of the romantic world, but at least, we tell ourselves, we are deep, we are discerning. Well, I have news for you from publishing’s bottom line: we bespectacled creatures of the late-night night light are, frankly, a bit slutty.
All the research shows that consumers are very, very influenced by the covers, not necessarily to buy a book, but to pick it up,” Joanna Prior, publicity and marketing director at Penguin, says.
Studies show that a book on a three-for-two table has about one and a half seconds to catch a reader’s eye. If it is picked up, it is on average glanced at for only three to four seconds.

Dogs are disgusting!

If you think Heather Armstrong’s dog Chuck is gross, check this out: back when we used to leave Tippie free in the house while we weren’t home, sometimes we would come home to find the bathroom trash can tipped over and Tippie running around with a string hanging from her mouth or bits of adhesive backed absorbent material stuck to her snout. She quickly gained the nickname ‘Kotex.’ For obvious reasons, we now put Tippie in a crate (let’s be real, it’s a cage) when we’re away from home.

When to impeach

In light of the news that the administration has been spying on Americans, John Scalzi posts his thoughts on if and when a president should be impeached. As usual with John, it’s a well written blog post (hell, it should be well written; he’s a professional writer!).
But I take issue with John on a couple of points. He writes:

Now, let’s posit that the president knew his actions were illegal, but didn’t care. Would that merit impeachment? In my opinion, no — if the president could prove that his actions saved Americans from imminent harm that following the law could not have prevented.

In reference to an even more extreme possible circumstance, John writes:

If we granted that the president both knew what he was doing was illegal and that it was determined that such evasion of law was entirely unnecessary, now are we talking impeachment? This is the point where I go “gaaaaaaaaah” and raise a point that will be entirely unpersuasive to many, which is that I genuinely believe that Bush wants to protect Americans, and that matters to a non-trivial extent. I’d be loathe to impeach a president for that, and I would find it difficult to support people who would. There, I’ve said it: I don’t think you get impeached for trying to protect Americans.

That may work with captains of fictional star ships named Enterprise, but I don’t buy it in real life. As some commenters to the post remark, this is the top of one long slippery slope. The law doesn’t account for good intentions (ok, ill intent is a critical part of many laws, but generally, you’re still breaking some law whether you do it with good or ill intent; it’s just that ill intent gets you a harsher punishment).
I’m not sure this is completely relevant, but John’s blog post reminded me of a common parenting situation:

  • Child #1 is doing something stupid that could result in harm to child #2.
  • Parent tells child #1 to stop because it could harm child #2.
  • Child #1 ignores parent
  • Child #1’s action results in anticipated harm to child #2
  • Parent turns his/her attention to child #1, and even before the parent can open his/her mouth, child #1 is screaming, “But I didn’t mean to harm child #2
  • Parent responds: “Well, I’m assuming you weren’t doing this reckless action in order to harm child #2. But the fact remains that you ignored the possible consequences and an order to stop it lest you harm child #2. You’re still just as guilty.

President Bush: go to your room without your dinner. No TV, no telephone!

The true spirit of the season

From the American Civil Liberties Union web site:

When the angry phone calls and emails started arriving at the office, I knew the holiday season was upon us. A typical message shouted that we at the American Civil Liberties Union are “horrible” and “we should be ashamed of ourselves,” and then concluded with an incongruous and agitated “Merry Christmas.”
We get this type of correspondence a lot, mostly in reaction to a well-organized attempt by extremist groups to demonize the ACLU, crush religious diversity, and make a few bucks in the process. Sadly, this self-interested effort is being promoted in the guise of defending Christmas.

In truth, it is these website Christians who are taking the Christ out of the season. Nowhere in the Sermon on the Mount did Jesus Christ ask that we celebrate His birth with narrow-mindedness and intolerance, especially for those who are already marginalized and persecuted. Instead, the New Testament—like the Torah and the Koran and countless other sacred texts—commands us to love our neighbor, and to comfort the sick and the imprisoned.
That’s what the ACLU does. We live in a country filled with people who are sick and disabled, people who are imprisoned, and people who hunger and thirst for justice. Those people come to our Indiana offices for help, at a rate of several hundred a week, usually because they have nowhere else to turn. The least of our brothers and sisters sure aren’t getting any help from the Alliance Defense Fund or WorldNet Daily. So, as often as we can, ACLU secures justice for those folks who Jesus worried for the most.
As part of our justice mission, we work hard to protect the rights of free religious expression for all people, including Christians. For example, we recently defended the First Amendment rights of a Baptist minister to preach his message on public streets in southern Indiana. The ACLU intervened on behalf of a Christian valedictorian in a Michigan high school, which agreed to stop censoring religious yearbook entries, and supported the rights of Iowa students to distribute Christian literature at their school.

Happy Holidays to all!

District court rules against ‘intelligent design’

church_state.jpg A U.S. District Judge ruled today that the Dover, Pennsylvania school board can’t force the teaching of intelligent design. That is welcome news in and of itself, but as an extra bonus, the judge’s finding is very strongly worded (emphasis added):

The proper application of both the endorsement and Lemon tests to the facts of this case makes it abundantly clear that the Board’s ID Policy violates the Establishment Clause. In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.
Both Defendants and many of the leading proponents of ID make a bedrock assumption which is utterly false. Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general. Repeatedly in this trial, Plaintiffs’ scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator.
To be sure, Darwin’s theory of evolution is imperfect. However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions. The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy.
With that said, we do not question that many of the leading advocates of ID have bona fide and deeply held beliefs which drive their scholarly endeavors. Nor do we controvert that ID should continue to be studied, debated, and discussed. As stated, our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom.
Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Board’s decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources.

You go, Judge Jones!
UPDATE: It appears that Judge Jones was appointed by George W. Bush. Clearly one of those pesky liberal activist judges. Awesome.