Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Tuesday 19 October 2010

Kooky Christianist and Delaware U.S. Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell failed her constitutional law exam yesterday:

The exchange came in a debate before an audience of legal scholars and law students at Widener University Law School, as O'Donnell criticized Democratic nominee Chris Coons' position that teaching creationism in public school would violate the First Amendment by promoting religious doctrine.

Coons said private and parochial schools are free to teach creationism but that "religious doctrine doesn't belong in our public schools."

"Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?" O'Donnell asked him.

When Coons responded that the First Amendment bars Congress from making laws respecting the establishment of religion, O'Donnell asked: "You're telling me that's in the First Amendment?"

Her comments, in a debate aired on radio station WDEL, generated a buzz in the audience.

"You actually audibly heard the crowd gasp," Widener University political scientist Wesley Leckrone said after the debate, adding that it raised questions about O'Donnell's grasp of the Constitution.

Facepalm.

I know some lovely people who live in Delaware. Please, please don't let this ignoramus represent them in the Senate.

Tuesday 19 October 2010 13:53:41 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | US#
Monday 18 October 2010 23:51:24 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Monday 18 October 2010

(Apologies to Bill Cosby.)

The Chicago Tribune reported today that Chicago needs more software engineers:

With a national unemployment rate of 9.6 percent, many people assume employers have their pick of applicants for any job, McCombs said. Not so. Within every down job market exist bright spots, which in Chicago means tech jobs, particularly for software engineers.

The continued growth of the Internet and mobile technology is fueling the increased demand for IT professionals, McCombs said. Computer application software engineers will be the fastest growing job category over the next eight years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which projects a 32 percent increase in the number of computer software engineers between 2008 and 2018. The total work force is expected to grow 8 percent during the same period.

... "I feel we're at 100 percent employment" for highly qualified software engineers in Chicago, said Zach Kaplan, chief executive at Chicago-based Inventables, an online marketplace for materials and technology. The company gets flooded with applications when it posts nontechnical jobs, but it struggles to find software engineers.

So, what about a software engineer with 17 years of experience and (soon to be) two graduate degrees? Would that be worth something to you?

Monday 18 October 2010 15:53:48 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Business#
Sunday 17 October 2010

Via Sullivan, Kenneth Davis at the Smithsonian sets the record straight on our history:

From the earliest arrival of Europeans on America’s shores, religion has often been a cudgel, used to discriminate, suppress and even kill the foreign, the “heretic” and the “unbeliever”—including the “heathen” natives already here. Moreover, while it is true that the vast majority of early-generation Americans were Christian, the pitched battles between various Protestant sects and, more explosively, between Protestants and Catholics, present an unavoidable contradiction to the widely held notion that America is a “Christian nation.”

... Future President James Madison stepped into the breach. In a carefully argued essay titled “Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments,” the soon-to-be father of the Constitution eloquently laid out reasons why the state had no business supporting Christian instruction. Signed by some 2,000 Virginians, Madison’s argument became a fundamental piece of American political philosophy, a ringing endorsement of the secular state that “should be as familiar to students of American history as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution,” as Susan Jacoby has written in Freethinkers, her excellent history of American secularism.

Among Madison’s 15 points was his declaration that “the Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every...man to exercise it as these may dictate. This right is in its nature an inalienable right.”

Madison also made a point that any believer of any religion should understand: that the government sanction of a religion was, in essence, a threat to religion. “Who does not see,” he wrote, “that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects?” Madison was writing from his memory of Baptist ministers being arrested in his native Virginia.

On The Daily Parker, Madison's entire essay.

Sunday 17 October 2010 08:33:07 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US | Religion#
Saturday 16 October 2010

This is one of my favorites, from a road trip through Wisconsin in October 2003:

Full size at The Daily Parker...

Saturday 16 October 2010 15:32:43 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Friday 15 October 2010

Sometimes you can't make these things up:

Chicago election officials say crews will work overtime to reprogram thousands of electronic voting machines that mistakenly list a gubernatorial candidate's name as "Rich Whitey" instead of Rich Whitney.

Chicago elections board chairman Langdon Neal said 530 machines being used for early voting and an additional 4,200 destined for the Nov. 2 election will be reprogrammed and retested.

The mistake in the Green Party candidate's name appears on a review screen that allows voters to double-check their selections and not on the screen where the vote is registered. It also is not on paper ballots, Neal said.

Heavens, where does one go with this...

Friday 15 October 2010 12:19:03 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Politics#
Thursday 14 October 2010

Sullivan gets it exactly right:

Preventing a second Great Depression, which was a real possibility (and not just the jobless recovery we're in, but a full-scale collapse), rescuing the banks without nationalizing them, saving the auto-companies with precision and technocratic skill (I didn't think it would work at all, and it did), re-setting relations with the rest of the world, bringing a new sanity and balance to Middle East policy, taking out 400 al Qaeda operatives, using the myth of the surge to get the hell out of Iraq (for the most part), upping the ante to get a deal with the Taliban and enacting a centrist, moderate law that for the first time in history ensures that anyone can get health insurance in this country ... really, in perspective, pretty damn remarkable.

Politically, he had to deal with a GOP gone insane, and a propaganda machine of such virulence and relentlessness that you can see he is where he is. But although he is right that he lost the connection to us, his supporters, I don't think he could have kept up the hope and change inspiration indefinitely. He would rightly have been ridiculed for not being serious at governing.

[W}hen the GOP take back the Congress, their talk radio schtick will have to face the reality of governing's hard choices. And in that battle for the center, I'd bet on Obama's reason and calm over Gingrich's flame wars, Palin's delusions and Boehner's tan.

If I were buying stock right now, I'd say the president is under-priced.

I bought in 2003, and I'm pretty happy with the returns.

Thursday 14 October 2010 10:04:59 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#
Wednesday 13 October 2010

Via Sullivan, the dating site okcupid.com analyzed their 3.2 m users to determine that gay people really don't want to date straight people:

The subtext to a lot of homophobic thinking is the idea that gays will try to get straight people into bed at the first opportunity, or that gays are looking to "convert" straights. Freud called this concept schwanzangst; the U.S. Army calls it Don't Ask Don't Tell.

We combed through over 4 million match searches, and found virtually no evidence of it:

Match Search Returns 
» only 0.6% of gay men have ever searched for straight matches.
» only 0.1% of lesbians have ever searched for straight matches.
» only 0.13% of straight people's profile visitors are gay.

Furthermore
In our dataset, there was not a single gay user, male or female, who primarily searched for straight people.

Of course, actually looking at data is no way to have a political argument.

As a side note, the OKCupid guy who wrote the post, Christian Rudder, found this disturbing bit of data:

I also spent a lot of time looking up match questions to debunk this particular claim. Down in the database I discovered one question with a surprising disparity, not between orientations, but between genders. Like Frodo to the Balrog, I wished I'd never unearthed it.

Come on, people. #facepalm.

I'd like to see a couple of regressions on that dataset.

Wednesday 13 October 2010 10:54:01 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US | Religion#

Aaron Sorkin responded to his critics on comedy writer Ken Levine's blog:

[B]elieve me, I get it. It's not hard to understand how bright women could be appalled by what they saw in the movie but you have to understand that that was the very specific world I was writing about. Women are both prizes and equals.

More generally, I was writing about a very angry and deeply misogynistic group of people. These aren't the cuddly nerds we made movies about in the '80s. They're very angry that the cheerleader still wants to go out with the quarterback instead of the men (boys) who are running the universe right now. The women they surround themselves with aren't women who challenge them (and frankly, no woman who could challenge them would be interested in being anywhere near them).

The whole thing is worth a read, including Levine's introduction, from which I took the headline to this post.

Wednesday 13 October 2010 09:27:46 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Tuesday 12 October 2010

You'd think the parking-meter lease would get more popular over time, wouldn't you? Nope:

Twenty of the 90 kg electronic parking pay machines have been stolen throughout Chicago since Sept. 17, police department spokesman Roderick Drew said in an e-mail. It isn't known how much cash may have been taken from the stolen machines, he said.

"Area 5 Detectives have been working with LAZ Parking to address this issue. Residents who witness vandalism or suspicious behavior should call police immediately," Drew said.

Yes, so if you see someone walking down the street lugging an automated parking machine, you know what to do.

Tuesday 12 October 2010 13:16:04 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | US#

I mean, who else could have come up with such a creative way for Chicago to run out of cash right after he leaves office?

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley is scheduled to detail the city's record budget shortfall on Wednesday. He's expected to announce plans to partially fill the $655 million defecit with money from leasing the city's parking meters and Skyway.

Dick Simpson heads the political science department at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He says it makes sense to use some of the money in reserves, but a lot of the cash meant to last the city decades has been used up in a few years.

Ah, the parking meter lease. Good deal, there.

Tuesday 12 October 2010 08:22:28 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | US#

Via Bruce Schneier, it seems the assassins might not have botched anything. And you know all those CCTVs in London? More evidence they're completely useless:

It has been more than eight months since the murder of top Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, whose body was found in a Dubai hotel room Jan. 20. Quick work by Dubai police and a diplomatic furor over the use of dozens of forged passports in the case fed early optimism that at least some of the 30-plus suspects would be found. But a string of apparent dead ends has frustrated international investigators, lengthening the odds that anyone will be caught or that definitive proof of Mossad involvement will emerge.

And despite an initial burst of tough talk from various governments, some international investigators are concerned that politics may be hampering cooperation from some governments that support Israel.

... Police spent about 10,000 hours poring over footage from some 1,500 security cameras around Dubai. Using face-recognition software, electronic-payment records, receipts and interviews with taxi drivers and hotel staff, they put together a list of suspects and publicized it.

As Schneier has said, if the police spend resources on CCTVs and other high-tech options, they don't have those resources to spend on footwork.

Tuesday 12 October 2010 08:11:06 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | World#
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David Braverman is a software developer in Chicago, and the creator of Weather Now. Parker is the most adorable dog on the planet, 80% of the time.
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